Business of Voice Over
May 20, 2002 - Tighe & Doyle Casting,
Panel Discussion with Producers/Engineers and Casting
Directors about the Business of Voice Over Work
Workshop Panel (L-R)
Jen Cobb - JetPak Productions, Mark Wile - WorthWile
Productions, Ollie Halliwell - World Wide Productions, Roger Lyons
- WBZ Productions
More About the Voice Over Business...
SO YOU'RE NOT JAMES EARL JONES?
Feature - Imagine News
Yada, yada, yada. We speak all day long. We act
out our words as drama queens, fragile princesses, knights in
armor, protectors, heroes and villains. We love, inform, sympathize,
bully and cajole without thinking about the range and tone evident
in our voices. However, stand up in front of a live mike, in a
room of people judging what you are saying and you regress to
that tiny terrified child reading aloud in second grade. T ripping
and stumbling over the words, sweat beading on your forehead,
the copy fluttering in your shaking hand. All the regulators that
were ever imposed on you come flooding back. The resulting read
is a gasping, ragged, breathless, wooden mess. Even as your brain
is screaming the words, your tongue is holding them hostage. The
pitch of your voice may be given to you at birth, but the ability
to act out words is a learned skill. That means lots of practice
and a good voice coach.
Wren Ross is a person to turn to. While you may
not recognize her on the street you most likely have heard her
voice. She has done so much in the field that she seems to be
everywhere. She is the voice of documentaries, ads, answering
machines and more. From Shear Madness to Nova to Songs of the
Holocaust, she has a great body of work and a passion for what
she does. She passes her experience along to both voice-over novices
and established talents in one-on-one coaching sessions or in-group
lessons. It is her ability to tear down those regulators that
enables her to bring on new talent and spice up experienced actors.
"Boston is a great voice-over secret"
Wren confesses. "There is so much opportunity here with corporate
training tapes, video games, and so much more".
While you may not have the voice of James Earl Jones
or Katherine Hepburn you do have your own unique sound. learning
to play it like an instrument is what voiceover lessons are all
about. For actors trying to break into the business it seems almost
impossible to make the leap from classroom to studio. To bridge
the gap Wren holds special sessions where talent and producers
meet to discuss their needs. These two groups often think of themselves
as "us" and the other guys as "them". Opening
up the communication lines helps to tear down those labels.
Recently, one of these communication sessions was
held at the casting agency of Tighe and Doyle. Thirty- five eager
students, demos in hand, were looking for the answers on how to
get noticed by producers and casting agents.
Four area producers gave up some of their precious
time to pass along what they have learned over the years; Jen
Cobb of Jet Pak Productions, Mark Wile of WorthWile Productions,
Roger Lyons, Producer for BZ Productions and Ollie Hallowell of
Ollie Hallowell World Wide Productions.
Successful submission of a demo CD is the first
step. What every producer or casting agent hopes to hear is the
"wow" factor. It is that indescribable moment when an
artist presents him or herself in such a compelling manner that
the listener is hanging on every word. It is the pin drop phenomenon.
The producers recommend that you put your best work
first. Keep the demo between 1 to 3 minutes in length. If you
want to be heard, you must be brief. Also they state that they
want to hear lots of variety in that short time span.
"Turn in a whole marketing package. The spine
of your jewel case needs to stand out and scream "PICK ME"
as we have hundreds of demos stored. You have to make yours stand
out from all the others." The members of the panel admit
they listen to every demo CD sent in, at least once. James Earl
Jones is the only James Earl Jones and that is just fine. Imperfect
voices can be valuable in certain situations. Almost as important
as the voice itself is the professional manner in which you present
yourself. You must be able to package, market and sell yourself.
You are your company and your talent is what you have to sell.
All the materials you submit should be professional in appearance.
For new talent, the problem always seems to be that
you need a resume to get a job but you need a job to have a resume.
Many seek that first break without a resume to back it up.
Mark Wile recommends that you send in a biography
if you don't have a resume. List your skills in your biography.
Are you multilingual? Can you ride a horse? We all have skills
outside our jobs and these can sometimes be needed. Wile also
recommends that novices take advantage of Community Theater. college
courses, small studios and even your local access cable station.AIl
of these add skills .and experience to bulk up your biography
and resume. One thing both sides of the equation agreed on was
their dislike of the audition practice. The actors dread the fact
that a few seconds can determine their fate. The producers say
they find the auditions to be time consuming. often non- productive.
hard work and difficult to measure. Once you know a voice in person
it seems as if you hear that voice everywhere.
That is often the case as most casting agents have
a stable of actors they turn to for many of their production needs.
However, since they never know when a certain look or voice will
be needed,they are always on the lookout for fresh talent. Sometimes
the client will have a different sound in mind for the product.
No matter how great you were in audition that can prevent you
from getting the job. This doesn't mean you stink, are hopeless,
or even that the producer is an idiot for not recognizing your
talent. It only means you have not been chosen as the voice they
envision for the product.
"The audition process is very subjective and
you need a thick skin. It is important that you stay positive
through rejection and keep trying;' says Mark Wile. " It
is all about perseverance. If you want it badly enough you will
Although there are plenty of voiceover opportunities
in Boston, getting that first job may take a while. The good news
is that you don't have to be a Jones or a Hepburn. There is place
for every voice somewhere in this business.