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TBA Online: News & Features: November 2018

Raise Your Voice: Being A Voice-Over Actor in the Bay Area

Monday, November 19, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rotimi Agabiaka
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by Jia Taylor

If you’ve played a video game in the last few years, you’ve probably heard Elaine Clark’s voice. For actors wishing to emulate her 30-year voice-over career, Clark has this advice: you need more than just a good voice.

“‘Just because I have a good voice means I can do voice-over.’ That’s the biggest myth,” says Clark who wrote the best-selling voice-over guide, There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is.

 The growing demand for audiobooks, e-learning, commercials, video games, and animation has created more voice-over opportunities than ever before. Advances in digital technology have made it easier for voice-over actors to submit recordings from anywhere in the world. This means more work for Bay Area voice actors. 

To give you a leg up on nabbing those voice-over gigs, I asked some of the Bay Area’s busiest voice-over actors—Elaine Clark, Michael Asberry, Gene Mocsy and Angeli Fitch—for pointers on how to thrive in the voice-over industry. 

Training

Elaine Clark. Photo by Stuart Locklear

 

In 1986, Clark founded Voice One in San Francisco to train students seeking voice-over careers. 

“Voice-over is not a skill to get into alone.  I struggled with it when I was a theatre major,” Clark says. “[Voice-over actors] are professional cold readers—we’re 90% there in less than five minutes and that’s easier said than done.”

In addition to her theatre training, Clark’s musical background helped her develop voice-over technique.  

“I hear words musically and the tempo and rhythm that go along with it,” Clark says. “[Voice-over actors] are giving a message the same way a song does and we have to find the right tune with every script we get.”

Clark has developed two voice and diction apps to help actors practice. “Activate Your Voice,” is a five-minute “professional speech warmup” and “Finding Melody In Your Voice” contains videos, exercises, and other resources to build the confidence and familiarity required for voice-over success.

“When you walk around and talk to people, you gesture, you move, you nod,” Clark says.  “But as soon as someone gets in front of a microphone and a stand, they quit moving and freeze up. 

Clark says whether you come from a theatre background or the corporate world, it’s important to know the goals of the client and to deliver a natural performance.

“If someone says, ‘I love that commercial that you were in, you sounded so good’ and you ask do you remember the product and they can’t remember it, that’s a failure from a voice-over perspective,” Clark says. “Our personality, our ability to take words that are not ours and make them sound conversational and truthful is what it’s really all about.”

Breaking in 

Michael Asberry. Photo by Stuart Locklear

 

For veteran actor Michael Asberry, who started out narrating children's books 22 years ago, getting into the industry was an act of nature.

“My voice changed when I was really young and the way that I sound now, I sounded like this since I was 11,” Asberry says. “I was in the sixth grade; I remember the teacher was calling roll and when I said ‘hello’ everybody in the class turned around to see who was talking.  From that moment on, somebody always said something about my voice.”

Asberry’s notable voice got him his start in the voice industry—volunteering as a DJ at a local jazz station in Pittsburg.  

“When I started to get serious about pursuing voice-over, I thought about all the actors that I liked and they all had theatre backgrounds,” Asberry says.  “If I want to compete with them, I need to have that as well and that’s when I started auditioning for the stage,” Asberry says.

Asberry continues to work in both theatre and voice-over.  He’s currently performing in Sacramento with Capital Stage Company’s production of Sweat. He says his biggest voice-over opportunity came out of a stage audition he didn’t get.

“I remember being disappointed that I didn’t get that theatre role but the casting director for the play, who also works at Pixar, called and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for an animated spot at Pixar and I lit up like a Christmas tree.” Asberry says. 

Asberry booked the role and voiced the character Frozone in Mr. Incredibles and Pals, an animated short included as a bonus on the DVD edition of The Incredibles.  

He has also voiced the video games Battlefield Vietnam and Eagle Eye and commercials for Cheetos Sweetos and Pine Sol.  Asberry says certain industry practices make it challenging to work.     

“There are a handful of people who are doing a majority of the work in the voice-over world,” Asberry says. “I’d like to be one of them so that’s still a challenge to get inside the circle, but I love it and I’m in it for the long haul.” 

Find Your Place in the Industry

Gene Mocsy. Photo by Victoria Bradley.

 

Voice jobs in video games are some of the most sought after in the voice-over industry, generating profits that rival Hollywood blockbusters.  

Gene Mocsy has been working in the video game industry for 17 years. He says he started off as an artist and designer.

“Since I was the writer and knew the characters best, once in a while I’ll have to step up to the mic and play a small part,” says Mocsy. “I kind of got into the voice side of it side-ways.”

Mocsy has worked on several video games including Duke Grabowski, Mighty Swashbuckler!, Perils of Man, and 1954: Alcatraz. He’s currently writing and designing his third mobile game for Haiku Games called Adventure Escape: Dark Ruins.

Like Asberry, Mocsy also got his on-mic experience volunteering at a local radio station. Mocsy reported news and performed in radio dramas at KALX in Berkeley. 

“We wrote the radio drama and did it cold on air, so there was no rehearsal and you had to be sharp and read quickly and have characters,” Mocsy says.  

Admission into the world of voice acting for video games can be highly competitive. Mocsy says voice actors can gain experience visiting a site called Adventure Game Studio where game makers look for volunteer voices. He also encourages voice actors to create their own opportunities. 

“Make your own content,” Mocsy says. “Make a game or movie that has a part that’s perfect for you.” 

The Shift in the Industry 

Angeli Fitch. Photo by Stuart Locklear

 

According to Voices.com, there is also a higher demand for female voices. This growing trend has provided opportunities for people like Angeli Fitch. 

“I’m used to performing where the stakes are high,” says Fitch, who is also a criminal defense attorney. “If I don’t do a good job, my client could end up in prison for the rest of his life.”

After studying for two years at Voice One, Fitch began pursuing voice acting jobs. She’s been so successful that she now does voice-over full time, and practices law part-time.

Fitch gets booked for a variety of voice work including promotional videos, voicemail systems and mediations, but says the bulk of her work is in e-learning and explainer videos. 

 “For me as a lawyer, I started with e-learning and training because that’s my wheelhouse.  That’s a comfortable voice for me,” Fitch says. “Sure, I’d love to do animation, play fun characters but I had to start with what’s my strength right now.”

Fitch also does pro bono work which she says gives her additional experience. She recently volunteered as a live presenter at the Rumi Awards, which celebrate the legacy of the 13th century poet Rumi. 

“It’s important for me to use my voice in a way that I feel has meaning,” Fitch says. 

Jia Taylor is a writer, actor, singer and filmmaker. Follow her on Instagram @jiataylor