voiceover

You hurt my feelings.

Something crops up a lot I've noticed and it needs addressing. People post their work and that's wonderful and ask 'HOW IS THIS?!' or 'WOW! LOOK AT MY IMPRESSIONS' - the list goes on. For the vast majority, the sound is awful, the acting is bad and mic is clipping. Harsh? Maybe but the question is will you learn from it or take it personally?

If I can say anything from my personal experience, it would be this.

Don't be afraid of getting your feelings hurt.

Critique helps you improve yourself an artist. Don't get discouraged because you get knocked back. It happens all the time! One star on a P2P site? Ouch! Maybe you auditioned for a booming announcer role, whereas you know your voice is light and playful. Maybe you weren't hydrated? Perhaps there was a popping on the recording you somehow failed to edit? 

If you post something and get upset or offended that people think it isn't that great, or they flat out bash it (an approach I don't care for), instead of going on the defensive, perhaps ask the person why they think that.

Is it your sound quality? Is your space not properly treated? Is it just a sub par impression? Can you hear the dishwasher in the background? Be honest with yourself.

Examine your recordings and say 'Right, I can do a, b or c better next time." - I guarantee, your next recording will show improvement.

These are not reasons to get discouraged but to simply improve your performance. I've put demos into some pro groups and gotten VERY honest feedback. I fixed the issues and have improved my work as a result.

I pushed a demo to a professional group recently. It wasn't to show off, nor to say 'Wow, look at me, I am a wonderful voice actor. *puffs chest*' - I was ready for the critique. Most listened and they couldn't find a fault in the sound quality. However the one comment that got me was the following. 

"I didn't believe a single character in that demo." 

That part hurt initially as I've been working incredibly hard on my character work. Now, this wasn't a rude comment but an honest one and I truly appreciate that more than someone just saying 'Sounds great!' Compliments don't help your work, they only help your ego. 

However, clearly I had not delivered the goods. My initial reaction was to kneejerk but I took a second and listened to my work and realised...wow he is right, I really only believe 2 characters out of 8 on here. Despite it stinging, it helped immensely.

However, when asking for advice, to quote Bob Bergen here,  consider your source when you receive critique. Is the person reviewing it someone that you would consider an equal or someone higher up the chain/someone you admire?

Validation is wonderful but be confident in your abilities. Keep working on stuff that makes you happy and listen to your work. 

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. 

Patience and why you should fail.

There, I said it. You can fail. It's OK to fail.

There is an overwhelming pressure in today's society that if you're not instantly successful, then you must be an instant failure. Completely untrue and honestly it is a reflection of the world we live in. Patience is small and dreams are big.

This applies to voiceover as it does any other profession. 

Fail. Fail over and over again. You don't start out amazing at anything in life. You have to fail a great number of times before you can get good at something. I've failed so many times so far and I've only been doing this over two years. I've been frustrated, angry, disappointed and had zero confidence in the fact that I was making any progress. If you fail - find another way to make it work. 

Pick your phrase, 10,000 hours....big oaks from little acorns grow...the list goes on. The point is, look at anyone that you consider to be great or successful. Do you think they came out of the gate that way?

Let's take successful/career youtubers as an example. I dare you. Find the one with an insane amount of subscribers. Go look at their first video. I am willing to place money on the fact it is 5 years old or more. 

Pick your favourite athlete - Research them, see when they started playing the sport. Compare it to their age and status now. Is it less than a year? I doubt it. I'd bet 10 years of playing the sport even before he or she went pro. 

Think how many hours of practice, planning and so on that went into getting their channel/persona to the stage you see today? 5 years. Think about that number for a moment. Are you trying to sprint or are you marching toward your goal? 

If you can sprint and can get there sooner, bravo my friend. However, for the vast majority, you will be marching. You will not see the goal, you will just see the road. You may fall, collapse from exhaustion or be injured. The question is do you let obstacles in your path dictate your success? 

Surround yourself with people that support you. People that are more talented then you. People that are further along in their journey than you. People that will make you reach. People that will push you to excel.

Is being 'okay' at something going to fuel you to strive for greater things for yourself and your business?

This applies to any one who is running their own business or in life in general.

Grind. March forward. Take risks. Be patient. Don't compare your journey to anyone else. Remind yourself, it is OK to fail. Just don't let failure consume you. 

Only you can dictate how far you take anything. 

 

 

Voiceover - it's just commercial or animation...right?

A little impromptu post here but I have been chatting to people of late that seem to be under the intense worry and dismay that unless they do either character work or commercial work, it's time to throw in the towel with voiceover. 

This could not be further from the truth and many other working professionals would agree. The number of genres for voice work is growing at an exponential rate. Now, is it all glamorous? Hardly. Does some of it pay extraordinarily well? Absolutely. 

Whatever goal you might have starting out with this work, it's still a goal to aim at but to parrot a number of people, it probably won't be the bulk of your work unless you are extraordinarily talented and are situated in LA. However, this doesn't mean you don't work because you don't get what you want initially. 

It worried me a bit that people were so dismayed and under the wrong impression. 

To rail a few genres off from the top of my head:

Explainer, Corporate, IVR, Narration, audiobook, podcast intros, voice matching, ADR

There are many, many sub genres of the above but some of these are extremely lucrative and VO pros will structure their marketing around what they are good at. Here's a crazy thought, you want to do *insert genre here* work so bad...you get trained, you make a demo and...you end up hating it! What now? If you start to feel that way, your coach should be picking up on it in your reads and maybe suggest some other genres you could tackle. Always ask, your teacher is your mentor and your guide. 

This leads me to my next point. You may not know what you are good at just yet and that's okay. I myself am still feeling out (after 2 years +) on which genres I take to easily and which do not appeal to me. Being passionate about one genre is important but that shouldn't be your only focus. Find what you like and really charge full steam at it. You'll amaze yourself on how much you can improve in a year. 

You may not like your 9-5 job, the same will happen in VO. You will have projects that make your soul light up and there will be jobs where you can't wait to wrap it up. There is no escaping the grind unfortunately. 

Now I don't live in LA, I live on the East coast in Maryland, however, I have made strides to land jobs which have been lucrative and fun. Does it mean I won't move to LA when the time comes? Who's to say but that would be nice for sure!

Bottom line is, don't get discouraged so easily. Everything in life is hard but if you really enjoy your VO work, you will find your slot in the industry and truly grow. 

Here are a few links with very successful VO professionals who talk about their struggles and victories in this business: (Helpful to know even the pros have bad days!)

https://www.youtube.com/user/vobuzzweekly

https://www.youtube.com/user/ewabsshow

My personal favourite is Dee Bradley Bakers site. Very honest but there's a lot to read, which is a VERY good thing. 

https://iwanttobeavoiceactor.com/