Here are the most commonly asked questions I hear regarding voice overs:
1.”I’m [young/in middle school/high school/just graduating college] and want to be a voice actor. What’s your advice for someone young like me?”
My website applies as much to young newbies as to more experienced or “older” aspiring actors. Try acting at school or acting classes or other ways I list extensively on my site and see how it goes for a start. Even a Zoom intro class might be a good beginning.
Try performing for fun at first. That’s your only goal: follow the fun. Don’t worry about things like a demo or a “career” or marketing yourself or moving to Los Angeles– that’s all for much later if it goes well and you enjoy it.
For now, read my site and go out and take your time find what kind of performing suits you. What’s the rush? Anything you try can provide you useful information or experience. Acting may end up being a career or just a hobby or it may lead you into other interests, but you won’t know until you try it for a while, and by that I mean at least a few years.
2. I’m [middle aged/older than dirt] and am thinking about voice acting. What should I do?
Never look at what makes you unique as a disadvantage. It is your ultimate ace, in my opinion. And life experience feeds a good actor.
If you love something and are good at it, you should pursue it, no matter your age. If you are curious about something, I believe you should also pursue it to see how it fits, so to speak. Why would you not? Why wait?
While commercial acting tends to favor younger talent, an older person who is a good actor could perhaps more easily stand out in some situations. You’ve lived more life and have more to offer as an actor than polished ambition.
Some voice actors didn’t start acting until midlife (e.g., Steve Blum). Don’t give such perceived obstacles power to blunt your curiosity and dim your passion to explore!
Generally speaking, your age doesn’t make you a special case in terms of what you need to do to become an actor or even a voice actor. My site’s advice and suggestions apply equally to you.
2.a “Can you recommend a good drama school for me?”
I discuss my ambivalence about college acting training at length HERE. Acting school is expensive and not a good fit for everyone aiming to be an actor.
Some successful voice actors have a theater degree from an conservatory, but many others don’t. Some of the best voice actors were musicians, stand ups, even illustrators. I myself took one acting class in college, but that was it. I spent my youth trying all sorts of performing, but studying other things I was interested in. I essentially saw acting as a fun hobby that I never intended or expected to lead to employment. Lucky for me, it did!
I look around at my colleagues and see that many paths can lead to an acting career, so I can’t recommend just one route.
I’ve no idea what drama school to recommend as I myself am forever thankful I never studied at one. For me, acting is about “doing,” not “studying.” Formal acting training may be a good investment for some– even for you (especially if you are Broadway-bound)– but I have no idea where to point you. I took a few acting and VO classes once I moved to LA, but that was it. I learned more from doing stage time in plays, musicals, stand up, improv and children’s theater.
Nothing beats the learning from working with those who are better than you in front of a paying audience. My best learning experiences were working with those who were more experienced and confident than I was!
My angle- taken from my own experience- is to get stage time any way you can and learn from being in front of a live audience with other performers. There’s an improvisational and collaborative aspect of live performing that is invaluable in what it has to teach you. (Animation VO and really all acting is deeply improvisational.) You learn most from working with those who are better than you are. In your own unique way, to become a voice actor you must become a confident improvisational performer while above all becoming a good actor.
Your own path will be unique, not a generic checklist of steps. “Acting school” may be the right choice for some considering becoming an actor, but it wasn’t for me, nor for many who consistently work voice overs in animation and games. But your path will be your own.
CLICK HERE for a discussion of the many options you have to learn to become an actor.
3. I [have a YouTube channel/podcast/create my own solo performances]. What should I do next?
Trying to become a professional actor by making your own YouTube channel is sort of like trying to become a professional photographer by taking selfies you post on Instagram. Could it be a first step? I suppose so. But there needs to be further steps…
A video posted to YouTube or social media may indeed show a performer has talent, or can generate interest, but as I try to show with my site, there is much more involved in getting work and sustaining a career as a voice actor than getting “likes” or going viral. You must learn how to act and improvise with real stakes. It is usually an in-person kind of gig, or at least “face to face” while you Zoom, these days.
As a marketing tool, YouTube may be of some assistance. But it’s more important that you get in the habit of creating things and collaborating. Above all, it’s important that you focus on getting better as a performer, as actor. If your YouTube or TikTok content creating gets you in the habit of making things and performing, that’s a great start!
Voice acting takes talent and skill. It’s like being a problem solving short order personal chef. The idea that “talent” is all you need to make this happen is a common myth. Being suddenly “discovered” without earning your craft is another myth, a naive fantasy of instant wish fulfillment, a delusion peddled by reality television.
The project of becoming a voice actor (as I see it) is about becoming an actor, and sitting in a room in front of a computer screen isn’t teaching you the most important essentials of what an actor needs to know, which include:
- how to connect with an audience
- how to collaborate and interact confidently with a cast
- how to take direction and how to improvise in a live group setting
- a grasp of what you have beyond your default raw talent
These sensibilities are essential to voice acting in animation and games and even commercials.
Also, without extensive experience with a cast or audience, you can’t learn to recover from or take advantage of mistakes, flubs and “curveballs” that inevitably happen in a live situation! An actor must always be ready for some kind of unexpected switch up.
Voice acting for animation and ADR and even games is fundamentally improvisational and collaborative. Performance serves a scripted story in a shifting group dynamic of performers and on the fly direction. You cannot learn this making a solo webcam show.
These aspects of live performing in front of an audience are what best train your instincts, your story telling sensibilities. Though there may be some ovelap, this is very different from being a well-edited social media “personality.”
You learn acting by creating with and for others live in realtime. It’s a fundamentally collaborative and social art form, not isolated. An actor listens, interacts and reacts because it is fundamentally social, not solo. In fact, I view it as essential that you “listen” while you are speaking in voice acting. All acting is wanting but it is also listening– not just reading words.
You can’t learn this sitting alone in a room staring at yourself on a computer screen. You have no realtime feedback from cast or audience or director to inform your performance, to correct your course- as you serve the story being told.
Don’t get me wrong– creating amateur audio or visual performances, Youtube channels, TikTok, podcasts, etc. can be great fun and a useful first step towards becoming an actor or maybe a writer. (I made a lot of self-produced audio sketch recordings and video sketches when I was younger!) Making creative content is an important habit to cultivate! But this is just the very beginning (or only a part) of what you must do if you want to become an actor who is hired, who pays the bills, who always works.
If you aim to go pro, you want to get paid for your work. It’s not just posting your solo pastime efforts for free.
Good for you for taking initiative and creating your own thing! But, if professional voice acting is your goal, you will need to someday step out beyond creating something in isolation and expand into creating something with others.
Try some of the many things I suggest to work your acting & improv muscles and see if acting is a truly a thing for you.
4. “I’m a totally inexperienced beginner, with no money, no performing experience, nowhere to audition for anything in my [town/ school/ state/ country], and no idea of where to find opportunity or where to start. What do I do?”
Everyone starts at zero and many start in “Nowheresville.” That’s common. The uncommon story is of the ones who find their way up and out, against all odds, because they have the talent and persistence and because they are driven to make it happen no matter what.
Start with reading my site thoroughly, maybe trying some exercises I suggest, and take a good look around at what’s happening locally. Take a class, get on a stage and/or check out other resources I’ve suggested. Anything from a local community theater company to local stand up open mic, a library show, church play, etc.
But what if you live in the middle of a creative desert? If there is truly nothing happening in your hometown then you will need to get to where there are creative people who act and teach so you can audition for shows, try an open mic night or perhaps a workshop or class to see if this works for you. You must test if the appeal of the idea of being an actor is really all that much fun for you! You slowly build your own momentum.
Many young people seem to want to essentially just “run off and join the voice over circus,” but that’s not how it works. You will need to find ways to try acting and voice acting in your own way, your own time and on your own dime. Every successful voice actor has improvised their own version of this over years of going for it.
Is it “hard” to find the path to professional (voice) acting coming from small-town living with not a lot happening? Sure. But such obstacles never seems to matter to those with the right mix of talent, ambition and persistence. Such people find a way to make it go. They see obstacles as springboards. The higher the obstacle, the higher you fly to avoid it. Is that you? You won’t know until you go for it!
Also, I hope that my site shows you that you shouldn’t be in any rush to become a working professional actor. I encourage following other creative passions in addition to pursuing acting, especially when you are young and only beginning to grasp your own “super powers.” I’d much prefer you work on fortifying your artistic capacities before you start thinking about competition or money or marketing or a “career.” That stuff is for later.
Most successful actors/voice-actors I know and work with started out in a less than favorable setting with less than stellar opportunity for advancement or learning. We all faced obstacles and setbacks (and still do!). Also, most I know and work with didn’t have access to the abundance of books, instructional websites and teachers and Blue Ray extras anyone interested in voice acting now can easily find and learn from. Tools and knowledge are now easily found in abundance.
I myself started out in a kind of “Nowheresville” and didn’t study acting at college and found my liberal arts college education an invaluable groundwork for trying various kinds of performing, then eventually voice acting well after I graduated college. This was a long process of discovery and learning (and fun). I didn’t care that there was no money (for a long time) or that it was up and down. I did it because I liked it. Not because of any prospect of money or fame- the worst motivation for doing anything.
Your focus should be to follow your curiosity and enthusiasm and see where it takes you!
For those who feel they live in some dead-end, backwater, “Nowheresville,” the question to ask yourself might be: “What is really keeping me from doing this or trying this?”
I believe with the right persistence and talent and luck, you will find your high water mark. Your start can by reading my site. It’s yours for free and provides you way more insight and advantage than I ever had. I very much hope it helps. There’s your start.
If you are right for voice acting, you will find your way, but wanting it is never enough. “Thinking about it,” is not enough. Acting is doing. Creating is an active exploration. You find a way.
Lucky for you, resources these days abound, some instantly accessible by all. Still, you must resourcefully and persistently pursue your interest against all limitations that life has placed for you (or that you have placed for yourself).
I hope I show you with my website that much of this journey is within your power. The ball is in your court. You don’t have to rely on some externally signaled “checkered flag” to give you permission to move ahead with your creative journey.
Ultimately, your life is something you give yourself permission to live. Blaming external obstacles is a mis-direct that is easy to buy into. But so is blaming internal ones.
People often ask me, “Has this kind of person (from this city or background or country or disadvantage or age or level of income, etc.) ever made it in voice acting?” My answer is irrelevant because it is of no help to the one exception to the rule waiting to make it, against all odds, in spite of all adversity, bad luck and ups and downs.
The only relevant response to the questions “Should I try this?” or “Could I do this?” come from you and you alone.
So: All I have to offer to help you is here on this site, the rest is up to you. Begin with my “Starting from Zero” page and keep going.
4a. “I’m working full time at another (non-acting) occupation but want to be a voice actor. What can I do?”
I see that as is a time management question. Just understand that acting (even at an exploratory or amateur level) takes a lot of time, no matter your level of ability.
If you are cast in a play, for instance, that means a substantial commitment of rehearsal time plus shows. Stand up comedy is less time, since there is no rehearsing, but the shows can take hours of waiting around. Taking some kind of acting or VO class will cost you both time and money.
To me, saying “I want to be a professional voice actor” is similar to saying “I want to play Bach on the piano well enough that someone will pay me to do that.” Even with talent, it’s going to take a heck of a long time to make it sound that good and look that easy.
It’s tough to devote time to both acting and a full-time career in something else, but if you are driven and love it, you will find a way.
5. “Can you give me any tips for how I can [begin exploring voice acting/find and agent/get an audition/get work/ become a voice actor]?”
Here’s my tip: Read my site.
6. “I want to try acting but I’m afraid my parents or family won’t approve. What should I do?”
Look, it’s not like you’re signing up with the Marines if you audition for a play or perform open mic night or stand up, or take an Intro to Voice Acting Zoom class– you’re just trying something for fun to see where it leads you. It’s short term and not that big a deal. Just think of it like you are trying out karate or tennis. It’s merely a new activity that you’re curious to try. What’s the harm of that?
If your parents don’t like performing for some reason, or if they think the arts are a waste of time (yikes!), frame your interest as merely exploring something new for fun, self-enrichment- like a hobby or a sport you’re curious about. This isn’t committing to a career choice!
A parent’s lack of enthusiasm for acting as a career choice is understandable from a sheer financial/statistical standpoint. Most actors never earn a living doing what they love and it remains a hobby at best. For those lucky few suited to it, it can be a fun career.
But career concerns are for much later! For a beginner, it’s only about the fun of exploring something new.
For now, if you frame your interest in acting (or voice acting) as a hobby or past time and it may be easier to get the parents to sign off on supporting you dipping your toe in.
7. “I have some good [ability/experience] and really want to do v.o. Do I have a shot?”
First, off, if you are already acting/performing/creating in any capacity, you are doing this. As far as whether your success so far is any indication of you “having a shot at professional voice acting” I’ve no idea, but it’s not a helpful question, really. If anything, the question might be “Am I becoming a better voice actor, a more able live performer, a versatile and confident creator?” Also: “What am I doing to get steadily better that this?”
For a fuller list of questions check out my Homework page.
Don’t wait for someone to tell you “you have a shot” before trying voice/acting–or anything. Pursue it because you want to, because you love doing it, because you have to do it, not because someone tells you that you can or should. You need someone’s permission? Here: You have my permission.
Your progress so far may indicate a good path ahead, but there is no way for me, you or anyone to gauge a beginner’s odds at eventual success, without having fully tried it. As you step up to new acting challenges and work with better performers, you may be surprised at what you find within yourself. But you can’t anticipate now what you will find, nor can anyone.
Perhaps a casting director or a good VO teacher/class might be able to give you more confirmation of your VO capabilities, if that’s what you need.
Keep it up and you will find your answers.
8. “Can you help me (or my kid) [get an audition with a particular show/ meet a certain casting director/ get an agent/ get work in a certain city]?”
A close read of my site will tell you that my view is: You don’t find auditions or opportunity without first traveling a long path of earning both your confidence as an actor and the trust of creative decision makers in the market you aspire to work in.
My intent with my site is to share insight that will hopefully help as broad a range of interested aspiring voice actors as possible. As far as work on specific shows or shows that I work on, I am no gate keeper of opportunity and certainly not a career advisor. I am but a voice actor.
8a. “Can you help me find that [book/class/casting director/reference] you mentioned?”
Actors need to be resourceful and persistent. There is also a premium on self-reliance. You can find anything these days with the web. Check Google, Amazon, youtube, social media, IMDB., etc. If you can’t find whatever you’re looking for that I’ve referenced, you gotta look a little harder.
8b. “Who do I study with, which classes/teachers are the best in the biz or in L.A?
I don’t consider classes as a key to learning acting and improv, but they can help. Different teachers can be effective for different types of students, so a generic recommendation is personal and may not work for all. Myself, I took a few classes from those who have worked or were working. I also benefited from being able to show casting directors what I could do in person- after spending years of readying my talent.
I learned most from other actors more experienced than me when I did plays, stand up, improv and other live performing over many years of “going for it.” That for me is the ultimate classroom.
Most teaching is currently online thanks to Covid. Hopefully that thaws soon.
Who would I take from now if I were starting out with aims to “go pro?” There are lots of great voice acting teachers (they probably all Zoom, too): Charlie Adler, Steve Blum, Cathy Cavadini, Bob Bergan, Dave Sobolov, JP Kariliak, Richard Horvitz (and others) are all experienced voice actors who teach. Each has great insight (I took from Charlie, who is fantastic). Casting director or voice director workshops? I’d want someone who has worked a lot and hopefully currently works on projects I aspire to.
Agents and casting directors may offer some insight in VO showcase classes that offer a different industry pros to “teach” each week. It can be a place to make an impression (hopefully good), but don’t expect an acting or improv class.
Improv classes you’d need to research as I recommend on my site. I learned formal improv in a setting where it wasn’t as competitive or money-based.
I cover all options pretty extensively on my site. Hopefully I make clear that there is no one path, no golden guru. All “A-listers” have a different story path.
Are any of these the right teacher for you, the best way for you to learn? I’ve no idea.
As I say, I don’t think you learn the substance of acting or improv in a classroom. (I also believe that good acting can’t be taught, only encouraged.) A classroom is more for intro or refining and polishing. I’d prefer you get on a stage with an audience to learn the meat of what you need to know, and whether you have it in you. I prefer the honest feedback of an audience and the lessons modeled by more confident actors in a real world situation to the supportive and costly classroom (not knocking it- it just ain’t the golden key as many seem to think).
Ultimately you research recommendations, you audit, and you go with what works, with whoever sparks your flame and is constructive and you keep going…
9. “I haven’t read all of your site yet, but I have a question about…”
Uh-buh-bup! Read my entire site first (including posted questions and answers), then post your question (that I haven’t already answered or addressed).
10. “I am [shy/ awkward/ and “outsider”/ have speech issues/ have an unsupportive family, etc]. How can I overcome this to become an actor?”
There are a lot of successful actors who started out shy and awkward (and who still are when they aren’t working). Many of us in fact have all kinds of personal, physical or even psychological issues and challenges. (Maybe most of us?) It probably has a lot to do with why we are so good at being creative! Also, some very successful voice actors had to overcome speech impediments (e.g. James Earl Jones).
Feeling an unsupported, beaten down “outsider” or ostracized weirdo may turn out to be the rocket fuel that powers a great artist. Most successful actors were outsiders once (or still are!). A good actor finds a way to tap into these perceived “disadvantages” dealt by fate, harness them and use them to her/his advantage! Some learn to soar seemingly in answer to their tough surroundings! Adversity can spur ambition and motivation. The challenge drives them forward.
But look, I’m not a counselor, a speech therapist or even a certified teacher. I have laid out all the lessons and tools I’ve learned for you to pick and choose from and use, if you wish.
All I can do beyond that is encourage you to believe in yourself and find your own ways to explore this art form and have fun with it– see where it goes.
For a start, try some of the things I suggest as far as getting into a show or a class or try practicing reading out loud. Think of it as testing out a new hobby and see where it if you like it and where it leads you.
Trying out acting doesn’t have to lead to a Professional Career in Acting, it just might end up being something fun to do. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
10a. “I have a disability or physical challenge. Have similar people made it? Do I have a shot?”
There are any number of successful (voice) actors with challenges in hearing, speaking, being on the “learning spectrum,” etc. (James Earl Jone’s speech impediment comes to mind). Your perceived obstacles don’t define your life’s opportunities and may even serve as a motivational springboard.
But understand: You don’t have to rely on some externally signaled “checkered flag” to give you permission to move ahead with your creative journey or to follow your curiosity. Ultimately, this is something you give yourself permission to do. Focusing on external obstacles is as much a mis-direct as focusing on internal ones.
People often ask me, “Has this kind of person (from this background or country or “disadvantage” or age, etc.) ever made it in voice acting?” My answer is irrelevant because it is of no help to the one exception to the rule waiting to make it, against all odds, in spite of disapproval, discouragement, adversity, bad luck and ups and downs.
For someone destined for this line of work, none of that will matter. You find your way over or through any obstacle because you have to, because you prove to yourself and others that are right for this.
The only relevant response to the questions “Should I try this?” or “Could I do this?” comes from you and you alone.
11. “I want to earn my living as a voice actor but I also want to stay in [a small town/ a distant country/ a city with no recording studios, etc.]. What do I do?”
From my perspective, to earn much money in animation, television and movie VO, you must be talented, lucky, persistent, and live where these projects are produced, which is mostly in a few larger cities (L.A., New York, or perhaps Chicago, Atlanta, and to a lesser degree in smaller markets like Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Denver, Miami). This is a collaborative career and requires you be there in person, at least while you make initial connection and earn trust and respect. (Remember I’m referring to your final destination when you are ready to earn money, not the other places you go to “pay your dues” and hone your abilities.)
Most of the top voice over work for television and film animation is recorded in Los Angeles. While it is possible to establish a career doing professional (union) voice work from a remote location, that kind of VO work is mostly confined to doing promos and commercials. I know a few who do this, but that is after having already established themselves in L.A. first. That’s my understanding of it, anyway.
During Covid, most voice acting has switched to remote recording, but it seems to me you still need to not only learn the craft of VO, but you also need to make the personal connections and earn trust. Face to face is by far the best way to get that, and when most are vaccinated and travel restrictions loosen and live performing revives, it seems still a smart move to be where the action and competition and “gate keepers” physically exist.
Those unwilling or unable to make the move will need not just killer chops, but a killer demo and self-production capacity to perhaps get some attention. There’s something to be said for the statement of confidence and commitment broadcast by pulling up stakes and moving to where the work and talent live. You show you are not only committed but unafraid.
As far as setting your sites on a smaller or local non-union market, I don’t have a lot to say, since for me that was a brief stepping stone rather than a final destination. You find your footing, then move on and up to your own “high watermark” is my angle. See my FAQ #17 below regarding web-based voice over work.
11a. I live in a foreign country and English isn’t my primary language. Can I become a voice actor?
If you mean, “Can I become an actor and move to L.A. and become a voice actor?” then I’d say you’re the only one who can answer the question. There are numerous examples of very good international actors with the right personalty and skills who have found a way to earn a good living in L.A. as voice actors (and/or on-camera).
Are there many examples of foreign born voice actors? No. But there aren’t a lot of steadily working voice actors anyway and most actors are out of work at any time. But acting isn’t a craps game, it’s a creative craft. And as Solo said, “Never tell me the odds.” Too much calculation short circuits possibility and creativity.
As I’ve heard said, there may not be a lot of harmonica players in the LA music scene- but if you’re the renowned hotshot who can play it all beautifully and is available to work, you’re gonna work steadily. What are the odds of making it in Hollywood if you show up with a harmonica? That depends on the player.
It’s ultimately the same for anyone: It’s a matter of talent, ambition, resourcefulness and luck. I have never viewed “specialization” as a handicap. Quite the contrary. But it’s up to you to make it happen and find your path no matter your starting place.
11b. Must I move to LA to work in animation/game VO? Can I solicit an LA agent without having yet moved?
Remember, getting representation and work as a professional voice actor isn’t just about your skill set- you have to connect with the creative community and “gate keepers” you will collaborate with. There are relationships to forge and trust to be earned, which is most effectively done in person, face to face.
If I wanted to play in the Berlin Philharmonic, I would need to learn more than how to play my instrument to find professional traction in that workspace.
I would observe that I have many VO friends who had moved to LA, established themselves over time, then since COVID have moved out of California and continued to work remotely. (I myself haven’t been back in a studio since March of 2020.) I don’t know of anyone who found professional traction in VO with not having been in LA first, though examples must exist.
I’m not saying this is the only way it can go- after over a year of most all VO recording remotely, the scene is still evolving.
In any case, your voice acting and improv must be on par (or better) than the deep bench of talent already established and working. Also, your VO demo must be competitive with the roster of talent an agency already has, in order to garner interest.
Safety restrictions are in flux, and are currently relaxing. Limited in-studio recording creeps back, but much may remain remote. It remains to be seen to what degree the VO industry will return to sound studio recording. My guess is that remote recording will remain a permanently significant share of all voice recording.
In any case, it seems to me that without face to face interaction, an out of town newbie is at a disadvantage over established VO talent, as well as locally residing new comers, whom casting and voice directors have connected or worked with in person.
There is a lot of the necessary artistry that an out-of-towner could unlock with good experience and instruction anywhere. But ultimately, there is much that is context dependent that I would expect to need to learn on the ground where most of the production plays out. There are many personal connections to make, in addition to finding your confidence and mastering the art of it in order to gain admission to the pool of players most often called upon.
I still think that starting this journey in person is the most effective way to do this. It’s also the best context to learn from those who are further along than you.
I would finally note that moving to the area where the work happens demonstrates a level of dedication and seriousness you have about your career. This further inspires confidence in those who hire or sign actors.
12. “Can you recommend a [teacher/ class/ agency] in [my town/ my state/ my country]?”
Since I’ve been living in L.A. for three decades, I really have no idea who to recommend for classes or teaching outside of La La Land. Fortunately, online teaching is thriving since the virus hit.
Just do your homework in your target area after reading my “Learning to Act” and “Voice Acting Academy” pages. If you’re really serious (and seriously ready), consider taking a class or two in L.A. or other major production city, once things open back up. Most teaching is on Zoom at this point.
Who are the working voice actors you admire who teach? Research who is casting the shows that interest you and who of these are teaching (or making appearances in “round robin-“type classes), who is respected and liked. Seek them out. Some Zoom and others may do classes in L.A. or New York or other cities, or even give panels at outside conventions, as COVID safety restrictions relax.
I’ll leave it to you to hunt this info down. I’m out of the loop on it. Keep in mind as you consider candidate teachers: Who has good experience? Who works now? Who casts now? The insight and guidance of these people will serve you best.
12b. I’m considering paying a VO training company/program that says they can do it all for me in one package for a flat fee– train me to be a voice actor and set me up with a demo, a website and marketing skills. It costs over three thousand dollars. Should I?
I strongly believe that acting (or specifically, voice acting) is not something everyone can gain facility with exclusively (or even mostly) through training, at least at a professional level.
It may take years to reveal and affirm the strength of your talent. I think good VO training can at best refine and enable already existing talent. But you must have the talent or it’s a no go. By my experience, the best way to find if you have talent and learn to be a performer is to get on a stage (theater, improv, stand up, etc). My view is, you learn acting mostly by doing rather than studying. I cover this extensively on my site.
If you want an introductory overview or to strengthen your confidence with a bit of class study, that’s fine–if it’s a good (well recommended) program.
I’m suspicious of any company that portrays voice acting as something you can pay a few thousand to train in and then start making money as a “pro.” It’s almost like you’re getting certified to be an electrician or yoga instructor, which pretty anyone can pay to do. Once you have that certification, you can set up shop and start working. Reminds me of the old adds saying “Can you draw Bambi?” looking to hook people in to paying for a drawing school scam.
Professional actor training for all? Ah, you can make a lot of money selling that dream.
$3000+ is a TON of money. I’d need a lot of references to confirm the value of this.
A top level small group voice acting class in LA costs around $100 per 3-4 hour session. Webhosting is easy and cheap on your own. Remote voice over training may work for other things, but I’m not sure how it pays off becoming an actor. I don’t know anyone I’ve worked with who paid to be remotely trained.
I personally would only pay for learning with someone who will only take in those who are ready. Same with making a demo. Creating a demo is a separate project and I wouldn’t pay for that as part of a package. That begins to appear to be a “VO mill.”
If I had $3000+ sitting around early in my career and wanted to refine my voice acting skills and my readiness to be a voice actor, I’d invest in a good improv school and maybe buy a plane ticket to go learn in person from working pros who do the kind of work I want to get into and who are selective about who’s money they will take. You want to study with someone who won’t teach just anyone. (Some good pros I know move around the country sometimes or present at conventions, drama schools or recording studios outside of LA.)
Class study only has never been my preferred means of leaning to act or voice act as I explain on my “Learning to act” pages.
13. “I’m thinking of trying out this voice acting thing, but I’m kinda busy and a bit short on cash. Is there a quick, cheap way I can check this out without too much hassle?”
I’ll reiterate: Becoming an actor or a voice actor isn’t a quick or cheap journey. If you want quick and cheap, look elsewhere for a career. Uber?
If you are serious about trying voice acting, take a class from an established voice director or casting director (you may need to travel to get this kind of expertise) or possibly an established VO pro (some, like Bob Bergen, travel and do online workshops or may start up teaching in person outside of Los Angeles). Hunt down the voice actors and voice directors you admire and see if they teach or do appearances in others’ classes, maybe in your neck of the woods (or maybe you need to travel- you want this, right?).
Perhaps think of the project of becoming a voice actor as analogous to getting good enough at an instrument to play it professionally. That takes a lot of time and work as well as talent, connections and other things. Expect a long (hopefully fun) climb at very least.
If you are just beginning, perhaps a beginner acting class or even a voice acting class taught by someone who knows what they are doing is a good way to start. How to find that? After reading my site, you gotta do your own research. I list a couple sites at the bottom of my Voice Acting Academy page that may offer you some leads. Research your prospects and go with someone well recommended.
It’s too easy to start plunking down your Benjamins for VO/acting courses. But I see it as more important that you become a good actor, as opposed to someone who takes a lot of acting/VO classes.
Classroom acting for a beginner can be a helpful start, a good intro, but may not ultimately lead to becoming a good actor. It may help, it may hinder or it may not move that needle at all. Think of it as the difference between learning karate in a gym with choreographed routines and being in an actual street fight. Class study may be invaluable or it may be an expensive way of deluding yourself that you are getting ready for a career, when in fact, you aren’t. Check my Learning to Act page for more of my take on this.
I’d prefer to get a novice actor on a stage in front of some kind of audience instead of into a classroom, but both can help. Stage-time has always been the best teacher for me (plays, musicals, choir, stand up, open mic nights, etc).
In any case, if you are indeed more advanced as a performer and really think you’re ready to start voice acting right away, you might consider a round-robin type class featuring a rotation of voice casting directors or agents in Los Angeles so “gate keepers” who actively cast can see you do your thing. I wouldn’t recommend that unless you were certain you are ready to be seen and heard (and remembered in a good way), otherwise you’ll waste your time and money making a bad impression that probably won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Not sure where you stand? Try comparing your demo to the demos you find online of the voice actors in the shows you love and admire. They can be found at their agency’s website.
14. “Books on tape voice acting seems an easier and quicker way to go– how can I get going on that?”
Again with the “quick and easy?” The focus on these two words doesn’t bode well for a prospective actor of any stripe.
In any case, I don’t think getting into books on tape work will be any “easier or quicker” than getting into animation VO or other voice work. Ever tried reading an entire book out loud? To do this well– to clearly tell a long form story– takes a lot of skill (try it). You need a lot of technical voice over skill and acting ability as well.
Books on tape work also doesn’t pay nearly what other forms of v.o. do per hour of work (unless you’re famous and can negotiate a big paycheck) plus there are no residuals (it’s a “buy out” gig). For some it’s a fun and fulfilling gig, though, depending on the text you have to read.
Books on tape (as I understand it) pays by the hour of finished product not by the hour worked, so it takes a lot of expertise to make that studio time count (editing out the stop and starts and flubs adds a lot of time when you’re reading a long piece and substantially decreases your income-per-hour-of-work pay). Also, you had better hope that you enjoy the book you are being paid to read, because you may well be doing it for a few days.
Books on tape voice acting is the kind of work to pursue only if you REALLY enjoy reading long form and you are very good at it. I’m not familiar with more specifics on that branch of voice overs, so that’s all I’ve got to say on that on that.
15. I’m a trained/experienced singer. Will this help me in becoming a voice actor?
Singing training can be very valuable (it was for me!), but it’s not as important as acting skill and improv ability, as far as animation voice overs go. You could also flip it and say, “Will all my voice over experience help me become an opera singer?” The answer’s about the same.
16. “Can you [listen to my demo/ critique my sounds/ contact me directly/ view my youtube post]?”
At this chapter in my career, I just don’t have time for individual consulting, coaching or teaching. This website is the best I can do.
More importantly, I’m not an agent or casting director and my opinion doesn’t necessarily count. (Many think established voice actors are somehow “gate keepers” to work– we are not! That would be casting directors and show creators and those who work at the animation studios that make the shows!)
So: I’m not the one you need to impress or whose opinion necessarily matters. I don’t pour over demos or auditions all day long, and I don’t cast shows so my take may well be less helpful than you’d think.
This site (and my “Demo” page) is the best I can offer you.
16a. Do you teach or do Zoom training?
Not often. I occasionally do larger one-off classes or presentations on Zoom, but with work and family, I haven’t the time to consult or teach at this point.
17. “Can you advise me on how to be a web-based voice actor from home or how to get an agent as a web-based voice actor?”
Getting VO work though a website is not what I do or what I’m familiar with. My understanding is that most such web-based VO work is non-union and doesn’t use agents to broker work because the money is limited. It’s run more like Craigslist. There are a number of sites that are well known for this, including voices.com, voicebunny.com, and voices123.com. I’ve no experience with these sites.
Non-union work is where everyone starts and most eventually want to leave, for it offers none of the advantages or protections of an agent or union. Non union work could serve as a starting point for a home-based entrepreneurial voice actor in the 21st Century. Some apparently can earn money with this, but again, it’s not my realm or interest. Money never fueled my interest in acting.
Most who work through these online VO sites essentially act as their own agent, negotiating their own (mostly non-union) deals and dealing with the engineering, paperwork and follow up.
Back on the union side of the fence, you’ll see from my site, that “getting an agent” is only a part of what you need to do to make a voice over career work, anyway. Having an agent is no “silver bullet.”
In any case, web-based work is way off my radar. I’m Los Angeles-based and focused on union VO work in television, movies and games, which is mostly recorded in-person- only auditions are done remotely. Perhaps my Dig Deeper page has links to point to further help.
18. I’m a parent and have been told I should get my 5 year old into voice acting. I’m not sure about this. Should I?
The question for a parent interested in getting their child into voice acting (or “showbiz” in general) should always be, “How does this benefit my kid?” If the answer is essentially “money,” then we’ve got a problem.
As I say on my site’s Op-Ed page, I think getting a kid into acting for money is a huge mistake, especially on-camera. Chasing money leads to a childhood wasted. L.A. is full of misguided parents with dollar signs in their eyes as they drag their kids around to commercial, TV and movie auditions. What kid would want that?
When people say “You should get your kid into voice overs,” ask yourself what do they mean? Why? On what authority do they say that? If they mean, “because she can make a lot of money,” well, that’s a terrible reason to get a kid to do anything. If they mean, “She has fun acting/performing/singing and would enjoy the process” then maybe you could consider it, but most people don’t have any idea what the process of being an actor is (especially VO). They’ve no clue that it’s work that takes focus and patience and involves rejection, competition, and pressure that a kid may not be developmentally ready for or enjoy at all. It also takes a kid away from school and typical socialization experiences of a normal childhood.
Most people who recommend “showbiz” for a kid have no idea what “showbiz” is or what that can mean to a kid.
Your question should always be, “What’s actually in it for my kid?” “What is s/he getting out of this?” Take a hard look. I’m guessing most children would rather play in a park or spend time doing something with family rather than sit in a dark studio being told what to do by strange grown ups or sit in a trailer all day. It’s also not healthy for a kid to learn that a way to earn Mommy and Daddy’s approval is by earning money. That’s a terrible set up for a childhood. Love should be unconditional for a child. A kid’s love should not be based on their ability to book a gig.
Now, I loved performing as a kid- acting in plays, musicals, ventriloquism, magic, stand up- and I kept doing all sorts of performing into my teens, where money wasn’t an issue at all- it was done for fun. Acting in a play with a cast can be a hugely enriching learning experience for a kid. It’s a great social education, a voluntary family, a uniquely cooperative art form. But do it for love and fun, not money.
Professional voice acting in general is not a bad set up for a kid, though. A voice acting gig is relatively brief and doesn’t require memorization or much time away from school and family. Parental oversight is not a problem. The money can be good but generally not crazy and you don’t have to deal with “fame” for the most part, which can be particularly toxic for a kid.
But many parents with kids in VO are working other “showbiz” angles which lead to bigger money, on-camera work and fame. Few parents with talented kids seem satisfied to remain in the relatively safer, saner world of voice acting. The lure of money and the showbiz-Instagram spotlight is too enticing. They just have to take that bait, as everyone else seems to. But to whose benefit?
Re: a five year old doing this: It’s not unthinkable for a young child to try voice acting and enjoy it. But at 5, there is typically a lot of “repeat what I say” directing, over and over, which may or may not be fun for a little one. This is work, after all.
I’d prefer s/he try acting in a play than take a lot of voice acting classes. If she’s a good actor and enjoys performing, I wouldn’t expect her at that young age to need much instruction anyway.
You are right to be skeptical on this. Most parents aren’t. They naively and blindly dive into wasting their kid’s one and only childhood and a lot of money on seeking a few bucks.
What should you be doing with her at this age? Just love her and play with her. I’m guessing she’d rather spend time with you than with a voice director. If this leads to trying performing and maybe testing out voice acting, that’s fine, but always ask yourself as you move into professional (paid) performing, “What is she getting from this?” “Is this fun for her?” “How does this affect how she sees herself and our family dynamic? “What is the benefit for my child?”
If you and she feel good about the honest answers to these questions, keep going. Otherwise, go play and have fun some other way.
19. “I’m a big fan! Can you [send me an autograph/ leave a birthday message for my friend/ come talk at my school]?”
I now offer autographs with all the proceeds going to a charity that helps wounded US veterans. There are options for signed 8x10s as well as any other item you send in for me to autograph. For all the info, CLICK HERE.
These days, I’ve no time to coordinate much of anything else.
You might try and catch me at an occasional convention. Pre-Covid, I attended San Diego ComiCon. In 2021, I’m scheduled for Las Vegas and New York Comicon in October (Covid permitting), but that’s it.
Follow me on Twitter or Instagram (@deebradleybaker) for updates.
20. “Hey, why didn’t you post or answer my comment?”
I read all posted comments. I try and answer comments (eventually), but I tend to approve only posts that address issues that strike me as generally helpful to others or at least that get asked a lot and haven’t yet been addressed. (e.g. “How do I warm down vocally from a rough session,” might get an answer, but “Who do I contact in Atlanta for improv classes,” won’t.)
Also, if your question has basically been asked and addressed already in a post, I’m not going to answer it again.
If the comment is too specific, or too regional in focus, or your question is written in a way that doesn’t strike me as genuine or serious (or coherent), it won’t get posted. Lots of the posts I get are from readers who obviously haven’t read through my site yet. Those go in the trash.
And honestly, most questioners obviously haven’t taken the time to read my site.
Also, comments that ramble or have lots of misspellings and sloppy grammar I tend to not answer. No offense intended, but if you are interested in voice acting, you had better care about your words.
And, sometimes, I don’t answer because I just have no idea.
21. “How come my posted question is shorter than the one I wrote or modified?”
I edit, shorten or simplify some posted questions for relevance and brevity. I tend to select questions that are most broadly helpful.
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