There are three things I was reminded of this week which are essential to being a great voice actor.
First, always take time to watch or listen to your work. In the past, I have been guilty of not watching the shows I voice. For years, I was asked very specific questions about DragonBall Z I did not know the answers to. It was less than a year ago that I sat in a room with 2 other DBZ voice actors and watched movie 13 in its entirety. What did I learn? It's a good show...no a great show. So, I came home and scoured YouTube for any episode I could find. I even found a scene I had forgotten about in which my characters have a lengthy conversation. WOW! 'Me' talking to 'me'- I was very proud!
DB Cooper said something at the VOICE conference that stuck with me. "If you want to voice video games, you have to play video games!" Sounds simple, but it is easy to get busy and forget to go back and review your work. I own one of the video games I voiced 3 characters on, yet I rarely play it. I plan to change that.
When I watched our friend's baby last week, I finally had time to sit and watch cartoons while rocking and rocking...and rocking. I started with a DVD of the upcoming show Raggs in which I voice a puppy. I knew this show was great, but watching the show as will be seen on tv was incredible. I then watched 3 DVD's of Solty Rei in which I voice Celica. My goodness there is some incredible acting in that show! I learned so much listening to the other actors and how they delivered their lines. I also learned 2 very important things about myself...
1) I am a much better voice actor than I realized.
2) I am not nearly as good a voice actor as I thought I was.
OK- what I realized is that I'm very good, but I can still be better! I plan to continue training and learning as much as I can.
The second step in being a voice actor is being confident in your work. I was reading a thread recently over at the VO-BB that talked about how much to charge for your work. It became a back and forth conversation between seasoned professionals and those new to the business. The 'newbies' thought taking lower paying jobs was fine as long as it helped in their learning process and added clients to their resume. The professionals did not want to see anyone taking lower rates, lest that become the norm for us all. Now, I am generalizing and paraphrasing- but you get the idea.
It occurred to me that it wasn't so much about money as it was about confidence, or lack there of. I believe in my abilities and do not choose to be underpaid for them. I also know the expense that went in to my studio, the time it takes to properly voice a script, clean it up, and send it off. I know there is only one voice on earth that sounds like mine...and it is mine! So, I believe I should be fairly compensated for the use of it.
If we were all equally confident in our voices, regardless of experience, we would not be willing to settle just to add a name to a resume.
Now, I could discuss that topic for pages- so I will move on the step number 3...share.
On Wednesday nights, I teach English as a second language to adults from all over the world. I have students from Russia, Thailand, Taiwan, Panama, Mexico, Cuba, etc., etc. Our only common language is English, so it is the only language spoken in class. Sometimes I have to be very creative in explaining certain words!
Last night, one of my favorite students from Mexico asked me about the word 'catalogue'. It seems he could not pronounce it correctly and needed a 'trick' to help him say it. I thought for a few moments before it hit me. I wrote the words 'cat' and 'log' on the board and had him say each word. Then I had him say them faster and faster until the two words eventually ran together. I told him to 'roll' the middle a bit just like in Spanish. Try it...eventually you will say 'catalogue' perfectly!
I am not a speech therapist by any means, but when you are forced to teach words- you will think about them more closely. Try doing this when you receive a voice over script, take each word and watch it 'jump' off the page as you read it! Don LaFontaine says to 'love' the words. Trust me- if you share your language you will learn to love it through fresh eyes.
I believe these three easy steps will make you a better voice actor. Review, Be Confident, and Share. Simple things that will make a big difference!