If you’re as big a fan of video games and animation as I am, you’ve developed an ear for voiceover talent. Those lucky men and women who get to lend their golden throats to some of our favorite fictional characters may not be as famous as your typical Hollywood actor, but they make a great living doing what they do. Has aybody ever told you that you have a beautiful, interesting, or powerful voice? Have you thought about using that voice in your career? With this simple guide, I’ll give you the key points you need to hit to enter the world of voice acting. From there, it’s up to you.
While most actors can hone their craft by participating in theatre workshops, independent plays, and many other venues, the work of a voice actor is primarily a solitary one. The majority of professional voice actors got where they are today by simply putting their nose to the grindstone and honing their craft over long years of practice. Keep in mind as you prepare that being able to do strong voices is only part of the job. You also need to be able to sight-read dialogue and not only get the wording correct, but understand the emotional and narrative connotations behind the text. This is the hardest part of the voice actor’s job. Since you are usually not reading against the other cast members, it falls on you to infer context from the material. Practice from as much diverse material as possible – plays, monologues, or just reading classified ads out of the newspaper. The better you get at sightreading, the more your confidence will improve.
When you’ve gained enough confidence with your voice through practice, it’s time to produce a demo reel to send to agencies and clients. You can probably do this on a home computer with a decent microphone, but it may be worth spending some money to have it professionally recorded in a studio. Most decent-sized cities have at least one small recording facility, and delivering your performance in a professional environment with good microphones, no background noise, and a skilled engineer behind the board can add the extra layer of quality to your voice. Prepare five to seven pieces showing your diversity and range – character voices, industrial and narrative voices, et cetera. For voice acting, the more things you can do well, the greater the chance is that you will take home some work at the end of the day.
With demo in hand, send CD copies (which you should feel free to burn on your home computer – there’s no sense shelling out money for a professional replication run here) to voice agencies. Many talent agencies specialize in finding work for voice talent. Check your local Yellow Pages for them, and call before you send anything to make sure you have the correct address to send your demo.
After you’ve sent it, wait two weeks and then contact them again to follow up. Don’t press them to listen to it. Even if they choose not to represent you, they can give you useful feedback on areas you could improve on. If you do find an agency willing to represent you, keep in mind that most charge a 10% fee for your bookings. They take the annoying work of contacting clients out of your hands, so the fee is no big deal. Some actors do try to make it on their own, but the amount of legwork you’ll have to do to identify and win clients is insane. Far better for a new talent to let other people use their networking skills to your advantage.
Well, that’s the basics. Clear your throat, grab your script, and start practicing, and maybe I’ll hear you soon!