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Advice from Voice Actor Dee Bradley Baker

DeeBradleyBaker From the panel “Inside the Voice Actors Studio” at Comic-Con, some thoughts and advice from voice actor Dee Bradley Baker, whose extensive list of credits include “Phineas and Ferb” and “SpongeBob SquarePants”. 

On putting together a voice audition: When I get a piece of copy for an audition, what I want to do is get a lock on the kind of tone that I imagine the producers and creators of this want.

It’s a great help that I have spent so many hours of my life playing video games, watching cartoons and movies, and reading fantastical books. All of these things set up the icons that most things tend to gravitate towards.

So when you’re reading the copy you want to get a lock on the right kind of pace and the right kind of tone, so that when they hear it, “Yup, that’s it. We can just insert that right into our project and that’s gonna work.”

Ultimately my task is to diagnose and deliver that solution, that puzzle, in a fully formed way so they can say, “Yup, that’s it,” not “You know, that’s pretty good, but if we directed him a lot we could find exactly what we want.”  No. Your job as a voice actor putting together your audition - and most of mine I do on my own - I diagnose, direct it, envision it, and get a lock on it all by myself and deliver that fully formed final performance.

On being a voice actor: You must have enthusiasm in order to be an actor. Because that’s what I am, above all things. I’m not someone who does crazy sounds or weird voices. Ultimately, I have to be an actor. If I’m not then I will not get hired to do anything. When people ask me, “What should I do to be a voice actor?” First you must become an actor. Your flavor of an actor. Best of all a live performer. Most everyone I know who works on this constantly, they either come from live music, radio, stand-up, or from the stage.

I’m not sure I can think of anybody who doesn’t have a good amount of live professional performing experience. You must have that. You get from that a confidence that is your particular flavor of confidence that you will then bring to the bigger city or the bigger market you are going to go to.

But you must find that in yourself in front of an audience. It doesn’t necessarily help to study, it mostly helps to do. It’s people who love performing and love that kind of storytelling and attacking a character and attacking a story and making it a perfect performance whether it’s for little tiny kids or for 18 plus.

On practicing voice acting at home: Read books out loud. Read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” out loud. Or “The Hobbit”. Something that’s really got some character or some brilliant storytelling. Read out loud a lot.

On working with a good voice director: You, as an actor, want someone who knows what they want. That saves everyone so much time and so much work and saves you so much voice. If they have a clear idea of what they want and they can express it clearly, and concisely, then you’ve got a session that stays. That’s really what you want.

-- Jessica Gardner

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I think understanding the required "tone" is one of the key things for a voice or live action piece.

How do you get a fix on what the casting director or director want in terms of tone?

Do you ask them for a film/genre/video game reference.

Tone is definitely one of the secrets to acting

Thanks Again

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