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Opuzz Voice : Featured Article

The Voiceover Actors’ Ten Commandments

by Melinda Walsh


I estimated recently that in my career in the broadcast industry, I’ve spent over 12,000 hours in front of a microphone as a voice talent and spoken millions of words that someone else put in my mouth. During some of those hours, I gave exemplary performances. During (hopefully fewer) others, I should have apologized to the producer for making them part of my learning curve and paid them for their trouble. Somehow, I made it through my “I’m insecure but I’m going to pretend I’m not” years by gradually developing some work philosophies that have served me well in my career.

The Voiceover Actors’ Ten Commandments

1.      Thou shalt be on time.  If for some unexplainable reason, you must be late, call.  That’s why cell-phones were created.  Being prompt is professional and studio time costs money.

2.      Thou shalt be agreeable.  Contrary to what you read in People magazine, nobody likes a prima donna.  Smile even when the inexperienced producer wants you to do it ‘just one more time’ and you know the best take was the second one.  Remember, you were a beginner once, too.

3.      Thou shalt be prepared, just like the Boy Scouts.  Unless you can nail cold reads, if the script is offered to you in advance, read it.  Producers love quick studies in the studio—particularly when it comes time to pay the bill.

4.      Thou shalt help out your friends.  Recommend other professionals whenever you can.  If you like a particular studio or have worked with another exceptional voice professional—spread the word.  With any luck, some of these grateful folks will say kind words about you, too.

5.      Thou shalt practice your craft.  Keep an ear tuned to the latest trend in deliveries and practice adding new voices and skills to your repertoire.  Who knows, one day there may some day be a demand for the Norwegian Troll accent you’ve been perfecting.

6.      Thou shalt find your own style.  What is it that you can do that no one else can?  This is why you get hired—because no one else makes that little quirky giggle quite like you do.  I’ll never forget the talent I auditioned one day whose resume listed an ability to do ‘comedic laughs.’  He could, too.  Guess who I hired.

7.      Thou shalt learn when to keep your mouth shut.  Resist the urge to say out loud, “This copy sure sucks”  or, “Who wrote this crap?”  Chances are it’s the person who hired you.  Either learn to make extremely diplomatic suggestions, or learn to deliver bad copy in a way that makes the copywriter think they have talent.

8.      Thou shalt not get discouraged.  Even the best voice actor has a bad day or blows an audition, or god forbid, says something stupid with the mic open and recording.  Go easy on yourself, tomorrow is another chance to do it right. 

9.      Thou shalt remember to be generous.  At the beginning of my career, I contacted Bill Wendell, the voice talent who introduced David Letterman each night, and asked him to do an intro for my demo tape by introducing me in the same style.  He very kindly did, and I never forgot his generosity to a newly hatched voice talent.  Give a little something extra whenever you can by being flexible.  We all need favors from time to time and those who are willing to help are most often the ones to be helped in return.

10.  Thou shalt be grateful.  Thank the producer.  Thank the engineer.  Thank the client.  They could have chosen anyone else in the world and they chose you. This is the best profession in the world….. so respect the privilege and be sure to express your appreciation for those people who help you sound good.

By Melinda Walsh

Melinda Walsh is a seasoned voice professional who also has on-camera, writing, directing, and producing credits on her extensive production resume’. She firmly believes that it is her mission in life to do voiceovers.

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