acting

You work a day job?! Hah!

“I’m just working this job until I get my big break!” – Said every actor ever.

“Oh it’s just a waitressing job, I’m really a full time actor!” – when asked the question of why do they work at a certain place.

A subject that I’ve noticed a lot of people do not like to talk about is the proportion of time they spend working other jobs in order to make the dream come true. The dream that is voiceover or even acting in general.

Now, just to clarify, I know quite a few full time VO’s that do very well for themselves and it is their ONLY source of income. It absolutely can be done, however, the path to get there is far less clear at times.

However, this post is for the majority of people I know that are striving to be full time but aren’t quite there yet.

For the subject of this particular discussion though, I’m more focused on making sure that you are as dynamic and as varied as you can be as a talent in general.

Auditioning and marketing are the exhausting majority of what we do and that’s alright because when we do book, it’s the best feeling in the world. The momentum starts, the ball starts to roll! You’re feeling like a winner! Then comes that deposit into your account.

“If I do the same amount each week, I’ll be set!” – you tell yourself.

Then…as the last job wraps up; Emails dwindle…you market your hardest, hitting every contact you know! You’ve got this. Then a day goes by…two days...a week…two…a month. You’re doing everything right and you know you’re firing on all cylinders. Nothing comes through. So now what? You can’t pay your bills with IOUs.

So a little slice of reality creeps in, while the dream seems to be on hold. So what now? You pick up a part time job, or perhaps you work a full time job alongside building your VO business. Does this make you any less dedicated to your goal of being a full time VO? Does this make you a failure?

Of course not.

A lot of people like to talk in extremes. Such as “HAH! You work a day job and you call yourself a pro!” – That lovely nugget I tend to ignore, mostly as it comes from people who already have a book of business built up. There should be no shame in working multiple jobs in order to ensure your bills are paid.

People will argue that you can’t be a ‘professional’ unless you’re sitting by your computer 24 hours a day in order to be a success. This just isn’t true for people up and coming into the industry. With the internet and the advent of P2P casting sites, flexibility is achievable while maintaining a professional manner. I make time for my clients. However, I will agree on the fact that working multiple jobs WILL impact your availability. So I’m willing to meet halfway on that issue.

Now, is this a typical situation? I’d say so. From what I’ve experienced and what my colleagues have experienced the notion of ‘Full time VO’ seems to be a professional label rather than an absolute truth.  I’ve even spoken to friends who have quit doing VO completely despite being immensely talented and successful, it’s just the money and the infrequency of booking did not meet their expectations.

So as artists, do we rely solely on this income or is it also our responsibility to stop ‘waiting for the money’ and make sure we are as diverse as possible. How multi-talented are you? Can you bring more than VO to your client? Have you considered on screen work? Have you thought about branching into other creative areas to help ‘pad’ your talent base.

I don’t believe in the myth of the ‘overnight success’. Hard work will get you so far, talent will get you further. Having the right timing or luck to land that project you want, that’s the hardest part.

A better analogy for switching to ‘Full time’ would be a boat tied up to a jetty  prior to a long trip. The jetty wobbles as you walk down to the boat.

 Do you just jump in the boat? If it’s a long trip, you’d want to make sure you have enough fuel and provisions? Is the boat in good shape? Did you check the engine?

Also, neither the jetty nor the boat is a stable platform. They both sway back and forth with forces you can’t control.

You have to time it right. If you just run up and jump, there’s a good chance you could land in the water. Instead, time the moment until you are ready to literally step onto the boat.

Treat your business and your professional journey like the boat and the pier. Take your time and step across into that new threshold of full time VO, only, when you feel ready and more importantly prepared. 

Why you should be yourself.

"I'm worried about being type cast" - I said

The bad guy.

The Imperial Officer.

The Knight.

The list goes on and by Hollywood standards, these are usually portrayed by British people.

This frustrated me. Especially as I hear AWFUL British accents in shows, played by American actors. I wanted to do better and show I can provide both. 

This conversation started as I have asked many high level and successful voice actors in animation in video games where I should place myself. Again, the response had a similar tone but I could not tie the pieces together to see what they meant by it. All good advice but I still thought 'No, I want to get more US accent parts!!' - I protested. 

Living in the US as UK voice actor puts me on a very small runway. What do I mean by this? In a country dominated by extremely talented US born vocal artists, clients come to me looking for something very specific. They are looking for a British accent as it will bring something they WANT to their project. I feel I have more to offer than just that...however...

They aren't looking for a Southern accent, they aren't looking for the New York Cabbie voice, they are coming to me because I offer something unique. Something that others can offer perhaps but I have something they WANT. 

During a workshop this weekend, the ladies on the conference blurted out during my read 'He sounds JUST like Kit Harrington' - which I took as a massive compliment for obvious reasons. For another reason however, his voice is very unique. It's higher register, like mine, it's more empathetic, like mine. This got me thinking that what I have vocally, is unique and makes me stand out. 

This isn't to pat my own ego but an example that you can apply to yourself and your voiceover business. Ask yourself: 

What about you, makes YOU special? What makes your voice unique?

I can't bring that rich, gravelly, Sam Elliot aka the voice of God sort of voice. It's just not in my range. However, I don't think Sam Elliot can do softer tones like I can. It's all relative to what you are offering and to what your client is looking for. 

So onto the advice given by Marc Graue this weekend. I asked him about my worry about being type cast. To paraphrase: he said that an agent won't come to you for an American accent off the bat, so you will not see those auditions. Focus on what makes you unique as that is what allows you to book *that* work.' 

The moment he said it, it sunk in. I have been looking at this all wrong. It doesn't mean I can't audition for a US part, if the casting director likes my US accent. However, it won't be the first thing you'll be hired for. Accepting this fact will help you immensely in targeting your clients and showing them what YOU can offer them.

The way I approach clients and projects will be different after coming to this realisation. Trying to force yourself to sound like someone else isn't being true to you or your craft. 

Be unique. Be yourself. No one else can bring what you bring.