Do You Have What It Takes to Succeed in Voiceover?
Written by Terry Berland for Backstage
I have always cast both on-camera talent and voiceover for commercials, starting my career casting on staff at various ad agencies in NYC. At that time, the voiceover field was made up of a very exclusive group of New York and L.A. actors, and a limited amount of agents who represented them. Voiceover was pretty much a “closed field”—but not anymore.
Voiceover Opportunities on the Rise
The old school ways of voiceovers being close to unobtainable to break into are gone. Voiceover opportunities for actors is a wide-open field. In fact, it’s the Wild West out there. Talent agencies are opening up voice departments, and more Internet media sites are available affording opportunities for actors to find voice work more than ever before. Does that mean it’s easy to break into? No! But the playing field is wide open and equal. Everyone starts at the same place: ground zero.
Know Yourself, Know Your Voice
Every client wants interesting choices. I, myself, bring in actors for voiceover castings from past auditions, who I know will do a great job, but also spice up my casting sessions with talent I know from my on-camera castings or whom I’ve seen in theater productions around town. Agents are also constantly looking for new talent to keep their rosters fresh. But to audition well and do well at a final booking, you need to know what you are doing. You need to know how to make specific choices and also follow direction from the creative team.
The Voiceover Demo
Your calling card will be your voiceover demo. A big tip I can give you is, don’t waste your money to have your demo produced before you are ready. Any good demo producer can make you sound good by over-editing. But you’re wasting your money having a demo that sounds good if you don’t know how to make the right choices, execute your choices, and take direction.
Your voice is your instrument and you are the conductor. Voiceover is based on acting, but has its own unique technique. Some knowledge of technique you should know before you spend money on producing a demo include:
- Know the characteristics of your voice, known as your voice personality or your voice print. This is known as your branding.
Know how to make choices as to what kind of read you will give from the direction you are given or from reading the storyboard and/or on-camera direction.
- Know how to make choices as to what kind of read you will give from the direction you are given or from reading the storyboard and/or on-camera direction.
- Know how to execute many subtle differences. Some of which are non-announcer/announcer, warm, strong, upbeat, driven, inspirational, positive, and compassionate, just to name a few.
- Know the difference between TV and radio reads. The television read supports the picture, whereas the radio read creates the visuals.
- Know how to voice to music or visuals, sometimes referred to as donuts and pretzels. Many times your voice comes in between music. The music will be played for you and you will need to time your reading and be able to execute the right energy to go along with the music or visual. One space to insert your voice is referred to as a donut.
- Two or more spaces are referred to as a pretzel.
The trend now for voices of many spots is “real” and raw, not polished. Voiceovers can be another venue for your acting career. Have a plan for success. Start with knowing the basic technique and grow from there.