I want to do VO for games and animation. Why should I do commercial VO?

Here’s an email I received from a friend who’s just completed coursework with Richard Horvitz:

“Hey Fryda — I finished up classes from Richard (he says hi by the way and bragged about you to the whole class) and was going to be setting up one-on-one classes with him I preparation of a demo video down the line. He said we should figure out my determination and that since my end goal is animation VO that I should do a commercial demo first. Is this the direction you took, a commercial focus first before looking at other forms of VO? I’d never given commercial much thought before since I’d much rather work in video games and animation, but I’d like your input on what you did for your own career goals.”

Here’s my response:

If you insist on only auditioning for games and animation, you’re not going to make a living in VO. You’re going to have to take a night job working at a bar like every other actor.

Commercials are where the money is. Currently, nothing else pays residuals, unless you get on an animated show and then you’ll get your residual check, but only if your character makes it to air. (Animated shows on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime do not pay out any residuals as streaming isn’t considered broadcast.) Games have the poorest contracts in the entire industry and are being renegotiated for the first time since the 90s. Again, you will not make a living on VO alone if you refuse to do commercials. (Side note: You can say no to commercials when you’re in such an overwhelming number of games and animated shows that you clearly don’t need the extra income. Until then: Saddle up.)

If you can be excellent in commercials, you can be more than excellent in games and animation. It’s putting the cart before the horse to assume that you can be immersed in a story if you can’t convincingly sell a can of soda. Commercials become the easy breezy big payout work, providing you with the income that enables you to take on passion projects or jobs that are more fun, but typically pay less.

Furthermore, no agency will take you if you don’t have a commercial demo and are unwilling to do commercials. You are only attractive to agencies if you have the potential to make money. By stating that you won’t do commercials, you are already communicating that you are going to make the agency much less money than another actor who is willing to do them.

The big AAA projects and network animated shows will always be funneled through agents, so I would recommend playing their game before deciding to go by your own rules.

I also saw Richard privately for several sessions as we prepped for my demos and I highly recommend doing it. In private time with Richard, you’ll start to discover what your real strengths are and also your weaknesses will be more exposed, giving you a good idea on how far you’ve still got to go.

If you want some coaching for commercial work, absolutely go see Nancy Wolfson. She used to be an agent and coaches from a technical point of view. Pro tip: The education NEVER stops. Even at the very top.