by Jan Risher
Oink Ink Radio’s Dan and Jim Price, brothers and co-founders of the country’s premier radio advertising agency, know more about radio voices than anybody else. Oink Ink is launching a three-part series focusing on the nuts and bolts of the critical role voice plays in producing some of the best radio spots of the last 25 years.
In the first piece, featured below, they share their insights and thoughts on the auditioning process and how it compares to that which they employed years ago.
When it comes to Oink Ink Radio’s approach to auditioning, the overall process hasn’t changed much over the last two decades — largely thanks to the forethought given to the procedures those many years ago by Oink’s founders and brothers, Dan and Jim Price.
“We draw upon a database that we constructed 25 years ago and have maintained over the years,” said Jim Price, co-founder and executive creative director at Oink Ink Radio. “We maintain both a New York and LA database, and each has probably 2,000 actors entered into it, categorized by type, approach, style, voice quality — everything.”
“And so, when it comes to an audition, we plug in the specifics we’re looking for — and an appropriate list is generated,” said Jim Price. “And so, rather than creating a call-sheet from scratch each time, the databases streamline the process. They also work to make sure we’re not forgetting someone.”
Prior to that step, the Price brothers have internal conversations to decide what they’re looking for in the first place.
“After discussions, we’ll then speak with Talent agents,” said Dan Price, co-founder and president of Oink Ink. “We’ll tell them what we’re looking for, but also ask that they send us new actors — people we don’t yet know about.’”
Of the 25 or so actors invited to the audition, about 80 percent come from the Oink Ink process and about 20 percent from agents.
On certain occasions, the Price brothers make a broader call and might call as many as 150 people to read.
“But that doesn’t happen often,” Jim Price said. “We have a pretty solid handle on what we want going in.”
In the early days, the Price brothers conducted auditions themselves but have since come to rely on two casting directors who handle the actual casting sessions. Dan Price says, “We have conversations with them about the mechanical considerations of a spot. For example, even if someone sounds great, but they’re reading a 30-second script in 35 seconds — that doesn’t tell us much. We have to consider practical details.”
When the time comes for the audition, the Oink Ink approach is to say very little. “There’s always a spec in the bottom of the script indicating how we see the script performed,” said Jim Price. “But we prefer not to tell the actors too much up front; rather, we want to see how they interpret it. The perfect actor for a given project will hit the ground running— he’ll sound as if he wrote the script. That’s the perfect scenario.”
Dan Price agrees, “We’re really looking for someone who brings as much to the party as any of the rest of us — someone who surprises us in an unexpected way.”
The Price brothers agree that when they’re unable to audition and have to cast a spot quickly, a certain spark is usually missing from the end result.
“When we handpick people we have in mind, I’m almost always totally 100 percent satisfied with the resultant spot,” Jim Price said. “That’s why we try and audition every single job we do, even if the deadline is tight.”
After the auditioning process, Oink’s casting directors select the best read from the actors. Jim Price then goes through and discards the ones that don’t work for that particular script.
“And then I take it from the other perspective, and pick the ones I think work best,” Dan Price said. “We then take our shortlist to the client and indicate those recommendations.”
Like much of the rest of the world, technology has, however, changed the process of radio voice auditions over the last 20 years.
The Price brothers remember back to a time when actors would go to ICM in Los Angeles, the biggest voice operation at the time, and hang-out, on site, throughout the day auditioning. Because if they weren’t at the right place at the right time, they missed out on opportunities.
“One of the most obvious ways technology has changed the casting process over the years is that actors have the ability to generate their auditions remotely and send us Mp3 files,” said Jim Price.
Clearly, remote auditions generate better attendance and open the field to a broader range of actors.
“Now, people across the country have voice booths or a good microphone and proper software at home and can generate auditions,” Jim Price said. “At one time, if the budget was tight, we might discourage actors who would require an ISDN for the session from auditioning.”
Now, with the use of Source Connect, a ProTools web-based plug-in, those actors are now included as well — which means that technology has allowed for more ‘comprehensive’ casting.
Click here to listen to examples of some of Oink’s favorite spots featuring ensemble casting.