The Casting Room: Behind Closed Doors

Oh to be a fly on the wall when the producers, writers, and directors are listening back to the casting session. Well, I got to be, for a long time. For the most part, a Casting Director runs the session (has the actors in, gives them direction, records them…) and then sends it off to the clients so they can listen to it at their leisure.behind-closed-doors-300x200

There are times, however, when the client wants to come to their office and listen back to the casting there. Why? Because they get to leave their offices, their bosses, their day to day doldrums! And because we, the great hosts that we were, provided free sushi, French pastries, the works…..! So back to the fly on the wall. Here’s what I got to see, hear, and experience:

The most important thing to remember is that writers can get distracted. Not only that but they are often young(er) these days than you would think…early to mid 20’s even; the product of the post-MTV generation, seeing quicker faster newer fresher than ever before.

So put that all in a pot and you have them texting their girlfriends, updating their Facebook profile, checking out that awesome sushi menu we handed them. My point is, and finally to get to something you can use: they can and will say “go to the next take” after only hearing your first line. So – your first line must be seen as your hook, and the writer as your fish.

How will you reel them in so they don’t shout “next” when it’s your shot at the big job? Make it interesting. Make it intriguing. Make it familiar, meaning you are talking to them as if you have every right to – an open door of dialogue that possibly started before you even dove in to that first line. It’s not okay that they don’t listen all the way through, but impressions are formed fast, so knowing this you can trump it by putting your best foot forward immediately.

Try the three-in-a-row tactic for coming up with the best possible intro to your script. If you keep reading the first line lumped together with the rest of the script it gets no special attention. Isolating and practicing that first line, or first two lines (whatever gives you the feeling that it’s your “opening”) gives you the chance to work on your best angle for it.

There are other things that happen in there and they are completely unrelated to your performance. Often times the writer will hear something he doesn’t like anymore and decides to rewrite it right there. He might even stop listening and start doing it while the actor is still talking. The producer can hear something too that might concern them as far as logistics are concerned: timing, legal issues with something being said, etc. Back to distracted. There you are, giving the performance of your life, and there they are making a phone call, or playing Angry Birds. The voiceover business is not only a subjective one, but yes, one of fate, luck, and blessed timing.

Those in charge of choosing the voice will often ask about an actor’s background if they like what they’ve heard. They’re spying on you as they would on a potential mate. They want all the juicy details. In this case, that would be what you have done before, if you’ve also done any theatre work, how many voiceover jobs you’ve booked, etc.

There are many pathways to choosing the right voice for a project, but as you can see, most of them happen behind closed doors and beyond your control. Train your esophagus off, put your best read forward, and then – let it go. Either that, or offer them a free sushi dinner.

About Lesley Bailey

Lesley Bailey is an award-winning Casting Director, Voiceover Coach, Demo Producer, and Consultant who has worked at some of the top advertising, casting, and production companies in the country. Lesley’s coaching style focuses on script-analysis and those little “tricks” of the trade that she has gathered over two decades of working with the best producers, directors, writers, agents, and actors in the business.


  1. Thank you for your insight Lesley. When recording and voicing, it’s very easy to get caught up in so many other details. This is an important reminder as to what matters… and why.

    Dan Friedman

  2. Lesley,

    I really enjoyed the article. Thanks for sharing your keen observations. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you might have been at a few of my voicing sessions. Having been in similar settings, your descriptions hit so close to home for me. Indeed, no matter how great the read, there are too many variables involved for voicing artists to have control over being chosen for a job. Bottom line is to give it your best and move on the next project. Here’s to a prosperous new year for all my fellow voicing professionals!

    Harriet Coffey

  3. Thank you, Lesley for sharing such valuable insight. And the tip about the opening line is fantastic!

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