Advice For Voice Over Newcomers: 'Distill
Cream From The Crap' And 'Push Yourself'
October 19, 2017
By Issa Deas
Every talent enters this industry under unique circumstances. Some of us pursuing it from a traditional acting background, others discovering it along a more nontraditional path.
Whatever your original intent, here we are.
Newcomers to the field can find themselves drowning in a sea of information. You are either Troy Baker or you are recording in your leaky closet off a smart phone by a candle looking to invest $10,000 into a home studio having never invested $10 in an acting class.
I jest. There is indeed plenty in between, but I wanted to give a perspective for those starting out - if only to shine a light on one reality so that you might begin to build your own.
MY JUMP TO VO
First - a bit of background on me.
I left a conventionally lucrative field to find something that was a bit more fulfilling, i.e. one where I did not have to ask why I was getting up in the morning and dressing in a three-piece suit in the middle of Summer. That was someone else's truth, one that I lived for far too long.
My truth (and mine alone) is that if I can spend years doing something I'm not too keen on and be successful … imagine what I can achieve if I really enjoyed what I did!
That is the mindset I have while traversing this landscape called voice acting.
Voice acting to me is neither dream nor craft, but both. It's a "dream-craft" (trademark … you're welcome).
I have never approached this as a whimsical hobby, so it always confuses me when inquiring minds ask if I still "do VO."
Would you ask a dog if it still barks? Didn't think so.
A DAY IN THE LIFE ...
Right now, voice acting is a significant part of my income, but not enough to go full-time.
That being said, for those of you just jumping in or looking to jump in, here's a snapshot my life.
I get up, return e-mails/phone calls, do research … post production studios I should reach out to, etc. All the while I'm usually doing any number of vocal warm ups. If anyone eavesdropped, they'd think I have at least 8 roommates (none of whom get along, I might add).
From there, I head to my auditions/bookings, many of which are in-person auditions (my preference), and then I head into the office aka the bar. I tend bar for a solid 8-10 hours and then I take it home, get up and do it all over again roughly 5-6 days a week.
On my day(s) off or during the day, I'm either attending or looking into an acting class - be it dramatic/improv, as well as a working with my voice coach regularly.
My days can often be hectic and downright grueling, but never what I consider painful because I like everything that I do to earn a living. And I chose this life, down to every detail.
WHO'S ON YOUR PATH?
So how did I first get my feet wet? I spoke with an actor who was actually doing what I wanted to do.
Find a way to converse with someone directly who is on the path you want to walk. Preferably a person who describes it as a career, not a passion or something they do on the side.
I've never heard anyone serious about their career refer to it as a side job, even if it is. The right people will save you time and resources.
Use your instincts and common sense to distill the cream from the crap.
GOOD DEMO IS INVESTMENT
Speaking to active talent led me to a few studios, one of which produced my first demo.
A good demo costs money but it's not simply a cost, it's an investment and this investment is your calling card. I'd rather do it right the first time than have to pay more than once.
You can definitely find steals, but I'd be wary of the $200 demo the same way I'd be wary of the $200 brand new BMW (there's a mischievous-looking monkey in the front seat … do not get in that car).
There's a reason these things cost money; you are paying for quality absent monkeys, of course.
GOT COACH, BOOKINGS GREW
Afterwards, I was on my way and doing a semi-decent job of finding work on my own, but frankly, I had no clue and no one to tell me I had no clue.
So I found someone to tell me that I had no clue.
I began working with a voice actor and coach who not only aided my technique but also provided business tips. Bookings increased, I produced another demo and I began working with an agent and have continued to do so ever since.
Like any job, craft, career or hobby, you should always be sharpening your tools and thinking of ways to innovate as life is always changing.
I've taken and continue to take comedic improv, acting classes, etc., all of which directly and indirectly add to my skill set.
Push yourself! Get on the stage! Write some skits … star in your own skits. I guarantee you that it will make you stronger and give you a sense of confidence. You will need both.
CHECK ROI OF CLASSES
Be wary of where you put your money, as everyone you run into has a class and is an expert and for $50 I'll tell you who they are. Ha!
One can capitalize on fantastic classes and seminars (I've taken great ones) and conversely waste 1000's in the same way. Personally, if I can't see the ROI, I do not take the course.
Some of the best advice I've received has been at zero cost, but if I'm paying for it, I need to see how I can monetize that advice.
One rule I live by is figuring out if my success means their success. If they're not invested in you, why should you invest in them or their product/services?
FOR THOSE RAINY DAYS ...
Look, sometimes it rains, and when you are starting out it rains a lot.
Some will say it's damn near a flood, others will say it's drizzling, others will say it's raining way more than it used to or that it isn't raining enough - and there are those who will claim the rain is the result of someone else stealing away the Sun, but none of those perspectives affect the fact that it's raining.
Grab an umbrella, stay inside for the day, or figure out a way to become waterproof. But your impression of the weather doesn't change it one bit.
Go for what you want despite rain, sleet or snow, and be undeterred. Save your energy for walking through or avoiding the rain - not critiquing it.
YOUR PRAGMATIC PATH
Like most of the arts, voice acting is a very practical pursuit that also happens to fall into what many consider to be a dream. But if you don't treat it like the pragmatic path it is, it will always be that, a dream and nothing more.
I've been able to achieve a lot of my dreams (completed every quest in Witcher 3 … finally finished a bowl of cereal with the proper milk-to-cereal ratio so that neither one is left when I'm done - oh I dream big!).
I've simply always been willing to grind for them so they never feel out of reach and I'm never thinking about difficulty, only moving forward.
WORK SMART, BE PATIENT
Every talent's story will differ given their experience. Take what applies to you and discard the rest.
Work smart and be patient. "Rome was not built in a day" (I'm told by a reputable source that it took at least two).
Remember that you are the vanguard of your success, and that people often tell you what you can't do based on what they can't do. But always remember "nobody puts baby in a corner!"
I am not an expert, just a working voice actor loving what I do, failing and succeeding daily, grinding it out and enjoying it.
There are no secrets or shortcuts in this game. It's not easy, and tomorrow is another day. Given that both of those things are unavoidable facts, why be overly concerned with them?
It's the same as it's always been - move forward or don't. Love what you do. Be pragmatic and daring, smart and prudent, but most of all - enjoy this life.
It's a grind, but it's my grind and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Issa Deas is a voice actor whose balance of witty humor and earnest seriousness shines through in all his work. Beginning his career with narration, he has expanded into radio and character work with credits that include brands such as Pepsi, Post and Ubisoft.
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