The year is almost over, and while I'd hoped to have more progress to post on, I've mostly just been burying myself deep into production. It has been an exhausting and stressful process, but I am finally starting to reap the rewards and will hopefully have MORE updates sooner rather than later to come. While I am awaiting the final pieces to announce the cast, I thought I might as well write up a little about the casting process for Volume 1.
Volume 1 consists of 7 chapters with a total of 39 characters, not including our bits/walla. A number of changes have taken place within the content for Chapter 1, which is based off of our original pilot back in 2017, and while much of the original cast is returning, we did have a need to recast some roles in order to fit the new aspects of the series. In particular, the change to the project being audio only.
Now, there are lots of ways to handle a casting call, but I personally chose this method to vet and control quality and reduce my casting pool. In June, you may recall that I sought out demo reel submissions from voice actors online. I received samples from 581 actors, which is AMAZING, but as you can tell just from that number, listening to 500+ auditions for roughly 20 characters would have been...a task.
The first thing to do was go through these demo reels and identify who I wanted to send audition sides to. I did this the way I do all things: spreadsheets. Here, I took notes on the range of the actor and qualities that stuck out to me, and then I marked the characters that I was most interested in hearing them try. When it came to what I was looking for, I really only had the vocal type in mind and less the actual voice, so that was how I determined what sides I wanted to send each actor.
A little guide to my color coding:
Green stood for deep masculine ranges
Blue stood for youthful masculine voices
Light purple was for androgynous ranges
Pink was for feminine ranges
Yellow stood for actors I liked but couldn't quite find a place for
Dark purple was for actors who had potential but just didn't quite fit in the context of foreWARD
Finally, I blacked out cells for the absolute no's.
Below, you can see the sheets I made for these categories. If you're curious, I sent the first set of auditions to 158 actors. There were 104 actors I couldn't see in Volume 1 but thought were worth coming back to in later volumes, and another 158 that I didn't feel were ready or the right fit for the project. And finally, 159 actors that I didn't consider for varying reasons.
Once I had narrowed down my list and decided on the sides for each actor, I sent everything off. This meant sending lots and lots of "individual" emails (you can see from the above screenshot that I did have some actors that had the same sort of "grouping" to roles I was curious hearing, so it was maybe 70 or so BCC emails) since this was the method I chose to conduct things. Not the most efficient, but I am happy with the results.
Out of the 159 actors I sent sides to, only 123 did end up auditioning. I discovered that a number of actors had missed their sides due to the email ending up in their spam folder, and because of this, I had an extremely low number of auditions for a handful of characters. As such, I held a second round for these characters by sending them off again and adding around 20 actors from my Maybe list into the mix as well.
Audition sides were pretty standard. I included information regarding the project, as well as the recording details, character information, and then provided a vocal reference point when I had a direction in mind. I also collected files via a Google Form. This automatically generates a spreadsheet for me to work from, and as I've established, I live in spreadsheets.
After receiving all auditions, my first step was to narrow down a short list for each character. I did this by, you guessed it, spreadsheets. I wrote down my first impressions of each listen and basically wrote things off as a "pass" or "fail." (The yellow highlights were for characters I was anticipating throwing into Round 2 due to low turnout.)
Once I compiled my short list of "passes," I copied the audition files into a separate folder, scrubbed the metadata, and renamed each file (Actor A, Actor B, Actor C, etc.). In a hidden column in my spreadsheet, I wrote the actors' name with their corresponding letter to reveal once a casting decision was made.
Here, I took more critical notes after a few more listens to each audition. You can see that I am EXTREMELY critical, but this is important for me to keep track of as a director because I'm determining whether or not the things I'm not satisfied with are something I can bring out of the actor or not. Keeping track of the things I find lacking helps me to understand what I'll be directing and where the actor may need extra guidance.
Once I had my notes, I then went onto ranking each actor, and I had Cody do the same separately. We reconvened, compared notes, and began whittling things down further to our top 3 for each character. You can see above that yellow is reflective of our casting choice, but that's not to say we always went with my initial Number 1.
There were a few actors that, after coming back to with Cody's perspective, I actually changed my mind on. It was a great reminder of how first impressions and initial ideas can change.
And that... is basically the full extent of how auditioning for Volume 1 went. At this point, I have recorded with practically every actor and am just sitting on the official casting announcements while I wait for the last piece I need to hit the go button. In the meantime, I am working on a trailer that will (fingers crossed) coincide with the publishing of our Patreon to start funding for Volume 2.
The next time you'll probably hear from me is likely going to be the Casting Announcements, so until then, stay tuned!