Getting the ball rolling
All of my life I've been told "You have a beautiful voice, you should be in radio, you could be that trailer guy!" or some variation on that. However, none of those compliments ever came with any steps or information on how to get there. I would find the phone numbers and addresses of local radio stations and attempt to make contact to figure out what to do. I'm realizing some years later why that route doesn't work primarily because it isn't their job to answer those types of questions and because the nature of production. The fast paced world of production doesn't have time for those that don't know what they are doing, and I'm honestly glad I didn't get in touch with anyone that mattered during a time where my understanding of the industry was at an all time low.
That process continued for a couple months until I really started to understand I needed to do much more research. My journey began with Google. I don't remember what I was searching for, but I found an "Introduction to Voice Over" class on Groupon that I took and was guided to pay for a $3000 program that would let me come out with a demo and website. Fortunately I didn't have the funds to satisfy my normally spontaneous nature so I continued the search. That class was hosted by a studio that was out of town and my training would mostly be completely online, so I found one that was local. They had an "Investigating your Voice" class that was set-up to determine whether or not voice acting was a viable career path as well as give insights into the industry. I learned quite a bit in the few hours we were there like the amount of money paid to voice actors in that year, the different genres of voice work that can be pursued, and that the training aspect is very real. While it may seem to be just talking into a mic and as long as you have a great voice you can make it, it isn't that simple. There is something called an "industry standard" and in each genre of voice over there are very specific trends that tend to be unique. While you could do the deep dive yourself into the trends of the industry from the outside in, it was explained that it's best to hire a coach to get insider information that will move you along faster. So I started to look into coaching.
This was a task in itself due to the fact that I didn't know what to look for in a coach, and the coaches generally had special areas of expertise. How as I to know which one to choose over the next? What would be my goals with this coach? What would we work on? Though my understanding of the industry was opening up, it had only presented me with more questions... better questions, but more questions none the less. It all came to me after attending the MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival) Convention in DC. The same way I would attend this event in order to connect to those working in the field I want to be in, I'm sure there had to be something similar for voice actors. I was absolutely correct and found the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences through the "Get Out There" podcast I had been listening to on Sound Cloud. They host the "That's Voiceover" Conference and the "SOVAS Awards" in California every year and needless to say, when I found out about it I wasn't going to be able to swing the cost of the conference and travel so it was a no go. However, I did find a convention on the East coast that really opened up my eyes.
"Voice Over Atlanta" is said to be one of the largest conferences of it's type in the area and it was right in my back yard. It was easily one of the most rewarding and educational professional events I've ever been to. I learned so much and connected with so many voice talents at various stages in their profession. I even got the thumbs up from a couple of legends in the game. Joe Loesch had a workshop called the piano of your voice and at some point he was asking volunteers to come to the mic. It was almost like time froze for a moment when he asked who wanted to read a mystery script. No one in the room of easily 150+ would volunteer, so I took my chances. I made my way to the mic, did the read, took direction, helped him make his point, and made a lasting impression on the attendees of his workshop. We spoke afterwards and he told me there was a reason he was the first person I met at the conference, that he was happy I accepted his invite to come to his workshop, and that he looks forward to witnessing my long successful career in the field. By the next day I realized I missed a time that I had signed up to do an audition with Bob Bergen so I went to where the auditions were being held to see what could be done. There were a few people who hadn't showed up so the organizer told me to hang close to see if they could squeeze me in. Unfortunately, they next group of auditions were going to take place and Bob was supposed to be finished for the day. The organizer told him I was there waiting and what happened and Bob graciously walked with me to a quiet end of the hallway and had me audition outside of the room. It lasted for maybe 10 minutes max, but again time slowed as I was directed to take the script in so many directions I hadn't imagined. We had a lot of fun and I imagine if he wasn't rushing we would've spent more time together talking music and massage therapy, but he was impressed by my natural abilities and told me to keep pushing and that I would definitely find success on this path. That is just a testament to the type of people that make up this industry, no matter what level they were at EVERYONE was willing to give of themselves to uplift someone that needed it.
The conference verified that this is a business and the skills I've been honing being self-employed for the previous 10 years has been great training. It also addressed the need for networking, which I started to build at VO ATL. We work in isolation in an industry of obscurity so loneliness can be real, but seeing how people were willing to connect and share made it so it doesn't have to be so lonely. Voice over Atlanta really lit a fire up under me and got me moving in a positive direction. Enough of a fire that I began auditioning and landed my first big role! I'll have to write a blog post about that one another time. Though I've landed a role and I'm moving forward I still know I need more training and after completing my first voice acting class at the Theater Lab in DC I'm ready to hire a private coach.
Now, when I think about what it takes to get started I think about the few people that I reached out to that are in the industry that said "money." It's probably the best answer I could give at this point. There is so much research to be done and lots of online resources that are free, but to put all that information into good use there is a bit of training that you are going to have to pay for one way or another (money and/or time). I would suggest getting active with social media groups were the professionals gather. On top of money and time, you have to have heart... As I've been told this industry is the most competitive in the entertainment industry, so being told "no" is a regular part of the gig. On top of that being able to get out of your comfort zone can be big in getting the job. That's actually the story of my first big job, and I'll share more about that another time.
Thanks for reading and if you are interested in any of the resources I use feel free to reach out to me and I'll be happy to share.