Post by Lady Stardust ★ on Feb 24, 2018 18:09:52 GMT -8
Choose training that is appropriate to your skill level and background.
If you choose a class too high or low for your skill level, chances are you won't get as much out of the experience. Continually training is important no matter how advanced you are or how much you are already working, but what you choose will be more of a matter of refining your skills.
- Beginner: If you are new to VO and trying to figure out how to get started and what you should be working on, group introductory classes will be a better investment for you than private coaching (you can move on to private coaching later down the line). Learning in a group can also be a good way to make friends and see what choices others are making for their reads. At this level, one-off casting director/agent workshops may not be an appropriate investment for you as chances are you will not be ready to read for these people yet. Focus on group classes which approach things like building/portraying a character, learning your archetypes, vocal support and placement (even singing training can help with this), etc. Making a demo should not be your priority until you are ready.
- Intermediate: At this point, you've already taken some classes and ideally even done a few jobs (whether in-studio or recording from home). You may want to take a private coaching/evaluation in order to see what the next best steps for your career are. You can also try group classes or webinars on things like branding and marketing, or learning more about specific areas of the business you are interested in (anime/dubbing/ADR? video games? radio imaging? medical narration? etc). At this point in your career, you can start considering demo production.
- Advanced: There are "working pro" classes that usually have certain prerequisites and are aimed at people who already work regularly in the industry. Private coaching can continue to be a good option especially if you wish to refine certain areas you need improvement on (accents & dialects, conversational read styles, battle efforts, etc.) "Workshops" with agents (if you are not already represented) and casting directors can be a good option at this point to get heard and seen by important people in the industry.
Research the credentials of the person you're studying from.
While there are many legitimate acting teachers and coaches out there, there are also some who prey on or take advantage of young and aspiring VO talent who are anxious to get started. What is your teacher's actual background in the industry? Were they an established casting director, voice director, agent, etc? Many actors also choose to teach, which is fine, but if they're primarily an actor and their own acting skills and performances aren't up to par, that may be a sign that they could impart their own bad habits onto students. It's also worth looking at how many years they have spent in the industry and what market(s) they have worked in---make sure that aligns with your own goals as an actor.
There is also the price to consider. A $600 workshop is a much bigger investment than a $50 workshop, for example, so you want to make sure that if you are investing a lot of your savings, that it's from an accomplished individual or organization with a good track record for teaching/coaching. Look at what you are getting for the price and decide if you believe it is a good investment. Keep in mind that many very established teachers DO charge quite a bit of money for their lessons, so a high price tag isn't a bad thing---you just want to make sure that it's valuable for you, since most people cannot afford to continually drop hundreds for new workshops.
Beware of the following red flags:
- Implying that once you complete their specific program, you will be ready to work in VO. Individuals grow and adapt at different rates and there is not a one-size-fits-all formula for how long it takes for someone to be ready.
- Implying that their program is the only "correct" way to learn acting/VO.
- Implying a guarantee of employment/spot on their casting roster once you have completed the class. Many teachers who are also casting directors DO keep their students in mind for potential projects they may cast down the line, but this should not be sold as a primary reason to take their class, especially if they imply that the only way to be considered for their roster is to study with them specifically. Remember: a good casting director will want to cast the right person for each part, regardless of whether that person happens to have paid them money before.
- Potential red flag: including demo production as part of an introductory class. Whether or not someone is ready to make a demo highly depends on the individual's circumstance. Saying that you automatically get a demo after taking an "intro to VO" series can be tempting as it sounds like a good deal, but a bad demo, or attempting to make a professional demo when you're not ready, can hurt you more than help you. Some studios may offer coaching + demo production bundles that can be a good thing if you happen to be going to them for both coaching and demo production, since ideally you want the person producing your demo to spend some time getting to know you and your strengths and weaknesses anyway.
Note that there are "workshops" marketed as an opportunity to read in front of a specific agent or casting director. These are generally legitimate, but it's important to understand what exactly you are going in for so that you do not feel like you've wasted your money. Events of these nature do tend to be sort of a "paid audition" where you are paying to get heard by someone you wouldn't normally get to read for. Opportunities and connections can and do come from these events, but it's important to know that it is only a chance, not a guarantee, that this person will reach out to you in the future. Some directors routinely scout for people at these events whereas others almost never contact anyone they hear again, but at the very least it is a chance to get a bit of feedback from them or hear specifically what things they are looking for in the projects they cast. Again, it is best to wait until you have some solid skills and/or are already working because generally speaking, industry people of that level probably wouldn't reach out to beginner/amateur talent.
Listen to recommendations from others.
Talk to your actor friends in your area and see which teachers they would and wouldn't recommend. Ask them to be honest with you about why something worked or didn't work for them---remember that each person's experience is different, so just because one person didn't feel they learned much or didn't "click" with a particular teacher doesn't necessarily mean you won't. You can also research online, but beware of putting too much stock into the "testimonials" section of a website---most companies and individuals that offer lessons will gladly post full and glowing testimonials from former students, but those who did not feel the class was valuable to them probably would not write such a testimonial.
Try to find unbiased sources for referrals. Chances are people will be happy to refer you to someone with whom they have a vested interest in, such as a family or friend who teaches. This isn't a bad thing - we all want to support the businesses of people we know - but don't feel pressured to study with a certain person just because you know them or have friends in common. Certain entities may also get a "kickback" or discount for referring people to a specific teacher or coach, so be wary (for example) if an agency tells you that you must study with a certain person in order to be considered for representation.
If an actor that you looked up to trained under a certain person or program, that can be a good sign, but it's not necessarily the be-all end-all. An actor's skill is a combination of many factors and even great actors have most likely taken a few classes that didn't really work for them. But if you hear and see glowing recommendations from multiple (unbiased) sources for certain teachers, that's usually a good sign!
A class or coaching session should primarily be approached as an educational experience.
There are many reasons why someone might want to take a specific class besides just learning or improving acting skills. Many people want to be "seen" by a specific casting director or studio and figure taking classes with them is the best way to go. This isn't necessarily a bad thing and can lead to possible connections, but using that as your only reason to take a specific class will lead to disappointment if that connection doesn't pan out. Ask yourself if you still feel like you could learn something valuable from this lesson even if you don't walk away with any possible new work opportunities.
If an actor you follow or look up to also offers coaching, study with them because of what you hope to learn from them, not just because you're a fan of theirs. Approaching your lesson as a means to get to know them rather than have them give you feedback on your reads will probably make them uncomfortable and won't really be a valuable use of your money, anyway.
Unless terms of the class prohibit doing so, it's okay to reach out to the instructor afterward to thank them for the experience and give them your contact info. However, it's important to respect their time and not continue to bother them unless it's for necessary business purposes. Taking a class or coaching session with someone means that they are giving you feedback during the session time which you paid for. It does not mean they are obligated to listen to your demo, be your friend/mentor, or that you may solicit their feedback on other auditions, unless they specifically reach out to offer you these things.
Listen to your gut instinct.
We say this again and again here, but it's important! Remember that unless you prepaid for a set amount of workshops or coaching sessions, nothing obligates you to continually studying with someone if you don't feel it's helpful for you or the best use of your money. Not everyone's method is going to be a good fit for everyone. Perhaps the type of feedback they've been giving doesn't really resonate with you, or your personalities don't mesh well, or you've been studying with them for a while but don't really see much improvement in your performance or technique even though you've made the effort to learn and work hard. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're a bad teacher, just that it's not currently effective for you. Just as their time is valuable, your time and money is, too.
(And unfortunately...there are occasionally snakey con artists and scam companies out there who will be happy to take your money and provide very little value in return, so it's important to trust your gut when it comes to bad/dishonest/greedy vibes you get, too.)
Another set of potential red flags:
- Pressuring you nonstop to continue training with them or making you feel bad if you express reservations. Sure, it's a business, but you don't want to feel like you walked into a used car lot or that someone sees you purely as a money-making opportunity rather than also being invested in helping you grow.
- Demeaning or belittling you. Some coaches do tend to have a blunt, no-nonsense approach and while criticism is essential, it shouldn't make you feel terrible about yourself as a person or an actor. Even harsh criticism can be framed in a way that is constructive.
- On the flip side... saying only positive things about your performance. Encouragement and affirmation is great, but that's not what you're paying for - you're there in hopes of learning and improving. If you are studying with a teacher who mainly deals with beginners and you've reached the point where they no longer have helpful criticism for you, it may be time to move on to a more advanced class to match your skill level.
- Continually badmouthing other teachers, actors, etc during your lesson. At times, someone may regale a negative experience for use as an example or teaching tool, but you don't want to be paying to be in the presence of someone who has nothing but venomous things to say about anyone and everyone.
- Being condescending if you ask a question or need clarification on something. Again, you are there to learn, so questions should be welcomed.
- Continually canceling or rescheduling. Now, life happens and this business is very last-minute, so it's good to have a little bit of flexibility and understanding when things come up. But when a business professional has a repeated pattern of being unable to stick to a schedule and bouncing you around over and over when you've already set aside a day and time and paid them for it, it gives off the impression that they do not think your time is valuable. Be understanding if and when you can, but if it's too much, it's okay to politely just ask for a refund.
What if there are no classes in my area?
If you don't live in a major voiceover market, chances are you may not have local classes available to you. In this case, you can try online classes, Skype coaching, or webinars. Also keep in mind that acting classes don't always have to be voiceover-specific---even something such as an improv or theatre class can impart skills that are useful in VO, because the core foundation of it still needs to be believable acting.
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