Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

Short form insights for (voice) actors, part 2

More random thoughts on acting, career and the challenges of going for it…

You become what you do.

An actor can learn things from a live, paying audience that they can never learn in a classroom.

Starting out unskilled or “from nowhere” is neither a meaningful disadvantage nor a unique obstacle.

You’ll get better faster by assuming there are good reasons you don’t get called back or book.

Don’t pre-worry your day, your career or your life.

Always be making stuff. Better still- create regularly with others.

Earning trust is as important as gaining confidence.

Follow your dreams, not your illusions.

Admire or emulate but don’t copy.

Don’t let your expanding career dilute your efforts at getting better.

You can’t be better than you see yourself or get any better than you allow yourself.

Lose your discomfort of looking like an idiot.

A professional’s job isn’t so much hitting any single ball that comes over the plate. Their job is to be ready to hit any ball that comes over the plate.

An audition is like a lotto ticket someone else scratches off for you. If you win, you’ll get the call. Otherwise, forget it.

Shakespeare is like classical music. Voice acting is small combo jazz.

Unless it’s in writing, nobody owes you anything.

Don’t be recklessly cautious in your acting choices, your career or life.

Acting is improv. Your day is improv. Your life is improv.

The journey from oblivious naïveté to instinctive command: Unconsciously incompetent –> consciously incompetent–> consciously competent–> unconsciously competent.

Those starting out in L.A. want in and up, but in the end, many want out.

All actors are directors- even when being directed and especially when auditioning alone.

At the mixer/party: Please talk about things that matter to you- other than acting.

Whether feast or famine, never abandon the habits of your amateur heart.

Always have a mouse in your pocket- that is, something secretly yours, that you’re working on, playing with, cultivating not for show or sale, but because you love it.

Have the story of your day in mind- what you’re involved with that matters or energizes you, that makes you laugh, that moves you.

It’s not “who you know.” It’s “who knows you are really, really good.”

Acting isn’t real life: It calls for emotional commitment to imaginary ephemeral relationships. Real life calls for emotional diplomacy in real, long term relationships.

Move the ball down the field in life by training your efforts on the intersection of what matters to you and where your efforts have meaningful impact.

Get in the ring: Become a better actor by acting with actors better than you.

Capacity over resumé: You will attract far more interest with what you can do rather than with what you did.

No expert can sell you all that luck that you’ll need.

It is surprising how many “missed opportunities” turn out to have been just another bullet dodged.

Love the legacy: Knowledge of the history of entertainment and its players is invaluable shorthand for communicating with a director.

An honest & accurate assessment that stings is still a complement.

Free range: Plant your creativity outside of your career.

Limitations are the riverbank that enables art’s flow.

When another’s disregard knocks, don’t answer the door.

For an astronaut, the Moon doesn’t intimidate- it inspires.

Ears never shut: A good voice actor listens as they speak.

“Certain” is brittle and weak. “Provisional” is supple and strong.

Want to better understand human psychology? Get a dog.

Why is a dog a great acting teacher? Because it is a pack animal that is honest- even when it deceives. There are no inauthentic dogs.

Great art endures: Dragonflies have been around for hundreds of millions of years.

An actor’s fullness of imagination is as important as accessibility to emotions.

Good singing is a controlled yell. Proper yelling or screaming comes from a placement of relaxed power that does not damage the voice.

Opera singers are the body builders of voice.

Unique, authentic you is an actor’s most valuable resource and fuel.

Prep the runway: Say what you want out loud and often.

An inexperienced actor always says, “yes.” But you will find the greatest power is to say, “no.”

Relaxation enables power: Excess tension damages the voice, over-amps the performance and diminishes your ability to steer your performance.

Without a clear grasp of story and context, your performance will feel arbitrary or generic.

Avoid monotony. Favor the switch up.

A voice actor’s greatest challenge is self-directing an audition.

First, “show” then waaaay later, “business.”

Golf as metaphor: Your best shot is when you forget all previous shots, all scoring, the course ahead and all your competition and solely commit to taking your best swing at the shot before you.

Getting better entails doing more with less.

Never one speed: Purposefully alternate gas and brakes to the pace of your performance.

If one sentence ends up, send the next down. Follow fast with slow. High with low.

Downstream from vaudeville: The timing, clarity and specificity in good animated story telling tracks back to the silent masters- Buster Keaton, Chaplin, etc.

Whether it’s an audition or a gig shouldn’t affect your effort.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to find out how good you are at something.

Generic is an enemy of all good story telling and acting.

A microphone confines your movement but shouldn’t confine or inhibit the extension and fullness of your performance.

At best, social media wastes your time.

Mimicking and impressions are voice acting-adjacent.

Every gig is an audition.

Good acting is clear, appropriate choices applied with intent and conviction- not random guessing.

An actor’s “range” is bounded by their self-image.

Acting is about choosing and permitting who or what takes the captain’s chair of the self. Non-actors manage this passively. Good actors do this with intent and control.

Don’t mistake what should be your career for what should be your hobby. Or visa versa.

Having something you care about that isn’t acting might be more important to your acting than any training.

You wield the words. The words don’t wield you.

Don’t hold back a genuine complement.

Success should amplify gratitude.

In descending order of importance: Acting, mic technique, studio acoustics, studio tech.

You may get all the praise but your work is always a collaboration.

Paint your performance with an adjective. Assign it a temperature. Clothe it in pre-life. Power it with wanting.

Moonshot: Shooting for the moon but missing it by just ten feet isn’t some great failure or cause for despair. Celebrate the incredible voyage!

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© Dee Bradley Baker 2022

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