Voice-acting tips from
"The Art of Voice Acting Workshop"

COMPETITION & ACCENTS

The following email, and response, address the issue of competition in the voice-over community:

I have heard that Voice-overs is a highly political field, with lots of networking required, so I'm hoping that the steps I've taken will begin to put me "in the loop." There are so many people who tell me that only the "stars" find work, but I'm hoping there is still room for someone like me!

You're right that VO work can be somewhat political in certain areas, but don't listen to those people who tell you that "only the stars get work". They don't know what they're talking about - and if you're hearing that from people in voice-over, they are probably trying to discourage you from pursuing your dream. Don't let them do it! Although networking is important for making the right contacts and getting VO work, there's a lot more to it. A large part of it is being in the right place at the right time with the right voice. That's where the networking really becomes important. Some people will say that voiceover is highly competitive. True, there are a lot of people out there who want to do voiceover, but this type of work is much like acting in that your job as the performer is to give the producer what they need to meet their vision. Not every voice actor will be able to do that - and ultimately it comes down to the voice that best fits the producer's vision. And that's not really competition! Competition implies that there is only one winner. You may not get a job from an audition, but that audition may lead to several unexpected jobs that you might not have to audition for. I'm a member of the National Speakers Association, and their philosophy is: Instead of each speaker going out to get their piece of the pie, let's just make a bigger pie! There are so many opportunities for voiceover that the most important thing you can do is to become masterful at the craft and be persistent in letting people know about it.

The following addresses foreign accents in voice-over:

I recently attended your Learning Annex Art of Voice Acting workshop in the evening and was a little disconcerted when I got my chance to get up at the mic and you asked me to change my English accent to an American accent. The whole reason for me deciding to do the course was because of my "English Accent" and the fact that many people have complimented me and suggested that I do voiceover work. Are you suggesting by this that having an "accent" could be a hindrance as opposed to a benefit?

My intention in asking you to shift your accent was NOT to imply that your English accent would be a hindrance. However, the truth is that in the US market, a "foreign" accent can often be a limiting factor that can be very frustrating for a performer. When I have a student in my class with an accent, I will usually test them to see what they can do with their voice in the short time I have.

When I heard you on mic, I wanted to see what your range might be. As I recall, I sensed that you might be able to take your delivery in a wider direction than only your native accent. Although an English accent is often very "classy" and appropriate for many projects in this country, by itself it won't result in a lot of voiceover work - unless a specific niche market is tapped. The more versatile a voice actor can be, the more likely he or she will be to get a broader range of work. I'm certainly not suggesting that you work on changing your accent. Absolutely, use it to your greatest advantage. However, in regards to voiceover, I do suggest that you be open to being flexible - especially in terms of adjusting your vocal delivery style to be suitable for whatever script you might be working. If that means learning how to do an "American" accent, then that might be something worth considering. In this country, there are relatively few scripts that are written specifically for an English accent. It is more likely that you might come across a script for which a softened or adjusted accent would work much better than your natural accent. However, if you plan on doing voiceover in Britain, then you must absolutely learn how to apply voice acting techniques using your natural accent to be a marketable talent in that country.

Voiceover is voice ACTING, and actors play different roles as different characters. A good actor will have a different vocal style for most characters. Although it is possible for a voice actor to create a niche for his or her specific style or voice, it is fairly rare. I do know of several voiceover artists (not voice actors) who pretty much only do their own voice when working a script. Their demo has very little in the way of variety, attitude or emotion. They do get work, but they would probably get more if they expanded their vocal range and acting abilities.

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