Getting started in voiceovers

 

I get asked all the time how to break into the voiceover industry. Many it’s because they’ve been told they have a great voice and they should do voiceovers, others are acting friends who know what the industry is like but never focused on voice acting and lastly are the ones who think it’s an easy way to make a lot of money. To all of them I say, Great! Go for it. But it’s not that simple so here’s my advice…

My very first suggestion is to learn how to read (hehe) and then take a class, actually take lots of classes because you’ll learn something new from every single person you listen to!

In the mean time here’s some stuff you can work on to see if you like what you’re doing and enjoy the types of challenges VO’s may bring. Try these exercises to see if you’re up for learning these skills that you’ll need to become a working voiceover artist.

OK, seriously learn to read-out loud. It’s not as easy as it sounds (if it is for you, you may be a natural at this-quit your day job!) Practice every day for a half hour. Record yourself on your iPhone, computer whatever tech gear you have, quality doesn’t matter just listen back to what you’ve read. When you start sounding like these are your words and you’re not just reading out loud you’re ready to graduate onto the next level. (But keep practicing daily).

Now that the words sound natural really add your voice to the words. Give them feeling and make them jump off the page as if they were your own. Everyone interprets things differently so say what it means to you, just make sure you give it meaning. Don’t be indifferent, indifference is boring and it won’t get you the job. Once you’ve added meaning try heightening what you’re saying make the words life or death, like it’s the most important thing you ever said. Of course when you’re reading a commercial for sneakers we all know you won’t die without them. But generally your client pretty much wants you to convey to the audience that they will in deed die without them. Then you let your director pull you back. Some times all the way down to, “That was great. Keep that intensity but throw it all away.” The point is play with it. Push your voice and acting abilities beyond a range your comfortable with to see just how far you can go.

If you like doing this and you still want to pursue voiceovers decide what genre you’d like to get into. If you’re in NYC like me, TV and Radio Commercials are where most of the high paid work is. It’s a very competitive industry but if you love it you can find work. Here’s what I recommend to start training for commercial work.

For Commercial Work:

I highly recommend Roger Becker’s Basics to Business class at Shut up and Talk. He’s a casting director and gives you honest feed back and a clear breakdown of how the industry works. This is a 6 week class that meets once a week and is worth the money ~ $350. Roger is fun, energetic, knowledgeable and honest. He’ll give you honest feedback and work with your uniqueness rather than try to mold you into the industry standard.

In general I find workshops or classes with Casting Directors much more valuable than with Voice Actors themselves. They may be able to teach you their personal technique but that’s a narrow point of view. Casting Directors are in the business knowing what they’re looking for everyday. But if you find a voice actor that you feel you can learn from by all means continue training with them.

There are some great affordable Meet and Greets around the city with various casting directors and agents and usually only cost $35. It’s a great place to learn some stuff and can sometimes act as an audition because casting directors are always casting something and if they are impressed with your work that day and your ability to take direction well, they may bring you in for an audition. So do your best work and bring your headshots or demos to these events. I get the Ripley Grier Studios newsletter which has all types of events. Sign up I think there’s good workshops for new and working VO artists.

And honestly, don’t even consider doing a demo right away. Practice for a few months because the more you do it the better you will become and you don’t want to spend money on a demo that doesn’t show off your skills!

If you have any tips, exercises you do or know any great coaches or classes you’d like to share please feel free to comment!

 

 

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 voices123.com, voices.com 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.