I'm a voice artist, and it's probably one of my favourite things I do in my portfolio career. I've done this for the last 18 months in everything from short films, audio dramas and video games to corporate scripts, adverts and animations. You don't have to memorize lines though you do need to know how to read and feel a character (or the product/idea) in a script. You also shouldn't quit your day job as voice work isn't consistent work, though you can do a lot of it at night from a home studio if you have one. Many people have the misconception that all voice over actors must have that “unforgettable” vocal quality such as the famous movie trailer deep booming voice of *cue cinematic scenes* ‘In a world . . .’ This isn't the case.
Voice-over actors, or artists as I prefer to call them, have a wide array of talents and vocal types. Though my natural accent is American neutral, I also do various other American accents as well as character ones such a nasal baby animal or Barbie-like irritating voices for my various jobs and auditions. Just as different types of actors are needed, it is also true for voice-over artists.
So here are a few tips if you want to get started as a voice actor:
1) Find a company where you can get training and advice. . . even if it’s just a day workshop. Voice acting is different to acting in the sense that you have to convey EVERYTHING through your voice. In my voice work, I have been warm and smiley with authority to angry with a bit a sultry edge and everything in between. I spent invaluable time with a company in London getting helpful hints, coaching and feedback. This training has helped me with larger jobs where I work with engineers and directors on different projects. It also helped me get started with demos, equipment and how to pursue voice over jobs.
2) You need a basic home studio at least for auditions. For larger work, the client will always want you to work with them, their preferred studio and engineer but for smaller jobs or auditions, you need an audition quality studio. I did a lot of research on a good but not too expensive kit that comprises of a mic, a stand, a good sound editing programme and sound proofing.
3) You need to learn basic sound editing. Whether you are submitting an audition or a small job, you need to learn how to record and edit your work. It ALWAYS takes me several takes even if it’s just a few lines. And usually the client wants several takes to hear different styles and ways you have said a statement. In the midst of this the phone rings, or you sneeze, or you fumble over the lines, so you need to learn how to edit and create a clean recording. I learned from a sound engineer the basics. And though I feel confident in the basics, I will probably take a course in the future on more complex sound editing.
4) Build up the CV by doing a few freebies but then only do freebies if it will benefit you. I needed to get ‘out there’. I now have a CV, agents and do paid jobs. However, because I have a home studio, I do audio dramas as a hobby. The audio dramas help me practice various characters and accents, but I found it was something I enjoyed consistently.
5) You don't have to have an agent to get started, but you do need an online presence. I found it a challenge getting a specific voice agent (as opposed to my modelling agents where I have one per region) because I'm not based in London. However, I am on several freelance voice sites, registered with a few production companies, and I have a website. I have been ‘scouted’ through these sites along with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, especially as there aren't that many American voice artists in the North of England.
These are just a few tips, but I think my overall advice is do what you love. I love writing, and I love voice work, and an opportunity recently came along through Cornucopia Radio, an audio drama company. It was a no-brainer as they wanted me to narrate personal stories (I wrote and narrated ‘Bits and Bobs’, a personal short story with them) and they would produce it as a podcast. So far, we have done two short pieces together but I am looking forward to what is going to evolve out of it.
So have a listen to the launch of the ‘Jeannie McGinnis Podcast’ here!
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