8 secrets of a professional voice artist
Everyone knows someone who can do a pretty decent Bugs Bunny. They may have heard how great it would be to sit in a booth saying “Meh, what’s up, Doc?” for a fat paycheck. After all, how hard could it be to act like a rabbit with a carrot wedged between your teeth?
It turns out this reputation lingers in the minds of many. Browsing headlines such as “Why Voice Actors Have the Best Job in the Entertainment Industry” certainly reiterates the point. Even voice over artists themselves often praise the position.
Might there be a dark side, though — a side to this star-studded, glitz-and-glamour world of voice talent that isn’t quite so alluring? For some, the answer is yes. “The voiceover thing is very selfless,” explains veteran voice talent Neil Patrick Harris. “You go in there, and they’ve hired you for your voice, but they know exactly what they want, and the writer’s there, and he knows exactly how it’s supposed to be said. So you can’t really argue with them, you just have to let them tell you what to do and then do it.”
So as a professional voice artist or craft voice overs for commercials, you’re essentially a robot?
No, not exactly, but…
Well, we don’t want to spoil the story just yet. Instead, keep reading to learn eight things you likely never knew about being a voice talent actor, and then decide for yourself if you’re ready to join the world of voice over acting with all its charisma and charm.
Secret #1: You Can’t Always Hang Out in Your Pajamas
Though some animators like to sit and sketch voice actors as they’re speaking to pick up on gestures and physical tics, timing doesn’t always allow it. Consequently, professional voice artists are often filmed using a type of performer surveillance camera. This allows the director to bring individual nuances to the screen — but also makes the idea of wearing pj’s all day a little unlikely.
Secret #2: Looking Crazy is a Necessity
Along with a picture of ‘voice talent actor’ comes the phrase ‘act crazy’ — or at least it should. After all, to an outsider looking in, voice overs involve people speaking to themselves in an exaggerated manner. Yet, this is a necessary component to success in the field. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to success is the inability to get out of one’s own head. Whether doing voice overs for commercials, television, or radio, a professional voice artist must embody a character that comes across as authentic and genuine. This is only possible by acting a little crazy.
Secret #3: Going Broke is Part of the Job Description for Many Voice Over Actors
If making money is your main motivator when considering a career as a professional voice artist, you may need to reconsider. Voice acting, including doing voice overs for commercials, is a field that relies on passion to fuel it. Anytime someone starts a business, they have some control over how much they can earn. Keep in mind, though, that it is a daily chore to drum up business when doing voice overs for commercials or anything else. With the right training, skills, and motivation, however, money is yours for the taking. As of September 2017, the average voice talent actor earns $36,000 a year. Hourly rates range from $16.34 to $297.99.
Secret #4: Voice Over Actors Need a Sense of Humor
Days spent reciting countless loops of the same, tired lines can quickly grow tedious. Ah, such is the life of voice talent actors. Many people who work on voice overs are also stuck being on-call 24/7 (and not getting paid for all that time). The combination of these two factors illuminates the need for, well, humor! They must be able to laugh at themselves, joke with each other, and find humor in everything — even fart jokes.
Secret #5: Just Because You Can Master Bugs Bunny Doesn’t Mean You Can Do Darth Vader
Being a professional voice artist or mastering the art of voice overs for commercials takes more than doing a mean rendition of Bugs Bunny. Versatility is the name of the game, and if you don’t know the score, you’re apt to struggle. Training and practice can help.
Secret #6: Being a Voice Actor Means Getting Bloody
Has it been your fantasy since popping out of the womb to be a real-life Alvin and the Chipmunks? If so, you have an impressive memory, which means you’ll also recall the 5-hour stints of screaming you did during infancy. And remembering this is good because life as a voice talent actor requires creating the same vampiric assault on your throat. Hopefully, you can manage this without pulverizing your larynx to a bloody mess.
Secret #7: Ty Burrell May Want Your Job — and He’ll Likely Get It
It’s a long and lonely road to equality for a professional voice artist. In the beginning, voice talent actors were never credited for their work. Sure, Mel Blanc sort of paved the way toward recognition with his insistence on credit for his work (and that of his colleagues) in Looney Tunes, but it is nevertheless not for the fame that people go into this. Regardless, those who are already famous are flocking to the field in droves — and it places the position of average folks in peril.
Secret #8: Voice Actors Have to Say Some Really, Really Strange Things
No doubt, the actors cast in movies as hokey as Good Burger and Dude, Where’s My Car? have said some pretty weird lines. As actors, it’s par for the course that they cycle through at least one lame flick. But then they move on.
On the flipside, those of us who do voice overs for commercials and television are stuck saying ridiculous lines for the Rest. Of. Our. Lives. That’s right — how many times can you sing about “high adventure that’s beyond compare” as a rubbery, gooey bear?
That’s what we thought.
So, now that the underbelly of voice overs has been exposed, are you ready to join the ranks? If you’ve made up your mind to do so, have fun with us at VoiceBunny — a place where we truly ‘get it’ and work to make it as enjoyable as possible!
Author: Laura Varon
Content creator, marketer, translator. I studied advertising because I wanted to know a little about everything and I am a translator because I want to know a lot about a lot. I co-write with WritingBunny.