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Q&A With Voice Star Bob Bergen:
'You Have To Love The Journey'

February 22, 2012

(VOXtra) - By any measure, Bob Bergen - the voice of Porky Pig and many Looney Tunes characters, as well a popular voice in countless animation films, commercials, promos, games and narrations - is at the top of his game.

So would it surprise you to hear Bob say this?

"I have to work harder today to stay where I am than ever before."

And that despite his success, he still often spends four to six hours a day marketing for work?

That's a clue to how Bob has achieved success - and when you read his experiences and advice below, you'll understand the need to love your voice over journey.


Bob is moderator of the Video Games & Animation session of the SAG Foundation Voice-Over Summit 2012, on March 27 at the Don LaFontaine Voice-Over Lab in Los Angeles.

Through  April 10, the Summit is presenting  sessions on all facets of voice over genres, marketing and home studio technology. Proceeds benefit the Lab, which was created to further the success of budding voice actors. (Click here for Summit details and registration.)

And with the help of star voice talent Joe Cipriano, VoiceOverXtra has asked several Summit leaders and panelists to answer set questions about their experiences and advice for success.

Today the questions go to Bob ...

Bob, for a person with talent and drive, how long would it take to become proficient enough to work full time in voice overs? 

Well, I wish I could tell you there was a set amount of time it takes to make it in this business, but there really isn’t. 

Everyone is different.  I’ve seen people hit from the get-go and I’ve seen it take years. 

To put it in perspective, for me it was a nine-year journey from first day in a voice over class to working actor. 

I studied for four solid years with every voice over teacher in Los Angeles. I was in one to two classes per week, and Saturday workout groups. 

I also studied Meisner acting technique for two years and three years of improv with The Groundlings.  I was demo-ready after my four years of voice over study, and was able to secure my first agent. 

But it took another five years of hit-or-miss auditioning before I was able to quit my day job as a tour guide at Universal Studios and work as a full time actor. 

Wow. That's persistence. What are your other keys to success?

The first thing is, you cannot do this for the money. If you do this for the money you will never feel successful because it will never feel like enough. 

Sure, money is nice. But you have to absolutely love the journey. You have to get as much creative satisfaction at the mic auditioning as you do at a session. 

You need to want it more than anyone else. 

And you need to be specific and strategic in your marketing. You must know your brand. If you don’t know it, there’s no way for your agent to sell it. 

You need to know what you are right for and what you are not right for.  And don’t attempt what you aren’t right for.

Too many try to be all things voice over. They don’t need you to be brilliant at everything.  They just need you to be brilliant at what you do. 

And, I think being positive is essential! 

Too often I hear folks dwell on what they aren’t doing, or the obstacles. If they invested that same time being negative into being proactive, they’d be more successful and productive.  
Commercially no one needs another voice. They have all the voices they will ever need. 

What they don’t have, and what they do need is YOU! Your heart, your style, your brain and timing,  your own unique personality that makes you, YOU! 

This is your brand.  If you know your brand well, and it’s well represented on your demo, no one can tell you they have too many of you. They don’t have you at all. 

But if your brand is not represented on your demo, even if you read well, you are just another voice getting lost in the crowd.   

And location comes into play in some genres of voice over. 

For instance, animation is still primarily an LA game. Commercials are done everywhere.

But if you want to play with the big boys, meaning national commercials, promos, etc., LA, NYC, and Chicago are where the action is.     

Bob, how much diversity in skills - ability to work in various genres - do you recommend?
Well, the more genres of voice over one does, the more day-to-day opportunities you have. 

I do animation, commercials, promo, narration, games, etc. 

I think the only genre I don’t do is audiobooks. 

The problem comes when one doesn’t know where they fit in.

As I said before, you need to be specific and strategic. So if promo is an area you want to get into, where do you see your promo style fitting in? Comedy? Drama? Children’s programming? 

You need to market yourself specifically for the area you think your skills and style fit. 

Let’s say it’s Children’s programming. Your demo needs to reflect today’s children’s programming. You need to market it to the agents who are known by the children’s promo buyers. 

You need to know who those buyers are. You would need to be this specific and strategic with all of your marketing in every genre of voice over you do. 

I audition and work from my home studio as well as outside my home studio. But if I’m home with no auditions or work, I’m marketing. Often four to six hours per day.  

But I gotta tell ya, folks today have something I didn’t have when I started out 30 years ago.  The Internet. 

Today you can go to Voicebank and research every voice over agent in the business. You can hear what you need to live up to in talent with every agent. 

You can research producers, directors, and casting directors on Facebook and Wikipedia. You can use YouTube to familiarize yourself with any buyer’s past work and style. 

Got an animation audition coming up with Susan Blu? Hit the computer and immerse yourself in her work.  

Got a commercial audition? Go to the product’s corporate website and get a feel for their intended consumer. 

I would say 90% of those pursuing voice over wouldn’t even think about putting in this amount of research and marketing. But 90% don’t work, either! 

In the end, it’s all about the talent. It’s no coincidence when that brilliant demo gets multiple offers for representation. When brilliant is there it’s like a slap in the face. 

Everyone wants to represent that "wow” factor actor.

Bob, is there a defining moment when you felt, "I've made it in voice overs!"?

Wow, I think once you feel that you’ve made it, it’s downhill from there. 

I’ve been blessed in my career, having met my lifelong dream of playing Porky Pig when I was 26. 

That said, I’ve had to re-audition for Porky four times over the past 22 years. There are no guarantees. We’ve all been fired. We’ve had strikes that get in the way of our day-to-day. 

I find I have to work harder today to stay where I am than ever before. 

The good news is, I love what I do. I love auditioning. I love marketing. I love teaching. I love voice over and acting.  So I don’t ever feel like I’ve made it. 

But I love the process of making it.     

OK, and what gives you the most FUN as a voice actor? What do you enjoy doing most?

Just being in front of the mic is fun.

Of course, I love doing Porky and The Looney Tunes. But I also love doing those little vocal effects in films and productions that no one knows is me. The crying baby, the flying insects. 

I love being challenged. Voice over as a whole is fun!  

Thanks, Bob!

Also see: Q&A with Jim Tasker

For details and to register for the SAG Foundation Voice-Over Summit 2012, please click here, or visit:

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Comments (6)
Paul Strikwerda
2/24/2012 at 8:09 AM
Ours is not a wait-and-see profession. Thanks for stressing that point, Bob. Success rarely happens overnight. It takes passion, persistence and patience.

Judy Fossum
2/23/2012 at 5:35 PM

Thank you for your candid advice, help and honesty. Yet again, I recognize how generous people in the voice acting community are.

It seems like knowing oneself (really well) and where you fit into the world of VO, hard work, continuing education and persistence are all things that I hear again and again. So onward I go (including my "day" job) into more auditions and marketing. I am learning to pay attention to what I am hired to voice as another means of figuring out where my niche is so that I can market more effectively.

Thank you so much,

Judy Fossum
Cheyenne, WY
2/23/2012 at 4:40 PM
Always positive and leaning while teaching he is....Thanks Bob! Sincerely, Marc Bode
2/23/2012 at 4:06 PM
Hey, Bob...WHAT WONDERFUL ADVICE! Obviously the many years you spent in "servitude" and classes prepared you well and gave you a perspective on the biz that others may never get. You can't work in this biz just because someone told you, "You have a nice voice." That's just "sound" still have to learn the craft! THEN...only THEN, can you expect to work. Thanks for sharing; this article goes into my "Save Forever" file!
Ken Budka
2/23/2012 at 11:47 AM
Hi Bob - thank you for sharing your thoughts and background regarding your voiceover career. It's such a fantastic reminder that everyone in this business must practice, prepare and continually work on their skills and marketing efforts, regardless of who you are or where you are at in your career.

I'm inspired by your advice to know yourself and focus your efforts, both creatively and through diligent research, on the areas you do best, specifically within the different genres of VO.

For such a short article, there is a ton of valuable advice and specific things to do. I've found it best to model success and learn something from every person, experience, article, etc. as I journey forward, and this piece definitely hits home.

Voiceover for me is like touring the country in a motor home, the thrill is definitely in the ride.

Roy Wells
2/23/2012 at 9:07 AM
Thanks for this article, Bob. I read every word, and then I read it again. Your advice is what makes this whole vo business work.
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