We all know the saying that “you don’t have to reinvent the wheel”. Advice I’ve taken to heart most of my life. Though, when it comes to your voice over career, you truly must reinvent yourself on a regular basis. The industry, and the trends within it, are constantly in flux … always looking for that new sound, that hip read, that performance genre that stands out from the norm. When that search is paid off with the read du jour, it usually becomes the standard for the immediate future and can become the constant theme in what seems like every set of directions.
Now, I’m not trying to say to not be yourself in your read, or that you need to copy some other voice actor who is en vogue. In fact, I always stress to my coaching clients that the casting world is always on the look out for something unique, and there is only one you. So, be the best you, you can be. However, you do need to be aware of the current trends and find a way to apply them to what only you can do.
In recent years, VO crazes have included breathy, raspy, monotone, etc. Not all fads are going to fit your vocal abilities. But, most can be incorporated successfully and, if done well, quite profitably. You have to do your homework of studying the current trends, and then work at developing your skills using those fancies. Many times it is embodied within a celebrity whose voice acting talent is currently hot. I can’t tell you how many scripts I have seen the past couple of years with the name John Corbett, Jeff Bridges, Sam Elliott, or Morgan Freeman as a reference in the specs. So, fast forwarding through the commercials on the DVR should never be an option for the VO talent wanting to keep their read on the leading-edge.
That said, reinventing yourself doesn’t mean just evolving your performance. You have to refresh the way others; in particular agents, producers, and directors; view you, as well. For instance, I know of a very successful veteran voice actor who changes agents every two years or so. I figured it was just so that he could take advantage of the usual “honeymoon period” where your agent tries you out on a wider variety of copy than you would normally get. However, in speaking with him about it, he said it is because “your agent will inevitably see you in certain ways and, though you and your read may (and should) be evolving, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to change that view”. Instead of fighting an uphill battle, he chooses to move on to new pastures where the grass is not only greener, but more plentiful. I must say that this is not my M.O. – I recent moved to just my third agent in 20 years. But, his revolving-agent-door policy speaks directly to the point of this post.
Changing the way you may be pigeonholed by producers, directors, and those in charge of the casting process, may not be so easily changed. Another thing I always tell my clients is that this is very much a “first impressions are everything” business. Which doesn’t bode well for changing the preconceived notions of the decision makers in your VO life. Though, if you are sure to put copies of your latest bookings and demos in front of them, you just may be able to give them a glimpse into your growth as an artist. Which is why I have things like a “Spot Of The Month” page on my website; send out a quarterly newsletter to all of my voice over connections; and, of course, post all of my professional triumphs on my social media outlets.
It is easy to get comfortable with who you are and what you do, especially if you have achieved some modicum of success. But, resting on your proverbial laurels is a sure fire way to let the industry pass you by. So, you can wait for the VO world to come back to you and your genre of complacency (if it ever does). Or, you can be proactive, develop and expand your repertoire, and keep yourself current and viable. I strongly suggest the latter.
By Voice Actor Mark Avery