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the VPI Voiceover & Dubbers Ten Commandments v.2.0
December 2, 2016
I recently estimated that I’ve spent over 20,000 hours in front of a microphone in my career as a voice talent and spoken millions of words that someone else put in my mouth. During some of those hours, I gave some exemplary performances. During (hopefully fewer) others, I should have apologized to the producer for making them part of my learning curve and paid them for their trouble. Somehow, I made it through my “I’m insecure but I’m going to pretend I’m not” years by gradually developing some work philosophies that have served me well in my career. As an active part of VPI, please allow me to share them with you.
(The comments in brackets are by the author; i.e.: me*.)
The VPI Voice-over & Dubbers' Ten Commandments
Be on time. If for some inexplicable reason, you must be late, call. That’s why cell-phones were created. Being prompt is professional and studio time costs money. (….and get yourself a bike!)
Be agreeable. In spite of what you may read in People or Class magazine, nobody likes anyone with a prima donna /divo attitude. Smile, even when the inexperienced producer wants you to do it “just one more time” and you know the best take was the second one. (Remember, you were a beginner once, too.)
Be prepared; (just like when you were in the Girl Guides /Boy Scouts.) Unless you can nail “cold” reads, if the script is offered to you in advance, read it. Producers love quick studies in the studio (particularly when the time comes to paying the bill.)
Help out your friends and colleagues at VPI. Recommend VPI and other VPI talent whenever you can. If you like a particular studio or have worked with another exceptional voice professional — spread The VPI Word. (With any luck, some of these grateful folks will say kind words about you and VPI, too.)
Practice your craft. Keep an ear tuned to the latest trend in deliveries and practice adding new voices and skills to your repertoire. (Who knows, one day there may be a demand for the Norwegian Troll accent you’ve been perfecting.)
Find your own style. What is it that YOU can do that no one else can? This is why you get hired — because no one else makes that little quirky giggle or hulking roar quite like you do. (I’ll never forget the talent I auditioned one day whose cv résumée listed an ability to do ‘comedic laughs.’ He could, too. Guess who I hired.)
Learn when to keep your mouth shut. Resist the urge to say out loud, “This copy doesn't work!” or, “Who wrote this crap?” Chances are it’s the person who hired you. (Either learn to make extremely diplomatic suggestions, or learn to deliver bad copy in a way that makes the copywriter think they have talent.)
Don't get discouraged. Even the best voice actor has a bad day or screws up an audition(or, God forbid, says something stupid with the mic open and recording) Go easy on yourself, tomorrow you'll have another chance to do it right.
Remember to be generous. (At the beginning of my career, I worked with “Uncle” Bill Peters, the voice of the “Good Morning Germany” programme and moderator on the British Forces Broadcasting Service radio station based in Cologne, FRG, doing odd jobs and interviews for the show; I asked him to do an intro for my demo tape by introducing me in his fresh & happy style. He very kindly did, and I'll never forget his generosity towards a newly hatched talent.) So, give a little something extra whenever you can by being flexible. We all need favours from time to time and those who are willing to help are most often the ones to be helped in return.
Be grateful. Thank the client. Thank the producer. Thank the director. Thank the engineer.(in that order)They could have chosen anyone else in the world and they chose YOU. This is the best profession in the world... so respect the privilege and be sure to express your appreciation for those people who help you sound good.