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"Hard work guarantees you nothing. But, without it, you don't stand a chance."
-- Pat Riley, NBA Coach

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VOICE-OVER FAQ'S

1) HOW DOES ONE BREAK INTO VOICE-OVER?

The short answer is: Take classes, become a great actor, record a killer commercial demo, get an agent, and start auditioning. Of course, like all things in life, it's not really that simple. Voice-Over is in actuality "Voice-Acting", and it will take more than a couple of classes to get you performing at a competitive level. You need an education and, just like a college degree, it doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, effort and money. What elements do you need to study? I would suggest taking courses in acting and improv prior to taking a Voice-Over class. I'll admit I didn't do this and, upon reflection, wish I had. A solid foundation would have done me a world of good in the beginning. Do yourself this favor... do all the legwork you can before jumping into the deep end. No one wants to drown.

2) HOW DO I FIND A GOOD VOICE-OVER CLASS?

Check the Voice-Over Resource Guide (VORG), which lists everything Voice-Over related in the Los Angeles area: talent agents, teachers, demo producers, casting services and so on. If you're outside of Los Angeles, hop on over to VOUniverse.Com where you can find information on classes and workshops throughout the country. But my first suggestion would be to ask an actor already in the Voice-Over world for recommendations, which is what I did. Then see if you can audit the class before handing over your hard-earned money. Not every class speaks to everyone, and you want to make sure you're in a class that's right for you. I started at The Voicecaster in Burbank, which gave me the fundamentals I needed to move on to other, harder classes. Also, since The Voicecaster is a casting house, I was given the opportunity to audition before I had an agent, or even a demo! For me, it was a great place to start.

3) HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN I'M DEMO READY?

Honestly, when you're no longer asking this question. You just know. When you can pick up a piece of commercial copy (which is where you start, because if you want to get into Voice-Over you must do commercials) and can rock out a competitive performance, adding in a little piece of yourself that makes it unique... that's when. In your heart, you'll know when you're ready. If you're not sure, then you're not. In hindsight, I recorded my first commercial demo a little earlier than I probably should have. While it got me several agents around the country and auditioning on a regular basis, I had to re-record it a year later because I'd grown considerably as an actor. My best advice: Don't jump the gun.

4) HOW DO I FIND A GOOD DEMO PRODUCER?

Just like classes, check the Voice-Over Resource Guide (VORG) if you're in Los Angeles, or VOUniverse.Com for the rest of the country. Also, like classes, ask around and get referrals. Listen to the demos on the producer's website to see if you like their work. Most importantly, you need to meet with them face-to-face and find out if you "get" each other. I can't stress enough how important it is you feel comfortable with your producer. If they teach a class or workshop, try to take it. Not every producer "clicks" with every actor.

5) HOW DO I GET AN AGENT?

Ahh, the million dollar question! Getting an agent is the most difficult part of the trek. Books have been written about it. Songs, too. Well, maybe not songs... Anyway, the best way to get an agent is to have a Voice-Over teacher, casting director, or another actor recommend you. If you're going to submit a demo yourself, call the agent's office and ask the receptionist what their submission policy is. Some agencies simply want you to e-mail them an MP3, others have a submission page built into their website, and there are those who still want a hard-copy CD sent through the mail. And, yes, they do listen to every submission.

If you don't get a call back or a meeting, it's generally because they already have your "type" on their roster. Never call an agent to see if they've listened to your demo. To say it's bad form would be an undersatement. If they like what they hear, they'll call. But they don't call if they're not interested. If you don't get an agent in your first round of submissions, don't fret... take a step back and reevaluate your demo. Were you ready to record it? Is it competitive? Does the uniqueness of "you" clearly shine through?

You can get contact information for virtually all reputable agencies on Voicebank.Net, plus listen to the demos of the clients they've signed.

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PRODUCING FAQ'S

1) WHAT EXACTLY IS A PRODUCER?

Hardly anyone can define what a producer does. You can stop someone in the street and ask what a director, a writer, or an actor does, and get an intelligent, accurate answer. But ask what a producer does and you'll get a fumbling attempt at a definition or a blank look. A good producer does many different things, and must have both creative and business skills. Mainly, producers want to tell stories.

To quote David Wolper, "A producer is a man with a dream. I say, 'I don't write, I don't direct, I don't act, I don't compose music, I don't design costumes. What do I do? I make things happen.' A producer is like a chef. You get all the right ingredients together and make a tasty stew. You put the wrong ingredients together, it'll taste bad."

2) WHY WOULD I WANT TO BE A PRODUCER?

Are you kidding? Why wouldn't you? Would you rather sell shoes for a living? Or be an accountant? Both are honorable occupations, but wouldn't you like to wake up eager to go to work, use every part of yourself while at work, and maybe, just maybe, have a tiny impact on the world? That's why I'm doing it.

3) HOW DO I LEARN THE CRAFT OF PRODUCING?

Anything that can be learned can be taught: cooking, typing, playing the piano, and, indeed, writing, directing, and producing. There are many prestigious film schools around the country, and at any of these fine establishments you'll learn the basics of filmmaking. I attended two schools: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which has a solid cinema program, and Columbia College-Hollywood in Los Angeles, which is a hands-on trade school. I learned a lot, but it wasn't until I was hired by producers Neal H. Moritz and, later, David Foster, that I really began to understand what the day-to-day life of a producer was really about. How do you learn the craft of producing? Get your film degree to learn the basics of film production, then work (or intern) for an established producer in Hollywood. You'll learn a great deal, and end up with a foot in the door.

4) HOW DID YOU BECOME A PRODUCER?

Hollywood is full of wannabes. Half the restaurants in Beverly Hills are staffed with wannabe actors, writers, directors, and, yes, producers. Most, alas, do not achieve their dreams. But some do. I did, and so can you. When I graduated from Heritage High School in Broadlands, Illinois (a tiny farm community) my dreams of working in Hollywood seemed as far away as the moon. Maybe even further. I attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for two years, before taking a well-needed break and job at WILL-TV in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (where I'd briefly worked during high school). It was here I learned all aspects of film and television production and began to hone my skills. I could have stayed and made a comfortable living, but my future life was in Los Angeles -- as was the movie business.

I wanted my name on that magnificent silver screen, so I moved west and continued my education at Columbia College-Hollywood. While there, I interned for mega-producers Neal H. Moritz and, separately, David Foster. I was good at my duties, and was quickly hired by Foster as an assistant. A year later, he moved me into development, before hiring me as his full-time Director of Development. I worked on four pictures with David Foster, all of them major studio releases, before dropping my salary and taking the terrifying leap into becoming a full-time producer. It only took a few months before I set up my first film, and I've never looked back.

5) WHEN CAN I ACTUALLY CALL MYSELF A PRODUCER?

Here's the good news: You already are a producer! Yes, really. No, it's not a trick or gimmicky statement to give you false encouragement, but rather a call to your attention that in your everyday life, you already are a "producer." Because producing is simply thinking ahead, planning, and getting a series of things done to accomplish a goal you set for yourself. You have to work backward: Start by figuring out everything you're going to need at a specific time in the future, and then make sure it's ready when you need it to be ready. It's mostly common sense and being organized. Whenever you invite your friends to come to your place for dinner, you have to "produce" it.

Movies are no different. So, when you find a project (be it an original screenplay, a newspaper clipping, a book, a comic, etc) you seriously want to assemble and try to get made, that's the moment you become a true producer.

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