14 of the Voiceover Industry’s Top Players
This is the extended version of an article published by Backstage.com (“13 of the Voiceover Industry’s Top Players” on May 21, 2014)
Today’s voiceover industry is in a state of rapid change. Where once entry was cloaked, if not denied, to all but a privileged handful of insiders, it is fast opening to everyday people willing to do what it takes to succeed. The one thing that remains unchanged is the personality types driving the next evolution. They are still the same rambunctious, unstoppable characters that create change in every generation. They don’t drive the highways. They build them. These are the trendsetters, influencers and connectors. These are the resources for teachers, coaches, conventions, seminars and workshops that represent the primary constellation of opportunities for getting started and building forward.
Pat Fraley a master teacher, lecturer and performer, has single handedly invented voiceover curricula. Honestly, “curricula” is too old-fashioned a term for what Pat Fraley has done. His teachings and methods move beyond traditional acting schools. It’s not only about his immeasurable knowledge but his uncanny ability to break down acting techniques, vocal styling and craft trickery into fun, bite-sized nuggets that get students to the heart of successful performance. We asked Pat about his influence: “My influence comes from teaching and performing for many years. I model what I teach as a performer and vice versa. I add to my teaching duties to do all I can to get my students working. I hear my students use what I have taught them as they work, model my technique in their own unique way and work with whom I have connected them.”
Don LaFontaine’s legacy remains the aspiration of every voice actor. There was nothing Don could not do in this realm and he did it all with a grace and ease that drew people to him. He single handedly created the style in which movie trailers are performed to this day. Actors still measure themselves by how well they can imitate Don’s famous line, “In a world.” Don’s legacy inspired veteran voice actors Paul Pape and Joe Cipriano (author of Living On Air) to create the Don LaFontaine Voiceover Lab, a state-of-the-art facility offering free services to advance the voiceover industry. Paul Pape shared, “I want to give the VO profession more visibility by way of a strong sense of community that looks out for its own and invests in its future.” Joe Cipriano adds, “My greatest hope is that the men and women who use this beautiful facility to enrich their lives and their
careers will someday themselves give back to future artists in the same way Don did”
David Lewis:While doing considerable due diligence to understand the voiceover community in Chicago, we made two surprising >discoveries: First, Chicago is home> to an exemplary pool of voiceover >professionals: Second, David Lewis is at the center of it. David was recommended to us >by everyone we spoke to. David’s career is the stuff of legend (Think Mad >Men), but a turning point came in 1997 when he formed VOX: Chicago Voice Casting, Inc. Today VOX: Chicago is the most respected voice casting company in Chicago. We asked David about his creative process: “My creativity is the list of talent I submit. What they asked for. (Connector) What they should’ve asked for. (Influencer) What they’d never think to ask for. (Trendsetter) Who they pick is a result of their creativity.”
Chuck Duran and Stacey Aswad are the creators and hosts of VO Buzz Weekly, a highly prolific online program featuring personal, one-on-one interviews with the industry’s most celebrated voice talent. Through VO Buzz Weekly, Chuck and Stacey provide a unique, inside look at the career struggles and triumphs behind popular voice actors, coaches and producers. Chuck’s career as a rock musician and VO demo reel producer and Stacey’s as a gifted voice actor and producer, give this duo a unique insight for turning the career journeys of their guests into career changers for their audience. As they see it, “VO Buzz Weekly virtually unites the world through real conversations with the industry’s most successful people. We empower viewers with real-world knowledge and the inspiration to achieve their dreams.”
James Alburger and Penny Abshire are an inseparable energy that has influenced the voiceover conversation at many levels. James is the author of The Art Of Voice Acting and is arguably the father of voiceover entrepreneurship. He and Penny, voice actors and teachers in their own right, created the Voice Acting Academy and the VOICE Convention, not to mention other ventures through which pros and newcomers can learn and grow. “The pride and happiness we feel when we look into the eyes of the people who attend VOICE is amazing! This whole convention sprang from our love for this community and for wanting to get them together, face-to-face. For us, VOICE is a true labor of love.”
Nancy Wolfson, founder of Brain Tracks Audio, is fondly known as “the tough love coach,” is perhaps the forerunner of the no-nonsense, get your act together, go to work or go home attitude toward creating a voiceover career. Nancy’s gift is helping actors develop their talent and realize their brand potential. There’s a reason her name comes up as often as it does and the reason is her reputation for making an impact. Nancy, are you really as tough as they say? “My joyful purpose is to rigorously adapt myself to help connect you to yourself, power up your creative potential, and sync you to the people, ideas and profitable opportunities that realize your joyful purpose.”
Edge Studio’s CEO, David Goldberg, is a fast and furious business man on a mission to expand Edge Studio into the leading voiceover consortium, from education to casting to production. David started Edge Studio as a music recording facility but soon discovered he had a talent for directing and casting spoken word performances and wrote the Voice Over Technique Guidebook. We asked David about his success:“Edge Studio is proud of our part in growing the voiceover community through the provision of educational programs and other resources. Hundreds of Edge alumni work every day, cast in projects we produce and produced by others.”
Gerald Griffith, is the man behind Atlanta’s Voiceover City and the annual VO Atlanta Convention. Local Atlanta actors told us that many among the Atlanta VO community were underserved, untapped and undervalued. Given Atlanta’s enormous pool of talent, this would be a good place to take proactive steps. Still, many VO actors are happy with the status quo and express no such discontent. Gerald’s initial voice acting ambitions might have put him in one camp or the other, but his focus quickly turned to his penchant for entrepreneurial pursuits. He seized the opportunity to plant the seeds for an education center, which he built by enlisting the mentorship of local VO professionals and bringing in other VO experts from around the country. Whereas Atlanta once lacked a significant center of voiceover education, now there is Voiceover City and the VO Atlanta Convention. We got Gerald on the cell to share his thoughts: “Having the opportunity to connect people and the resources they need means a lot to me. People are usually short one or two key connections to take them to the next level. It’s exciting to be a part of their future.”
For Cedering Fox, voice acting plays a vital part in her romance with words and language. While her day job includes voicing commercials, promos and the voice of the Oscars® for two years running, she strives to further the influence of the spoken word through the art of storytelling. This led her to create WordTheatre® — an innovative, internationally recognized nonprofit, dedicated to inspiring a love of language and literature by presenting live performances of contemporary short stories. When asked about this labor of love she said, “Since earliest civilization, people have gathered to hear a great storyteller. Stories bring people together and inspire empathy. Hearing a great actor read a brilliant story is pure magic.”
Jason Ojalvo, SVP Content at Audible, caused a sea change in the voiceover industry with the launch of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). Now anyone with a good voice and a talent for reading stories has a chance for a rewarding voiceover career. Talent notwithstanding, ACX created an entirely new gateway for anyone in the world to log on, register, audition and read their way to success. We asked Jason to share how it’s going: “Connecting over 16,000 actors to authors and publishers, ACX has increased the audiobook industry’s production by close to 40%. Voice actors now have increased control over their careers, instead of waiting by the phone.”
VoiceOverXtra hit the scene in 2007 and quickly became the go to online publication for voiceover news. Its creator, John Florian, brings the best of the country’s voiceover experts to its virtual pages as news and human interest stories and provides educational insights. Voiceover experts jumped on board to be acknowledged for both their professional achievements and the professional services they offer. Today, VoiceOverXtra is expanding its roots to become a full-scale online education platform. Florian is clearly buoyed by his success: “I think VoiceOverXtra is a major force in raising professionalism – treating VO as a skill and business and gives everyone a safe, convenient place to share ideas, learn from the pros, and grow a career.”
Elaine Clark may have created the most provocative voiceover book title ever, when she published There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is, in 2000. The title captures the essence of what motivates the question, “How do I break into doing voiceover work?” And it opened eyes and doors for people seeking voiceover career options. Elaine took her passion further as founder of Voice One, a San Francisco-based educational facility covering voiceover training and a range of spoken word and on-camera instruction. “I love the sparkle in people’s eyes and voices when they get it, and when it empowers them to become successful!” As for what’s next, Elaine shared, “Activate Your Voice, my voice warm-up phone app, improves voice quality and breath support.” Hey, who couldn’t use a little breath support?
Jeff Hixon revolutionized the voiceover industry in 1998 by creating Voicebank.net. It quickly established itself as the leading voiceover audition delivery network in the world, connecting over 250 talent agencies, over 8000 ad agencies, animation houses and producers globally. With millions of auditions successfully delivered and tens of thousands of projects cast, Voicebank.net has forever changed the VO Casting process. Over 75,000 VO demos are posted on the Voicebank.net. The site provides a tool for clients to preview talent, access their representation, and discover aspiring voice actors. We asked Jeff what’s next for him: “Recently, we introduced another online tool we call VoiceRegistry. It enables actors to be searched for and heard by talent agencies and to find educational and training opportunities to further their careers.”
Pay-To-Play (P2P): We would be remiss to close this article without mentioning P2P as another game changer in the voiceover industry. It is essentially a number of independent online voiceover casting services that make it possible for anyone interested in voice acting (trained or untrained, talented or not) to create an online profile and begin auditioning, usually via one’s home studio. The actor pays an upfront fee for the privilege of taking part in cattle call audition scenarios that bear little fruit. While some VO actors have had some success with P2P, it’s generally an uphill slog in an unregulated space. with buyers often looking for actors who are willing to take rock-bottom rates. Enormous controversy swirls around the P2P business model and legitimate frustration has been expressed by voice actors, agents, casting directors and those who advocate for fair labor practices. P2P is a phenomenon that has yet to figure out how to play the end game, but we believe it’s here to stay in one form or another. It’s just a matter of someone unlocking the code to its success.