This article will cover an interesting topic, which for many content creators either can be a joy or a royal pain in the ass.
I am talking about casting voice actors… You see I spent the past six months in this process alone for my upcoming production, which was a wild roller coaster in itself in both happiness and utter frustration. Now, I sit at the end of a wild ride ready to move on to production, but I want to direct this article to anybody who has that big project that they want to move forward with, but they have nowhere to go when it comes to casting. I want this article to be the guide to what to expect and prepare for, maybe it will save a few headaches.
I started casting VAs over 10 years ago in a little forum called the Voice Acting Alliance, which has since been defunct. I remember the first project being a romantic drama/tragedy/unintentional comedy that somebody calls "blackmail." I think it was lost in a crash… but since then I worked with more actors than I count, some have been in multiple productions that I happen to cast them over and over again.
At the same time, I was in a small machinima community where if you had a working microphone, you would likely get a role… I had around fifty roles before I lost count. It was like that the other way around, I would go to Skype or send a Private Message asking if they wanted to be in a project. It was all unpaid for the most part… these days it is a bit different, hear me out on this one later.
So you have this nice script written up and you are wondering who would fit a certain role… where would you go? Maybe that nice text to speech program for every role… ummm no.
There are several great sites that could help you, like this one, or maybe this one, or there are several great Twitter communities that help you out. I have been making casting calls on my own website and publishing them through Twitter. It has been quite successful throughout the last few casting calls for this project that I have been working on. I have been in several great voice acting communities who have been incredibly helpful and fun to be in. There are great people everywhere in these communities and discords. Join a community and be a participant… it's a fun experience after all.
So how do you make a casting call? The answer is simple. Treat it like a pitch, since you are basically selling your project. Be concise and informative. Include visuals, a WIP, and past work. One major reason I created a casting call directly on my website is that somebody can browse through my past work and get a glimpse of what they are dealing with, for better or worse. The key is good information and direction… the running joke for the Casting Call Club is the "say what you think would fit" line that many newbie producers toss in.
This is lazy direction and many voice actors will steer far away from your casting call if you decide to add it. You're the director… you need to have vision and focus. That is an important factor in deciding who can bring life into your character… it is something to heavily consider. It is not exactly who is the most popular or anything like that… but who fits your character the best and this is a very tough process.
I honestly have no wise words of advice for you to decide the best role… it's a subjective process. I will say create a spreadsheet and organize when you have to cast. I remember one casting call that I had around one hundred fifty people auditioning for a single role. Organization skills are incredibly helpful; I had a pretty complicated spreadsheet to help guide through this. I basically narrowed down every audition into certain rounds until I found who I was looking for. This process is a very lengthy one, so be aware of that. It could be a very frustrating and stressful process… so be aware too. If you are not interested in this process or if you want someone experienced handling this matter… there are people who can help you with this.
So you finally cast somebody... Do you have a script? Yes… good, but what about a contract? Hmm? Uh oh... This is more recommended for anybody seeking monetary gain, but get a contract before you proceed to production. If you wish to have your product distributed, many production companies seek a talent release and service agreement contract. It also protects everybody, especially the producer… you want to have this agreement in writing before you start production. It can save you from a serious legal headache in the end.
So now the casting is done, you got your contract done, and everything is set to go. There are two ways this can be approached. Either supervised, meaning going to an app like Discord, Skype, or Zoom and doing live direction or unsupervised by email with notes for needed retakes. I mostly do the latter, unless the voice actor requests live direction, it is rare but it happens. When you have received the lines, please be fair and pay your actors especially if you are intending to make your project commercial. There is a wonderful indie guide rate found here to determine the price or many actors have a rate sheet if negotiable.
Now, what happens when a voice actor simply ghosts your project? I'll be honest, this has happened to me recently and it was a frustrating experience, to be honest with all of you. There are reasons of course, especially with recent current events. They may have pressing matters or situations out of their control. Be fair, and approach this in a professional manner and do not call them out in a witchhunt or publicly. Things happen, but it is a situation where you have to recast. It is disheartening and can kill your spirit in the production, but it is what it is. You just get up and do it all over again. Overall, the rewarding thing is hearing them bring life into your character. It is worth the frustration and trouble in the end.
I am at the end of a long casting process and honestly, I am incredibly excited to get started on this production. It had its twists and turns, but I am excited to see what they will do with their roles. I am sure you will be in the same seat as well.