February 7, 2009
These are my answers to questions asked by a student for a school research project, writing about the profession of voice acting.
- What are the educational requirements for entry into this occupation and what will be the approximate cost of this education?
The requirement is that you are proficient in terms of the needed skills that are needed to execute your job on par with the professionals already working in this industry. The cost, which may be related to workshops and private tutoring, can vary greatly from person to person, anywhere between a 450$ 8 week course, to a 800$ weekend intensive, or private sessions between 100-200$ an hour and above.
- What special skills or talents are required for this occupation?
Acting ability, above all else. The ability to read without sounding like you’re reading, making a character come off the page. A conscious understanding of your instrument (voice), and how voices are recorded. An understanding of ‘theatre of the mind’ and how voice talent perform for the ear. Having a good ear for voices, and being able to distinguish their different qualities which includes but is not limited to: pitch, texture, placement, resonance, regional or foreign accent/dialect, and tempo.
- What experience is required for entry into this occupation?
Your experience should come from any training you’ve received, whether self-taught or from a teacher. There is no set level of experience beyond proficiency in skills (detailed above) for someone to enter this industry.
- What personality characteristics are best suited for this occupation?
Those who are creative and open minded, congenial, who think quick on their feet, and are driven towards their goal, in spite of the difficulty and hardships which are found in showbiz tend to do quite well in this industry.
- What are the physical demands of the occupation?
The stamina to go through a four hour session, which could entail verbose exchanges, high energy outbursts, and physically demanding action sequences, while staying vocally consistent.
- What are the age, gender, IQ, physical condition requirements, etc.?
None. Though concerning IQ, I would contend those who are ‘sharp’ fair far better than those who are inversely related.
- What are the risks and safety concerns associated with this work?
A session which requires significant strain on one’s voice, either in sheer voracity, screaming, or a voice with characteristics that are difficult to maintain for longer periods of time can, if no accommodations are made, cause a complete blowout, and possible permanent damage to your vocal chords.
- What factors affect, and what is the level of, stress or “burn-out” associated with this work?
The unpredictable nature of this business, with auditions and bookings being announced the day before, same-day, or even last minute, having a consistent schedule is neigh impossible. The fact that there is no guarantee when or where your next gig will come from can also create a certain amount of mental stress.
- What are the travel requirements and/or opportunities for travel?
With the increasing popularity of ISDN and transfer of high quality sound files via Internet, more and more talent are able to do their work from the comfort of their own homes, or a remote studio. Largely though, this industry is very location orientated, and is expected of talent to travel to the various studios located in their area for work. On rare occasions for high profile projects, a talent may be flown to a different state to record for the client.
- What is the rate of turn-over among employees?
Almost all of the work is on an individual assignment basis, with recurring gigs lying mainly in animated series or a voice with brand identification. Because of this, ‘turn-over’ isn’t even so much an occurrence as it is an accepted fact of the profession.
- Under what circumstances might you experience a lay-off, or be terminated from your work?
Once again, being practically a freelance worker, there is no guarantee of future work after the session has concluded. The only way one would be prematurely sent home is if you are revealed to not have the sufficient skills to complete the job, or prove extremely difficult to work with.
- What are the hours and shifts required for this work?
Typically for most professional studios under Union contracts, the time frame lies between 10am to 5pm. The hours your sessions can run could be anywhere between 15 minutes, to 4 hours, and longer if you’re working a non-union contract. The short answer is “whenever, for however long they want you.”
- What is the salary range at these points: entry, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years?
There’s really no way to say on average, because the working (or not, as it often tends to be) actor will have a completely different path their career follows, with dips and surges within the course of years, or even months. Two voice actors who have been working at it for 30 years can make an astronomically different amount of money, with little more difference perceived than ‘luck.’
- What retirement, health, and other benefits are typically associated with this occupation?
The two main Unions which cover voice-over work are the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or AFTRA, and the Screen Actor’s Guild, or SAG. Each of these Unions of their own benefits associated with health care, retirement, credit unions, funds, and scholarships. You can explore these benefits in depths at their web-site, www.aftra.com, and www.sag.org.
- What requirements are there beyond the normal work day / work week?
Many actors feel it necessary that even when not out auditioning or working, to be practicing their craft in some way, either by taking additional classes, or giving themselves homework on skills they wish to improve on.
- Describe the test(s) or certifications that may be required to work in this occupation.
There are none.
- How often will you be required to participate in professional development? i.e. go back to school, go to workshops, retrain, re-certify, etc.
There are no such requirements, though as detailed a couple points before, many feel it a good idea to do so anyway.
- What is the financial status of the industry and/or companies in the field you have chosen?
At the moment, many companies have been forced to cut back, which may result in fewer new commercials being produced. However, re-cuts of older commercials which still have residual structures in place have been predicted to have a rise in use. Companies will always have a need to compete for consumers, even if it’s not at a larger scale.
- What is the employment forecast for this occupation at the local, regional, and national level?
There has been less work going around in all sectors.
- How might a change in technology change the demand or work environment in this field?
Technology has already made a huge change in the demand of work, making the transfer of voices instantaneous even from across the Globe. While talent are now able to work across the Country from a single studio, talent have also been receiving less and less notice about projects, expecting them to be ‘instantly available’ with often last minute panic calls.