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Episode 12 - The Animation Casting Director - Dave Peacock

Updated: Apr 26

[Music]


Both - Hi! Welcome to the VO Social

Leah - We're going to be doing some very exciting things today; Nic is going to be telling me about her fun experience meeting - who?

Nic - Dave peacock of Peacock Sound!

Both – Oooooooh

N They're pretty big players in the animation game, Leah.

L Yes, no joke, no joke and also, we are going to be bringing you little tiny snippets of the most exciting things people found out about when they were at a huge voiceover conference down in the South of England and… what else are we doing… Oh yes! And…

N Exciting new feature!

L Yeah…segment darling, segment.

N Oh, sorry.

L It’s a podcast, we've got a segment… Should we keep it as a surprise?

N I don't know…

L Well - you're just not going to want to miss it, that's the main thing.

N Okay, yeah. Well, let's keep it as a surprise - so many surprises in this

particular podcast!

L Yes! Oh actually, well, that's a good point, we've already got one surprise. Let's tell everybody what the segment is and then keep the super-exciting surprise till the end.

N Because that's even more exciting than the segmentfeature…

L Even more exciting than the segment feature.

N What's the official term - you work in the media more than I do…

L Well, we're calling it… I don't know! I want to call it a segment. I'm

gonna call it segment, you can call it whatever the heck you like.

N Segment.

L Segment.

N As my mum says, “you can call me anything you want, just don't call me early in the morning!”

L Lovely, I won't. [Laughter] So, the segment - the exciting segment - is

Show-Off’s Corner.

N (singing) Show Off’s Corner

L Oh lovely!

N I just made that up right now!

L That’s brilliant.

N Shall I give you another harmony one? (Sings very low, like a hippopotamus) Show Off’s Corner

L More!

N (High, like a surprised nightingale) Show Off’s Corner

L And more?

N (Whispered, enthusiastic) Show! Off’s! Corner!

L More, more! Are there any more?! What’s in there?

[Laughter]

N I don’t know! (Jumping up and down with each word) Show Off’s Corner (Twirling down a spiral staircase of music) Showwww Offffs Cornerrrrr

L I'm on board with that.

N Let's get straight into the Dave Peacock

L Mm-hmm

N As it were

L Mmm-hmm!

N So - sorry Dave - I want to prelude this with just saying how much of a ruddy great guy Dave Peacock is - I wrote to him because I'm a big fan of his work and I was like: “please can I interview you for our random little podcast” and he was like: “Yeah!” and that was kind of it! So we found a little quiet spot in London… just about… and we had a big old discussion and he just freely challenged me about all sorts of nonsense for almost two hours!

L What does he… what is it… tell us…errr…

N Oh sorry, of course yes! Dave Peacock is a – er – oh no I should have prepped this bit!

L Oh no! Well.. maybe you can remember. What is his job?

N He is a casting director, voice director and all-round amazing sound

whiz guy…

L Examples of his work?

N Go Jetters…

L Yeah!

N Thunderbirds…

L Woo!

N Octonauts

L Ooh yes!

N And because I have a two-year-old, they are now part of my life, so I just wanted to talk to him about all things animation really. So I went armed with a million and one questions and we chattedchattedchatted and it was bloody lovely. So, I don't know much about the casting process for animation, so I was asking him a little bit about that… and I have a question for you Leah. How long do you think it would take to cast an animation – like - from start to

finish?

L Oh, weeks I would think at least. Because you’ve got to find all the people…

N Mmm-hmm, and liaise with the client and so on – well, he told me it all

happens actually really quickly!

L Oh!

N This nugget about one project being a long casting process puts the rest of normal casting time process into context, have a listen…

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Dave - That was a nice long casting process - it was, probably like, altogether eight days

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N – EIGHT DAYS

L Long?!

N Yeah, that’s long.

L Nooo… you must have to know everybody… he must already have to have all those people in his head.

N Well, this is why it puts in the context, and helps us understand, how often you sort of often hear the same actors popping up because ultimately time is money for these people - and what happens is, the client will have a budget for casting which will allow X amount of days, and they’ll only be able to see a certain amount of people on those days. So all of us being like “Sure, just get us in like, I'll give it a wee go” is really tough…

L …and expensive…

N …and expensive, and he gets a lot of that.

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D So when people go “oh, get me in” I will have to be really, really sure because you're costing the production quite a bit of money in “getting you in” and a percentage of their time that they have to hit this, so we have to be really sure - because it's also our reputation.

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N I'm sure we've all done the whole “I'll just send them an email and obviously they’ll answer the email and they’ll just get me in because they’ll be like ‘oh yeah she seems really nice’, and I'll just go in and I'll see how it goes”, but it just doesn't happen like that. Which is, you know, a shame when you're trying to get into it… but that's why I wanted to talk to him, because I'd love to get into it and I wanted a few tips. For my Voice Studies MA I did a thesis on “Consistency Of Character Voice Creation”, so I asked him how they deal with keeping a check on vocal consistency… because they work on a lot of projects that, you know, run for season after seas… sorry, series over here isn't it? Series after series after series. So, here are some tips

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D So, we take voice references. It's a little clip of the voice basically. So, for Octonauts I've probably got two hundred and fifty clips, which is basically every, single creature that’s ever appeared, in what episode, and who played them. Also, I find, to help actors, stance is a really good thing to lock into - especially when you're switching between characters… and also just key phrases as well. There was a panda from Birmingham an actress was playing, and she kept drifting off character so she’d keep going “bamboo! Bamboo!” and then that brought her back in!

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L That is a really famous Birmingham phrase though actually.

N Bamboo…

L That's all they say, pretty much.

N Yeah, yeah, they love their bamboo in Birmingham. There's a good tongue twister! Anyway, I had a couple of other tips as well…

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D To find a phrase; this is what I try to do. There was an actor I was working with who was covering quite a lot of characters, and there's one of his characters which was turning into one of the other ones. So I was just like; “he's a plumber but he doesn’t do toilets” and so beforehand he's like (gruff cockney accent) “I don't do toilets, don’t do toilets” and then,

basically, he’d get into it. So it’s just sort of to give vocal and personality traits, and just – basically - put him in the right place. Directions like “make them light on their feet” and things like that, you know, “put him in plimsoles” - things like that where you just go like “oh yeah, all right, fine” and you can just instantly, sort of – hopefully - you know, grab hold of it, rather than being all faffy. It's shorthand to get the quickest - the best performance out of somebody the quickest way.

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N (Gruff cockney) Don’t do toilets.

L (joining in too) Nah, don’t do toilets

N I can’t wait to play a character that doesn't do toilets! So, I suppose what's nice about that is that the consistency thing is a two-way process… in the sense that he's responsible for it as the director, as well as you are. But I suppose you need to try and take responsibility for your side of it and make sure you're, you know, you're really remembering and embedding the character. But I also like the fact that he's noticing and pointing out from his perspective also, how much voice and physicality in the body are connected! Because all we yabber on about in voice coaching is how voice is a holistic process, and you can't have just a random disembodied voice - and he talks about giving the character a stance and a posture and, you know, a little gesture and stuff. So I love the fact that he sees that from his instinctive point of view as well – so it's all about the body as well, and how that can affect the character and the voice. Then we talked a little bit about vocal safety, which is a big thing - particularly in character voicing - because, you know, if you get excited and start doing a character like this (unintelligible straining) and then you realise you can't sustain it for, like, eight seconds, let alone eight series - then you're going to be in difficulties. So I asked him for his thoughts on vocal safety.

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D I'm very aware of vocal safety, and always check with the actors that they're happy to maintain character in a certain place, and if their voice is getting ready to fall - so stop. And if the producer’s going “aw but can’t we just do another hour” it’s just like, “No, we can’t go another hour, not if you want them happy” because vocal safety is very, very important… and then also to try and teach techniques for screaming and projection which isn't straining your vocal chords.

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N So I was like… “what do you mean by that?” …because obviously, as a voice coach that's something I do a lot.

L How do you scream without damaging your voice?

N Well yeah, I know the answer to that question but I was interested in what he knew about that as a director - and someone who is ultimately, a little bit responsible for vocal safety. Firstly, I think it's lovely that he takes the stance and says “No, actually we need to stop”, I think that's really responsible - so I asked him - and I'll explain this clip afterwards, because it's a bit visual.

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D Don't take it from there, take it from there, so it’s putting less strain on their vocal chords…

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N So, what he illustrated with “don’t take it from there, take it from there”, was this idea of… he pointed to his laryngeal area in the middle of the neck - the larynx, where voice is made… He said “don’t take it from there” – pointing to the neck - and then said “take it from there” and pointed to his belly, which ultimately is what it's about. It's about trying to - in a way - bypass the fact that the voice is made in the throat, and see if you can just give a little bit of support from different areas, or anchor a bit more in the body and allow the breath in, and allow the support muscles to work a little more efficiently, so he's on the right track actually… and he was really interested in my thoughts and the things that I do to help, so he was taking an active interest in it which was lovely. So I was also interested to know if he had any ideas about current trends in animation, because that's useful for us if we're putting demos together.

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D Yes I do! Kids being kids - which isn't a bad trend, except if you're a female voiceover/voice actor that does children… and generally that speed thing, going the more American way of being, you know, less slow and also being less cartoony as well. Also casting comedians is a trend for the last good few years, which doesn’t see ANY sign of abating.

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N So there we go! Comedians – they love a bit of a comedian. He talks about comedy a bit more later and the speed – but less cartoony, which is an interesting juxtaposition I suppose…

L Yes… when I think about the cartoons that I watch with Toby I know that there are lots of quite, sort of, identifiable characters that he can identify with –as opposed to, like, a screaming rat on a spaceship or something

N Yeah there's a lot of really interesting indie producers as well, like, they're doing things like Abney and Teal and the slightly quirky or stuff - which feels very British to me as well. So I think we’ve still got a lot of variety out there. So, those of you out there who want to get into animation may want a few demo tips, so here we go…

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D Make it interesting. Don't segue from “little cute girl” into “old witch voice” because that’s annoying! Make it interesting, make it inventive, and if you can make it funny that's better as well, that's all good - but generally, if I'm casting, the first thing I listen to is the narration reel which gives me their natural voice… so it gives me their starting point, and it also tells me how good their acting is very quickly.

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L Well that is VERY interesting.

N Mmmm… so, he would much prefer to hear a narrative real over a mad-cartoony-look-at-all-the-voices-I-can-do reel, and also wants to start from what your real voice is, which I think is really interesting and refreshing – but, as we know from all the stuff that we watch, you hear a lot of normal, non-cartoony voices in a lot of the stuff these days, so it's interesting to hear it from the horse's mouth - as it were. Many of the listeners I'm sure, out there, will be after some audition and performance tips, so here's a few of those.

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