Ever since I was a small child, I always loved animation. From the moment I could pick up a pencil, I was drawing. And from the moment I learned that I could make different voices…I was bugging the heck out of my poor mother (sorry, ma). But while I was in college I caught the theater bug (and I wasn’t really shaping up to be a great cartoonist) so I started studying and from there I transitioned into voice work.
What do you want visitors and locals to know about voice acting that they may not already know?
I’m gonna steal a quote from Ratatouille here and say “Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
Amongst fandom at conventions I see one of two things. Voice actors are either telling everyone they meet that anyone can become a voice actor, or they are saying, “voice acting is impossible to get into. Now stop asking and leave me alone.”
I look at it this way. Anyone CAN become a voice actor, but not everyone will. I’ve met people from all backgrounds and all walks of life who are working in this industry, BUT they all have one thing in common. They’ve honed their craft. If you want to be a voice actor, you really need to work at it. And I’m not talking about making funny voices to impress your friends. I’m talking about getting out there and taking classes, working with theater groups, indie filmmakers, and aspiring animators. You can’t live in a bubble and then suddenly expect to be an overnight success. You need to get out there and pound the pavement and meet people and constantly be working on your craft.
Voice acting is a full time career, and often it is one that you need to embark on while holding a day job until you get a few great projects and can support yourself on acting alone. If people were to be told, “Hey, you’d be a great voice actor. All you have to do is work a 40 hour a week ‘safety’ job AND use all your existing free time doing community theater and indie projects until someone actually wants to pay you for your acting work”, I think a lot of people would rethink this as a career.
But this isn’t to outright discourage those who may actually have potential. If you are wiling to put in the work and deal with the constant rejection…well, I’d say you were crazy. But crazy enough to be an actor. Because it really does come down to wanting to spend years of thankless work for the glimmer of a possibility that you may book a gig somewhere down the road.
And if those little bite sized morsels of light feed the growing darkness that occurs from not being able to be creative, then go for it. Some people can’t live without being creative. I know from this. I jumped out of college into numerous day jobs that sucked the life out of me. The only thing I ever excelled at was being creative. And it kept me alive. Because most people would be exhausted after an 8 hour day of work and wouldn’t want to spend another 3-4 hours at night rehearsing for a play. Or spending their weekends and days off on indie film sets for 12-14 hours a day. But that was what kept me alive. It kept me from falling in on myself while I did data entry or filed paperwork or worked in a call center. Those 8-hour days would hollow me out. And then those extra hours on nights and weekends filled me back up. The only problem was, the thing that hollowed me out, also paid my bills, while the thing that filled me up often cost me money in resources. But I didn’t care if I became a huge success. I just wanted to create.
So, maybe think about that before you go on this very winding and dangerous road. Is it the journey your life is pointing you in? Because I know a lot of doctors, lawyers and accountants who are insanely happy to get a six digit salary and have a nice house and a nice car and 4-6 weeks of vacation every year and money to spend on said vacations. But that wasn’t me. I’ve spent nights shivering over a can of Spaghettios in a drafty apartment where the only warmth was to get off book for the next show I was working on.
People paint actors out to be these spoiled, overpaid, glamorous people who work 6 weeks a year on a film and make millions. But that’s really only a fraction of 1% of the industry. The rest of us are the other 99% and we’re just happy if our temp job keeps the lights on this month while we constantly audition for projects that barely pay for the gas it takes to drive to them.
I know I paint a bleak picture, but if you read this and still think, “I don’t care, I want to do this”, you just might be one of us.
How has the industry evolved over the years?
Lately, voice acting has been moving more into the field of video games. In the 90’s we saw an animation boom with the start of many cable channels dedicated to animation. We also saw a boom in anime as it became popular stateside. But the anime industry has hit a plateau where it is no longer growing. All the while video games have not only become more involved in gameplay, but also in amount of voice acting required. So, many have found that it is the biggest industry for us voice acting folks.
With it being the 20th year of Pokémon and Pokémon Go being out how have those raised Pokemon’s awareness?
I have nothing to do with Pokémon Go. None of the voice actors do. Nor do we have anything to do with Sun/Moon or the six generations of games that preceded it. These games don’t contain voice work. But we are attached to the show that promotes these franchises. And as we go into Season 20, it’s nice to know that the games out there (mobile, handheld, TCG) all help to keep the show running. Which is good, because I know for a fact that all the voice actors involved are having a great time. And for most of us, it is the longest running gig of our careers. We’ve had the chance to create lives for these characters for over a decade. How awesome is that? Think of all of the adventures we’ve gone on. Where else are you going to be able to do that?
In what scenario would characters you voiced interact with each other that they normally wouldn’t?
The only way I would see that working was if Tanaka from “Genshiken” was a fan of “Pokémon” and also played “Street Fighter”. Now that would be an awesome episode to watch. Imagine the Genshiken kids sitting around and watching Pokémon and then playing a few rounds of Street Fighter. Awww, man! Now I want to see this episode actually happen.
What’s next for you?
Lots of things, but most of them are covered by NDA (non-disclosure agreements). For now, I will say that you can still hear me in the new episodes of Sun/Moon (after all, I voice over 50 Pokémon). Plus there are some other great shows/video games on the horizon.
Another thing that is newer for me is directing. I’ve been a VA for 15 years, but in the last 3, I’ve had the opportunity to work on directing a few animated and video game projects. And I’ve got some more directing work in my future. It’s really an awesome way to work on a new level with some of my favorite voice actors. I’ll always be an actor first, but man, I really do love directing as well.
What social media do you use?
You can find me on both facebook and twitter under the name “billsvoice”.
Describe voice acting in 5 words or less
One heck of a career.