Answerman So You Want To Be A Voice Actor
by Zac Bertschy, Nov 14th 2003
Alright folks, we're taking it easy today and just answering one question. We thought this would be informative for many of you out there who are interested in becoming voice actors. All of this is culled from personal experience and through interviews and discussions with successful voice actors.
My name is Rosalind Chen and I'm 12 years old.I live in Canada. I'm really interested in becoming a voice actor. How do I become one and what will I need to do to become one?
Rosalind, there are many things you can do to become a voice actor, and since you're starting at a very young age, you can take all the right steps. First, nobody really aspires to be a voice actor; most people aspire to be an actor, and voice work comes as an extension of that. Acting is a marvelous craft, something that's going to take the full force and dedication of you life if you want to be successful at it. Immediately you should start taking drama at school. Every school has a drama program, get heavily involved in it and start taking it seriously. Once you graduate high school, make sure you've been in drama for your entire school career up to that point. You'll also want to attend as many local plays and traveling broadway shows as possible; try and make friends in the acting community if you can. You need to experience acting at its fullest. Criticize the performances you see, take mental notes when you see a performance you particularly like or dislike. When you watch a movie, pay careful attention to the acting and learn what you think makes for good acting. Since you want to focus on voice acting, you'll also need to watch a lot of cartoons, made for both children and adults; watch American productions, and American dubs. Learn what the differences in acting are between a show for kids and a show for adults. Watch for nuances in the acting; how and why someone chose to read a line in a specific way. Be familiar with good and bad voice actors. Pick your favorites and watch their entire body of work. Do research. Watching and doing go hand-in-hand together, and if you have a vast knowledge of the craft, you'll be better prepared than the competition.
Once you get out of school, you'll want to go to college right away and enroll in the theater arts department. Do yourself a big favor and double-major in Media Arts, and take video and audio production classes. There's nothing wrong with focusing on voice acting, but you'll have a big leg-up if you're familiar with audio production and all the terminology therein. Don't rely on classes alone to propel your career; immediately seek acting experience in college comedy troupes and local production troupes. All college campuses have at least one or two comedy troupes (my college had four), and they provide excellent acting experience, since improvisation is one of the hardest and most valuable things you can learn as an actor. Local theaters also have amateur productions and semi-professional shows, so you'll want to look around and get involved in those. Volunteer to be in and audition for every student film on campus, if you can. If you start building your acting resume right when you enter college rather than waiting to do it after you get out, you'll have a resume that blows the competition out of the water, and you'll be about four or five years ahead of everyone else. Throughout all of this, make sure you're keeping up, watching new movies and new cartoons and keeping an eye on industry news, and upcoming stars. If you're really wanting to become a voice actor and you don't know who Jim Cummings or James Flinders are, you'll be at a serious disadvantage.
Once you have all that experience, you'll need to move to a city that actually has opportunity for you. ADV Films is located in Houston (a city you may want to consider for college), which has a huge theater community that is routinely tapped for dub work. Getting in there may require some connections, but if you've worked throughout college, this may not be much of a problem for you. ADV currently hires many many actors and holds many auditions for a number of roles, and will probably be your best bet. You'll need to show up at every single potential audition, no matter where you go. Scour the newspapers and job websites every day for new information. If you've done all of this before you go to your first audition, they'll take you seriously and you might even get a bit part. Remember that places like ADV are interested in hiring actors who love the craft, not just anime fans who think they can act because they've watched a lot of dubs. Be aware that for every one job you get, you'll be rejected from a hundred others, but you can't let that get you down. You need to keep plugging along and roll with the punches. If Houston doesn't work for you, then you'll have to go to Los Angeles. Look for work in the radio business or minor voice acting roles, and start making a name for yourself. The competition in both cities is unbelievably fierce, so be prepared to do whatever it takes to get the street cred to get acting jobs around town. My editor, who's also Canadian mentionned that there is also a bit of a dubbing industry in Vancouver and if moving to the states isn't an option, you could look there. But the US definitely has a bigger industry, with more opportunity.
If you've got all the ammo I've mentioned thus far, it might not be a big problem for you. Once you start getting more and more roles, you may become the favorite of a director or casting producer, and you'll get hired routinely. As an actor, you'll probably be freelance for the rest of your life, so get used to having to constantly look for the next job (or hold a second job in the meantime) in order to put food on the table. It will be a hard life, but if you have the drive, the dedication and the determination, you can do it!
So, good luck, and I look forward to seeing your name in the cast list
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