I estimated recently that in my career in the broadcast
industry, I’ve spent over 12,000 hours in front of a
microphone as a voice talent and spoken millions of words that
someone else put in my mouth. During
some of those hours, I gave 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
Voiceover Actors’ Ten Commandments
Thou shalt be on time.
If for some unexplainable reason, you must be late,
why cell-phones were created.
Being prompt is professional and studio time costs
Thou shalt be agreeable.
Contrary to what you read in People magazine, nobody
likes a prima donna. 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.
Thou shalt be prepared,
just like the 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 it comes time to pay the bill.
Thou shalt help out your friends.
Recommend other professionals whenever you can.
If you like a particular studio or have worked with
another exceptional voice professional—spread the word.
With any luck, some of these grateful folks will say
kind words about you, too.
Thou shalt 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 some day be a demand for
the Norwegian Troll accent you’ve been perfecting.
Thou shalt 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 quite like you do.
I’ll never forget the talent I auditioned one day
whose resume listed an ability to do ‘comedic laughs.’
He could, too. Guess who I hired.
Thou shalt learn when to keep your mouth shut.
Resist the urge to say out loud, “This copy sure
“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.
Thou shalt not get discouraged.
Even the best voice actor has a bad day or blows an
audition, or god forbid, says something stupid with the mic
open and recording. Go
easy on yourself, tomorrow is another chance to do it right.
Thou shalt remember to be generous.
At the beginning of my career, I contacted Bill
Wendell, the voice talent who introduced David Letterman each
night, and asked him to do an intro for my demo tape by
introducing me in the same style.
He very kindly did, and I never forgot his generosity
to a newly hatched voice talent.
Give a little something extra whenever you can by being
flexible. We all
need favors from time to time and those who are willing to
help are most often the ones to be helped in return.
Thou shalt be grateful.
Thank the producer.
Thank the engineer.
Thank the client. 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.
Melinda Walsh is a seasoned voice professional
who also has on-camera, writing, directing, and producing
credits on her extensive production resume’.
She firmly believes that it is her mission in life to
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