Look or leap? Never mind the hardware – it’s about you. English voice actor Howard Ellison plunged in, then surfaced to discover the life-saving value of a plan. In these six minutes, he shares three key priorities for continued success in online casting …assisted by Inadequate Ingrid and an Obnoxious Orcan.
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Your Instructor This Week:
Voice Over Expert Howard Ellison
Howard Ellison was given a radio when barely out of rompers. His first week’s pay, aged 15, went on a deposit for a tape recorder. He joined Mountview Theatre in London UK, coached by the late Peter Coxhead, then fell through the trapdoor into journalism.
Howard has worked at the BBC; in community care and voluntary sector leadership – and is ‘at last’ a full time freelance voice actor, based in rural Devon. He’s voiced Moonpig, Volvo, BBC America, Britain on Film, three books, sci-fi animations and web videos – and it all started (and continues) with Voices.com.
Married, two musician children, two water-loving Maine Coone kittens.
Motto of the week, inspired by the kittens: “If you want it, do it NOW”
Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else. Now for our special guest.
Howard Ellison: Hi, I’m Howard Ellison from England as you’ve probably guessed. London born but long since gone barefoot to Devon. Can I share with you how I started out and suggest three key priorities that I believe bring success. Okay, well for me it started right here voices.com the podcasts and VOX Daily. I’m grateful to them and I thank my dad, rest his soul, for building me a radio when I was young. It drew me into the worlds of [unintelligible 00:01:19] and [B.B. Daniels], Spike Milligan’s goon show. And then one day Richard Burton magically narrating Under Milkwood. A seed was sown. It grew into film recording at the BBC Community Theatre and writing. But years passed before I got to the front of a microphone. If you want to be there do it now. Go for it.
So to begin at the beginning. Summer 2009 I began to devour info from here, form Google, from YouTube, from books. Then did I plan? Well I sort of started. My shopping list said [U87] microphone, [whisper] room, pre-sonar amp, Apple Mac Pro, air conditioning, power conditioning. I wish. What actually won the first gig, whoopee, was a pre-owned microphone, blankets nailed to the walls and a vintage PC. It supports what the veterans now hardware is not priority. Number one is – number one, you. Voice work is acting whether it’s a car dealer add or Shakespeare. [Unintelligible 00:02:24] Oldsmobile. Well you never know what will come in. I’ve played an IPad accessory, a tree and a broccoli among much else.
So priority number one is performance. Build your natural gift through coaching, self-practice, group work. Take your pick. Then no [unintelligible 00:02:44]. Priority number two is your recording space. No noises of – no echo, no hum or boom. And enough space to move bodily particularly for animation and games. So it’s performance again isn’t it? Movement drives the car dealer add too. Smile, stab the air with your finger like I’m doing now. And the emphasis goes straight through the microphone to the [punter]. Need to project an evil organ? Contort your body and face. Grit your teeth. Glare at the mic. Or would you be [unintelligible 00:03:21] of IPad fame? Loosen up. Get in close. Flutter your eyelids. You get the idea. Okay, your studio is sorted. You decided whether you like to sit or stand, headphones or not. You’ve either bought that $4,000 U87 or you’ve made an informed choice of entry level condenser. Most listeners really won’t fret over the difference, if they notice at all.
Now truly the third and perpetual priority is to get to market. VOX Daily mentors they know your strengths so you can offer them. And for goodness sakes stop trying to sound like [unintelligible 00:03:57] or Helen Mirren. You know the best tip I ever heard was in a Kevin Delaney on-line group workout. “Be yourself,” he said. “Have fun.” That was liberating. If you must fast track go coach or mentor. They should know the market in your country. They’ll help you decide whether to find an agent and work in big studios or set up independently or mix it. Here in western England it has to be cottage industry. Yes, but stay in the day job for now because overnight success is not usual. And you don’t want repayment pressures.
As you head for your first gigs practice, practice, practice magazine ads, cereal packets, children’s stories, horror comics, adult fact and fiction. That way you will discover what feels right and your huge potential to develop. And where are those hallowed producers? Well every day they scout for talent through voices.com, of course, where the job variety is amazing. I got a fine audio book here, documentaries, a couple of poems even and lots of web explainers. The best of which are well crafted mini movies a joy to perform. A few are, well, a challenge, a useful learning curve. When you’re ready broaden your reach. Check credits on TV, on Google, on Vimeo.
You’ll soon build a list of production companies, documentary specialists and localization houses. That’s a big business. Think local trade as well, Chamber of Commerce. Local radio perhaps though the economics of voicing ad spots here in UK are those of [Tesco] 1924. Pilot high sell it cheap. Phone first. Make a friend. Offer a demo. And watch your work life balance. My wife says never sees me, always in the man shed, she says. But then again no longer do I leave the house all day to work for someone else. And a single broadcast TV booking pays to update the car. Though that’s not a frequent gig and so far the cars have not been this year’s model or even last years. I did get a [Porsche] mic though. This [unintelligible 00:06:01] ribbon.
Above all voice work is always fun. You’re always learning. And when a good gig comes in or a friend hears you on the tele, well that’s a [bas] like almost no other. And you can get there along with Richard Burton or anyone you care to think of. Just begin at the beginning. Here’s hoping some of that will be a help to you. I would love to know if you agree or otherwise. Thanks for listening. I’m Howard Ellison.
Thank-you for joining us. To learn more about this special guest featured in this voices.com podcast visit the Voice Over experts show notes at podcast.voices.com/voice-over-experts. Remember to stay subscribed. If you’re a first time listener you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple ITunes podcast directory or by visiting podcasts.voices.com. To start your voice over career on-line go to voices.com and register for voice talent membership today.