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

Learning to Act

There are many ways to become an actor and my approach is omnivorous and non-denominational. Anyone advocating only “one way” to do it is probably selling something. Whatever works for you – do that!

For an overview of the many skills and capacities a voice actor needs CLICK HERE.

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Where can an aspiring voice actor discover and develop the acting skills needed?

Here are some of the more conventional ways to become an actor:

CLICK HERE to learn about doing school and local community theater.

CLICK HERE to learn about improv training.

CLICK HERE to learn about taking acting workshops.

CLICK HERE to learn about studying with VO Pros.

CLICK HERE to learn about trying stand up comedy, children’s theater and theme parks.

CLICK HERE to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of getting an acting degree.

CLICK HERE to learn more about getting “street trained” vs. acting conservatory trained acting.

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Finding your own path to acting

If you ask a successful actor what you should do to become an actor, most will probably essentially advise you,”Do what I did.” 

This would be very different for every voice actor you’d meet.

Many top voice actors don’t have an acting degree and may have taken few (if any) voice acting classes. Some have never performed in a play or a musical. 

Many don’t have a traditional background of what most would consider a typical “acting path” at all. Some come from a live music background (e.g. Grey Delisle). Some from radio and stand up (Billy West, Tom Kenny and Carlos Alzaraqui). Some are animators or writers and just have a clear idea of what their drawings need to say (e.g. Eric Bauza, Seth MacFarlane and Doug Laurence).

Some found acting as a child (e.g. Ashley Johnson), some later in life (e.g. Steve Blum didn’t try acting until he was 40). Others have Broadway credentials (e.g. Charlie Adler, Candi Milo), or have studied acting at a conservatory (e.g. Kevin Michael Richardson and Jeff Bennett).

Regardless of their experience or training (or lack of it), they are all terrific voice actors because they are all terrific actors.

Most voice actors have a patchwork of experience and training to get as good as they are. And most have a history of years of some kind of collaborative creativity that often involves a live audience.  

There is no one way to become a good voice actor. Your path will be your own.

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If you are interested in further exploration of what an “actor’s life” can be, I’ve read some enjoyable and insightful autobiographies recently that I highly recommend: Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up,” Rob Lowe’s “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” and “Love Life,” Martin Short’s “I Must Say,” Frank Langella’s “Dropped Names,” and John Badham’s “On Directing.” Gene Wilder’s story is fascinating as is Robin Williams’ tragic bio. The Monty Python troop have a nice offering of autobiographies as well.

All are engaging, personal accounts of “an actor’s life” from established actors with talent, smarts and heart who endure (Badham is a director who loves actors). You see the process of their unique creative drives gradually clarifying and coming together against all odds. None were “born into it” or seemed particularly destined for fame and fortune at first. It’s striking how improbable each success seems in retrospect. Each life is an unlikely collision of chance, initiative and talent.

I so enjoy listening to the story of an emerging talent that has found a way to both endure and thrive. I find hope and instruction in that (sometimes cautionary instruction).

I’ve listened through these as audiobooks, mostly read by the author, which I also highly recommend.

40 Responses »

  1. Thanks for all the great information…I have recently joined several online websites to try to market/manage how I am going to go about getting out there. …One of them had a free voice evaluation. …the mentor who was assigned to me and also a pro with a good rep thought it went great. She had some great feedback that I took as legit. That being said, they have sent me an offer that is kind of costly, upwards of 4k and I am not really sure about that kind of initial investment. It includes all sort of classes, plus studio time, gear, etc. What are your thoughts on something like this?

    • Again- I don’t think a class is a golden ticket to VO competency or work. It’s something to add in to the mix. 4K is pretty steep, especially for a beginner and I’m not sure what exactly you get with that. I’d rather you get your own equipment (see my studio page) if you feel ready for that, maybe take a class or two with a good VO instructor, get on stage somehow, hopefully get some improv experience as well– a mix of things, rather than just give one company a huge wad of money up front. In the end, if you end up pursuing it, it will cost a good amount of money, resources and time, but I’m not real keen on recommending someone to sell their car to try someone’s beginner’s program. Call me jaded, but if they are pushing a $4k program, I’m betting they love anyone who calls up for a “consult.”

      • I really appreciate your honesty. After having time to think about it, I totally agree with you. The New York Voice Over Academy is not too far from me. They have a very inexpensive introductory class that I am going to try then, if I need more, I can always go the “pay as you go” route there as well. I have stage as well as some studio experience and am going to continue to do that as well as look into improv. I am going to go ahead and work on my home studio and network amongst the profession in the mean time. Thanks again. Maybe I’ll see you in the studio some time.

  2. do you know of any resources and classes like Voices Voice Casting in New York

  3. I recently got my finished commercial and character demos. I am building my website and they are posted there…My question is how do I get it out and get noticed?

    • If you are indeed ready and if your demos are dynamite, take some round-robin voice director classes with pros who travel out from L.A. or maybe New York, depending on the kind of work you are suited for and interested in. Connect with other voice actors in voice over workshops or improv school. You must work at becoming a better actor, a more able performer. By putting yourself out there you will get noticed if you are right for this. It’s not just a matter of “marketing” or “connecting.” It’s a matter of getting better at acting and finding your way up through that.

  4. Dee,

    What is your opinion on Skype lessons? I live in Orlando and there doesn’t seem to be much that I’ve discovered in the way of voice over lessons here.

    • Neutral. My voice over “lessons” in Orlando were at SAK Theater doing improv shows and singing lessons with Manny Lujan, as well as all sorts of local performing opportunity I could get at the theme parks and the thriving local civic theater- that is acting training/experience, which is more important than a VO class, per se. Any good teacher could perhaps be of some help, Skype or no, but I’d rather you hunt down performing opportunity and learn by doing in front of an audience. And Orlando has plenty of those.

  5. What great information! I’ll refer my students to this site as well as my own. I’m originally from the Midwest where I made my living in Voice Over for 10 years before I moved to LA. I had a successful Voice Over career in LA for 16 years as well as teaching all during that time as a well-respected coach. You can check out my reputation with Mary Lynn Wissner, Pat Fraley and Marc Cashman and all my coaching info at http://www.voiceovercoaching.net. Be sure to read the testimonials which make me very proud! I “retired” to Phoenix, Arizona where I still do voice overs from my home studio and continue coaching “newbies”, professional Voice Actors, Presentation speakers and Political candidates.

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