Now that I have your attention here’s a warning! There are lots of questions that need answering. Still want to venture forth? Good! You’re very brave. Here we go!
How badly do you want to be a voice over? Like, really how badly? Quite a bit? A lot? Really? Great, now what are you prepared to do to make it happen?
The above questions are for you to answer. Over the next few weeks I’ll post questions with my answers so that you can determine if they’re of any help in where you want to be as a voice over.
Ready to begin? Alrighty then!
-Do you train with just a few people or with lots of people?
Whether you work with 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 10 coaches in voice over, you’ll never learn all you need to know. Why? Because as I type this and as you read this the business is changing rapidly. Think about it. Decades ago (in no particular order) there were announcements, then came advertisements, then came promos, then came jingles, then came animations, then came audiobooks, then came movie trailers, then came ADR (automated dialogue replacement), see where this is going? And to add on what we have already there are also medical narrations, on-hold messages, industrials, corporate narrations, museum tours, video games, toys, award show announcers, e-learning, translations, motion capture and now virtual reality is on the rise.
So with all that said, you need to find your niche. You might be great at commercials but not comfortable with animation. You might be terrible at medical narrations but terrific with promos. Audiobooks might be too much for you to handle, yet you can rock the house with video games.
But how, you ask, do you find out? Take workshops!
As I’ve said quite a few times, if you have a computer with internet then you have no excuses not to work with others in VO. The only downside is that they do cost money, some much more than others. You also have to do some research because a person may claim expertise in something but not have nothing to show for it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen continuing education classes at colleges taught by supposed experts yet find nothing about them on the internet: No website, no LinkedIn page, no IMDb page, not even a mention in forums or message boards. But in the bio of the course taught they’ve been a VO talent for 20 years doing commercials, narrations, video games, etc.
Here’s something I do when anyone claimed to work in cartoons or video games. I search the Internet Movie Database.
For example, look at Dave Fennoy, who teaches video game voice acting workshops. http://m.imdb.com/name/nm0271965/?ref=m_nv_sr_1
Or Pat Fraley who teaches animation and audiobook voice over workshops. http://m.imdb.com/name/nm0289710/?ref=m_nv_sr_1
Or Bob Bergen, who was the first true VO talent I learned from. http://m.imdb.com/name/nm0074036/
Now unfortunately not all animation voice over talent have IMDb pages, but they have experience and knowledge with companies like Nickelodeon, Disney, and others. Lisa Biggs for example is a phenomenal voice actress with 20 years of experience. I know Lisa and always recommend her. Sadly I can’t find an IMDb page for her. But if you visit her top-notch website you’ll hear amazing demos, see video clips of various jobs and toys that she’s voiced! You can ask if anyone knows Lisa Biggs in a number of voice over groups and discover that she’s not only well known but widely respected and incredibly generous. http://lisabiggs.com/
If you’re drawn to the world of commercials you still want to work with more than one person. Why? Because you still need to find out what kinds of commercials work for you. Always use your natural voice for commercials unless the client is looking for character voices (talking tomatoes, talking pets, etc.). If your voice is young you probably won’t book many ads about banks, real estate, or automotive spots; however, you might have luck with ads for cosmetics, restaurants, fashion, or vacation packages. If your voice is older or deeper you can do sultry ads for perfumes, authoritative commercials on serious subjects, pet foods, cleaning products, wine or beer products. Get the idea?
Can you talk for hours without sounding tired or damaging your vocal chords? Then try audiobooks or narrations. The hours are long and sometimes deadlines are short, but lots of people make good money recording audiobooks and it continues to be a market in high demand. But what genres fit your voice? Mystery? Science fiction? Fantasy? Horror? True Crime? Romance? YA? Children’s books? Non-Fiction? Erotica?
Can you sound like a young and energetic little boy or girl? A hyperactive robot? A bitter old woman? A sarcastic villain? A magic creature from folklore? A foreigner from a little-known country with a bizarre accent? Then you might have a place in the world of animation, anime and video games. But keep in mind all the above as just a few examples of what you might be expected to do just for one show. These days voice actors are expected to voice at least 3 different characters for a single game or show. And they must not sound similar!
Nancy Cartwright is famous as the voice of Bart Simpson, but look on her IMDb page and see the other voices she created for the show during the 27 years it’s been airing on T.V.! http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004813/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
What about Trey Parker and Matt Stone who created South Park? http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0121955/fullcredits/cast?ref_=m_tt_cl_sc
Browse Tara Strong’s list of credits and see how many shows she had to provide more than one character voice for: http://m.imdb.com/name/nm0152839/filmotype/actress?ref_=m_nmfm_1
This blog post could go on and on. Yet I imagine the info mentioned thus far is already taking its toll on your brain. You don’t have to be good with all voice over markets, but the more you can add to your repertoire, the more likely you’ll attract work and opportunities.
So after everything I said above, what do you think? Should you train with just a few VO coaches or as many as you can?
I’ve worked with LOTS of people. And I’ll probably work with more, because I never want to stop learning.
Here’s a list of people I’ve trained with as well as what I learned from them and a list of people I have not worked with but whom I trust in what they teach.
People I’ve trained with and highly recommend:
Lisa Biggs: Animation, kids voices, voice over for toys
Pat Fraley: Animation and Audiobooks
Bob Bergen: Animation
Mary Lynn Wissner: Commercials
Bill Holmes: Commercials
Everett Oliver: Animation
Marc Cashman: Commercials
Dave Fennoy: Video Games
Ginny McSwain: Video games
Lani Minella: Video games
Richard Horvitz: Animation
Marice Tobias: Commercials and Narrations
MJ Lallo: Animation
Katie Leigh: Animation
Joyce Castellanos: Promos
Ned Lott: ADR Looping
Cliff Zellman: Commercials
People or Places I haven’t trained with (yet!) but still recommend:
Anyone who teaches at Global Voice Acting Academy
Nancy Wolfson – Commercials
Angel Burch – Beginning Voice Overs, Animation, Techniques
Elaine Clark – Narration, Commercials, Video Games
Debi Derryberry – Animation, Commercials
Terri Douglass – ADR Looping
Bill Farmer – Animation, Commercials, Trailers
Marc Graue – Video Games, Trailers, Commercials, Narrations, Promos,
Often the names above will teach workshops across the USA and sometimes abroad. Unfortunately, one or two only work with talent in person. Otherwise, the majority will also teach workshops over Skype, group classes through Zoom or webinars. Take advantage of the opportunity to work with them!
Google their names and see what you find or find them on social media.
Always remember to do your research and follow your instincts!