voiceover audition

Everything is perception. Perception is everything.

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 13 Comments

mirror, mirrorSome people believe that auditioning is nothing but a numbers game.

Let me tell you a story.

Two groups of kids were playing outside. Someone had written a big number 6 on the street, and a fight had broken out because of it.

One group claimed that the number was actually a 9. The other group insisted it was a 6. Before the debate got totally out of hand, a little girl shouted:

“You’re all wrong. Can’t you see it’s just a circle with a line?”

The kids decided that she was right and they went on to do some cloud spotting. But as they were lying in the grass, another fight broke out.

“That cloud looks just like a giant elf,” said one of them.

“No way,” said another kid. “It’s a fairy. Anyone can see that!”


How on earth is it possible to come to very different conclusions, based on the same input? Well, the simple answer is that most of us tend to select information based on what resonates with our model of the world. The rest is conveniently filtered out. In other words:

We see what we want to see, and we hear what we want to hear.

A young psychologist decided to test this principle. During a road trip to promote his first book, he had breakfast in a different diner every morning. And every morning he ordered “scramberred eggs.” Not once did a waitress ask: “Excuse me sir, what did you just say?” He always got a plate of scrambled eggs, because that’s what the waitress believed he said.

As a trained journalist I happen to be a professional skeptic. I was taught to always check my sources, and in the absence of empirical evidence, do my own fact-finding. So, when I read the “scramberred eggs” anecdote, I decided to put it to the test, but with a slight twist.


One of my favorite sound engineers was a huge fan of a crooner known for songs like “Stardust,” “Mona Lisa,” and “When I Fall in Love.” During a break I innocently asked:

“Hey Mike, did you know that they just discovered an unknown recording by Napkin Cole?”

He said: “Really? Where did you hear that?”

For the next half hour, all we talked about was Napkin Cole. I must have pronounced the name at least 40 times that way, and not once did Mike raise an eyebrow. It was unforgettable… Next week I will ask him about his favorite female jazz singer: Elephant Gerald.

Having strong preconceptions is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, taking things for granted means that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s the principle of generalization upon which all learning is based. On the other hand, it closes us off to valuable new information. Worst of all, it seems to happen beyond our control.

For us voice-over pros this can be frightening. Whenever we record a demo, we’re basing our approach on our take on the text. We put that info through our filters and come up with a unique interpretation of the script. That part we can control. But once this demo reaches the ears of the client, everything depends on what unknown filters are operating in his or her brain. Sometimes, the effect can be unexpected and surprising.


A few years ago, I auditioned for an amazing job. It was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities, and I just knew that it was going to be my big break. Needless to say, I pulled out all the stops to make sure my demo was spot-on. Only after I was completely satisfied that I had absolutely nailed it, did I send my demo on its way.

An hour later I received a generic rejection. It was a huge slap in the face, and I felt like a complete failure. I listened to my demo over and over again, and I couldn’t figure out what had gone so horribly wrong.

A year later I finally got the answer.

By chance I ran into a colleague of the voice-seeker who had so cruelly crushed my dreams. He recognized my voice, and we started talking about that fateful project I had auditioned for.

I said to him: “I have to ask… I know I would have been perfect for this project. Tell me: Why didn’t I get the job?”

He paused for a moment and replied:

“I know exactly why.

You sounded too much like the producer’s ex-boyfriend.”

When I heard those words, two very conflicting emotions boiled up to the surface. I was both livid and relieved. My angry ego shouted: How could this woman have been so unprofessional?

At the same time I was glad to know that there was nothing I could have done to change her mind.

Ancient wisdom tells us that the world we see is a mirror of who we are.

Everything is perception.

Perception is everything.

It is written in the clouds.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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The Most Obnoxious Man in Voice-Overs

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 18 Comments

older manCharacters.

The voice-over world is filled with them.

On-screen and off-screen.

Most of these characters are very likable, but every now and then you’ll encounter a rotten apple, an arrogant bully or a troll.

A week ago, I ran into one of them at a New York audition. I’d seen him before at some other place. He was an older guy, dressed in a classic three-piece suit. His tan was as fake as the color of his hair. When he spotted me filling out the sign-up sheet, he bellowed:

“Hey, Danish guy, I’m surprised to see you here. Did you finally decide to join the big leagues?”

I tried to ignore him, but he went on:

“Tell me, are you union yet?”

“No, I’m still happily non-union,” I answered. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’d like to…

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

Making Money In Your PJs cover

The Awedition

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 12 Comments

“Not everything is what it seems to be,” said the King as he looked into the Court Jester’s mirror.”

Have you ever wondered what’s going on behind the closed doors of a casting agency?

What’s it like to be part of a nerve-wracking cattle call?

Would the casting director be one of those failed actors who has turned his bitterness for the business into a lifelong mission to humiliate terrified talent?

Would the waiting area be filled with intimidating, cutthroat competitors, exchanging stories of horror and faded glory? Or is all of that just a caricature, perpetuated in Hollywood movies about the trials and tribulations of aspiring actors?

Well, you’re about to find out!

Being the famous blogger I am, I was recently granted unprecedented permission to record one of my auditions for the enjoyment and continued enlightenment of my readers. Nothing’s more fun than learning from other people’s most embarrassing moments, right?

So, for once you get to be a fly on the wall, as I enter a casting agency at an undisclosed location near New York.

For those of you who’d like to read along, you’ll see that I provided a copy of the script. Anything to please my faithful fans!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

Never Bite the Hand

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Promotion 4 Comments

“If a picture’s worth a thousand words, why didn’t I become a photographer instead of a voice-over?”

That was typical Bill.

No “Hello” or “How are you”. Bill always comes in with some kind of wisecrack.

“Why do you look so happy?” I asked. “Just watching you makes me miserable.”

“I think I nailed that last audition, man. I totally rocked the house,” Bill said, beaming from ear to ear. “I even added some special effects.” He made the sound of an airplane on the runway. I was utterly confused. What audition was the man talking about?

Bill is no Shallow Hal. Bill is deep. A while ago,

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

Making Money In Your PJs cover