Here’s Part 3 of my series dedicated to the newbie exploring voiceover. If you missed the first two, click the links below!
First I just want to go ahead and affirm that yes, voiceover is the coolest, most awesome, fun and amazing career on the planet. I say that not to brag or be obnoxious, but to acknowledge that it really is as great as it seems…but because of that it, is not an easy career to just “have”. You don’t just get to have an awesome, high paying successful voice over career without some blood sweat and tears. Even after years of dedication to the craft, not everyone gets to do it full time.
There is a misconception that since anyone can talk, anyone can do voiceover and this is absolutely not so. Like any other craft or art form, it takes years of study, patience and passion. It takes great acting chops. It takes supreme motivation. You can’t really dabble in voiceover. Well, you can, but you won’t get very far. There are just too many people doing ONLY voiceover, at the highest level. It truly takes commitment.
OK, Rachel! But where do I start?
You start with a class. I’d make it a commercial class – you’re going to need to know the craft of commercials, even if you think you don’t want to. A huge portion of the work in this industry is commercial work. Thousands of commercials are produced every day – as opposed to say, animated series – there are comparably far fewer of those produced overall and far fewer actors are even considered for those roles. Commercials will be the genre with the most opportunity when you’re starting out. As I said in an earlier post, they use all types in commercials and usually want a “real person” sound, so you can start from wherever you’re at. In addition, down the line you might want an agent. Agents will always want to be sure you can do commercials – because there’s more of an opportunity for them to make money too.
Ok. So when I tell people this, about starting with a class, most tend to immediately discount what I’m saying. Their eyes glaze over and they seem to tune out, as if I’m giving them a bullshit answer. But I swear, it is not. Taking a class is the best way to get your feet wet – to explore and find out if you actually even really want to do this. Moreover, voiceover is a CRAFT. I repeat a craft. You need to learn how to play your instrument.
People tend to think that just because they can speak, they can automatically do voiceover but this is far from the case. That would be like saying because I can walk (or shake my booty on the dance floor) I can be a professional dancer. You will not be able to seriously compete in this marketplace without solid training; it’s a fact. Take a class to start developing the skills that you will be honing for a long time. Preparation is key. If you are truly committed to this, look at it as becoming an Olympic athlete. You don’t just decide you want to be a gymnast and then go be a gymnast- you TRAIN first.
Now, there are a lot of people in this industry that are more than happy to separate you from your money. They tend to pray on beginners with big dreams and open pockets. Be smart. There is nothing better than word of mouth in terms of finding the right teacher. If someone promises you the keys to the kingdom – or some secret on how to become an instant success – run the other way. Ask experienced professionals who they studied with and who they recommend. They will tell you.
Since I’m in LA, I can recommend some teachers out here, but I can’t speak to anywhere else in the country. My advice would be to put the feelers out there. If you don’t know anyone personally, do some research online. Find out who the teachers are in your area and if you can’t find any, reach out to other respected voice actors. Shoot them a quick email and ask if they can recommend anyone (and be sure to thank them!). There’s also something called The Voiceover Resource Guide (VORG). It has tons of information on training, rates and all things voiceover.
To help you out on your journey, here’s a short list of teachers that I can recommend in the Los Angeles area. Some of them travel or do remote classes, so even if you’re not in LA, it’s worth checking them out. Keep in mind, these aren’t the only ones I recommend – just a few key ones that I think are good for the beginner.
The Voicecaster – This is where I started so I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for these guys. They are the real deal. I took beginner, intermediate and advanced with them and then I went to their workout group pretty much every Thursday night for a year straight. Then they made my commercial demo – which incidentally I still get booked off of all the time! The benefit to studying at Voicecaster is that in addition to teaching, they are casting directors as well…so you are not only learning, but you’re developing relationships with people who can call you in and CAST you in the future. And they will!
Kalmenson & Kalmenson – These guys are the other big casting director/voiceover school in town. I have never actually studied with them but I know so many people who have! Like Voicecaster, they are kind of an institution here in LA, so you should definitely check them out.
The VO Dojo -Tish Hicks is a good friend and a consummate voice actor who has been in the biz a long time. She has a weekend intensive called “You should do Voiceover” for the newbie looking to explore the field, as well as a program of study that can serve as a road map for getting started. She’s really loving, supportive and wonderfully knowledgeable.
Nancy Wolfson– I’ve never studied with Nancy but I’ve heard great things. I know she has an entire series designed to take you from newbie to pro. She’s got an excellent reputation as smart, no nonsense and sharp as a tack.
Pat Fraley – You’ll hear me wax poetic about Pat in my upcoming audiobook post, but I couldn’t neglect to mention him here. He is a wonderful teacher. He’s been in the business forever. He’s generous, funny, insightful and he has MAD SKILLS! If you’re interested in character work, animation or audiobooks, don’t miss out on an opportunity to study with Pat.
These are only a handful of the many fine teachers in Los Angeles. As I mentioned before, the best way to find teachers – wherever you are – is word of mouth. Get involved in the local community and ask around. You will keep hearing the same names pop up. You’ll know what to do!
Btw, if you end up going to any of the teachers I’ve listed, let them know how you heard about them. Also, I’d love to see comments about any other amazing VO teachers – if you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment. And if you enjoyed this post please share it!
There’s so much more to write about getting started in VO, but I’m going to leave it here for now. Taking a class is Step 1. Join me next week for a few more tips (I think this just turned into a four part series!). If you’re interested, be sure to sign up for my blog at the top of this page.