GETTING BACK TO BASICS:
YOUR TRANSFORMATION AWAITS
By Joan Baker, July 2, 2023
Last year (2022) I began working with a new student who had very little training, but a ton of enthusiasm for becoming a voice actor. His story is personal so I will simply refer to him as TJ. After 6 weeks of one-on-one training, and a slew of homework assignments involving script analysis, breathing exercises, speech & diction workouts, and recording scripts, I noticed that he wasn’t improving very much. I shared my concern and he confessed that he hadn’t been doing the homework and, at best, had been rushing through or skipping his rehearsal process before recording the scripts. I told him he was not going to improve without mastering the basics and that I would not work with him otherwise. He suggested strongly that he should just quit. After all the enthusiasm and showing up on time for every session, he was just going to quit? I advised him that quitting was not the answer he wanted for his life, but my ultimatum was firm. So, for the next two months or so, every session was a come-to-Jesus moment. We got back to basics and telling the truth. What happened next was a learning experience for both of us.
People skip over the fundamentals for different reasons, including impatience, procrastination, laziness, and even a kind of arrogance. It’s as if they think they can get away with not paying their dues. When we forego the fundamentals, our foundation is shaky for whatever we’re building: a career in voice acting, a relationship, the pursuit of a new hobby, or raising a child.
On the other hand, when you get real about the fundamentals, you can feel that you’re on solid ground. That feeling breeds self-confidence and encourages you to stay the course. In your heart, you know you had the humility and conscientiousness to honor the practice.
Everything is connected.
If you don’t honor the basics of voice acting, there’s a good chance that either your interest is superficial and possibly based on an incorrect expectation about what it takes to become a voice actor, or that you are a person who tends to forego the fundamentals in other important aspects of your life.
Make a list of the fundamentals you know to be part of your practice and get busy practicing. It’s fine to take it on in bite-sized pieces. In fact, it’s preferred over rushing in with unrealistic goals of making an overnight change in your entire way of being. The latter is a recipe for failure. When you’re ready for something more advanced, look at where the fundamentals may be missing in other aspects of your life; relationships, child rearing, job, physical health, mental health, and even ongoing situations you may have with people in your life. Getting back to basics is first and foremost a matter of giving these areas your attention, acknowledging in your heart your dreams and emotions, committing honestly to them, and making a plan.
So, what happened to my client?
It was particularly hard for TJ over the first three weeks after our heart to heart. But as we continued working, I could see that his attitude was shifting, and he was taking his career seriously. Eventually, I began to see flashes of brilliance in his reads, so I knew he was working at home. It was slow progress, but the key was that he took responsibility for his own success. He even started recording his vocal warmups to prove that it was being done. I told him it was unnecessary, but he insisted that he do it for his own comfort. Then the first big breakthrough happened. TJ started improvising on his rehearsal process rather than routinely following the notes he took during our sessions. He was figuring out what worked for him, which every successful voice actor does to self-direct. Two months ago, TJ recorded a great commercial demo reel that earned him two agents, and I have no doubt that he will soon win his first booking. I am so proud of his work, and I’m blown away by just how unique each voice actor’s journey can be.
Be Open to Appreciating the Benefits
Remind yourself of why you’re pursuing a given dream. Appreciate the benefits to you and others of honoring and handling the fundamentals, whatever they are. Let the knowledge of the intended results keep drawing you toward continuing to take good care of it.
When we take care of the basics, everything else usually takes care of itself. ♦
Joan Baker is Vice President and co-founder of the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences (SOVAS), a nonprofit organization in support of voice actors, and co-creator of That’s Voiceover! Career Expo, an annual conference for voice actors, and the creators of the Voice Arts Awards — the premier acknowledgment platform for voice actors worldwide. Joan is also the author of the best-selling book Secrets of Voice-over Success and a voice acting coach with a unique penchant for getting to the heart of what inspires her clients to succeed.
From the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences
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