Before voice acting, I worked in telemarketing for nearly 15 years. Turns out, it was great practice for voiceover because you had to read a script without sounding like you were reading a script to sell a product or service. I remember calling across the country to renew subscriptions for magazines, and I would adopt various regional accents relevant to the locale I was calling. Sales went gangbusters.
My brother, Doug, told me about an article he read that featured Susan McCollom, casting director and owner of VoiceMedia/Susan & Friends Casting. This was in 1997, and I was looking to leave telemarketing. I moved to California in 1998 to work part-time for a nutritional biochemist, and I also enrolled in McCollom's voiceover classes. McCollom noticed that I had talent and potential, and in three months, I was cast for my first gig to voice "The Tooth Fairy from Brooklyn" for zip2.com, a now defunct dot com. Initially, I was nervous to do it, but the moment I opened my mouth, everything came naturally. I've been a voiceover artist for 15 years, and I've been teaching at VoiceMedia/Susan & Friends Casting for nearly 10 years.
What's involved in working on your craft?
Essentially, a big part of voice over is training yourself to read aloud and make it sound believable. While we don't need to memorize lines, we typically need to interpret the script and its punctuation in the manner intended. Also, you're adhering to a time limit for promos and commercials, so that inner clock you have needs to be perfectly timed or nearly so with practice.
What do you love about your job?
My passion in voice acting is for video game characters. I have a lot of fun reading scripts in character, and I enjoy losing myself in the characters. In order to create a variety of different character voices, I typically reference real people I've met over the years. When I can't channel one of them for a particular voice, that's where I build, create and sustain a character voice from scratch.
How has the industry changed over the years?
The industry has changed dramatically over the past few years because of the technological elements now involved. I was never a tech guy, but I finally purchased the equipment necessary to set up a home studio, and it's been great. I don't need to drive to auditions as often because I can take on many more auditions and even record paying gigs right from my home.
Networking via the Internet has been beneficial because I can take on international jobs and make connections in the industry on a global scale - all this in addition to relying on my agent's efforts. In fact, I landed a starring on-camera role in television because I connected via the Internet with an old friend of mine who directs the reenactments on the nationally televised show "I (Almost) Got Away With It."
'Pay to play' sites have cropped up on the Internet, and they allow you to pay for audition opportunities and for your voice to be part of a voiceover database. These sites offer beginners an outlet for honing skills and the possibility of landing an agent.
How does one prepare for a career in voice acting?
Voice acting requires training and the luxury to do lots of unpaid auditions. Once you and your coach are confident in your skills, you make a strong demo. This is a competitive industry, and it's crucial in voice acting to show range. It's not enough that you have a great voice; you need to do more with it. Be prepared to be creative and spontaneous when necessary in the studio as well because sometimes clients aren't sure what they want until they hear you read their script. Los Angeles is the obvious choice for voice acting work, but even here in the Bay Area, I'm very busy with video game, commercials and corporate work.
For more information, visit www.harringtonvo.com.
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