Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Rob Holt | Voice-over Casting Director for Mike Lemon Casting

Interview :: Rob Holt
by Ruth Weisberg, 1 Nov 2006

Rob Holt is the Voice-over Casting Director for Mike Lemon Casting, Inc. (www.mikelemoncasting.com), in Philadelphia. He can be reached at: 215-627-8927 ext. 113


PCG: What's your role and responsibility as a voiceover casting director? Can you walk us through a typical day at Mike Lemon Casting?

RH: As VO Casting Director, it's my job to find the right voice for my clients' projects. This is either done by submitting voice-over demos to the client or by having a casting session. More and more of the clients I deal with will book talent right from their demos. A producer will call me and say, for example, that they need an African American female voice that sounds between 30 and 50 years of age. I'll then email them voice demos in mp3 format. Most of the time, within minutes the client is already listening to their choices.


PCG: Then what happens?

RH: After that, it is as simple for the client as selecting the talent, booking some studio time, and calling me to book the talent. My clients trust that the demos I send them are from talent that not only sound good on the demo, but are experienced and talented.

"It's relatively easy to doctor a recording to make someone sound good, but a legitimate voice talent needs to be able to execute and produce..."

PCG: What qualities and aspects are you and clients listening out for?

RH: It's relatively easy to doctor a recording to make someone sound good, but a legitimate voice talent needs to be able to execute and produce when the record button is pressed, through a variety of adverse conditions that are sometimes present while on the job.


PCG: Since voiceover work is generally all audio, is there any need for you or clients to meet the talent in person?

RH: There are times the job calls for the good old-fashioned casting session. Sometimes it is important for the client to hear the actual script being read by the talent. This is especially true when there are multiple roles and comedic timing is important.


PCG: You're in the enviable yet tough position of getting a voice actor a gig—or not. How do you handle that?

RH: I really enjoy casting sessions. They give me the chance to see the people attached to those voices that I speak with on the phone so often. My talent pool is really a great bunch of people and I love spending time with them... even if it is 10 minutes at a time, which is the average time slot of a commercial audition. When the whole audition is over, I often feel very similar to how I do after hosting a party. I always try to keep it fun.

Rob Holt, Voice-over Casting Director for Mike Lemon Casting, Inc.

PCG: How exactly did you land such a coveted job?

RH: It was an interesting journey to where I am now. I was working at a marketing agency and the head graphic designer and web developer left and started a multimedia production company. They ended up meeting Mike Lemon and building his website, which include a subscription based service called eCasting. Mike was looking to hire someone to run eCasting and help out with the company's computer "network"--and I use this term loosely--and other IT related matters. My former co-workers knew I was looking for new employment opportunities and landed me an interview with Mike. I met Mike at his office, we talked for about a half an hour and he offered me the job right then and there!


PCG: Talk about timing!

RH: After a short while, Joanne Joella, the VO casting director at the time, took notice of my young sounding voice and began to have me audition for mainly teen voice-over jobs. Surprisingly, I began to book a few things. As time went on, I would fill in for Joanne occasionally when needed. I have always been a musician and have spent a good deal of time in the studio, so I was right at home with the recording part of it. The part I needed to learn was who the talent was, and how to interact with clients. Both seemed to come easily enough that when an opening came, I was Mike's first choice!

"It is easy to spot my mailbox in the main office... the one that's 3x bigger that anyone else's and overflowing!"

PCG: You must get bombarded with v-o demos. What do you listen for that sets someone apart from the rest?

RH: You're right. I do get bombarded with demos. It is easy to spot my mailbox in the main office. It's the one that's 3x bigger that anyone else's and overflowing! A few things a good demo has that get my attention every time are production, range, and connection. By production, I mean the demo just basically sounds good. Fully-produced spots with music behind them are optimal. It shows a certain level of commitment from the talent and makes a more noticeable impression to my clients. I also like a demo that showcases a talents' range. A good demo has a wide variety of spots including anything from an up-tempo hard sell to a warm, caring treatment center spot.


PCG: I think one of the hardest and trickiest things for a voice talent to do is to sound like they're not a professional announcer.

RH: How true. One of the most powerful reads to include on one's demo these days is the "real person" read. My clients almost always ask for it. They would much rather have your neighbor or a friend from work's voice selling their product to you than some cliché announcer guy.

"...the biggest selling point to a talent's demo is the connection I feel with the talent while listening to it."

PCG: What do you mean by a voiceover demo that has 'connection'?

RH: Probably the biggest selling point to a talent's demo is the connection I feel with the talent while listening to it. This is the most intangible quality of VO and just like with acting, it takes the most time to cultivate. If I can listen to your demo for the first time and with each spot know who you are and where you're coming from... if I am feeling the spots, then I definitely want to work with you.


PCG: Any particularly memorable, outstanding, outrageous sessions worth sharing?

RH: One of the strangest sessions was for a client who needed a 'Woo-hoo!' to put with this sound effect for some of their advertising. The entire session consisted of each talent getting in the booth and doing every kind of 'Woo-hoo!' they could think of at the top of their lungs until I told them to stop. I kept thinking... "I'm getting paid to make people do this? Nice!"

Shovelhook

PCG: Although you spend most of your time behind the other side of the glass in the production studio, you're no stranger to getting on mike yourself.

RH: People are usually surprised to find out that I am a drummer in the hard rock band, Shovelhook. They're even more surprised when they come see me play. My band's live show is very physical and aggressive. I'm pretty mild mannered in my day-to-day life, but once I get on stage I let go. Music is my passion and I love live performance. Right now we have a song in regular rotation on 93.3 WMMR called "So Sorry" and another one of our songs is used as one of the intros to the Preston and Steve morning show. Like the other thousands of bands out there, we're just trying to get our shot at the big time. Of course we have a myspace! www.myspace.com/shovelhook.

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