Free Audition Tips

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Learn from other people’s auditions! Do you know all these script-reading tips?

Edge Studio

Do you follow our “Weekly Script Recording Contest” regularly? We hold it every week. Maybe we should have called it the Script Reading contest, because although recording quality is a factor in choosing our winners, it’s usually the reads that decide who we choose for prizes. But you should also be interested in the also-rans … because each week we explain why some people didn’t win. It’s constructive criticism, made collectively (without singling people out), and each comment includes an Edge Studio Voice Over Tip.

Which of these Tips would improve your next audition? For your convenience in getting acquainted, here are Tips from a recent contest.

The following tips are excerpted from our Contest ending Friday, August 28.
To read the full commentary for context, and to hear all the recordings from that contest:

To hear all the week’s recordings, scroll down that page to “CLICK HERE FOR ALL ENTRIES.”

The recent contest assignment was this:

Director’s Notes: This is a simulated audition for a 30-second TV commercial, selling a vacation cruise (although ultimately there will be longer and shorter versions). The video begins with a computer-generated scene, looking literally like the camera (the viewer) is pushing through a dense jungle. The jungle represents everyday life, and is so dense, it’s hard to see beyond an arm’s length. Among the leaves of this jungle might be fleeting views of a co-worker, a mechanic, crying kids, a gas pump, barking dog, lawnmower, telephone, etc. It will be accompanied by an audio montage of corresponding sounds, similarly hectic. The voice over comes in towards the end of this scene, and the “jungle” then disappears to reveal a beautiful ocean view. Slate your name or username at the top. (Voice only — no sound effects, please.)

Script: It’s a jungle out there, never lets up, hard to see much in it. Expand your horizons. You belong on the water.

Here are some of that contest’s tips:

In the Commercials genre, most scripts involve salesmanship. That doesn’t necessarily mean the script calls for a hard sell, or hype, or over-the-top energy, or anything you might think of as “selling.” But it does mean establishing a connection between the script and the listener. The objective is to motivate your listener. It’s very hard to do that if they perceive you as angry when the script doesn’t call for anger. And even in the opening, anger isn’t what this script is about.

Virtually every dramatic script involves a progression of emotions, with each statement building on the one before, or contrasting with it, or evolving from it, or comparing … whatever. Sometimes the progression is subtle. In this case it’s clear – the scene changes from a dense, hectic, annoying jungle … to a relaxed, wide-open ocean view. This clearly calls for some changes in your tone of voice.

Keep the visual in mind. The Director’s Notes say the jungle scene “disappears,” but not that it necessarily disappears “suddenly.” Furthermore, note that the VO comes in after the jungle visual has been established for awhile. So, it’s likely that this script fragment is fairly continuous, gradually changing from “jungle” to “ocean” at the same pace as the visual makes that transition. Gradually add a smile. Slow down the pace. And try using body language — e.g.: as you say, “you belong on the water,” slowly (and silently) spread your arms wide.

It’s important to fully understand the script and the visual. In this case, the description of the visual is very elaborate (possibly overly so), but you’ll get that sometimes, especially if the commercial is in the early stages of development. Use your imagination. It doesn’t matter exactly how the visual team will resolve this creative challenge and convey the writer’s concept. It only matters that you understand the concept and can imagine a suitable visual yourself. “See” that visual as you speak.

The Direction says “so dense, it’s hard to see beyond …” and the script says “hard to see much in it.” You can’t make the viewer catch this double entendre if the visual doesn’t support it. But it does provide a clue as to how you might evolve your emotion. Don’t overact (no elbow in the listener’s ribs, please!), but can you verbally “lift an eyebrow” as you say that phrase?

Look to the commercial as a whole for clues as to your approach. In this one, there’s probably preciously little time available for pausing. Remember that the audition script begins towards the end of the opening visual. And the absence of any actual “sales” information in the audition script suggests that there is more to come in the full commercial. And the full commercial is only 30-seconds! So don’t rush it, and do read it smoothly, but make every second fruitful. For example, rather than pause, maybe elongate an appropriate word.

Many reads were “okay,” but not “creative.” There was nothing about them of particular interest, nothing that said, “this talent stands out well from the others!” How “creative” should you be? In the case of this script, it doesn’t call for an odd voice, or funny delivery or being overly cute. It does call for the qualities we’ve cited above. And maybe give a special hit on one word that most people won’t. For example, the word “never,” although other choices might be equally interesting.

For context, see the full discussion of why some voice talent didn’t win, plus the winners of this contest (including their recordings and why they won), an hear all the recordings entered, at. Select “August 28” (2015) from the Past Contest Quicklinks list. To hear all the week’s recordings, scroll down that page to “CLICK HERE FOR ALL ENTRIES.”

In the Archives you’ll also find comments on previous contests spanning a wide range of genres.