The objective of your demo is to define who you are commercially and how you are perceived in a major market.

If you truly have something original you can do repeatedly (without hurting yourself vocally) then an animation demo is in order, especially if you live in the Los Angeles area where a bulk of animation is produced.

However, a commercial demo is what’s required of every voice talent first and foremost and that means more affects than accents.  The goal is to offer subtle emotional changes from one spot to the next.  Variety on well-produced commercial tracks means displaying specific point-of-views (i.e. wry wit or boredom), status (i.e. sophistication or down on your luck) and allowing each read to come across as a fresh, new thought in a fresh, new context through commercial style that defines and suits you best. 

Simple affectations on your natural voice is perfectly appropriate, but it may surprise you to learn, dialects and kooky voices shoehorned amid spots that read as real commercials only serves to distract and confuse your commercial target audience: advertising agency Creatives (a.k.a. producers, copywriters and their associates and assistants).

Your commercial track, which is only about a minute long, needs to define you naturally rather than trying too hard to offer “variety,” which tends to be the outcome of including accents and unusual characters. Besides, commercially you’re far more likely to be hired for more mainstream work due to the fact that it is a bulk of the work available.

That doesn’t mean the straighter stuff lacks wit or is without imagination in any way.  As always, you’re paid to have a pulse!  It’s just that most commercial work doesn’t require a call for out-and-out “cartoon-y” characters, which is precisely why you shouldn’t feature these characters on your commercial track unless the demo track is geared specifically to illicit animation work.

None of this means you should squelch all those wonderful vocal qualities and characters you’ve developed and entertained your friends and family with over the years – these are great skills and are not without merit.  It’s simply that most often you will be required to “just be you” more than anything else, which are skills in and of themselves that are incredibly underrated as a working voice-over.  So, as much as we long to “become someone else” through a character, establishing who we are, naturally is ultimately far more valuable when it comes to commercial voice-over.

If those auditioning you are looking for a character for their commercial, they will most likely have audition you for it.  As long as your agent knows you are capable of offering playful, interesting, original characters, you will be considered for these jobs when they arise.

As for an animation demo, this is a specialized thing and location specific.  It’s honestly not for everybody and reliant on where you live (geographically) to effectively glean a return on your demo investment.

As far as impersonations go, as remarkable as they can be, they too are not the first thing you want to open with either, I’m afraid, and generally used less often than even characters.

If you’re predominantly a character actor it’s perfectly appropriate to blend humor and personality-driven material with the straighter, more mainstream commercial deliveries that dominate the work you do best.

Just a word of caution when it comes to character voices though: Pepper gingerly with your character affects.  Easy does it.  A little goes a long way.

And if you happen to be blessed with a remarkably unique voice that rivals Piglet from Winnie the Pooh, or something… WONDERFUL!  You need to capitalize on it by demonstrating the various commercial spots you’re best suited to book. 

What a novel idea — a demo that actually demonstrates!  We may be on to something.

Copyright © 2011 by Kate McClanaghan, Inc. All Rights Reserved