Stuck at Home? Do This:
Frustrated by your lack of opportunity and mobility?
Many are unable to perform or learn in person due to the isolation forced on us by the pandemic. They may be stuck at home, or in a city with no apparent creative opportunity for gaining experience as a performer. They might feel confined by school or job obligations, their parents won’t let them out of the house, they’ve got a family to tend to, etc.
What is a frustrated aspiring voice actor to do in the face of such obstacles?
I’ve made for you a list of what you can do, even if you are confined or seemingly lack options for getting in-person VO training or acting experience.
It doesn’t matter how much time you spend at any of this. It doesn’t even matter if you feel you’re doing it well or making any progress. What matters is you do it regularly, that you steadily improve your VO skills and incorporate the habits of a creative person into your day, into your life.
It can be one minute a day on each of these or a couple hours. It doesn’t matter if you feel awkward or silly. What matters is that you work at this regularly- daily. Becoming a voice actor will require steady effort!
Becoming a voice actor can be fun, but it is also a long process of discovery and effort. It requires commitment and work. Shortcuts don‘t exist.
If you are sincere in your wish to become a voice actor you must start feeding your creative self as well as working basic VO skills, such as diction and reading out loud with ease.
Later you will move into the world with your aspirations, but you can start this journey from the confines of your own home today.
So, do this:
1. Read out loud everyday and at length. It can be a chapter book (e.g. “Harry Potter” or “The Hobbit,”) a magazine, the obituaries, a web essay, poetry, Shakespeare, Dr. Seuss or all the cereal boxes in your pantry. It doesn’t matter. The longer you can read without stumbling the better.
Do this for fun, do it everyday regularly and do it until you’re good at it.
2. Read books with stories that you find interesting (out loud or not). Read any books you like, but read to cultivate an awareness of storytelling. Read stories regularly. You must make a habit of following your curiosity and filling your mind with ideas and language, while learning how stories work. Don’t recognized a word? Look it up.
It doesn’t matter what you read, just read. You can mix this in with #1 above, if you’d like. Read at least a book a month- anything you like. Daily.
2. View the movies and TV shows I reference on my Fantastical Fundamentals page. Try to watch as many of the ones I list as you can (for a start). Make a list of what ones you want to see this week and check it off when completed. Keep going and find more. The further back into the 20th century you dig, the better.
You need to be familiar with the icons of story telling, genres and have a good inner database of characters. You need to be familiar with great actors, beacons of great story telling to fill your well of possibilities that you will tap into as an actor. How about two per week at least?
3. Make a habit of mimicking TV, radio, cartoons, movies, web shows that you like. Imitate your favorite cartoons or your heroes. Imitate comedians you like. Find some impressionists online and work up your own impressions of who they mimic. Play with repeating back and mimicking daily. Pair this with #2 above if you want.
4. Start a daily journal and write about you, what you’re going through, what you are aiming for, memories, aspirations, past events, dreams, frustrations, ideas- anything and everything going on in you. Make a habit of processing your life and digging around inside yourself to see what you find. Daily.
5. Make something that is yours that you like. It can be a written story, an audio sketch, a TikTok bit, a photo collage, a garden, a play reading with friends over Zoom, a clay sculpture, a podcast, a holiday yard display- it doesn’t matter what. It just has to be something you like, or wanted to try.
The goal isn’t to do something well or even make something that is good. The goal is to make something that is yours. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it when it’s finished or if you wanted it to go differently. You keep going, you keep exploring and trying.
You forge a habit of making something you like and you bring this habit of creating something of you that you like into your life. Not for money, not primarily for attention or likes or followers, either. You make it because you like it and wanted to try it.
5a. Get in the habit of creating things with others. Acting is a deeply collaborative art and career- not a solitary craft. So: seek others and make things with them.
If you want to be any kind of actor, you want to become a collaborator– so get collaborating! Enlist a friend(s) to create a podcast, start a band, audition at a theater, produce and post audio sketches or radio plays, parody commercials, D&D, try group story writing- it can be anything that you want. Don’t aim for “professional” results or money.
The point is getting in the habit of making things together to help drive your progress and learning. Bonus points if it involves telling some kind of story. Not for money- for fun, because the process of becoming an actor (which includes voice actors) should be driven and sustained by your enjoyment of making a show or telling a story with others.
6. Build yourself music playlists that you can use to inspire you as you create or read or journal. Sing along with your playlist. Or whistle. In your regular voice, character voices, accents, etc. Can you sing (or riff) along with your favorite songs in an accent or as a character? If you need to wait until no one else is home, or maybe you hate your voice- that’s fine and doesn’t matter. Sing. Let the song out!
7. Start a hobby. This is something you must like or are curious about that brings you no benefit other than you like it. Not acting related. You can focus on acting, but there are other parts of you- interests, curiosities, talents- that are plants deserving water and sunlight as well. If you already have a hobby, keep it up and start another!
I like the idea of having “a mouse in your pocket.” That is, something you’re working on that you enjoy, that engages you, that brings you only delight but no monetary payoff, that is yours alone to savor.
8. Learn accents and dialects through study or just mimicking. Start with YouTube searching. You can find books, audio sites, online teachers, apps, old CD courses- anything that works for you. Get good at typical, garden variety ones then branch out.
Use the accents as you’re reading daily out loud! Start with British, French, German, Australian, Russian, various American dialects, etc. Accents can be practiced anywhere!
9. Try an online voice acting class from pro. There is much free insight on this website, but much other good insight exists elsewhere. Many good online teachers can provide you further introductory overview or even one-on-one training to “get your feet wet.”
For specific recommendations of L.A.-based voice instructors who have good experience to go my FAQ page, #8b. (CLICK HERE.)
(Online learning can assist your growth, but you’ll ultimately need “real world” in-person experience.)
If you can’t afford online learning right now, refer to the many free, extensive interviews with voice actors, agents and voice directors linked at the bottom right of this page.
Don’t blame externalities on your frustration at lack of tangible progress towards your dream. You can make progress even if confined at home. You now a list of things you can do to work specific VO skills while also cultivating the habits of a creative person.
All that’s left is to Just Do It!
Everyday, consult the above list and ask yourself: What did I do today to get better at this? What am I doing to become a more creative person and a more competent performer?
If you are more advanced with your VO and acting skills, you begin thinking about creating a demo and finding an agent, auditions and work opportunity. For a discussion of that, CLICK HERE.
For help with tracking goals and changing your habits look up “bullet journal” and the book, “Atomic Habits.” (I’ve no financial stake in these, I just like them.)