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Episode 33 - How To Get More Work In Gaming - Kirsty Gillmore

Updated: Jan 25

(This episode was recorded between lockdowns in 2020)

[Plinky plonk folky theme tune]

Intro - Nic and Leah speaking from their separate booths.

Nic: How are you?

Leah: How am I… I'm great! We’ve just had a big chat haven't we about our website

Nic: Yeah

Leah: yeah

Nic: I was going to start with “Are you glad to have me back” though?

Leah: Back - in Manchester?

Nic: Yeah

Leah: Oh God it's amazing - it's amazing…

Nic: [Happy little cackle]

Leah: We’ve been for walks haven’t we, out in the outside

Nic: Yeah proper walks and we didn't touch at all

Leah: Not even once, not for any reason - not even to save each other from certain doom… luckily there wasn't any doom

Nic: No, there wasn't any doom. There were sandwiches though which is nice

Leah: Yeah sandwiches! Oh because it was my birthday, we had a birthday sandwich

Nic: Yeah! And we started the day with cake which for me is, you know…

Leah: That's a win. That's a significant win right there, immediately straight in with cake

Nic: Yeah we have just had an exciting chat about the website, you're right.

Leah: Yes, and the “About Us” section like… so I was thinking… I was wondering about if I should swap the About Us section about me, um, to the following anecdote. So, a couple of days ago I decided I really wanted to make a very specific salad.

Nic: [laughing] Yes. Do it. I don’t even need to hear the rest.

Leah: [laughing]… it was a colleague of Yotam Ottolenghi, and his recipe involved like 10 different ingredients…

Nic: Just do it.

Leah: …and I really wanted one of the ingredients which is fresh oregano leaves - which surprisingly is not a thing! Like parsley? Yes. Coriander? Fine. Oregano? Nooooo. So I had to go across town to get oregano. I traipse my kid across town in the middle of a pandemic to get fresh oregano from a supermarket on the other side of town, got the oregano, got all the way home, got ready to make the salad and then realised that I'd lost it! I don't know where it is!

Nic: Oh nooooo

Leah: I don’t know where the oregano’s gone! So maybe that should go in my “About Us” section.

Nic: So, if you've seen the oregano - please email in. One time I found… I don't know if I can say this… one time we found a little bag of what looked like herbs on the floor?

Leah: Oh yes?!

Nic: Er, in - in London it was like a little plastic baggie

Leah: Well, that's an unusual way of transporting herbs for cooking…

Nic: And we lifted it up and because I… I mean, I'm not… I've not really dabbled in that stuff but I was like “oh look, some herbs!” and Chris was like “Nic, that's not herbs."

Leah: Well, in a sense…

Nic: “I was like, sniff it, which herb is it?”, and he’s like “I’m not gonna sniff it.”

Both: [Laughing]

Nic: We gave it to our friend.

Leah: Oh great, I'm sure they were delighted. Lovely floor drugs. Is that… is that what you're going to put in your About Us section?

Nic: No - oh, I could put in the story about how I once got hit in the face with an aubergine?

Leah: We've already covered that in the podcast, do you remember? You did it in 10 different accents! I mean, if people haven't heard the aubergine story they should absolutely go back and listen to the Mid-Atlantic episode where you do it in like 10 different accents from around the UK which is an excellent episode.

Nic: As if that story needs to be made any better, I do it in different accents for you. I could tell the story about how I once accidentally auditioned for a porn film?

Leah: I don't know that story!

Nic: I don’t know if that's appropriate or not?

Leah: Well I mean how graphic did you… how far did you… go with it?

Nic: No, no, I stayed fully clothed… in fact it was it was a porn for women who stay clothed but enjoy, er, humiliating men folk - a terrible terrible thing altogether!

Leah: Oh dear!

Nic: Um, maybe it's not appropriate for the podcast

Leah: I don't know, I mean, the humiliation could be quite tame, couldn't it? It could just be, like, um, blaming them for not doing the washing up - but in public in front of their friends?

Nic: Basically the premise of it was; the woman hypnotised the man in the film. And they made us watch this so we knew, um, but not till we got there, and they didn't warn us, so, um this man, um…

[Long beeping sound]

Nic:… into an ashtray…

Leah: Right! No! It's not appropriate! Nope, not appropriate, no, I'm sorry, I thought perhaps there would be something more tame but there wasn’t, it's fine.

Nic: [laughing] Why don't you just put it in but bleep that bit out?

Leah: [laughing helplessly] I’ll do that! Oh no. Right, okay, fine, um, so this, this episode then. This episode is a live episode that we recorded earlier this month and it was in front of, like, a whole bunch of people that had tickets for it on the zoom, and it was lovely! It was a really amazing thing that we were worried we weren't going to be able to make it happen because of not being able to be in the same room, and then we decided to go online and it was a complete success.

Nic: Amazing.

Leah: It was so good, it was so good, I just loved it. And obviously because we've recorded me and Nic and Kirsty who we interviewed all separately, and then sort of jammed all those like tracks together for this podcast, you don't get to hear the people that were watching. So we decided what we would do is bring them all together for the ident. So, if you've listened to the podcast before you'll know that normally we have an ident somewhere in the middle of the episode saying “Hi, I'm blah blah and you're listening to the voiceover social”, er, so we got everybody to record that and send it to us - and so we put them all together into one track, and I didn't know how it was going to sound… I just didn't know, I had no idea but I need… I feel I need to warn you in advance before it suddenly strikes in the middle of the episode: it sounds absolutely blooming MAD.

Nic: [very professionally] the following ident is not suitable for persons of a nervous disposition

Leah: [laughing] That’s right! So we'll leave it there, you'll know when it comes.

Nic: On a scale of one to your AI voice how weird is it?

Leah: It’s weirder. It’s weirder. It’s… shocking! I would say - I don't want to overblow it but I don’t think it's possible to overplay it or blow it or anything like that. So - I mentioned Kirsty. I'm not gonna tell you anything else about her because we'll just go straight into the live episode now where I explain quite a lot about her! Off we go!

Main Episode - Recorded live on Zoom

Leah: This is Kirsty everybody! And you probably are already aware of the sort of thing that she's up to, um, but I will tell you just in case… she's been working in professional sound for 20 years, she's put in more than 500 hours of game and animation character voice direction, her current directing projects include Destruction All-Stars for Lucid Games, and other titles that I have been reliably informed are very, very much under NDA for Pit Stop Productions…

Nic: Boooorrrring!

Kirsty Gillmore: Really under NDA.

Leah: However - more things - her voice demo clients have gone on to secure roles in multiple animated series, films and games including Planet Zoo, Dark Souls 2 and the Total War series, and - you guys already know this but - demos she produces are regularly nominated for best demo at the voice Arts Awards (there were two of those) and the One Voice Awards (there’s been 13 of those) and actually at One Voice she was named Voiceover Services Provider Of The Year last year so, Kirsty! Thanks for coming!

Kirsty: You're really welcome! Hello everybody! Lovely to see some familiar faces, people that I haven’t - that I don't know, um… I love all the variety of drinks. Is that wine, Nic?

Nic: Noooo no… oh, I'm losing the video… I'm losing the video [makes hissing, static noise]… my child is not here so yeah, sláinte!

Leah: I’ve got vodka and tonic in an extremely hipster jam jar… Look, it's even got a handle! I don't even know how this is in my house!

Nic: Cancelled!

Leah: I think that's fair. That’s absolutely fair.

Kirsty: I’m so professional, I’ve just got water

Leah: Oh, what a pro. What a pro.

Nic: Didn't you get the memo?

Kirsty and Nic: [laughing]

Leah: So we're going to start off with demos then, and trends of demos - because they sort of come and go as to what producers want to hear in a demo, don't they? So can you tell me, like, where we are at at the moment?

Kirsty: Where we are at the moment. I think game demos are one of the few types of voice over which aren’t as regionalised, just in terms of what people want for demos - because I think we know in commercial demos and narration demos and promo demos that there's a very American style, there's a British style, and other countries have different styles as well… whereas gaming is a lot more across the board, because gaming is a more international market. So I can say with with some confidence, at the moment what people are looking for in game demos is something that reflects the current state of games. So, not games as they were 10 years ago or five years ago but game voice acting as it is now, and game voice acting now is very, very much concentrated on realistic, naturalistic believable, dramatic acting. So, we're talking about - at the high end of the spectrum you're talking about games like The Last Of Us and The Last Of Us 2 which has just been released. Other titles like Assassin's Creed, er Assassin's Creed Odyssey, um, most recently Assassin's Creed Origins in the AAA games - but also in indie games and independent games we’re still seeing the same kind of trends. So, Firewatch, for example which won Cissy Jones a BAFTA for best performance. There are plenty of, um, games like the sort of games that were in the the performance categories at the BAFTA games this year… they all had a heavy reliance on dialogue but also a heavy reliant on naturalistic and believable performing. So for game demos, that's really the first thing that people want to hear. They want to hear how well you can perform as an actor in a variety of different emotional states; a variety of different energies; a variety of different statuses… High status characters, low status characters - and that really is the most important thing. And the other real hardcore thing is that the first clip absolutely must be in your own voice. In your own voice. People sometimes say to me “oh, it's an American market, aren't they going to want an American accent if I'm British?”… believe me, 100%, I just want to hear what you can do. If you've got a strong Liverpool accent, great. I want to hear that. If you've got an accent that hovers somewhere between the Midlands and the North, great. I want to hear that. If you've got an international accent because you grew up in, er, in Brazil but you've lived here for 40 years I want to hear that. I'm interested in what makes an actor you, and believe me, for the vast majority of games that I cast and direct we are looking for native standard - or very good standard - natural accents. And also, if I listen to someone's demo I need a base line! I need something to judge the rest of you on. So I want to hear… if you are a native Scouser, I want to hear that first, and if you can do an exceptionally good American accent - General American - great, then stick that on there. But I want to get a baseline of where you are, er, so that would be the first thing I would say.

Leah: Brilliant. And I know that at the moment you're not taking any more bookings for demos

Kirsty: I am not! I’m sorry!

Leah: That’s - that’s fine, what I wanted to know is, like, if people are urgently in need of a demo what would you recommend they do in terms of deciding who to work with?

Kirsty: Um, I would say really you have to decide what you want out of a demo first. There are a lot of really brilliant demo producers out there and you have to decide what's most important to you. Do you want someone who will give you scripts - write you scripts - or are you happy to do that yourself? Do you want really great direction? You should want really great direction, but say you went to a studio to get it produced and you've got an engineer who is a very good sound designer, very good sound engineer and they can make it sound amazing… can they give you the kind of direction to get the performances you want? Possibly - possibly not. So I would say you should be looking for someone who can provide what you're looking for and then as a minimum someone who can direct you really well, someone who has experience in directing, someone who knows the industry really really well - so it's not just someone who mainly produces commercial demos but can do character demos. You really want someone who knows what the gaming industry is like and isn't going to lead you down the path of “oh you can just do lots of different characters and that'll be fine”, because that's not what gaming casting and voice directors are looking for. You know, I hear a lot of demos which are just voices. You know? And they’re fun voices, they're often silly voices, but they are just voices. And if you can do a lot of different accents, great! But I need to hear your acting. I'm not interested if you can do a French accent - I can find French people for that, you know, it has to be that you can do a French accent AND it's a very believable man in his 50s whose house… who has just lost his entire family in a flood, you know, I need something - I need something more behind that. So I would say find a demo producer who really understands the industry, can direct you really well and can produce a really polished product as well, um, because you will want something at the end which sounds polished and not amateur. Which is why I strongly strongly recommend that if people are going to take gaming work seriously and they want to produce a demo, that you go out and get It produced and not try and do it yourself. I mean, I've got 20 years sound experience, I'm a professional sound designer and a professional voice director and I've got 9 years experience as a professional voice actor - I would not do my own demo. Like, I would not direct my own demo. I produce it, sure, I've written the scripts, but for my own demo I go to another director friend and say “direct me”, because I can't get the sort of performances out of me that a director can because you need that objective perspective.

Leah: That's such an interesting thing. So what would you say about how to work with your producer to make sure that that between you you're getting the best performance that you can in a demo.

Kirsty: Right, well I would really talk to you producer about what characters you feel really strongly about and what characters you really want to capture in your demo. So you can be like, look, I do a really, really great… I'm very, very good at playing baddies. I'm very, very good at criminal voices so I want - I want to make sure that I really get some great villainous voices… but also, what else do you think I should add to that to get more of a range? And that's when you're looking to a director or producer who's experienced in the industry and can say “We're looking for an every-person voice, you want to show some weak characters as well as strong characters, you want to show the range of human experience”. So, people, if you are going to do a villain you can do a traditional gaming villain - you can do a crazy villain Like A Mark Hamill/Joker type - great. But you also might want to do someone who is less of an obvious villain like, um, someone who's betrayed their sibling. So the Uncharted series - I can't remember which Uncharted it was but one of the two - the main brother pair - betrayed the other one. So, he is a villainous character without being a typical villain. So I would say work with your producer on what your strengths are, and then go beyond that. You know, what you feel your strengths are and then what else can you do. What can you do really well, what do you feel you could bring to it, what's different.

Leah: Brilliant! Um, I was going to save all the questions to the end for the Q +A but Emma Stannard has just posted a really good one in the chat that is really relevant, so, um… Could you make a creature video game demo as opposed to human characters? It tends to be an area she works in more - as we know, by the way, from our amazing voiceover party tricks cocktail party episode which you should all listen to because she features in it with some lovely creatures in there, but also it's hilarious. So what would you say? Creatures versus humans - or would you always say a mix of both?

Kirsty: So, creatures comes in a couple of different flavours… like, Emma do you mean voices where you're being like monster characters, like that kind of creature, like a zombie creature? You're nodding, I can see you onthe screen. Or do you mean actual animals?

Leah: She does both.

Kirsty: You do both, okay, right, so let's let's approach those differently then. So monster voices like, you know, zombie voices, hags, you know, um, like, monsters, that kind of thing - trolls, ogres, goblins, that sort of thing, yes. If you feel that's a real strength of yours and a speciality, absolutely. And to be honest those are one of the few types of times where a casting director might actually book off demos, er, which usually doesn't happen at all in gaming, but one of the few times that casting directors may book off demos is if they are specifically casting a game where they're looking for people who can do creature voices like that. And I have seen that happen, where people are like “Right, we are casting a load of trolls" or “we're casting - this game is full of just ogres and trolls and goblins and things so we just want people who can do a range of different monster voices”, great. That is the sort of thing that I might book off a demo for. In terms of animal noises, that's a very specific genre that people are very - a lot of people have a bit of a niche in that. I mean Dee Bradley Baker's the obvious one. He's probably considered to be like one of the foremost experts in vocal animal noises in the world, and he's also an incredibly excellent voice actor but I would say I don't know what the market is for it. I have booked people to do that but I have never looked for it specifically. But if it's a thing that you want to promote, absolutely, but I would separate those out. I'd do, like a monster/creature voice demo and then I do like an actual animal demo where you're just making noises. I would strongly say that if you did want to do a creature demo, Emma, like a monster voice demo make sure there's dialogue in it and it's not just noises. So make sure that I can actually make out some some words in it because most of the creature monster voices, even if you're just going “RARRGGH! Feed! Hungry!” Even if you're just saying stuff like that, it is actual still words. I mean I do work with a number of stuff - there’s a game that I'm doing at one of the ones I can't talk about where we do use that and a lot of the… a lot of the the roles in that where we need that kind of thing is literally that: “feed, hungry, more, don’t, leave” that kind of thing, it's one word. So I would say if you are going to do that; yes, I think there is a market for it - it isn't something that comes up a lot but it is good to have that, if it is something you specialise in, absolutely. Put a demo together, stick it on your website, get it professionally produced.

Leah: Brilliant, brilliant. Oh, excellent. Right. So you've got your demo or demos, er, now what. Where do you submit it, and also where do you go to find auditions or… well… how do you approach that?

Kirsty: Right, okay, so I think it’s, um, there are, um, casting directors who are very happy to receive demos, so if you do have personal contact with the casting director… and I would always ask them if they're receiving demos because it's polite. I'm not a massive fan of people cold emailing me demos because I, um, they will tend to get lost. If people want to send me demos… um… this is opening the floodgates isn't it… um, if people want to send me their demos, I don't have a problem with that. But just to be aware; like a lot of casting and voice directors I am extremely busy, and I don't probably won't have time to listen to them for quite a while… we’re talking months. So don't - if you do send them, just don't expect people to get back to you straight away. What I will do, however, is that I will log them and… the way I work is that I have a casting database, so what I would prefer to do is if someone emails me about a demo I would send them a form to fill out, and that way you're on my casting database and when roles come up I have like “oh, er, Dave can do an Irish accent , brilliant, I'll have a listen to his demo; see if that's on there”. So firstly check with the casting director, see if you can email them directly - quite a lot of casting directors are happy with that. As a tip for UK people, US people are probably going to be more interested in you than UK casting directors. And I don't mean that because UK casting directors are horrible, because we're not, they're very nice… but I just mean that when they do get roles for native British accents and Irish accents you are valuable to them because of that. They'll have a load of US people who deal with the US side of things, but you are valuable to them. And I've heard a U.S casting director say to me and to other people, “oh if you're Scottish, yes, I'd love to hear it. If you're Irish, yes, love to hear it. You're a what? A Geordie? I don't know what that is but I'd love to hear it.” In the UK - and in the US as well, but it's probably more relevant for the UK - they have audio outsourcing companies who specialise in games, like Side and OMUK and Pit Stop and Liquid Violet and Sound Cuts and other people as well. They’re good people to kind of - to know about, because the outsourcing companies - very generally - deal with a lot of the big and the high-end and the AAA games in the UK. They're often dealt with and cast and sourced by these outsourcing companies. So, you know getting on their radar is always a good thing. However, you need to be careful about how you approach them, and you need to check on their websites to see if they, if they… some of them will not accept just cold demos, but they're good people to follow on Twitter; they're good people to look up on social media because they will often, if they are looking for something specific, they may well tweet it out, so that is - that's the first part of the question. Second part of the question about looking for, er, looking for places to find auditions… um, right, so there's a couple of levels for this. A lot of the work I do is as a casting director for the companies and the devs, the developers and the studios I work for - they will work through agents. Voice or acting agents, they're not massively picky about it but they will work through agents and there'll be agents that they've worked with before, or agents that they've been recommended to. They will work off personal casting databases and they will work off personal recommendations from voice directors or performance directors. I know that there are gaming companies that will use Spotlight and will look at Spotlight to to cast. I know of at least a couple of very big gaming companies in the UK who use Spotlight. Smaller indie games - independent games - will use social media quite heavily, specifically Twitter. Twitter is a big deal for indie devs - for independent developers around the world; they use that for casting voice actors quite a lot. Pay to plays… I mean people do it… I know that there are people out there who do it, but I would never stick a voiceover audition up on a pay to play so I can't really comment on that. None of the companies I work for will use them, so not Mandy, definitely not Voice 123 or, so yeah - does that give you… is that enough?

Leah: That is broad, thank you very, very much, what a lot, great. So er, a big chunk of our audience submitted an audition for the masterclass part of today, so we're going to play you the winners and a few notable runners-up as a way of illustrating how to submit a great audition, and to do this I'm going to share screen. So I just… um, also Nic warned me to make sure I didn't have any niche porn up on my screen…

Nic: make sure all that horrific stuff that you're into is not visible there because we're going to lose a lot of followers…

Leah: [laughing] okay, great. Now this first one, then - this is Sara Starling who's one of our winners today:

Sara Starling: “Look around you. The world's changed and it's never going back to the way it was. You can either put up with it or work with me to make it better. What are you going to do?”

Leah: Oh my God I love it. So Kirsty, tell us why that was such a great entry.

Kirsty: Er, what I really loved about that read is that I really felt like she was talking to me. It was really intimate, and I really felt like I was being - I was being spoken to like it was a conversation, and that's really, really important to me. The fact that it’s believable, I feel like someone is talking to me and not talking at me. I work with a lot of actors whose first instinct is to talk at me a little bit - if you've got a theatre background - a little bit like you're on stage and projecting out to the audience… and with games, for anybody, er, who's played games you'll know that the connection with the player is incredibly important. Games are about the experience; the playing experience. It's not a static thing. A lot of the media we do as actors is quite linear, you know, plays - passive audience. Animation - passive audience. With games it's not. It's an experience, it's interactive and I think that's really important to bring that forward so that's why I loved that.

Leah: Excellent, okay, so our other winner then was Philip. I will just go back to sharing screen… oh, also, he submitted three takes but we're just going to play the first two.

Philip McGuinness: “Look around you. The world's changed and it's never going back to the way it was. You can either put up with it or work with me to make it better. What are you going to do?” (x2)

Leah: There you have him, tell us about him.

Nic and Kirsty: Mmmmmm.

Kirsty: What I really loved about Philip's audition - although we didn't ask for… I didn't specifically ask for multiple takes, but he gave a second take and a lot of people did, which is great, but the second take was really different from the first. Completely different energy, completely different approach, different volume, which was brilliant. It really gave me a big idea of his range. And the final line of that second audition; he did a complete pivot and really changed it. So he had this big “look around you”, you know, it was really big, and then on the final line he brought it right down and just said - really genuinely - “so what are you going to do?”, and it was really lovely. That kind of - that big shift was very interesting; it was really engaging, and I really loved that.

Leah: Lovely, okay. So the first of our three runners-up is Cherise Silvestri. She submitted four takes which you said was just… too many. So I'm just gonna play the second one, which is the one you said that you liked best..

Cherise Silvestri: “Look around you. The world's changed and it's never going back to the way it was. You can either put up with it or work with me to make it better. What are you going to do?”

Leah: Okay that’s - that was just take two of four.

Kirsty: Yes, so… yes. The reason I said four takes is too many is because nobody has time to listen to four takes. Absolutely not. I just - I would probably… two takes, I think. Two takes is about my maximum, you know. I just… and if you don't do something very, very different for those… you need to do something really, really different for those first two takes as well. I need to hear something totally different.

Leah: Mmm, and you've said that that second take had a sort of lovely cold villainous quality to it which is what you… which is what you found attractive…

Kirsty: Yeah, yeah, out of the out of the four of them I thought that was the most - it was the most interesting take for me. She went in a different direction um and was just a little bit colder, which was great, and I would have… that would have been something - if I decided to call her in for an audition, that would have been something that I would have asked to push a little bit more.

Leah: The next, er, person who was one of the runners up was Bryan Boston

Bryan Boston: [laughing coldly] “Look around you. The world's changed and it's never going back to the way it was. You can either put up with it or work with me to make it better. What are you going to do?” x 2 [second version deeper and angrier]

Kirsty: So what I really loved about your, um, what I really loved about your auditions is that they're an excellent - especially the first one - excellent example of what a lot of American coaches and directors and casting directors call “pre-life”, which is putting something before the sentence; something before the dialogue to kind of bring you into it - so you did that kind of laughing to bring us into that first take. Now that that was excellent. Firstly, it gave me a really great idea of the kind of the direction you were going to take it. Secondly, it was incredibly interesting - you were one of only a couple of people who actually did anything like that just in terms of putting any kind of lead into it and thirdly, it - it’s, er, particularly with laughter actually, it's immediately very engaging to me to listen to. I - I'm like “oh, that's interesting I want to hear more of that”. It could have been - I mean, er, Bryan chose to use a bit of laughter to bring into it… it could even be a couple of words. And that ad-lib, leading in - that pre-life is something that I'm very happy to hear as a casting director for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's very interesting… if I listen to 50 auditions and 48 of them start exactly the same way and then two of them start with a little bit of ad-lib… even if it's just a laugh or a sigh; vocal noises, emotes or even a couple of words like “you know”, “the thing is”, or whatever, that's great. So please feel free to do it. The second reason that I'm perfectly okay with it, is that… the lines that you get to audition with in games, there is a good chance they will not end up in the game. There is a good chance that they were written specifically for the auditions, so you are not auditioning with lines… you might… some of the lines might be in the game but you are not auditioning with lines that will… you know, don't feel that you have to nail exactly what the director wants, because at that point, you know, the character hasn't been established yet, the writers don’t, you know, we possibly… if it's a huge game we probably haven't got that far yet, so don't feel that you have to hit something that's already been decided. And in that case you can really just make it your own. Follow the directions given, obviously, but I would say if a little bit of ad-lib helps bring you into the character just use it. Um, the second reason I really loved, er, your audition, Bryan, is because the second take was really, really different from the first. So that - going back to, um, what we said before - a very, very different different quality to it, and it was it was just unexpected. You did something different, and that was great, so you showed me your range in those two takes.

Leah: When it comes to the pre-life stuff - if you were to add extra words, um, would you say there are other casting directors that don't like it?

Kirsty: I mean, yeah, there probably are, er, but I don't know them… I've never met them. I've never - I have never met a casting director who will mark someone down for doing - for a voice over audition; mark someone down for putting in a couple - doing a little bit of pre-life. Even in a mocap audition, even filmed in a mocap audition - don’t go off piste - nobody wants to hear your own personal monologue, but, you know, a couple of words like “the thing is… blah blah blah blah” or “you see”, “oh look”, you know, that kind of - a couple of words like that? Absolutely fine for the audition stage. What I want to hear is your version of the character - you’re doing a take on it, so that's fine. I mean, it does get a little bit - if people do a lot of ad-lib within the take, yeah, that's where I'd be a bit like… just because it… just… I think it reflects on how they might work in the room, and I'm just a little bit wary of people - of actors - who do want to add a lot of their own ad-lib, because for a lot of the games I work on there isn't time. I'm trying to hit - for mocap, I'm trying to hit 500 words an hour. For voiceover performances I'm going to go more like a thousand, so there just isn't time for people… if people start adding their own ad-libs in too much, then that's going to eat into what we have - what we need to get through. So if there's a lot of ad-lib, I think that would make me a little bit wary, but a couple of words here and there; absolutely fine if that helps you add to your… what you're doing. And emotes, laughter, sighs, you know, all that kind of stuff - frustrated noises - bring it all to life for me. Make it human. As humans we stutter, we slightly repeat ourselves occasionally, we put in “ums” we put in “ers” we laugh - you know, stick all that in. It's a, it's a, it's a human - it's a human quality. Even if you're doing creatures… even if you were doing a lizard woman piloting a spaceship (which is basically Mass Effect) then you can still do that, yeah.

Leah: great great okay so let's say just our final one then Chris tester isn't here but um I'm gonna share his audition with everybody anyhow

Chris Tester: [scornful exhalation] “Look around you. The world's changed and it's never going back to the way it was. You can either put up with it or work with me to make it better. What are you going to do?”

Leah: oh my god I love that one

Kirsty: So basically, Chris’s one encapsulates everything that, um, that I was saying. He put a little bit of pre-life in to bring it into it, but he had a real sense of talking to you - you really feels like he's talking to you. He made some really strong choices; he'd already decided what the character was going to be, and he went with it, which was great. And for that audition I deliberately left it open - you could have taken it any direction you liked, um, and Chris chose what he was going to do and went with it and I thought that came across really clearly - I got a really clear - from that just short thing I got a really good, clear idea of what that character was going to potentially be.

Leah: Great okay so let's move on from auditions then. A lot more work than ever before has been recorded from home studios lately, and I know you have some ideas about how people can make sure they're not letting themselves down in that area, um, so, tell me what you've been thinking.

Kirsty: Right, so, er, during lockdown I have been working on a number of projects which involve home studios. Some of them are games, I was also - I’m also co-producing and sound designing a eight hour audio drama for Audible which was recorded completely in home studios during lockdown and I have a lot of thoughts…

[general laughter]

…about this, um, so I think the biggest thing for me is that what I realised doing it is that one of the things that I think a lot of actors kind of know, and voice actors kind of know - but maybe don't really don't really, possibly realise is that when a studio or a director or a producer or a game company books you to record in your home studio, they are not just booking your studio and they are not just booking you as an actor… they're booking you as an engineer as well. So you have to provide the same level of skills they would expect to get from a commercial studio. I don't necessarily mean in terms of kit. Obviously I don’t, you know, I'm not expecting people to go out and buy you know, um, £1800 mics or whatever, but I am expecting people to be able to know confidently how to record themselves, to send me audio or to send the company audio in the format that's required, to be able to troubleshoot - to be very confident using your kit so that it doesn't faze you if things go wrong and we need to reconnect or what have you… and also just to be really confident about, yeah, being - being your own engineer. So not having to stop and start because you don't know how to how to set levels and things like that. To not send me distorted audio because you know that you have to adjust the levels if you're going to be - if you're going to be louder or softer. To be able to do all of that really confidently and to have the confidence in your home studio, so you can reassure the director and the producer. And what I discovered a lot of the time is that actors had studios that sounded great but we had so many - not even really so many technical problems, but they were so nervous about doing their own engineering, and so worried about it that it massively impacted on their performance. So there were a couple of moments - we had to rebook people, we moved people to commercial studios to do that. And in this particular case we wanted that actor so much that that was the case, but in other cases I probably would have recast, because it was time consuming and it was - and it was costly. I have to be confident that the session will run as at least as well as it would from a commercial Studio. I'm a big advocate for for actors with home studios - I have a home studio! You know, I really want people to do it, but from the other side of the production fence it’s very frustrating when you have a session that doesn't run smoothly because the actor is having engineering problems. Unfortunately, during lockdown we worked with so many actors at the insistence of whatever companies we were using who had knocked up duvet studios. Which is the way the world was at the time - and still is - which is absolutely fine, but a lot of companies have been really put off using people with home studios for that reason - because there were so many audio issues, and so many things that we had to iron out in post, not just audio quality but just things like actors forgot to record, you know? Which sounds really obvious… I know, yeah, I can see your face Nic… which sounds really obvious but they were so concentrated on their performance that they forgot to record. Now, I was recording a backup, that is absolutely fine, but you know it's things like that that makes producers and end clients - gaming companies - go, “Well, we've just invested four hours for something that's not recorded”, you know, and it just makes them go “Well, maybe we don't want to use that actor again”. Ao I would say investing time and money in your home studio setup is great; please make sure you're confident in using it if you are advertising yourself as having a home studio.


Forty VO Socialites all at once: Hi, I’m [inaudible], and you’re listening to the Voiceover Social

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Leah: Oh hello Rob Bee; sound engineer and home studio support personnel of choice for voiceovers across the UK… what's that you got there?

Rob: Oh, well, this is a third generation Focusrite Scarlett 2i2… it's a two in two out A D D A converter with 56dB of gain range, -126dB equivalent input noise, one thousandth of a percent total harmonic distortion, bus powered USB A and C connectivity - with optional air!

Leah: Er… I didn't understand anything you just said.

Rob: Um, it's a nice red box that connects your microphone to your computer, and if you press the button on the front it makes it sound like a £2000 piece of recording studio equipment.

Leah: Aahhh! Oooh!

Nic: Focusrite Scarlett Third Gen range. Removing barriers to recording your quality gaming voiceover .

Leah: So. You've got your studio sorted out, you've learned how to use it, you've got the job… and now you're in the booth and you're working with the director. So how do you make sure that when you've got all those things set up around you that you - in the moment - are giving the best performance that you can?

Kirsty: I would say… listen to your director, have all your script ready - I know that sounds so obvious but the amount of times the actor’s like “Oh sorry, hang on, I just have to go get the script” and I'm like I'm not paying you to deal with this…” If you have any reference audio, like, it's a really good idea to have a listen to your audition. If they're like “we've booked you off this audition”, brilliant! Have a listen to it, make sure you have a base line in your head because they will. I listen to everybody's audition, so I have a good idea of what we what we want to change what we want to keep… make sure you do as well, so we've both got that idea in our heads when we go in. Yeah, listen to your director - make sure that you're not just running off on a tangent and doing six takes at once. You will establish a way of working with your director, so if you prefer to do two takes on the trot, great! Let them know, that's fine. The first 10 minutes of a session I think is really about discovering the way we work together, and if there's anything - you know, we are in this really strange world at the moment, and even though I've just, you know, talked about being professional with your, you know, making sure you can do all the sound engineering and that - if you do have any issues that you can’t get around, like “is it okay if I take a 10 minute break at this time because I have to put my daughter to bed”, fine, you know, absolutely fine. I don't have a, you know - that kind of thing… we’re all human beings, we understand. If I know that sort of thing up front we can work around it, that's not a problem. And then I would just say; try and relax and have fun, you know. It's got to be an exploration - if it's a new character that we're discovering together, then we're going to try some different stuff. Don't be afraid to experiment. If you're like “hey, I think - actually, I'm wondering… I was thinking about this character - I’m wondering if we can try a Bulgarian accent?" and I'll be like “Great, well, can you do a Bulgarian accent?”… “Yeah, I feel very confident about doing that”… “Great, okay, well, yeah, let's give it a go - let's see if that works!” There are going to be some games where I'm under very tight deadlines, and I'll try and make that clear as much as possible up front, but… in general it's about communication. Communicate with your director, be aware of what it is it's like. If we have to get in this session… we have four hours, and we have to get through four thousand words then, you know, make sure that you - that that's clear - that we understand that up front. And, you know, feel free to request things like… a director should do this, but feel free to say, you know, “I've noticed this bit is incredibly emotional, can we leave that to the end?” or, er, you know, “there's a lot of, er, really shouty efforts or emotes; can we leave those to the end?” A director should do that anyway but if you want to highlight anything, like, “we're doing six characters and this particular character takes me a while to warm into - it's fine once I'm there; is it possible because it's early - it's nine o'clock in the morning - can I not do this first?” Or “Can I do this first because my voice is already there?” Whatever works for you.

Leah: Great, great. Okay, so finally - and this is my last question but remember everybody, if you have a question that you want to ask Kirsty put it in the chat and I'll gather them together for the end, but my last one is… we have to talk about this because our most recent episode - our main episodes - have been about AI and how it's going to impact on the gaming industry. And I know you've heard the episode and you have some thoughts so… where are you at with it?

Kirsty: Okay, um, when you talked to Zeena [Qureshi - CEO of Sonantic] I thought it was really interesting the fact - she kind of kept going back to the fact that they weren't replacing actors, they were augmenting actors work. The idea that actors would have an AI version of their voice, like you would have a headshot or a demo or, you know, a showreel, you'd also have an AI… and then gaming companies or whoever could then book your AI voice to use that in whatever way they liked, and I just don’t know… the thing is, actors aren't just booked to do one version of you, you know? They're not… I’m… you're not booked to just be Leah. Nic isn’t book to just be Nic, you know? Actors are booked a lot on their versatility - not just emotionally, but to be like, you know, a lot of different characters. You know, I have - I’ve - you know, I've played a 55 year old Kiwi woman, and I've played, you know, 25 year old Australians and I've played, you know, American arches and blah blah blah, you know, and so how does that… they just seem to have quite a narrow idea of what an actor did. It felt like they were concentrating on the voice and not the actor as a professional. So the thing is is that, sadly, I have directed games where it could - they could - the characters could easily be replaced by AI to the level - that the level that, that, that Faith was. Absolutely… because they're not very good games. The narrative isn't very good, the characters aren't very well drawn… they’re not big games, they're mobile type level games… but, absolutely, there's like maybe 10, 15 different characters - absolutely they could be replaced by AIs. The level of Faith, absolutely. And I think that's what we're going to see - we’re going to see that kind of, that kind of game which is, like, “We really want voice actors but we can't …we can only just, you know, it's going to cost us this amount of money… oh, but we can just license voices to do it” and honestly, it does mean they get voice acting in their game but, you know, the game - the level of that game is such that you don’t… you know, the writing doesn't support really great acting anyway, so they might as well get an AI. There’s a lot of games like that out there.

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Rob: Studio Tickling tours!

Helen: Social templates!

[Repeated for quite a long time, with Helen sounding increasingly frantic wth each key change]

Several VOs: Bee dash double dash ee. B Double E. Helping voiceovers to be seen and heard.

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Zeb Soanes: And now on The Voiceover Social… the Panic Room.

Anonymous panic [recorded at one of the VO Socials in Manchester]: If you have an audition that you know you want to really nail, how do you know when to stop? So, if you do the audition at home - how do you know when to stop at the right take? Because you could do it all day. You could keep doing takes and takes and takes and takes… how do you know when that's just enough?

Leah: Okay Nic, it's all yours - and Kirsty’s.

Nic: Kirsty, I feel that you're in a better position to answer this because you listen to the fecking things all the time. I can only really answer this as someone who auditions for stuff…[giggles]… you go first.

Kirsty: I would say that, er, there will definitely come a point in your auditioning - if you do it over and over again - that it's going to sound performed and not natural. And, there is a tendency - particularly when we're auditioning in our home studios - and for, for, you know, voice actors who have - and voiceover artists who have their own studios, because you can edit, to keep on doing it until you're happy with the exact take… and then edit them all together. When do you know that it's right? You are never going to get what the casting director has in their head because they don't know. A couple of things - firstly, read the directions on the audition, make definite choices for each line which we should do as actors anyway, and then I would give it no more than two or three passes… because after that point you're going to start over-performing, and what was really natural and really lovely is probably now going to start to sound really performed. So I would say two or three passes. I mean, you can like… that’s not - that's not a hard and fast rule. If you want to give it four or five, great, but believe me - as a voice actor, I've done that! I’m… there was a role - oh, there was a role that I super, super wanted for an animation a few years ago, and I read the direction… I did so many takes. I spent like two hours on it. It was a 30 second audition, it was ridiculous, but I wanted it so badly and I didn’t even get shortlisted for the role. What they wanted was somebody 20 years older than me. Did I have a hope in hell? No. Did I know that? No. But I spent two hours of my life putting together what I thought was the perfect audition, and that is about an hour and a half more than I should have don’t. Just do yourselves a favour and just… the thing is, you get better by auditioning. Not by auditioning for the same thing over and over again, but by doing a lot of different auditions. So, I would say two or three takes - give yourself some space if you've got the time - two or three takes, go away for a couple of hours - or overnight if you can, depending on the time scales, come back to it with fresh ears. Have a listen to it and go “if I was a casting director, or if a friend played me that, what would I say to change?” Take yourself out of the equation, listen to it objectively, and say “if I was played that what would I tell them to change?” and it will probably come down to things like “oh, don't go so fast”, or maybe “go faster” or “I really don't hear a difference between those four lines, like, are you supposed to be sad in the last one? Because I can't really tell.” Have a listen objectively, then do another couple of passes if you want to, then leave it.

Nic: Yeah, I think what you said there about you never know what the director wants, like, you can only give the best version of what you have to offer, right? So I tend to try and keep that front and centre in my head when I'm ever auditioning for things, and I spend more of my time on the prep of the text and making sure my voice is warmed up and open and responsive - shock horror! - um, so that the decisions I make come out as good as I can on the earlier - earlier takes, and then, um, the thing that I also tend to do just in terms of… because you often get those very blunt kind of emotional directions like, um, “dying”, um, “excited”, “drinking” or whatever, I tend to then play it to somebody like who happens to be around, usually my husband, and say… “does this line sound like I’m dying? [laughter] you know, get somebody completely out of the sphere's opinion on it.

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Witch: [Mad cackling] This magic spell will add glitches to every Source Connect session! These voiceovers think they can get away with not recording everything locally?! Ha!! Watch this! One here…

VO: [glitching] oN sAle tHis weEkeNd

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VO: [perfect, glitch free] On sale this weekend

Witch: What’s happening? They’re healing! My glitches are being erased! Nooooo! How are they doing that?

Cat: Miaow

Witch: Auto Restore And Replace? I thought witchcraft was my department! Right, fine, back to the drawing board. We'll get them yet, little cat!

Leah: Source Connect. The future of voice over recording.


Leah: Right, so we're into the Q&A which means that I am going to start this off with a question that was sent in to me in advance… and my mind's gone completely blank, but I know she's here.. who is it that sent it to me? Can you unmute yourself? It's the one about animation, um, characters… yeah Julia Frost! Exactly! Thank you so much, okay, this is your question. Even though you could blatantly just ask it right there and then, I'm gonna play it anyway, here we go:

Julia Frost [pre-recorded question]: Having done a lot of children's character voices for animation cartoons, do you have any suggestions for how to transition into gaming voices? Is there a snobbery about having done children's animation compared, like, with acting? If you've done a lot of children's TV and you want to move into - sort of - regular drama there can be a little bit of snobbery about it. Do you think that's the same with gaming and animation?

Leah: What do you think, Kirsty?

Kirsty: Oh what an excellent question. Yes. I would say, er, Julia, I can… are you… Julia, I cannot see you so I'm going to scroll across until I can see you… oh this is exciting, hang on, there's so many of you! Wow! Um, I don't think I can actually see you, um, Julia, so oh, yes there you are, lovely. Okay, so I would say um there isn't a snobbery, no. I work - I work with a lot of different actors, er, voice actors on games who also do children's animation voices; absolutely great. The only issue is that I'm not interested in hearing your animation voices on games. Because unless it's a specific game that requires it - if it's a children's game - and there are a lot out there - or games aimed at the family market, then they often look for animation actors for that, because they want that kind of sound. So I would say the only thing is, is that I… can you do game voice acting? Can you do dramatic characters, and not voices but dramatic characters? Can you be Julia? Can I hear… can I hear you being an every-woman of your age, of your natural accent? Can I hear you being terrified? Can I hear you being strong? Can I hear you being complex? If you've got - you know, you can use all the beautiful range that you've got in animation, but it now needs to go into a gaming context. So I think being an animation voice actor is brilliant. That gives you… a lot of the animation voice actors I work with have a lot of range, which makes them really great for gaming, and what I really want to hear is: you can pivot into into doing serious, dramatic acting? So there's no snobbery about it, it's “can you bring the goods?” Does that answer your question?

Leah: She’s nodding and saying yes…

Kirsty: Um, I would say definitely, er, Julia, have a separate demo for it because I am not - I don't cast people off animation… I mean, I don't cast people off demos in general, I cast people off auditions - but I'm not really that interested in hearing your animation demo unless I'm unless I'm casting a fun, family game. I would just skip over it because it doesn’t - it's not relevant to most of the stuff I do because it's fun and silly and wacky - and yes, you have a lot of range but it’s also not the grounded, believable, dramatic that I'm looking for. So I would say absolutely, there's no snobbery about it, but if you do want to pursue gaming then I would need to, you know, that's what you need to be looking at. You need to take all your skills that you've done as an animation actor and now apply it to gaming.


Back to Leah and Nic in their respective studios

Leah: Anyway, welcome back to the now and the not-the-past. That was good wasn't it!

Nic: So good, so, so good. Sorry if you heard me munching on snacks at any point

Leah: [laughing] I deleted that from that one, but if you want to hear Nic munching snacks then you can in the bonus episode which was out early this month! And actually, I really would recommend that everybody listen to that, because if you've heard the episode that's all about the future and how AI is going to take over our jobs etc etc, but you haven't listened to the bonus episode - and I happen to know from looking at the listener figures that not everybody who listened to the main AI episode has listened to the bonus episode - the follow-up one… then you really should because it's full of good news and positive things and exciting thoughts about the future so do please listen to the bonus episode… especially if you've listened to the main AI episode. The thing about the live episode just then is that there's quite a lot of things that you missed, I’m sorry, by listening to the podcast only and not being at the live episode. So, obviously we included the interview with Kirsty and we included the Panic Room and we included one of the questions from the Q & A but there was a lot more than that that was going on, er, but we couldn't fit it all in! We couldn't fit it all in. So, I'm sorry but, um, there will be more won't there?

Nic: Yes we're gonna do another live one! Oh exclusive! We’re gonna do another live one! Um, hopefully though, it'll be an actual real life lovely people in a space together, um, so it's probably going to be in Manchester if that's the case, and we'll have another fabulous guest and another bunch of brilliant audience members and a feature and a bit of a Panic Room and there'll be snacks and there'll be a little drink and…

Leah: It'll be great, and if we can't have it in person then we will do it on zoom and it'll be at the start of next year is the plan to have another one so do keep an eye out for that.

Nic: Did you mention how much we raised for charity?

Leah: Oh it was brilliant, what a success! So the raffle that we ran with the help of our wonderful sponsors whose, er, commercials you heard, er, scattered throughout that episode… we managed to raise - I forgot how much it was now - ooh yeah! We managed to raise 567 pounds for the Trussell Trust

Nic: Yeyyy!

Leah: So yeah, that's great thank you so much to everybody who bought a ticket, it's simply superb, simply superb yeah. Um, also one other thing then, um, at the end of the live episode, er - and I take full responsibility for this - I was so, just, over excited by the whole thing that I forgot to do a proper sign off, er, which is what we would normally do… properly sign off the podcast and we were going to do a proper sign off for the podcast with all the people in the live episode and then I forgot to do it but I do have a recording of of Nic trying desperately to get me to listen to her over the sound of everybody unmuting and saying goodbye so you can hear me like blithely… anyway I'll play it to you now here we go…

Leah: I don't know how to end the session oh no I do it says end okay I’m going to end the session

Nic: Leah! But! Do we need to… do we all…

Leah: We love you all so much!

Nic: Leah, do we…

Leah: Byyyeeee!

Nic: Do we… oh, okay, bye!


Leah: So I'm sorry about that, however…

Nic: Wow, burn

Leah: let’s instead…

Nic: Thanks mate

Leah: …do it properly, shall we?

Nic: Thanks a lot. Yeah yeah yeah

Leah: I’ve been Leah Marks

Nic: and I've been Nic Redman

Nic and Leah: And we've all been

40 VO Socialites [all at once, like a demonic hellscape chorus]: THE VOICEOVER SOCIAL

Nic: oh good god I'm never gonna sleep again

[Theme tune plays]

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