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Voiceover Q&A with Tora Boragine of Diesel Management

Actors connection_white logo Talent manager Tara Boragine, founder and owner of Diesel Management, has over a decade of experience in the voiceover business. Actors that Boragine has represented can be seen and heard in national commercial campaigns, TV pilots, films, and on Broadway. Formerly an agent at ICM, she has also taught voiceover classes at Actors Connection in NYC for the past several years.

Boragine says that she is motivated to teach new voiceover actors because "I like the world of voice, I like actually teaching voiceovers, and knowledge is power for me, so I like people to be knowledgeable. Because sometimes people think, 'You know what? I could do that.' And they just go and feel that they could put a demo together and not take any sort of training, and there’s actually a lot of skill behind the world of voice."

We spoke with Boragine before her current six-week "Intro to Voiceovers" and five-week "Advanced Voiceover Class" began last week. Read our Q&A below:

Blog Stage: You say that you’re looking for actors "who have been told they have a good voice" for your voiceover class…

TB: Well, people have always said to me that I have a very interesting voice. It’s deep, and it’s raspy, and it’s not your normal girl voice. So a lot of times that’s what I get: people who are just interested in doing voiceovers, or to whom over the years people have said, “You have a really nice voice. You should do voiceovers.”

Is there anything more specific that you look for in a voiceover actor?

No, actually. I like to keep that stuff really open. They learn to figure out what a “book-able voice” is in the intro class. They’re in the booth every single week. The first class is the only time we’re not in the booth.

Normally, I have them doing homework every single week. They look at commercials that are on television – which is actually eye-opening for a lot of people too, because most people are used to fast-forwarding through them. To know this business, you actually have to also be studying it. You have to be looking at the commercials, you have to understand the difference between a national commercial versus a regional commercial versus a nonunion commercial. And I teach them that too.

Would you say that an actor not only has to know, but actually also like, commercials in order to work in them?

No. I think actors need to like the business, and they need to like the entertainment business. What’s great about the world of voice is you can make a significant amount of money doing voiceover, and then you can also do TV, film, and theater. You look at a lot of commercials that have celebrities, and a lot of them fall flat because people don’t recognize who it is that’s speaking.

In terms of the voiceover commercials?

Oh yeah, because there’s a lot of celebs that do voiceovers too. And this is stuff that I need for [new voiceover actors] to start to understand and recognize, and we cover a lot in the intro class.

You mentioned that lots of celebrities do voiceovers. How do you address the argument that celebrities get voiceover jobs that might otherwise go to other working voiceover actors?

I don’t look at it as a fight, because the thing is, if they want a celebrity and if they have the money for a celebrity, then they’re going to do it. But there are a lot of people who have been doing voice for a long time. And then there are some people that just don't distinctively stand out for voice, so they’re not going to be good for the big campaigns and stuff like that.

Honestly, it’s like [celebrities] help out with the work as well. A lot of times, celebrities will do the voices for car commercials – like Richard Dreyfuss is the voice of Honda, and Hyundai is Jeff Bridges right now – and a lot of times those guys can’t come in and do what we call the “tags,” which is all the different markets that they’re doing, sales and promotions, which actually turns out to be a lot of money. And they can’t do that, so they’ll bring in somebody who can do the scale stuff. I mean , look, if they have the money for the celebs, they’re going to do it, but there are a lot of jobs that go to scale people all the time, and these are people that actually have skills and do voiceover [as a career].

So there’s a lot of voiceover work still to go around?

Oh yeah, I definitely feel that there’s work to go around for everybody.

What should actors expect when they sign up for your "Intro to Voiceover" class?

It’s literally an introduction to voiceovers. For people who have always been told that they have a great voice and want to break into this business, I teach the foundation of how everything should be in the world of voice – breaking up copy, figuring out who they’re talking to, what’s the most important line in a piece of copy. Everything they learn, soup to nuts.

What personal experience or expertise are you bringing to the class that would make it desirable for actors who are just getting started?

I still see what’s happening in the world of voice and commercials, and on-camera TV and film. What people don’t realize is actually the world of voice helps out with their on-camera abilities and with television and film.

How so?

Because in the world of voice, I actually show people how they need to break down the copy, and figure out who their audience is, and who are they trying to market to.

And that’s a skill you need no matter what.

Yeah, it just helps you. And when you get a TV script, it’s an easy way for people to learn the tools to use to be like, “Ok, this is the person that I’m talking to, and this is how I should maybe approach this character." Not that I want to get personal, but I want to know who you’re talking to. For me, it’s people that you see in your everyday life – those are the experiences that you’re drawing from. And that’s exactly what happens in the world of voice. It’s actually a lot more difficult, because there is no visual, so vocally, they have to come up with that entire visual through their voice.

Have you taken on any of your students as clients? Is that something that’s more or less likely to happen if an actor takes your class?

I don’t want people who take the class to think that they’re going to get a manager from the class.

I always think that they should be taking a class to improve their skills, because the thing is, I will always get them completely prepared for when they walk into a casting office, and know that they will be doing everything they’re supposed to be, and that they’re representing themselves very well. And so that’s the biggest thing.

I don’t teach people the world of voice just for them to see if they like it. This is going to be their career, and for a lot of people it has been. Look, there have been some people that have taken my intro class that I have told not to continue [pursuing voiceover work]. So I’m very honest on that as well. I’m not somebody who just wants to – and I don’t know if Actors Connection would love to hear it, but they do know my philosophy – I won’t tell somebody to take the class just to take their money. That’s not how I work.

How do you feel like your perspective as a manager differs from a casting director teaching a voiceover class? What are you offering that’s different, or how are they similar?

I think actually a lot is similar. I think the big difference is as a manager, in the last class they sit down with me privately and I treat it like it’s a casting session. Then I sit down and look at their materials, I look at their headshot, their resume, their reel if they have it, or if they’ve made a voice demo, and I give them honest feedback. I think as a manager, I’m working in all areas of the entertainment business, rather than a voiceover casting director who's only knows what’s happening voice-wise. A lot of people that take my class are actors who want to be supplementing their theater income by doing voiceovers – because you can literally do voiceovers from anywhere.

And so you’ll evaluate actors as a whole package, not just as a voiceover actor, when you sit down with them?

Right. And it’s about teaching them different skills. Every week, they learn something new. We deal with national commercials, and we deal with cable commercials, and we cover a little bit on the promo world.

Quite honestly, when I was at ICM we had a voiceover booth that I was in quite a lot, so I would direct people all the time, which I still do.

Since leaving your job as n agent at ICM and to found Diesel Management as a manager, how has your role changed?

Well, the big difference between an agent and a manager is that an agent works in one specific field. So if it’s the world of voice, they look at their actor and they’ll submit them for a voiceover project, but they don’t necessarily look at their career as a whole – like what they could be doing TV and film-wise, or should they be doing this on-camera commercial that could possibly take them out of the running for a TV show, or whatnot.

And a lot of the time, they don’t go over the headshots and resumes and reels and all that. As a manager, that’s everything. Soup to nuts, I do the entire package and make sure their headshot, their resume, their reel, and everything is up to date. And then we talk about looks. I also constantly go over sides with my clients. I read with them. I’m constantly putting people on tape, because I do both coasts. I do New York and L.A., and that’s the cool thing about doing voice. When they were doing The Cleveland Show, which is out in L.A., and they were looking for voiceover people, it was very cool because I could send some of my clients’ voice samples.

You mentioned that voiceovers can basically be recorded anywhere. Do you think that voiceover classes need to be held in person? Do you know of any over the phone voiceover classes, and would that be a viable option?

No, I don’t think over the phone would actually be viable at this point, especially if someone is just getting into the world of voiceovers. They don’t have enough experience under their belt.

But it’s all shapes and sizes, all ages. Voiceover work doesn’t discriminate. I had one person who was African-American who would go out for everything. It wasn’t just that she was only reading African-American stuff, she would read everything across the board. I’ve also had Brits who do standard American, that go in for the American stuff. That’s what’s great.

And it doesn’t matter age-wise. I mean, there are people that I worked with that were in their 80s that were still reading copy that was for people in their 50s. As long as you sound good and take care of your voice – and I should be taking my own advice sometimes, my ear, nose, and throat doctor would say. But especially living in a city like New York or L.A., with all the pollution…

What can people do to keep their voice healthy?

I know this sounds very funny, but breathing is actually a very big help. And reading out loud every single day, 15 to 20 minutes. Actually, if they do it first thing in the morning it’s great, because what they’re doing is warming up their vocal chords, and they’re starting to figure out, “Oh, I have problems saying this word,” or, “I don’t even know how to say that word,” and it’s all basically unconscious thought that they’re having. And it actually helps them with learning sides and scripts, because they become much better readers.

What are the requirements, or what types of voiceover actors are you looking for, in the advanced class?

I don’t believe that they have to take my intro class, but they do have to have background in the world of voice. My advanced class is only a five-week class and we’re in the booth every single week, and they are working on their bookable voice and being able to, timing-wise, get everything tight, and be able to make those choices. The world of voiceovers moves very quickly, and when you go see a casting person, you need to be able to nail that in the first shot, really. Whereas there’s a lot more flexibility in the intro class, because that’s exactly what it is: an intro class.

The advanced class is about tightening these skills and being able to nail something in that second read, and knowing what the client wants. Meaning, if we were reading for Audi cars, let’s say, the client for me would be Audi. For them to be able to recognize what Audi is looking for vocally, without even having any direction, and trying to figure out what market they’re looking at too – there’s a lot of steps that go in before you go in and read. So that’s all stuff that we tighten up, and they really work much, much harder in the five-week advanced class.

And again, at the end, I do the private session with them, where they do 10 minutes and I sit down and I talk to them, and kind of let them know where they should go from here – whether that means they take more classes, or they study privately, or some people can be ready for a demo. But this is a time commitment, and when you’re working in the world of voice, my clients work every single day. One piece of homework that I give them is they need to read out loud 15 to 20 minutes – I don’t care what they read, but it has to be every single day.

So what makes voiceover a learned skill, as opposed to just reading? And why do voiceover actors need to take classes like yours to improve themselves?

Well, it makes you stand out. People think just because you read that you can do the world of voice. Like I said before, there is no visual for the audience, and the commercials are 30 seconds or 60 seconds long. That’s fast, and to capture everything that the client is looking for, you need to take classes, because otherwise you would be just doing that – reading.

There are a lot of nuances that happen. I show people how to pull out buzzwords, because there are always buzzwords in voiceover copy and buzzwords are just what make it stand out. What’s going to make you stand out from the other 200 people who are also auditioning for this?

And what the actors don’t realize is, if a commercial is not doing well, the first thing they’ll replace is the voiceover, because it’s the easiest thing to replace. Classes show you what different attitudes you need to have, who you need to be talking to, how you need to project – even having a microphone in front of your face and how you need to talk and deal with that as well, because it is different than you having a normal conversation with somebody. You have a microphone that is worth a lot of money, that is going to pick up everything.

These are all tools that I think you need to have. If you go into anything blind, there’s going to be a point where you get frustrated, or there will be a point where casting people and producers are not going to want to keep seeing you if you keep giving them the same thing over and over.

You don’t necessarily have to fail repeatedly at auditions to learn.

Exactly. And that’s why some people even take my advanced class again, because they just want the skills to be tightened up. In any business, there’s always that learning curve no matter what you do, whether it’s the entertainment business or you want to be a dentist. You can’t just go in and be like, “I think I’m going to be a dentist today.” It doesn’t work that way.

Tara Boragine's six-week "Intro to Voiceovers" began April 20 and runs every Tuesday through May 25 in NYC; her five-week "Advanced Voiceover Class" began April 22 and runs every Thursday through May 20. For more info and to register for Actors Connection classes, seminars, and events -- including more voiceover work with Tara Boragine -- visit ActorsConnection.com.

Bs april 29 Read more about voiceover in the April 29-May 5, 2010 issue of Back Stage, currently on newsstands. Or visit BackStage.com to read more about The Cleveland Show, how to take care of your voice, and why voiceover classes are necessary.

-- Daniel Lehman

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What a joke. Tara Boragine? She used to work at ICM. I met with her, and she was a complete unprofessional. She kept me waiting for almost 2 hours for our appointment, and when we did have the meeting, she was completely disinterested. There are many agents like that, and they are BAD agents who should not be working with actors. Tara, you should be very ashamed of how you conducted yourself. Actors, avoid this woman and do not pay to take classes from her.

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