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So you just got off the bus from Kansas, and you want to make funny voices for a living? Sure, why not. Somebody has to do it. The big question becomes: How to begin?
In the noise and hustle of L.A., it may at first appear a little daunting. But fear not. There is hope. If you have the talent and passion to work in the voice over business, there are plenty of people here to help you. While this advice centers on resources in the Los Angeles area, some of the advice can easily be transferred to London, Toronto, Sydney and all points in between.
You Need Help
The general trajectory for any successful career begins with training. (After you have attained some level of skill and comfort in creating voices, you will put together a demo tape. And the demo tape will help you to find an agent to represent your talents. And the agent, God willing, will help you to find work. But all of that comes later.)
To prepare you for the industry, you need to take the time to hone your technique and explore your creative range as a voice over artist. Dont be surprised to realize that you should devote a good six months to a year to develop your craft.
Demo tapes can be expensive to make. It can cost anywhere between $500 and $4,000 to create one. (If its any consolation, you can rationalize this expense as an investment in your future.) It is an incredible waste of money to make a bad tape, with only a few, poorly developed voices to show, thinking that your Bullwinkle or Donald Duck impersonation is going to make you competitive among all possible artists.
You need to know how to market yourself. You need to know how to conjure up fifteen different characters voices, and how to sustain them over ten pages of emotionally varying script. A teacher will help you to do this. Through beginning, intermediate and advanced classes, a teacher will direct you on how to perform: not just for your demo tape, but also for auditions, in front of agents and casting directors.
So, thats the punchline: find yourself a good teacher. Find someone with whom you feel you can learn and work. She, or he, will mentor your introduction into the industry from there.
Heres Some Resources
For a comprehensive, one-stop looksee into the services, companies and studios around town, pick up a copy of the quarterly publication, The Voiceover Resource Guide. It is updated every three months, and costs US$10 for a years subscription (or five or six bucks for a single issue). Dave & Dave, Inc., the publisher of the guide, can be reached at (800) 851-DAVE.
If you live elsewhere you can find who is out and about in your town by visiting newsstands, specialty book stores, coffee shops, theaters, recording facilities, etc. that cater to actors and performers. Here you can find fliers, magazines and guides for your region. You can also just pick up the good ol telephone directory and start making calls to recording facilities, radio stations, animation studios, traditional acting schools and workshops, and anyone else listed that you think might be related to the voice over biz. You will find if you call and ask, while they may not be able to help you directly, they might make some recommendations. If the same name or company keeps coming up then you know you have someone that is known in the professional world and is probably not a fly-by-night type of organization. Also, to speak to a real, live, helpful human being, you may have to call back several times. Be prepared to call, get transferred, leave a message and wait, to no avail, for several days. Then call again! Be persistent. Remember too, while one person may not be helpful, the person that answers the next day might be.
Dont underestimate the power of advice from professional organizations. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), unions, clubs and associations, like Women In Animation and ASIFA (the International Animated Film Society), can all direct you. Lists of guild sanctioned agents and other resources can be obtained through these agencies, guaranteeing a level of professionalism and dependability. Also joining these types of organizations, or at least attending their events, can introduce you to the right people who can give you the real lowdown. In Los Angeles, Women In Animation has a Voiceover Group, headed by Muriel Whitaker. There are no scheduled, regular meetings, as of the writing of this article, but the mentor for the group, M.J. Lallo, can be reached at (818) 980-6576.
Call For Training
So…you don’t think there are any training opportunities in your area? With a little research here is what we have found in the Los Angeles area. This is not a comprehensive list. With some phoning and questioning, you could begin to compile a list like this for your area and begin looking for voice over training in animation:
Adler-Zimmerman Animation Workshop (Burbank) (818) 759-1515 Aliso Creek Voice Over Workshops (Burbank) (818) 954-9931 Michael Bell’s Voice Animation Workshop (Hollywood) (818) 784-5107 Bob Bergen’s Animation Voice Over Workshop (Studio City) (818) 901-8714 Susan Blu’s Workshops (Sherman Oaks) (818) 783-9130 Beverly Bremers’ Creative Performance Workshop (Orange County) (800) 917-6807 Film Industry Workshops (Studio City) (818) 769-4146 Joanie Gerber (Mt. Olympus, Hollywood Hills) (323) 654-1159 Jill Lesly Jones Voice-Over Workshop (Del Mar) (760) 744-5544 Alan K. Lohr’s Voiceover Bootcamp (Glendale) (818) 569-5469 Joni Robbins Voice-Overs (Santa Monica) (310) 288-8235 Susan Silo Voice Over Workshops (West Valley) (818) 725-3820 Underground Audio (N. Hollywood and Hollywood) (805) 257-3727 The Voiceover Connection (Burbank, Santa Monica and Hollywood) (213) 384-9251 Voiceovers One-on-One (Tarzana) (818) 776-1866
The Internet Is Your Friend
The Internet, of course, is a great first resource for researching a career in voice acting. If you are looking for training workshops in your own area, you might try searching the information at VoiceDatabase (www.voicedatabase.com). The Web site VoiceChasers.org, "dedicated to the on-line recognition of voice actors," is also an interesting browse. There are also a number of new Web sites popping up where participants can showcase their unique talent and post resumes. For actors, musicians, dancers and everything else artistic, these sites promise to put one in front of the eyes that count. Also don’t forget Animation World Magazine’s Archives. Type in voice acting, voice over, casting and other related words and you’ll immediately tap into a wealth of resources. You can also post your resume in Career Connections and visit our Forums to chat with other enthusiasts. Also available over the Internet, in addition to advice and tips about the business, you can find videos and cassettes devoted to helping you learn. One example is Patrick Fraley’s cassette, "Creating Voices for Fun and Profit."
Once you plug into these communities then you will hear of new offerings. For instance, in Los Angeles, you can now network among voice over artists and casting directors by calling VOICES! at 1-800-AUDITION, or by visiting their Web site at www.800audition.com. If you are persistent and if you fine tune the art of digging, then you will be able to find the help you need to make your voice heard.
Gregory Singer grew up in Maryland and studied biology there. After a tour of service in the Peace Corps in Kenya, he finally wandered his way to Los Angeles, where he is presently a graduate student of film producing at Chapman University. Mr. Singer is also the assistant editor of the Animation Journal, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted to animation history and theory.