Help my wife narrate awesomeness
June 17, 2013 7:14 AM   Subscribe

My wife has expressed interest in being a voice actor. Doing some narration work to be more specific. How does someone get into the field? My google fu is not helping me! Do classes help?

My wife has an awesome voice. She has been told over the years that she has a good phone voice, good voice when she's done PA type announcements, etc. I love to hear her read. Her undergrad degree was in speech communications and she did a lot of speech competitions as a teen/young adult.

She has expressed interest in being a voice actor. Doing some narration work to be more specific. How does someone get into the field? My google fu is not helping me! Do classes help?

Thanks hivemind!
posted by Librarygeek to Work & Money (11 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

I skimmed this article. Dunno accuracy.

Googling voice acting forums seems to get a lot of hits too. As did voice acting jobs. Caveat Emptor, obviously. Good luck!
posted by Jacen at 7:25 AM on June 17, 2013

LA, NYC, Houston, Dallas & Vancouver seem to be the main cities, as well (Though this was from an anime specific topic, I'm sure it's pretty accurate overall)
posted by Jacen at 7:39 AM on June 17, 2013

One of my favorite podcasts is often looking for new voice talent. It is called Podcastle.
posted by Julnyes at 7:48 AM on June 17, 2013



Both of my friends who are professional voice artists have representation, but I think they started out with these two sites:


posted by carmicha at 7:52 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Classes can help. My aunt did side work in this field for a long time, and taught classes, in which she offered her coaching services to people who wished to take this up as a second career. It cost about $1k to get a demo that would get you to the point of maybe getting representation, which would get you into part-time work. If you are handy with a decent microphone, you can probably edit a decent two-minute demo, and maybe you can get some second opinions from friends on which takes to use.
posted by mkb at 8:31 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, have a look at the ACX resources for audiobook narrators -- they have videos walking you through the steps of setting up a home recording studio and editing the resulting files. For acting training and other niceties of the field, you'll need to look elsewhere, but you can come back to ACX again for a variety of things, from listening to samples (to see how much more acoustic treatment your bedroom needs) to getting jobs.
posted by acm at 10:01 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've been to a lot of anime cons and this question gets asked every single time multiple times of the voice acting guests in attendance. Most of them do all types of voice acting, not just anime. I actually went to a panel a few weeks ago specifically addressing this topic. Let me try to remember the various common things I always hear.

1) Take the time to make a professional demo. This has always been stressed as the most important thing you can do. Learn how and where to do this. Casting directors will listen to the first few seconds before they move on, so put your best stuff first. You'll be exceedingly lucky if they listen to a whole minute, so keep it short. A bad demo is worse than no demo, since it can actually hurt your future chances. Read in your natural voice, not a made-up or copied one.

Apparently, there are some websites where agents actually post their VA's demos online. Listening to these was mentioned as a great way to learn how a professional demo is supposed to sound.

2) Every single VA I've ever seen has said to take acting classes if possible, and, failing that, to do some sort of theater. That's because voice acting is still acting. Simply having a good voice has almost nothing to do with getting a voice acting job. You need to know how to "cold read" lines and take direction. Practicing cold reading would be a good exercise to do on your own.

3) Every VA I've seen has said that (voice) acting is not a lucrative endeavor for most, so don't expect huge success. You have to be very committed. Many of the ones I've seen have second jobs to help pay the bills. Learning to accept rejection seems to be of utmost importance since most auditions will not be successful.

4) All the VAs I've seen do multiple types of voice acting if the opportunities arise. Limiting yourself to one type may mean you wait a long time between jobs. Expanding your options means more money and more practice and more exposure. There all sorts of opportunities that aren't character acting including commercial voiceovers (both radio and TV), narration, books on tape, etc.

5) The toughest bit of advice I consistently hear is that if you're really serious, you need to move to where the work is. I'm not sure where that is for narration; for anime, it's Houston and Dallas and still on the West Coast to a smaller extent. Wherever there's acting, there's probably voice acting.

6) One DVD that I rather enjoyed is called "Adventures in Voice Acting." It's composed of interviews with dozens of well known anime voice actors. All of them have been successful in the field and are considered top-notch. It's been a few years since I watched it, but it might be worth checking out to glean tips and ideas. If nothing else, it will introduce you to a lot of talented people, who would be even better resources for information.

7) One thing I've found is that these voice actors are some of the nicest, humblest people ever. They're more like regular working guys and gals not celebrities. They love their fans and they love their jobs and they do respond to emails and tweets and the like. If you contacted a few and explained your situation, I bet they have some good answers to give. (They get asked how to get into the field ALL the time.) Two that I would specifically recommend are Steve Blum and Kari Wahlgren. Kari just gave a panel at Anime Boston called "The Business of Voice Acting" from which I've gleaned much of my info. Steve (my favorite VA ever) is another veteran, and, hell, he's got this page on his website.

I know this is a lot of information that's not exactly direct, but it's intended to convey that getting into voice acting is not an easy, direct process. The VAs I've seen all seem to agree that there's no straight answer on how to get into the industry; every path is different and luck and connections play a factor. Being an actor first, then a voice actor seems to be the most common advice. I hope this helps your wife a bit.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 10:04 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: First off, don't quit your day job. It is a VERY competitive field right now thanks to the leveling of the Internet - and big name stars, unfortunately, being hired for more voiceover jobs. (Brad Pitt doesn't have an especially interesting voice, even if others do.) Likewise, there are a lot of former deejays who are trying to break into the field, too, thanks to the prevalence of voicetracking.

I know one actor who got representation in his early twenties, but he was absolutely obsessed with the field from the time he was 16 or 17, and did everything he could to get involved.

Second, you no longer need representation to start working (though, to join the big ranks, or move up in a large region, you will eventually). You need some decent home equipment and a makeshift studio, if you just want to pick up smaller gigs as you get experience.

A well-known narrator, director and former TV actress - I grew up hearing her voice on cartoons - told me that she set up a little rig for herself in her bedroom closet. I am actually acquainted with the author of Jacen's article - he's not been based in LA for many years, but now lives in upstate NY, and has a great (second-generation) website now. The article is very outdated on specifics, but the overall point - that you're going to spend time being unemployed? Absolutely on target. JoeBev and his wife, also an actor, get by on relatively little - they actually did a piece for NPR a few years back about that. They juggle self-published audio shows, other new material distributed through public radio, local theatre gigs, writing gigs, training others, and web-based work.

And keep in mind, he and Lorrie write and produce their OWN material, so in some ways, they are better off than the average voice actor who wants to read and enact other people's words.

Having said that, there's no reason not to pursue this as a side business, because thousands of others are doing the same. Long term, if you want to do this, you'll have to build a niche for yourself, but all the above advice about being an actor, and getting acting experience, stands. Can she take criticism? Can she take criticism that is complete bullshit, or handle being rejected for no good reason?

You also have to take a good look at yourself and ask, do I really want to be a working voice actor? Recently, a producer I know asked me to help one of his friends with the next stage of his career. This friend absolutely is set on a career of character voices. He doesn't really want to do all the other things that are the bread and butter of most working voice actors - recording text for elearning projects, or other automated products like voicemail. That's totally fine. But his chances of being a working voice actor have diminished considerably, because he's limited what he's willing to do to the most competitive areas. In the meantime, other people are capitalizing by focusing on the non-glamorous jobs and getting paid to work as a voice actor, and improving their craft. Others are stuck in a rut, and I'm sorry to say that a lot of former deejays, who are used to announcing, have trouble making the jump to "acting", and the more diverse tones they need to capitalize on those jobs.

I would get a copy of The Art of Voice Acting. Has a great CD with practice exercises and samples.

Get on Twitter. Follow people like Dave Courvoisier, who has a massive list of voiceover artists you can follow.

Get as much experience as you can before you do a formal demo. Invest in building your talent before you invest in your demo, in other words. For instance, you can do PSAs for nonprofits. Audio drama producers are always looking for talent (look for local groups first, and also remote jobs - start with Casting Calls on the Sonic Society website). Audio drama jobs range in quality from the rank-amateur to Audie-nominated full cast shows. Many amateur voice actors, including the one I mentioned earlier, who got an agent in his early twenties, start by doing fan dubs for anime shows. Independent film directors also need narrators. If you want to do audio books, you can't go wrong doing a Librivox recording of a public domain book. Check out your local readers' theatre for the visually impaired, also. As you get more experience with some of these semi-pro opportunities, try to get some money, even if just a token payment.

I have used Voices123 to hire people before, but there are also people using Fiverr to pick up jobs that way, as well.
posted by mitschlag at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, to clarify about Fiverr. Artists of all kinds have to bear in mind that they're competing with others who are willing to use unusual tools like that. The really smart ones start with $5 for 1 minute of work, but then ask people to add additional amounts for more work ($20 here, $20 there). If she follows people on Twitter, hears their demos and example work, gets to know folks, she'll get a sense of how working actors put it all together. The trick is that enterprising actors, some of them young, some of them not, are willing to use tools like Fiverr as loss-leaders to continuing work.
posted by mitschlag at 10:38 AM on June 17, 2013

Read my previous comment on this topic. If anything, the industry has gotten even more cutthroat since then.
posted by mkultra at 1:39 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rob Paulsen (voice of Yakkko, Pinky, Raphael, many more) has a podcast that's pretty entertaining. I don't know how much practical job-getting advice there is, but he does interview just about every major name in voice acting. He's corny to a fault, but he obviously loves his job and his enthusiasm is infectious.
posted by AndyP at 6:45 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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