Last week, in our first part of A Career in Voice-Over Acting, we talked about the importance of voice-over demos and voice-over training. It’s crucial to understand the significance of having a professional voice-over demo at the beginning of your pursuit, as this is the first thing that will have a huge impact on the development of your future career. Leading from that, today we will discuss how to get a voice-over agent, what type of voice-over work sells, how it works and best locations for your future career in voice-over.
A Career in Voice-Over Acting: Part II
It was already mentioned how competitive the field of voice-over acting can get. Landing a job is not as easy as some people might think, and it actually is ten times more difficult when you don’t have an agent. The whole entertainment industry works in very similar ways, but every branch has their own specifics. As such, acquiring a voice-over agent is slightly different than being signed by a theatrical or commercial agent.
Career in Voice-Over and Agents
First of all, voice-over agents love referrals. If you have been referred to them by a voice actor who’s currently booking jobs, or their industry agent buddy or maybe a casting director — you’re in luck. This brings up a point I wanted to make: always try and develop good, honest and long-standing relationships with people from within the industry. You never know when they might refer you to an agent friend they have or a sister who’s a casting director and looking for a fresh voice for a new summer feature animation hit.
However, it is understandable when being a new face (voice?) on the block it’s very unlikely you will be referred by anyone to an agent that is worth your attention (if you do, good for you). Hence the other ways to starting a career in voice-over from the right foot. Firstly, it’s the already covered voice-over demo and voice-over training (see part 1 for this). The next step to take is submissions, and lots of them. They are not a guaranteed result, but sending out your demos and CV/resume to voice-over agents can sometimes get you into a meeting with them.
For people who decided to pursue a career in voice-over through drama schools and University degrees, the final year comes with a showcase. We talked about drama schools for stage acting already, and voice-over showcases work the same way, except you show off your voice in this case. Depending on the rank of your drama school or University, some industry people will always come in to see how good that year’s graduates are; if there is any talent, they are being invited for a meeting and usually signed.
Aside from the deadly combination of great, unique voice and voice-over skills, there are some additional training that will normally speed-up voice actor’s journey to the agent’s office: improvisation training. It is very much what we have talked about in How to Succeed in Commercial Auditions, as these two have something in common — comedy. However, for a career in voice-over being quick and thinking on your feet is not as important as comedic timing, and improvisers usually have that skill nailed down.
One more thing voice-over agents will pay attention to is your ability to do foreign accents. This one will go a long way if you can perfect more than one foreign or country region accent (you can get dialect coaching on that); and it does have to be a good one. The first place to go for building a career in voice-over using foreign accents would be video gaming. Lately, studios have been involving a lot of foreign characters in their games but not necessarily using native speakers for the part.
Career in Voice-Over and How It Works
Everybody in this industry have their own set of ideas and rules how the process should be conducted, which means that once in a while you will run into something you have not experienced previously. The two most popular ways of auditioning for voice-over jobs are: 1) voice-over auditions are taking place in your agent’s office. You get everything done there and your agent will then email the recording to the casting director, or 2) the audition takes place in the casting director’s office.
There are times when casting directors will allow or even ask experienced voice actors — those with home recording studios — to record the audition on their own and email it to the office. Only after the CD has picked out a few people they want to see and hear, they will invite them to their offices for a call-back. Sending these out from the comfort of your own home isn’t uncommon: most actors with some credibility to their name, a good microphone and sound-isolated room can easily record a professional sounding voice-over audition piece without leaving their palace.
Career in Voice-Over and What Sells
At the end of the day, as it was said in the first part of this voice-over articles series, it’s about your voice acting abilities. It’s not as much about the voice as your skills to wield it and use it to your advantage. This is where voice-over acting training comes in, which means there is no way around it. You have to know how to take a script and immediately break it down and read off it. You need to get under character’s skin, ask all the right questions and launch from there; all in under 1 minute.
In a way, it’s the same acting as it is for the stage or film/TV. That’s why plenty of voice-over actors are taking on-camera, improvisation, commercial, cold reading and auditioning classes. This benefits greatly their career in voice-over, and a lot of voice-over agents and casting directors value this type of training, too.
As for what is trending in voice-over these days, it is very difficult to say, as it varies. We have already established that voice-over in video games is growing in popularity and will continue to do so as the gaming industry expands extremely quickly. Animation has changed significantly in the last few decades. Commercials provide a huge variety of different opportunities for various kinds of actors. There’s a place for everyone: real people, character actors, those with foreign accents and so forth.
The ability to do more than one character voice well (not an accent) is going to be an advantage for a voice actor. Usually, these types of actors are being hired to work on animation series to save on costs for hiring a different voice actor for every single character (think The Simpsons, American Dad, Family Guy). When it comes to voice-over in video games, real people’s natural voices — not cartoon-like ones — sell best.
Location for a Career in Voice-Over
Wherever you are living (aside from the US and the UK), there’s a slight chance that you might have some voice-over work available in your own country . After all, someone has to be doing those radio commercials, translated narrations and other voice work. The problem is that most small market countries (and that is 95% of world’s countries) hardly accept new talent into their circles. Since there is very little voice work to be done, there is a group of voice-over actors that get most of those jobs.
If you’re residing in the United Kingdom, your chances for a career in voice-over are very good. The downside, if you consider it to be, is that you will have to move to either Manchester or London if the pursuit of a career in voice-over is something you seriously consider. Manchester has a lot of opportunities for commercial and television voice-over work. Video gaming voice-over opportunities are scattered around the UK, closer to big cities. London has all that, and the rest: animation, video games, commercial, TV, corporate, independent, etc.
If you’re from North America, particularly West Coast where most of voice-over acting is being done (mostly video games and animation), you’re in the best possible location for a career in voice-over. This, however, means that competition is also fierce. Los Angeles in particular has opportunities for voice work scattered all over the city, and just by signing to one of the voice-over casting call websites you should be able to get yourself an audition within a few days (if you already have a voice-over demo and some training on your resume).
In short, that is about all you need to know for starting off a career in voice-over. There isn’t that much more to learn in the very beginning, because as you go along following these tips — recording voice-over demo, going to training, submitting to and meeting agents — you will learn every little detail about this craft as is.
The last advice to take home is this: if a career in voice-over is your life-time goal, do not put all your eggs in one basket — work on your character voices, work on your foreign accents, practice articulation and so forth. Also, don’t be disappointed if you can’t book anything for months; you’ll be lucky to get a couple paid jobs in your first year. It’s just how the business works, and as usual — it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Stay on top of your training, and don’t forget to market yourself.