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Authors: Alan Smithee

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BOOK: How to Be a Voice Actor
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Both sites do offer higher
levels beyond the free trial that cost progressively more money, but we
recommend waiting to pay until you’ve gotten more experience. But since this
preliminary section is really about seizing the moment and taking viable steps
toward the creation of your voiceover career, there’s no harm in jumping in for
the free trial. Who knows? You might strike gold, and then you’ll be on your

So, that’s the basic approach to getting your voiceover career started. If you
like what you’ve seen and done so far, and if you think you’ve got what it takes,
let’s move on to the Advanced Section!





Now that you’ve gotten your
feet wet, recorded and listened to yourself, explored the online marketplace,
and have decided that you’re ready for a career in voiceover, it’s time to take
the next step. First thing you’ll want to do is…



Find and Take a Class


If you’re serious about making
a go at a career in voiceover, taking a class is the best place to start, for a
number of reasons. First off, even if you’ve been recording and listening to
yourself for some time, you still need to have someone who actually works in
the voiceover profession to listen to you and provide guidance. You can only
get so far on your own. Also, when you take a class, you’ll be spending time in
a recording booth, and you can see if it feels comfortable for you. Some people
find recording booths to be stressful and claustrophobic, and if that’s you,
now’s a good time to find that out. But most importantly, when you take a class
from a reputable teacher who works in the industry, you’ll make a contact and
begin to establish a relationship. And many facilities that teach voiceover
classes also cast for things. A class is a great way to jump in all around.


If you live in or near one of
the big three markets for voiceover (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago), you’ll
have no problem finding a reputable voiceover class or coach. Below is a list
of recommended teachers in each market:







The Cashman Cache© of Voice
Acting Techniques



Elaine Craig VO Pro Workshops



Pat Fraley Teaches



Steven Reisberg



Voicecaster Workshops





Bob Bergen’s Animation Voice
Over Workshop



Pat Fraley Teaches






Lisa Fischoff and Elizabeth



Vivian Meisner


Stacy Seidel and Paul Liberti at Actor’s Connection






Mindy Verson, Audio Producers



Tom Taylorson, Act One



Should you not live in one of
these cities, not to worry. There are a number of people who coach via Skype.




James Alburger and Penny


Marc Cashman

(661) 222-9300


Kevin Delaney


Steven Reisberg

(818) 415-1289


Because all voiceover work
boils down to acting, it’s also not a bad idea to take an acting class, or even
an improv class. If you decide to specialize in animation, looping, or even
commercials, learning to think on your toes is a valuable asset that can help
you land (and keep) jobs.


One final word about classes.
There are a number of online facilities that promise the moon to inexperienced
voice actors. They offer to train you, to do your demo reel, to help with
connections and so on. It has been our experience (as well as the experience of
many other voiceover professionals) that these organizations over-promise,
overcharge, and under-deliver. Our advice is to steer clear.



Create a Demo Reel


Here’s where the rubber meets
the road for any serious voiceover actor: the demo reel. Your reel is your
calling card. It gives potential agents and casting people an idea of who you
are and what you sound like, all in 60 to 90 seconds. A good reel generally
consists of six to ten key sound bites taken from different spots, selected and
placed to both show range and to highlight a voice actor’s “sound.”


Regardless of what area you
intend to specialize in, you will need to create a commercial demo reel. This
is what any potential agent wants to hear first. Don’t worry—once you’ve
signed with an agency, there will be time and opportunity to create reels for
any area you wish to work in. But for now, your efforts and resources will be
best spent putting together a commercial reel.


For voice actors who have been
in the business awhile, a demo reel will consist of snippets of actual recorded
and aired commercials. If you’re a beginner, though, you’ll need to record and manufacture
the spots yourself. This is where our list of adjectives from the Basics
section comes into play. You will want to select and record commercial scripts
that allow you to show your range, but that also highlight where you’re most
comfortable as a voice actor. Because casting directors generally want people
who sound natural and relatable, this is the stuff you want to put right up
front. Some people refer to this as your “money voice.”


To be clear: the commercial
reel consists exclusively of commercial spots. This is not the place for
accents, funny voices and the like. There will be separate demos for other
areas of specialization, particularly animation, in which you can really
stretch out and do your thing, if that’s your strong suit. But for the
commercial reel, it’s important that you stay focused on your natural sound.


Creating a reel is not a cheap
endeavor. Depending on the market, it can cost upwards of $1000. It’s for this
reason that we strongly recommend taking a class or two before you jump into
the process. Time is money in most recording studios, so you really want to be
on your game. Additionally, we highly recommend working with a coach who can
help get the best possible reads out of you. Many recording studios that
specialize in voiceover demos will provide this, but some do not, so you may
wish to bring along an instructor to provide an extra set of ears.



Find an Agent

Here’s the deal: while lots of
people are managing to find voiceover work both locally and on the internet,
the big-money, national ad campaigns are still booked by agents. Agents
establish relationships with people called “buyers,” who produce and cast commercial
spots and promos. When an agent chooses to sign you, he or she will submit you
to read on scripts he receives from these buyers that he or she feels you may
be right for. Then you audition by reading the script, either from a home
studio (more on that in a bit), from a booth at the agent’s office, or at a
casting house.


The most straightforward way to
approach an agent is to submit your demo. At the end of this guide, you’ll find
that we’ve included contact and submission information for nearly every VO
agent in the country. While some people still take the time to print up a CD,
your best bet these days is simply to email your reel. If you have a website,
you can simply send along the URL. (If you don’t have a website, don’t
worry—we’ll get to that in a bit!)


After you send your reel to an
agent, you may want to follow up with a quick phone call (though not more than
one). Generally, if they’re interested, they’ll call, but a reminder doesn’t
hurt. If you don’t hear back from an agent, you can wait a few months and try
submitting again.


In some instances, agents who
are interested will sign you for full representation, paperwork and all. But
more often these days, an agent will invite you to do what’s called a
“handshake deal,” in which he or she will submit you for things over a few
months to see how you do. From there, if things go well, you’ll get a full


Bottom line: It can be an
uphill battle getting an agent. Having someone recommend you definitely helps,
so if you know anyone who’s connected to the business—casting people,
engineers, agency people, anybody—now’s the time to call in that favor!
But even without connections, people do get signed and careers get launched.
Try to keep in mind that there are a lot of people trying to break into
voiceover right now. It may take a while to get the attention of an agent, so
be patient. If you fail to sign with an agent the first time around, you can
spend some time working on your craft, taking classes, cutting a new demo reel,
and above all, listening, listening, listening. Persistence pays off!


Ultimately, it’s all about
timing. If you send your reel to an agent at the right time and they need
someone who sounds like you, you’re in. So volume is in your favor. Keep at it.
There really isn’t a standard way to market yourself in this business, since
some agents don’t mind unsolicited submissions, and others hate them. Bottom
line: be polite, don’t be pushy, don’t overload, and remember: you have a
valuable skill you’re offering. Too often, we as VO people tend to forget that.



Should I Join
the Union?


The short answer is: it
depends. The vast majority of work that you’ll get online will be non-union.
The explosion of online voiceover casting websites is in large part due to
voiceover clients not wanting to pay union rates for voice talent. Therefore,
if you’re successfully finding your work online, you won’t want to join the
newly unified SAG-AFTRA.


If, on the other hand, you wind
up working with an agent, most of the jobs you’ll be submitted for will be
union jobs. You can get an agent without being in the union, but once you book
a union job, you’ll then have a limited amount of time during which you must
join the union. (This is because of the Taft-Hartley Act. In fact, doing your
first union job is called being “Taft-Hartley-ed.”) From there, if you wish to
continue to work non-union jobs, you can submit to SAG-AFTRA that you would
like to be declared “financial core,” or fi-core. Having fi-core status means
that you’ll continue to be able to work all jobs, but you will be denied the
right to vote in elections or to run for office in the union.


There are a number of good
reasons to join the union, not the least of which is the healthcare it
provides. You need to earn a minimum amount each year working “on the card” to
qualify, but in this day and age, having health insurance is an enormous
benefit. Additionally, all union work you do goes toward a pension, which will
accrue and provide you with a monthly stipend when it’s time to retire. Even if
you declare your status as financial core, no work that you do that is
non-union will be accrued toward your healthcare or pension.


In the end, whether or not you
join a union depends on the type of voiceover work you’re able to get. Most
people let that dictate their decision.




Whether you sign with an agent
or whether you choose to work with online sites (or even if you do both),
auditioning will be at the center of your life in voiceover. As many voice
actors are fond of saying, “We audition for a living.” It’s largely true. There’s
no set ratio of auditions to jobs you will book, but there’s no one books
everything he auditions for (or at least, if there is, we’ve never met him).
Therefore, it’s absolutely key that you not only become comfortable with
auditioning, but that you become good at it.

BOOK: How to Be a Voice Actor
3.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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