What is the typical lead time for booking voiceover talent?

Increasingly, I’ve been getting what can only invariably be called this-minute booking inquiries. Let me explain further…

A few months ago one early Saturday morning, I got an email from a Producer that read: “Are you available to record Sunday Morning-Afternoon.” Now this shouldn’t sound unusual on the surface. VO talent field calls and emails all the time for availability checks from their agents and managers  – sometimes checks for within an hour or two. If fact, sessions have been know to develop and materialize with just a few well-placed emails and talent with their own available studio. No, the key ingredients making this particular email (and other emails and calls like it) unusual were: 1. I neither knew this particular producer, nor had worked with her before. 2. The Producer had asked on Saturday, if I could go to a specific recording studio on a Sunday to record. 3. There was no mention of project details, or if she could use a SAG-AFTRA voice talent. I wrote back, as I normally do ask if the project in question was a Union project. I’m still waiting for a reply. This same set of events has played out (more or less) a number of times since. This got me to thinking…

 I wondered in how many instances is it that the Voiceover Talent is the very last piece of the puzzle to be considered?

Consider this: If Producers are really looking to take their Clients to the next level in the highly competitive world of “Buy My Products/Services” It seems to me the same care that is taken with the other delicate assemblages like visuals, the animation, direction, copywriting, long-range planning, media buy, and the many other aspects taken into account when executing a campaign – be it – a commercial, TV promo piece, sizzle reel, or whatever, might also apply to the voice-over. This certainly happens a great deal of the time for the longer-run campaigns. Certainly its evident for the Auto market, Big Box retailers and well… You get the picture.

To put it another way: How many directors reels would a Producer/Agency go through (or more to the point have time to go through) to shortlist a handful of directors who might be right for this particular project?

Now imagine the same vetting process for the other creative/administrative/production personnel involved. Would there then be, what could only be described as the equivalent of callbacks in our world for those very same professionals? If so, how much time would that take?

Ditto for the processes of the additional very skilled, very important roles of the other key people involved in “making this thing live.”

My point is, you can tell a lot (well, sometimes a lot) about the quality of the project when you get a call on Monday (from someone you’ve never heard of or worked with) for a job thats due Tuesday. But I say that with many exclusions. Some of which are: You’ve auditioned for something back in March, and the producers now want to use for a different project and you get an avail call. You were booked of something, and lo and behold, it turns into a mini-campaign of sorts and you get avail calls. You get sent a script – told you are shortlisted for a spot but they want to hear your read, and that if you book they want to record within the next three hours or tomorrow morning. Someone bookmarked a specific demo on your site during development of a project, and has finally come to the time to reach out to you and your reps. These are the exceptions. Not the rule. At least in my opinion.

So, the question is: Is it the norm that VO is the last called to attend the party? If so, why do we think that is, as compared to the many other creatives and non-creatives involved in the project? Thoughts?