Many people associate acting with handsome leading men or beautiful leading ladies being projected on a fifty foot screen. Some may think of trained actors walking across a professionally designed and lit stage every night on Broadway. The truth is, many of the most successful actors and actresses step into small, unglamorous recording studios every morning, often wearing worn blue jeans and a t-shirt. This is the world of the voice actor, which can be every bit as challenging to break into as other forms of acting. Here are some suggestions for finding steady work in the voice-over trade.
- Training for voice actors begins exactly as it does for any other acting profession. Start out by learning the craft of stage acting in school productions, community theaters or through private instruction with an acting coach. It is very important for voice actors to understand the physicality of a character. When professional actors perform voice work for animated projects, they often pantomime the actions of their characters. By participating in local projects as a child or teenager, you'll develop the muscle memory essential for interpretation.
- Find local job opportunities which require voice-over work or announcing. The more practice you get at a local level, the easier it will be to survive the auditioning process at the professional level. Work a few shifts as a disk jockey for a local radio station. Approach local television production houses, usually affiliated with the local cable company, and ask about possible voice over jobs. Even making promotional announcements over a store's public address system could provide some practical work experience.
- Enroll in voice lessons or classes offered by professional production houses. Many local or regional recording studios offer mini-courses in vocal techniques, copywriting or script interpretation. Some students even find steady voice work while still in training. Graduates of these short term programs often have an advantage over actors who have not received such specific voice training.
- Go to where the money is. While many larger cities have plenty of local opportunities for voice work, the real Mecca is Hollywood or New York City. This is where the bulk of voice work is performed in the entire United States. But finding work in such a competitive field often requires patience, diligence and enough money to survive the lean times. The most important person to meet is a talent agent who believes in you and knows where the best auditions are being held.
- Many voice actors are hired sight unseen. You'll want to create a professional demo reel which contains only the best voice overs you have ever done. If you do character voices, make sure they appear on the reel. Authentic accents are also strong pluses, so work on developing a variety of voices, not just the Voice of God announcer types.
- Be prepared to perform under all different working conditions and for many different personalities. Some producers treat voice actors with the same respect as on-air performers, offering guidance and direction. Others may expect you to perform flawlessly from the start, or offer minimal suggestions for improvement. You may work for a few minutes at a time or be inside a soundproof booth for hours. Every voice project is different, so you may have to rely on your own professionalism to get through the rough patches.