Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Voice Over Chronicles

Years ago, I moved to Pittsburgh a year early to get residency for graduate school. Mind you, I hadn’t even been accepted. It was a gamble, but a gamble that would save me half the cost of tuition.

In the meantime, I worked at a video store. One day, soon after finding out that I had in fact been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh’s creative non fiction program, a customer at the video store said to me, “You have a great voice. Are you in school for radio?”

“No. I’m going to school for writing,” I told him.

“Well, that’s a mistake,” he replied.

Tens of thousands of dollars later, I sometimes can’t help but wonder if he was right. But the great thing about school is that you can always go back for more, so a mere two months after actually receiving my MFA, I’ve started taking voice over classes in Burbank.

I’m not giving up on writing by any means, but looking for something to supplement the writing income besides making coffee and answering phones. And since this is Los Angeles, I’ve chosen something just as high-risk and unreliable.

Voice over isn’t the cash cow it used to be. As our instructor told us, “It’s a cool part time job.” It used to be that a few actors got all the jobs and made a ton of money. Now, there’s more work available and a greater diversity of actors get jobs, but there is also more competition.

And then there is the whole issue of whether or not I can actually act. As I immediately learned, this isn’t just about reading some copy off a piece of paper. You have to act like a sandwich from Arby’s is the greatest thing you’ve ever tasted.

Our first exercise was a car commercial. We had to conjure up something that about which we reminisced. Most people thought about an old girlfriend or car. I, naturally, chose Denny’s bar in Pittsburgh. When I got out of class, I even felt like an actor, which in LA means that I can quit my job and hang out at outdoor cafes all day.

Like anything else, voice over takes a lot of time, practice, hard work, and commitment, commitment like the guy in our class who commutes from Las Vegas to Burbank every Saturday; an eight-hour drive, there and back, for a three-hour class.

And even after all that practice, time, and effort, it’s still a gamble that you’ll ever book anything. We’ll see if this one pays off.

P.S. I’m available for voice mail work.


et said...

Maybe you can take Queen Latifah's place on the Pizza Hut commercials.

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