Above everything, listen. Listen to voices that you think are within your range naturally. Start there and record yourself. Any recorder will do. Don’t strain! Begin only with what is easy and natural for your voice and build on that. Listen to yourself and get used to how you sound on tape (ok cd, digital, whatever… picky picky). You may be surprised at what you hear! Write down dialogue that you enjoy – from cartoons, commercials, tv shows, movies, etc. – and give it your own spin – on tape (or digital media). Pass it around to friends and family – especially kids, and get their input. You will get honest feedback. (Some of it may hurt at first, but what you resist, will ultimately help you the most, so please be open!!) Read for schools – in character voices for practice. A magnificent source for honest feedback!! Take classes with industry professionals. Make sure you get references from people who have taken them – or from reputable voice agencies.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there more interested in your money than your education. Most classes will supply you with a cd of your workshops when you finish. Have someone cut together the best clips representing you, your personality (or personalities), and your range of ability. Unless you really think you’re ready to do a pro demo reel, don’t spend the money to have it done professionally yet – this can be very costly and make you very sad and broke if you have to do it over when you are ready. When you get a reel together that you think is good, (no more than about 2 minutes – with short bits of each character with little or no spaces in between) have an agent or pro voice actors listen to it and critique you. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, listen to their advice and input and please don’t take what you perceive to be negative comments personally. When you get out into the real world of directors and producers who may not care to hear your opinion, you have to leave your ego at home, so ya might as well start practicing now.
The ability to act is even more important then what funny voices you can create. Work on your craft because you love it. You have to love it whether the money comes or not or you’re not following your true path. (This applies to anything you choose to do in your life!!) DON’T TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY!! If you’re not chosen for a part, most likely, there’s a whole lot of opinions and character parameters that you know nothing about going on behind the scenes. Often they know what they want to hear, but have no idea how to communicate it until they actually hear it.
Now, when you have honed down some brilliant material and can maintain those characters for hours at a time if need be, ask working actors or voiceover agencies to refer you to a professional demo producer. Get references and listen to some of the demos they’ve produced. A demo may be one of the costliest things in your career, but it’s your calling card, so take it seriously. The Voiceover Resource Guide has a tremendous amount of great information and industry contacts.
Check them out at: voiceovervoiceactor.com
Also… my brilliant friends (and V/O compadres) Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt wrote a fun, comprehensive book on the subject that may save you years of heartache and potentially thousands of dollars.
This is something you may not hear from a lot of actors and at this point in my career, it’s a lot easier to say – but always, always be happy when someone else gets the part. I know it sounds crazy and isn’t always easy to do, but I was taught this philosophy before I ever booked anything and it’s served me well. If you don’t get the part, there’s a reason. Not always a good one, but a justifiable reason nonetheless. When another actor gets a role – that’s your colleague, not your enemy!! Chances are, you will eventually work with that person at some point in your career. They may even become your friend. One of the greatest things about the voice community is that we (for the most part) care about our fellow actors. Much better way to live anyway. Competition is going to happen naturally, all by itself. Any angst you attach to it is not going to help anyone. You just concentrate on your performance and you’ll be a much happier person.
Now, when you do get auditions and gigs – BE RESPONSIBLE! Show up on time and with a good attitude. Most importantly, have fun!!! The directors and producers want you to do well!!
And finally, as my friend Jack Angel once told me… the audition IS the job. Do your best even when you’re not getting paid, especially when you’re not getting paid – because you’ll do that more than anything else. Almost 30 years in, and I audition twenty times more than I work. It ain’t always fun, that’s why they call it show business! Always remember that only you control how you feel.
Now get out there and make some noise!! See ya in the booth!
© 2012 Steve Blum