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Voice Acting in Portland, OR or other smaller cities

Doing voiceover in Portland has changed dramatically due to the internet, technology in general, and the pandemic. Whether you’re just starting out and looking for voice acting classes, a voice over coach, or are ready to find work, we will cover all the areas that address how you’re impacted by being here as opposed to a bigger city or the middle of nowhere. If you want to achieve success in Portland, OR voicing commercials, animation, video games, or narrating audiobooks, Elearning and education videos, corporate, or countless other genres in voiceover, keep reading!

Twenty or thirty years ago, it behooved voice actors to be in big cities like New York or Los Angeles, because there was so much work there and it all functioned as a local operation. There wasn’t nearly the same level of home studio action that there is now. You went in to your talent agency, auditioned there or at several casting houses in the area, booked auditions, and recorded them at the production studios. With advancements in technology, the more successful voice artists started building home studios and doing their voice over auditions, as well as those jobs they booked, from home. The pandemic solidified this way of operating and therefore kind of equalized the playing field of opportunity to be spread out amongst small and big cities alike. So now that you know being in Portland, OR or any other mid-size or even small city still keeps the doors wide open for your voice acting success, let’s get down to how you achieve that exactly. 

There are many steps for how to find voiceover auditions, but in the interest of addressing both beginners and veterans, we will lay it out step by step. Some of the steps will be blatantly obvious, and yet people still skip these steps.  The main reason is that many people believe that voice acting mainly involves having a “great” voice, and/or speaking really clearly or professionally. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Maybe 40 years ago this was more relevant as we were in the “age of the Announcer” but these days it is about being real, being believable. This is why we call it voice acting and not voice announcing!  And voice acting means learning how to break down a script, understand the message, the emotional tone, identify the key words, and ultimately, sound like you’re talking, not reading. Ok, yes yes, the step by step guide to working as a voice actor in Portland or elsewhere!

1- Learn the art and craft of voiceover with a coach.  Who should you study with?  Lesley Bailey is a 30-year veteran in the industry, with a background in talent representation, casting, and coaching. With NYC training and experience, combined with Portland pricing, you’re in great hands.  She comes highly recommended with incredible reviews/testimonials. See for yourself and try your first voiceover lesson now!

2- Make a great demo. Your VoiceOver demo tells the world you can prove how great you are. Many people start with one demo, and often add on several more as they continue to grow their voiceover career. A commercial voice over demo is a solid first choice as there is so much work in that area. 

3- Make a website. Simple, one page, demos and contact info.  Maybe a small info piece  covering your experience.  

4- Create a marketing plan. This can involve direct marketing to producers or studios.  You can try and get agents to represent you. You might be able to get multiple agents across the country, as long as they don’t demand you sign an exclusivity contract. Another popular option is to join a pay-to-play site. These cost a few hundred dollars but will guarantee auditions in your inbox on a daily basis. 

* Somewhere in-between steps 2-4 you can be working on building a home studio. This can be as simple as dragging your computer and a microphone into your closet or as complicated as building or buying a full-on enclosed VoiceOver booth. 

All these steps can be less intimidating if you start with the right voice over coach, as they can guide you through each part of the process correctly. 

Get excited, and good luck!

Top 5 ways to relax in Voice Acting

Ever notice a kid playing a video game with fierce concentration? Yes, they’re trying to win. Their tongue might even be hanging out of their mouth! Even though they are clearly playing for pleasure, and having fun, they are actually physically uptight in their efforts to concentrate and achieve their goal. This works for them because the achievement is not performance-based, only the ooutcome matters. In voiceover, it’s the exact opposite; the outcome IS in achieving a great performance. The execution matters So fierce concentration will not work here. In order to sound authentic you need to be relaxed, since this is not only the most appealing sound but also how we truly are in most of our everyday conversations. Start here:

  1. Breathe. Inhale about 4 beats through your nose. Hold it a second or two. Exhale about 8 beats through your mouth. Do this ”set” about five times before your script read.

2. Imagine a scenario in which you actually feel relaxed. Is it in nature, sitting by a stream or listening to the birds chirp? Is it sitting around with friends sharing stories? Try to take yourself through as many of the senses for that experience as you can.

3. Sit for a few minutes with a soft smile on your face. Our body can often feel what our brain tells it to feel, but our body can also tell our brain how to feel depending on how we position it.
i.e. It is harder to feel anxious lying down…

4. Wear sweatpants. Have a beer/wine. Really. It’s good for you.

5. Slooooooooow doooooooown.

Talk in Voice Acting as you do in Life

Teaching the art of VoiceOver is a lesson in observation and therefore psychology. If you pay attention to how people behave you are well on your way to acquiring this skill and harnessing it to make money in this exciting industry. Basically, voice acting means understanding how we talk in REAL LIFE. 

How do we talk in real life?  We share ideas, facts, and feelings. Most of it happens so automatically that we barely notice the tools we use and how they shift based on our motivation. The most common tools we use are variances in our pitch, volume, and pace. We also ALWAYS emphasize the point(s) we are making, which has some words stand out over others. An example would be if you called up a friend and said, “Hey do you wanna go on a hike tomorrow?”  If you think Hike is the key word you are correct!  It’s the newest part of the communication, the main subject. This does not mean the subject is always the key word. If you were ready to start the hike you might say to that friend, “Are you ready yet?”  The key there is Ready. Pronouns are often NOT emphasized because they are a given. They are a given because most of the time we are talking to one person, so it’s obvious who You and I are!  Yes there are exceptions in group talk, of course. But most communication is intended for one person, and although VoiceOver work can have many listeners, you want it to sound Directed at only one person regardless. It will make that person feel that the message is relevant to them. 

Back to those tools.  Our inflection, volume, and pacing changes all the time when we speak. Sometimes it is based on circumstances such as whether it is formal or informal.  Most often, it is based on our emotions. Let’s break down each tool now based on our emotional states. 

Volume:  We get louder when we are excited, angry, addressing a group. We get quieter when we are intimate, warm, caring, introspective. This is so important to why we analyze a script in terms of the emotional perspective. Our volume tells the listener a lot. 

Pacing: We go faster when we are excited, frantic, not thinking straight.  We go slower when we are expressing concern, thoughtfulness, being intentional. 

Inflection: Our pitch naturally gets higher when we are excited, friendly, positive. Also when are uncertain. On the flip side, our register is deeper when we are confident, serious, expressing certainty.

These are all nuances that can change from person to person and also with context, but there is some truth to these expressions as well and we have all grown accustomed to reading people with this understanding. 

In the end, careful analysis of the script tells us everything we need to know about how to sound. 

No Small Scripts in VO

Short scripts in VoiceOver are often more challenging to actors for a few reasons. Often they are filled with information-only text because they have such a small amount of time to sell a message. This emotional vacuum leaves people wondering how to avoid reading it as an announcer. The most important thing to remember with any script, however, is that regardless of the length of the “story” the delivery with the most engagement and authenticity is the one that almost always wins. This means digging for that subtext. 
Let’s use an example:Sometimes you just want a great latte. Come to McDonalds for free latte Fridays and try any flavor latte, made with bold rich espresso, on us. 
You might think this is an empty short script with nothing “to it.”  However when you examine the first sentence you will see subtext: assumption, familiarity, we all share these things in common, etc…This alone tells you how to approach the read totally. The next sentence starts out with an invitation. We have easy reference for this tone in our own lives when we invite anyone over to our home, or to engage in a positive activity. This is the tone you use.  We also have a tone when romancing something (bold rich espresso) and we chew on those words a little more slowly than normal conversational pace dictates. Two sentences, plenty of personality. 
Here’s another:In 100 years, you may come back to be an eagle, a lion, or even a fruit fly. But I will still be a Red Ox. 
This one is for Red Ox luggage. Clearly the message is that their pieces stand the test of time because they are durable. This tells you to deliver that last sentence with confidence and conviction. Maybe even pride. Because the first sentence shouldn’t compete with that, and because it’s conveying the other possibilities, it can have a sense of wonder, but maybe a little flimsier, and certainly not with the solidity of the product line. Once again, tone!  
When you are in doubt with any script because it is short and/or seems completely information heavy and therefore devoid of any emotional angle, your default can always simply be Engaged. Interested. When you think about it, we can convey anything with this attitude and have an audience because if we are interested, others will sense that there is something interesting being shared and pay attention!  It’s a win. 
The important thing to remember about small scripts is that less words does not ever mean less emotion. Think about how right now you could say just a single word like YES with sincerity, excitement, sadness, or confidence. Just one word, but intention is behind it. Then there’s the tiny little chili pepper, small, but, you know – WHOA. 

Best Voiceover Tips 2022

After casting, coaching, and directing demos for almost thirty years, the awareness around the nuances surrounding a great VoiceOver performance start to add up.  While there are so many techniques in voice acting – that’s the one element right there that counts the most…the acting. So let’s start there. 

What is acting?  It’s make-believe. Yes, it’s the childish way of explaining it, but it is accurate. You must Make yourself Believe.  If you don’t, who will?  So now we get to the script. Breaking down a script on voice over is absolutely essential for nailing the acting. Acting starts with context and then delves into subtext. So you start with the most basic question – “What is this about?”  Make sure you can answer that in your own words and cover as much of the context as you can, whether it’s for a commercial or an audiobook. Knowing the context as fully as possible will also help you connect to your keywords in every single sentence. When we communicate, we have a point to make, which has us emphasizing certain words over others. When you understand the story you are telling you will also be able to connect with those keywords. Your second question is the more challenging one. “What do I feel about this….what is the emotional tone…the mood….my character’s personality?”  This helps you paint the picture of the story with richer color and gives it believability. It has you transcend any possibility of sounding like you’re an “announcer.”  So on assessing context, make sure to never stop with a statement like “It’s just informational.”  If it does feel info-dense, at the very least tell yourself you are interested in it and interested in sharing it with someone. This will have you sounding engaged. This is crucial. You will never sound like you’re just reading if you sound interested and engaged in what you’re saying!  Believe you have these thoughts, these feelings, believe you really want to share this all with someone. This is the acting. Make Believe. 

For you technical-minded thinkers out there we can also add a few other elements to work with. Your tools. These are things that happen when we talk and they happen automatically. They almost always relate to our emotional perspective. These main tools are INFLECTION, PACING, and VOLUME.  We also could classify KEYWORDS as a tool, but assessing these comes from a more intellectual place than an emotional one. Executing the keywords correctly, however, does require putting emotion into them.  Let’s get back to inflection. We all talk in high and low tones, rising and falling inflections, otherwise we would be monotone. Our higher tones often reflect open and positive emotions like excitement, enthusiasm, friendliness, questioning. Our lower tones often exude certainty, confidence, authority, finality. A blend of both is the best of both worlds. But really, they have to reflect the writing and therefore be used accurately. Ending a sentence on a down inflection will give the air of conviction to the listener. It will sound like the speaker has absolute certainty in this fact. Ending a sentence with an up inflection can do many things depending on the context: it could make it sound flimsy, as if it’s not finished.  it could make it sound exciting.  it could make it sound uncertain. Knowing your context and subtext is critical to using the right inflections. 

Volume is a big topic in VoiceOver. For the most part, avoid raising your volume too much unless the emotion calls for it (anger, over the top excitement…) because otherwise you will sound like an announcer or sound too theatrical. We all want to feel like someone is speaking to us personally, not to a stadium full of people. This means using a lower voice. Not a whisper. Just enough to make it Personal. Your audience will LEAN IN TO YOU, as opposed to cringing and pulling back. Again you must use context and subtext. Is it a one-on-one conversation?  That is most likely in vo. Is it exciting?  Maybe a slight bump in volume. SLIGHT.  Is it a sincere conversation?  Lower your volume a touch. Always err on the lower side when in doubt. 

Pacing. Again we assess the pace based on real life. Excited?  Talk a bit faster. Serious, intellectual, warm?  Little slower. 

Also make sure to pause the right amount between sentences and to adjust this as well based on the emotional energy of the script. Too long or too short a pause between sentences will trigger our ears in an unnatural way and we will hear your performance as “reading.”

Let’s address voice acting technique in terms of musicality. Our ears tune in to music, it grabs our attention and concentration. It is the perfect blend of pattern and unpredictability that is so pleasant. Think about a white noise machine. They are meant to be ignored because of their monotone repetition. So make sure you don’t audition for a voice over script this way!  We have natural musicality to our voices based on emotional tone but also on how words connect to each other. This would be called our leading and key words. Here’s an example of a leading word (which goes up as if to say there’s something important coming) and a key word (which goes down as if to say this is it, this is the important thing right here!). It would be the classic “The end.”  Think about it. We go up on The because it’s not important, it’s leading into what’s important. We go down on End because it tells us the important thing we need to know – that this is over.  You can find these pairs in every sentence but the pair might not be next to each other. Here’s an example – “The best way to do it is to just relax.”  Here we see the word Best is leading into the key word Relax. We can assume by the word “it” that we have already covered the subject matter. Regardless, in this way you can see how words are always leading into other words and therefore guarantee a fluctuating  inflection. 

It’s incredible what a set of codes we have embedded into the way we communicate that is so deeply indoctrinated we don’t ever have to think about it when we talk. Except…when we are reading someone else’s words!  So yeah, now we do have to think about it. We talk perfectly natural in our everyday lives, but there’s nothing natural about reading someone else’s words. This is why understanding those words until they become our own is the way to sound natural in voice acting.  One way to try this would be to first read the script out loud but in a quiet voice, as if you’re reading it out loud to yourself to just understand it.  Another way is to read the script but give yourself creative license to add and subtract words, lead in with an entire sentence even. Share the script in a way that feels more like you would say it. Heck, even just read the script a few times until you understand it and then improvise the entire thing. By the time you want to audition for it, you’ll have emotional ownership of the material and will probably be able to read the script verbatim because you first got there emotionally on your own terms. I have some students who always start with a sentence of their own, maybe even including the name of an actual friend so it feels like a real conversation – they just delete it out later.  Win win!  Still feel like a phony announcer?  Read the script with a phone to your ear.  Triggering yourself to feel the way you do when you’re actually on the phone may control your volume and even more importantly have you sound the natural way you do when talking to someone you’re close with. Another win. Talk with your hands. Talk with your face. Your body filters energy and emotion through your voice. If you’re excited, take your hands out of those pockets!  Make sure to energetically align your body with the tone of the script. In the end, it’s about the text. The deeper you understand the intellectual and emotional components of your text, the more jobs you will win. Let the text be your director. Do what it tells you. It’s the boss.