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

Learning It Versus Living It

There is a big difference between a specialization and the life that it brings.

When you first lock into something you love and learn the ins and outs of doing that- acting, for example- you typically initially learn only the isolated specialization itself. You don’t yet bother yourself considering the life that such a career might bring.

It’s an understandable omission of classroom or academic training, where you are sheltered from outside distractions and obligations so you can focus on gaining competency or mastery of whatever has caught your interest. Some schools are a walled garden- jealously protecting an isolated terrarium where an artist or other specialist can nurture and grow the core of their art, pure and unsullied.

But what you don’t learn, what is kept far from you for the most part, is a familiarity with the real world life that this specialization inhabits- the way such a life is lived, the ups and downs, the trade offs and pot holes, the people you are surrounded by (or have to put up with), the lifestyle advantages or disadvantages, the characteristic challenges that typically attend a career whose skills and knowledge you are devoting yourself to.

I think of all the aspiring voice actors who visit my site and think back to my younger days as I tried to figure where I was going in life and as a performer.

I remember back when I was doing stand up and there was a headliner who killed with his every set. But every set he performed to perfection exactly as his previous set without variation of nuance in his delivery. Before going on to his second Friday night performance, I remember him almost beside himself lamenting, “If was anything I could do- anything– instead of going back out on that stage and do that set again, I’d do it!” Then he strolled out and killed the audience again with another perfect set. Such an odd misery, I thought. A perfect cage.

I also remember another road comic displaying to me proudly how he lived out of his suitcase in his car’s trunk as he drove around America from gig to gig. Here were his clothes, his pills, his toothbrush…

It occurred to me that I liked doing stand up but that this life of a stand up headliner- the highest level of stand up as far as creative status and money- didn’t really appeal to me. I realized stand up wasn’t an end station for me, it was a stepping stone.

I did less and less stand up and went on to trying other forms of performing, basically zig zagging my way experimentally eventually into a career in voice acting- a profession whose activity and lifestyle both suited me quite well. It was a process of discovery and learning and adjusting that lasted about ten years after I graduated.

The thing I wanted to point out here is that few beginners have a clear idea of the life that attends the activity they aspire to. You may have a fantasy of what it’s like to do the thing. But you may also be surprised to find what kind of life that expertise brings with it.

Whether you’re training to be an actor or doctor or car mechanic- there is a life that the mastered activity brings with it, which may require its own acclimation and, in the end, may or may not appeal. It may be a suit that looks nice but doesn’t fit.

You may want to do the thing. You may love it. But do you want to live that life?

Leave a Reply

© Dee Bradley Baker 2023

%d bloggers like this: