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.

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.


10 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.

  3. I already have an established family, and have only recently decided on acting (possibly voice acting) as a career. …are the risks somewhat diminished at this point, knowing that I won’t be having more kids?

    • It may be easier to focus without kids around the house, but I’m not sure any “risk” is diminished. As I detail extensively, risk, rejection and constant ups and downs typically characterize an actor’s life. If that’s an issue for you, you might want to maintain it as a hobby.

  4. Would you recommend waiting to start a family until an acting career is more stable, or maybe if my hypothetical spouse has a steady job?

  5. […] I realistically can’t even think about moving to LA, but do you think there might be a possible career in anime dubbing considering my proximity to Houston and Dallas (they’re both day trips away).

    • I must admit, I’m not familiar with the anime scene. It is mostly non-union and what little is union works under probably the worst acting contract there is. It pays insanely little for a lot of very specialized voice acting work, which strikes me as hardly fair.

      Anime VO is fine if it’s fun or a stepping stone, but it strikes me as transitional gig. Not sure how it would work as a “career.”

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