Part one of a series of five posts on voice over work.
(Disclaimer: I am not a regular in the studio. I do just enough work to allow me to take an extra vacation every year. Others may/will differ with my opinions and have different experiences in this field. You have been warned.)
Voice over is the magical world where somebody in an airless little studio transports the listener to a football game, a pool hall, the inside of a car driving down the highway, or any other location that the advertiser or author wants you to think the action is taking place. The actor must be able to perform this stunt without the use of any visuals. Nobody is going to see that clever look on your face or witness the sweeping hand gestures as you stand in front of the microphone. You have to convey it in your voice.
I’m asked now and again how to break into the work, as it’s rumored to be quite lucrative. I usually answer that you shouldn’t bother trying. (I don’t need any more competition.) Unless you hit that magical upper tier you are not going to pay the mortgage with the income steam available in my market (Minneapolis.) If that discourages you and you say enough at that point it’s probably a good thing. The market is tough. Very tough. A small group of actors typically dominate any market. These are the men and women who have great voices with a wide range of styles and tone. They can do accents, technical reads, commercials, cartoons and dramatic plays. They are amazing actors in addition to having wonderful voices.
Still interested? Fair enough. Now for another dose of reality. You might only work two days a year if you don’t chase the dream really hard. But what about that huge cake that you make? Yes, it’s good money. I’ve done projects that paid over $1000.00 per hour. I’ve also done bits that paid a whopping $75.00. And they both took the same amount of time to record. It all depends on who’s hiring and how much they need your voice. If any old voice will do, you will not be seeing that big check.
If I haven’t lost you completely at this point let’s get serious about breaking in to the market. Start out by taking some acting lessons. You will want voice over lessons at some point, but let’s assume you have a “good” voice and you have the basic sound that is needed in the profession. You won’t get too darned far if you can’t act. This is the toughest kind of acting there is in my opinion. You have none of the tools that other actors have except your voice. They won’t see your lustrous hair, your curvy figure, your incredible wardrobe, or your animated hand gestures. Your dancing ability won’t be on display either (it just makes noise in the background of the recording.)
But acting isn’t what you want to do, you want to do commercials! Wrong. It is acting. So don’t bust the bank by flying to New York and trying to get into Juilliard. Find a community ed program or a local college with acting courses. There are a lot of programs out there that will be relatively inexpensive and give you a good start. Will the teacher be great? No way to tell. But unless they are horrible you will gain some insight into how good you are if you remain honest. Compare your skills to the other people in your class. If you’re in the bottom of the class you need to decide if you want to dedicate more time to the craft or take up woodworking.
I’ll continue this Wednesday. For now, if you’re interested, head to the nearest search engine and find an acting class. If you’re not interested I’ve got a video of tubas. That will be your reward for listening to me babble about voice over work. Enjoy.