May 20, 2005

CG: Breaking into voice acting? Any monkeys with experience in this arena?

It's something I'm positive I could do and do well. Okay, I can't do many accents, but I have a lot of different tones and styles on my palette. I'm willing to do just about any type of work; commercials, cartoons, book reading, the whole schlemiel. But I lack any experience or knowledge of how to get started. Any helpful tips or shared experiences are welcome.

  • I have a friend who does this kind of work (e.g. voiced an animated character for series of internet cartoon spots for a large greeting card company.) He got a flat $50 per session, usually 30 minutes. He was subcontracted by another company that ran a recording studio out of the home (i.e. he only worked for the studio). Just some thoughts... good luck!
  • You might want to get a home recording setup for practise and working from home
  • It's something that I've looked at a bit before, having thought that I might have a decent enough range of voices myself. As I understand it, most agencies aren't really looking for somebody with impressive range - they've no interest in one person who can voice both a squeaky puppet and Darth Vader (or whatever). They mostly want a person who can do one very distinctive voice really well. All the advice I've heard suggests that getting a short, really well produced voice reel - covering both character work and advertisment voiceover work, but within a strictly limited range of what you do best - is the way forward. Keep it to five minutes or so, maximum. Practise, get advice from anybody and everybody, hone it as well as you possibly can before even going anywhere near a studio. And then, you're in the same boat as every other kind of acting - whore it round the agencies, get representation, but prepare to get nowhere fast. I, obviously, lacked the motivation to ever go through with any of these steps, because I am a lazy person. Also, as I said, the fact that I can do a wide range of strange voice, whilst reasonable enough down the pub (or on stage), isn't really what most agencies are looking for.
  • I always thought that would be an awesome way to make a living. Good luck!!
  • I, like Flashboy, can do a wide variety of strange voices. I took a VO class a few years back (I would recommend this as a first step), and even made my own demo tape, then dropped the whole idea out of laziness and hating my finished demo tape. It's still something I would love to do, but thinking about that much self-promotion makes me feel very tired. Still, take a VO class, they're lots of fun and you will learn much.
  • Too bad Dizzy isn't around. Wasn't he doing quite a bit of voicework?
  • All I know about voice work, I learned from Mark Evanier. Check out a couple of links on his web site: and an update at once you've read those you'll have a better idea of what to do (and not do) next.
  • I have a friend who makes her living doing this. It seems to require the same typical career strategy as does acting (for all those except the very lucky very few): Take voice-acting classes (here in SF there are plenty), make a reel of samples of your work (and update it as necessary), get an agent, go on lots of auditions. If I remember correctly, my friend is a member of SAG (we're USian) and can't work on non-union jobs -- but because she's union, she can make hundreds of dollars for just an hour or two of work. (I don't know the numbers, but maybe visit the SAG site to see if you can learn more.)
  • Microphone technique is very, very important and is the mark of a pro. Get a mic--of any quality--and make recordings of yourself reading that you can listen back to and then get very analytical/critical about yourself and your voice. This will sound stupid, but find the heart of the text and argue. Then try another mic. Microphones are like people: unbelievably diverse and they can be faithful or fickle. And listen to yourself though speakers (the public) and headphones (your potential producer). Try to make your voice sound equally great in both contexts. This is almost impossible, I know. Maybe pick some famous texts ("To be or not to be", "Are you lookin' at me?" yada yada yada) and record yourself reading them. Then listen to yourself and try to make it better, more musical. The way humans communicate is through musical pitch (high, low, phrasing) more than words. Get comfortable with the microphone as it is your instrument, so to speak. When you listen to yourself imagine that it is another person reading and pick out what you don't like about it. Then re-record it until it is perfect and then give it to some friends to listen to, friends who know the same text. Then, when you are happy, add it to your reel. And always remember that you can't hear your own voice. And recognize that voice acting is as competative a business as physical acting. Good luck, and don't pop your Ps. ;-) And remember: Blooper Soap is real good.
  • I've always wanted to do this too, as literally dozens and dozens of people have told me I should be a deejay (or asked me if I already am one.) Frustrating! I've never quite got up the guts to get the demo tape together. Most agencies want a headshot and such too, just as a standard portfolio thing to sign up. Is this necessary? Is an agency the best way to get work? How do you prove to them you're "professional" and reliable if you've never gigged before? I considered broadcasting school but couldn't really swing the time or especially the $$. t r a c y over at MeFi is a voice actor, btw.
  • I've seriously thought about this and when my brother was picking people to do dubs for laserdiscs (oh so long ago but not really) he had discs of everyone from Shadow Stevens to people some may or may not recognize from something or other. Most actors when they are guild protest are because of this level of work. So I asked him if it was necessary to get a guild membership first, but he said it was actually better not to in seeking work. i've dragged in doing a demo myself but placement like on these discs that get circulated in the industry is one way, but that is of the level of having an agency or agent you work with in some cases. If you're not in LA or a major market for this type of thing, being available on a local level, whether community radio or local advertising, etc., is a good start, in getting your chops, working with the equipment, getting noticed and not necessitating guild memberships. of course, i believe this about many aspects of life. if the option to move or frequent a different enviroment is available or preferable, you can do that, too. (Luckily homesteading is still relatively cheap on the Weblands, go taz, dodgey and all homesteaders! Stake out your land, use your skills and work it!)
  • hey shane, let's split the cost of studio time and get it over with. Then we can do the male/ female back and forth dynamics and have an excuse to write bad satirical ad copy.
  • Wow, this post is right up my alley as I'm about to embark on this as a professional career (at least as a serious portion of my freelance endeavors). I'd second and/or third most of what has been said. The short version of it is that pursuing voice acting is very much like pursuing acting: it's good and often vital to have talent, but a big part of it is persistence, and working to get work. For voiceover work, producers (the folks who will be hiring you) generally hire people they know because there's usually a good amount of money on the is a coveted position. But before I bum you out, know that you can gain experience--and contacts--by volunteering your services. How? Narrate books (especially textbooks) for the blind. Offer to do voicemail recordings for a local small business you frequent. Be the background vocals and "crowd noises" in indie films and so on. Build those contacts and the paying gigs should come (well, that's what I'm betting on. (-:) And definitely do take a voice class to get your feet-er-vocal chords wet. There's all sorts of little bits of technique, from how to rest your voice, to proper studio ettiqutte, to how to tackle that massive novel-on-tape that you'll learn about. And from there you can develop the voice acting as a fun side job that gives you extra ducats--or go even further if you have the desire. Getting a decent demo tape (CD, etc.) is critical. Just like getting a professional to do your headshots for an acting resume, it usually pays in the long run. And know that you will want to update it as you get better and get more nice ads, etc. Don't worry about being able to do lots of accents or character voices. Focus on what you do well. You can always update your demo later as you master that Scottish brogue or wacky 10-year-old voice. Do not, if at all possible, use national or well-known brands or ad copy in your demo reel. The reason is clients will hear your reel, love your read, and tell the producer that they want that guy (or gal) who did that Pepsi spot (or whatnot). Now the producer has to explain to the client that you, in fact, have not done a spot for Pepsi. It's pretty certain you won't be doing pepsi adverts unless you're with AFTRA anyway. Which brings me to the next bit. The people you hear doing voiceovers on national commercials, etc. in the USA are members of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. There's a good chance they're also members of SAG (the Screen Actors' Guild) as well. The unions are intertwined in ways too complicated to get into here. Bottom line is, for most voice work you'd get early on--and even 10 years down the road--you *don't* have to be union. I am told you'll know when you're ready to make the jump, if you even want to. But remember, at least for the U.S., only 20% of the voiceoever work in in adverts. The rest is a general category usually termed "narrative" which can mean the obvious books-on-tape to training videos to who knows what else. And also remember, that the reason you may want to do this, is that you can have a tremendous amount of fun. I mean, being paid to play and read stories!? Why didn't I think of doing this years ago?
  • oh oh here... i was trying to remember this link and finally found it, hope it's still helpful: Interactive Voices is the leading B2B online marketplace connecting buyers and sellers of voice-over services. Radio and television stations, advertising agencies and corporate communications executives rely upon Interactive Voices’ marketplace to search, audition and hire professional voice over talent with the assistance of a web-based project management application. Voice talents are equipped with a comprehensive set of self-managed tools to effectively market themselves and conduct business online. Clients that have worked at Interactive Voices include NBC, ESPN, PBS, The History Channel, Reader’s Digest, Comcast, Nortel Networks, Bell Canada, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, ING, Western Union, Ford, GM, Jaguar, US Army, the US Government and many more.
  • I had this page bookmarked & it seemed kind of relevant to this thread - it's a page of female voice samples (including one of a minor sitcom actress) with a voice bank.