I’m often asked, “What are the odds of ‘making it’ in voiceover?”
The truth be told you can have all the talent in the world, but it’ll die on the vine without drive and momentum. How and where you promote yourself matters.
Certainly, passion and instincts account for a great deal, but neither will get you anywhere unless you dedicate yourself to keeping your skills sharp, while relentlessly pursuing the work.
So, let’s assume you have a work ethic that won’t quit, and everyone says you have a remarkable voice. That’s as good a place to begin as any.
I say ‘begin’ because I believe, like my former Improv/acting coach (and mentor), Paul Sills, everyone has talent. However, we’re all at varying degrees of preparedness and development. But talent, like any muscle, demands continued use and development, or it will atrophy. While skill, on the other hand, can and should be taught. However, both require continued application to remain sharp and useful.
Additionally, whatever you repeatedly do, wherever you focus your attention will ultimately become your greatest skills and assets. So, exposing yourself to a variety of disciplines is essential as a budding talent.
Problem is, we often fool ourselves, after taken a class or two, that we’ve mastered the form. Or, just as bad—we’re no good at it. You may have had some exposure to the genre or style, but it falls to you to continue to develop with further practice and exposure. You’d think it could go without saying, but trying something only a few times doesn’t necessarily determine a skill or define you as a talent.
Case in point: most of us have been raised on TV. We’ve spent years becoming fully invested in sitcoms, daytime dramas, commercials and commercial styles. We recognize them for the genres they are, and they’re usually familiar to us, but auditioning and getting cast in them challenges our perceptions of the medium and of our selves within that context. You may audition for a commercial and feel like a cat in a dog suit during the process. The whole experience seems strange. You struggle with what is it they want from you.
A month later the spot airs and the concept that eluded you suddenly zooms into focus. Why didn’t they tell you that at the audition? You would have done that! Why didn’t they direct you to do that? Now you see yourself within this reality, this genre. You would have killed on that thing had you known all that in advance.
The truth is you got all the same info the talent who booked the job received. The difference may simply lie in how the talent who landed the job saw them self, and embodied the project, concept and all.
How we see ourselves and the genre we’re attempting to tackle determines much of the outcome: a successful audition, a remarkable callback, a long shot booking, and ultimately how successful the final production plays out. Each aspect challenges and often changes us as actors. Each require we grapple with familiarity versus unchartered territory. Each determine a body of work that ultimately creates a career. It never goes away.
So again, the question begs: Can talent be taught? I wouldn’t rule it out.
Talent can give you confidence when experience is lacking. Skill and technique are what sustain us when the floor falls out from under us during the production, as it almost inevitably does on nearly every project—for you or possibly those you’re working with, requiring you to be sharp, prepared and reliable. This is a team sport, this acting business.
But just because you don’t have an immediate intuitive response to a performance, genre, scene, take, character, or type, doesn’t mean you never will. How you see the story, the style, the format and your self within that context all play a part in the outcome.
So expose yourself to the styles you honestly intend to master. Be relentless about it.
And consider this: if you’re only a mic 10 to 15 minutes a week in a workshop—that hardly gives you enough opportunity to work your performance muscle enough to truly develop it. As the old joke goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” If you were taking piano lessons instead of voiceover, it would take a decade or more to get there at that rate if the only amount of time and attention you’re honestly dedicating to develop your talents and master your skills is 20 minutes a week.
Granted taking workshops and participating in work out groups help develop a sense of community, and can feed your perceptions regarding voiceover as a subject, but those perceptions may be merely assumptions, rather than true insights, that may or may not work to your advantage down the line. This form of training can be a double-edged sword. Which is why private instruction is imperative to every talent to sort out what’s best for you, specifically, from a coach who thoroughly understand the industry, and your role in it.
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