In 2010, online employment website CareerBuilder.com published a short article, "Ten Jobs Cooler Than Yours" that ran the gamut, from reasonable ideas like food critic or cruise director to some slightly more unrealistic suggestions like pet psychologist or doll doctor.
Tucked in at the bottom of the list was voice acting. Now, most people think of voice acting as the omnipotent and faceless speech of commercials but it turns out that voice acting goes well beyond just commercials. And, because there are so many facets of the industry, executives at VoiceCoaches Creative Voice Development Group, LLC also say the industry continues to grow and hire despite fluctuations in the economy that have stalled other fields.
So, Delaware Technical Community College has added a one-night course to its Continuing Education curriculum that pairs an industry expert with those interested in exploiting the earning potential within their own voices.
Scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday, Oct. 8 at the Terry Owens campus of Delaware Technical Community College, the fee for the class is $25. Registration is required, though, and space is limited.
The class will be led by a working and teaching professional voice actor with the VoiceCoaches company. VoiceCoaches President and Creative Director David Bourgeois took some time out of his day to explain the purpose of the class, what students can expect to learn and what aspiring voice actors should know.
SC: The class description says the field hasn't suffered like others in recent years, but it always seems like only famous voices are doing commercials. Are there other ways of making money?
DB: Yes. The first thing people think of when they hear the word voiceover is commercials. But, a lot of people don't realize, though, commercial voiceovers only make up about 10 percent of our field. So, the vast majority of the opportunities in voiceover work are what we would call narrative voiceover. And, I'll give you a few examples. A narrative voiceover is a narrative that doesn't necessarily promote a product or service. For instance, audiobooks are an extreme growth area in narrative voice acting. Another area is training materials that you see in the workplace, particularly in jobs that are very technical or heavily regulated. Years ago, the training might be done in person but more often today, the training is web-based. So, training and education are big. Gaming is also expanding and voiceovers play an enormous role in video games today. As a matter of fact, the gaming industry is the number one growth area in all voiceover work. A single role-playing game can have hundreds of thousands of lines of voiceover recorded into them. So, it's a very big opportunity. Another one that doesn't necessarily come to mind would be corporate phone systems. That voice you hear when you call a company that says, 'you've reached so-and-so, press this for this or press that for' is part of the field, and voice actors love that work because anytime that company changes a product or service or has a holiday or employee changes, they need to hire the voice actor to come back in.
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SC: When voice actors are first starting out, what can they expect to make and what's the potential?
DB: The potential is astronomical. Realistically, in the beginning, it depends on what that actor's goals are. A lot of people are interested in it nowadays because it's actually something they can do alongside their other occupation to earn additional income. Other people are interested in it because it's something they can't get fired from because they're in control of it. So, see, it just depends on what the actor wants to do.
SC: What about dialects and accents? Do you have to get rid of those?
DB: I'll tell you, our field has changed dramatically over the past 15 to 20 years. When I began in the field about 25 years ago, you really had to have that perfect voice. You know, that loud, low, clear, sort-of smiling voice that radio announcers used to have. That's what we grew up listening to and it was very male-dominated. Today, our field is 50-50 male to female and the range of voices we hire has increased dramatically. The reason for that is because what people respond to today is somebody who sounds believable. So, when it comes to an accent: no, you don't always reduce an accent. Often, it is more valuable to figure out what that voice, the way it is, would be best at doing in our field and focus that person in that direction. So, whether you're high and squeaky or low and resonate or you have a little bit of a southern accent or a Boston accent or the Midwest, I think it's great to figure out exactly where your voice fits into the field.
SC: What about location? Can you live anywhere and feasibly do this?
DB: We're going to talk more about this in the class, but with technology advancements, the field has moved away from big cities and into "B" markets. So, you can do this type of work anywhere you are located and the growth has actually been in smaller markets.
SC: What else will be discussed in the class?
DB: So, we'll talk about what a voiceover is, what the work experience is like and what it's like to do a voiceover. We'll talk about what kind of voices we hire today as well as where to look for work in your own community. We'll talk about how a voiceover actor represents himself or herself and how to make demos and, if there's time, everyone in the class typically gets a chance to do a short practice recording with our teacher.