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

Acting Workshops

An acting class or workshop can serve as both an introduction and a “workout” to strengthen your acting “muscles.” But the goal of an acting class is not to keep taking the class, but to stop taking it– to get out into the real world and work! 

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Private classes and workshops should be a springboard/stepping stone for you, not a final resting place.

Private study (“acting classes,” “scene study,” “workshops” “workout groups”) should be with a teacher(s) who is positive, constructive, well-recommended and well thought of in the industry. Casting directors or prospective agents may shift their thinking about you when they learn where or whom you’ve studied with.

Check your prospective teacher’s resume’. Study/workout should be with someone experienced who is inspiring with good intuition and a practical perspective.  This instructor’s goal should be both to ignite and hone your acting powers as well as to get you up and running in the current competitive market as soon as possible.

Your goal is to not need the class anymore. You want to get away from paying to learn and get into getting paid to learn— the goal is to work! This should be your teacher’s/program’s goal as well.

Some students attach themselves to classes as a kind of on-going group therapy that they apparently don’t want to to leave. They enjoy the camaraderie and a “safe” spotlight, and will happily keep paying for what is actually an excuse to not “go for it.” They never seem willing or able to leave the safety and support of the classroom. Well, baby bird’s gotta jump out of the nest at some point! There is nothing wrong with a safe workout program per se, but you’re not aiming to make a career of being in a classroom, right?

A paid teacher’s validation is fine, but nothing validates talent and ability like a paycheck or a live audience.

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Beware inept teachers, workshops or programs that charge big money only to cut you down and/or string you along forever.

It’s sometimes true that, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

Anybody who has worked a day in the industry can proclaim themselves an expert with “secret inside knowledge” and set up shop as a “teacher,” in a market where many hundreds are willing to pay good money for the key to “getting in.”

A teacher could be someone who worked a long time ago but can no longer get work and now just needs some cash. Or perhaps it’s someone who is good at asserting their “authority” in a classroom setting, but who isn’t  actually a good teacher. They just want followers.

To be fair, there are terrific mentors who have good experience and perspective and have lots to share even though they may not be currently working. It may be well worth it to pay for their insight. But– some teach because they can’t get work– for good reasons that you may not be aware of. It may be that their version of cultivating your art and professional strategy holds no value for them or for you.

Their take on the industry may be outdated (remember things change rapidly in this industry!). They may be too angry or needy or just kinda nuts (which may be why they don’t work anymore?). Maybe they have a galvanizing personality and need a captive (paying) audience to worship them. Perhaps they aren’t talented enough to get work so they position themselves as experts in what they don’t actually know that much about.

Whether they once had it or not, success as an actor doesn’t necessarily imply competence as a teacher. Acting and teaching acting are separate skills, in my book. Some can do both, but not all. You may have a brilliant, experienced performer who is a terrible teacher. Also, just because someone has had a lot of exposure to lots of good voice actors (maybe they were/are an agent or an engineer), it doesn’t necessarily mean they can teach the art or business of voice acting. 

There are lots of variations of all this. Lots of classes and teachers to sift through.

Sadly, a newbie often lacks the life experience needed to spot and defy false gurus. Your B.S. Meter will become more fine tuned with time.

I’d say first off: Don’t let any teacher/expert cut you down personally and never be afraid to tell an “experienced” or well-respected hack to go jump off a cliff for the right reason. Trust your gut on these matters.

That said, an honest and accurate professional opinion is worth gold, even if the truth hurts a bit. You aren’t looking for a teacher who only complements or strokes egos. Tough love can be a good thing in an acting class. You want a teacher who has good insight, great instincts and is honest.

No matter a teacher’s competency, they are all equally willing to take your money. Do your research to find a teacher with good experience and preferably who is still professionally engaged and who is well recommended.

Results are what matters!

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In answer to a number of inquiries: Unfortunately, I don’t have other region-specific advice on “who to study with” in areas outside of Los Angeles. The path should be the same, though– do some research, audit if possible, see the shows, get recommendations, talk to students or graduates, check the teacher’s or class’s resume´.  Also, I unfortunately don’t have the time to do individual consulting on demos, career coaching, etc. 

8 Responses »

  1. [S]hould I pay the $3,650 to [a voice coach company] to propel me and my dream career into action, or should I try and find [a local agent]? [This online VO] school offers a master CD copy of commercial and narrative demos, website hosting for 1 year, 5 months of remote training (i can complete the training and studio work here [at home]). I own/operate a small […] business […] along with twin 10 month old daughters, needless to say, money is tight.

    • I strongly believe that acting (or specifically, voice acting) isn’t something everyone can be trained to do and I’m suspicious of any company that seems to think otherwise. You can make a lot of money selling that dream. $3650 is a TON of money. You could take six top level voice acting classes in LA for that chunk of change. Webhosting is easy and cheap on your own. Remote training may work for other things, but not sure how it pays off becoming an actor. I personally would only pay for learning with someone who will only take in those who are ready. If I had $3600 sitting around early in my career and wanted to refine my voice acting skills, I’d buy a plane ticket to go learn in person from working pros who are selective in who’s money they will take.

  2. Can you suggest two people in LA that are worth looking into?

  3. Hi Dee,
    I’ve been acting in LA for 2+ years and am signed with an agency that’s great for film and animation voiceover work but I want to break into Anime voice acting as it’s my true love. However my agent doesn’t want to submit as the pay is lower than network projects. Do you know of any Casting Director Workshops I can take to get into Anime related projects?

    • Your agent is right- anime pays poorly for a lot of work. It’s a horrible contract- even the union contract is an embarrassment. Most want to break out of it, but to each his own. I’d research those who voice direct the shows you like and perhaps approach them on social medial and see if they teach.

  4. I am interested in finding a coach who will honestly assess whether my skills are such that, with work, I can develop a career or whether my skills and abilities are more hobbyist level.

    • Well, if I wanted to confirm whether promos or commercials were my thing, I might check out some LA classes with Jeff Howell or Mary Lyn Wissner. They also sometimes teach outside of LA. If animation is the focus, then maybe Charlie Adler, Bob Bergan, Cathy Cavadini, Richard Horvitz or Steve Blum. I tend to trust those who have done this and still do. Not the only choices, but the ones that spring to mind.

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