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Where Do You Need To Live
To Make It BIG In Voice Over?
By Vanessa Hart
Voice Actor & Coach
Okay – here it is – this is hard – way hard.
Being a full time working voice actor in LA is sometimes terrifically exciting, sometimes frightening and sometimes just tiring.
And sometimes it just seems too much. No one is immune.
(Of course, I have these thoughts every time my landlord raises my rent.)
So, I’m thinking ... how important is location?
Of late, I’m asking myself this question over and over. I think it’s either irrelevant or of supreme importance.
If you want to do animation – you must be here.
But is there another must? I think there is. I believe that most of the heavy hitters live here, and if you want to be one too, then you must live in LA.
I cannot say that I’m happy about that.
Where do you live? What do you want to do?
These are issues that need to be addressed.
Over and over again I’ve heard the phrase, "But with a home studio you can do it from wherever you are.”
Is this true? I believe it is.
BUT I also know that there are opportunities that are available in NY and LA that simply are not available anywhere else.
It is what it is, and that’s just the truth.
You will have limited audition opportunities elsewhere, and you will have no ability to network and find other opportunities that perhaps may never have occurred to you.
For example, I’ve learned to do things that I'd never even considered because Pat Fraley believed in me. Could that happen someplace else? Maybe.
But I just don’t know how successful I would have been if I had not had Pat as a mentor AND if I hadn’t been in LA.
Is it stupid expensive to live here? Yes.
Is it worth it? I’m just not sure anymore, and would love to hear my colleagues' take on it.
What say you? Please COMMENT below!
It’s a catch 22 – you must decide what your priorities are.
Quality of life?
Peace of mind regarding financial matters?
Friends and family, etc.?
So: location, location, location.
 I believe that it’s still as true as it always was – but it’s changing.
My normal mode is to follow your heart ... it’s always right.
But my head will not shut up.
So I'm actually kind of hoping that you – my friends and colleagues - will convince me that it’s OK to not be in LA.
Shout it out! Tell me your thoughts and experiences.
I have a need to know, as do thousands of talents out there.
What is the REAL deal?
Vanessa Hart is an in-demand voice over artist, actor, and speaker whose work is heard every day across the U.S. She has performed hundreds of commercials, corporate narrations and national television promos, in addition to narrating dozens of award-winning audiobooks. She was a finalist for Best Female Voice in the 2009 Voicey Awards competition, and a finalist in the 2008 Audie Awards competition. She is also a veteran voice coach and demo producer and works regularly from her state-of-the-art recording studio in Los Angeles. Her concise, informative overview for beginners, The Power of 5 – The Fundamentals, is now on sale at her website.
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Comments (14)
billy bear
11/14/2016 at 12:10 PM
i like what your saying in this, but it sort of reminds me of pearl harbor of talent, where someone can put there talents into there own creative goals, i agree Los Angles has so much depth of talent, but then again so does New York , chicago, MIami etc etc i have watched others make in Los Angles by being discovered outside of Los Angles, i have been told to go to Los Angles, many times, rat race is not my deal but rather the passion and enjoyment of my voice and with social media the question is does one really need to ? one can produce for him or herself and market there talent faster , more effectively then living in one spot, living in the midwest i can fly anywhere for a gig the next day , or with in hours to a spot or record from my house on Pro tools and my client can have it in minutes, , i will still consider it though, thanks for the post.
Jermaine Mckissack Jr.
6/14/2016 at 6:11 PM
My name is Jermaine Mckissack and I am 19 years old with a deep voice. I took theatre in high school my 11th and 12th grade year. I just want to use my voice to get notice and to show how bless I am with this deep voice.
5/24/2016 at 2:01 PM
My daughter is 17 and her ONLY sight of a career is voice acting. Nothing will change her mind. And that is great! And she is really good and I think if she can get passed her fear of embarrassment, she could really have a career.

HOWEVER, she DOES NOT want to move to LA or NY. Even though it would be BEST to move there, we are determined to find a way to make it work from Nashville. Ha. She doesn't care about lots of money. She just want to voice act. That's it.

So....maybe one day we will be able to report that IT can be done successfully. Thank you so much for what you wrote. Inspiration to really try. Now...on to her next step. Wish us luck.
Roy Wells
4/15/2011 at 1:13 PM
With the technology that's available today, I think it makes little difference where you actually live. One of the biggest corporations in the world, Walmart, is run from a little hick town in Arkansas. If you have something that people want, they will find you, as long as you advertise your abilities correctly.
Audrina Phillips
4/10/2011 at 2:40 PM
I don't think location is as important as how you define what success is to you. And success is relative to each individual.
4/9/2011 at 8:47 PM
I make a very comfortable living doing union vo work in Chicago. I considered a move to LA but I like my standard of living here. I have a home studio but only use it to send auditions to my LA agent. Most of the union work here is still done at recording studios. There's still a lot of ad agencies in Chicago and a very talented community of actors here. I don't think I'll be leaving.
4/9/2011 at 3:37 PM
As long as you have your own studio with an ISDN, it doesn't matter where you live. I have agents across the country and yes, sometimes I'm doing a session at 6am because its 9am in NY, I love it!
Dan Lenard
4/9/2011 at 10:06 AM

I sauntered out to LA in 1980 with a girlfriend who had been accepted to USC. I remember going downhill from the mountains and seeing nothing but metropolitan area for what seemed an endless stretch. Once in LA proper, I saw a different world from the the one I grew up in In Buffalo. Palm trees, houses on hills, neon to the horizon. It was very exciting. For 24 hours. The daylight revealed endless traffic, some seemly neighborhoods, brown air, and rent that seemed beyond anyone's ability to eat (remember, I was 22 at the time).

I headed back east about 600 miles to Albuquerque, NM for about 8 months. I missed the comforts of family and friends I left behind and made the trek back to my beloved hometown and have spent my life here since.

Regrets? U bet. I didn't return to Southern Cal for 23 years, when my mom moved to Orange County in 2003. The time adjusted my perception, and the place took on the look of all major Amercan cities, except it has the ocean, the mountains, and about 7 or 8 million more people than the last time I was there. But having "lived" an adult life, I saw that it was more livable than the young me saw the first time.

Had I stayed, had I persued what I wanted with my college degree in broadcsting, I have no doubt I would have been successful there. But woulda, shoulda, coulda, means diddly to a 54 year old with so much more to do in his life. I really wouldn't change what did. I love my hometown, although this past winter left much to be desired. My life here is comfortable. I live in a 2500 sq ft house in a wonderful neighborhood with a 4% mortgage for what must 1/2 the cost of a house 1/3rd the size in Manhattan Beach or Santa Monica.

I visit my mom often and love coming to LA, Mostly because I have friends there from the voice biz. But many have one thing in common. They're 20 years younger than me. They either grew up there or took the other path and stayed there. Doing LA is what they know. They wanted to be there and are doing what it takes to be there.

However, the technology to succeed in this biz has come home. I can persue my niches from my basement and voice things for clients around the world. I have LA representation and I have access to national flight spots and other major projects, and I get a few. But I work everyday on something for someone, I've built a business, I've made the connections I needed to succeed. I can go to Starbucks around the corner, there's Wegmans, there's now like 5 quality Sushi restaurants within a mile, no earthquakes, brushfires and I live in a safe neighborhood.

Do I have to do animation? If that was my life's calling, that's what I'd be doing. And, who says I still can't. The home studio makes it possible. It still will come down to who's right for what. However, what's more important is your ability to competently use a home studio and produce equal to better quality audio than the commercial studios of LA and be able to deliver it in real time.

Dan Lenard
BP Smyth - Narrator
4/9/2011 at 1:37 AM
The entire state of California is a sinking ship. Get out while you can. If you like the sun, etc. go to South Florida. Taxes are low compared to where you are now, big time!! Anyway, no matter where you live you can still make it in VO because of Internet exposure.
Chuck Burke
4/8/2011 at 10:58 PM
I do not think it much matters at all any more where you live, Vanessa. The Internet has become the great equalizer. This makes it a question of networking opportunities....and "social networking" is now making that easier as well.

Just my opinion...
Rick Lance
4/8/2011 at 4:47 PM
Hi Vanessa,

I think that once you've made some great friends/contacts, etc. and made an impression of some kind in those markets, you can then live wherever you want. It looks like you've done that.

I live near Nashville, TN and I used to say... still do.... that if you want to be a serious songwriter here you have to make the commitment to move here. That's a bit different since so many hits are co-written within the Nashville songwriting community. I also have friends that have lived here for a while, then moved back home or wherever and continued their success.

I think if you work hard enough you can become one of the Big Boys ... or Girls... from where you live.
I'm content living here in my country lifestyle. Not planning to move to the "big city." I'm also working hard to go big time.

Sounds like you're considering a move, Vanessa! Good motivation to write this article!
Mara Junot
4/8/2011 at 2:12 PM
Hi Vanessa,

Great food for thought here! I've been able to successfully work full-time as a non-union VO (without an agent) doing telephony for clients like AT&T, national commercials, web videos & short narration projects working remotely from my home base in New Orleans. In fact, I was recently just contacted by one of the oldest & biggest talent agencies in L.A. (whom I've never even submitted a demo to) for 3 auditions!

I think ISDN, Source-Connect, and Skype/phone patch have been a huge factor in much of the success I've had working so far down south. While the ISDN lines are wicked expensive, they still offer access to the best paying remote jobs available in VO, so I'll gladly eat the $97 monthly bill to offset L.A. living expenses in the meantime. :)

However, you brought up a good point about animation. Ever since the last video game I recently voiced, the idea of working more heavily in the animation field has got me looking to the West. But then again, working remotely has worked for the cast of The Simpsons all these years, so who knows what's possible? :)
Arthur Maxx
4/8/2011 at 2:04 PM
Ok...So, I'm currently living in the OC, and what I'm trying to figure out (or dreaming about) is how can I make a living in VO from Play del Carmen, Mexico.

IMHO... I think it won't be to long before it's possible....(just a living)...maybe ;)
Tom Moog
4/8/2011 at 2:02 PM
It all depends upon what you are doing. If you are voicing car dealerships and furniture stores, you can live anywhere you have a broadband connection.

It certainly can't hurt anything to live in LA, NYC or even Nashville, but I haven't found it to be a limiting factor being based out of Rural North Carolina. I am doing radio and television promo imaging and now some network and national TV show stuff.

I can clearly understand that if I wanted to get into projects like animations, etc., I would have to be local to where those projects come together.

I also totally understand that when I have to do the occasional on-camera appearances for the show, I will have to travel to get it done, but then again, I like to travel.
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