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Voiceover Artists in the Spotlight

I’ve been working as a voiceover artist for many years now. I’ve seen a lot of the changes over the years with new technology, P2P sites, the rise in training, coaches etc. Voiceovers used to be an unknown job. It was the job that resting actors did and they didn’t talk about it. There was only a handful of voiceover artists who were booking all the work. Back then all work came via your voiceover agent. Fast forward a few years and there are more voiceover artists now than there have ever been. The internet has had a big role to play in this and home studio equipment being more accessible now that it’s ever been. But being a voiceover artist is not an easy career choice and it takes a lot of hard work, talent, persistence and dedication.

What does it take to be an Audiobook Narrator

I’m running late, grabbing the last of my things phone, headphones, wallet, bag …..check. KEYS! Out the door. It’s a beautiful sunny day in London as I make my way to the bus stop. I get out my phone, plug my headphones in and go to my Audible app. I’m midway through a brilliant Audiobook and I can’t wait to get back into it. The narrator’s voice comes into my ears and starts telling me the story. I’m on my way into town for an audition and I am loving every minute of the journey as I am engrossed in a wonderful audiobook.

We live in an amazing time. Technology is moving so fast and we are very lucky to be in the age of the Audiobook BOOM. The Audiobook industry is growing at an incredibly fast rate and is currently worth $3.5 billion Dollars (according to goodreader.com). There are more audiobooks being recorded now than ever before and more and more audiobook narrators are needed to record them. 

Our LA story
by Lorraine Ansell
Thursday, 24 November 2016

One morning in October, as the leaves were falling off the trees, I checked my phone. Messages were pouring in. What on earth was going on? “Well done” and “Amazing news” were just some of the comments. What had happened? I had been nominated for a Society of Voice Arts and Science award. I sat there stunned. What an honour to be recognised by the great and the good in the voice world. When I read the nominees list, I saw some fellow Brit VOs nominated, others said they were coming along. We fast became a force to contend with: we talked about what to do, who to meet, where to stay and - of course - what to wear. LA was calling….

A high tide raises all boats

DAVE FENNOY WEEKEND 2017- by Isi ‘The Scribe’ Adeola

 

Nowhere was this truer during the two days I spent with fellow VO friends and colleagues and the absolute mensch that is Dave Fennoy. 

Dave is someone I affectionately call the ‘Morgan Freeman of video games’. He has one of those distinctive, baritone voices that drips with charisma and gravitas, as well a laundry list of voice acting credits too long to list.

Narrating for the BBC by Gabriel Porras

I had the privilege of narrating BBC 2’s documentary series “Mexico: Earth’s Festival of Life” (screened May and then December 2017). “Mexico: Earth’s Festival of Life” is described as “a landmark series revealing Mexico’s astonishing wildlife, landscape and culture in three distinct worlds – great mountain ranges, tropical forests and scorching deserts”. 

Needless to say, booking a series of such quality and large exposure doesn’t happen every day (to me at least).

Women and Games by Adele Cutting

Twenty years have passed since my first job in the games industry. Back then, development roles were dominated by men. I was the only woman in the audio department and I think there was also a female artist. Nowadays, there is a greater swell of women working in the games (albeit far from a 50/50 split). As such, women now have a greater influence on games development than ever before.

Be In Your Talent Without Arrogance

How did you first get into voice acting?

My parents both majored in theatre with a radio minor. Mom went off to do repertory theatre and voice overs, Dad went from acting and directing, to opening up an advertising agency.

Growing up around theatre folks, it was natural I would follow into the arts and the footsteps of my voice over folks.

I think if I had said, “I’d like to be a lawyer or a doctor”, my parents would’ve thought I was crazy. In my family it was always best to major in the arts with a backup of mime and juggling.

I went to Emerson College for two years and finished my theatre degree at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. When thinking about jobs, I thought “I wonder if I should have my Dad make me a demo reel and I could do voice overs as a side hustle before breaking into Broadway”. He did!

Back to NYC and I was dating a lovely young man whose mom was NYC’s biggest voice over coach and demo producer, Alice Whitfield. I had the HUGE blessing of having a one on one coach/mentor for months. We’d coach in the a.m. and then I’d run to Macys in midtown Manhattan to the Chanel counter to spritz people with perfume.

I remember the days in NYC when I ran all over town, to casting agencies, big advertising agencies and occasionally you’d read at your agent’s office. It was exhausting and exhilarating, especially as I added Improv in the mix at Gotham City aka The Groundlings East.

I was absolutely obsessed with crazy characters (imitating everyone!) and moved out to LA to do animation voice over and sitcom television. I took whatever animation classes and “meet the casting directors’ nights” LA had to offer. My voiceover world quickly expanded into animation as well.

 

 

You’ve had lots of amazing roles in some very well-known animated series/movies. Do you have a favourite?

Every role has held such a special place in my heart and career. From my first series as tough and feisty Lieutenant Felina Feral in Hanna Barbera’s Swat Kats, being cast to voice opposite Seth MacFarlane’s Larry and Steve (the pre Family Guy short), The Boss in the popular Metal Gear Solid video game series, to Marvel’s 1994 Fantastic Four, playing Sue Richards The Invisible Woman.

Family Guy and SpongeBob Squarepants happened in the same year, 1999. Who knew that would change my life forever - Diane Simmons The Anchor Woman, is homage to my mom, while Pearl Krabs is the most fun, spazziest girl who’s still 16!!

Working on Wall-E, Monster’s University, CarsToons, Inside Out, Bonnie’s Mom in Toy Story 3 & 4 and hundreds of other crazy ladies, teenagers and critters, have all challenged and enhanced my acting and improv skills and has also been some of the most rewarding, fun and beautiful chapters in my life. No favorites, all so wonderful. I feel so GRATEFUL – and old - as I write this! LOL

 

How did you get the role of ‘Pearl’ in SpongeBob Squarepants and what is it like to play her?

In the audition description, she was larger than everyone else under the sea. I knew she had to have this low voice but still be a teenager, where she was kind of lovably spoiled. I just tried to make her like a girl that goes to the mall and then give her a big sound. I always try to give somebody a little something like a laugh. She ended up with a laugh and a cry that are now built into the character 20 years and going strong.

I loved playing Pearl because she's a flirt and she's a daddy's girl and she's just excited about life. If any of my characters were the most like me, it's her. Just goofy and happy and pom poms, you know, trying to cheer everybody else up. I'm not as spoiled as Pearl, but I adore playing her.

We get to all go in together as a group unless you're just doing pickup lines, so every time I have the most ridiculous time, I'm so grateful and it's so fun. They're writing more and more for the women on the show so that's exciting as we go into our 20th year.

 

What was is like to work as the voice of the mother in Toy Story 4?

Very emotional and very fun because it's very natural. It's hard not to get a little awestruck when I've gone up to Pixar, or when I go onto the Disney stage, but it's really neat. You're improvising eight hours a day, then sometimes you will get these roles that come up out of the big group of sessions. It's really exciting to know that as the character of Andy went off to college, everyone was like, "What's going to happen at the end of Toy Story 3. The journey continues in Toy Story 4 so it's been an absolute honour.

 

How has the industry changed since you first started?

There's such an influx of people, they want things now. And faster.

The reads, at least over here in the U.S. - the real read, the non-announced read - is to be more relatable, to give hope, to get hope, to inspire, to be inspired, more storytelling in nature. Even the promos and animation are a little bit pulled back.

Just like the trends and the sounds change, so does what the clients want and how they want it.

Take private coachings, get into an improv class, take classes.

There's a huge influx of non-union. As a union girl, I grew up with my mom, the SAG-AFTRA president in the Washington, D.C. Local, and I did my homework in the back while she would chair a meeting. So when people go non-union and work off the card, they're undercutting their fellows.

 

What advice would you give those wanting to work in animation?

Classes, improv, explore and remember all the characters in your own life. Anyone that's deeply ingrained. Accents you do really well, you should really showcase those on your demo and then when you're auditioning, if you don't do them well, make them a hybrid, fun, weird thing. I really encourage people to draw on and keep a note, like an actual note card, of all of the accents you do well or poorly, so that you can draw on those when you get a script.

 

How do you look after your voice?

I vocalise every single day. I warm up, and I warm down. I take voice lessons. I no longer have anything minty or eucalyptus. All the things that have menthol eucalyptus completely dry your throat out. You want your mouth and throat to be lubed up, so nothing that dries it out, not even tea. Entertainer's Secret (a glycerin spray), Grether's Pastilles are great, I like the actual throat tea because it has slippery elm and licorice root in it. It's a good reason to have like hard candies, anything that just the thought of it makes you salivate. I steam and I will even bring hot water to a session and just put my nose over it like if you have a cold. It will just open up those sinus passages. You want them moist and the hot water keeps the swelling down. You especially want to warm down your voice after a session. In the morning hydrate with almost a litre of water and hydrate throughout the day, because the minute you become thirsty, you're already dehydrated. I have one cup of coffee in the morning and that is it.

 

How important would you say training is for voiceover artists?

It's everything. You have to be a good actor. You're not just like, "Oh I have a cool voice, I should get into voiceovers." I hear that every day, and it makes me crazy. You have to know how to relate to somebody in the scene. Get back into a good acting class because for your demo or for a scene on audition, we need to hear the relationship. How do you feel about them? You can add on emotions and triggers.

 

What do you enjoy in your free time?

I love rescuing animals. I love not eating them. I do anything for animals that I can. I advocate for women's rights, animal rights. I just try to go volunteer because this business is very narcissistic and it just is. Take care of you first so you have reserves to call upon to be there for other people.

 

Do you have any inspirational quotes or mantras that motivate you?

Be in your talent without arrogance. It's humble things, go find something creative, find a hobby, find recreations. Find a way to flesh out your full, rich life.

 

Lori Alan

Actress, Producer, Coach

www.lorialan.com

What advice would you give those wanting to work in animation?

Classes, improv, explore and remember all the characters in your own life. Anyone that's deeply ingrained. Accents you do really well, you should really showcase those on your demo and then when you're auditioning, if you don't do them well, make them a hybrid, fun, weird thing. I really encourage people to draw on and keep a note, like an actual note card, of all of the accents you do well or poorly, so that you can draw on those when you get a script.

I have a Dream

The VoiceOver Network is about bringing the industry together to be Inclusive not Divisive

It is very hard to avoid it these days. Everyone is talking about it, what’s been said now, who said it and why? I’m talking about negative campaigning and fake news. It’s something that years ago we would have been horrified that people would accuse the media of reporting fiction as opposed to fact. But now it’s talked about all the time and no one bats an eye lid. It has become part of everyday. 

VO Atlanta by Karis Pentecost

In 2018, whilst at a VOND event in Central London, I found myself in the midst of a gaggle of voice actors, talking about this incredible voice over conference in America, VO Atlanta. What was this? Why did they all look so hyped? Well I didn’t care what it was, anything that made a group of grownups that excited, had me sold from the start. I wanted to feel like that. I wanted to feel THAT excited about something! So after awkwardly muscling in on their conversation, I marched over to Rachael Naylor (who I barely knew at the time) and said

“I’m coming!”

“Ummm ok sure” she said “Where’s that now?”, looking confused

“In 2019, I WILL go to VO Atlanta” and with a slightly startled, scared but excited look in her eyes, she said

“Yes! Ok! Great! Do it! Just go for it!”

And so THAT is what I did!

karispentecostVoAtlanta

Full of excitement, nerves, anticipation and hunger, I boarded the plane to Atlanta, Georgia. I knew the conference would be a place that I could learn and educate myself about different areas of the industry but it turned out to be so much more than that. Networking and creating opportunities is such an integral part of building and sustaining our careers and by getting out of your booth, out of your comfort zone and surrounding yourself with members of the voice over community from all over the world, is never going to be anything other than positive! I adore my fellow Brits, but there is something about the Americans that will always make networking and socialising so much easier than here at home in the UK. Their natural openness, smiling faces, desire to learn about you and where you’re from, meant that I never felt alone, in fact, being at VO Atlanta just felt like I’d come home. Any nerves I had were put at ease the minute I was greeted by the beaming face of one of the conference ambassadors at the reception desk.

“Hey! Welcome to Vo Atlanta. Here’s everything you need to know, here’s your programme, here’s your goody bag, want to sign up to our talent screening tomorrow? “

errrrm yes! I don’t know anything about it yet but yep, sure, why not!” Sieze the day and all that!

The programme at VO Atlanta is packed full of sessions that cover a whole array of areas in VO. There are actually so many, that I found it was best to make myself a schedule. Here in the UK, I currently work in Commercials, Promo and Radio but I didn’t really know anything about those parts of the industry in the US and had no American contacts, so I took myself off to sessions where I could learn more and speak to US agents, demo producers and American voice actors. By the end of each day, your head wants to explode because you have taken in so much information.

From listening to the superb keynote from Kay Bess, to my wonderful X Session with Heather Dame at Atlas Talent, to learning about Imaging from Eric Romanowski and Video Game Casting with Randall Ryan, to the awesome 80’s party on the final evening of the conference, VO Atlanta was everything and more.

If you’re looking to attend the conference for the first time then make sure you seize every opportunity to speak to fellow voice actors, producers, writers, sound engineers, actors and speakers. It is likely, even if you haven’t travelled half way across the world as I did, that you’ve travelled a fair few hours and you’re not going to be surrounded by this community for maybe another year, so don’t sit back. Make friends. Go to X Sessions that are held by producers or agents that you want to connect with. Get to know people. Listen to their stories. Be open. Be present. If there is a talent screening, go! If there is a social drink, join in! If there is a dinner party, go eat! Since attending, I am now in talks with two American agents, a video gaming casting director, am putting everything in place to gain my 01 Visa to work in the US and have made shed loads of new friends. Life is short and so is VO Atlanta….so do not waste a second!

By Karis Pentecost

A LONDON BASED BRITISH VOICE OVER ARTIST WITH 10 YEARS EXPERIENCE IN COMMERCIALS, RADIO & CORPORATE NARRATION.

In 2018, whilst at a VOND event in Central London, I found myself in the midst of a gaggle of voice actors, talking about this incredible voice over conference in America, VO Atlanta. What was this? Why did they all look so hyped? Well I didn’t care what it was, anything that made a group of grownups that excited, had me sold from the start. I wanted to feel like that. I wanted to feel THAT excited about something!

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