What is a voice-over?

A voice-over is spoken material—be it narrative, informative, or fictional—in which the speaker is unseen. This often involves commercial copy (script) for television and radio, but also includes video games, animation, audiobooks, and corporate industrials, as well as material for the Internet and film.

How do I know if I have the right voice for voice-overs?

Obviously, people have all kinds of voices with differing strengths and abilities. Many people can also alter their voices to sound like someone else. What is most important, however, is a person’s ability to connect with the copy. Ellie applies principles of acting to help the student achieve this vital connection, working from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Therefore, the voice actor starts with connecting to the given material, and then the right voice is the result or fruit of this connection. It is the content of the material that determines the read. This inside-out approach is used by the best voice actors and is one of the most important aspects distinguishing Ellie from other voice-over coaches.

Are in-person coaching sessions better than online and over-the-phone sessions?

It really depends on the student. Ellie works with students from all over the world. While it is easy enough for some students to travel to Manhattan to work with Ellie in person, others find it much more convenient and comfortable to do their sessions over the phone or online via Hangouts, FaceTime, or Skype. Students in the New York City area often choose to do many or all of their sessions virtually.

Clients will often use a phone patch or video calling as a way of interacting with and directing the talent during the recording session. So, studying with Ellie remotely can give students the opportunity to practice working this way.

For Ellie, her approach to the work does not change, and she is able to connect to students that would otherwise be out of reach.

Does Ellie only teach beginners?

No, not at all. Many of Ellie’s students are professional voice actors with years of experience in the field. Some are trying to return to the business, reinvent themselves in some way, or prepare for a new demo or upcoming job. Many students work with Ellie ongoingly throughout their careers.

How much time do training and pursuing a career in voice-overs require?

The answer is different for each student, but generally, the work will require some significant time and effort before one becomes fully comfortable with connecting to copy. Ellie discusses how to practice and cultivate these skills on your own.

Throughout their careers, voice actors continue to develop what they have learned so they get to an ever fuller and deeper connection and thus a more genuine voice. This is a process which matures with time, coming more and more easily as one does the work.

What is a voice-over demo? Do I need one?

If you are interested in pursuing a career in voice-overs, you will need an example of your work, much like a portfolio, to present to possible employers, clients, and agents. A demo is an edited selection of your voice taken from several different pieces of copy.

Commercial copy is shorter in length and includes PSAs, promos, and product advertisements. Narration copy is longer in form and includes documentaries, pharmaceuticals, in-house business industrials, and audiobooks. Animation and character work make up another substantial part of the industry.

Most voice actors choose to have two or three demos, which showcase their skills in the areas where they are most likely to find work. These demos compliment each other and give potential clients a sense of the actor’s range and skills. The standard industry length of each demo is sixty to ninety seconds, with the exception of narration demos, which are longer.

Students in and around the New York City area usually record their demo(s) in Manhattan with Ellie and David. If a student wishes to record their demo in another city, Ellie can help answer questions about where to go and what to ask. Ellie can also coach students during the recording session itself via a phone patch. Whether in New York City or someplace else, Ellie is able to coach her students throughout the demo recording process.

For more information on voice-over demo production and rates, please contact Ellie directly.

Should I go straight to a demo production house instead of working with Ellie?

Recording studios that specialize in demo production are a mixed bag. Many are focused on the demo above all else, with less of an eye to the individual development and readiness of the student. These recording studios usually structure the sessions into demo packages, with so many sessions preparing the student for the recording of the demo. Students sometimes feel placed on an assembly line, recording with too little voice-over instruction or experience, and may soon feel the need to make another demo or set of demos after gathering more experience and control of their technique. This can be a costly mistake and one that can result in dampening a student’s ambition or even extinguishing the entire enterprise for them.

These demo production houses can also employ less experienced instructors with little or overblown real-world credentials and whose overall teaching technique is structured to fit within a predetermined framework.

Ellie believes students make much better demos when it feels natural than when entering into an arbitrary and pre-planned arrangement. Even without the pressure of this framework, students can still feel ready to record their demos in a short and reasonable period of time.

When can I start auditioning for voice-over jobs? How do I go about that?

There are several websites that post voice-over jobs from a variety of clients making it possible for voice actors to find work on their own. On these websites, voice actors can also post their demos and interested clients can peruse possible talent without going through casting houses. In addition, many voice actors now create their own websites for marketing purposes. In pursuing your own career, there are several avenues from which to choose, and Ellie is happy to discuss these matters more fully in your sessions.

Do I need a voice-over agent?

You do not need a voice-over agent to get started with voice-overs, given the opportunities available on the Internet, as mentioned above. Eventually, however, some voice actors may wish to seek representation by an agent in order to do work that they would not otherwise have access to.

Most voice-over opportunities posted on websites are for non-Union work, although this is changing. Union work requires the voice actor to be in or to join SAG-AFTRA, and these jobs are still mostly done through a voice-over agent. This means that a client needing a voice-over (like American Express or Macy’s) contacts a casting house, which contacts different agencies with criteria for what the client wants. The agency then contacts suited voice-over talent, scheduling auditions at the casting house for the client. In the past, it was much more difficult to get started in voice-overs without being represented by a talent agency.

In your sessions, Ellie is happy to discuss Union versus non-Union work and how to go about getting an agent down the road.

Do I need to live in or near a major city, such as New York or Los Angeles, or can I do voice-overs from home?

You can really live anywhere to work in voice-overs today. Most voice actors have their own voice-over setup at home, which usually includes a microphone and some kind of recording and editing software. Voice actors also need a quiet place to record. Although there are some voice actors who eventually end up investing in their own voice-over booth, many professional voice actors record in their bedroom, basement, or even their closet. Uploading your voice to a server or attaching it to an email are common ways to communicate with a client. Ellie can offer guidance when it comes to purchasing equipment for your own home studio setup, as needs and means vary from student to student.

Also, if you are pursuing a local market, the talent pool is smaller and the competition is therefore less intense. This can be an excellent way for a person new to the industry to build their experience and become more comfortable with the process of auditioning and recording voice-overs.

How much money can I make in voice-overs?

The amount of money you make is dependent on a variety of factors, including the client’s budget, the type of project, your role in that project, and whether or not it is a Union or non-Union job. For a non-Union job, you are usually paid a buyout fee, which is a one-time-only payment for your services. This rate is at the discretion of the client, but can sometimes be negotiable. Roughly speaking, non-Union jobs usually pay anywhere between $75 and $2,000, depending on the specifics of the factors mentioned above. For a Union job, the pay is subject to the current SAG-AFTRA rates. In addition, the voice actor usually receives residuals if the spot runs on the radio or television. The longer the spot runs, the more money the voice actor accrues. Therefore, a voice actor’s income varies widely, depending on the kind of work and his or her Union status.

Does Ellie offer instruction in things other than voice-overs, like acting or public speaking?

Yes, Ellie works one-on-one with actors, who are preparing for an audition or a role. Ellie also helps people with delivering presentations and public speeches of various kinds. For more information, please contact Ellie directly.