THE MOST COMMON VOICE OVER QUESTIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS:
I hear these all the time, so let’s get them out of the way.
“Getting into voice overs is easy.”
“Thinking about getting into voice-overs” is like “thinking about becoming an Olympic athlete.” There is a path to it for those few who are right for it, but it’s much more involved and difficult than most think. It is a sustained project that demands considerable focus, resources and time– in addition to talent.
“I do funny voices and impressions that my friends like, so I’m ready to be a voice actor.”
This is a common misconception. The ability to do impressions or accents doesn’t necessarily make you voice actor material. Doing “funny voices” isn’t voice acting per se either. While Mel Blanc did a lot of “funny voices,” they were funny because he was a brilliantly good actor and comedian.
Some entertainers are terrific mimics– they can repeat phrases and physical mannerisms, but couldn’t act that character in a show to save their life. Some good actors, on the other hand, can wield character range and impressions like a super power (Peter Sellers in “Doctor Strangelove” leaps to mind). Mimicry could get you some work, as long as what you do is beyond merely “copying” of a sound. Your job is to fully realize a three dimensional character. You’re an actor not a photocopy machine. There’s a big difference.
“I’m thinking about getting into voice overs as a quick way to supplement my on-camera acting income.”
Trust me– it won’t be quick or easy or necessarily all that lucrative (at least for a while). Whether you are already an established actor or not, pursuing voice acting is like opening up a new front in a war. You will have to devote sustained resources and focus to winning and maintaining ground. Casual pursuit of a voice acting career will yield no results.
“Voice actors aren’t real actors.”
Oh, boy… hold up there. Whether you soliloquize on a stage in a fancy shirt, or perform in front of a camera or speak in front of a microphone– you are an actor. And a good actor is what you must first become in order to have a shot in voice overs. While you don’t need to look far to find “on-camera” performers who aren’t particularly good actors, you’ll be hard pressed to find bad actors with voice acting careers. The exception to this might be certain “famous people” who are hired to lend their voice to animated projects (with mixed results). And please don’t ask a voice-actor if they would ever consider going into a career as a “real actor.” You probably mean “on-camera actor.”
“I want this so bad. And if I want it enough I can make it!”
Nope. Wanting a voice over career badly is not nearly enough. You need battle-tested talent, confidence, persistence, and business smarts as well to have a shot at “making it.”
“I have to be a “stage actor” to do voice acting.”
It can’t hurt, but no. While many voice actors have stage experience, many come from other backgrounds. Some are also good singers, or have done stand up or improv. They might have started as musicians, sounds engineers, animators or writers. Most all career voice actors have had professional (paid) live performing experience before turning to voice overs.
“Once I get my big break, I’ll not need to work so hard at auditioning.”
Not exactly. It may be easier to get auditions and work when you are a “known quantity” to those who cast and create, you’ll have to continually earn your momentum from the “gate keepers” of employment. There is a constant influx of creators who are new or young and may not be familiar with your resumé or reputation, so you never stop having to prove yourself in the audition arena.
“I’ve got loads of talent, so I’m ready to make it!”
Okay, you need a lot of talent, but talent is baseline out here. It isn’t enough to stand out and sustain a career. Certain competition-based TV talent shows perpetuate the myth that all it takes is “talent,” and “being discovered” to “hit it big.” That is basically a lie. In reality, you gotta have a long game, not just a short game to be a career actor.
“I need to do a ton of voices and accents to make it in voice acting.”
Versatility is one of the keys to ongoing employment for many voice actors in animation. But a few can make a career of being cast mostly in one type of role– Eddy Deezen, Edie McClurg, Ron Perlman, for example, mostly get cast to do their established archetype, and that’s great! Notice how these actors have already established themselves in the on-camera world first. Many others who work a lot in v.o. are hired not just for their acting skill, but also for the range of characters they can portray– sort of like session players in music who are hired to play all sorts of music day in and day out. There are also realms of v.o. (promo, for instance) where a voice actor may be hired to do only one kind of “read” or voice. But even there, acting skill is still needed.
“Once my career starts up, it will be smooth sailing from there.”
Rarely ever true. An actor’s life is freelance. Your employment term lasts as long as your gig (maybe a couple hours) and rarely do you actually get the relative security of a contract. You are what we call a “day player–” hired to work for one day and that’s technically the end of it. An actor’s life isn’t about stability. If you have a problem with failure, rejection and irregular periods of work, you might want to consider a less volatile profession.
“It’s nearly impossible to break into the “inner circle” of those who work constantly.”
Fortunately, not true. The voice over industry is always open to a fresh voice who is ready to deliver the goods and hold their own. It may take time, but a new talent who is ready has a decent shot at “finding their way in.” Sometimes being an unknown hotshot can be an advantage when a creator wants to cast a fresh new voice.
A final tip: Don’t mistake what should be your hobby for your career:
Find your career at an intersection of what you love and what you’re good at (so good that people will actually pay you money to do it). You may not yet know what this is and finding it may take years of trial and error. The intersection of what you love and what you’re not that good at is properly called “your hobby.”