Your quest for The Holy Grail.
"Tell me what to do" "How do I get into voice acting?"
It's an innocent enough question to ask, and you see it ALL. THE. TIME.
People ask questions like these daily in various forums and platforms where voiceover artists convene and discuss, and they ask with the best of intentions. I think they hold a pretty simple expectation on how the answers are going to go: Well, you just do x, y, and z, and there you have it! You're in a booth with Troy Baker having a blast voicing the characters to the next blockbuster video game!
The bad news - it's not a cookie cutter career path. While there are things that everybody is going to need to do to ensure their success and to get started - and that you can summarize fairly concisely - the realistic overall career schematic looks a bit more like this:
So if you've read this much so far, you're probably realizing that this blog update isn't going to tell you exactly what to do. It's just going to explain what it is you're doing here.
You're here because our paths have crossed. I'm on my personal journey in the world of discovering voiceover and voice acting, and I presume you're on yours as well. Or maybe you're just stalking me. That's fine, too.
The world of voiceover is one of discovery and exploration. I'm walking into it knowing that there's so much that I DON'T KNOW, and that it's up to me to discover and learn as I go. For some people that is terrifying or daunting. For some people that translates to extra work and burden. For me, it's fascinating - it draws me in. It's something that works perfectly with that curiosity I carry; the desire to discover more about something that I really like. To me, it's rewarding and fulfilling to find my own path. These waters are charted by many, but they are just as much mine to navigate and explore. And I think that's extremely necessary to people who are genuinely serious about growing in a field like this. You must seek.
Eesh - anybody feel like I should be writing phrases on wall decor that belongs in a Home Goods store?? Live, laugh, love - oh yeah and WINE, GIRL! TEEHEE.
I want to talk about a story and analogy that has really stuck with me this year and ties in to each and every one of you reading this. This is an excerpt from Crispin Freeman's Voice Acting Mastery podcast (episode 120):
"The best analogue I have for becoming an actor is to think of it as a hero's journey in the classical or mythological sense. You are probably most familiar with these types of hero journeys from fairy tales or sci-fi and fantasy story telling. Whether the hero is Luke Skywalker, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, or Katniss Everdeen, each hero's personality and capabilities are different. And every hero's journey, while sharing some essential human qualities, is unique to that individual.
The challenge for the hero is to find his or her way through their adventure in their own special manner. No one can tell the hero how to walk their path. He or she must discover it for themselves.
One of the most useful hero stories that helped me when I was first pursuing a career as an actor was from an Arthurian Legend known as La Queste del Saint Graal. As the name suggests, this is a French re-telling of the search for the Holy Grail by the knights of King Arthur's Court. It begins with the knights of the round table sitting down for a feast and being greeted by a vision of the Holy Grail floating above the banquet table. Being only an illusion, this version of the Grail promptly disappears. However, the knights are so entranced by this quick glimpse of the magical relic that they decide to go and find the actual Holy Grail.
This search for the Grail can be read metaphorically as the search for any great goal or dream. It represents whatever is most important to you; in this case, the desire to become a professional voice actor. The knights eagerly mount their horses in order to search for the Grail. In an interesting twist, they decide that it would be shameful if they were to go as a group. Each knight rides forth alone, entering the forest of adventure, where it is darkest and there is no way or path.
Again, reading this story metaphorically, it is trying to explain that every hero must find their own unique way towards their dreams. As the knights progress, their paths sometimes intersect. One knight might feel that his colleague is making more progress towards the Grail, and feel that he should follow his friend's path rather than his own. Unfortunately, every time a knight abandons his path to try and follow that of another, he finds his way blocked and he has to return to his own trail once more. This is a way of saying that while you can certainly get tips and insights from others who have achieved artistic success, in the end, you can't just copy someone else's journey. All of us have different capabilities and different potential. We must learn to cultivate our own unique strengths in order to make progress on our personal hero journey towards our goals.
Let me be clear. Sticking to your own path doesn't mean ignoring good advice from teachers, mentors, or peers. But it does mean recognizing that no one in the world is like you. In voice acting, you can't simply ape another person's journey or actions and expect to achieve the same results. This is especially important to remember when you feel frustrated with your level of acting achievement. It's during these trying times that you need to be both extra gentle and extra honest with yourself about what it's going to take for you to break through and get to the next level.
Remember - you're on a hero's journey, not just acquiring a skill set. So the next step may be more about self-development than learning yet another acting technique. You may have a physical handicap, a speech impediment, or an accent or regionalism that you need to overcome. You may have been diagnosed with a neurological or emotional condition that affects your acting process. Even if you don't face these types of daunting challenges, there may be something unaddressed in your patterns of thought, belief systems, or learned behavior that might be contributing to your lack of progress. If it's truly your dream to be a professional voice actor, it may be time to dig a bit deeper and really commit to doing whatever unique thing it's going to take for you as a hero to self actualize."
Wow. Powerful, huh?
Crispin Freeman's podcast is like if Mr. Rogers became your own personal career and guidance counselor for your voice acting ambitions. I love his work. If you're hungry for information and general knowledge for the world of Voice Acting, I can't stress this podcast enough. He not only provides a wealth of technical information in his podcasts and interviews, he also provides a lot of really encouraging thoughts to help steer your focus toward your own personal insights and mindset. His podcast is the hand many of us need held to assure that we're doing just fine on this journey of ours.
So that's what you're doing here. You're on your journey. I hope you think of yourself as a hero of some kind. You're the main character in your own story. That's a pretty big deal, if you ask me. And maybe first thoughts go towards your flaws when you read that - and that's a really good thing. Why? Because in my opinion, the best heroes are the ones we can relate to because of their imperfections, or the things that make them most human. In a way it connects us all even more. And it means that being a hero is something all of us, despite these qualities, have access to if we can just reach a little bit further or tap into that strength we might be hiding inside.
With the year behind us, I'd just like to take a moment to recognize some of the heroes out there that I've crossed paths with on the quest for that Holy Grail of sorts. All of us are on our own paths and making progress in our own ways. We're all growing, and we've all found personal challenges and struggles as well. I'm so grateful to have shared time and journey with these people at the times our paths have crossed. And seeing them following their own path has been an awesome experience to me.
Shout out to the following heroes:
I'm like 95% sure I'm missing some names.
I'm looking forward to our paths continuing to cross. And I'm looking forward to crossing paths with those of you I haven't met yet. I bet we'll have some great stories to tell.