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Working with amateur voice actors
#1
 Working with amateur voice actors part 1
This article might seem like common sense to a lot of you, especially if you voice act yourself. I have over the twelve or thirteen years I've been an amateur voice actress worked with some amazing people and some really awful ones. This article is really designed to give people working on projects for the first time some pointers, or perhaps people who've had problems working with amateur voice actors some ideas on what they can improve. I also hope this will help voice actors themselves try to pick out who the best people to work with will be and hopefully avoid getting involved with unreliable people. This article also mainly focuses around non-profit/fan productions though I will briefly touch upon pay.
What's an AVA?
First let's briefly define what we mean by an 'AVA'. AVA usually stands for amateur voice actors, although those with professional aims by sometimes use the first A to stand for aspiring voice actor. This means that even in the AVA community there is a subtle distinction between those aiming for a career and those who voice act purely for fun. I say subtle because everyone' situation is different, and can be a mix of these two things or just one or the other. I point this out because a “selling point” for people looking to recruit AVAs is often that it will add to their portfolio. As a total amateur with no professional aims, this will do nothing to tempt me! For convenience in this article I will use the term Producer for someone managing a project that uses AVAs.
 
Are amateur voice actors really free?
That said even if someone is a total amateur, that doesn't mean they don't care about what they do, remember that if you ask an AVA to record for you they are spending their own time on you, they may have auditioned for you and really want the part, or you may have asked them directly to act for you. Once that time is used they can't get it back, they have invested some of their time in you. This is time the AVA could have spend solely on themselves, but they chose instead to use it for you a total stranger.
I've worked on projects where I've spent hours and hours recording only to get ditched last moment for someone else, that was time I spent in good faith wasted. Don't get me wrong I love voice acting, but I don't have an infinite amount of time; but sometimes I will VA for someone for a project I wouldn't audition for ( e.g for a fandom I'm not into) since they asked me to do so. So what do I get out of it? Well I do like to voice act for sure, and it's a super plus if I can get involved in a project I'd be interested in as a fan, but a major plus for me is the whole process of people from across the world coming together to make something. In the professional world a voice actor would get paid for their time, but in the AVA world it can often be flipped I as an actress and giving up my time for a producer. So what can you as a producer give back ?

  • Be polite and be honest – you are conversing with real people who are doing you a favour, make sure you remember that when talking with people. In cases where AVAs haven't handed in lines give firm but fair deadlines, let people know what you need from them up front. Don't make them dread your emails.

  • Getting the project out and letting the AVAs know and thanking them – this is a simple one, do your best to get your project done even if it takes a while. If the AVAs gave their time to record for you, do your best to get it done. Then let the AVAs know about it. A few times I've recorded for projects, received no reply then found it online years later. They invested time in you, invest time back.

  • Give credit to your AVAs – make sure your project lists the people who've helped you so that they are findable by someone watching the video. A lot of my roles come from people who've heard me in other stuff, so by giving credit you're helping your AVAs and giving proper thanks.

  • Be sure about someone when you cast them, don't ask a few people to record all the lines ( rather than a short audition) then just pick one. When you cast you should be reasonably sure that's who you want, remember once you've asked someone start spending time on your work they've invested in you, it's selfish to discard them. This is why spending time on auditions is important.
 
...so about pay....
As I say this isn't really about paid work, so a short statement here. Treat other people as you wish to be treated yourself. As a creator how would you like it if someone say took your script and made an animation which they got paid, but you didn't? Yes the animator probably put in more work, but they've profited in part by your actions. If for example you need Vas for a contest where you can't share the prize, disclose this when you recruit. If you're using amateur VAs then your project should be non profit or micro budget. General rule is; don't be a jerk be fair.
 
Auditions and scouting
You can get VAs for your project in two ways, by posting auditions on AVA forums or 'scouting' in which you directly ask people to VA for you. Auditions should happen when you're ready for voice over in your project, don't hold them too far in advance as AVAs have real lives and if they live with others may have to schedule time to record when their family isn't around, or when they don't have to work or take exams etc. That said don't be in a rush to cast, do it properly.
Auditions are incredibly important, as I've mentioned before I've been cast in roles where I've recorded hours worth of work only to get replaced months if not years into the project. In those cases I don't think my work declined in quality and I sent in my files on time, so why did they do it? In one case I was told they'd listened to my samples and the mic quality was lacking ( despite me having sent them months before, in the same quality as my audition), or the other because they'd discovered there were other female VAS on the internet and they didn't  realise they had a choice ( yes, really.) If these were problems then they never should have cast me!  I'd rather spend 20 minutes on a brief audition, and have a polite rejection e-mail than to spend hours and then get rudely told I'm rubbish!
So auditions are important, there are a wide range of AVAs online and you want to find the right ones ( and in turn they want to find the right project) .This is when you find someone whose voice matches, and whose recording quality is of a good enough level for your project. You also want to try and get voices that work well together.
Read the forum rules of the website(s) where you're casting, then spend time on your audition post. Pick 3-4 important lines that represent each character, and give enough information for the actors to be able get a handle on what you're looking for, and an idea how much time it will take. Don't cast first come first served, as it sends the message you don't care who records, take the time to get it right. Instead set a deadline for at least a few weeks, so that interested Vas can organise audition time. Then sit down and take time to listen to the auditions.
 
Scouting is a little different, either you looked through our VA directory or you might have stumbled across someone's youtube page etc. It's OK to ask someone if they'd like to audition, rather than just hand them the part, but be clear the part isn't confirmed, it might be they have a voice in their demo reel that's close but you're not sure if they can do the part. Remember though if you do that and don't cast them be sure to thank them for their time.
 
Sometimes you find the ideal person and can just ask a person if they will take on the role. In this case be clear how much work the part will be, where you found their details and when you'd need the lines by. Don't email more than one VA at a time offering the same part, if there's more than one that could possibly do it ,hold auditions and re-read what I said about that above. Again, it's not nice to have an email telling you you're ideal for a part only to discover they emailed 20 other people and said the same thing.  Also give them plenty of time to respond, if that person isn't actively auditioning they may be busy but it doesn't mean they won't get back to you. Be clear when you need a reply by.
Part two I will talk a bit more about casting, and will go onto managing your project and handling recasts and retakes.
 
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#2
Getting a good amateur voice actor for a project is really hard. I have taken up learning how to voice act myself, just because of this reason.
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