Overcoming Audition Anxiety -- WITH IMPROV!

Written by Clay Robeson

Participating in our vibrant VoiceOne Discord community, I've seen a lot of discussion, especially with new Voice Over artists, around auditions.  One of the big questions generally revolves around how many takes to submit, and the answers usually come from those on the casting side. Overwhelmingly, they seem to agree that no matter how many takes you submit, they will likely only listen to the first one or MAYBE two.  Anything more than that will sit, forever unheard, in digital oblivion.

This creates a lot of anxiety over auditions around whether or not we got it "right" in our two takes.  

But here's the thing: Right is subjective. 

What is right for you, may not be right for me, and vice versa.  When it comes down to it, what is "right" for an audition is all about how you best embody the specs. So record as many takes as you want. Edit them all. Then LISTEN to them, and decide which one (or two, if they ask for it) best encapsulates the specs AND YOU. Because in the end, it's not about getting the specs spot on, it's about what YOU bring to the role defined by those guidelines.

"But how do I get to a point where I can record and follow the specs, while not obsessing over them?"

Like any other activity, you have to be comfortable with the rules. And that doesn't just mean reading and understanding them, but being able to operate within them without thinking about them. This is one of the things we (sometimes unknowingly) work on a LOT in improv classes: Learning the rules, then learning how to FORGET the rules and just exist in a world where the rules are no big deal. They just are.

As an exercise, try this:

Review your audition specs.  Highlight anything you consider to be super important to the role.  Convert those highlights to a series of one or two word bullet points that you can write out and hang in your recording space.

Next, make yourself a "Filter deck" of index cards with character traits on them such as emotions, needs, or quirks. Those of you who have been to drop in improv are probably well versed with the filter deck I bring to class. You don't need to go overboard like I did and make a full deck of 52 cards, but try to make at least 10 or 15.

Example of a "filter deck"

Now, draw one from your stack at random, and deliver the script through that filter, keeping within the boundaries set by the bullet points to the best of your ability. Have FUN with it. This will never be an audition candidate, so push the boundaries. Experiment. Explore. You may even have to throw a bullet or two out the window for a specific filter. So be it. Keep that one at the top of your mind for the next take.  

Now, do it again with a different card. Then do it again. And again. Keep it up until you feel comfortable NOT looking at your list of bullet points for reference.

Now, walk away for a few minutes, get a drink of water, go outside for some fresh air, then come back, read over the full spec one last time, and then record a few takes with no filter card.  Edit them. Listen to them a few times. And finally, pick the one that you think best embodies the guidelines and showcases YOU and what you bring to the role.

"But... WHY?"

By focusing on your "Filter deck" while doing reads, rather than obsessing over the specs, you're allowing yourself to experiment and explore. By having fun with it, you're defusing some of the tension around "doing it right" and instead, just doing it. Keeping the specs as secondary to the selected card keeps them in your head without allowing you to fixate on them. In essence, you’re committing those specs to some sort of weird, hybrid brain/muscle memory. It makes the spec second nature, an underlying foundation to your performance rather than the focus of it. That way, YOU become the focus of the audition with the specs as a framework, around which you build your performance.  And best of all, taking the time to have FUN beforehand, may allow you to discover some things you wouldn't have otherwise thought of in regards to the script and its message.

Related Classes at Voice One

Breaking it Down with Jim Edgar

Drop In Improv with Clay Robeson

The Audition is the Job

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