I get a lot of emails that start like this:
“I’m told I have a really good voice, How do I get into doing VO work?”
So, I thought I’d write a bit about my own thoughts on this – not that it any of it will be terribly important or mind-blowing, but because I’ll be able to point to this post for the next emails I might get about getting into this. Its done in no real particular order as you’ll no doubt note below. Treat it more as a real stream-of-consciousness text.
Start Now. Don’t Wait.
The roadmap for most creative endeavors has no sure path. For me personally in the early days, I worked with a coach – Larry Conroy – who was also a master instructor with the former SFT (Now the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts). It was Larry who was instrumental in helping me plot the roadmap for my success: Improv. I sat outside on a hot stoop waiting for the first-come, first-served summer sign-up for Upright Citizens Brigade then on 22nd street. That work in turn lead me to work with Judith Searcy, Ruth Nerken and a bunch of other insightful instructors at SFT.
Eventually I sought out HB Studios and Michael Beckett for Scene Study and Tech work.
By then I had a “passable” demo. I’d shop it to the usual NYC rag/lists for Producers and Agents. I read for everything I could from direct call-ins until I finally signed on freelance with few agents.
As a voice of color, I quickly realized the limited bandwidth of products I’d be cast to pitch. As a shortlist, they included the usual suspects: Alcohol products, Fast Food, Telephone and Cable services, etc. But what was more important to me was the Doing part. Not waiting, but starting right then and there. Basically starting the now.
Get Good to Stay Good (Or Practice, practice, practice)
Get competitive. Find good people in the business whose opinion you can trust. That can mean other performers, instructors, acting teachers, coaches, and demo producers. Then find a good class setting that zeros in on performing for VO.
Try to work in tandem if you can within group settings. Nowadays, there are fantastic (I hear) group Skype sessions for those who may not have groups available where they live. Working and practicing in a vacuum denies you the opportunity listen to other actors, get immediate feedback, and importantly know the types of “sound” currently being cast. Obviously, watch and listen to as much TV, Radio and Digital platforms that you can. There is much to learn about the different voices trending right now. Practice. Read. A Lot. When not working on copy, work on your Slates.
You can pull character specs by listening closely to what’s airing.
Auditioning is still a good 90% of getting to bookings – at least for scale performers. While there is a fair amount of work still booked directly from Demos, I very much advise that you amp your auditioning game up. Transfer the coaching/group copy work reads directly to your auditioning game. In this day and age, you have to find the read quickly. Irrespective of the sometimes lengthy character specs you read at the top of the script. So, read.
While you’re at it, find a really good session-coach for a particular niche. By that, I mean a Promo coach for Promos. A Commercial coach for Commercials. Perhaps a Narration coach for Narration and longer-form work (think Audiobooks). It’s a fairly easy thing to do here, especially when asking fellow performers. It’s a critical (and expensive) investment, but well worth it as you start booking.
Really want to do this. Or, find that other thing you really, really want to do.
Show me a spare closet and Mic, and I’ll show you a VO actor. Seriously. Spare rooms and Microphones did for VO what an Apple Computer and Laser Printer did for the Graphic Arts industry. Suddenly, everyone was a Graphic Designer. Almost overnight regular – non Art-school graduated people – could design for you (or your Company) Logos, full-color Brochures, Postcards, Menus, Table tents, you get the picture.
If you hear sarcasm, it’s ‘cause I don’t necessarily mean that in the best of ways. It became far more difficult to ascertain quality when everyone was doing it. Everyone had a portfolio. And Artwork.
Now, between the various VO Pay-2-Play sites, everyone is a Voice Over Artist. And that’s cool. No crack to the websites or it’s members. In fact, when (and if) you just start out there’s a good chance you’ll end up as a member as well. It’s a great audition space. But I do think that for the long-term though you should be looking to really take it to the big leagues if you’re in it for the long-haul. If you want to do this. Once you start reading for Sag-Aftra work – the stakes get higher. So with respect, really want to do this. Or don’t. Get informed. Remember, there is a whole ‘nother world going on out there. So let the non-VO world inform your views as well, and that will in term inform your reads.
Get yourself a good agent.
Once you do start making in-roads you’ll need a good team to really make it happen for you. That includes an agent who has trust that you show up 100% of the time. One who trusts that you know your “craft” and what you bring to the table.
Hope this helps. Don’t let it happen. Make it happen.