By Dick Lindsay | July 2009
PITTSFIELD – Mel Blanc and Don Pardo were know best for being heard and not seen.
Blanc entertained us as the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and dozens of other Warner Brother cartoon characters.
Pardo was the off-screen announcer for the original Jeopardy game show in the 1960’s before gaining notoriety as the voice of Saturday Night Live.
While Blanc and Pardo are among the best known American voice actors, David Bourgeois finds teachers, lawyers and other everyday working people often have the skills to make money with their mouths.
“My average client has no background in the [communications] field,” said Bourgeois, the president for Voice Coaches Creative Development Group.
However, the Schenectady, N.Y. –based company, which has trained more than 6,000 people as voice actors in the past 15 years, is not about finding the next big audio star.
“You don’t break into this field,” Bourgeois said during a telephone interview from his office. “You become educated about the business and build success.”
“People fail to recognize that voice over work is starting a small business,” he added. “They create their own big breaks.”
Bourgeois said that’s the message his voice-acting instructors will try to get across Thursday night at Berkshire Community College. Voice Coaches in conducting a two-and-a-half-hour, non-credit introductory course for adults on what it takes to become a professional voice actor.
Another session is planned Sept. 28.
Students will learn the basics of voice acting, how to work in a recording studio and producing an audio resume – or “demo.”
And like any resume, make it look professional, according to one of Voice Coaches instructors, John Gallogly, who palns to conduct the BCC class.
“Don’t hand-write your name on the demo,” he said, “It looks like a mess.”
Gallogly, speaking from his cell phone while on business in Virginia, said an amateurish looking recording was one of the first mistakes he made when trying to land voice acting work in the early 1990s. Since then he’s done a variety of work for commercials, music videos and Web site materials.
Gallogly is best known to Berkshire television viewers as the voice of the animated cat for the Catseye pest control commercials.
But Bourgeois said, “Less than 10-percent of professional voice-over work is in commercials.”
Voice actors, he noted, are more likely to find jobs doing training material, video games and audio books.
“Some experts are predicting the audio book field will expand [five fold] in the next few years,” Bourgeois said.
However, he added, the fastest growing segment of voice acting is for Web development companies where “two or three years ago there was virtually none and now 60 percent of the business.”
Bourgeois said virtually all voice acting is freelance, with pay rates from zero (for charity work) up to $10,000. He said fees more often range from $100 to a few hundred dollars per hour – about the length of one assignment.
Voice actors have to find their own work, he said, and enterprise pays off. Even in Western Massachusetts, he said, opportunities lie with advertising agencies, public relations firms,
recording studios and in-house audio-visual departments of big companies or organizations.
He said actors need t develop a business plan with goals, educate themselves about the business, then create a professional demo CD that becomes their resume.
“There’s no need for a written resume,” he said, “but have the demo professionally done.”
It should have a 1½ minute track of commercial narration, he said, and 1½ minutes of other narration of interest to the actor.
No matter the type of audio material involved, Gallogly said voice actors must sound natural and not like Don Pardo.
“The client wants the consumer to believe the voice talent is just like them,” said Gallogly.
In addition, voice actors must be conversational and believable to the audience.
“When casting for medical or pharmaceutical work, I look for knowledge in the field,” said Bourgeois. “It is not just about the voice.”
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