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Newcomers: The Secret To Breaking
Into Voice-Overs - And Succeeding!
Part 1: Your Voice and Demo

By Robert J. Sciglimpaglia Jr.
Voice Talent, Actor & Instructor
 
I am a voice-over artist, an actor and a teacher of voice-overs. Yet just two-and-half years ago, I was a full time attorney.
 
At that time, perhaps like you now, I had no voice-over industry contacts or agents. But I quickly got my foot in the door.
 
How did I do this? My fast journey has taught me many lessons. And Ive boiled down what I believe to be the secret to success in voice-overs to a simple formula.
 
If youre considering a career in voice-overs, or just starting out, this is important for you to know.
 
FIRST, MY JOURNEY

My voice-over career began in an adult education class, where all students recorded a sample voice-over.
 
After class, the instructor Dan Levine, founder and owner of Such A Voice invited me to his advanced class, where I cut a voice-over demo.
 
The following month I took a class in voice-over equipment and set up my home studio.
 
I also signed up with Voice123, an online voice-over casting service. The very next month, one of the first online auditions I did was for a role in Hijacked, a PBS American Experience series documentary. And I won the job!
 
So at the Broadway Sound studios in Times Square in New York City, I dubbed two foreign language voices into English. The show aired nationally about eight months later.
 
Since then, Ive done many national voice spots. Ive also become an actor, doing leads and supporting roles in television and film. And Ive formed my own company, All In One Voice, to offer introductory voice-over instruction and business and legal services to voice actors at all levels.
 
A HUGE FIELD
 
As a teacher, I hear this misconception all the time: Its impossible to break into the voice-over business.
 
A well-known disc jockey, who has been in the business for 30 years, even told me that in a recent class.
 
Why do they feel this way? Its due to a narrow understanding of all the opportunities in the voice-over world. Most people believe voice-overs center on something to be broadcast on radio or television. Yet its much, much more.
 
I define a voice-over as any recorded voice that speaks to you. Think: corporate training by videos and web sites, audiobooks, video games, telephone response systems, in-store announcements, movie trailers the list goes on and on.
 
Now you realize that the voice-over world is vast, with no boundaries.
 
MAJOR MARKETS

Its also true that much radio and TV work is centered in a few major markets like New York, California, Chicago and Miami. So its no coincidence that these are also the places with the most competition for jobs, and where talent agents still control who is seen (or in our case, heard) for most of the major jobs.
 
No wonder people believe its tough to get in. They think they need an agent to land jobs.
 
But for much of the voice-over work today, thats not the case.
 
THE SUCCESS FORMULA

Remember: when I started, I had no agents and no industry contacts. But I had a plan, which I continue to follow.
 
The formula to success in voice-overs is to have or develop:
  • Marketable Voice
  • Slam Dunk/Fantastic Demo, and 
  • Business and Marketing Savvy - including a plan to get you from entry jobs to higher-paying work, agents, union membership and fame and fortune.
MARKETABLE VOICE

You need a "marketable" voice. Notice I do not say you need a good or great voice. God gave you a good or great voice. Its up to you to learn how to exploit it.
 
Find the proper market for your voice - or you will fail in this business.
 
Unfortunately, this may not always coincide with the area you want to get into, but it must be a building block to get you where you want to go.
 
SLAM DUNK DEMO

A demo is a brief recorded montage of your voice talents. In time, you'll probably cut several different demos, with each focussing on a specific skill or type of voice. And you'll always be updating them.
 
But if your demo does not have the proper spots to show off a marketable voice if the music is not appropriate and if the best and strongest spot is not at the top, it will not serve its purpose.
 
It may even have the opposite effect and make you appear completely unskilled.
 
In addition, in order to achieve a slam dunk/fantastic demo, you first must perfect the art of voice-overs. I define the art of voice-overs as the ability to have a conversation using someone else's words.
 
KEEP TRAINING

I am always asked: How much training is enough? The answer: It varies by individual. Whatever you need to perfect this art is the right amount.
 
And for most, this means you will always be training. I am constantly training through classes in acting and voice-over to stay on top of the market.
 
If I want my career to reach all the stages I desire, how can I expect that to happen if my skills remain stagnant?
 
I was certainly not at my best when I graduated law school. That was just the beginning. Its the same in any profession. Voice-overs are no different.
 
Please see Part 2 of this article for Business and Marketing Savvy.
 
Robert J. Sciglimpaglia Jr. is the owner of All In One Voice, a voice-over instruction and business/legal services firm. He is also a voice talent, actor and attorney with the firm of Kerin & Canty, in Norwalk, Conn.
 
Internet Movie Database: http://imdb.com/name/nm2215197
 
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Comments (2)
Susie Schwarz
9/26/2011 at 12:48 PM
Hi Rob,

As one of your former students, I've been following your career for over a year now.

You continue to inspire me and keep me motivated.

Of all the pearls of wisdom you have shared, I believe the point about "having a marketable" voice" rings the most true...and I have found my "marketable" voice keeps changing with my experience.

So thanks, as always, for keeping me on-track and always moving forward.

Many thanks,
Susie Schwarz
Roy Wells
3/8/2011 at 6:23 AM
Loads of articles on VO biz, including this one, are always insisting that you dont need an agent. I just got an email response from Macmillan Audio in NYC telling me in no uncertain terms that they only hire voice talent thru an agent. So I don't think that anyone can make a hard and fast statement about agents. It just varies from company to company.
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