Listen here! This is probably the most thorough “things you should know to be a successful voice actor” interview I’ve ever given, particularly the finer details outside of “it’s not about ‘doing voices.'” Thanks to ElloGovnor for asking the poignant questions!
The short version is that filling up every wall with foam will result in terrible sounding reflections. You have to spread out the foam, think of creating a checkered pattern where if you put up a square foam on one wall, on the wall directly opposite that piece of foam do not place any foam.
Bass traps are meant to go in corners, it’s fine to put bass traps in every corner where two walls meet in a room.
You should take measurements of the room you wish to treat, before shopping for full sets of foam. This way you’ll know exactly how many pieces of foam you’ll use, rather than finding yourself with extra foam and nowhere to put it.
The most important thing about putting foam up in a room: Do not use glue. Foam is porous so the glue that’s sold with foam will not be absorbed and the foam will fall down off of the wall anyway, the paint on the wall will peel off with it. The best way to put up foam is to use good old T-pins. Minimal damage to both the foam and the wall, T-pins are easy to take out when it’s time to move the foam.
This topic is easily googled, here are some essential links for your homework:
Here’s a video showing the effects of foam placement on sound:
Disclaimer: As I am not an accredited therapist or licensed medical doctor, I am not in any way telling you what to do with your life. I will only describe my personal experience as a financial core voice actor.
“Financial core,” or “fi-core,” is based on a Supreme Court decision that affects all labor unions in the United States. By legal definition, being fi-core is to be “a dues paying non-member.”
As a fi-core dues paying non-member of SAG-AFTRA, my arrangement with the union is mostly self-explanatory. SAG-AFTRA retains its typical percentage cut of every union job I do, just as the union retains a cut of every union member’s earnings. As a non-member, I have the freedom to take non-union jobs without penalty from the union. If a union member does a non-union job and is caught by SAG-AFTRA, the actor is subject to a fine penalty and possible expulsion, regardless of whether the actor is working in a right-to-work state.
As a non-member, here are examples of SAG-AFTRA perks I’m not entitled to:
- I cannot run for SAG-AFTRA office (President, Secretary, etc.).
- I will never be nominated for a SAG award.
- I cannot attend union meetings or vote in union matters.
- I do not receive union schwag such as DVD screeners, etc.
Fi-core non-members are eligible for SAG-AFTRA health and pension benefits just like union members, so long as they’ve met whatever gross earning minimums SAG-AFTRA requires within a calendar quarter.
As a fi-core non-member I’m paid union broadcast residuals, as residuals are part of the union’s contract rates.
Personally, I only accept non-union jobs that offer union comparable rates because I’m then giving my time to a non-union job when I could have been available to accept union work (which goes towards my health and pension eligibility). The non-union job then has the burden of having to make itself monetarily worth my while. Since there is no non-union standardized rate sheet to point to, it’s up to the agent or the talent to set the boundary on an acceptable fee. The only kind of non-union job I will not do is a commercial that holds a conflict for a kind of product or service. These non-union commercials generally offer a “buyout,” a fee to make up for the year or two, or however long, the actor will not be permitted to audition for or work on commercials for similar products or services. The buyouts offered never make up for the potentially lost annual earnings, not even close. A non-union commercial buyout would benefit a non-union actor, but not a fi-core actor who is also participating in the union market.
In 2016, non-union work was 36% of my total income. In 2015, non-union work was 43% of my total income. In 2014, non-union work was 49% of my total income. For me, non-union work affords me the cost of living in Los Angeles and keeping up with all the expenses my job requires of me.
Becoming fi-core is a simple no fuss process. As so many templates available on the internet will suggest, simply state your desire to become financial core and send it via physical mail to your union. You will receive a notice via mail confirming the union has received your request and that you are now a dues paying non-member, and life will continue as before.
Note that while some might say going financial core is an irreversible move, the truth is that you can at least request reinstating full status, subject to fees and hearings and a subsequent decision by the union.
This might not be something you can answer, but I have been seeking input from an actor that’s been in the industry for a while. Like everyone who seeks help from you, I want to be a voice actor. The thing is, I’m not sure if I would be able to. I’m a trans guy, which means my odds of “making it” as a voice actor seem to go down by a long shot. I never see or hear of any trans voice actors, and we don’t even seem to be cast for our own roles. I’m not sure why, I know there are very talented trans actors out there, so why aren’t we heard? Are our voices not masculine or feminine enough? Or is there internalized transphobia in the industry? Acting is something that I love… I’m part of my high school’s production department and do other outside activities. The thing is, should I even try? This is something I want to do, but how can I be sure I can make a living off of it if I’m not sure I could even land a single job? You’re a very open-minded person, so I hope you are able to offer me some kind of advice. This has been haunting me ever since I came out.
The thing about working in a creative field is you can’t wait until you’ve received a personalized invitation to join the fold. You never will. No one does. As an artist it is your responsibility to show up, be the most honest version of yourself, and accept the challenge when someone asks “What makes you special?”
When you are an artist, it is your compulsion to show up and be heard. Eventually, someone will listen. Where there previously was no room for you, you will have made room for yourself, simply by consistently having shown up.
From the top down and cosmetically, there will always be the problem of a lack of variety of acting roles for as long as the writers’ room lacks a diverse group of people. However, talent will often reshape the makeup of a cast. With on camera roles, it is not uncommon for roles to be open to “whomever best fits the part,” regardless of race or gender. Sometimes roles are changed completely because someone phenomenal auditioned, and the character will be rewritten to fit what the actor brings.
In voice over, we have more options all around. No one is bound by race or gender whatsoever. For example, the principle cast of Bob’s Burgers has two men performing female characters. The actors’ biological gender does not prevent them from giving compelling and memorable performances. Voice actors have the opportunity to play any number of genders, accents, races, and ages. The actor’s own physical composite will not prevent them from auditioning, unless a client has specifically stated they want a voice actor who is of a particular nationality or has a genuine accent, for example. In voice over it’s more about sounding like, than being. For example if a gender is specified, the hope is that those auditioning will sound like the requested gender, which is not determined by pitch (see: Carol Channing and Leslie Jordan). You will often see a desired age range. However that refers to the age range the actor can play, not the actual age of the actor. Age is not determined by pitch, but by attitude. Again, Dan Mintz as Tina on Bob’s Burgers is a perfect example of an actor fulfilling the age and attitude of the character, despite the actor not having a high pitched or stereotypically “young” voice.
When it comes to trans actors, recently television shows have been doing a hell of a job casting tremendous trans actors to play trans characters, setting the example that will inevitably give way to more on camera trans roles as time goes on. Off the top of my head I can think of Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black, Trace Lysette, Alexandra Billings, and Hari Nef on Transparent, Jamie Clayton on Sense8 (who will also be performing in Mass Effect: Andromeda), and Ian Alexander on The OA. Of course, I can probably quickly reference these actors as they’ve all been obliged to do large amounts of press to explain their transexuality and how it affects their performances. Though in truth, they are not pursued by media for being trans. They are focused on because their performances are just so very good, the press is compelled to interview them. These actors are so good, they can’t be ignored. Being trans and a representative of the trans community is something these trailblazers are accepting as a personal challenge, likely in the hope that they are carving space for future trans roles and actors.
Being an artist is not about playing the odds. Being an artist is baring your soul and doing it so beautifully until someone listens. The rest is entirely up to you. In short, to become a voice actor you must be an actor first. Becoming an actor is not limited to any one kind of person, though you must be the kind of person who is willing to work hard to get what you want.
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Thank you so much for replying, I feel better about (hopefully) my future career in acting. I had no idea Jamie is going to be in Andromeda! It makes me very happy to hear that my favorite video game company is hiring a trans actress.
Fryda you have no idea how much your response means to me, I’m so glad I got the chance to know about you. You are more than welcome to post the question and response to your website, I’m sure lots of other trans actors had the same kind of questions in mind.
Once again, thank you so much, it means the world to me.
Contributions from Twitter:
I know a lot of people say you’ll probably need a second job to make ends meet if you decide to get into voice work but if you do audition for a job and land it, do you find it easy to balance your other job around it? Or are VO sessions pretty much booked a week after you get the part and you only have one shot to actually get in there and record your stuff? It just seems like it might be hectic balancing another job around sporadic voice acting gigs.
Being a performer is not a predictable job. In order to be employable, you have to be unemployed. Jobs come and go with unreliable turnaround speeds. Maybe you’ll be booked for something next week. Or tomorrow. Or later today. I have been awoken by an agent calling my phone to ask if I could be somewhere to record later that morning or afternoon. If I have somewhere else to be, like a second job, I lose that voice acting job.
So how do you get from A to B and not go broke? Any kind of creative freelancer would be wise to conservatively practice their artistic “dream job” part-time. When is it time to go do your dream job full-time? You have to decide for yourself. No one will tell you that you’re ready or that it’s the right time. You’ll have to be brave and tell the world “I’m here and I’m great at this and I’m gonna do a great job for you!”
Of course, you’re going to have to be able to back up those claims about being available, being competent, and knowing how to do a great job. This can only be accomplished with time and experience.
Personally, this is how I did it. From an interview I did for Tom Taylorson:
During a 2 year period when I couldn’t accept full-time in house work due to lengthy family and legal matters which required loads of travel, I became a freelance Sound Designer. A friend referred me to her coworker who was looking for a voice actor to be the voice of the company’s phone system, as well as some online commercial spots. I accepted the job offer, thinking I was ready to actually perform for a project outside of games. And that was the first time I accepted money for voice acting.
That first job jumpstarted me into thinking I ought to seek more training. So I spent the following 4 years regularly going to Los Angeles and Burbank, taking a variety of voice over classes which are offered all over town. I spent the majority of my time learning from Richard Horvitz (actor as well as casting and booth director). Richard ultimately became my mentor. When I felt ready to make the switch from working full-time in games to calling myself a “professional voice actor,” I had Richard Horvitz produce and direct my commercial and animation demos. As soon as the demos were ready, I cold called over 120 agencies via email with my demos attached, also pointing to my website where my demos are hosted.
I received replies from 10 different agencies. The agency I selected was also the agency Richard Horvitz had just joined. I signed my paperwork the same day (at the same time, even!) as my mentor, which is insane.
tl;dr I spent four years casually taking voice over related classes (VO, improv) without the pressure of needing VO to immediately make me money, as I still kept my full-time job and did these classes on nights and weekends for fun. When I transitioned over to VO full-time, I had four years’ worth of education and confidence under my belt. The transition was smooth and I started working right away, and haven’t stopped since.
I don’t think there’s any sin in getting your hands dirty and putting yourself out there as quickly as you can stand it. But you have to remember first impressions can last a long time. If you put yourself in the VO pool before you know how to swim, lots of people will witness you struggling and drowning, and they’ll remember it until you can show them otherwise. If people think you aren’t ready to work they won’t consider you for auditions, and this can create a really negative snowball effect that will be difficult to recover from.
Be smart, do what you have to so you can afford your living expenses, and when your overhead is low enough and your savings are high enough, give it a shot. But not a moment before you’re ready!
A very important caveat: Voice over as a full-time job is possible but probably only in Los Angeles. With VO being file based, you can be anywhere in the world and if you’ve got a high quality home studio or access to a local studio, you can certainly record your VO. But the majority of union contracts or union fee matching jobs will go to agents in Los Angeles, and clients will prefer to book you in a Los Angeles studio for quality control. Generally, actors outside of Los Angeles who do voice over also juggle other mediums such as theater and on camera work to make ends meet.