An Important Email from Commercial VO Casting Director Marc Cashman

by Kevin Delaney

Recently I submitted a VO audition to Marc Cashman, a top commercial producer / casting director here in Los Angeles. I didn’t get the gig — but Marc was nice enough to send a message to all who submitted, and I think it’s so important I asked him if it would be OK to share it with the readers of my blog.

Marc graciously agreed, so here it is…

Cashman Commercials - Marc CashmanThanks for submitting your VO audition for the Orange County, CA car dealer I sent out last week. I appreciate your timeliness and professionalism.

Unfortunately, you weren’t chosen as the winner of this monthly gig.

I hope to send another audition opportunity your way soon, and hope that you get the job. But this time, rather than just leaving it at that, I thought I’d share some thoughts with you from a producer’s perspective, in hopes that you’ll be better armed for other jobs that’ll inevitably arise.

Just so you see the big picture, and understand how competitive VO is, instead of just calling for voice actors in Southern California, I opened this job up to voice actors across the country. 200 people submitted. Only 20 voices — 10% — made it into the “Yes” folder.

Then they were culled to the top 5 and submitted to the agency and client, who picked their favorite.

Kudos to the four finalists not picked. . . . You were hip, cool, mature and not sell-y. You did an excellent job, and you were probably not picked because the client’s wife didn’t get goosebumps listening to you. But you came damn close.
 
Here are the specs I included in the audition:
 
1) You must have a studio-quality setup (professional home studio) or access to a professional studio that has a good analog phone-patch setup. For those of you with home studios who are thinking of doing this, I’ll be listening very carefully to your audition to determine whether the sound fidelity will be up to snuff. After the session, I’d need you to email me the .mp3 of the session, via YouSendIt or whatever other ftp site you use.
 
Most of you had a great set-up, professionally up to snuff. Only a few recorded at a level that was barely audible.

My advice is if you’re not sure about your recording level, send a sample to someone you trust to make sure you’re level is hot enough or just sounds good. A couple of people didn’t know about phone-patch or ftp sites. For those who don’t, you should consider learning about them. 
 
2) YOU MUST BE A PROFESSIONAL VOICE TALENT. In other words, you’ve done this before. This account isn’t for newbies. If you’ve done automotive spots before, that’s a plus.

 
Virtually everyone who submitted sounded professional. There were a just a few who were questionable.
 
3) READ THE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY. Don’t audition for this if it doesn’t fit your vocal parameters. It calls for a baritone. If you’re not, please don’t submit. There’ll be others down the road.  Also, no accents. If you have a heavy regional accent or national accent (British, Australian, etc.), don’t submit.
 
There were a lot of performances where it was obvious that the directions weren’t followed (we’ll get to that in a bit). There were also a lot of people who don’t understand their range. This spot called specifically for a baritone. Yet I heard tenors and bassos. I cautioned against submitting if you had an accent, yet there were a few distinctly Southern-accented reads. There were even a couple of British reads, even though I stated that I didn’t want these kinds of accents. 
 
4) AUDITION DIRECTIONS. Please follow them to the letter.
 
Most submissions were followed to the letter, as I asked — thank you. But there were many exceptions.
 
a) Read the VO only. Please give me just one take.
 
All of you gave me one take — thanks. But a couple of guys actually sang the jingle!
 
b) Slate your name at the top simply as, “This is (your name).”
 
At least 20 people forgot to slate themselves.
 
c) Please record your audition at 44.1khz, 16-bit mono, .mp3 format, 128kbs (or less).
d) Please don’t send .wav or aiff or files from your iphone that I can’t convert!

 
At least 20 people didn’t understand the above format. I got some files that were 3-4 times larger than everyone else’s. I got some .wav files, one .aiff, and one with nothing on it at all. If you’re not up to speed on this minor technical stuff, get with the program at the risk of missing the boat.
 
e) Label your file: ProjectName-YourName.mp3.
PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE TEMPLATE ABOVE.
Notice the hyphen, upper and lower case, no spaces, etc.?
That means use a hyphen. Don’t write in all caps. No spaces. Got it?
If you can’t follow these simple instructions, you won’t be considered.

 
Most of you followed the template, but at least 10% didn’t, and that’s even after I spelled it out — literally! One guy couldn’t see that he was continually submitting a file with all caps. A few didn’t even have their name on it. A few actually misspelled the name of the client — or their own name! You must learn to follow directions, inside and outside the studio.
 
f) Read to time. Each section is timed.
 
Most of you did that — thank you.
 
Deadline: Friday, October 15, 6PM PST.
 
Virtually all of you got the audition in under the deadline — thank you.
 
Directions: Male, 30-40. No high voices (tenors) or really deep basso voices. Baritone range. Hip, cool, mature. No hard sell.
 
Here’s where a lot of you guys missed the boat. You just didn’t read the directions: Hip, cool, mature. No hard sell.

I’d say that at least 60% of the reads weren’t hip, weren’t cool, and were really hard-sell.

Maybe some people saw “car spot” and automatically went into overdrive (pun intended) with their voice. There were actually a lot of guys with very cool, hip voices, but their over-the-top performance lost them a chance at the gig. There were a number of guys who sounded so announcer-y that it was painful. Yeah, I know, the copy wasn’t particularly conversational, but what car spot is? It’s your job to try to make it so and make it flow.

And frankly, there were a number of guys who did a really excellent job on their delivery, but their voiceprint wasn’t what was called for: baritone, plain and simple. There were guys who sounded like Luke Skywalker and others like Darth Vader.
 
5) DO NOT CONTACT ME WITH TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ON RECORDING, LABELING, CONVERTING OR ANYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH RECORDING THIS AUDITION. I won’t be available to answer you or help you with your problem(s).
 
Fortunately, no one contacted me with technical questions. But a few people have contacted me about the results of this job, or asked how their audition was. The bottom line: I (nor anyone else in this business) don’t have time to critique your performance. If you want objective analysis of your work, ask your VO instructor or a peer, but not a producer you don’t know or even your agent, who you do.
 
Now as far as I know, I’m the only person in this industry to take the time to let people know if they didn’t get the job. Why? Because I’m a voice actor, and, like you, nobody ever lets me know if I got the job unless I got the job. So as a producer, I feel the least I can do is thank you for taking some of the valuable time out of your day to audition for me. 
 
A few last points:
 
Amazingly, there was a large percentage of submissions where I only saw a name at the bottom of the email. No contact number. No active link to a website. There were a number of new people who auditioned for the first time for me, but who didn’t alert me to this and I forgot to save their email addresses, so they won’t even see this. A suggestion: Any time you send any business-related email out, always include a phone number and an active link to your VO demo.
 
I hope this doesn’t come across as a rant — it’s not meant to. I hope this doesn’t come across as mean — it’s only meant to be instructive. As you can tell, I really appreciate the work you all do, and am honored to have the opportunity to work with you. I’m always astounded by the incredible level of super-talented voice actors across the country and around the world (I even had a submission from an American in Tokyo who made the top 10% list). I only send this out as information that I hope helps you be better at your craft.
 
Sincerely,
Marc Cashman
www.CashmanCommercials.com

Marc’s email is instructive on several levels. It sheds light on some of the frustrations that a busy casting director often experiences.

Make life easy for people. Don’t make it difficult for people to hire you. Don’t put up road blocks between you and the ones you’re trying to impress.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Darren Altman October 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm

What a sweet email to take the time to write and very informative. What a great check list of the do’s and don’t of every audition! Thanks.

Dan Brantley October 28, 2010 at 7:16 am

Thanks Kevin,
I have been impressed with Marc Cashman’s knowledge and willingness to share once again!

Steve Easley October 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

Kevin:

Thanks for sharing this, and a BIG thank you to Marc for being and sharing his professional opinions. He’s right on!
Hope someday I’ll have a chance at working with him too!

Regards;

Steve Easley

Tim Lasseter October 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

Kevin,

Thanks to you and Marc for sharing this helpful information. One point that really stood out: Directions – They’re there for a reason.

Cordially,
Tim Lasseter

Debbie Grattan October 28, 2010 at 10:15 am

Thanks for posting this Kevin. I’m not surprised at all that Marc would take the time to educate those lucky enough to be in his call box for auditions. I actually received this audition notice as well (probably by mistake) but did contact him to ask if I could audition as a female. He replied back, very quickly to say thanks for trying, but not this time. Since I’m an OC gal, and actually have done quite a bit of automotive in that market, (currently voicing tags for MB Laguna Niguel) I thought perhaps I might even know the dealership, not that that would make a difference. Unbelievable that he actually listened to 200 auditions for this campaign. It is always great to hear how things appear from a different perspective, and certainly reinforces those who actually read and follow directions.

Bill Jurney October 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Mark’s a sweetheart of a guy! He really cares about the client and the talent.

Robert Williamson October 30, 2010 at 3:57 am

Simply brilliant! How affirming that this kind of interaction can take place. Great stuff! Thank you both, Marc and Kevin

Logan Niles November 9, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Excellent and considerate email. Hats off for the time spent in composing it. So often you get nothing back so you never quite know where you stand or what might have gone wrong.

Diane Burket December 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Stellar guy!

Karen Gerstman April 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Thanks for posting this!

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: