by Casting Director, Terry Berland
Actors are intrigued with the possibility of expanding into voice over work. The old school myth is that it is a closed field and unattainable. Voice over opportunities for actors have opened up in the last couple of years and are continuing to open. More talent agencies are opening up voice departments and more internet media sites are affording opportunities for actors to find voice work. It is easy to break into? No. But the playing field is equal; everyone starts at the same place.
Originally casting at a New York City ad agency it was natural for me to first cast the on camera portion of a spot and then the voice over. I have always been on the look out for “voice talent” when casting my on camera spots or going to theatre, comedy and improv. Many voice-casting people are following suit. Of course the biggest factor in opening up the field is the internet. But let’s face it, the internet has opened everything up causing change and resulting in more opportunities and more competition.
Many people have been told, “You have a good voice for voice over”. What does that mean? To me, not much, as each situation calls for a different kind of voice. I can be asked for a voice that sounds like a paramedic, policeman, financially successful, type A personality, an ant, a dog (I cast the Taco Bell Chihuahua voice), a big tire, urban, trustworthy, soothing, a boss, insecure, hip, contemporary or comedic edge… just to name a few.
You have to learn the technique. Learn how to express whatever you are feeling through your voice only. Paint the picture. Then there are different venues. There is a difference between a radio and a TV read, an announcer and a non-announcer, promo, narration and personality driven. There are also many opportunities such as television, radio, film, industrial, corporate films, video games, narration, CD books, voices in toys, animation and web.
There are many ways to market yourself now to get your own work, have a home studio and submit your own auditions over the internet, audition in your agent’s office or the casting director’s office. Talent would rather come indirectly to audition for a casting director, such as myself, because they know that a limited number of auditions are being submitted to the ad agency; the ad agency will listen to each audition and make their choices. Whereas when a breakdown goes out over the internet directly to agents (agents have voice booths in their office and do their own casting), or talent are submitting via an on-line service, there are most likely hundreds of submissions and you never know if your submission is really going to be listened to.
Your approach to a VO career should be planned to get the best results. Basically you need to learn the strong fundamentals to make wise choices and be able to execute your choices. You then go through a progress of levels of expertise and finally make a demo that you can actually live up to, as opposed to one that is edited to make you sound better than you are. You have to be able to audition well and perform well in the studio at the time of booking.
Actors love being in front of that microphone. They are always jazzed when they leave my auditions. They say it “feels good”. If someone is handing you a magic wand, run. It takes work, focus and know how. The good news is everyone starts out on the same level. It is a discovery process. Be aware that you have a focused approach to save you money and time.
Actors love voice-overs. What could be better? It doesn’t matter what you wear or what you look like. Oh, and when you book something it’s usually two hours in the studio. If you are in the fortunate position, you can book several jobs in one day. TV voices bring you a residual return, as does on-camera.
So if you want to do it, start training and start doing it. The elusive, ironclad gate has been opened up. Walk through it. It’s fun and it’s a great possible extension to your career. If anyone wants more details as to an approach, you can e-mail me at info@berlandcastingcom.
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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”