Film/TV Actors and Voice Over
New Places to Find Talent For Your Project
2020 is one big, long sob story for just about everyone. Just a few months into the new year and then all work comes to a screeching halt. Long-planned projects derailed, stalled schedules with indefinite return dates, pipelines of new business frozen or - worse - dissipated.
It’s been a tough year for film, television, and stage actors, too. Most productions ground to a halt last March and only now are some studios beginning to gear up again. That’s a long time to go without an opportunity to earn some money at your craft.
But both businesses and actors have been searching for - and creating - workarounds. it's really rather amazing how ingenious people can be when the tried and true no longer works, and new ways must be found. I described in a previous article how some businesses and studios are successfully doing this. On the performance side, too, more and more actors have been turning to voice over as another medium. After all, they have the acting training, the script analysis skills, and their experience on camera and/or on stage … right? It’s a natural fit, isn’t it? And while voiceover work has slowed down a bit during the pandemic, it hasn’t stopped. And it can pay pretty well.
There are many actors who are this type of “triple threat” – they perform behind a mic, before a camera, and on stage. (Disclaimer: I’m one of them.) But it’s a mistake to think that an actor can just glide from one genre into the other without training and preparation specific to that medium. On-camera acting, for example, is very different from stage acting. The camera captures expressions, conversations, and physicality close-up, so the acting needs to be much “smaller” than that required for the stage, which instead requires bigger movements and louder or more exaggerated speech to reach the audience members in the last row of the theater. Voice over work in that sense is even smaller, with only the actor’s voice conveying the message and emotion of the story in tone, pitch, pacing, volume, etc., even if the performance requires physicality to convey those qualities through the voice.
In short, success in voice over requires more preparation than just picking up a microphone and starting to talk into it. Not all actors realize that, and that’s not even touching upon the necessities of having the proper equipment, a broadcast-quality home studio, and the training to use, record, edit, and deliver high quality audio files to agents and clients. I’ve had quite a few fellow on-camera actors call me up and ask how to get started, thinking all they need to do is to pick up a USB mic and find a quiet corner of their home to work in. That’s why I created a Resources section of my blog to advise them on how to get started, find the training, create a home studio, make their first demo, build a voiceover website, and find work.
Here's where businesses who employ voice actors can benefit. In addition to the regular voice talent on their rosters, creative director and producers can now call on more of these "triple threat" actors, too. Once they have invested in voice over training and gone through all the steps to be professionally up and running, these new “triple threat” actors have so much to offer. With on-camera, stage, and voiceover training and experience under their belts, they have multiple tools at their disposal to truly dive into a script, understand its intrinsic message, and convey the client’s message in varied ways that are informative, compelling, and entertaining. They know that techniques unique to one genre can, with adjustments, be applied to another. After all, it’s all storytelling, even if the story is a technical medical narrative on the benefits of a new pharmaceutical drug. The skilled actor knows who he/she is supposed to be and who the listener is, understands the story’s background and the client’s message, and can to weave the narrative to teach, explain, or showcase the product.
It's been interesting to observe how film and TV producers have been rewriting commercials, TV episodes, and films to incorporate voice over more than ever before. In many cases, it streamlines the production process, reduces the time to film, and gets around strict on-set requirements to adhere to the new COVID-mandated guidelines. The device of incorporating 911 calls into a plot line seems to be especially popular now. I’ve noticed many more voiceover jobs being listed, for example, on Actors Access, a casting site for on-camera films, TV, commercials, and industrials through which actors can apply directly. On-camera actors can't help but see which way the wind is blowing, at least while this pandemic drags on, and pivot accordingly to qualify for these jobs.
So, as a client looking to book voiceover talent, what does this mean to you? First, with an influx of professional on-camera and stage actors, you have a wider (and possibly deeper) pool of talent to draw upon. Just be sure to verify that they indeed have the skills and wherewithal to produce a quality audio file. A good voice over demo can speak to their skills and a requirement for them to describe their studio and equipment can serve to screen out those not sure how to even answer.
Second, by using these on-camera casting sites to post voiceover work, you have more ways to attract talent than just through agents, voice casting sites, or through your own rosters. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find the fees or commissions lower on these sites, and save a few dollars, too.