I am looking to do voice over work. Where do I start?
October 17, 2006 9:42 AM   Subscribe

People keep telling me that I should get into voice-over work. And not just one or two of my friends, like random people that I talk to and at least twice a week. Where do I start for something like that?

My dream would be to become a VO actor for cartoons but I have a low register. I know I could benefit from vocal / voice coaching / lessons but when I google all of these shady sites pop up. Has the hive had any experience with this? Where do I start? I am in the NYC, Westchester-ny, Fairfield-ct area. Does anyone know of a reputable coach or school? Is it expensive?

posted by Botunda to Education (15 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Many recording studios will have a library of voices that clients can access. If you can hook up with a recording studio that has a library, they'll record you reading copy and put your voice on file. I know multiple people who have gotten voice-over work this way.
posted by nekton at 9:57 AM on October 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

(Don't sign your posts, please)

I worked for several years with someone who did voice acting for commercials and the like on the side. So my information is kind of anecdotal but possibly useful.

You can start by making a demo CD where you record yourself recreating existing radio or TV commercials.

The first key is learning how long it takes you to say something--producers are looking for phrases that are exactly a certain number of seconds long. So you need to recreate that timing and phrasing as well as you can.

If you discover at that point that you just can't stand being so chipper or saying the same thing a thousand times in a row with a different intonation every time, then at least you haven't wasted any money paying a voice coach.

The person I know worked through Liz Lewis Casting* in New York and while I don't know enough to recommend that company personally, I can say that the woman I knew was the voice of several large OTC pharmaceutical commercials as well as a certain national retailer known for their specially-colored-flashing-light specials, and that she regularly gave out her agent's name to people who were interested in coaching as well as representation.

*That URL is a little dodgy, sorry; I got it from a Google search but you have the name now and you can research it yourself.
posted by bcwinters at 10:04 AM on October 17, 2006

This may not be much help, but I'll try.

First off, I don't know what the VO industry is like in NY, but here in LA it is very hard to find work. And not necessarily in the way you'd think. From my (relatively brief) time doing VO, it seems like there aren't that many people doing it, but those people tend to get hired over and over again. (See the two or three guys who do ALL of the movie trailer narration.) Add to that the terrible, terrible trend of studios hiring name actors to do voices for animated features, and you get a small market.


VO work can be lots of fun. You'll spend lots of time on your feet in the booth, saying the same things, but it's a blast when you really get into it.

I'd recommend you start by polling actors in the area, going to mixers, plays etc., and getting a feel for where everyone goes for voice coaching. When you're feeling confident in your abilities, put together a demo CD. This is VERY important; if you do not have a demo CD, you will not work. I've known some people who put together demos on their own, but I wouldn't recommend that; spend the $300 or so to get a good one that you can use for awhile. Don't worry if you don't have any previous work to compile; many places can have you record generic spots that they will edit together to sound professional.

After that, see if you can snag an agent (again through mixers, *reputable* talent showcases etc.) and start shopping yourself around.

Again, this is only from my experience, but I hope it helps you out. Good luck!
posted by Shecky at 10:06 AM on October 17, 2006

I'd suggest reading 'My Life As a Ten Year Old Boy' by Nancy Cartwright she goes into great detail about her background in the field
posted by ZackTM at 10:08 AM on October 17, 2006

I agree with Shecky on making a professional demo CD; I wasn't totally clear in my answer, but I was just talking about making something on your own to see if you're comfortable with it, not actually using that as your real demo.
posted by bcwinters at 10:08 AM on October 17, 2006

nth on the demo CD. Here's some personal perspective:

My fiancée has been doing voice-over work here in NYC for a little over a year. She's an actor, and another actor friend of hers, who is well-established in the field, referred her to a major agency here. They like her for two reasons:

- She smokes, so she can do the low, sultry thing.
- She can do a bona-fide Southern and British accent. Since voice-over studios are pretty much non-existent outside of NYC and LA, being able to do a true dialect without sounding like an actor trying to do a dialect is Money.

The long and the short of it is that, a year later, with her connections and skills, with a top agency, she's done a handful of regional radio spots and a couple audiobooks. She's gotten auditions for a couple cartoons, but that's it. And that's considered very, very good.

Voiceover is a business like any other- you're not going to be "discovered" because you have a nice-sounding voice and be put on TV. You need to develop a reputation, know how to handle your auditions, know how to sit in a booth for hours on end repeating the same lines over and over. Being a professional is as important, if not more so, than having a nice voice.

Beyond the CD, look into acting classes. There are various techniques out there to teach you breathing, which is a very, very important skill to have (I realize that sentence sounds very stupid, but you get my idea). Get a cheap mic if you don't have one already, and start taping yourself reading stuff.
posted by mkultra at 10:24 AM on October 17, 2006

Oh, and agencies deliberately do not have web presences for a reason- they don't want you calling them cold.
posted by mkultra at 10:25 AM on October 17, 2006

Voiceovers Unlimited in NYC is a group of voiceover actors we do a lot of work with. I don't know anything about the workshops they offer, but the people there are professional and approachable.
posted by bmckenzie at 10:42 AM on October 17, 2006

As others have said, you first want to cut a demo.

Also another suggestion for some VO type of work. Send your demo to voice marketing companies. They tend to pay $50-100 per paragraph. Companies such as MessageBroadcast and Smart Reply. Plus you get a bit of experience and hopefully some good samples to use. Often these companies market for some Fortune 100 clients.
posted by wilde at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2006

Not to rain on your parade, but produce some spec spots.

I've worked with some up-and-coming VO talent that have great pipes, but can't 'act.' A minority of the talent is the voice, a majority of the talent is the delivery.
posted by donguanella at 10:56 AM on October 17, 2006

That website looks like just a front for Vitacorp, an MLM company.
posted by mkultra at 10:59 AM on October 17, 2006

Response by poster: These are all very usefull. Does any one know of a reputable voice coach?
posted by Botunda at 11:12 AM on October 17, 2006

I know someone who started by reading books and such for the blind. Check your states Division for Blind Services. I don't know what the pay is (if any). But it is good practice. Also, are there any anime companies where you are? ADV (in Houston) often uses local folks for voice overs.
posted by nimsey lou at 11:37 AM on October 17, 2006

Until recently I worked in an NYC recording studio that specialized (and still does) in VO work, including for book jobs and saturday morning cartoons. As a result, I got to work with most of the most successful voice actors in NYC (and probably worked with mkultrta's fiancee on at least one occasion.)

Things to remember: one, don't quit your day job. Even the most successful actors I knew still had other lines of work. In fact, the lead actress on one of the shows we recorded was also a doctor.

Two, different jobs call for much different requirements. Some are strict, get-out-this-paragraph-in-ten-seconds-on-the-dot jobs, some are ADR (matching your voice to lip-flap on the screen, a popular method in cartoons) and some are really acting. If you have acting experiences, it will help.

Three, you're lucky that you live in NYC, as it's far rarer to just use celebrities here, and much more of the total work is in VO. However, t also means that a lot of your success will depend on your ability to do a variety of distinct voices and moods. Practice this. Make sure that they are unique to you. In other words, everybody can do their Jimmy Stuart or Katherine Hepburn impersonations, but nobody was doing Bart Simpson before Nancy Cartwright came along.

Four, yes. The demo reel is key. I'm not going to put my old studio on here, simply because I'm not sure the guys would want me to, but if you're serious, and you e-mail me, I can give you the information then. The guys there have years of experience both working with professionals and amateurs alike, and know how to coach you through it and find the best spots for your reel (that used to be a good part of my job there.) They're extremely personable and talented, and will be honest with you about how you should go about your career. Moreover, a lot of casting goes on there, and this will help you throw your hat in the ring, provided that you all get along, of course.

Good luck.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:57 PM on October 17, 2006

You have a low register! That's exactly why people are talking to you about this. Go find a coach, but in the mean time, work on your chops. Practice the various accents. Check out the work of Mel Blanc. A tidbit about "voice acting". Good Luck!
posted by snsranch at 4:42 PM on October 17, 2006

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