Q. How do I be a voice actorComplications Ensue
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Monday, October 01, 2018

A. Get a demo reel together, get an agent, audition for roles, get a better reel.

This is my current casting proecess

  1. Post a breakdown on Breakdown Services (North America) or Spotlight (UK). Generally I will only send it to agents, because those actors are already “curated.”
  2. They send me submissions of people with demo reels.
  3. I listen to the demo reel. My #1 criterion is “do I believe this performance?” Does the actor sound like they’re reading lines, or do they sound like a person in a situation.
  4. My #2 criterion is vocal charisma. Does their voice “pop”? Some actors sound a bit generic. Some have a distinct voice I want to hear more.
  5. I ask some of the submitted actors, through their agents, for an MP3 of them performing sides - a scene I’ve written for the audition. Here’s where having a home studio is better than just having a phone to record the audition, but so long as I can clearly hear the performance I don’t care about sound quality.
  6. I listen to those. Same criterion. Obviously, are they right for the part? Do I believe the performance? Do they have charisma?
  7. I direct (and record) an audition over Skype / Facetime / Google Meet. I see how well they take direction.
  8. I pick an actor.
To give you a sense of the scope, I just got 200 submissions for a role, listened to maybe 50 demo reels (I was pressed for time), asked 8-10 people for MP3's, and called back about 4. I have no idea what other people do, but I think I spend more time on casting than other voice directors.

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In your blog, you (probably infamously) gave the following advice about becoming an actor: unless you were born into the right kind of family or are a vanishingly rare superhuman fluke of a human being, don't. Ever. Or you will risk permanently ruining your life by chasing something you will and can never, ever achieve. Does that not apply to voice acing? Or have your views in general changed?

I'll be honest, I'm glad I have an opportunity to ask about that. The notion that the vast, vast majority of actors will never succeed raises some difficult questions. They'll never succeed but they're still necessary for the industry to exist at all. Does this mean that filmmakers are bad people for using doomed actors?

And what would happen if everyone who didn't fall into the categories of exceptions I mentioned stopped chasing acting careers? Well, I know the answer to THAT one: nothing good. Film and television have a massive price but they're inextricably part of our society and culture now, and we can't go back. They're like agriculture. By the time everyone realized the downsides (in agriculture's case, increasingly likely unsustainability in the very, VERY - thousands of years very - long term), it was too late to go back so it was easiest to variously go into denial and just plain not think about it. That latter choice likely also applies to the question at the end of my second paragraph.

By Blogger randomguy, at 5:54 AM  

There is increasing evidence that agriculture - specifically grain farming - began not as a source of calories but as a source of alcohol. Sites with remains of grains predate Neolithic agriculture. Makes sense. Some people will do anything for a beer.

But you're asking about acting. I would discourage anyone from trying to make a career of acting, writing, painting, dance, etc. They are all lousy ways of making a living. The supply far outpaces the demand. I consider it a bloody miracle that I have been able to pay the bills by wordsmithing for so long.

But, if you're a real writer, you ignore the discouragement because you more or less just have to write, and you do it because you have a jones, not because you're trying to get rich. And if you have talent, and sitzfleisch, and some part of your sensibility matches the sensibility of enough people, then you can be a pro writer. And you might get rich after all.

Very, very few actors are pro voice actors in the sense that voice acting is what they do for a living. I think for most, voice acting is a way to pick up a few extra bucks while waiting for bigger, more lucrative acting gigs. It's hard to string together enough voice acting gigs to support yourself. But, if you're good with your voice (and there are movie stars with meh voices; they act with their faces) then it's nice to go into the studio on a day you are not otherwise employed, and act for an hour.

Voice acting is also a solution for actors who find it difficult to leave the house because of a disability or a phobia. One of my absolute favorite voice actors has a touch of agoraphobia. She has a home studio, which is super convenient for us.

Voice acting is also quite fun, because you spend all the time acting, and none of the time sitting around waiting for the director of photography to stop fussing.

But again, there is no "path to Colonel" as they say in the Army. You can easily make a big effort and investment and come out with nothing. If you have to act, you'll find ways to act, and if you're very, very nice to the goddess Thespis, She might give you a living.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 11:54 AM  

Alex Epstein, am just reading your book : Crafty TV writing : thinking outside the box and it is soooo inspirational ,l think TV writing is something l would be doing not full time of course but on the side..am thinking of a legal drama series.

By Blogger Unknown, at 8:17 AM  

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