Job Description: Voice over actors read scripts for movies, internet voice files, CD-ROMs, and radio and television commercials. They may also narrate audio books, phone system hold messages, and corporate or industrial videos.
Training and Educational Qualifications: Most aspiring actors participate in high school and college plays, work in college radio stations, or perform with local community theater groups. Formal dramatic training, either through an acting conservatory or a university program, is generally necessary. Voice over artists sometimes seek private coaching from experienced professionals in preparation for creating a recording of several voice samples to send to agents when seeking representation.
Job Outlook: Employment of actors is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2016. Competition for jobs will be stiff, in part because the large number of highly trained and talented actors generally exceeds the number of available parts. However, there are generally fewer voice over actors than typical actors, so competition may not be as tough for voice over artists as for actors of stage, screen, and television.
Salary: Median hourly earnings of actors are $11.61. The middle 50 percent earn between $8.47 and $22.51. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $7.31, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $51.02. The amount for median annual earnings is $16.82 in performing arts companies and $10.69 in motion picture and video industries. Annual earnings data for actors was not available because of the wide variation in the number of hours worked by actors and the short term nature of many jobs, many of which may last for 1 day or 1 week. Voice over artists who belong to a union get paid more per hour.
• Acting assignments typically are short term ranging from 1 day to a few months which means that actors frequently experience long periods of unemployment between jobs. Often actors, producers, and directors must hold other jobs in order to maintain a living.
• Employment in motion pictures and in films for television is centered in New York and Hollywood. However, small studios are located throughout the country.
• One of the largest markets for voice over artists to do “industrials” is in Washington, DC.
• Many professional actors rely on agents or managers to find work, negotiate contracts, and plan their careers. Agents generally earn a percentage of the pay specified in an actor’s contract.
I’ve done over 2,000 commercials and many network series shows some of the most well known include the Bold and the Beautiful, Homicide, Law and Order SVU, Law and Order Criminal Intent, The Wire and several other guest and co star roles.
Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?
The only internship was moving to NYC with $300 and my young son in a U-Haul. Then I just made calls.
Do you know of which companies have the best internships in this field that are known to help launch a successful career?
Most studios, theaters, film houses, and production companies sponsor internships for students. Also, actors are often looking for someone to help them with marketing and database entries. This is a great way to see what the “business of the business” is all about.
Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?
With the advent of digital recording, the audio field is pretty much open to where you want to live. However, getting established is a whole other issue. The best training is still in New York City and Los Angeles.
What is your typical day like?
I often have audio auditions at my agent’s office in Los Angeles. I get the copy from the receptionist that has been picked for me by the voice over agents. I study the script and wait my turn to record it. Sometimes this wait can be as long as two hours in the waiting room. I also will get the scripts via email so that I can record the audition via my home studio and send it back to my agent’s office if I have a conflict with a voice over job, on camera or theater audition, etc.
What are your job responsibilities?
My responsibilities include some of the following: to be on time, to follow script direction, to listen to subtle changes. A voice over artist must have the ability to analyze a piece of copy (script) quickly and then make changes according to a director’s words. It’s important to know different microphones and to understand how they affect my particular tone of voice, using a microphone to best service the kind of read I want to give. I’ve learned to be professional, courteous and not too
chatty that wastes producer’s time and money. Likewise, it’s appropriate to write short and sincere thank you notes.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Standing in front of that microphone and creating a character I know is dead on!
What do you dislike about your job?
The uncertainty of the next job.
Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?
Every voice acting coach I have ever worked with has always inspired some “light bulb” and that is such a gift to give a performer.
How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
The first time someone hired me because they liked my voice it happened in New York City with a producer who worked with me on camera.
How did you get into this industry?
I moved to New York City, hit the pavement and suffered poverty with my son until Angela Dipina from Cunningham, Escott, Dipina signed me, and I started working like crazy! Then it became a matter of marketing myself along with my agent and constantly improving the craft through study and practice.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
A Regional Emmy for work on “Nicola Tesla, Master of Lightening,” and voicing spots with former President Bill Clinton, Walter Cronkite and Morgan Freeman because of their dignity as human beings. Coaching others who have a dream of becoming voice over performers and seeing them succeed is extremely satisfying to me.
If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?
Creatively I would choose writing and photography.
To what professional associations do you belong?
Actors Equity Association (AEA), American Federation of Television Radio Artists, (AFTRA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Women In Film, and International Television and Video Associates.
What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?
Study the English language. Take acting classes. Learn different dialects. Get involved in theater. Take improvisation. Read and read some more. Read out loud, anything but the newspaper (it is too linear). Get yourself some inexpensive audio recording device and listen to the believability of your reads.