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Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a voice-over?
It's the use of a human voice to sell, inform or entertain in recorded or broadcast media, including radio and TV spots, on-air program promotions, recorded announcements and non-broadcast narrations for corporate audio and videos, phone lines, and for animation or cartoons.
I've been told I have a good speaking voice and should do voice-overs. How do I know if I really have the talent to succeed at this work?
Voice quality is only one aspect of success in becoming a voice-over professional. You also need to be able to take someone else's words (the script) and make them sound like your own credible, persuasive and motivating personal statement. That means developing solid acting and timing skills and techniques under professional tutelage. You’ll also have to put some time and money into developing a solid demo reel (on cassette or CD) to send out to the industry agents and organizations that represent and hire voice-over professionals. What will ultimately make the difference is you—having a very strong desire and persistence to succeed.
When I ask around I'm told that the same people (especially celebrities) do all the work. Is this true?
Realistically, the big name celebrities and voice-over pros get the big budget national work. But with thousands of radio and TV stations in the USA and each running hundreds of local spots a day for over ten thousand advertisers all over the country—not to mention all of the other voice-over productions—there’s plenty of opportunity for anyone with the professional skills, a good demo reel and persistence to break into this lucrative and exciting field. Because writers, producers, casting directors, agents and networks are always looking for that next fresh new voice.
I've heard you must join a union to do voice-over work. Is that true?
Not necessarily. One can be quite successful as non-union voiceover talent but there are some risks. As with joining any union, there are limitations as well as benefits in joining AFTRA (American Federation of TV and Radio Artists) or SAG (the Screen Actors Guild)—the two unions governing voice-over work. As you undergo your training, and learn more about the voice-over profession and the markets you wish to work in, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about the proper step for your particular career.
How much income can I make by doing voice-overs?
As in any other business, you can make a little or a lot—well into six figures annually— depending on your perseverance to succeed. But don't quit your day job. It can take years of perfecting your talent and skills, marketing yourself with or without an agent before you reach a higher level of success. Some will tell you luck is important. In my experience, trying harder and smarter yields more results. I have found the key to my success to be a "contagious enthusiasm" for the work.
If I have a "day job" can I build a career in voice-overs? They probably don’t hold auditions and bookings on evenings or weekends.
Right! Most voiceover sessions happen during normal business hours and they run about an hour. So you have to be realistic and resourceful. If you can develop flexible work hours or are able to ‘swap’ time with co-workers, that’s one way. Looking for a more flexible “day job” is another (i.e. an outside sales or service job in which you schedule your workday). Essentially, you have to have a realistic plan for training, getting your demo reel together, sending copies to industry people and following up with phone calls. And you have to work that plan with consistency and persistence if you’re going to get your voice-over career off the ground with that first audition and booking.
Do I need an agent or a manager?
As in all ‘talent for hire’ industries, agents provide a useful and valuable service. They allow producers to conduct their talent search more efficiently and can take care of a lot of details for you, including billing and collecting payments. Good ones really earn their 10% commission. If an agent wants to sign you, that’s a real vote of confidence in your ability. To make sure the agent is reputable, check with the local SAG or AFTRA office and with ad agency casting directors and producers. Then hire a lawyer to review and, if necessary, negotiate the contract. Just remember that an agent’s commission payment comes out of the funds received for a job that’s booked, completed and paid for—not up front! Agents work with talent two ways: freelance or exclusively signed. Freelance means you choose not to be exclusive, so several different agents can represent you. This may increase your exposure, but those agents are less likely to be as supportive and loyal as they might be if you were an exclusively signed client. If you cannot get an agent to represent you or if there are no talent agencies in your area, you can still get work on your own by sending your demo tape directly to casting directors and producers and following up religiously!
Do you need to live in a major city to succeed as a voice over artist?
No. Thousands of radio and TV spots are produced every day in smaller markets all over the country. Also, with new computer and telecommunications technologies, it’s possible to record the assigned copy locally—even in your own home ‘studio’—and electronically forward the work wherever in the country a producer needs it. This has made agents more receptive and willing to represent talent residing outside of their market area.
How do I get started?
First, find a competent voice-over coach to train you in the various professional techniques used in the industry and to help you create the demo reel you’ll be duplicating and distributing to agents, casting directors, production companies and to some of the TV and radio station promotion executives. Then, follow up with phone calls, reminder notes and e-mails. Now you’re in the game and practicing every day to improve and master your craft. By listening to radio and TV spots for styles, nuances and sounds—things that get your attention and impress you—you’ll find things you can incorporate into your repertoire to broaden your capability and underscore your distinctiveness. So you can become one of those voices that producers and casting directors think of first.
**** SESSION 3 RECORDING A SCRIPT NOTES
1. Review MOCISM Read and interpret copy by answering the questions: WHO …WHAT…WHERE…WHEN…HOW whenever applicable.
2. Timing Is Of The Essence
A. Once you've read and understood the copy, make your break marks and underline words you'd like to inflect.
B. Each reading begins with a full breath intake …then a one half exhale.
C. Test read the script with a stopwatch. Try your best to read it in the required time.
D. Your internal clock can be developed to amazing accuracy with practice. NOTE: Don't sacrifice the quality of the 'take' —emphasis, pacing, clarity, etc.—for absolute timing accuracy. The studio recording engineer can 'stretch' or ‘tighten’ a great ‘take’ by a second or two with electronic editing tools. As with most professional skills, they improve with experience and effort.
E. Use hand movements to feel and act out the copy, but NEVER move your head from the microphone placement, or it will distort your recording and you’ll have to repeat it.
F. Whether you stand or sit while recording copy is a personal choice. As a general rule, standing gives you better breath control and voice projection. Try it both ways when you record yourself to determine what works best for you.
G. As I said before, always try to have a cup of hot water, with lemon, with you when you go into an audition or recording session. It's a good habit to get into to keep your vocal chords relaxed. This is especially important when doing long recording sessions, such as narrations. (And of course, be sure to avoid coffee and tea.)
H. Always ask to hear a playback of your first few takes during an audition or a recording session. This is a vital audio reference point for the creative people—and yourself— to evaluate and make any necessary improvements or changes in the way you hear, feel or deliver the copy in the reading. Extra effort always helps to achieve that better final product everyone wants. All put together, music, sound effects and video, are aids to helping you produce the reading most desired by the creative team.
ED GREEN'S V/O-POWER™ VOICE-OVER Course RELATED SCRIPT: C-3 SESSION 3 RECORDING A SCRIPT (cont’d.)
3. Developing A Good Ear
A. Get into the habit of listen to and studying voice-over recordings from all sources: i.e. TV (Discovery Channel), movie trailers, news channels and radio advertisements. You can always find something interesting that you can apply to your own technique at a given time.
B. Start thinking seriously about the ‘messages’ and ‘attitudes’ that move and influence you personally. (Advertisers will love you for that . It’s what they spend all that money for.)
C. Pay attention to the 'sound effects' and 'music effects', so you become familiar with the mechanics of a commercial. As you get into this habit—and you must, if you're serious about a voice-over career—you'll start to understand the various styles and techniques of advertising, and begin to develop your ability to shape your reading styles.
D. Create a 'Notes' file on the spots you listen to. List the name of the spot, where and what time you heard it, what you liked or disliked about it, and what you would do to improve and make the voice-over performance more memorable.
4. BRAIN BULLETS: Sharpening Your Timing To A Pro’s Edge.
• Work with the same :30 announcer script and try to achieve different time objectives (i.e.: 3 or 4 seconds under, and then 3 or 4 seconds over the mark.)
• To sharpen your performance—if you haven’t done it yet, reconsider investing in an adjustable music stand and an inexpensive wall clock with a sweep second hand. Hang the clock so it's just visible over the top of the script as you practice tightening and stretching takes. I find it easier than using a stopwatch.
• Improving your physical conditioning improves breath control. Aerobics training, yoga, biking, a Stairmaster and other cardio activities help a lot.
• Always use a pencil to mark your copy.
For more information on this fabulous course, please visit http://edgreen.com/