I’d heard that formal acting training could help voiceover artists develop their skills but it wasn’t until went I back to school myself that I really understood the benefits.
What do Benedict Cumberbatch, Rob Brydon, Bill Nighy and Olivia Colman have in common? Yes, okay, asides from the fact they’re all stars of stage and screen? The answer is, they’ve all supplied voiceovers for TV and radio – those deep, dulcet and throaty tonsils have wrapped themselves around all sorts of promotions from Andrex and Airwick (Colman), to Argos and Expedia (Nighy), Tesco and Tango (Brydon) and, last but not least, Pedigree dog food… well, hello Sherlock! (That’ll give the Hound of the Baskervilles paws for thought.)
But importantly, they’ve something else in common too, and that’s training. All these actors have undertaken professional drama training, whether at the LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) or the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and the teaching they received has been invaluable for their work in V/O. As apart from simply rocking up without qualifications, proper acting training and coaching can truly make the difference between a great voice artist and a mediocre one in this most competitive of fields.
There’s a misconception that doing voiceovers is simply as easy as reading off a page, but there are so many nuances involved. Timing, for example, is incredibly important – and this is something that’s drilled into you when you train as a performer. Good timing when delivering a line can be the difference between listeners switching your advert off, or becoming so engaged and overwhelmed, they’ll buy anything your voice tries to sell them!
The ability to immerse yourself in a voiceover gig and ‘live’ the product - whether you’re selling nappies or a Hollywood movie doesn’t generally come naturally unless you have some sort of background in acting. That’s not to say there aren’t people who are just naturals – but it’s rare.
I am always training and learning. I have a background in broadcasting but I knew I needed to take acting classes to improve my skills (which I still do). I have trained with the likes of VO coaching legends Nancy Wolfson and Dave Fennoy as well and theatre director Bruce Guthrie. There are several other drama schools in the UK that specialise in voiceover training, including the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and City Academy – the latter will also help you create a demo reel, but make sure you shop around to select a reel producer you are happy with.
As voiceover agent and actor Rebecca Peyton adds, “The industry does rest on who you know, but if you don't know anyone, training opens doors which otherwise remain closed without it. But remember, as in acting as in life: luck reigns supreme. Because of this you need to keep knitting yourself more luck – and training is a useful bit of knitting.”
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