This is a simulated audition for a documentary about Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The tone should be warm and welcoming, raising awareness to this non-profit organization. Conversational tone preferred.
This is Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an American non-profit organization that raises funds for artists and theatre professionals in need of assistance. Formed in 1988 in response to the AIDS crisis, Broadway Cares has since supported millions of individuals in New York City and across the country.
Winners and All Entries Below
But first, read our free: Analysis: Why the Winners Won ... and Why Others Didn't.
Congratulations to this contest’s winners, Nadia Verde, Tony Heald, and Scott Welnosky. They rose to the challenge of speaking for their own community – that is, artists and theater professionals – which can sometimes be a bit daunting. After all, talking to or about one’s peers can be equal parts challenging and embarrassing. But they pulled it off.
In this Analysis: Why the Winners Won … and Why Others Didn’t, we break down the most common reasons why voice actors did not win this contest. And we provide techniques to ensure you can avoid them in your own auditions and client-paid work.
So here are some tips to help you star in your next audition.
Edge Studio VO Tip #1
Be conversational, not choppy or “dramatic.” The Voice Direction said to be conversational. Even if it hadn’t, a natural, conversational style is typical in narration. But a lot of people were rather unnatural in their delivery; instead, they were choppy. Two qualities that characterize casual conversation are: (a) expressing thoughts, and (b) speaking fluidly. We speak as we think, without unnecessary pauses. (In fact, many ordinary people seem never to pause, right?) Here are a few ways to smooth it out:
1) Talk naturally. Do not insert pauses just for drama or out of habit. This is a common issue casting professionals deal with. For example, many people paused after the first word (“This”). It’s a simple way to sound dramatic. That doesn’t make it a “best” practice. It’s not conversational. And it breaks the listener’s attention before the first point is even made. (See #2, below.) Also, a lot of people paused briefly after “City.” It sounds like a super-quick edit. It sounds choppy. Delivering the phrase unbroken (by including “across the country”) allows the voice to flow, which makes the read sound natural.
3) Speak thoughts, not just words. This is another way of dealing with #1, above. For example, the word “This” is not a thought. A complete thought is a phrase or clause that conjures up a mental picture or fully describes an action or opinion. Speaking in thoughts will make your delivery more fluid. It has other advantages, too. In conversational style, each new thought likely has a slightly different emotion – after all, it is meant to color or elaborate on what was said before … or is a change of subject. What’s more, there’s a bonus benefit: Focusing on the thought rather than words will even help deal with tongue twisters and phrases you just can’t seem to get right.
4) Read the full script before recording, and think about the choices available to you. Audition screeners are always interested in what choices you make. Acting involves many choices, such as tone of voice, speed, pitch variations, emotions, and more. For example, what did you think are the most important thoughts, and how did you emphasize them? In this case, each word is important, as a single word can color the thought you’re expressing. For example, in the phrase “in need of assistance,” which word should you hit? Most people hit “assistance,” which is understandable, because Broadway Cares offers it. But this documentary presumably has an emotional appeal. Wouldn’t hitting “need” be more emotionally effective?
5) Avoid glottal stops. A glottal stop is a momentary closing of the airway, usually before an initial vowel. It makes your voice sound tense, and the read sound choppy. Compared with the points above, this might seem a small thing, anticlimactic. But it’s among the easiest errors to avoid, and casting screeners notice. Once avoiding glottal stops becomes a habit, it will be easier to work on the points above.
Edge Studio VO Tip #2
Slow down – especially when your voice will be put to video. A narrated video needs to give the viewer time to absorb what you’re saying. Many beginners narrated way too fast – an error that audition reviewers are quick to note. With training and practice – and by conjuring up a mental image of the video, you’ll be able to read at the pace casting teams typically prefer.
Edge Studio VO Tip #3
Enunciate. Slowing down a bit will help with this, too. So take advantage of the opportunity. In your daily practice (always recommended, throughout your VO career), make it a habit to fully pronounce every sound and syllable. For example, in many recordings, “1988” sounded like “19-90-A.” The word “funds” sounded like “funs.” “Individuals” came across as “individils” (be sure to pronounce the “u”). The word “American” was often rushed (a common error with familiar words). And in the phrase “American nonprofit organization,” the “non” needs to be clearly said.
1st place winner: Nadia Verde
She sounds relaxed and comfortable, easy to listen to. Her delivery is very good in many ways. But there are a lot of glottal stops, and a few enunciation misses. She left the final “t” off “1988” and off “artists.” The recording’s technical quality is good!
2nd place winner: Tony Heald
His performance is great. Relaxed, he tells a story, smoothly and at ease. A few pronunciation issues. Ironically, before “AIDS” he pronounces “the” with a soft E. That creates a glottal stop. (In British English, pronouncing it as “thee” is common, but in America it sounds contrived. In either case, before a vowel, the word “the” is legitimately pronounced “thee.”) “Non” sounds like “nom.” But the glottal stop on “artists” is excused (otherwise, when preceded by a soft R, “artists” is hard to pronounce distinctly), and the missing “u” in “individual” is attributable to British pronunciation. The recording’s quality is not good. He sounds far from the mic in a reverberant room, and the audio is very sibilant.
3rd place winner: Scott Welnosky
Casual, that’s good. But he’s trying too hard to sound loose. As a result, he inflects some words oddly (for example, “1988”) and the result is sing-songy. He also rushes certain words (e.g., “professional” sounds like “professionls,” and “response” sounds like “rsponse”). And with many glottal stops, the overall result is quite choppy. The last clause is rushed and pretty much a monotone except for “City”; we would like to have had him hit a key word or two. The technical quality is okay, but volume is low. When listening volume for the other two winners is set at a moderate level, this recording is more difficult to hear. Ideally, unless the client specifies otherwise, an audition recording should peak at around -3dB.