By Stephanie Ciccarelli
October 19, 2011
Does your character demo have what it takes to get the attention of casting directors and agents?
Want to know how to go from no character demo to having something you can shop around?
Let me break it down for you folks, if you want an agent to represent you in voice, you NEED a voice demo to submit to them in order to be considered. That being said, you need a character demo to be cast in general regardless of where your job opportunities come from. Below I've put together a list of the key 6 elements in my opinion that makes a voice demo great!
à¹ Collection of solid character voices
à¹ Music/Sound Effects
à¹ Editing/Sound Mixing
The ideal length of a voice demo should fall between a minimum of one minute long and at a maximum of two minutes. Like any kind of entertainment or impactful art, if it's worthwhile, it will keep your listener's attention. Also, the length will depend on the amount of character voices and length of the individual pieces. These are choices your director will make depending on your range and quality of delivery.
You want your character voices to be strong and distinctive so you should only have between 8-12 characters. If you have a collection of voices that are truly unique and stand a part from the rest your number might be closer to 12. If you are still in the process of developing your range you should stick to a number that's closer to 8 character voices. Overlap creates for a redundant demo. You want to impress and surprise, keeping your listener engaged so you want to avoid having a collection of character voices that sound too similar. Ideally you want a variety of stock characters and your own "one of a kinds." This is an important mixture so that you can convey to your listener that you have the ability to play popular types of characters and that you have pulse on what's current. While the "one of a kinds" will allow your listener to know that you are creative and thoughtful. This is a dynamic combination and if executed successfully will without a doubt impress any listener!
The writing in your demo is very important. Humour is key. Everybody loves to laugh and it's essential when we're talking cartoons that humour is involved. Also, you don't want to take yourself too seriously so it's best to have material that's light and clever and perhaps even include some moments that are a bit self-depreciating of self-referential.
Sound effects can really bring a read alive. A good sound effect or music choice will bring energy to a read. It can even give it context and will further support the character's intention or mood of the read, i.e. an evil sounding music piece will heighten the suspense and danger of a scheming villain character voice. That being said, it's very important that the music or sound effects do not over power the read or distract from the character. You want to include music that's in sync with the actor's delivery and avoid adding anything that is too busy or chaotic sounding or by contrast too slow or dull sounding. It's a fine balance!
How important is good direction? Well, a good director knows how to bring out the best in you. This director will get your reads to be varied with changes in pacing, mood and energy levels. It's also essential that you director is creative and imaginative. Wacky vision and exploring sometimes what seems "weird" is what will make your demo stand out from the rest.
Finally, it's time for editing and sound mixing. Once your demo material is all recorded and you leave the studio, the editing process begins. It's crucial that the sound engineer works with the director to make the transitions snappy and the gaps between the lines as small as possible. The awkward breaths and mouth noises should edited out as well leaving your reads sounding clean and clear! Sound effects and music are thoughtfully added and ta da! A brand spankin' new voice demo!
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