Giving back meant restoring faith in voice over humanity for Voice123 staff

Posted on April 16, 2012 by


This is a follow-up article regarding my trip to talk about voice overs with the theatre dept at Wagner College, my alumni. I first thought about doing this about 2 years ago, after I asked a professor to write a blog post for Voice123 called “We are all artists”.

What Friday’s class with about 30 theatre students interested in voice overs did was restore my faith in the voice over industry of tomorrow. Why? Negativity did not shake them. Do negative conditions exist? Yes. Is it dominant? No, not at all, but it certainly is easier to find out about them compared to 5 or 10 years ago. Who knew one day you would be able to tweet to the industry’s best?

The voice over community of tomorrow that I had met, ranged in age from 19 to 35 yrs old, some already with families, gave me a fresh perspective. Why? Happily, they are prepared. They know the risks and are ready to think beyond it. The students I met had the following going for them:

  • Acting skills
  • Business administration skills
  • The understanding of what it means to have an offline image and an online image
  • They looked at some of the examples I showed them of ways people communicate, and knew what worked and what did not
  • I played demos from profiles like Lani Minella, Adam Behr, and they could tell me what made their demos so special. (Some knew of the work they heard of and could place where it came from on sound alone)

Keep in mind, these students walked in the room and told me they knew nothing about the voice over industry. They are artists-in-training and knew the “sound of being an artist”, not the name or credits. One thing in particular that made me very happy was when a student stated to me, “I just wanna work.”, and several other students jumped on his statement by saying, “It’s not as easy as that. There is more to it.”

What told me there is going to be a need for education on all levels of the voice over industry was when I explained the different branches of voice over work that comes from an animation film release, and I went through the step-by-step process of how and why a voice talent was hired from Voice123 for Toy Story 3. These students were not aware of the voice over work in the fields of new media. Yet, what truly impressed me was the amount of self-respect they had for themselves to know you cannot just run back to a dorm room, grab a computer mic, and start working. In fact, the one person who mentioned the idea of trying this was quickly told, “You know that wont work. Don’t even try it”.

It was very hard to not be impressed by their copy reading skills, coming straight out of acting and improvisation classes. Many of them preferred reading behind a mic for its anonymity. All of them knew it was pointless to be a on a website with a professional demo because, “I don’t see why anyone would wanna promote themselves without one, if the business is voice overs.” The question did come up, where I was asked about “paying to audition”. I did do a cost breakdown as to how much it cost me in 1995 just to get 4 auditions ($5000), and we had a LONG discussion on spotting garbage (my words) websites and how to know the difference, or how when I started in college I was told, “You have no chance in this business.” I did do a bit of evangelizing on the hypocritical nature of this business; how you must stay close together with the very people you compete against because one day they will help you get work, and vice versa, which is something they learned in school by auditioning against each other while living in the same dorms.

The class was to go from 1-4pm. True to my style, it lasted until 6:30pm. By the time it was done, there were 2 students left who seemed more excited than anyone else to be attending the class. At the very end, they both asked me, “Do you think I have the voice for this business?”.

I replied, “Do YOU think you have the voice for this?”.

His friend said, “He wont say no. What do you expect him to say?”.

I just laughed and said, “It’s getting late. Let’s get outta here.”

On the way out, I told them both, “You guys have more of a chance of making it in this business because you stuck around for 2 1/2 hours, and practiced more. That is what it is all about. Today’s voice over world offers lots of “free” information online that you once went broke finding out. Unless you practice, you wont know who to listen to and why, first, and if you don’t practice…you will only be as smart as your next Google search. You always have to put the work in, even if all that info online looks fun and free. There is something new to learn everyday.”  For example, one of the students who stayed attended a free Talk With a Pro call I did with Edge Studio last week, and he found out it relevant to his theatre career. (taking care of your voice)

Restored faith? Yes. Why? Because I met students who are smart enough to make a better voice over world for the future with the understanding it is all about “choice”.