Tips from the video game casting director: FOLLOW THE BRIEF!

Casting characters for video games brings to light many wrong assumptions about work in the medium from both the agents and the hopeful 'talent.' This thread is from a casting and director's perspective and looks at the process of short-listing prior to calling in 'talent' for an audition.

The biggest assumption is that video games are 'games' and consequently don't need true acting talent. The reality is that video games are the most complex, subtle and toughest of all media for acting. In casting we are looking for supreme acting talent.

Surprisingly it seems that the second biggest assumption is that the brief can be ignored. When we set up open auditions depressingly over 50% ignore elements of the brief. It does not matter who the 'talent' is, if the brief isn't followed, the actor is excluded.

    For example, if we request an actor from Gateshead between the ages of 25 and 45, guess what we want? Not hard really. Doing a Gateshead accent is ignoring the brief. Also we do know that the age of an actor's voice frequently varies greatly from the actor's real age BUT if we are specific about the actor's age there is very good reason which may not be apparent in the brief so filter yourself out if you don't fit the brief. Making assumptions gets you kicked off at stage 1 and get's you an automatic 'E' score which stands for: 'Executable' 'Excommunicate' 'Exclude forever' - you get the drift.

The selection process is a hunt for the perfect cast. It is costly and time consuming. Not following the brief is taking the piss.

Classic not following the brief errors - (I'm sure you can guess the errors)

  • No headshots.
  • Put full name, telephone number and email, as text, in the body of the email.
  • Do not telephone.
  • email applications only.
  • no external links to CV or showreels.
  • Must be native (accent).
  • Must be available on these dates, at this time...
  • Must be able to record in (location)
  • Only attach narrative or character reads as mp3
  • Do not send advertising voice samples.
  • Attach CV
  • Please include CV in body of email

Not following any of these = E.

Attention to detail is something we prize.

We use a shorthand casting score sheet that goes from A to E which is applied to all applications and applied to actors and agents alike. It is usually applied during the audition and is as follows:

A = on the nail. (awesome)

B = almost on the nail but would do the job well with input (bloody good)

C = not quite there but we understand why they are there. (crapish but has promise)

D =no good at all - big flaw somewhere (inc bad day syndrome) saved from being an E (dreadful)

E =completely off - how the hell did they slip through the net? - WTF! etc etc

Mark Estdale is the UK’s most experienced voice producer, casting and voice director working within the video games industry. He founded and runs the successful voice production company OM. He works with many of the world’s leading production teams and brings a keen practical perspective to the workshops.

Learn more about the work Mark directs on OM's website.

Go to Part II: Truth and Behaviour...