How To Choose A Voice Acting Workshop

by Laura Schiff

Open any magazine for actors, and you’ll find dozens of advertisements for voice acting workshops. They all promise to reveal the secrets to success... but do they all deliver?

Batman voice director Andrea Romano talks about the craft of voice over acting. TM & © Warner Bros.

Says Sandie Schnarr, an agent who represents leading voice actors at Sandie Schnarr Talent, "I’ll talk to somebody, and I’ll ask, ‘What workshops have you taken?’ And they’ll name these people who are teaching workshops whom I’ve never even heard of in the voice-over world! So many actors who can’t make a really, really, really good living doing their acting will teach workshops. There are a few actors out there who have had a good career in it, and who are really good teachers, and they just teach for the love of it, but there’s not a lot of people out there like them. When it comes to doing an animation class, I only refer people to maybe three or four teachers in the whole town. They’re all people who direct the cartoons. They cast. They’re the ones that are doing the hiring. So, when they teach workshops, that’s the best place to go." Schnarr’s picks for best voice acting coaches? Warner Bros.’ five-time Emmy Award-winning director Andrea Romano (Batman, Pinky & The Brain, Animaniacs), independent director Susan Blu (Men In Black, Godzilla, Starship Troopers), The Rugrats’ actor Michael Bell, who voices Chazz Finster, Drew Pickles and Grandpa Boris, and Hanna-Barbera director Kris Zimmerman.

Finding The Right Instructor
Once you’ve narrowed the playing field down to a handful of teachers with excellent credentials, find out how well they communicate and extend their knowledge to their students. Talk to fellow actors, agents and other animation folks, and ask them if they’ve heard of the teachers you’re considering and what they think of them. Reputation and word-of-mouth are your best indicators here.

"For as many good workshops as there are, there are just as many people who only want to take your money," says Andrea Romano. "Get referrals from other people and ask, ‘How was the class? What did it feel like? Did it feel like they were talking above your head? Does someone who’s a beginner get the same kind of attention as somebody who’s done twenty cartoons?’"

Most importantly, does the teacher stimulate your creativity and inspire you? "Call the workshops and talk to these individuals," says Dave Sebastian Williams, whose Dave & Dave Incorporated publishes the quarterly Voice Over Resource Guide. "Get them on the phone. Do not take a workshop without speaking to an instructor. You don’t take a workshop based on an instructor’s assistant who is booking, unless you’ve heard from fifteen other actors that that’s the person you want to be with. Try to audit as many classes as possible and see how it goes down. See how that person interacts with other individuals in the workshops. See how much patronizing is going on and how much true honesty is going on. What we don’t need is to be patronized while we’re in a workshop. We need honesty and knowledge of the business."

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