Do your homework, take direction and choose what you’re doing.


I recently booked two national TV commercials for a couple of Dora products. If you’re not familiar with children’s shows, Dora the Explorer is an American cartoon created by Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh, and Eric Weinea. Throughout the show Dora goes on exciting adventures with friends and strategically teaches her viewers Spanish words and phrases.

Part of being a successful voiceover artist is doing your homework. If you’re not familiar with the product, or who the consumer/audience is, you need to do some research before your audition or recording session. I have young nieces and nephews so my knowledge of Nickelodeon programs, such as Dora the Explorer is current. Had it not been, I’d have been googling, youtubing and netflixing all things Dora. This time I had it easy. My sister’s kids are the client’s demographic so I was completely comfortable with my intended audience.

At the recording session they wanted even more range and energy than I was giving. They needed more excitement that reached beyond using a cool toy to capture attention of kids. To do this I needed to make a few adjustments.

I nailed the direction I was given because I immediately knew who I needed to be talking to in that booth. I focused exactly on who makes my voice raise a notch and instantly puts an energetic smile on my face-Charlie, my dog! Once I mentally put him on the floor in front of me in that audio booth, everything clicked. My niece is still the audience but my dog is the magic behind the curtain.

Remember you are the artist. The director or production team can only tell you what they think they want. It’s up to you to interpret the script as well as any direction you’re given and make it yours. They’ll always want to make tweaks or ask for alternate takes so for every note you get it’s best to make a distinct choice so you can recreate it time and time again. And if you’ve already done something with the copy you find unique or bold and they didn’t comment on it, it means you’re nailing it so keep doing what you’re doing!


SAG or not to SAG?

Is union talent actually more talented than those who have not been invited to join?
The truth is not always.
It’s a catch-22 for voice-actors to get into the union. The general rule is the artist has to get a union job before he can join yet he needs to be union before he can audition. Now of course there are loop holes in joining the union or there would never be any new talent for us to hire. But finding those loopholes is not as easy to do without an agent or the right networking circle.

If you have the time for paperwork and the budget it’s great to use union talent. The actor has already been screened and hired by someone else and deemed as a talented professional suitable for use in a union production. But what is talent? What makes an actor great? Are you willing to let someone else decide such subjective questions for you?  It really comes down to who’s perfect for the exact role you’re casting. This person may not have ever had the opportunity to join SAG-AFTRA or rejected Screen Actors Guild jobs to keep her non-union clientele.
With the industry today it’s hard to say if union is better. Hundreds of jobs are posted daily on, and many other pay-to-play websites. Using these sites for auditions can be a little bit of extra effort up front while sifting through the non-union for a reason talent. But will save upfront costs, residual money and union paperwork in the end.

I’d bet if we held an audition open to only union VO talent and then another with the same copy for non-union talent we’d find very usable talent in both groups.  On average I’d imagine Union would have a more steady flow of hire-able talent and non-union would have some rough patches. But you only need one diamond in the rough…so it could be worth your time to sift through the hidden gems.

Voiceover Voice-over or Voice Over?

OK, so we’re the people reading the copy not the people writing it. But isn’t there a way we can unite on how to spell what it is we do!? I know we use the spelling “Voice-Over”, “Voice Over” and “Voiceover” interchangeably. We understand the idea behind the spelling, which is what really matters, and you never hear, “it’s not what you say it’s how you spell it”. But I find it interesting how interchangeably people are using these spellings, even within one document!

I’m certainly no English major or accomplished playwright but I’d like to know when I’m not using proper grammar and spelling (common mistakes I make-which is why I’ll continue to READ and not WRITE for mass publications) but really now…what’s the proper spelling for “VO” work?

My agent’s website refers to it as Voiceover.

CESD one of the biggest talent agencies here in NY lists the tab on its website: “Commercial Voice-Over”. The header of that page says: “Commercial  Voice Over” with a visual design in the background displaying “Voice-over”.

SAG-AFTRA refers to us a Voice Over Performers.

In a link on the SAG-AFTRA website there was a workshop announcement with “Voiceover” in the title, stating this was a class for ‘Voice-over talent” taught by a “Voice actor“.

The Mirriam-Webster online Dictionary made me laugh. When I looked up “Voiceover.” I was  directed to the word “Voice-over” with a hyphen. Then a Google generated ad for “Voice Overs” popped up between the Word and its definition. Aahh!

I suppose I’ll never know the answer to this age old debate – are we Voiceover Talents? Voice-over Performers? Voice Over Actors?  Or maybe just VO Worker Bees?

In the end it really is not what you say it’s how you say it. I guess that’s why we’re the ones saying it and not determining the standard English-American way of spelling it! Good thing we are because if were weren’t good at our craft we might have been dubbed as Voice-Unders.