✏️ The Animated Kids Show: Part Two
Finding Voice Actors
Animation is a communal art form. Much like music or construction it takes a village so to speak to bring your vision to life. While we'll eventually go into great details the process of the art work for animation however one of the most crucial pieces to the production puzzle is voice actors. So important is quality voice talent that, second to writing, a voice actor/actress can make or break your project, especially in comedy. Certain examples that come to mind: South Park, AquaTeen Hunger Force, The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, & The Venture Bros; these shows vary wildly in the production and process yet they all have rockstar voice talent! In many ways the writing and voice talents can even supersede the art and animation within the shows like AquaTeen Hunger Force and South Park. I just want to say this here while we're on the topic: I consider the most critical thing in production to be the writing; that's why shows like Rick & Morty while brilliantly written can get away with not having as an array of voice talents. I understand I might upset people that enjoy Rick & Morty but let's be honest here Justin Roiland is no Hank Azaria or Maurice Lamarche but there's no questioning his amazing writing abilities or the shear creative genius of their show. The point is voice talent not only elevates a productions success it can almost assure it.
So how do you go about finding voice actors and actresses? There are quite a few routes to approach and I generally like a mixture to my madness. You call go with union or nonunion voice talent. We'll cover dealing with the union/SAG in greater details in a later post. However for many not aware most of Hollywood follows union rules. It's quite a confusing landscape of red tape but what it boils down to is if you're going to hire a union voice actor it's going be cost more money, require several contracts and dealing with union reps. I'm not necessarily opposed to what unions do just as a business owner unions cost more and when you're a small studio those costs can be quite high. For example a union actor might cost you between $600-1000 for a session. This is a difficult pill to swallow when you're given that the voice actor might spend a few hours on your project while your self, writers and animators spend hundreds of hours on the project. It needs to be said I don't by any means disrespect or under value what voice actors/actresses bring to the table it's just expensive and their time contribution is quite short. The short window a voice actor spends on a project in comparison needs to be understood because typically very little in the animation process is quick. When you can slowly perfect a background painting, a clever joke, story arch, or a character design you're given the luxury of time. So word of advice have a crystal clear idea of the voice you're looking for because seldom will you have the finances or relationships with a voice actors/actresses to keep recording take after take. Over the years I've developed some really great relationships with some wonderfully talented voice actors but it's important to understand their bottom line if you work with them and want to attract them to your projects. Also the spirit of this blog series is to give you to the best of my ability a very transparent look at what it takes to develop an animated kids show. So I'll be talking about money a bunch. Additionally since currently much of my bread and butter relates from commercial and marketing work you're going to see many lesson through that lens.
The following are the three most successful ways I've attracted amazing voice talents:
Have a finished script, with a nice two-sheet (your Show in two sheets which I'll break down what that is in a later post),storyboards, character designs and possibly a theme song. Now you approach an actor/actress - that simple! Meet them at a ComicCon, email them through Facebook or LinkedIn, try and reach out and befriend them. They're creatives just like you and they're always looking for work. Seriously though most of the actors in the world are in between gigs. So they’re always looking for new projects. Ok now what if approaching the actor/actress if difficult or you're not sure how after trying all listed above? Time for a formal approach.
Typically the kind of actor or actress that isn't easily accessible has an agent or an agency that represents them, unless they're Bill Murray. For example we tried to see if Jack Black would be interested in a project of ours which for multiple reasons you can assume why he doesn't want just anyone to contact him. So we had to research who his agent was - how do you do that? Finally an IMDb pro account has some use haha! With IMDb pro you can look up those details, agents, producers, etc... Once you've got an email you're ready! Now just follow step 1 "Pitch" your project via email to the agent to see if their client might be interested. I've gotta say this right here - don't feel odd about contacting these people. It's their job to find their clients work, it's literally what they're paid to do! If an agent isn't finding their client work then they're not a very good agent, that or the client is in some sorta hot water. Ok so back to Jack Black. We discovered who his agent was went to contact them but we had to get through the assistant to the assistant of his agent. Yeah crazy right?! Jack Black’s agent has an assistant who has an assistant that screens his pitches. Which means you've got to impress tier upon tier of people that your project is worth looking at. Makes me wonder how many amazing project these artist miss out on? Nonetheless when you get through to these "A-List" artist don't forget they're just people like you and me. They deserve your respect but they're not gods. They might bring a certain clout that can garner attention but you're the one that has more to risk and more to gain unless they're financially backing your project. I say this not to sound like sour grapes I just think when people insulate themselves to a certain degree they lose sight of the craft. This is by no means a dig to Jack Black, I love his work. You'll also discover some actors a just a single agent to inquire and they're incredibly delightful people, Rory I'm look in your direction (Miranda Hart's agent). For example John DiMaggio (voice of Bender) is a surprisingly accessible guy, perhaps not through social media but through his agent at Vox Inc. Why am I telling you all this information? Because these tips would have saved me so much time to know! Also when you discover people you like that want to work with you, you want them to continue to be successful! It’s not just Hollywood that opens doors through relationship build. Which brings me to my last point or step, not sure if I’m detailing this correct. But nonetheless…
Just like how much of business relates to people sharing a positive review a referral is my absolute favorite! You can put your feels out into the universe/social media and ask for people to come to you. It seldom works this way but when it does it's GREAT! Or through developing relationships - flat out FRIENDSHIPS! Tiny rabbit trail here. If you’re always hustling and trying to movie your needle/networking your friendship comes off cheap. Really like people that you want to work with and really try and connect with people. Case in point I became friends with the amazing and super cool voice actor, Carey Means (voice of Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force) through my good friend Kevin Blue (we used to host a podcast called Go Forth & Nerd). Kevin introduced me to Carey and the rest is history and hopefully future with oodles and oodles of more projects!
Remember voice actors/actresses are just regular people looking for creative and meaningful work. Don't feel silly reaching out to them and letting them know you love their stuff and would love to work with them. If they don’t respond or reject your project keep your chin up. You’ll eventually find your crew as you continue to build friendships, collective supportive creatives and share your passion for your project!
Thanks for reading along. In the next post I'll be talking about dealing with SAG (screen actors guild) and what to expect.