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Beware: Audition Pitfalls Are All Around
You. Here's How To Avoid Three Traps

By Carl Bishop
Voice Actor

In medieval times, castles were designed with traps that helped defend those inside.

Among them was the Pitfall. It was a nasty little bit of architecture: A trap door would cover a deep pit with spikes at the bottom, and when someone stepped on the door it would collapse and the person would be impaled on the spikes. Yikes!


Beware! Voice over audition pitfalls are all around you.

Here are some common ones and how I avoid them:

1. Getting Into Character

What is 'getting into character'?

Is your character a bus, a suit, a groovy pair of shoes? Of course not. A character is not a suit you put on, or a person you 'pretend' to be.

You already ARE the character.
"But the script says that I'm a middle aged Dad playing with my kids - I don't have kids."
So you panic and start imitating Dad-like behavior - whatever that is.

Instead, think of it this way: Almost every adult human has been responsible for something or someone at one time (think nephew, pet, parent), and they have also loved something or someone at some time.(think any other human or animal).

You already have the life experience. Just use it. Say the words on the page and behave as if it's really happening to you.

2. The Scratch Read  

When auditioning for a TV spot, you might get to see the final video with a voice already on it. That's called the scratch read.

The read is there to give you an idea of the pacing and maybe the tone of the spot.

But don't let it distract you. It's voiced by the video editor, script writer, or producer. They are not voice actors, and the reads show it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not denigrating their read. They know it's armature and that why they are asking to hear you.

Being able to audition to picture is a gift! I find it's so much easier to nail an audition when I can see picture. The script is only one half of the story. The picture informs how those words should be expressed.

But beware the danger of letting the scratch leak into your read. Don't try to imitate the sound of it.

Listen to it with your head. Not your heart. listen once and maybe twice. The scratch read is there as a guide. Your amazing read will replace it.

3. Celebrity Reference

Major Hollywood actors started voicing commercials about 15 years ago. Ever since then, I started seeing auditions that included a celebrity reference:
"A voice that sounds like…(famous celebrity)."
I thought, "Well, if you want Mark Ruffalo, then hire him!"

But then I realized that they just wanted the "vibe" of Mark Ruffalo, or Morgan Freeman – who was, and probably still is, the celebrity most referred to in voice over auditions.

The client mentions a celebrity because they want to hear their 'essence' or vocal quality, not an imitation or impression.

If they are asking for a 'sound-alike,' then they want to hear an exact match.


Auditions these days are full of information and directions that can easily distract and derail a good read. 

Your job is to turn those voice over audition pitfalls into useful guides to inform your approach.

Don't let them trap you, and for sure, stay off those nasty spikes!
Carl Bishop is an actor and voice over talent who spends an almost unhealthy amount of time in front of a microphone from his studio in Manhattan's East Village. The world's top brands have hired him for their national campaigns, including Gillette, Comcast XFinity, Advair, Bayer, Head and Shoulders, and others. Carl is the voice of "Bandit" (a German Munitions expert) in the "Rainbow 6: Siege" video game. He has narrated TV shows and promos for The Weather Channel, Travel Channel, Discovery and PBS. He's voiced those funny commercials you see on SNL. Carl also does corporate narration and e-learning for Pepsi, HP, Cigna and the U.S. Army. And Carl was live announcer for the NBC Upfronts specials where he brought to the stage Joan Rivers, Andy Cohen, Nick Cannon, and a Kardashian or two. When the red light is off, Carl enjoys gardening and caring for his wise old cat, and his wise-acre husband.



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