"How do I get into voice acting?" is a question I'm asked a lot. I own a recording studio which specializes in VO ("Voice Over") and have produced and/or directed thousands of hours of voice work. Our studio does voice casting, and we hold regular auditions to find new talent, and we hold workshops to help folks learn the ropes. We also produced a documentary called "Adventures in Voice Acting" that gives a lot more depth to all this stuff I'm going to tell you here. (http://www.AdventuresInVoiceActing.com)
A lot of folks don't much care for the honest answer to the question about how to break in, which is: "Study Acting." The truth is, you are an actor first and foremost - it's just that you're doing everything with only one part of yourself - your voice. Like anything worthwhile in life, it's not a piece of cake. It's not easy to do it well - to be the best voice actor in the business so that everyone will want to hire you. And even if you are extremely talented, and you persist and study and network and you start to book some professional work, making a living at is another story altogether. Still want to be a voice actor? Good! Then you may have what it takes after all, so keep reading. The irony is that all voice actors will tell you how difficult it is and how hard it is to make a living at it, and then in the same breath say, "But I can't imagine doing anything else!" In short, it's a very rewarding and fulfilling job. For those with the talent, drive and thick skin to make it in the business.
Take classes. Find a good acting classes and study acting. Once you have a foundation in acting, you're ready for the next step, which is....
Take more classes! Now you might be ready to take voice classes while you're also studying regular acting. I'll say it again: A voice actor is an actor, plain and simple. There are exceptions to every rule. There is one exceptional talent I know who never studied to be an actor. He makes it look easy. It's not easy. And you need the acting chops to make it. Don't believe me? You'll find out the hard way, I guarantee it. Once you've taken the voice acting classes, now you are ready for....
Take yet more classes!! Now you are ready to study some more advanced technique, including how to land auditions, and how to make a great demo reel. You should start networking, and ask questions about how to get an agent. (A referral is really the best way. A good demo can work too, but it will take longer.) Now you've got to cough up some bucks and start working on....
Create a demo. Forget about burning CDs, put your demo online, with a simple and easy to use interface. If you're interested in Commercial Voice Over (Radio and TV spots), then you'll need your demo specifically tailored for that. If you want to bring animated characters to life, then you'll need an animation reel. A lot of actors do both. You can always create one type of demo first, and then do another one once you have some experience under your belt.
Network, network, network. If your instructor has any connections, that's the best route. If she thinks you have talent, she'll probably pull you aside and tell you, and help you get an agent or an audition. But don't be afraid to ask for help. We've discovered a lot of new talent at our workshops, and at some anime conventions at which we host voice acting events. Some "newbie" talents give their perspective on all this in the "Adventures in Voice Acting" DVD we produced. Research the agents, casting directors and voice directors. Do whatever it takes (while not being a nudge) to get your demo to them. If you're nice and not too intrusive, that's your best bet for getting someone to give your demo a listen. All it takes is one person to believe in you. And then...
You get your first audition! You'll be nervous, it's only natural. Some people say not to act like you are new and green, but I think it's the best way. Just go in with a great attitude. Be as nice as possible. Shake hands, smile, and make sure you've taken a shower and brushed your teeth! (I'm serious!) Just let the director or producer know this is your first. They'll be a lot more lenient with you. And remember this very important fact: They want you to be good. They want to discover the next Don LaFontaine. They want you to be right for the role. Why? Because then their job is done! The do not want you to fail, they are not laughing at you, and they are on your side. Just keep repeating that because...
Remember that being on the other side of the glass is very scary. That is also why classes are so key. You've got to be comfortable in front of the mic. You've got to be comfortable hearing your own voice through the headphones. You've got to be comfortable in the booth, where you can't hear anything on the other side of the glass. The only sound is your own breathing. And when you look through and you see them talking ... (about YOU?!?) and laughing and rolling their eyes, it's so easy to second-guess yourself. Did I bomb? Do I suck? DO NOT SECOND-GUESS. You do not know what they are saying. They are probably talking about their flat tire this morning, or how bad the coffee is, or what their mother said to them on the phone yesterday. Don't worry about that. You know you're good, or you wouldn't be here. Don't let your mind go there. Remember this! (I suggest you print this out, and carry it with you, and read it when you get your first audition.) Repeat: I am talented, and I am right for this role. If it doesn't work out this time, that's OK. There's always the next role.
OK, these aren't really steps now, but more points to remember. Be extra nice. It sounds trite, but you will be so much more likely to get work, and get regular work, if you are nice to work with. If a casting director has a choice of hiring two equally talented actors for a role, but one is easier to work with than the other, who do you think will get the role? You get the picture.
Be persistent. As I mentioned, it only takes one break, and even if you don't book the first audition, (which you probably won't), the industry is small enough that you will be talked about. If you show promise, you'll be referred to other directors. And that's how it all happens. But you've got to be doggedly persistent. You can't give up. The moment you do give up, it's all over. There's no chance for success.
Now, I'm not saying you should not be so blind and deaf to criticism that you continue to believe you are the next greatest voice actor extraordinaire when in fact everyone else is telling you that you might want to consider other career choices. If you don't get the sense that you have some ability for this, then it might be time to look into other things. (And there ARE other things you can do with your life, ya know.) But if you do possess talent, and you learn mic technique, breathing technique, and you know how to network, then you must not give up and you must keep at it for as much as ten years to make it. (The average seems to be 5 to 7 years). Keep at it, and before you know it, you'll be on your way to becoming....
A professional voice actor! Congratulations! There is always room for new voices. It's hard to break in, but it's well worth it, according to every voice actor I've ever interviewed about this subject. It takes a whole lot of talent, time and effort. But if you do have the talent, then the rest is just hard work, and if you're not allergic to that, you've got a shot at making it as a voice actor.
I enjoy hearing from voice actors, pros and students alike. Visit www.AdvetnturesInVoiceActing.com and send a comment or question. We always take the time to answer everyone who writes in. Best of luck to you on your journey.
Eric P. Sherman is President & CEO of Bang Zoom! Entertainment, inc, a recording studio and production company. He has directed and produced thousands of hours of animation and video games, and recently directed and produced a documentary on voice acting entitled "Adventures in Voice Acting." He enjoys helping others to reach for their dreams and be the best they can be.