The first thing you need to do is be ready and confident to express your voice and talent. To do so, it is vastly recommended to train with a professional in the field, and you have a plethora of options. You can do private tutoring or sign up for upcoming classes that range from one to a few days of lessons. These are called workshops.
“When I was starting out, and even up until 10 years ago there wasn’t really a lot of voice classes,” said Rubin. "Now there is."
“If you’re not an actor, singer, etc. and the use of your voice is pretty well confined to normal conversation, training is helpful, in that it gives you a certain degree of confidence,” said Colgate.
Meadows does coaching sessions in Toronto at Kim Hurdon Casting. The advice she mainly gives on becoming a voice actor is to learn the ways of theatre and improv, being two skills highly relevant to voice-overs. “Some of the most talented voice actors I know come from a theatre background. Theatre trained actors are not afraid to use their bodies and go big with their choices,” said Meadows.
“Improv gives an actor a lot of practice getting comfortable not knowing what's going to happen next and that's a big part of the job of an actor. The casting director or voice director may have a totally different take on a specific scene or the character as a whole and you just gotta go with the flow and start playing in this new direction they are taking you.” The next kid workshop she is teaching is this April 7 - 8 and the next adult workshop is April 21 - 22.
Melissa Altro, a voice actress who has been Muffy on Arthur for the last 23 years, as well as roles such as the star of Pippi Longstocking and Gretchen in Camp Lakebottom, is also a voice coach, owner of Voice Pro Studio, also in Toronto.
Meadows, Altro and Rubin all also allow private tutoring if it's the preferred teaching method, Altro and Rubin for $85 and $90 an hour, respectively.
These coaches will help record a demo. It is how you will advertise yourself to the world, showing recordings of the voices you can do to agencies, advertisers and animation directors.
According to Altro, ‘it’s better to have fewer distinctive characters than too many similar sounding ones.’ Each voice segment should be about 10-15 seconds to show you can hold onto the attitude and impersonation of the character for a long period of time.
“Voice acting is much more about crafting characters than having an interesting voice,” said Meadows. “Make some strong choices for your character in the scene and have fun playing them! Beware of over preparing the audition sides and locking yourself into only one way of saying each line - this will cut off your spontaneity in the moment.”
Some voice actors manage to disguise their voice, changing maybe their accent, maybe their gender, and still becoming the character. Practicing different accents and hearing yourself can help inform you what may be required to improve.
“I don’t want you to act the part. I want you to become the part. You literally have to know how to cough and sneeze and laugh and exert and everything like the character,” said Rubin.
Once you feel confident you’re ready to go out into the field, it’s now time to find an agent that will sponsor you.
Acting agencies hear from voice casters, animation directors and advertising producers looking for freelance voiceovers. They are given scripts and the specks of what they are looking for and the agency looks over who might be right for that job and call the performers to run an audition.
If you earn a role, the agency works out payment details with the company. Agencies are not supposed to get paid until you get paid.
There are two types of agencies in the entertainment field; union and non-union.
‘Union’ means you’re a member of ACTRA, Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists. And non-union you’re not. ACTRA has guidelines, you’re paid a certain amount and there’s residuals involved. Non-union agencies generally mean earning jobs that will pay $250 to $300 and sometimes not be required to have as much experience, but non-union does not mean non-professional.
“A lot of the work is going non-union because some people, producers, don’t necessarily want to pay the union rates, residuals, the backend, etc…Still, all the big commercials, all the big commercials and major animation shows, most of what you see on Saturday morning cartoons are still union,” said Rubin.
Getting an agency to hire you may take time and it’s recommended to read the contract they give you to make sure you don’t end up working for a company that won’t let you work elsewhere or force you to pay fees.
“Nowadays, the good news is there’s a lot of production. The bad news is there’s lots of competition,” said Rubin. “I’m very encouraging and supportive with my students but I’m also realistic with them. They’re probably not going to walk out of a workplace and have an agent by next week.”
So there will be a lot of rejections and a lot of auditions in the field, but you must be prepared for rejection, otherwise the anxiety will remain and without the energy and optimism, you won’t get other jobs.
“In Canada, yes, you can have absolutely up to a hundred people auditioning for a part easily. Other times you go in and you book it and you start recording in two weeks.”
So do voice actors in Canada manage to make a living with all the competition? Or do they have side jobs? Colgate is also a singer and songwriter, and Meadows, Altro and Rubin are coaches, though Rubin became a coach just recently. “I have been a professional actor for 40 years and I’ve been lucky enough. I haven’t had to have a side job. There’s a group at the top that absolutely makes a living doing voice acting full time…and others might have a side job,” said Rubin.
These stars have become outstanding Canadian actors and have enjoyed being able to share their experience on TV and with aspiring students.
“One of my favourite parts of being a voice actor is the range of characters to play is really wide. There is so much freedom in voice-over because actors don't need to look the part and that's incredibly exciting to me!” said Meadows.
“Singing, songwriting and acting are all equally rewarding. I enjoy performing and creating and [being these things] scratch both those itches,” said Colgate.
You can be a part of the excitement. Have you ever wanted to be a cartoon voice actor growing up? You have the opportunity.
Do you want to get started? You can start by looking over the voice acting workshops.
Krystal’s: khcasting.com/anim_classes.php or krystalmeadows.com
You can visit William and his band, Cadre, at cadretheband.com/gigs/ or billcolgate.com
You can also visit Debra at: chatterpinc.com