Studying with VO Pros
Take casting director/agent/voice director “classes” when you are ready to make a good impression:
Paying a casting director or agent to see you in a “workshop” may seem a conflict of interest. “Pay to play” is a big no-no and is not what this kind of workshop is– essentially. Workshops should state explicitly (probably in some kind of fine print at the bottom of the sign-up page) that they aren’t a “pay to play” set up and you aren’t expecting to get auditions or work or to be signed. You are paying an expert for guidance and insight. You are paying for their valuable time. If it leads to a real audition or actual work at some point, that’s great. But it’s not expected or promised.
There is no problem with paying for an audience with a casting “gatekeeper” IF they are constructive and can bring you useful insight. This won’t be cheap (maybe $100 to $150 for a 4 hour group lesson in L.A.?), but their attention can be well worth it, especially if you are ready to impress. Shoot for taking a class with a pro who works with (or on) shows you might be interested in and right for.
A working pro can provide great insight into how things actually work in the industry now— how to audition well, what is booking these days, and what to avoid. They know working show producers and what a good audition looks and feels like. Perhaps as importantly, they know the common mistakes made by most of the actors they see. And they just may be looking for fresh faces who are ready to impress producers.
I would recommend gaining some experience before taking a meeting with this kind of pro, unless your class is an intro class. Be ready to make a good impression. I would much rather you pay for their time if you are essentially ready to have them bring you in to read for something or meet with producers. In an advanced class, you usually don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression with a top casting director or agent. And a bad first impression will probably be your last.
Also note, just because casting people or agents work with a lot of voice talent doesn’t mean that they necessarily can speak to the “acting” or creative side of voice overs. They may have a good take on the business as well as how auditions work, but they may not be good acting coaches or even directors. (I consider being a good agent or CD a separate skill from being a good director, though they’re not mutually exclusive). So, gauge your expectations accordingly.
Study with a casting assistant or second or third in command at an agency can be useful, but study with the “top dog” is preferable. (For example, someone who just operates the mic or answers phone calls at a casting facility could teach a class– but may not offer useful acting insight or audition opportunity.)
Group classes can be great, so long as the class size isn’t too big. I’d prefer maybe 12 to 15 max in a class, unless it’s essentially just a lecture. If you want one-on-one with the teacher and a couple times at the mic, a smaller class is better. Too small may not be good– you learn from others’ mistakes in class as well as their successes. Acting students struggle and succeed in their own unique way and this can be very instructive!
You want a class that attracts smart talented students. It’s a catch-22, but the class that’s hard to get in may be the one you want to wait for. Don’t forget to connect with others who are headed where you want to go or who may be a few steps ahead of you and willing to help or advise. Making connections on all levels is key. This is a fundamentally social industry.
Voice Classes in Los Angeles:
There are a ton a voice classes available in L.A. I don’t have direct experience with most, so I’m no clearing house of info on local VO workshops, but I would say that voice-caster Mary Lynn Wissner at Voices Voice Casting in L.A. (a working casting facility) has what strikes me as a broad offering of VO classes taught by known people who work (their “Meet the Pros” lineup) that you may find helpful: http://voicesvoicecasting.com/ .
I’ve also worked with Bob Bergen and Charlie Adler who are excellent VO teachers as well. There are many other good teachers, but I don’t have direct experience with their teaching.
Also, I’ve noticed recently some classes taught by some voice actors that work a lot (Charlie Adler, Kari Wahlgren, David Sobolov) and should have good insight at GrayKnight Productions.