VAM 040 | Q & A Session 05 – Taking Direction & Marketing Your Voice Acting Skills

VAM 040 | Q & A Session 05 – Taking Direction & Marketing Your Voice Acting Skills

Welcome to episode 40 of the Voice Acting Mastery podcast with yours truly, Crispin Freeman!

As always, you can listen to the podcast using the player above, or download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of this blog post. The podcast is also available via the iTunes Store online. Just follow this link to view the podcast in iTunes:

http://www.voiceactingmastery.com/podcast

In this episode, I continue answering questions that my listeners have been leaving me on the podcast voicemail number. I’ve been getting so many good questions lately, that it seemed appropriate to go through a number of them. For those who don’t know, in past episodes,  I’ve given out a phone number where you can call in and leave me a question as a voicemail. From time to time, I’ll pick the most relevant questions I receive and answer them here on the podcast.

For this round of Q & A, I answer questions from Jelle Derckx of the Netherlands and Zach from Huntington Beach, CA.

Jelle wants to know what to do when things get awkward during a recording session. Sometimes a director will give a voice actor a note, the voice actor will do their best to incorporate that note into their next take and yet the director still seems to be unsatisfied. Worse yet, the director may seem to want the opposite of what they originally asked for. This is a common occurrence during a recording session so I share some helpful hints about how to get back on track. The secret is giving the director what they want, not what they ask for!

Zach wonders what’s the best way to approach producers as an aspiring voice actor. Should you try to contact them directly via phone or e-mail? What kind of credits do you need on your resume before you approach producers? How do you maintain a professional demeanor when approaching potential employers for voice over work? I answer his question by explaining the professional mindset of a producer. Then, I explain how to make yourself indispensable to a producer so that they’ll search you out for your unique talents and abilities!

I think you’ll find this episode very helpful for developing a truly professional mindset.

 

As a reminder, the number where you can call in and ask your question is:

323-696-2655.

Please don’t forget to include your first name and what city in the world you’re calling from. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Thanks for listening!

Download Voice Acting Mastery Episode #40 Here (MP3)

 

53 Responses to “VAM 040 | Q & A Session 05 – Taking Direction & Marketing Your Voice Acting Skills”

  1. Eric Rivera says:

    Your response to Zach’s question reminds me of something I’ve read before. I think it went something like…

    it’s always “How can I get a job?” and not “How can I become the type of person employers want?”

    Excellent. Thank you for your time and wisdom.

  2. Jack De Simone says:

    cool crispin, lol, your voice is so ANNOUNCERISH, and really clear.

    thanks crispin, awesome to see, a mentor who is a real life professional, not to mention ranked #21 on behindthevoiceactors.com

    i’m going to try to listen to this podcast more often!

  3. Pat says:

    So understanding of character archetypes not only helps someone understand what kind of roles they are suited towards, but also helps when improvising acting choices appropriate to the story?

    • Nicendeth says:

      More important than archetype is understand the underlying want your character has. Knowing their desires and why they exist supercedes any affect archetype has on your performance.

      • Crispin Freeman says:

        I would provisionally disagree. It is true that understanding your motivation in a scene is paramount to creating a believable performance in the moment. However, if you do not take into account the character archetype you’re playing, that believable performance might not suit the character you’ve been called on to portray. For example, if your goal is to escape the Death Star in Star Wars, Episode 4, your tactics for achieving that goal will vary greatly depending on what type of character you are. Han initially wants to go down swinging, then later thinks he can just blast his way out. Luke wants to save Leia first before they leave. Ben Kenobi wants to use stealth to free the ship from the tractor beam. Then he realizes confronting Darth Vader is far more important than physically leaving the Death Star. Chewbacca just wants to avoid horrible smells. While each one of them share the same desire, to escape, the tactics they use to achieve that desire will vary wildly depending on the archetype. So while I agree that understanding your motivation is the most vital part of the acting equation, unless you only want to play characters very close to your personal persona, you must understand how other character types react under similar circumstances to expand your acting range.

        • Pat says:

          It’s interesting to hear you say that. I used to frequently take acting classes/workshops, and I think I was kind of exclusively a method-acting guy. Although the workshops weren’t especially demanding because they didn’t want to discourage people, I was frequently praised for my performances. But I always felt kind of uncomfortable with them because they were more or less extensions of me. And at my core I’m, like, two guys maximum. Regrettably, it was only after I stopped being immersed in it that I became interested in the concept of artificially injecting someone “else” in performances.

          • Crispin Freeman says:

            I’m not suggesting you artificially inject someone else into your performances. I’m saying learn how to think like a different type of person. Mel Blanc didn’t inject anything artificial into his portrayal of his characters, he found those characters in different nooks and crannies of his own psyche. However, Bugs thinks differently from Daffy because they are two different types of characters. Mel was a good enough actor to be able to think differently when he was playing those and so many other of the Looney Toon characters. If you don’t understand where your character’s coming from psychologically and what’s motivating them, you won’t be able to portray them believably. You are far more than just two guys. Part of being a human being means that there’s a universe inside of you. You’re just only comfortable playing those two types of characters. Expand your notion of who you are and how you’re allowed to think and act and you’ll find a lot more range.

        • Nicendeth says:

          Hm, I mostly disagree with that assertion. By focusing on the character you are taking the actor’s focus off of the script itself, and on an abstract concept. This puts you further away. Rather, to capture the attitude and the same type of effect Han Solo has truthfully and faithfully, you analyze the script for what Han Solo’s Task is and why he wants it (and thus says his line), and then come up with an analogous scenario to personalize it (What would get you to say something in a certain way to someone of a similar relationship type?). This is where you get the tactics and the relationship between you and the target. It’s not like tactics are limited to certain personality types: The Pope can be intentionally threatening when he opposes someone, and Hitler can be intentionally calm when he speaks in a more personal setting with someone he needs to become closer to. Focusing on “how dictators act” or “how heroes act” adds a spin on your performance which no natural performance has. Who actively thinks of themselves as ‘just evil’ or ‘just good’? If you’re curious or want to debate this further, my technique is this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Practical_Aesthetics

          • Crispin Freeman says:

            You’re entitled to your opinion.

            I’m not interested in debating with you. My goal with this blog and podcast is to share what I find to be useful techniques and concepts for approaching a professional voice acting career. I have shared what I think is a practical, actionable way to approach characters and acting.

            However, if you have found a different technique that works for you and has allowed you to succeed professionally, then congratulations. I’m only interested in what actually gets results. Do you feel that your technique has helped you advance professionally? I’d be curious to know how your technique has helped you progress in your voice acting career.

          • Nicendeth says:

            I didn’t come at this trying to be disrespectful. I sincerely apologize for using your blog as a podium, I never intended that at all and I promise never do such a disrespectful thing again. I didn’t mean anything by it. From here on out, it’s all constructive.

            That said, reading your response to Pat I don’t actually think we disagree in a significant way.

            Sure, different characters can pursue the same goal in different ways, but these ‘characters’ comes from the motivation which is drawn from the context of the script. If you focus on fully refining your understanding of their motivation, it’s unnecessary to focus on character. Rather it’s more productive and fun to let go and pursue trying to affect somebody while possessing a motive that you understand and connect with, and using tactics you would use given the imaginary circumstances being true. This with the setting and the rest of production together creates the illusion of character for the audience.

            I agreed 100% when you said the characters are all within us. That’s because we as human beings can understand other people (or creature)’s motivations, given we have the full context surrounding their decisions. It’s more subjective and diverse than character type to me and using character type confines and restricts action. The point is to get yourself to react in the same way your character does by whatever means possible.

          • Crispin Freeman says:

            It’s all right. Thank you for clarifying your position.

            I too am very fond of the Practical Handbook for the Actor. I found it quite helpful during my time in graduate acting school. It works fantastically when you have an actual script to work with. However, in the world of voice acting, you often have very little text to work with. How is an actor supposed to find their motivation from the context of the script when the only lines for an audition are: “Grenade!” “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” “I need covering fire, now!” and those same lines are what you’re expected to use to audition for all the characters in the game, no matter their gender, race, nationality or even if they’re alien or not. How can you create 3 or 4 different characters using those same lines and keep those characters consistent over long periods of time no matter what dialogue they throw at you? Under those conditions, (which happen quite often, I assure you) it can be incredibly helpful to have some character types in your back pocket ready to go.

            I like to call voice acting instant acting, you just add water and go. Voice actors are the short order cooks of the acting world. They’re expected to whip up a performance out of almost nothing. Of course it is always good to start with a character’s wants and desires to keep your portrayal grounded. However, sometimes you’re asked to voice act under far less than ideal conditions with absolutely no context. Those who can still pull off believable performances under those circumstances work steadily.

            However, I’m not trying to say my interpretation or conceptualization of the acting process is right, I’m just saying it’s got me results. I can only share what has worked for me. Any acting technique is valid if gets results. If you find focusing on character to be a distraction, then by all means don’t do it. Use your own technique. My only goal here is to clarify and assist, not to debate or debunk.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Absolutely. If you understand your character’s archetype, you understand how your character might react differently from other characters given the same circumstances. Not everyone reacts to stress, danger, love or affection in the same way. Understanding your character archetype helps you develop acting choices that are specific and believable to the type of character you’re playing.

  4. Kalyn McCabe says:

    Such lovely questions!

    A small question: Are voice actors (such as yourself, or Yuri Lowenthal, or whomever) already established in the business willing to recommend a newcomer (such as myself) into their studios for a project? Granted the newcomer is professional, talented, and excited to work, of course.

    Thanks for everything!

    ~ Kalyn

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I think you may need to re-listen to the second half of this podcast episode where I outline a formula for how you can be recommended by other voice actors. When does a professional tend to recommend someone new to a producer? When that professional has worked with that person on a project and that newcomer has proven their talent, professionalism and reliability. Have you and I worked on any projects together? Have we gotten to know each other in a professional milieu? If not, then how can I in good faith recommend you? What basis would I be using for recommending you to producers as someone who can solve their casting challenges if I haven’t actually worked with you on anything? While I applaud your ambition and your drive to connect with professionals, I think what will serve your voice acting career better is to do your best to work on some projects and build up a reputation for good work. Then professionals won’t be able to help but recommend you for projects. Simply getting an endorsement from an established voice actor does not guarantee you work as a voice actor. Those recommendations will come naturally, over time as you work on more projects.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying all the questions. I think they’re incredibly useful and pertinent.

  5. Mattias says:

    Good to hear that I’m not the only one who isn’t from a non-English speaking country who follows this show! =)

    But then I guess I should ask Jelle (if you read this), did you call this from a regular phone, if that’s possible. And if so, did you have to add some sort country code or something before the number, or do you just have to call it like any regular call?

  6. James 'StarRunner' Rolls says:

    Luckily I’ve had easy to understand directors so far. But I’ll be sure to keep this in mind for the inevitable encounter with that awkward stage.

  7. Angelican Marcos says:

    Hello Mr. Freeman i want to ask and they’re always a different topic but can women really do a man’s voice? Just asking 🙂

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Generally, women are not hired to play male voices. Why would they be if there are so many male actors available? The only exception to this is that women are often called on to play young boy voices. Bart Simpson, Jimmy Neutron and others are played by women, not by young boys. And there’s even the odd situation where a man may play a woman’s voice. Brad Bird, the director of the Incredibles, was dissatisfied with all the actresses he brought in to play the role of Edna Mode. Eventually one of the actresses, Lily Tomlin, asked Brad why he didn’t just play the role since he seemed to understand her so well. That is in fact what happened. Brad ended up voicing Edna Mode for the movie. But that’s a very rare occurrence.

      • Angelican Marcos says:

        I kind of figured it was a man who did her voice but now I laughed so hard just hearing that because I knew there was something funny about her voice. But now that I know this what about an old man’s voice an elder could women do those kinds of voices? What if a woman at least practiced on trying to do a man’s voice? Would they take an acception to that in voice acting? Mr. Freeman? I ask you…

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          I guess anything is possible. I just don’t understand the point of your hypothetical questions. Are you an older woman? Are you trying to play male characters? If not, then if you’re interested in pursuing voice acting I suggest you focus on characters that suit your voice and work on developing your acting skills.

          • Angelican Marcos says:

            Well I wouldn’t say older but I do feel kind of old but I thank you… I guess… Also one or two things I might add and here’s one is Marge Simpson voice acted by a man or a woman because I couldn’t tell and her two twin sisters. Two how was your New Years this year? Heh… 🙂

          • Crispin Freeman says:

            If you do a quick google search for “voice of marge simpson”, you’ll find the answer to your question.

          • Angelican Marcos says:

            Kind of figured and forgot about that at the same time. Well thanks… I guess… again.

  8. Andrea says:

    Such great advice Crispin. A friend and I are actucally thinking about getting into voice acting as a future career (though that will have to wait a few years since we’re both still in high school). Anyway, we love your podcast and your work in anime, especially your performace as Itachi in Naruto. Thanks for what you do and I look forward to the next episode.

  9. Angelican Marcos says:

    Hello Mr. Freeman there’s only one more thing I might also add and I don’t want to be rude or sound rude. But you’re becoming really stale at a couple of things. Especially in youtube you’re kind of stale at that too. It’s kind of like a routine going over and over and it’s getting boring like I said I don’t want to be rude or sound rude. I’m sorry if I did but someone like me had to let that out even my friend agrees.

    • Pat says:

      Well I think it’s pretty rad so I guess we cancel each other out.

    • James 'StarRunner' Rolls says:

      Personally, I love the podcast as is. Rob Paulsen has the Talkin’ Toons podcast which is quite humorous, sure. But I learn so much more with Voice Acting mastery. I don’t need a big song and dance, I just want the meat of what’s important!

      If you are critiquing what Crispin is doing, why don’t you make some suggestions? Remember the Brad Bird Quote? Don’t just take pot shots at it, how can you make it better? You say he’s stale at a couple things. What is it exactly? You want a new intro? New topics? Are you just dissatisfied with the answers he’s been giving you?

      • Angelican Marcos says:

        Well… the intro a little bit but he’s kind of receiving these same questions for like 15 or should I 16 years considering it’s a new year. But to me he always answers the same questions over and over like a rountine. Especially when I said in youtube as well I always feel they’re the same questions & answers. It seems to me they were pretty stale not to mention he doesn’t post or upload videos in youtube for quite some time. I know he’s busy every single day working on his voice acting career but it just seems boring and I’m sorry if I was critiquing I just wanted to let that out knowing I was the only one that did.

        • Angelican Marcos says:

          I hate typos very much ugh! -_-

        • James 'StarRunner' Rolls says:

          So from what I gather, you’re saying it’s mostly stale because he’s been answering the same questions over and over for years. Also that a new intro couldn’t hurt and you would like him to use Youtube more?

          Well, I haven’t been following Crispin for 15 or 16 years, but I think most of what he’s saying in the podcast is new to most people listening now. The podcast surely isn’t over a decade old. I have heard a couple instances where the same or similar question was asked within the series, so I agree there are a few repeated questions within the podcast. I don’t think those people started from episode one. It could also be that they needed a bit more of an explanation. Though, ifit was well explianed earlier, I do remember him pointing out previous episodes on more than one occasion.

          I don’t find that those things disturb me as much, but at least you got out what you wanted to say.

          • Angelican Marcos says:

            Well thank you I guess… and it’s that his podcast website is new to some people who might need help on voice acting in the near future and there’s some new questions but thanks for answering my question.

      • Crispin Freeman says:

        That’s good to hear. I’m glad you’re enjoying my podcast. I really do my best to make the information as useful as possible.

        Thank you also for picking up on the Brad Bird technique of trying to “plus” something rather than just tear it down. Good for you for internalizing that lesson!

        • James 'StarRunner' Rolls says:

          It’s a good lesson! I can’t say I learned it from Brad first though… That would be a disservice to instructors I’ve had before. It’s obviously one you teach your students though. In the interview with Kimlinh Tran and Edward Bosco, it was apparent that they internalized that lesson when they listen to their own performances and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and try to make it better.

          I don’t have an X-box, but I grew interested in the project they were in and started watching an online playthrough of Dust: An Alysian Tale. Got to say, I’m impressed with their performances so far with what I watched! You trained a couple of great actors! Makes me wish I could attend a class even more! I don’t live in LA though and it seems I’ve always got work scheduled during your online workshops… Just got to be patient and hold out for the right time. ;3

          • Crispin Freeman says:

            Then you’ve been fortunate to have such wonderful teachers!

            I’m glad you’ve enjoyed Kimlinh and Edward’s performances on Dust. I can’t wait to see more myself!

            I look forward to working with you online! Are you unavailable during the online session in February?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Unfortunately, your comment does sound rude. It sounds like you’ve commented on my blog in order to insult me.

      There’s a very simple solution. If you don’t like my blog or my content, then please don’t read it or listen to it.

      The comment section of this blog is for sincere questions about voice acting. If you have an honest question about voice acting that cannot be answered by a simple google search, I will do my best to reply.

      However, simply calling me “stale” approaches troll behavior. Please keep your comments on the blog on the topic of voice acting. Any off topic comments or personal insults will be deleted. Repeated off-topic comments will be grounds for blocking your comments in the future.

      Thank you for your understanding.

  10. James 'StarRunner' Rolls says:

    It’s not letting me reply directly to your comment. The chain of replies was likely too long. So, here it is…

    I’ve seen the most recent newsletter and unfortunately, I’m going to be working through those hours. I work pretty much every Saturday in fact. I attend school as well, though it’s only three days a week this term (monday, tuesday, friday).

    I just realized it will be close to my wife’s birthday as well. I’d need to save up my meager disposable income for that. So It wouldn’t work for Feburary anyways.

    I’d sure like to do something before 2013 ends though. Even though I’m making an animated tutorial for amateur voice actors and people just starting, I know well enough there’s some things I need to work on before I go pro. I feel like I’m stuck at an intemediate level, helping my friends get better in their amateur endeavours while I need a few nudges to get to my next level. I’m hoping something will work out. In the meantime, there’s more flash animations and web-comic radio plays I can do. 😉

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Sorry about the reply chain snafu.

      I’m also sorry that you tend to be busy on Saturdays. I hoped to make the class more available to people by offering it on Saturdays. Hopefully one of your Saturdays will free up.

  11. Terance says:

    Hey Crispin I have some questions about proper auditioning from home etiquette. How many takes of a character and takes of a line should you typically do in an audition? Should you separate your auditions if you’re auditioning for more than one character or should you keep them all in the same audio file? What is the length of a standard animation audition? I just joined the VAA and I’m little unsure if I’m auditioning the right way. I wouldn’t mind if you made an episode dedicated to how to audition from home and at the studio.

    • Kalyn McCabe says:

      Well, as far as the VAA is concerned, producers will tell you what they want as far as reads go.

      Some want 3 different takes of the same line, others just one. Read the project description. But more often than not, people will just want one take.

      I usually do all the audition lines in one mp3 or wav unless otherwise stated.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Kalyn is right. You should follow the requests of the person auditioning you. Each producer may want their auditions done in a slightly different way. I just got done doing an audition for a video game where they wanted 3 characters on one file. In other instances, they’d like those 3 characters in 3 different files. It all depends on how the producer wants to organize things.

      I’m not sure I understand your question about length. The length is determined by the length of the copy they give you to read. Once you’ve read all the audition lines given you, you’re done with your audition. Why are you concerned about the length of the audition?

      It can be useful to give them 2 different takes on the character, just to showcase your range or ability, but sometimes they don’t want 2 takes. It all depends on the producer’s requests. But your idea about a podcast episode on auditions is a good one. I’ll put that in the queue.

      • Terance says:

        I asked about length because I was just curious how long the average audition usually is, but you’re right it depends on the copy. I thought maybe there was a standard way to audition most producers go with, but I guess not. I’m still learning and it definitely shows. Thank you both for clarifying and answering my questions.

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          No worries about learning. We all have to learn. Often when we’re scared of making a mistake, we think that if we can just find the “right” way to do something, then we can avoid problems. The problem is that is a defensive stance. Don’t worry about the “right” way to do something. Just figure out what works in the moment for you. There is no objectively “right” way, there’s just what works in the moment. While there are certain patterns or customs that arise in the entertainment industry, those customs are flexible and subject to change. Just stay aware and you’ll pick up things just fine.

  12. Andy Hopkins says:

    Hello Crispin, Andy here its been awhile since I’ve been on the blog. But my question pertains to an ealier episode How to Play Villains. Because after listening to that episode it made me think of my own situation. Because I’m playing in my last play of my senior year of high school. The play is called CSI: Neverland by Wade Bradford, I’d reccomend you look online if you want to know more about the plot its kinda hard to explain basically its a farce type of play. I’m playing Captain Hook and at first I thought it was set back because last year I played General Genghis Khan Schimitz in Seussical; a brash, commanding, and slighty overtop character and thats how I perceived to play the character after looking more into it. But I thought that Hook was the same character and I wanted to play a different type of character to be more versatile in my acting but then I thought on what you said and came the conclusion of its how I interpret the character is how to play him. I also want your opinion on something I’m trying to find the right feel or voice for this character. A good balance between interesting yet intimidating with out being too over the top. Your thoughts? But once again thank for having this podcast it gives great insight.
    Thanks again,
    Andy Hopkins
    Ps: You also mentioned in that episode your performance as Electro in Spectacular Spiderman. I got to watch the whole series recently and if I may say bravo sir bravo!!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Congrats on getting cast in your show! All acting experience will help you advance your craft.

      As far as developing a voice for the character, I find that if I spend my time trying to find the right “voice” from a technical or descriptive perspective, I invariably get too intellectual about it. Rather, focus on what the character wants and what they’re looking to achieve. By focusing on how they go about achieving their objectives it will help you to develop a voice that is emotionally grounded and sounds appropriate.

      For example, if I said, “Quick! Use your voice to sound mysterious and creepy!” chances are you would “put on” what you think to be a mysterious and creepy voice, but you would be doing it technically without having it grounded in any sort of emotional reality. That’s not how Anthony Hopkins developed his voice for Hannibal Lecter in Slience of the Lambs. In fact, Anthony did very little technically to modify his voice for that part. Most of his voice modifications are emotional in nature, not technical.

      So focus on the emotional heart of the character, and you will be inspired to find a unique voice for him. That is certainly how I found my “voice” for Electro. The new spin on that character for that series was that the electricity coursing through his body was frying his brain and driving him insane. Once I fully committed to the reality of that, the voice came out quite naturally.

  13. L.B. says:

    Hello,

    I love the podcast/ blog, they’re both such wonderful resources for aspiring voice actors. I had a quick question about building up a resume for voice acting. There are many websites which will post requests for different readers such as:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/recordthis/ (typically calls for character voices)

    librivox.com (typically calls for narrators)

    Would you recommend places like these in order to build up a resume/ demo reel? Neither seems too professional (I haven’t done any of the reddit postings, but I know that librivox is fairly low-key), but I’d imagine it would be good experience if anything to just practice doing voice-overs.

    Thanks!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog and podcast!

      In voice acting, a resume is not as important as having talent and a good demo. An agent will look at your resume, but what they’re really looking for is to see if you have the talent to be competitive. One of the best ways they can evaluate your talent is your demo. So it’s not as important to “build up your resume” as it is to build up your talent and then create a killer demo that shows off that talent.

      I’m not familiar with the reddit site. It looks like a Craig’s List for voice acting. I’m slightly more familiar with the librivox site, I believe it was a project where people would record public domain books as audiobooks and release them for free. Now it seems someone has decided to make a profit on those audiobooks that were meant to be public domain.

      I’m sure both areas will give you good experience. However, I don’t know if the production level of the work you do there will be high enough to include on a professional voice acting demo. Also, in regards to the librivox site, it might give you some good material for an audiobooks demo, but unless they’re doing animation or commercials on the librivox site, you won’t develop any good material for those genres of voice acting. However, both might be a good proving ground where you can develop characters that you can use later when you go to a professional studio to record a competitive demo.

      Hope that helps some.

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