Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
For our Casting Networks’ April seminar, we hosted voiceover Casting Director Mary Lynn Wissner as our guest speaker. We like to mix it up for our free member monthly seminars between on-camera theatrical & commercial guest speakers. Most often our guests are Casting Directors (who can hire us! 😉 ) with an occasional respected commercial coach, career coach and others for variety. We wanted to do something to serve the talented voiceover community, so invited Ms. Wissner to speak. Here is her bio-
Since 1990, Mary Lynn Wissner and Voices Voicecasting has been providing voice-overs for thousands of TV, radio, animation, film, games and audio book productions. Voices Voicecasting has earned the respect of producers all over the country and abroad. Many who have gone the internet casting route have returned to the personalized attention Voices Voicecasting gives their production. Mary Lynn’s casting has earned numerous awards over the last 21 years.
Voices Voicecasting has also made a mark training and preparing the voice actor for a career in this industry. From workshop events, Meet the Agent Night, to our popular, “Book It!” VO Roadshow, as well as, private telephone and skype coaching, Voices Voicecasting has been instrumental in beginning and nurturing some of today’s most successful voice talent across the country.
Much like with on-camera acting, there are many things to know about voiceover acting as well. Here are some brief highlights of our seminar.
Mary Lynn began by stating how much the voiceover acting and casting world has changed greatly since she first began with the advent of new technology. Mary Lynn said, “I will suggest to go to www.voicebank.net. It is a wonderful resource where you can listen to other peoples’ demos. It started about ten years ago much to the chagrin of us casting directors. It actually started as a delivery service, where it used to be when we would do a casting, we would send it (the recording of voices) FedEx or upload it to an ad agency’s site, email or whatever. They came along and said, ‘Oh, you send it to us and we’ll send it to the ad agency.’ But then what they started to do is say, ‘You don’t need the casting director. [laughter] You send us the copy for free and we’ll disperse it to the agents.’ It was a really kind of a dark day for many voiceover casting directors because it took a lot of our work away. It was quite unfortunate. Actually, a number of voiceover casting people had to close their doors. It was very frustrating. It was actually very frustrating for the agents and for the actors because it used to be that you would come into my office and you would read a piece of voiceover copy. You knew that when I got hired to cast that voice, that producer is hiring me because they know that I’m only going to bring in maybe 10 to 20 people at the most. That’s it. They love that. I’m not going to waste their time. They are not going to have to send it to all the talent agents and each agent put on 30 people. Then they are going to have to listen to 200! They know that by hiring a casting director, she’s going to narrow that down and bring in the 10 to 20 best of whatever. The actors loved that! You could come into the office, hang out in the lobby, see everybody and it was kind of fun. Now what happens is that actors don’t get to go to the casting directors as much anymore. They go to their agent’s office and so they are competing obviously with the talent in their agent’s office but also they’re also competing with all the other talent from the other agents. Your odds of getting booked now is much harder. You’re now up against maybe 200 people whereas obviously like I said, if you were going into a casting office you were up against 10 guys or whatever.”
She continued, “I have been very fortunate… knock on every piece of wood… because I have some producers that are incredibly loyal. Some of them have tried it and said ‘Ugh, I hate that. I don’t want to listen to all those people… I know that you’re going to bring in the 10 best from wherever and I’m done.’ I’ve had some that have come back after using the Voicebank thing and said, ‘I don’t like it… whatever. Mary Lynn, go to town!’ I was very, very lucky and I am very grateful for that, that ad agencies and so on have stayed with me. I’ll be honest with you, I have lost some to the Voicebank world but I’m okay. [laughter] At any rate, that’s kind of how Voicebank works but what they also do, the part of them that I really love, is that every single voiceover agency across the world has a demo page on there and it’s great for you actors to go on that page. You don’t even have to be a member or anything and you just click on house demos and say, ‘I want to hear all the talent from William Morris. You can listen to their commercial talent, you can listen to all their animation actors, celebrity voices and whatever. It’s a really great thing to do too if you’re about to make a demo, so you can kind of see what you’re up against, what to do, what’s good and to get some ideas.”
Mary Lynn went on to say, “The other thing too for those of you who are interested in getting voiceover agents outside of Los Angeles, you can find out the agencies, get their addresses and contact information.”
She then continued speaking about actors’ voiceover demos and said, “After you make your demo, any way you can get it to an agent, go for it… a friend, a relative or whatever! Agents do not want CDs anymore. Send them an MP3 file and you pop that off in an email. Don’t even send them a link to your website. The easiest you can make it for them and for me or any casting person, is an MP3. I do suggest you have a web site though but if you are trying to get representation and if you’re trying for somebody to immediately get to your stuff, send them the MP3 of your demo. Usually, I find agents take anywhere from a day to two weeks to respond to you. Sometimes you don’t hear anything. I will tell you the cool thing about voiceover is the bigger agencies respond quicker than anybody else because they are always on the lookout for that next hot, new voice and those agents are amazing. I love ‘em. They’re really great, they love their job and that’s why I think that they are the best agents in town.”
- “Be nice to your agent because it’s really hard.”
- “You can have different agents in every city in voiceover.”
- “Everybody needs to have a demo in voiceover. Keep it short and only put on it what you do excellently!”
- “Never take a voiceover workshop that promises a demo. You won’t be ready to make one yet.”
- “The Spanish market is huge! If you are bilingual, do separate tracks in Spanish and English for your demo.”
- “Do not put impersonations on your demo.”
When researching voiceover classes or demo production, do your due diligence and get referrals from people you trust. Mary Lynn said, “Be careful though. Just like with on-camera, (acting) there are people who teach workshops you know, ‘Oh, I’ve done three voiceovers, so now I’m going to teach a workshop.’ I’m very protective of actors. My daughter is also an actress… with me doing them and my husband does on-camera casting, so it’s in our family. I’m very protective of actors being taken advantage of and it drives me crazy.
Update from Mary Lynn-Thank you Tracy! If anyone wants to check out our current castings for voiceover and workshops, please go to:www.voicesvoicecasting.com