Beginner's Guide for Young Voice Actors
Top tips for young performers to expand their voice acting skills
Kids stand to benefit massively as they are introduced to the world of work. Being in a creative environment where they are at the centre of a professional creative process can be great fun and helps to increase their confidence, awareness and social skills. Voice overs also open doors to other interests that might not ultimately be connected to acting. They'll meet engineers, producers, actors and clients and develop an understanding and curiosity about a wider world of work. Add that to a nice pay day and voice overs can be a great motivator!
Many parents make the mistake of taking things too seriously. An occasional voice over should be fun and something to look forward to, rather like an after school club or a day out. A young person won't understand being booked for a voice over session as a business transaction. From the child's point of view they will see it as another way to enjoy acting and earn some "bragging rights". You only get to be a child for a short time so as a parent learn to stick to the basics and don't be over ambitious for them. Everyone involved should have fun first and foremost and view it as a business second, if at all.
Getting Started. That's not to say that Mum or Dad won't have to adopt an organised approach to get this bus rolling but it's not as daunting as it may seem.You will need to look after all the emails, invoices, calendar, travel, and people skills but these aren't industry specific. The only actual voice over specific skills that you need as a parent are an ability to organise a demo reel recording, find representation, help with script preparation, satisfy yourself as to what is expected of your child and comply with legal requirements.
Demo Reels. The demo reel is where everything starts. Clients and creatives listen to reels on websites. As you're reading this on The Mandy Network you already realise the importance of being "found" by agencies and companies with work to offer. These days I find I often support the reels that I'm submitting from Voiceover Kids with an additional iPhone audition that specifically relates to the voice over brief. I prefer to hear kids reading and performing in their natural voices. Acting is most certainly not required. What most clients are looking for is the child's real voice and natural ability to project humour, wit and sincerity. So my advice is to keep demos short and simple thereby giving an honest summation of the talent's ability and potential.
Representation. Common sense is the rule here. Don't pay for representation - ever. Ideally you want your child to be represented by an agency or company that you've heard good things about. Have they got good kids on their books? Do they have interesting projects? How about their social media followers and likes? Do they have a good reputation for paying quickly? Look into how they operate and be sure to ask lots of questions and look at their terms and conditions. For example, most agencies will take a commission of between 15 and 20% from you when your child works. The upside here is that your child is employed by the agency's customer so you will receive a completely transparent breakdown of how the fee is calculated. It will show any "usage" (fees paid on top of the session fee for the rights to use the voice in the public domain). Importantly you won't have to do any paperwork. This is all handled by the agency who will simply send you a remittance statement with your payment. The downside is that the agency will wait until they are paid before they pay your child, but the agency will act on your behalf if there are payment problems.
If you don't have an agency representation, make sure that you agree fees in advance as the mark up is likely to be higher than 15%. There is less transparency but companies are required to be open about "usage" fees and stick to the usual 15-20% deal in respect of these additional fees. The upside is that your child is employed direct so you know who you are working for and will be familiar with the company's payment terms. The downside is that you will have to invoice for your child's sessions and sort out any queries or problems with the company direct. In short trust your judgement and be prepared to move if you're not happy.
Remember children shouldn't work too often - it should always be fun!
James Bonallack, Director at Voiceover Kids *
* Voiceover Kids is a specialist voice over agency for 6 to 18 year olds, matching kids with radio ads, language learning apps, computer game and various corporate voice overs (Mothercare).
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