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

Family vs. Acting

Starting a family before establishing your career often ends with moving back home.

 

Nobody moves to Los Angeles to start a family. They move here to work, so it is hard for “family” not to take a back seat to an acting career, from the outset. There is a kind of selfish ambition that a city like Los Angeles selects for, resulting in a force that is centrifugal– it pulls relationships apart. As your career star rises, it isn’t easy holding your personal life together.

Starting a family in a big city away from the support of extended family can also be quite difficult. Starting up an acting career isn’t any easier. Starting both at the same time in Los Angeles could well lead to you feeling you need to choose one and bail on the other.

Acting and parenting are fundamentally at odds in many ways– an acting career is fundamentally volatile, requires lots of time away from home, focuses on the self and brings irregular income. By contrast, starting a family demands stability, requires lots of stay-at-home time, focuses on your family instead of yourself and requires steady income. Being a parent means being Mom or Dad and affirming and supporting permanent family relationships. Being an actor means being someone else while affirming invented ephemeral pretend relationships.

You might say the projects of parenting and acting are diametrically opposed in fundamental ways.  Is it possible to do both well? Yes. Can you find the support, the community, to make it all go? Yes, but it sure ain’t easy.

I’ve known a number of initially child-free couples who moved to L.A. to advance their acting careers. They started having kids before things took off professionally and finally had to move back to their home town or at least to a more family-supportive environment. They did this move for the right reasons, as family is the most important thing. The worse version of this leads to a split in the marriage for the sake of professional ambition. No child deserves this.

Some can handle these pressures and emerge with a successful career and family intact.  But many eventually find it just impossible. If starting a family is on your agenda, you might want to consider this.

4 Responses »

  1. I know it will be hard moving to another state to [follow] my dream, spending a lot of time away from [family]. Any thoughts?

    • You either love it and want it enough to go for it or you don’t. As I show, this can be done in steps. It may work out, or not. I want people to be smart, but not too calculating or tentative, as this wastes everyone’s time. So, either step up and try it or don’t. But don’t waste your life worrying and wondering. Do or don’t. Then move on.

  2. Is it really necessary to move to L.A. to become a voice actor? I live in Chicago and I feel like there’s plenty of opportunities here as well.

    • If you feel there’s plenty of the kind of VO work you want in Chicago stay there. If you want to work in union animation you’ll need to be in L.A., but there are other realms of paying VO in other cities (commercials, for instance). There is less union work outside of big cities, but again, it’s a choice.

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