Have you ever watched your favorite anime and found yourself wondering about the voices behind the characters? You may ask “how do these people manage to sound so cool?” or (more importantly) “how in the world did they land a job where they get be the voice of anime characters for a living!?” Sounds like the greatest gig in the world, I know.
To be sure like most jobs in show biz, getting there ain’t easy. But then again nothing worth having ever is. For those of you out there who have the dream and the drive to make it as a voice actor in the anime industry, like anything else it can be done with hard work and effort.
To help you guys out, I have compiled some advice and tips from voice actors who work on the English dubbed version of anime. Most of them have been at it for a long time and are at the top of their field. So if this is the path you want to follow, listen up and go get em!
1. Record yourself – this may sound obvious but it is the first step. Use your phone or any type of recording device to practice recording your different voices. Then play the recordings back to yourself. This will allow you to develop your skills while also letting you hear the way you sound from other people’s perspective.
2. Experiment – practice reading lines from different dialogues. Read parts from books, plays, T.V, movies, or anything else you can get your hands on. While reading, experiment to give your own unique voice to the characters.
3. Act – Most voice actors actually start off as regular actors who began doing voice work as an extension of live acting. If you’re in school join the drama club and try out for plays. This is the same path that many other voice actors took when they were younger. Also, this will help you develop crucial skills that you will need as a talent in the voice acting world. If you are no longer in school then joining a local improve group can also do the trick.
4. Get Critiqued – once you have experimented and made some recordings of yourself that you liked, play them for friends and family to get their input. It’s important to be honest here and say you want any type of feedback even if it is negative. It may help your confidence to only be praised but it will hurt you in the long run. Criticism will make you better by showing you where you need improvement and by finding out what people like. It may also give you new ideas and directions to run in.
5. Make Your Own Demo Tape – Save a list of your best recordings and edit them a tape all together. If you have a recording device and computer this can be done for almost no cost (you may want to buy some CDs). Once you do this pass it around to get critiqued some more and see what people think.
6. Youtube It! – Beau Billingslea (who did the voice for Jet Black on Cowboy Bebop and , Barret Walace in FFVII Advent Children) said that in the age of the internet, making a YouTube video of your demo work can be a viable option for getting recognized. In any event, it can only help you in getting noticed and possibly lead to your video taking off like so many other viral videos.
7. Have a Professional Demo Made – Once you’re ready, have a professional company make a demo tape for you that is specifically made for voice overs. This can be a little costly but there are a number of companies that will do this type of work. Also, this seems to be one of those tips that comes highly recommended. Having a polished demo of your voice over work to send out to dubbing companies will make you look more professional and give you a better chance to stand out in the crowd.
8. Know Your Location – After sending your demo tape out to voice over companies and talent agencies be aware that where you are can have a big effect on the audition process and working as a voice actor as a whole. For example, if you live in California, trying to audition in L.A might be your best bet. However, the business there is somewhat of a tightknit community which might make be hard to break into. In L.A. finding a talent agent to get you auditions is definitely the standard and having referrals from connections or people you know is a big plus.
On the other hand, Texas is a right to work state which means you do not have to be a member of a union to work. Also, it’s very important to mention that Texas seems to have more open auditions then other states. Here, you can actually call up the company doing the casting auditions and have your name put on a list. Then, on audition day you go there and take your shot in person!
Each state is going to have some positive and negative aspects. The best advice is not to limit yourself and apply anywhere and everywhere you can. If an opportunity comes up then follow up with it! Even if it is not near you, following any lead will pay off in the end.
So there it is! The compiled advice from today’s top voice actors in the anime world. One last piece of advice of my own: Have fun, get out there and break a leg!
Notes: In my research I found that Steve Blum and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Cowboy Bebop, Naruto) were both particularly helpful in their advice to prospective voice artists. Check out Steve Blum’s Website for more great info! http://www.steveblumvoices.com/.