Writing a Good & Compelling Casting Spec
Whether you know exactly what you’re looking for in a voice — or you have no idea what you’re looking for in a voice (both are totally valid places to start) — you want to write a compelling voiceover casting spec that will attract the right talent for the job. Here’s how!
First, lay out your particulars.
- WHAT: What kind of a project are you working on? Is it a 15-second commercial, a social media post, an explainer video? Will it be used for 1 year, 1 month, 1 week?
- WHERE: Where will this be seen/heard? Is it for local, regional, or national broadcast? Will you reach viewers via organic social media, or paid placement? Or, will it only be an internal project, and not seen by the larger public?
- WHEN: What is your timeline for the project? Are you looking to have a directed session, or to just send the script and get back a few takes? How quickly do you need this to happen?
- HOW MUCH: It can be helpful for you to list what the job pays. This way, you won’t go through all the trouble of considering talent who may not be within your budget. If you’re unsure, no problem — you are always welcome to request a quote.
Once the particulars of the job have been laid out, now you can get to the more intangible parts of the casting spec: what you want the voice to sound like.
It’s very common for casting specs to reference a celebrity voice or voices that the producer likes or thinks is in line with the project. For this, the voice talent assumes you are not looking for an exact imitation of that celebrity, but more the “essence” that they bring to their way of speaking. Feel free to list any celebrity references you think would be helpful.
When describing what you’d like the voice talent to communicate, it’s helpful to list a few specific descriptors — the more specific, the better.
For example, let’s say you want your talent to sound concerned. Great! Should the talent be caring and concerned, or suspicious and concerned? You’ll get two very different reads depending on which version of “concerned” you’re looking for. Narrowing down the type of political ad you’re creating, and writing copy specifically to that, will help you nail down your description much easier.
What To Avoid
Here are a few things to avoid in a voiceover casting spec:
- Contradictions – “We want a voice that’s excited, enthusiastic, laid back, and casual.” Truth is, it’s really, really hard to be those four things, all at the same time. If you find yourself writing a spec like this, take a moment to reassess what you’d like communicated. From the voice talent perspective, “We want a voice that’s upbeat, passionate, and relatable,” is a much clearer direction to receive.
- Back pedaling – “Our voice should be excited, but not over the top; upbeat without being too perky; and authoritative, but not feel like a movie trailer.” With all the back and forth in this spec, the voice talent has no idea what you’re looking for! As best you can, just state the feelings you want communicated without adding a qualifier to it.
- Overthinking the spec – Sometimes we see specs that are so long and detailed, they are 3-4 times longer than the actual script (this happens more often than one would think!). If your script is :60 seconds or less, a few key descriptive words of what you are looking for in the delivery should be sufficient. There’s no need to give a complete character backstory for just a few sentences.
From there, you’re ready to start auditioning your voice talent. And if you’d like some more helpful tips on how to do just that, we’ve got a handy guide for that, too. Happy casting!