For Voice Actors
Tiffany Grant, a voice actress who has worked in anime since 1994, gives advice about developing a voice acting career. She shares tips about joining workshops or initiatives to develop your skills, finding opportunities, creating a demo reel and building a home studio.
Joining Workshops or Initiatives to Develop Your Skills
Importance of Acting Classes
Take acting classes. Besides innate acting ability, the two most important skills a voice actor must master are cold reading and improvisation. This isn’t to say that you’re very often going to have to completely improvise your dialogue, but it better prepares you for last-minute changes that always occur.
What Will You Learn?
The operative word is ACTING, so my strongest recommendation is that aspiring voice actors avail themselves of various workshops and classes from a multitude of teachers. Remember, it’s not essential to be able to “do” lots of different voices. You’re creating a character, not “doing a voice.” It’s far less important to be able to do impressions or many drastically different sounding voices than it is to be able to create many different believable characters who all sound like you.
Find a Mentor
You will surely find that some instructors/mentors resonate with you more than others, and you are almost certain to learn something from each of them. Don’t think that only one approach or one person has all the answers.
It’s difficult to say who you would relate to without actually taking that class. Of course, you may read a lot of reviews to let you know what others thought of this instructor and the class, but that is no guarantee it will be just as helpful to you.
As long as you aren’t being asked to invest many hundreds of dollars in advance -- or thousands!! -- which can be a red flag in itself, there’s no harm in taking a $50 or $100 workshop. I did several webinars last year, and I know I learned something from each one. Every coach had a different approach, and I implemented several techniques from what I heard. Some advice I liked, some I disagreed with, but it’s helpful to get ideas from lots of different people.
I very much recommend looking at a person’s background and credits before taking the class to see if that meshes with your interests. If you’re interested in working on audiobooks, search for someone who has that experience.
Even if you think you might not be interested in pursuing live theatre, I firmly believe that’s the best place to begin to develop your skills. Almost every voice actor -- or any kind of actor -- I know got their start in theatre. When it comes down to it, all acting is about storytelling and communicating with an audience. Being able to relate authentically to an audience is what it’s all about.
Using Sites/platforms/networking events to Find Jobs and Opportunities
Nowadays there are SO many different sites and platforms available to actors/voice actors, none of which were available to me when I was starting on this career path 27 years ago! Aspiring performers have so many avenues to learn from and hone their talents.
I’m hesitant to endorse any specific site/platform, but I will offer this as a note of caution:
Many sites/platforms have memberships or fees to use their services. This is not necessarily bad, and I do participate in these types of ventures. However, it’s very important that you thoroughly research any of them before you sign up. Look at reviews, see if there are any additional costs. Know what you are getting into.
Of course, nowadays you can always start your own YouTube channel/vlog/web comic/visual novel, etc., so there’s always that option. Plus there are lots of fan made projects that you can work on to gain experience to start out with. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. All actors constantly have many irons in the fire when it comes to looking for work.
Also, be patient and have reasonable expectations. A really good booking rate is maybe 5% of the jobs for which you audition. You shouldn’t expect you’re going to do ten or twenty or even fifty auditions and necessarily book anything. This job can make some people feel the rejection personally, but this is the reality of the business, and it’s not personal.
Creating your Demo Reel
I do not advise newcomers to create their own demos. You need to be working with a professional producer, director or coach who can help you create a quality product that sounds professional. It should be fully produced with a music bed, effects, etc. It’s a potentially lethal early blow to your would-be career to send out a lousy demo. People in a position to hire you might not give you a second chance when you finally produce a great demo.
Casting directors, directors and producers are listening for someone who sounds compelling and engaging. Someone who grabs their attention. A director friend of mine was once listening to a guy’s demo and thought he had some pretty good character work on there until she realized he thought he was doing impressions. His impressions were terrible, however, and it was obvious to her that this was someone who didn’t have a good “ear” and wasn’t likely to take direction well.
Following A Director’s Instructions
Ultimately, directors want someone who can listen to feedback and immediately incorporate that into a performance. This is not easy to get across in a demo, but you need to be prepared for this if you’re called upon to do an audition based on your demo.
I have often said that “directors know what they want when they hear it.” If you aren’t sure what a director means, try a new take on the line that you think is what they want and say, “Oh, do mean more like this--your new read.” That’s certainly one way to handle it. And a lot of it falls on the performer, if a director says to me, “make her older/younger/gruffer/softer” I have to know how to deliver that. If you have been hired, this is not an acting class. The director expects you to know how to do what they are asking.
Building a Home Studio
Fortunately, this has become a lot easier in the past decade than it used to be! It used to be thousands of dollars to have even a basic setup, and that’s now hundreds for a decent beginner setup.
I am not an expert on sound engineering, but I can tell you that the overwhelming advice I hear from directors and engineers is that you want a good condenser mic like a Rode NT1-A or an AudioTechnica AT2020 with a suitable preamp and a decent pair of headphones. VERY importantly, you need to treat your space as best you can. If there’s room noise, it doesn’t matter how good your mic is.
You will need audio software as well, and you can definitely start out with Audacity which is free and easy to use. I also use iZotope RX audio editor as an easy way to clean up little clicks and plosives.
I’d definitely recommend doing your research before investing too much money, and there are many sites, blogs and YouTube channels with lots of advice on this topic.
In my opinion, the biggest mistake I see/hear about is people thinking that they can become a voice actor with little or no investment at all, and that’s not possible. While you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars in one pop, you’re dooming yourself to failure if you set yourself up with a USB mic in an untreated room and a do-it-yourself demo. All that said, if you really have your heart set on an acting career, you won’t be easily deterred.