This week, I had the pleasure of getting to know voice over actress and coach Deb Munro. Deb is a highly sought after and respected coach in the voice over world. Her methods and materials have been endorsed by some of the top talent in the USA and Canada. Throughout the interview, I discovered we had a quite a few things in common, including getting our start in broadcast. Although my career in radio helped me discover my love for voice over, it also taught me some habits that are really hard to break when trying to become a voice actor rather than just an announcer. This is the kind of thing Deb specializes in.
TT: So, radio and TV piqued your interest in voice over, but what made you decide to start coaching?
DM: Well, I always wanted to do on-camera work actually, but after having a child when I was young, I went into broadcast and found I was really passionate about voice over. As I got more training and started learning more about the industry, I found I wanted to pass on what I’ve learned to other people. There’s such a reward in helping someone launch into something you’re just so proud of.
TT: Let’s start with THE question. THE one that gets asked the most, “How do I become a voice actor?”
DM: Oh boy! You know what? I think there was a time when you just “landed in it. There was a time when you could just luck out and be the right person at the right spot at the right time. And now, I’m not saying that it doesn’t still happen, but it’s so critical these days to actually reach out to people in the industry and get training. Not just saying that because I’m a coach, but now, it’s just so important to make those connections. It’s all in who you know. Agents are getting bombarded with submissions and are next to impossible to get unless you know someone who can make an intro. You need connections and you need a really awesome demo.
TT: Let’s talk about the demo. You can’t get voice over work without a great demo, you can’t make a great demo until you’ve got some experience. It’s the chicken and the egg dilemma, right?
DM: Yes! So many people do them way before they’re ready and fork over thousands of dollars to someone who doesn’t try to get to know them and their personality. They only care about how fat your wallet is. When you’re looking for someone to work with, ensure that it’s someone who cares about the outcome. If they claim they can get you a demo in just a few hours or on day one, walk away. There’s no way they can help you make a great demo unless they get to know you first. Back in the day, everyone had a compilation demo. But, today, it’s just not like that anymore. Clients want to hear you doing the style of read they requested right away. They aren’t going to sit through your one minute animation demo if they are casting for a car dealer ad. So, it’s not just one demo any more, clients want really specific demos and that means more money. Voice over is not cheap to get into and it’s definitely not a get rich quick scheme!
TT: What should newcomers know about starting a career in voice over?
DM: It’s takes a lot of dedication, patience, serious perseverance, not giving a crap about what anyone else thinks of your career choice and moving forward anyway. Most importantly, you’re going to need a hard skin to take all the “no’s”. Really good training is so important. And again, I am not saying that because I am a coach, I am saying that because that’s what it took for me. I had bad habits to break and so much to learn. For me, getting actual theater training and real acting lessons was a HUGE help to my career.
TT: In my experience working with coaches and other industry vets, yes, the knowledge is valuable, the connections are valuable, but I find that having another set of ears listening to my reads and helping me find my strengths is so helpful. The voice over industry is so large and not everyone’s voice is suited to every kind of job out there.
DM: Absolutely. And you may have times when a client wants the “announcer” and other times they want the “actor”. Learning how to switch it on and off and what the difference is can be easier if you’ve got someone else listening. It’s also about learning from someone else’s experience.
TT: Speaking of that, some of the best things I’ve learned from others is how to deal with clients. Let’s talk voice over etiquette.
DM: Oh yes. Working with clients in the studio or just having them direct over the phone can be really intimidating for a newcomer and frustrating for both parties. You do not want to come off as an amatuer and the most amatuer thing you can do is trying to direct while being directed. Look, it’s not your project, it’s theirs. You are their puppet on a string and you are there to do a job. I tell my students that when you’re working with clients, you are never going to match that voice they hear in their head exactly. I think that’s where my specialty is, reading the client. I teach students how to really get into the client’s mindset and really understand what they want. At the same time, you’ve got to learn to let go, let them get in your head and just be open to their direction. Caring about the client is the most important thing you can do because after all, they are the ones paying your bills. Making them happy will keep them hiring you again and again.
TT: We’ve all had those super difficult, nearly impossible to please clients though. How do you deal with that?
DM: Again, I think it comes down to caring about them. You don’t know what their day has been like up until now. Just don’t take it personally. It’s not that they don’t like you, they just don’t like the read you’re giving right now. Don’t feel beaten up. Deliver every take as if it’s the first one.
TT: Let’s talk about etiquette when submitting auditions.
DM: Oh yes, this is one of the things I teach, “manipulating auditions”, but let me say this before I say anything else. Whether you are auditioning in person or submitting it online, you have to actually CARE about what the client or casting director is wanting. There’s much more to read in that job posting than just the script. You’ve got to read those clues that are hidden between the lines. Has this client ever hired a voice actor before? Do they sound trustworthy? But also, something else you may not realize is that perhaps this client actually mortgaged his house to create his new campaign, then you come along and tell him that you think the script is crappy and you would do it differently? Come on. Have some empathy for the client first. Try to understand where they are coming from before you even open the mic. And, please, please, please, follow directions! Label the file correctly, slate it properly, etc. If you cannot follow instructions to submit the audition properly, the client or casting director or agent will probably decide to go with someone else who did things correctly the first time.
TT: There’s so much info available online and so many websites dedicated to voice over now, what do you tell your students about researching and working online?
DM: Well, first, I tell all of my students to get a Voice123 membership because actually auditioning is such great practice. It’s so awesome as a teaching tool because they get to read real scripts (rather than just pulling fake ones from a script bank), they get to practice “reading between the lines” to find out what the client is really like, plus, there’s the added bonus of actually booking paid voice over work! There is a huge wealth of knowledge online, but with anything, you have to know that everyone’s experience is different. Not everyone claiming to be an expert is. Not every website claiming to get you voice over jobs is legit. And when you’re looking for a coach and someone to produce your demo, you’ve got to find a person you connect with and that cares about your success.