Written by Graeme Petrie
Learning how to put money where your mouth is.
Simply put, voice-over acting (VO) is the art of doing voice overs. While voice-over acting has grown into a recognized career path, it still remains largely unknown by many people. While at present most voice-over work is still done by classically-trained actors who will often do voice acting to fill gaps between gigs, voice acting is quickly gaining recognition as a true performance art form and profession, as well as an effective way to expand a TV & Film actor’s employability and supplement their income.
I have a great voice. Is that enough?
Friends and family are always telling you that you have a great voice to be a voice actor, so you have finally decided to see for yourself whether you really do have the “right stuff” to do it professionally. I mean, who knows, you may be that undiscovered talent with untapped potential who used to create voices in high school just for fun, but now realize that you could actually make money at it, maybe even do it for a living. Well…don’t quit your day job just yet.
“Who knows, you may be that undiscovered talent with untapped potential who used to create voices in high school just for fun.”
Generally speaking, the majority of voice actors tend to specialize in one or two areas. So while you may have a smooth, silky voice like Morgan Freeman that resonates well with an audience in documentaries, narration, product commercials (even car navigation systems), you may not be as well suited for creating that unique, nerdy or villain-type voice they may be looking for in an animated cartoon or video game character. Three main categories of Voice Over are:
- Voice Over Announcer: introducing segments of live television, radio broadcasts; e.g. award shows, talk shows, promo and sporting events.
- Voice Over Narrator: documentaries, tutorials, educational, audiobooks, business videos.
- Voice Actor: animated movies, cartoons, ADR, video games, foreign language dubbing.
Sign Up for Classes
If you are curious to find out whether you have the goods to be a voice-over artist and possess the kind of personality well suited to this line of work, first try taking some part-time classes. In doing so, it will become quickly evident whether you a) like this kind of work b) have any natural talent for it and c) enjoy the level of dedication and tedious preparation involved in order to do it well. During this initial process, feedback from a VO instructor will be paramount in determining what, if any, part of the industry you may be best suited to look for work in.
Do I Need to Study Acting First?
This is a great question. When looking at skills a voice-over actor needs in order to be successful, the main skill is having the ability to read a script in a style that is suited to the type of work you have been contracted for. The artistic side of voice over is the ability to allow the words to flow smoothly and organically with the character you are inhabiting or the context the words are being spoken within. The “professional” part of being a professional voice-over artist means that you are able to adapt and create a voice that uniquely suits the character or context with little or no preparation or instruction provided. Therein lies the “art” of voice acting.
TV & Film actors learn through their training how to analyze and break down a script, then create the sound of the character they are portraying. Without such training under your belt. becoming a proficient voice over-artist may take longer than expected. Even taking an introductory acting course will afford an aspiring voice-over actor much better understanding of how to develop these important tools of the trade.
Looking for Voice Over Opportunities
In our constantly evolving digital world there is an ever-increasing amount of work available for well-trained voice-over artists. Learning how and where to find those opportunities will be key to any emerging voice-over artist in understanding how to make money with their mouth.
It’s not an easy field to break into, so try looking for any opportunities to network and develop contacts by joining voice actor online groups on Facebook, open call castings, meet ups, conferences, all of which can help foster initial opportunities to build up your demo reel. Some of these initial jobs may be paid or unpaid, so you will need to determine which ones hold the most value for you personally as an emerging artist in building your demo reel.
“The “professional” part of being a professional voice over artist means that you are skilled and able to adapt and create a voice that uniquely suits the character or context with little or no preparation or instruction being provided.”
Professional voice-over actors will establish a track record of delivering high quality work and a demo reel to prove it and, as a result, they often get referrals by those they have done work for in the past. However, when a fellow voice actor is presented with an opportunity they aren’t particularly well suited for, they may look to recommend other vocal talent within their network that they feel can deliver the goods for the client.
Here Comes Disney!
Something that many voice-over actors are excited about and feel will be a game changer in the local voice-over community is, effective next year, Walt Disney Animation Studios will be opening a new facility in Vancouver, BC. Disney executives have stated that the studio will focus on long-form series and special projects for Disney+. The first in the pipeline is the anticipated, feature-quality musical series Moana.
Talent Agencies are strongly encouraging actors on their rosters to get some voice training under their belts to expand their employability to take advantage of opportunities that may arise with such a huge player in the animation industry coming to town.
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