Here are the most commonly asked questions I hear regarding voice overs:
1.”What’s your advice for an aspiring voice actor who is [young/ in middle school/ high school/ just graduating college]?”
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.
What’s the rush? For now, read my site and go out and take your time finding what kind of performing suits you. Performing 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 give it a try.
1a. How old do you have to be to start voice acting??
It’s not a question of your age. It’s a question of your acting talent. Some very young performers are quite amazing.
2. What’s your advice for an aspiring voice actor who is middle aged or older?
Whatever makes you unique isn’t a disadvantage. It is your ultimate ace, in my opinion. And life experience feeds a good actor.
So try it! If you are drawn to something you should pursue it, no matter your age. Why would you not? Why wait? What’s the downside of trying something?
While commercial acting statistically may favor younger talent, a more mature person has more to bring to the table as an actor. You’ve lived more life and have more to offer as an actor than mere polished but naive ambition. Your painter’s palette has a richer range of colors accessible.
Don’t give such perceived obstacles power to blunt your curiosity and dim your passion to explore! Some voice actors didn’t start acting until midlife (e.g., Steve Blum).
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 an aspiring voice actor?”
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 instead studied or performed as musicians, stand ups, even illustrators- or studied something like psychology or (in my case) philosophy. 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. More than anywhere I learned from other voice actors on the job!
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/ am an internet content creator]. Can I become a voice actor?
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 out of the land of nowhere-to-go-but-up, against all odds. They make it because they have the talent and persistence and drive 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. At very least, a Zoom VO intro class from a credible teacher (see below).
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 in a 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. (But so does playing piano.)
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 best to start by thinking of enjoyment and self-enrichment and keep money and employment out of the picture. Start with a hobbyist or amateur’s framing, like saying “I’d like to start learning to play the guitar.”
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 be a voice actor 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. “Which VO classes/ teachers do you recommend?
I learned most of my acting instincts on a stage or session, not so much in a classroom. However, a good class or teacher can be a helpful introduction or supplement.
Different teachers can be effective for different types of students, so a generic recommendation of any teacher or class is personal and may not work for all. I myself 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.” I probably learned more from other actors in a group session than anywhere else. That for me is the ultimate classroom.
Most teaching is currently online thanks to Covid. Hopefully that thaws soon, but a zoom class at least mirrors how most VO session are now run.
Who would I study with now if I were starting out with aims to “go pro?” There are lots of great voice acting teachers (all on Zoom, I believe): 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 studied once upon a time with Charlie (who was fantastic) and have worked with them all. They’re all seasoned and talented voice actors.
What about casting director or voice director workshops? I’d want a teacher/CD 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. Those who manage or direct talent are often not performers. (I find that those with performing experience have an easier time directing efficiently.)
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. Improv thrives best in person and live with an audience, so I’m not sure how it works online. Perhaps those who teach it have found a way.
I cover all options for learning extensively on my site. I believe there is no single path and no golden guru. All “A-listers” have a different path to their excellence.
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.”How can I overcome [being shy/ awkward/ an “outsider”/ having speech issues or an unsupportive family, etc.] to begin exploring voice acting?
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.”Can someone with a disability/ physical challenge/ or autism become a voice actor?
I believe that your so-called “obstacles” shouldn’t define your life’s opportunities or dampen your curiosity. They may even serve as a motivational springboard or invigorate your follow through.
I can think of more than a few involved in the creation of animation who are definitely “on the spectrum,” who thrive in the great circus of cartoon creation. Some others have issues with speech or physical challenges that they’ve learned to work around or overcome.
There are many at all levels of the entertainment industry with physical or psychological “challenges,” whose unique set up may be an essential part of what really pops of their talent. A creative career may counter or make good use of what in other settings may feel an impediment or drawback. I myself always felt awkward in large groups and a social outsider, which may be why I chose to be an actor and why I enjoy it so much.
Most of the work I’m drawn to (stage, improv, voice overs) is collaborative and group-based. I like that everyone is different but each finds their way of fitting in, adding to and enjoying the process. Part of what’s great about collaborative creation is that as long as you can deliver the goods and find your place within the group dynamic, you’re good. There is no physical or mental health “litmus test” for participation. And in VO acting, how you look matters much less than on-camera acting. It’s more about talent and collaborative capacity to tell stories. Being “different” of mind or body can be an advantage.
I’m often asked essentially, “Is it okay for me to explore voice acting?” The truth is, you don’t have to wait for anyone to wave some “checkered flag” to give you permission to start your creative journey or to follow your curiosity. Ultimately, this is something you give yourself permission to do. Just step out and try it, like picking up a guitar or taking some lessons. Focus on the steps, not the entire journey. Process and enjoyment, not results or achievement.
People often ask me, “Has this kind of person (from this background or that country or with this “disadvantage” or that age, etc.) ever made it in voice acting?” The answer is probably “yes.” But precedent isn’t always useful in gauging possibility.
“What are the odds someone like me can make it?” Any answer I may give to this question is irrelevant because it is of no help to the one exception to the rule waiting to make it, against all precedent, in spite of disapproval, discouragement, adversity, bad luck and other ups and downs.
All who thrive as creatives are each an exception to some rule or another. They are unique, perhaps oddly or outlandishly so. And that is their power.
For anyone destined for this line of work, none of life’s roadblocks will matter. You find your way over or through any obstacle because you have to, as you follow your own unique path to prove to yourself and others that you 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 experience, to earn much money in animation, television and movie VO, you must be talented, lucky, persistent and establish yourself 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).
Even in times of Covid, to establish yourself in this collaborative career it is essential to make personal connection with those that facilitate the work. This is most effectively done 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, though much of the VO talent is now recorded remotely. Most that I know who work remotely had already established themselves in L.A. first. Some sessions are still recorded with safety precautions in studio in L.A., depending on CDC, state and union regulations.
During Covid, most voice acting has switched to remote recording. You still need to 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 picks up, it still is 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 you broadcast by pulling up stakes and moving to where the work and talent live. You show you are not only committed but unafraid to bet on your own talent. If you don’t believe you are a good bet, no one else will.
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. At best, I see it as a stepping stone. 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 to LA?
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. (You never stop having to earn or affirm trust, by the way.)
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 have many VO friends who had moved to LA, established themselves over time, then since COVID have moved out of LA and continue to work remotely. (I myself haven’t been back in a proper 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. Limited in-studio recording creeps back, but much remains remote. It remains to be seen to what degree the VO industry will return to sound studio recording and it may never settle. 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 from anywhere (remotely). 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. For great options, check my FAQ #8b above.
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’s not like becoming and electrician or plumber.
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 kinda busy and 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 is irrelevant. 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 or direct shows so my take would be of limited value anyway.
This site (and my “Demo” page) is the best I can offer you.
16a. Do you teach or do Zoom training?
Rarely. 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 voice acting that is cast through a website (not through a VO agent)?”
Getting VO work though a website is not what I do am familiar with. My understanding is that most such web-cast VO work is non-union and doesn’t use agents to broker work because the money is limited. It’s run more like Craigslist (not a complement). 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 can 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 enthusiasm for acting.
Most who work through these online VO casting sites essentially act as their own agent, negotiating their own non-union deals and dealing with the engineering, paperwork and follow up. That’s a lot of work with little protection.
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 great, but no “silver bullet” that ensures steady audition opportunity or work. That part is always up to you.
In any case, web-cast work is way off my radar. I’m exclusively focused on union VO work in television, movies and games. 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 child into voice acting. 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. Is that what childhood is for?
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 is work requiring a lot of sustained focus, reading out loud and sitting still for long periods. It calls for a lot of 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.
Also, toxic social media convinces too many that empty fame and lots of followers adds great value to life- status, acceptance and renown. When in fact, it’s a waste of time, of life and mind. A massive manipulative distraction that convinces kids of the value of fame. And it’s bunk. If that’s what’s pointing a kid’s interest towards acting or VO- forget it.
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 or fame or followers.
Professional voice acting in general is not a bad set up for a kid, though. A voice acting session is typically relatively brief and doesn’t require memorization or much time away from school and family (unlike on-camera series, which keeps you on set for days or weeks in a trailer). Parental oversight in VO is not a problem. The money can be good but generally not crazy and you don’t have to deal with toxic “fame,” for the most part.
But many parents with kids in VO are working other “showbiz” angles which lead to bigger money, on-camera work in TV, streaming and movies. Few parents with talented kids seem satisfied to remain in the relatively safer, saner world of voice acting. The lure of bigger 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 young kid, say five years 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 in a VO session, which may not be fun for a little one. And you must sit still, maybe for a couple hours or more. 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. Seek out experience and fun.
Most parents aren’t skeptical enough of getting their kid into “showbiz.” They naively and blindly dive into wasting their kid’s one and only childhood on chasing a few bucks and that fantasy that fame has some kind of meaningful value.
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?” “What is the trade off?” “What are we missing out on by making my kid work?”
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. “Do you do conventions or sign autographs?” “Can I send you something?”
I offer autographs with all the proceeds going to charity. 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. Some people send me stuff to sign for free (often requiring postage and a trip to the post office, which I don’t have time for).
Please don’t send unsolicited autography requests to my agent or to me personally. I only sign for charity benefit these days through the above mentioned site or an occasional convention.
I’ll post any upcoming signings or convention appearances on Twitter (@deebradleybaker). I may do a few conventions in 2022, but none are so far planned.
I book all my convention work through Celebrity Talent Booking. Email: Jeff@celebritytalentbooking.com
19a. Are you on social media?
Yes: I’m @deebradleybaker on both Twitter and Instagram.
20. “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 or 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.
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 what the answer is.
21. “Why is my posted question modified or shortened?”
I edit, shorten or simplify some posted questions for relevance and brevity. I tend to select questions that are most broadly helpful.
If you enjoy my site, why not make a donation of any amount to the American Humane Association, a wonderful charity that helps protect children, pets and farm animals from abuse and neglect?
I have a marketing question. I’ve read online about cold calls, recording fake spots for radio stations to get their attention, things like that. What’re yours thoughts on that method?
Whatever works. The less generic the proposition the better. If you’re looking for a prom date- would you be interested or commit to a cold caller?
Mr. Baker, apologies if this has been answered, but I need help with this Catch 22! Most VO agencies I’ve looked into want a demo reel, but in order to get legitimate work for a demo reel, it seems you need an agent. Can I get union work without an agent? Or do all VO actors need to do free/non-union work to build a reel before they can get signed at an agency? I really would like to be a VO artist as a career, but I just can’t figure out the steps to getting an agent without having a demo reel. Any advice?
As I say, I don’t recommend lifting previous work for a demo. Generally you can’t get union work without a union agent- they serve as a trustworthy filter for those looking to quickly access a pool of able talent.
You’ll need to get get good enough for a union agent to take a chance on someone who is obviously ready to go pro. As I detail extensively, you start out doing non-union work, getting experience and gaining confidence as you accumulate evidence of your abilities (resume’, workshops, teachers, demos, etc). But ultimately, the bait on hook to catch the fish is YOU. That is always your primary focus. If you are an irresistible proposition, the fish will circle and bite.
You continue to do what you can to improve and get great at what you do- all else will eventually fall into place, if this career is a good fit for your talents.
I’m.SAG, have an agent, have never done VO and am doing all the free SAG resources. But where are the auditions?
Do I need a VO agent to get access also or does my screen agent receive all.the same.breakdowns?
Union animation studios typically send their auditions to voice agencies they trust will bring good auditions and who know that end of the biz. There are a handful of good agencies known to specialize in VO. They have a range of solid, dependable and versatile talent focused on and available for VO, from established to newbies. Their clients can schedule auditions and gigs last minute (how it often happens) because that it their career focus.
I found out early that theatrical, commercial and VO are totally different departments for most agencies. Most theatrical (TV/movie) agents don’t mess with VO because they want bigger than ten percent of scale (all that most all VO pays) and they often don’t consider it “legit” enough because it is a “volume” gig (as opposed to the larger payday potentials for on-camera, though that keeps diminishing with streaming). For both a voice actor and their VO agent, you must book a lot for it to be worth all that time and leg work.
An occasional VO session fee is chump change for a typical theatrical agent. Plus VO gigs can get in the way of a TV or movie shoot, the latter of which owns your time for the day or week or longer. You book on-camera, they own your time in much bigger chunks.
Sometimes animation VO breakdowns/auditions are sent out broadly, but often, the main animation houses don’t need to go through the hassle of costing their nets that wide. A handful of agencies can deliver a substantial range of choice so why look elsewhere?
So, your theatrical agent may be amenable to submitting your demo or making a call to recommend you, but if you want to focus on VO, you may (eventually?) need a separate agent who specializes and is known for that, because they get the calls. And I would guess that your theatrical agent wouldn’t welcome the hassle of dancing around the scheduling of another agency’s scheduling of your time for VO auditions and gigs. It’s a bit of a conundrum.
I started at an agency who had me for commercials and VO. Commercials were going great, but they sucked at VO, but that was what I aspired to do. In order to get to a good VO agent, I had to leave, because my first agent wanted me “all or not at all.” Which I understand.
Not sure where your agent stands in this, but ultimately, it comes down to what kind of opportunity comes over the plate from your agent and where you want your career to go.
This is hands down the greatest resource for an aspiring Voice Artist I have come across. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. Often the advise from others only relates to the specific scenario in which they were able to find success or comes with a price tag. Your impartial and realistic advice has been absolutely invaluable to me. Again, thank you so much.
1. [Is LA-based video game industry open to working remotely?] and
2. [How do I find an LA agent open to representing non-LA-based talent?] and
3. [How would a non-LA-based performer get in the loop w/ LA casting director’s for games and animation?]
1. Most voice actors I know have worked remotely for the past year.
2. If you‘re not willing or unable to get in the mix of a big city talent pool, you‘ll need at minimum a hell of a demo and a decent website. Some well placed recommendations also wouldn‘t hurt.
3. See above. If your talent is sufficient to impress with a zoom instruction from a working casting director or agent, it‘s possible to garner attention (never promised).
Just remember that it comes down to your demonstrating an irresistible mix of skill and talent. You are up against the best, which tends to be those with sufficient ambition and conviction to move where the action is, where they can make face-to-face contact and connection. For now, work and study are mostly remote, but that will continue to at least partially thaw.
Moving to where the work is physically produced and where talent lives not only enables face to face connection (where good talent may earn trust and confidence from fellow pros), it also demonstrates a performer’s confidence in their own abilities as well as professional resolve. It broadcasts not only ambition and resolve but (hopefully) also a level of talent that merits making a wager that big.
If you move to a higher competitive work zone, you demonstrate that you see yourself as a good prospect. This level of confidence, if well-placed, can inspire confidence in those who represent talent and who cast and create.
We humans are social beings and nothing inspires confidence like a favorable face to face connection.
Whose opinion would you trust re: a demo or VO acting skills?
Most will probably give you an honest opinion, but the most relevant is from an agent who rep’s voice actors or a working casting or voice director. These will often do one-off classes or appearances and aren’t selling further instruction (not that you should not trust someone who regularly teaches).
I would also trust an experienced voice actor instructor, especially if s/he still works VO.
I would tend to invest money with recommended teachers who actively work or have relevant connections in the modern working world of VO.