What does it take to get a foothold in the extremely competitive field of voiceover? Practitioner and coach Abbe Holmes offers some insider’s tips
Let’s start by talking about what’s out there. Hundreds of voiceovers are produced nationally every week, mainly radio ads and promos, also called ‘imaging’, and mostly made in-house at the stations. In-house radio production caters to the ‘single event’ or ‘short campaign’ advertiser and the stations churn them out.
Of course, radio ads are not all written and produced in radio stations. Advertising agency-created ads, usually for a more extensive campaign, will have a bigger budget and, therefore, a higher creative content. They’re recorded in the mainstream sound-recording studios, which specialise in crafting stand-out, memorable, engaging, often award-winning product. Radio is my favourite medium to work in; it’s so spontaneous.
Television is next. Apart from the stations’ own promos or imaging spots, which are recorded in-house, most multi-channel television ads and campaigns are recorded at the high-end studios and have the largest budgets. Because of the high production costs, most are made for national release and designed to have a long shelf life.
There’s a big difference between voiceover performances for radio and for television. In radio, the voice actor is solely responsible for creating the visuals in the message. In television, the images and sound design are doing a lot of the work and it’s the actor’s role to marry his or her voice with these two elements. I love the challenge of creating a voice that fits with a television ad.
Abbe Holmes is an actor, voiceover artist and voiceover coach. She’s been the regular voice for such names as Garnier, Spotlight, Snooze, Forty Winks and NAB. This article was originally published in the Winter 2012 issue of The Equity Magazine, out now.
The next biggest area is ‘corporate’. It’s long- form narration, running several minutes, rather than seconds, and could be for things as diverse as a training video, a DVD about a new housing development, airline safety narration, website content, product launch, an informational for a company’s upcoming conference or e-learning… and that’s just a sample. The corporate area is big and growing. Then there is work, albeit more sporadic, doing on-hold messaging and interactive voice recordings (IVR), animation, foreign-film dubbing and audio-book narration.
The Equity Foundation regularly hosts Voiceover Workshops, free of charge to financial Equity members. View our events here.
So how do you get into voiceover? You make a voice demo. Warning: don’t even attempt this unless you know what it is that others will ‘buy’ about your voice, what you’re good at, what style of script you’re most comfortable with and where you’d fit in. You might not need a degree to do voiceover but you do need to know what you’re doing. Producing a demo without that knowledge is a waste of time and money.
So, if you’ve determined that you have the goods but have never stood in a studio, in front of a microphone, holding a script you’ve just seen for the first time, you’ll need some lessons. Find a voiceover coach who can work with you privately or who runs courses in a studio − and make sure it’s someone who’s working as a voice actor and uses ‘broadcast quality’ scripts to teach technique. Voiceover is not just about the voice − it’s also about understanding the advertiser’s message, comprehending key words and phrases, and knowing who you’re talking to, why, and what response you want from them.
Let’s jump forward. You’ve had some coaching and feel absolutely comfortable behind a microphone. It’s time to make a demo, then market it. You don’t really need to go to the expense of a CD; just attach an MP3 to an email, and send it to studios and radio stations, either personally or via your agent. Your aim is to build a relationship with studios, engineers and producers, so include a short covering note, telling them a little bit about what you do and what you’re good at, then let the demo do the talking.
Remember, your voice-acting career will never be as important to anyone else as it is to you, so the more work you do ‘well’ on your own behalf, the better off you’ll be. Voiceover, in all its forms, is about converting written word into spoken word in a way that informs, engages, charms, entertains and − this is why the client will keep booking you time after time − convinces the target audience to take action.
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