Play to Your Strengths

I recently auditioned for a radio commercial for a large retail store. The specs were, “25-35, approachable, upbeat”. The client was also considering an exotic, world traveler feel so they requested some hint of an accent. I knew the straight specs wouldn’t be a problem for me so I knocked that read out first. Then, as an added option, I followed it up with my “accented” read.

I’ve long been fascinated with the British accent and since taking dialect workshops with Doug Honorof at Voice One, I’ve worked to develop a Modern RP (Received Pronunciation) dialect. I’ve been told my voice in that dialect most closely resembles Emma Thompson. Fortunately or unfortunately, I started watching Tim Roth on Lie to Me (when it was still on television–I’m not happy it was canceled after season 3!) and he’s got a very London-y estuary accent. So lately, my nice clean Modern RP is getting a little sploshy and some Estuary is creeping in. Either way, I’ve got the mechanics of the dialect down very well and I sound quite believable, if I do say so myself. My second take was definitely on the Estuary side, but it had that British, well-traveled, I-know-more-and-have-seen-more-than-you-Yanks-because-your-country-is-only-200-years-old kind of feel to it. I sent my audition in to my agent and promptly stopped thinking about it.

Until 3 days later, when the audition request came back with added direction asking for more exotic accents, like maybe Australia, or Nigeria. Uhhhh… hmmm… Well, I understand the basic rules of an Australian accent, but I haven’t worked on it as hard as I’ve worked on Modern RP and West Irish. I don’t trust myself to hold on to an Australian accent through an entire commercial read. And as for other accents, well, I’m still working my way through the English speaking countries. I haven’t even started exploring the rest of the world, accent-wise. (Although, I do a great imitation of my Japanese grandmother. I have her accent down cold.)

I don’t mind it when I send an audition and it comes back with new directions or specs. I welcome ANY opportunity to show off my abilities and win over the client. But in this instance, I had to let it go. I’d given it my best shot with my natural accent and with my Estuary. If that didn’t win the job, then I wasn’t the girl for the job. I’m not gonna lie, Marge, it hurts not being the girl, but I know my strengths and I also know my crappy Australian accent ain’t winning me any jobs. I did not send in a follow up audition and I figured this was one job I wasn’t going to book.

2 days later, my agent calls me to tell me I booked the job. WHAT?! That’s awesome! I was really confused about how I booked the job, but who cares! I booked the job!!

The client had me record the spots in my natural accent and I figured they scrapped the whole exotic-world-feel thing. After the recording was complete, the client told me they loved my audition. They told me they liked my fake accent better than some of the genuine accents they heard. And they told me that that’s what won me the job. They thought my audition showed versatility and they really liked that about me. They didn’t come out and say this, but I get the idea the “world feel” isn’t entirely scrapped and I may get to bust out an accent at some point in the future. I’ll be boning up on my Australian now.

However, the real moral of this story? PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS. If I had been desperate to book the job, I might have attempted an accent that I hadn’t mastered and then the client would think I was a complete idiot. Not only would I not book this job, I might never book ANY job with this client. In this case, I sent in my best audition and I stood by it. And my audition was enough to impress the client. That’s a good day’s work right there.

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