By Darlene Donloe
Hundreds of hopefuls interested in achieving success in the voice-over business attended That’s Voiceover, a full-day voice-over career expo held recently at the Directors Guild in Hollywood.
Becoming a voiceover actor in Hollywood has long been a coveted profession. However, entree into the business is anything but easy. The That’s Voiceover event brought together some heavyweights in the business to not only dispense information, but to actually give attendees an opportunity to talk to agents, teachers, casting directors and actors who are already making a living doing voice-overs.
One of its mandates is to launch new voice-over careers and inspire new heights and success for voice-over pros.
That’s Voiceover is considered a national showcase for meeting the buyers, agents, and creative directors who generate the work and the excitement that motivates positive outcomes. One of the many issues experts discussed was how to refine talents and how to target specific marketing strategies.
The brainchild of Executive Producers Rudy Gaskins and Joan Baker (Secrets of Voice-over Success: Top Voice-Over Actors Reveal How They Did It), the event, now in its fifth year, was chalk full of priceless information. The event encourages everyone, regardless of their level of experience, to take part in the workshops, which are held in a different state each year. It will soon travel to London.
"The importance of this event is to provide a fertile and vetted resource for accurate career information, real-world job opportunities and a meaningful means for assessing the status of one’s career and how to take steps to improve it," said Gaskins.
He added that the feedback his team has received is overwhelming and enthusiastic.
"Most of it has to do with the success of our mission to provide the above," said Gaskins. "Everyone was delighted to meet the top Hollywood pros and to know that they were once in the same place as the newcomers. Speed Dating and the audition spotlight was a once in a lifetime experience for the lucky few who were able to do it."
This year's events included several workshops. Be The Mic demonstrated how the microphone can b a powerful extension of a performance. It also showed the tricks, tips and techniques to give someone an edge in the booth. Life From The Red Carpet was a how-to workshop on live voice announcing for major events like the Oscars and Emmys. There was a seminar on Making A Living With Audiobook Narration. There were several opportunities for attendees to audition. Advance ticket-holders were give the opportunity to meet one-on-one with agents, casting directors and creative directors for feedback on their demo reels, audition technique and career goals in a seminar called Speed Dating & Your VO Demo.
Participants were given a chance at one of three paying jobs awarded by NBC 4 and the Audiobook Creation Exchange. Proceeds benefited the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern California.
According to Gaskins, Christina Kelly won the NBC Audition Spotlight and will do a promo campaign for NBC 4 Los Angeles, trial representation with a TGMD (Hollywood voiceover agency), and a studio microphone from Neumann Microphone Company.
"Of course it doesn’t hurt that she won all this before an audience full of casting directors, agents and producers," said Gaskins. "But the success is what such an opportunity does for one’s confidence in pursuit of a dream to compete in a highly competitive market. Last year in Chicago, we learned four people were signed to agents as a direct result of the Speed Dating event. We suspect the same will happen this year."
"The immediate success stories are that two people actually won book narration contracts with Audiobook Creation Exchange," said Gaskins. "These two (Anne Johnstonbrown and Steve Marvel) will each narrate a classic novel."
Robin Robertson, 51, who flew in from the Bay Area for the event called That’s Voiceover “rewarding and inspiring.”
“I’ve wanted to do voice-overs since the 90s,” said Robertson. “Getting to know the people who are involved, being able to network with people with similar interest is fabulous. Some people have told me my dream would not come true. I don’t listen to them. Events like this let me know anything is possible.”
Shelley Sykes has been in show business for 25 years. The writer/producer/director, who owns B.U.A. Media Group, said events like That’s Voiceover are priceless.
“There is so much information under one roof,” said Sykes. “I’m ready to take it all in, and then put it to work.”
In addition to the workshops, there were several presentations throughout the day.
Tamara Tunie (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) hosted the evening presentation which included remarks from Joan Baker and Susan Galeas (president and CEO, Alzheimer’s Association, Southern California Chapter) and a special tribute to voice-over legend Don LaFontaine, who died in 2008.
Actor Keith David, who recently voiced The Bible and also voiced Ken Burns’ The War on PBS, was honored with the Voice Arts Award for his body of work. David was presented the award by That's Voiceover! Executive Producer Gaskins. A Q&A session involving Keith was then moderated by voice-over teacher and performer, Patrick Fraley.
KEITH DAVID and RUDY GASKINS
“I’m humbled and pleased,” said David, accepting his award. “I’m humbled when someone recognizes my work. I don’t do it for you. But, I don’t do it for you not to say something either. It’s nice when someone says you did OK.”
David said he liked doing voice-over work because he doesn’t have to dress up or brush his teeth.
“A friend told me I was the most famous, obscure actor in America,” said David.
In accepting his award, David acknowledged the voice-over work of the late actors Percy Rodriguez, Ossie Davis, William Conrad and John Forsythe.
“They were all wonderful actors,” said David. “I would hear them and I believed then, that’s when I knew this is what I wanted to do. If you’re doing what you say you want to do, you are living the dream. I’m living the dream. If I leave the planet tomorrow, I can say to St. Peter, I had a good time.”