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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Warning! Voice Overs Can Damage Your Health

I want to tell you a sad story.

Back in 2005 when I began voice over coaching, one of the earliest enquiries I received came from an enthusiastic young guy called Leon (not his real name).  We spent 20 minutes on the phone chatting about the VO industry and I explained how I might be able to help him.

He was genuinely fired up and said he would love to come along, but needed to sort out his diary first. He didn't.

Then a year later I took another call from Leon. He wanted to remind himself of the nature of the business - would his voice be suitable? How much effort would he have to put in? Could he combine it with his day job? Again he was keen to start his voice acting career as soon as possible and we discussed possible dates. That was the last I heard from him....

... until 2007.

This time I received a friendly email saying he hadn't forgotten about voice overs and would be signing up soon. The seasons rolled on by and in 2008 I received another phone call from him and on this occasion we actually booked a date. Then about a week before we were due to meet, he emailed saying he was snowed under with work and would have to postpone the session.

Leon was right, he did postpone the training.... by four years!

It was 2012 when I next heard from him and he wondered if I remembered him - "oh yes" I said "I remember you very well and I am pleased to hear from you again". I reminded him about the coaching I provided and gave an outline of the voice over industry. Interestingly, things had changed since our last communication  - there was now a greater choice of affordable microphones for home recording and demand was increasing in areas such as videogames, audiobooks and (from the new kid on the block) explainer videos.

He was suitably excited about the prospect of becoming a voice actor and this time put his money where his mouth was. My man was booked in.

The day of his training session arrived; the studio was hired and I was using leading producer Siggi  (his impressive portfolio includes work with Skepta and Adidas) to ensure Leon achieved the finest quality recordings.

The day before our meeting I tweeted to say we were looking forward to seeing him and provided directions to the studio.

Interestingly Uptown Studios  where we record nestles in deepest Parsons Green, a leafy tranche of west London and is secreted within The Matrix, a creative complex that boasts (amongst other enterprises) the management HQ of pop sensation One Direction. My students are often taken aback when teen fans ambush them outside the gates and ask if they "know Harry?!"

My guy was due at midday and as the time approached, I relayed to Siggi the story of how Leon had had been thinking about voice over training for a number of years and how we had had a series of false starts. By a quarter past twelve, I began to get concerned my student had become lost en route.

I tried to call his mobile, but it went straight to voicemail. I sent a text, an email and phoned again. It was now 12:45 and still no sign. I went outside and noticed the sun was peeping through the clouds, warming up what had been a chilly spring day. I wandered up and down the street trying to spot anyone who looked like they might be lost.

By 1:30pm I was seriously worried. More unanswered phone calls and a half eaten prawn baguette followed, but .... nothing.

Needless to say the end of the booking (3pm) came and went and I tried one final round of calls, texts and emails. I did not hear anything from Leon.

Until two weeks' later.

"Hi Gary" said the sheepish voice on the phone. "I'm so sorry I didn't make our session; I had terrible flu and couldn't get out of bed". I was too taken aback to respond with anything intelligible at first, but blurted out that I had been concerned about his no-show. Again he apologised, but said he would be in touch soon to book another date. That was three years ago and I am still waiting for Leon's phone call.

So what lessons can we learn from this tale?

Firstly, it is ok to take your time before you embark on the voice over path, but bear in mind enthusiasm and action are as important as talent. If you keep stalling, year after year, you have to ask yourself some soul-searching questions:

  • Do I really want to do voice overs?
  • Why do I keep putting off committing?
  • Is the fear just too great?

Of course job, family and budget all influence our decisions, but we should also be honest in assessing our conviction to learning something new.

If you don't know whether you want to do voice overs or not.... you probably don't. 

What do you think Leon's next step should be? Should he give up, or try again? 

Gary Terzza is course director at VoMasterClass

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