When someone sees you, they immediately judge you. Based on this spilt second instinct, they cast you as the zany neighbor or doctor but unless you are Meryl Streep seldom both. Robin Williams built that bridge yet most actors never will be given the chance to cross it.
The amazing thing about Voice Overs is that is allows me to do both seamlessly.
For example I get to pay my big bills being the authority and announcing my face off. When you sound like you know what you are talking about and make it approachable you play the expert or the doctor. However, Andrea from Summit Credit Union who is remodeling her kitchen and “loves the smell of sawdust in the morning” is a hoot to play. Quirk on the other hand, rules radio and I have a blast embodying women just like me. A little weird, a tad messy and highly expressive. These ladies are: wife of snoring husband for Mattress Giant, the non stop mom for Health Net, the matchmaker in the dialogue spot for McDonalds, tree hugger Liz who “just buys Cheerios at Walmart” and wants to “save the planet a little.”
From a very early age, I loved details. Raised on a farm, in a lush environment with tons of space, I was drawn to anything with accessories. In the early days, a container used for storing fishing tackle became my jewelry box or a berry picking straw hat and basket became my couture. I was endlessly fascinated by the joy in gobbley-de-goop. I find these playful lasses bring out all my unique changes of self thus satisfying to me. They are the equivalent of wearing all your Mom’s bakelite bracelets from her jewelry collection at the same time. They are decadent roles that are pulled off in 15 seconds. These gals are busy and on the go, just like me.
Although these added up may not pay off a college loan or buy a condo, they fill me with pleasure and handle incidentals like the standard dinner/movie combo.
Voice Over does not care how tall I am. It is not interested really in what decade of life I am in or the dress size I wear. I either have control over my voice, deliver the message the brand needs with a sound that is attractive to them or I do not. I call it the great equalizer because you can do it until you die like Lauren Bacall. It is not a respecter of persons, you either make the cut or you do not but it is never about external and for anyone with depth that has been overlooked. That is a relief.
I think all anyone wants is a chance. VO offers that and it is attractive to a dreamer.
In order to excel at Voice Over one needs an industrious spirit, a soaring imagination while being interesting and passionate about everything. A honed instrument. Unshakable confidence coupled with an over the top desire to win, a ton of sacrifice and an ability to handle massive challenges with joy.
I do not get paid on time. Sometimes for six months. I get ripped off. I do not know where my next gig is coming from. I sometimes wonder where in the world I will find the strength to top what I just did. Again. It is not about having a good voice, or being able to use it to do a million things with it. It is not about coming up with a signature that turns into a prototype. It is about character. And will. A decision to try. And start from the place of not knowing where to start and choosing to begin.
Leave everything you’ve loved behind and drive from wherever you are in the country without thinking to Los Angeles. Abandon everyone you’ve shared life with up till this point and blindly pour your self into building a new life in the loneliest city in the world. After all, Los Angeles stands for Loners Anonymous.
Somehow, leap over all catch 22’s and figure out in your own unique way — without anyone’s help — how to get in the Screen Actor’s Guild. You are now, as you may have realized a living miracle. Drive in your car to 5700 Wilshire Blvd. Spend a couple thousand on the initiation fees. Check.
Now join the sister union, American Federation of Television and Radio for fun. Spend another couple thousand for initiation fees. Check. At least they’re in the same building. Sidebar: In early 2012, history was made when members among SAG (82 percent) and AFTRA (86 percent) voted in favor to unite; 60 percent was required to for merger. The new organization, called SAG-AFTRA, was born on March 30, 2012. The two unions uniting offers quite a savings for new membership compared to previous years, when I joined each union separately. Individual initiation fees were each much higher when combined than the single fee you get to currently enjoy. Initiation fees are dependent on which region the country you live in. To satisfy curiosity, go to www.sagaftra.com for a list of local offices closest to your area.
Back to the journey.
Mail your headshot and resume to Kalmenson & Kalmenson, The Business of Voice Over Casting in Burbank, California off of Sparks Street/Olive. Or build a web-site with what I said in the sentence before and make sure to upload your mp3’s. Well, you are a super star, right? I am sure you have all your demos or will build them because it is so easy. Make sure to always have extra dough, creativity and passion on hand. Still with me? Oh. What is a demo? A demo is a demonstration of the work you are trying to get hired to do more of, indicating are qualified in your field.
Get a meeting with a decent VO agent. Get signed somehow. Try to get them to call you in for auditions so you can book that national campaign that appears so easy to snag, grab three more for fun. How? Figure it out.
Congratulations! You’re with a VO agency! Good luck booking a job out of the booth. What do you mean? It doesn’t matter because now VO agencies rarely have their own booth with professional recording equipment, a knowledgeable booth director who is hired to inspire you with solid direction. They also are your engineer and keep track of your timings, levels and submission process. Now you get to buy all your own gear and in addition to being the talent, you get to learn how to use it like the professionals and the new recording software while you are receiving email of auditions with deadlines from home. And act. Not complicated. At all.
Have you noticed EVERYONE all of a sudden honestly believes they have IT? The magic invisible factor that causes all doors to open like the automatic doors at the grocery store ushering them into six figure incomes as a professional voice over artist.
Daily, I am bombarded by endearing show offs turning on their voice of God reads during our conversations, without asking, demonstrating all the different they can do with their sound box as if I can wiggle my nose, manifesting contracts with their names printed on them. Passing sandwich boards in the Valley promising a VO class to break into to voice over and beyond cue eye rolls. Friends of friends at birthday parties announce, “EVERYONE tells me I have such a great voice, YOU should do voice over,” with polished tone but they insist that it is easy. That you can do it in your pajamas. Go back to bed and leave me alone. From now on, I want to be known as a nurse or researcher of the human soul. It’s what I get for opening my big fat mouth.
I know you are excited or curious so I will let the cat out of the bag.
This is what it takes to rock the mic: guts.
Break a Lip,