Avoiding Watermarked Auditions

Posted on July 8, 2011 by

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In my last tip I discussed asking talent not to doctor up their auditions, especially not put in music or sound effects. Having had many discussions with various actors, there is a real concern among some of them that they need to “watermark” their auditions or risk getting them ripped off.

Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing. Perhaps there is a small amount of individuals auditioning people online who plan to use the audition recordings without letting the talent know or reimbursing the talent. On the other hand, there are probably just as many people who hire talent through normal channels and for whatever reason can’t or don’t pay their bill.

In either event, the numbers we are discussing are pretty low it would seem the amount of uncollectible debts for voice over is perhaps a lot less than for many other professions.

Still, having one’s audition ripped off seems to be enough of a concern with actors, that the best way to deal with it is to address it beforehand.

Watermarking by an actor is a method of placing something within the audition, omitting something from the audition or changing copy in an audition to the point where an attempt to use the audition itself would be difficult, if not impossible. How this is accomplished may vary from having a beep or tone signal every 5, 10 or 15 seconds. Or the talent may decide to place music throughout the audition or perhaps in specific places or use sound effects. Changing the script is another way that talent try to protect themselves. This may be something such as reading a different phone number, address, dollar amount or other tangible piece of copy, or slightly changing the name or pronunciation of a key or key words. Another way a talent may try to protect themselves would be to simply read a portion of the audition, or completely leave out a few lines from part or parts of the script.

Now, receiving a watermarked audition may not be much of a big deal to you. And if that’s the case, there’s probably little need for you to read on. Perhaps one of my other tips will be more applicable. But even still, you might be interested in reading to the end, because you could be missing out.
When I audition people for things, I would find it very distracting to hear beeps or other sounds, music, etc. I also might be grabbing some auditions from Voice 123 and marrying them up with some other actors I use locally or who would be responding to me directly via other casting methods. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s nice to be able to compare apples to apples. It’s one thing to have to play around with volume to get things to sound similar, it’s quite another to have to listen to auditions that may have crucial lines omitted or changed and compare them. Many times, I must present several auditions to a client for them to pick from. Explaining watermarks can be quite embarrassing. Additionally, it’s nice to see how things time out, especially if it’s for a radio or tv spot. Having a fully read script is often very important for many reasons, such as to hear how a voice may sound against our chosen background music, how it might fit against video and so on.

But I do understand where the talent may be coming from, even if I may not agree with the mentality. So, what I will often do when I send the script is use some generic names and or terms. Where there are phone numbers involved, I will often change them to simply be 1-800-123-4567 and addresses will be changed to “Anytown USA” or something similar.  Thus I can indicate to the talent that I do not want watermarks, music or effects and need the entre script read, but that they should clearly be able to see that I have altered the script to the point where I couldn’t possibly “rip them off”.  If at this point, a talent is still hesitant, then I probably don’t want to work with them anyway. I do not however want to chase away the more seasoned and better talent, and this should hopefully do the trick.

Of course, offering a good rate for the work will also help attract the better talent, but rates are something I’ll be covering in another tip.

About the Author

J.S. Gilbert has been a talent and voice seeker on Voice 123 since its early days. Gilbert works as copywriter, producer/ director and of course as a voice talent. He is excited that Goodby Silverstein just won a Cannes Lion for “Doritos Change the Game”, which J.S. was a contributor to through his voice work. He is also excited to be reprising his role of Sweet Tooth for the game “Twisted Metal for PS3”, expected out 4th quarter 2011. You can hear his demos and read his blog at http://jsgilbert.com

J.S. Gilbert J.S is a guest blogger and a talent of Voice123
Posted in: Cast Smart