Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

Voice Acting Demo Reels - How and When To Get One

Having a great demo reel seems to be this great mark of a voice actor. In today’s video we’re gonna talk about what they are, how to get them, what to use them for, and how to make a great sandwich. Okay everything but the last one.

For more great tips on how to be a voice actor don’t forget to hit the Like and Subscribe button below. And this the bell button if you wanna get notified every time I post a new video on this topic, every week. Hey, everyone, I am Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I’ve had my voice in thousands of videos, cartoons, video games, anime, commercials, all that stuff. And I’ve got probably 20 different demo reels. And I am not done updating or making them. In this video we’re gonna talk about three things you need to know about demos. What they are. When you need one. And how to get one.


First, let’s talk about what a demo is and what it’s purpose is for you in your career. The way I see it personally, a demo has one major function and that is to show your ranger. To many casting directors, directors, and producers a single audition may be enough to hire you for the gig. They hear you read their script and they hire you. But in many cases they’re also gonna wonder, “Well what else can this person do?” And they’re gonna wanna look at your demo reels to find out. This helps particularly in situations where they may need you to do more than one voice. So this’ll work well for animation and games. They’re gonna wanna know, “Okay, I had him audition for this character, but what else can they do? Can I fit them into multiple roles and save some money in my project?”

In situations where a client may not have a script ready for you to audition yet, they may be just looking for a certain style and they’ll start looking through demos and be like, “Okay, yeah, yeah. That right there, that’s exactly what I want. Bring that person in.” There have been many times in a session where I’ve been hired without an audition and they say, “Okay well we really like your spot on your demo where you did Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Take that style and apply it to our project.”

The last thing that you definitely need a demo for is when you’re trying to hook an agent. We’re gonna go into finding an agent in a different video, but you’re gonna need something to show to them when it’s time to approach an agent and say, “Hey, will you represent me?” Why do you think you need a demo? Post it in the comments.

Part two, do I really need a demo? I’m gonna be completely honest with you. If you’re just starting out and you’re looking at these videos and you haven’t done anything yet, I’m gonna say no, you do not need a demo. You are not ready for a demo. And I say this to protect you. Demo production can be a … I don’t wanna use the word predatory, but there are a lot of people looking to make a buck. And they look at someone who is just starting in voice over, doesn’t know what they’re doing, and are like, “Oh yeah. I’ll make you a demo. No problem.” So what happens is you, having no experience, go ahead and make a demo. You drop 1000, you drop 2000, $3000 on a demo and then all of a sudden in six months your skills have improved so much that you listen to that demo and you go, “Wow, that person sucks,” and you need to update your demo again. And there you go for another $2000.

So, if you’re just starting out, it makes more sense to just try to audition for some stuff. Even after you’ve been doing it for awhile, after I did it for awhile I didn’t get professional demos made right away.

What I did is I cobbled together spots that I had already done. I asked producers, I was like, “Hey you remember we did that thing a little while ago? Will you send me a finalized copy that I can use in my reel?” And most of the time they’re like, “Oh yeah, sure.” This is how a lot of on camera actors made their reels … make their reels every single day. So it’s not foreign to producer to be like, “Hey, can I have that spot for my demo reel?” And that’s the way that you should be taking care of your demo reels when you first start out.

But how do I get an agent without a demo? Well in a case where you don’t have a demo and you’re not ready for a demo, you’re probably also not ready for an agent. Agents are looking for people with established careers. I know there’s that myth out there where some like big old Hollywood agent is like, “Kid, I heard your voice from a mile away and I’m gonna make you a star.” That’s like the 1%. That doesn’t really happen. They’re looking for somebody that can bring business. And if you aren’t ready to bring business because you haven’t really started yet, a demo’s not really gonna help you in this situation. You’re gonna know when you need a professionally made demo reel, especially if you’ve been cobbling together your old work. At some point you’re gonna listen to that old stuff and you’re gonna be like, “Hmm. This doesn’t sound like what I can do and I know I can do much better. And I’m at now a professional level where a professional demo is gonna benefit me.” Your tastes will evolve and you will know when it’s time for a demo. I guarantee it’s not before you’ve booked your first thing.

Tip three, how to get a demo reel. Now we’re not gonna go into exactly how to do this, and I mentioned it before, but a good idea is to cobble together some of your past work. That’s the easiest and simplest way to get a demo. You want to make sure that you are fitting your demos into one specific category. Don’t throw a Darth Vader impression into the middle of your commercial reel, which I have heard. You need to make sure you’re sticking to your genres. Have a commercial reel. Have a promo reel. A video game. Sometimes people lump video games and animation together and call it a character reel. That kinda thing. So when you’re cobbling it together make sure you’re following the genres of voice over.

Once you’ve outgrown your self-made demo, your tastes, like I said, will let you know that it’s time to go for an update. You can either do a demo refresh, which is taking more interesting, more recent spots where it showcases your talent a little bit more and stuffing them in between spots on old demos. Or you can say, “You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s go to a professional demo studio and figure this out.”

One option that I hesitate to recommend because I’ve seen people burned by it is what I call the crash course. There are coaches out there that are looking for people to start from scratch and they’ll say, “Okay. If you wanna try voice over here’s what we’ll do. We’ll do six weeks of coaching or two months of coaching, or whatever, and then I’ll produce a demo for you. It’ll cost X amount of dollars.” So you’re paying someone to coach you for repeated sessions and then you’re gonna pay somebody to produce the demo at the end. This works for some people. It doesn’t work for others. I would advise you to look up the people that are offering you this sort of package. Look to see who their clients were in the past. Look to see if those clients ended up being successful in voice over. Don’t feel ashamed to write that person and say, “Hey, you need to give me a referral of someone you’ve done this for before.” If they’re not willing to give you a referral of someone they’ve done that work for before, I wouldn’t work with them because it means that they probably don’t have any success stories.

Lastly of course is just to go and find a reputable industry demo producer. I am going to be linking a couple of them that I have worked with in the past in the description below. You’re welcome to check any of them out. I can vouch for them 100%. They have done my demos. They have done demos all over the industry. But, again, you are probably not ready to drop this amount of money on a demo if you are just starting in voice over. A $2000 demo will not book you a $2000 job if you’re still working with a $10 set of pipes. I’m sure you’ve heard the idea of putting a $100 saddle on a $10 horse, that’s the way it goes with demos. So make sure you’re ready before you contact the people that I’m posting in the video description below.

So that’s it. Well that’s not really it when it comes to demos and demo productions. It’s just the basic questions that I get asked all the time about making demos, how to get them, what they do, and what should be in them. In a later video we may go into something more in depth on to like what a demo should consist of, what spots you should include in a demo, and all that kinda thing. But these are the basics. The bottom line is always be careful with your time, be careful with your talent, and listen, listen, listen. Go out there and listen to some other people’s demos and see if you can hear what they’re doing that maybe you’re not doing. So what category of demo do you think you’re gonna produce first? And why? Post it in the comments below.

That’s a wrap everyone. I encourage you to follow me on social media for behind-the-scenes tips and links and other videos that I do all over the place on Facebook and Twitter. And also for notifications on when I post something new on my YouTube channel. If this video helped you, let me know by giving me a Like, a Subscribe, and a comment below. And I will see you in the booth.

What Should I Charge For Voice Acting Work

Okay, we’ve all seen it, someone on Fiverr asking five dollars for a voiceover. Today we’re gonna talk about why that’s insane and what you should charge for your voiceover work. Here we go.

For more great tips on being a voice actor, how to get into the industry, make sure you hit the like and subscribe button below, and hit the bell icon so you get notified when I post a new video in this series every single week.


Hey everyone, I am Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain, and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I’ve had my voice in thousands of corporate videos, e-learning, commercials, promo, animation, video games, and anime. And when I was just starting out, it was very difficult to figure out what the heck I was supposed to charge people for my work. Figuring out what you’re supposed to charge is a lot easier nowadays because the industry has sort of banded together and tried to figure to, okay, what is it that I’m going to charge people for this service, or this service, or this service? Today were going to walk through understanding what makes up a voiceover session and what makes up the budget for a voiceover session.

Part one, session and usage. There are two things that define what your voiceover costs, and they are called session and usage. We’re going to go over session at first because that’s the simpler of the two. Your session fee is essentially your fee that you get for walking into the booth. For stepping up to the mic, for whatever reason. Even if the client never uses that stuff for anything, you get the session fee. Now this many times is absorbed, is combined with the usage which we’ll talk about in a second. Especially in the union world, and you should mimic it when you’re charging people in the non union world, even if you do simplify it. Your session fee is what you get just for showing up.

The usage is a lot more complicated, and I will say that even today lot of producers and a lot of actors don’t understand what usage is or how to apply it to charging for their services. Usage is basically where and how is your voice going to be used. Is it going to be on a website, trade shows, television, radio? Remember the genres we’ve talked about but in previous videos? Each of those sort of loosely defines a usage of your voice. Usage is broken down into a lot of different categories, but the general rule is the more money that a client stands to gain from your voice, the more money you are going to be charging them for usage. If it’s something that only is going to appear internally on their website, and they’re not going to get any … or I’m sorry, internally, inside their company and they’re not going to show it to anybody, and therefore not going to get any revenue for it, that’s on the lower end of usage.

If they’re going to air it on national television multiple times, and they stand to make millions of dollars for it, then you should be charging them more for it. It is in a very loose sense proportional to how much money the client stands to make from your voice. Another thing you need to consider is how long they’re going to be using it. For web stuff and internal stuff, a lot of it is called in perpetuity, that means they want the rights to use that forever. For digital usage, like certain websites and YouTube channels, now we are starting to see more of a trend towards yes, you can use this online for a year and then you need to rebuy, re up, pay me a holding fee. Those are all sorts of terms that people use to say okay, “After a year those rights are up. You no longer have the right to use my voice. You need to pay me another usage fee to extend it.”

On the broadcast side, which I mean TV and radio, typically commercials run in 13 week cycles, so there are four 13 week cycles in a full 52 week year. If you have a spot that’s running for a year, they’ll probably pay you for four separate cycles of usage. It expires every 13 weeks, and if they want to continue using your voice for television or radio, they need to pay you again. In general, and listen carefully, if a client is asking you for a buy-out in perpetuity, for all media, that’s a bad deal. That means they have the rights to use your voice for anything they want, for any length of time, which if you’re looking at something they’re going to pay you $500 every quarter for a 13 week cycle, that means if they use your spot for 10 years you’re missing out on $20,000 worth of revenue. Heck no. Buy-outs in perpetuity are something that I’m seeing more and more often. They are bad for you, they are bad for the industry, and whenever you have the chance you should push back on buy-outs in perpetuity for all media or learn that you can walk away.

We’re not going to talk about it in this particular video, but in some cases having a spot airing on television can create a conflict, which means that if you want to audition for a union gig in that same category you cannot. If somebody gives you a buy-out, or you offer someone a buy-out in perpetuity on a car commercial, and they just run your voice for 12 years, guess what? That $100,000, brilliant, BMW commercial that would have made your career in the union, you can’t audition for it anymore, because you have a conflict on television. Do not work all media buy-outs in perpetuity. Have you ever charged anyone for a voiceover job? How did you figure it out when you didn’t have the resource like this? Post it in the comments below.

Part two, okay, so what do I charge? This is a very difficult thing to figure out, and there are resources out there that kind of benchmark. In some cases, it’s more difficult to get the client to tell you what they’re going to be using this spot for, because like I said earlier, they don’t necessarily understand usage. Once you get that though, there are resources that you can use to figure out okay, with this usage, this length of time, what should I charge? A couple of them that are the best, actually, the best resource by far I found is The Global Voice Acting Academy’s Rate Guide. GVAA Rate Guide, which I will link for you down in the description below. And I’m going to give you a tutorial of it here in just a second. There’s also SAG Actors’ Rate Calculator, which is sort of in beta and doesn’t give very good results for things like trade shows, web videos, and stuff like that. If you’re really looking for an all encompassing guide, check out the GVAA’s Rate guide, and we’re going to go into that right now.

Okay, here we are on the Global Voice Acting Academy Website, which is gvaa.com. I’ll throw it in the links in the video description below, and I’ll also throw it up here on the screen. The rate guide is right there at the beginning under resources. Also if you type in GVAA Rate Guide into Google, it’s going to take you right here. It’s really easy to use, it’s very simple. Everything is right there in front of you. You can sign up for updates. You can support the rate guide. GVAA’s also a really great resource for lots of other stuff like classes, webinars, coaching. I’ll talk about that in a future video. Also, there’s some demo production stuff that goes up there.

The first thing you’re going to look at is the categories of voiceover, which I talked about in, I think my first video, I talked about the genres of voiceover, and you’ll notice that a lot of these line up to what I was saying. It’s the way that we price out voiceover as well. So you’ve got TV broadcast, non-broadcast, which is usually anything that’s not web but also not broadcast. It gets a little funny. You’ve got e-learning, promo, and imaging; cinema pickups, audio books, all that kind of stuff right here. Now these rates are generaly based on union rates, but scheduled to be, for the most part, just a little bit more flexible.

Let’s take a look at TV broadcast, which you can, and you can click on any of these to bring you anywhere you want, all the way down to radio. Let’s look at TV. It shows you here, on the left, how long you’re going to use it. The heading here shows you how many markets it’s going to go to. If we’re looking at one small area, I’ve done lots of commercials for like a local hardware store in Kansas city, that kind of thing. That’s what were looking at it for here. A local market, one city or state, no major markets, as in not Chicago, not Los Angeles. All that other kind of stuff. And you can see that if you’re going to use it for a three months, you should look at a rate range in between here, and there are some notes that explains what this means.

The GVAA Rate Guide is so easy to use and so comprehensive. It’s gone through so many different rounds of feedback that actors all over the world have given to the GVAA, so it’s just a great guide. It really is like your one stop resource for everything. You’re looking here, okay, so this now we’re talking about a regional market, somebody in New York. Well, let’s say, okay, somebody in Ohio wants to use this for a television commercial that’s going to be broadcast in Indiana, Ohio, and I don’t know, Michigan. All three sates that are somewhat close to each other. That would be considered a regional market. The price goes up and they’re using it for a year, and somebody’s offering you $250 for a one year regional market, you can be like, “Uh, no, that is not an industry standard rate and I won’t work for it.

Remember that you always have the power to say no. I know it can be very difficult, especially when you’re just starting out, but you have to make sure that you are encouraging the industry to stay at fair rates. It’s good for us, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for the industry. There’s lots of, you know, if they’re like, “Hey, okay, I’ve got a TV commercial, it’s local and I have four tags on it, because there are a bunch of different situations where it’s going to be like, “Call this now.” Okay, now we changed our number, “Call this now,” or, “Use promo code,” ba blah blah, each tag is going to be 300 bucks or whatever, it’s all broken down here.

For radio, it’s the same thing for the the most part. You’re looking at where it’s going, and how long it’s going to happen. Then you’ve got radio tags, web usage, how long is it going to be on the web. The thing that I don’t particularly, it’s not always very useful, is when you’re talking about geographic areas on the internet. Now some advertising is geo tagged and geo limited so it’s like we’re only going to advertise this to people on the eastern seaboard, that kind of thing, so that’s getting more specific as ad targeting. It’s more specific on social media.

Paid placement usually means it’s like an ad that runs before a youtube video, it’s pre-roll, it’s something that the person has to watch before they move on. So you see all that stuff is here. Finished minutes, corporate, and explainer videos, kiosk use, everything is here. E-learning, now one of the things you can also do, feel free to send this to the client. This isn’t like a big secret. This is the industry standard rates. It’s based off of union rates and all of that stuff, so when you’re using the GVAA, feel free to forward it to clients. Sometimes they really like understanding what this rate guide is. They may not know where people get prices from, and it is up to us sometimes to educate the client, and the GVAA Rate Guide is an excellent way to do that.

Look it’s complicated, it’s gritty. It sometimes makes people uncomfortable to talk about money, but with the knowledge we’ve talked about in this video, you are much better prepared to approach a client and say, “Hey, here’s what my voice is worth for what you’re asking for.” I know we can’t cover everything about charging for your voiceover in a five-minute video, so if you’ve got other questions please post them in the comments below, and I will do my best to get to them. If this video helped you, let me know by leaving a comment below. Also, give me a like, give me a subscribe, and you will get a new video every single week on how to get into voice acting.

There’s quite a body of content already on my YouTube channel, so feel free to go back and peruse some of the old videos, lots of great stuff there for you. All free, all ready for you to just soak it all in. That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by, and I will see you in the booth.

Animation Voice Acting Basics

You remember those days right? Saturday mornings with a big bowl of sugary cereal ready to immerse yourself into a world of cartoons? Do you want to know how to get your voice into there? Here we go.

For more instant tips on how to get into voice acting, make sure you hit the subscribe button below and hit the bell icon so you get notified when I post a new video on this series every single week. My name is Joe Zieja, I’m a former air force captain turned voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. My voice has been in thousands of corporate videos, commercials, video games, anime and cartoons and today I am here to tell you three tips on how to get your voice into traditional television animation.



Tip number one, finding the opportunities. I don’t want to sound bleak here and I made a similar comment in my video game video, but if you’re looking for the big animation opportunities, you probably have to get to Los Angeles, but if that’s something that’s super important to you like it was to me, I had a very strong corporate and commercial career not in Los Angeles and I decided that what I really was passionate about was character-driven voice acting, games, anime and animation. So my manager at the time said, “Get to LA,” and here I am.

Los Angeles is pretty much the only place where you can get really good, solid, union network TV animation stuff. So if you’re looking for those opportunities, most of them are going to be here and unlike video games, which has a strong independent industry that you can do remotely from anywhere in the country, animation is just not quite the same, it’s still kind of in the same place it was 25, 30, 40, 50 years ago, that is Los Angeles.

There’s a lot of reasons for that. One of the primary ones is that bigger budget animation, cartoons, movies, they record in what’s called an ensemble cast. All the cast is in the same room at the same time, which is wildly fun because you get to play off of each other, you get to see other people work, which doesn’t necessarily happen in some of the other genres of voice over, like video games and commercial. You’re typically alone in those cases. With an ensemble cast, you get a much richer performance, I think, where everyone’s kind of bouncing off everybody else’s energy but unfortunately you all have to be in the same place and that place is Los Angeles.

The second thing that I wanted to mention is that the community for animation, you’ll notice if you’ve ever noticed who’d been voicing your favorite cartoons for the past 50 years, is it’s very small. The community for animation is small, voiceover itself is small, animation is extremely small. The same people tend to get work over and over again because they’re excellent at what they do. Getting into animation, breaking into animation takes a very long time. People have told me it’s taken them five to 10 years to get their first animation so expect a long haul when you’re out here in Los Angeles looking for the animation work.

I don’t say that to discourage you, I say that because I’m here to give you the realistic perspective on what it takes to get into animation. That being said, you need to make sure you take every audition opportunity seriously. Casting directors have long memories. I can tell you stories about a casting director looking at me to be like, “Oh yeah, you did that audition for me two years ago and I really loved it and I put a little mark next to your name and now I’ve hired you for this.” So even though it may take a long time, you’ve always got to make sure you’re giving it everything you’ve got. What is your favorite memory of Saturday morning cartoons? Post it in the comments below.

Tip number two, understanding the medium. Are you noticing a pattern in these genre videos so far? Everything I’m saying, it starts with getting to know your medium. If you had never in your life seen a Spanish telenovela and then auditioned for one, would you expect to do it right? It has a particular style, it has a particular script, you need to make sure that you know the medium before you go out to audition. I know that sounds like a really difficult assignment, “Hey, I want you to go watch cartoons,” but if you’re not familiar with the very particular style that animation has, you may end up throwing a Doc McStuffins read into a batman cartoon and that is just going to make you look super silly, although it might make for a really interesting cartoon.

If you can’t figure out what show you’re auditioning for, dig something up. Look for the characters, look for the show title, even look for if you have a chance, who is casting it and see what they’ve worked on in the past. Check out what their style is because they tend … each casting director has their own particular style on what they’re looking for. So you have the internet at your disposal, make sure you’re using it to know your medium.

Tip three, nailing the read. Animation in particular has a lot of pitfalls that people are just read to dive face first into. The first thing being that everyone calls them cartoons. Not every cartoon is going to sound like Bugs Bunny and have something wacky and loony that goes with it. Cartoons run a wide gamut of emotional ranges from deeply serious and somber to completely zany and weird and you have to understand what you’re looking at and what you’re going to do and usually they’re going to give you some ideas in the specs on whether or not it’s going to be grounded and real, or zany and cartoony and my favorite direction, over the top. When you hear over the top, you can just go crazy and get silly and that can be really fun but it’s important that you know the difference when you’re looking at it. Don’t just go for something crazy and cartoony.

When you’re auditioning, it’s important that you show variety, even within the copy. Even if your character is a mad scientist who screams all the time, you’re going to have to find some way to show that yes, you can show the mad scientist screamy stuff, but you can also show that he has underlying motives, maybe he has insecurities, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Find some place in the script to introduce variety, even if the script itself doesn’t necessarily lend it to that.

Lastly, understand the context of the scene that you are auditioning. Animation copies typically comes in film script format so that you can see what’s happening with other characters in the scene. Read them and understand them, even if it’s not a line you’re going to say, understand what’s going on in the scene, otherwise it sounds like all of these lines are just plucked out of the air and plopped into your microphone and believe me, casting directors can tell the difference when you understand the context of a scene and when you’re just reading line, line, line, line.

So, that’s it for animation basics and I do mean basics. Animation is extremely complex, it’s been around for a long time and you need to make sure that you understand your medium and that you have some patience to be proficient in the craft. Keep working on it, get your butt to LA if this is something that you’re super passionate about and just keep going. Eventually something’s going to land for you.

Hey, what’s a cartoon that you really want to be an actor in? What’s the show that you could see your voice popping out of? Post it in the comments below. All right everyone, that is a wrap for today. If this video helped you, let me know by putting it in the comments below. Leave me a like, give me a subscribe and make sure you’re checking out on Twitter and Facebook when I’m posting links to new videos, different behind the scenes stuff and all kinds of other fun stuff on my social channels. Thanks again for stopping by and I will see you in the booth.


With so many of pieces of software out there that do essentially the same thing, it can be really confusing and really difficult to pick one for yourself. But don’t worry about it, because in this week’s video, I’m going to talk about software, what you need, and how to get it. Here we go.

For weekly tips on how to get started in voice acting, click the Like button and the Subscribe button below, and don’t forget to hit the bell so you get notified when I post a new video every Tuesday.


Hey, everyone. I’m Joe Zieja, and I’ve lent my voice to thousands of videos, commercials, anime, cartoons, video games, and all that other kind of stuff, and I’ve done most of it from my home studio using all kinds of different software. Today, we’re going to talk about three different things that are going to let you understand what software is and how to pick it.

Tip number one: The best DAW is the one you know. Now when I say DAW, it stands for D-A-W, digital audio workstation. A DAW is just the program that takes all the stuff from your microphones and translates it into something that your computer can see and use. It’s what you record into, and it’s what you mixdown, that is convert your waveform into. You mix it down into a WAV, MP3, all that kind of stuff. You do that in your DAW.

When I say the best DAW is the one you know, I mean if you’re using something, stick with it. If you’re using Pro Tools, stick with it. If you’re using Cubase, stick with it. They’re all so similar in their production capabilities that it’s very nonsensical for you to switch just because someone tells you that X is the standard. Personally, I’ve been using Cubase for years, and I don’t plan on switching.

As a voice actor, my needs are pretty minimal. I just need to be able to mixdown audio, I need to be able to record in 44, 1, 16 bit, or 24 bit, or whatever it is. The needs are very basic. Some basic EQ, some basic compression, a noise gate, that’s all I use. I’m not mixing Dolby Atmos commercials from my home studio, right? So I’m need something simple, and probably you need something simple, too.

If you’re not already using a DAW, I recommend using Audacity. Just get it, because it’s free, and it mimics most of the other professional grade DAWs, so if you’re ever ready to step up into something like Pro Tools or Cubase, it’s going to be more familiar to you because you’ve used Audacity, which has some of the same, similar functions.

So what have you used in the past to record audio? Post it in the comments below, and we’ll talk about it.

Okay. So let’s say you are now getting ready to choose a DAW. We talked about it a little bit already, but there are some major players that you need to be aware of.

Pro Tools. Pro Tools is the industry standard. I don’t use Pro Tools. I don’t enjoy using Pro Tools. It’s just not something that I’m familiar with, but for those that are mixing TV audio, and all the studios I’ve gone to, I’ve never seen anybody not use Pro Tools, so if you’re looking for something, you may want to check it out. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube and all that kind of thing on how to use it and get familiar with it. Most of these programs that I’m going to talk about have a trial, or a demo, or something like that that you can kind of poke around and see what works for you.

What I use is called Cubase. Cubase is really easy. It’s really simple to use. Honestly, the only reason I use it is because, back to step number one, sticking with what you know, it came free with my first sound card, and I’ve just been upgrading ever since. Now I’m on Cubase 9. So, Cubase is what I use.


You can also look at Logic Pro. You can also look at, like I said, Audacity is the free one. Some people use Reaper. Some people use … there’s so many different ones out there, and most of them have, like I said, free trials, but take a look at the ones that I’ve mentioned first, because they tend to be the industry standards, with Pro Tools being on top, despite the fact that it does crash a lot.

Tip number three: Look for freebies and discounts. Now, I kind of alluded to this already when I was talking about how I discovered Cubase. I bought an external sound card, a TC Konnekt 8 in 2000 and maybe five, or 2004. It came with a little CD that was Cubase LE. It was a version of Cubase that was free. Came with a thing, had very limited functions, but I could dive into the interface right away. It worked with my sound card really easy, et cetera, et cetera. It was very, very easy to set up, and I just stuck with it forever. If you’re about to buy some new equipment, which you’ll hear about in one of my future videos about how to set up a basic home studio, check to see if there are any sound cards that come with a free software. Most of them do. Check that one out first. You can also apply for a student discount if you’re in education, and there are all kinds of coupons and stuff like that for limited editions. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Look for the discounts. They’re there.

Be mindful, though. If you’re looking to buy a pared down version of software like Cubase Elements, or a basic version of something, make sure it has those key components we talked about. You need to be able to mix down into WAV. You need to be able to mix down into MP3. One of the most annoying things about Cubase’s entry level, which is called Cubase Elements, is that you have to buy up the export. You can only export in WAV, and if you want to convert it to MP3, you have to use a separate program. So make sure that the limited edition, or the limited version, that you’re going to buy has what you need before you buy it, okay? Don’t get stuck.

So that’s it for software. Like I said, if you’re starting from scratch, I recommend Audacity, because it’s free, and it mimics the interface of most of the professional grade software, so when you are ready to upgrade, it’ll be an easier transition. If you want to try some of the other stuff, look for limited functionality versions, like Cubase Elements. Make sure that it has what you need before you dive in. Once you pick one, stick with it, learn it, get used to it. There’s going to be a learning curve, and it’s going to be a little bit frustrating, but there are so many tutorials out there on every single program on YouTube that you can research and learn on your own. I’m not going to do specific DAWs, because, honestly, I don’t know them. I only know Cubase, and it’s probably a lot easier if you go find somebody who’s an expert in your software program. Seek them out, and learn from them.

Okay, everyone. That’s a wrap for this video. If this was helpful to you, let me know by liking and commenting below. Make sure you subscribe and you hit the bell icon next to the Subscribe button so you get notified when I post a new how to be a voice actor video every single Tuesday morning. Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you next time.


Home Studio Recording Hardware

Okay, so you want to give this whole voice-acting thing a try, but first, you need a way to get this voice into that machine. In this video, I’m going to show you all the hardware you need to do just that.

For more tips and tricks on how to be a voice actor, make sure you click the like and subscribe button below, and hit the bell so you get notified every week when I post a new video.


I’m Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain, and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I have been featured in thousands of corporate videos, narration, commercials, promos, video games, anime, cartoons, everything. And I’ve done a fair amount of it from my home studio. In today’s video, we’re going to talk about the signal chain, what that means, and three essential pieces of gear you need to start getting into voice acting.

So what’s a signal chain? A signal chain is the path your voice takes from you to the computer. Someone asks you what your signal chain is, they’re just saying, “what kind of equipment do you have? What’s in between your lips and my ears?” There’s a bunch of things that can be included in that signal chain. A microphone, a preamp, an interface, a computer. Some people also include the audio software they use, and the way that they transfer files to the client.

We’re going to talk about the three essential pieces of gear in your signal chain that you need to get started. First, a microphone. Now, there are thousands of different kinds and brands and all that kind of stuff of microphones out there. You want to start with something basic. I’m going to recommend the MXL 990/991 condenser microphone. Don’t go with a dynamic microphone. It’s a bunch of techno stuff, I’ll explain why, maybe, in another more detailed video. But use a condenser microphone. I started with the MXL 990/991. You can get it for less than $100. It’s easy to use, it takes a lot of beating, and it’s a very reliable, decent-sounding microphone that’s great to start with.

I do not recommend going the USB route. A lot of people are asking me, like, what kind of USB mic should I use for this? I just don’t like the way that USB mics sound. Neither do clients, for the most part. And they can tell the difference. A USB mic doesn’t sound as good, it’s more difficult to upgrade, and also it doesn’t sound as good. If you absolutely must get a USB microphone, check out something that Blue makes, like the Blue Yeti or the Blue Snowball. Test a couple out and see which ones sound the best. Again, I don’t recommend going the USB mic route.

Second, you need an interface, something to take the signal from the microphone to your computer. Think of it like a soundcard, which is basically what it is. It’s an external soundcard that takes the signal from the microphone, digitizes it, and then gives it to your computer in a way that it can understand. For beginners, I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface. This is a extremely easy-to-use, plug-and-play interface that I’ve never had any issues with. Focusrite makes really solid products that are free of any of those weird technical things that, when you try to set up a new piece of hardware, takes you hours to do. That’s been my major problem with most interfaces, is that they’re difficult to set up. Focusrite is plug-and-play, and every piece of gear that I mention today, you’re going to see a link for in the description below.

Do you already have some pieces of a signal chain? Post them in the comments below.


The third thing you need seems kind of obvious, but a good computer and some cables to connect it all together. I use Canare, C-A-N-A-R-E, cables, their XLR cables are the ones you need to connect your microphone to your interface. The computer doesn’t need to be that whiz-bang. You’re just processing audio, you’re not really going to start producing video. If you want to produce video, you’re going to need something a little bit more powerful. But in our case, we’re just looking at something, probably, that was made in the last five years or so. A good CPU with about 8 gigabytes of RAM is your minimum baseline for a PC, or Mac. You’re also going to need some kind of recording software, but we’re going to go into that in another video.

Okay, so maybe I lied that you only need three pieces of gear. You’re also going to need something that helps you listen back. Now, before you spend hundreds of dollars on a complicated high-fidelity studio monitor system, I just recommend getting a pair of headphones. The Sennheiser HD280 is the brand and the model that I recommend. I still have one in my studio today. They’re not very expensive, they’re all over the place, and the fidelity is good enough that you get a good sense of the quality of your audio, without being too technically specific with the frequencies.

That’s it. That’s your signal chain. It’s not too scary, right? With a couple of pieces of equipment and a modest investment, you are well on your way, and have everything you need, to start laying down some tracks. But the most important thing is, get out there, and start doing it. Start getting some experience, and figure out what works for you, and your gear.

That’s a wrap. If you liked this video, if it helped you, let me know in the comments below, and let me know by liking and subscribing to the channel. If you hit the bell, you then get notified every time I post something new. And I am posting something new every week. I also encourage you to follow me on social media, the links of which are all in the description below, where you’ll get more tips, tricks, behind-the-scenes, funny stuff, all the good stuff that’s out there, from a voice actor in Los Angeles.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you in the booth.



Moving To Los Angeles For Voice Acting Work

I told my wife a thousand times I would never, ever in a million years move to California. Then I became a voice actor. For more great tips on how to get started in voice acting and how to refine your craft, click the subscribe button below and make sure to hit the bell so you get notified when I post a new video every week.

I’m Joe Zieja, former air force captain, and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I’ve let my voice to thousands of videos, commercials, animated cartoons all over the place, and I’ve done quite a bit of it from my home studio. But now that I’m in Los Angeles, I’m all over the place. In this video, I’m going to take you through three facts about Los Angeles and why it might be the right move for you if you’re going to get into voice acting.



Fact number one, this is a big pond. The great thing about Los Angeles is that there are so many people in it. There are so many opportunities. There are so many places to get coaching, find gigs, meet casting directors, all that stuff. The bad thing about Hollywood is, it’s a big pond. There are thousands and thousands of very highly skilled, highly trained talent all within a small radius, all competing for the same work.

You’re diving right into a pool of extremely competitive talent and it’s going to be very, very hard to stand out no matter how good you are. The most common thing I hear from people when they get rejected from agents in Los Angeles is, “They said they already had somebody that sounded like me.” It’s probably true. Although each of us has our own unique voice print, we’re all lumped into categories and it’s going to be very difficult for you to stand out.

If you have trouble coping with the idea that you may experience long periods of rejection or long periods of not working, Los Angeles may not be the place for you and that’s totally okay. You can still pursue a voice acting career not in Los Angeles, although there will be some limitations that we’ll talk about in the rest of this video.

As a matter of fact, I spent about two years developing my voice acting career before I moved to Los Angeles and it’s served me very well when I came in because I came into Los Angeles with a pretty solid career and a solid idea of what I was doing. People ask me all the time, how do you become successful in Los Angeles?” My answer is always, you should be successful before you get to Los Angeles. What have you heard about acting in Los Angeles? Post it in the comments below. Let’s have a rumor mill.

Fact number two, you could earn more, but you will spend more. It is a fact that Los Angeles is one of the most expensive places in the country, if not the world to live. Renting a two bedroom apartment in the middle of Hollywood where it is noisy and crazy and insane is going to cost you like $2,000 a month. So, you need to be prepared before you come out here that you’re going to spend more on housing.

That being said, in Los Angeles you now have access to some of the most powerful agents in the world. You have access to the most high paying job opportunities in the world. The career opportunities are huge. They are larger than what you’d find outside of Los Angeles, so it’s kind of a gamble. The union even has an extra pay scale for LA talent. LA pay scale is more than a pay scale for anywhere else in the country because people are willing to pay for Los Angeles talent.


Fact number three, and this was the big one for me. If you want to get into video games, animation and anime, that sort of thing, Los Angeles is the only place to be. With a few exceptions ff course. For me, this happened about two years after I started my career. I was doing very well. I’d quit my job, I was full time working for myself from home and I was talking to my manager at the time. I said, “Well, what am I doing now?” She said, “What do you want to do?”

I said, “I really want to get into games and animation. Games are my passion. I’ve been a gamer my whole life, I want to get into games” She’s like, “Pack your bags buddy, you’re moving to Los Angeles.” With very few exceptions, the video game and cartoon industry is all here. Everything is here. Cartoon Network is here, Nickelodeon is here, ES, all sorts of stuff. Sony, everybody’s here in Los Angeles.

There are some opportunities in New York and there are a few opportunities in Chicago and some in Texas for anime, and there’s a little bit of a small gaming community in Texas as well. But for the most part, if you’re going to go full throttle and you want to get into video games and animation, Los Angeles is the only place to do it.

Most studios won’t accept home studios from other parts in the world. They want you there with their directors. Sometimes you’re going to be working in a full motion capture suit and they obviously can’t film that from the other side of the world. Or, you might be working in an ensemble where there are eight actors in the same room recording the same script. For all that kind of stuff, you got to be in Los Angeles.

There you have it. LA is like a big casino; lots of risk with the potential for lots of reward. It’s going to cost you a lot more to live out here, but the potential to get bigger gigs and bigger opportunities and jump into video games and animation may be the deciding factor for you.

I wouldn’t change my decision for anything, but if you’re looking for a lower budget lifestyle with a lot less pressure and a lot less chaos and you’re not interested in video games and animation, then Los Angeles may not be the place for you, and that’s okay. In my video series we’re going to talk about all the things you can do to build a stable voiceover career from your home, so don’t worry about it.


But I got to tell you, the weather is pretty good. Here’s a question for you, what’s one thing you would miss about your current location if you did decide to move to Los Angeles? Post it in the comments below. That’s a wrap everyone. I encourage you to follow me on social media for more tips, tricks, and behind the scenes looks into a life of a voice actor in Los Angeles.

You can find all those links in the video description below. Make sure you like and subscribe if this video helped you and let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to hit the bell icon so you get notified when I post a new tip every week. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you in the booth.

Do I Have A Good Enough Voice To Be a Voice Actor? (HInt: It Doesn't Matter)

Has anyone ever told you, you have a great voice? You should try voice acting. In this video, we’re gonna talk about why none of that matters.

For some more great hints and tips on how to get into voice acting and how to perfect your craft, click on the subscribe button below. Make sure to hit the bell so you get notified when I post a new tip every week.


I’m Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain, and now voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area.

My voice has been in thousands of videos, commercials, promos, cartoons, animation, everything. And, yes. At one point in my life, someone did tell me, you know what? You have a great voice. You should do something with it. But, today we’re gonna go over three facts why that doesn’t matter.

Tip number one, the voice doesn’t matter. Look. There is no doubt that being blessed with big resonating pipes allows you to do certain specific things. If you wake up in the morning and you sound like an [Ork 00:01:02], you’re probably better off playing an Ork. But, for the most part this isn’t about the sound of your voice. It’s called voice acting, not voice this is what you were born with and this is how you’re gonna do everything.

Now, I’m lucky because my particular timbre is good for certain things. Other people are lucky, because they’re particular timbre is good for certain other things. But, for the most part, anyone can make a living in this profession if you work hard, you find a community, and you practice your craft.

One of my favorite stories of some of my colleagues is I know somebody who in now an extremely successful voice actor who started out with a major speech impediment. He could not speak properly. But, with some hard work and some dedication, he overcame all of that and now he uses his voice every day in his career. So, do you believe me? It’s not about the voice.


Here’s a question for you. What’s your biggest fear about getting into voice acting? Post it in the comments below, and we’ll tell you why it doesn’t matter.

Fact number two. The 10,000 hour rule. Many of you may have heard of the 10,000 Hour Rule from Malcolm Gladwell, but he didn’t actually come up with it. I’m actually not sure who came up with it, but it’s still valuable. Because 10,000 hours is what they say it takes to become an expert in anything. You see the operative word there? Anything. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. It matters how much effort you put into practicing and learning, gathering wisdom, refining your process, establishing a workflow, getting the right equipment.

All of that is more important than what actually your voice sounds like. Take a moment and listen to the commercials, and listen to the promos. Some of those folks sound very … I don’t wanna use the word, strange, but quirky. It doesn’t sound like a normal voice that you would think would come out of anything that somebody paid someone for. But, one of the most often things I see in specs is, we’re looking for a quirky, quirky, non-standard, non-VO voice. That could be you.

With enough time, 10,000 hours worth, maybe. I don’t know. You’re gonna learn how to develop the voice that you have. My voice sounds way different than it did four years ago when I, or four or five years ago when I started this, because of the way that I learned how to breathe. And, I exercise those muscles inside. The vocal cords are muscles that are doing certain things. They will change as you refine and practice with them.

I listen to some of the stuff I did five years ago, and it sounds terrible. So, everyone has to start somewhere. And, don’t forget that applies to voice acting too.

Tip number three, find a community. The greatest thing about the internet is that there are groups of people out there who probably have the same interests as you. Go find one. Find somebody on Facebook. Find somebody on Twitter to follow. Find somebody on Instagram. Some people post their voice acting stuff on Instagram. See what they’re doing. See what their process is. See what their equipment is. Facebook groups are a great place to start.

But, I want you to be extremely careful. I want you to find a Facebook group out there that has working actors. You don’t wanna get in a situation where it’s the blind leading the blind. Right? You also don’t wanna be the smartest person in the room. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Go find a room in which you are the dumbest person in the room, and keep your ears open.


Don’t be daunted by exploring a new career. It’s scary. It’s a big deal to switch from one thing to another. I spent about two years trying to figure out the difference between a commercial and a promo, even though I was booking all the time. I had no idea what I was doing. Most people when they first start out have no idea what they’re doing. And, it is not about the voice.

What kind of things do you plan to do to kick start your voice over career. Post them in the comments below. That’s a wrap. Make sure you follow me on social media for hints and tips. And, also like and subscribe this video if it helped you by clicking on the subscribe button below. Don’t forget to hit the bell, and you’ll get notified when I post a new video every week.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the booth.

How To Be A Voice Actor - What is Voiceover?

Have you always wanted to get started in voice acting but didn’t really know how? In this part of my video and blog series, we’re gonna take a look at one very important question; what the hell is voiceover?


For more great tips on how to get started in voice acting, subscribe and hit the bell so you get notified when I post a new tip every week.

I’m Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I have had my voice featured in thousands of videos, games, commercials, anime, cartoons, and whatever. And in this series, we’re gonna talk about what voiceover is and try to break down some of the genres, as I like to call them, of voiceover. It might seem kind of basic, but trust me, we’re gonna get this one out of the way, and then we’re gonna dive into the good stuff, and you’ll have a great foundation for what all this stuff is and what everything means.


First, what is voice acting anyway? When I talk about voice acting or voiceover, and I’ll use the terms interchangeably, we’re talking about a lot more than you think. Anything that has a voice talking over it qualifies as voiceover. I’m talking corporate videos, narration, cartoons, anime, anything that has a voice overlaying the top of some images, or not images, in the case of something like a podcast or an audiobook.

In my personal opinion, I don’t consider things like DJ or MCing a part of the voiceover that I’m gonna talk about. Well, you could it voiceover, but we’re not gonna talk about it on my channel.

Have you ever done anything with your voice, post it in the comments. Whether it’s your first voice acting job, or doing something at your school.

Now, when we talk about genres of voiceover, we’re not talking about things like R&B, or Jazz, or whatever. We’re talking about categories of voiceover work that’s broken up. The way it’s broken up is determined by both the union, which we’ll talk about in a later video, and the industry at large. It’s the words we use to communicate what it is that we’re doing, what our voice is being laid over. And it determines a lot of things, between the style all the way to how we get paid.

First, commercial. When we talk about a commercial, we’re talking specifically about a network advertising a product over its medium, whether that be mostly radio or television. Now, when I’m talking about commercials, I’m probably talking about radio or television, even though there’s a large amount of advertisement going on in the Internet. That’s kind of categorized differently, and we’ll talk about why later.

Promo. While a commercial is a network advertising a product, a promo is a network advertising itself. Think next on NBC, or tonight on Fox, or on the next episode of the Simpsons, something like that.

Trailer, pretty self-explanatory. Think in a world! That kind of stuff. Now, trailers have morphed significantly over the last 10 years or so. Think about the last trailer you heard and see if you heard any voiceover in it. A lot of times they’re just using soundbites. But it is still a thriving market, and many people do very well in it.

Audiobook. Kinda self-explanatory. It’s somebody reading the pages of a book out loud. Now, this has its own specific pay structure and format that we’ll talk about more in detail in a later video.

Interactive. One of my favorite genres. When I say interactive, I’m talking about games. Anything where somebody is interacting with your voice. This could be anything from efforts, which is just doing things like screams, and punches, and kicks, and death by fire, which is one my favorites, said nobody ever. Or it could be things like full-motion capture. Anything that’s putting your likeness into a video game, we’re talking about as interactive.

Dubbing, or anime. Anime and dubbing is its own very particular skillset that requires very particular knowledge of not only the medium but the technical aspects of it. It has its own pay rate and it does its own thing. So when I talk about dubbing or anime, that’s what I’m talking about.

Animation, or cartoons. When I talk about animation, I’m talking about specifically the traditional sense. Think Saturday morning cartoons, right? Cartoons that are going to appear on some network like Cartoon Network, or Comedy Central, or ABC, CBS, Fox, it’s gonna appear on television. While there are animation things that are in the web, when I’m talking about them, I’m talking about your traditional Saturday morning cartoon animation.

Finally, non-broadcast. This is kind of a catch-all term we use to cover everything in the new media, that usually means the Internet, but it can mean anything from corporate work, like internal videos, presentations, computer-based training, narration of e-learning, sometimes they’ll call it, explainer videos, whiteboard videos, anything that’s not generally broadcast to the public. This is obviously not the sexiest kind of voiceover work. But never ever turn up your nose at it, because it’s probably the most populous out there, and I still do tons of it everyday.

Now that you know what voice acting is, and what voiceover is, and what genres there are, you’re much better equipped to go forward and try to practice some of the particular genres. Each one of them has their own style, and you’ll need to know what you’re talking about before we dive into things like checking the copy, looking at the specs, and seeing what the medium has to offer.

I made a whole series of these videos on how to get into voice acting. So if you’re interested in that, you should click the subscribe button below and make sure to hit the bell, otherwise you won’t get notified.

What is your most burning question about voice acting as a whole? Leave it in the comments below. That’s a wrap. I also encourage you to follow me on all my social medias because that’s where I usually put a lot of announcements about roles I’ve got coming up, tips and tricks for being a voice actor, behind the scenes looks, all kinds of stuff. So all those links are in the video description below.

If you liked this video, if it helped you, let me know by leaving a comment, liking and subscribing. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you in the booth.


My Disney Channel Appearance!

Hey guys! I have a bunch of announcements coming up about stuff that I’ve recorded over the last year or so. It’s the way the voiceover world works; you record something, and then forget about it for a year (sometimes two) before it comes out. There’s so much work involved in post-production that sometimes it takes a while. 

Today, I’m happy to announce my first-ever Disney Channel appearance. In Lego Friends of Heartlake City, Episode 17 (or 19, depending on the region) entitled “Dive In,” you can find me as Tad, the dreamy/cheeseball lifeguard who also has somewhat of an obsession with clean teeth.

Many thanks to the wonderful folks at Bang Zoom for working with me on this one. I got to work with the very talented director Michael Donovan, who was instrumental in bringing this character to life. 

If you missed the cable airing, you can see it at Disney Channel’s on demand website, here, by logging into your cable provider. 

Hiring a Voiceover Artist: Union and Non Union

This article is part of the Hiring a Voiceover Artist series. You can find the rest of the articles here. 

SAG-AFTRA. A combination of two unions that now represents every aspect of voiceover work in the United States. But what is it, what does it mean, and what path should you take in your project?

This can be an awkward and confusing topic for several reasons, and let me start by explaining why I think this is the case. This is only my opinion, of course, and even among voice actors this is a divisive, contentious issue.

Voiceover used to be two towers - one in New York, and one in Los Angeles. Those two towers of NYC and LA held the lion’s share of voice work, and therefore collective bargaining via a union was easy. The talent pool wasn’t as big. The industry wasn’t as big. Nobody was looking for Kickstarter videos or e-learning courses in 1975. Or even 1995. All SAG had to worry about was basically radio and television, and that was really only happening in two major cities in the United States. People knew members of the SAG AFTRA board by name, because the community was small.

If you wanted a voiceover, you needed to go through the union. That’s the way it was.

Not in 2017, it ain’t. The industry is so huge now that it’s impossible for an organization to keep track of bajilions of projects. It’s almost ridiculous to expect SAG to manage residuals and contracts for every little project that happens all over the United States. So now we have a huge part of the industry that is non-union. Instead of two towers, the industry kind of looks like a sprawling landscape with cities and villages, with two large hills where the towers used to be. The industry has dramatically expanded.

Does that mean that collective bargaining is no longer effective? Absolutely not. SAG-AFTRA does, and always will, still represent the baseline etiquette, rates, and contracts for the entire industry. Even if talent aren’t in the union, it’s the union contracts that determine what is fair, acceptable, and expected for voiceover artists. See my rates article for more infoon why non-union does notmean race to the bottom - and why voiceover artists won’t work for you if that’s your attitude.

My opinion? In a perfect world (for us, anyway) all talent would be union. All union contracts would be updated to represent the most recent trends in technology, advertising, and entertainment. All jobs would be union. But that’s not the world we live in. Actors are forced to navigate the industry’s landscape to feed their families - we have to go where the jobs are, and sometimes that’s the wild west of non-union.

So, should you hire union talent? That’s up to you. Does the union have the majority of the best talent? Yes, I think it does, but it certainly doesn’t have the monopoly. If you need help converting your jobs to union jobs, try to reach out to SAG directly. 

Either way, it is still important that you become familiar with the current union contracts so that you can understand the industry that you’re about to tap into.

If this has been helpful to you, or you have questions, please feel free to comment below! You can follow my blog by signing up at the top of this page, and you can get more updates via Twitter and Facebook.

Hiring a Voiceover Artist: Rates

Welcome to the Hiring a Voiceover Artist Series! You can see the full list of articles in here.

I’ll be honest with you: voiceover artists are kind of expensive. I wanted to say that upfront to dispel any illusions that you’re about to read an article about how to get a bargain - as with all things, you are getting what you are paying for. If you read my article on whether or not you need a voiceover artist, you might remember my analogy of a voiceover artist being the frame to a sports car. You spent a lot of time coming up with the message and the content, and you want someone that’s going to deliver it with maximum impact.

When you’re paying for a voiceover artist, you’re not just paying someone to read a script. That’s like saying that you’re just paying a dentist to brush your teeth, or you’re just paying an artist to rub a colored pencil against a piece of paper. Anything sounds simple and easy if you reduce it down to its base parts. Voiceover artists are freelancers, creatives, and masters of nuance and communication. Some of the single most powerful people in ancient Roman and Greek society were orators. Delivering a compelling message in a compelling way is crucial to a return on your investment.

So, how do you determine a fair rate for a job? This is probably one of the most confusing topics in the entire industry, because rates seem to fluctuate at total random. Is there a method to the madness?

I do think, however, that I can break this down into simpler components. When determining a fair rate, it’s based on three basic attributes: usage, distribution, and length.

Usage: How is this going to be used? In order to determine a good rate, I need to know if your project is internal/external facing, and the medium on which you will be presenting it. There are different rates for TV, Radio, internet, audiobooks, e-learning, and games.  Also, how long will the spot be used? Typically broadcast commercials are for 13-week “buys” but can be longer or shorter. This will affect the price. Good talent do not do in-perpetuity buyouts for broadcast media - if you are asking for that in your casting, many top talent will probably pass for several reasons.It’s also going to be tough convincing a talent that you can’t afford to pay them a good rate if you’re making a five-to-six figure media buy for national television.

Distribution: This is mostly influential for broadcast, since internet usage is global, but a local TV/radio commercial doesn’t pay as much as a regional or national. The more people in your potential audience - and the higher your media buy is for that medium - the more you should be ready to pay your voiceover artist. I’ll also include brand popularity in this as well. If Coca-Cola contacts me for a non-broadcast video, I will expect them to be ready to pay a higher rate than a simple kickstarter that needs a video.

Length: This is mostly applicable for non-broadcast, but you need to know the length of your script. A five minute e-learning video should not be charged the same as a two hour e-learning course. The longer the script, the higher the fee. Some talent charge by word, by minute, or by hour with a minimum. You should never expect talent to budget by page. Font sizes and spacing can change the amount of work radically.

There are, of course, other factors that might influence your voiceover artist’s quote. The experience of the actor, the timeline (I will charge more for rush projects or projects that need to be completed over a weekend). I also charge differently based on whether or not the client wants a live session where they can direct me. There will be another article soon on live direction methods, and another on tips when directing a talent live.

In the simplest of worlds, I would refer you to the actors’ union (SAG AFTRA’s) rate sheet, but sometimes it’s not so simple. Contracts are always advancing as mediums change and evolve, and it’s better for you to be on the leading edge than the trailing one. Otherwise, the single most comprehensive rate guide that I’ve ever seen can be found at the Global Voice Acting Academy, which you can see here. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but once you consider the things I’ve said here, you’ll be able to find a ballpark that any talent would be comfortable with as a starting place for negotiations.

If this has been helpful to you, or you have questions, please feel free to comment below! You can follow my blog by signing up at the top of this page, and you can get more updates via Twitter and Facebook.

Oxenfree Now On iPhone

Just about a year ago, I was cast in a really interesting game called Oxenfree, put together by some developers that had worked at both Disney and Telltale Games. Since then it has taken the world by storm, has been covered in every major gaming outlet, and has been nominated for droves of awards.

Now it’s available on iPhone!

The Verge wrote a great little piece on the game and its release on the phone, but if you haven’t checked it out because you haven’t had the hardware, now is a great time to experience this spooky, teenage coming-of-age story with really fantastic writing and dialog. 


It’s been nominated for awards all over the place, including the Game Developers Conference and the BAFTAs and has captured the hearts of millions of gamers all over the world. My presence in the game notwithstanding, it’s a wonderful representation of the development of storytelling in video games. 

Having played it, the format of the game should translate really well to mobile, as most of the meat is in your dialog choices and basic movement, so you should still get the absolute full experience of Oxenfree in all of its glory.


Hiring a Voiceover Artist: Finding The Right Voice

Welcome to the Hiring a Voiceover Artist series! You can find the repository of all articles HERE.

The internet is a vast chasm of useless information and rabbit holes, down which you can fling yourself for years at a time without finding anything that you actually need. It sounds pessimistic, but if you’ve ever attempted to start from scratch looking for something online, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Without any foundational knowledge in a topic, you can find yourself clicking link after irrelevant link, finding resource after unreliable resource, until you’re wondering if what you’re trying to accomplish is really worth all of this clicking.

My goal in this short article is to make finding a voiceover artist not one of those things.

Direct Searches. Yes, you can just go on the Google machine and type in “voiceover artist” and see what happens. Unfortunately, without some kind of base knowledge, you’ll find yourself plowing through hundreds of pages of people, some of whom are better at managing their SEO than reading a script. People have found me this way, yes, but it’s rare because it’s kind of inefficient. If you’re going this route, make sure to check their demos, references, and proceed with caution. If they don’t have links to past work, you need to be extra careful.

You can always include other search parameters, like “Los Angeles-based” or “union voiceover artist” to whittle down some of the random garbage. I am a huge fan of using different boolean logic and operators to make a search more efficient.  Here’s a little article that helps you do just that.

Referrals. I’m always surprised how often I forget to do something really simple when I’m looking for a specific resource: ask someone I know. We’re so well connected these days that it might make the most sense to ask Sarah, the production engineer next door, who she uses for her voice work. Collect a couple of names and start your own roster so you can look like a boss when someone in your shoes asks you the same question ten years from now.

Online Casting Sites. These sites get a bad rap from a lot of people, but it’s all about being an informed consumer. There are hundreds of them out there, each boasting the best list of talent, the best rates, the best customer service, etc. I could write an article on each of them, but I’ll say right now that there are really only three you should be looking at: Voices.com, Voice123, and Bodalgo. Based on my years of experience navigating the online casting realm, the rest of them typically have bottom-tier talent, sketchy rate structures, or are just a mess when it comes to user interface.

One piece of advice on all sites you try out - always understand what you are paying for and who you are paying. Some sites have different ways you can post a job and different ways to hire talent, all of which have different overhead costs. But, with some caution, you can navigate these sites and get great talent to do your work.

Just remember when you post your job that sticking to something very close to industry standard rates will ensure you get the best people bidding on your job. If you don’t know what the job is worth, look it up before posting. I promise that you will always get what you pay for. More about that in an upcoming article!

Agencies. Want to go old school? This is how it used to be done almost exclusively. You needed a voice, you found an agent. There are many tried-and-true agencies all over the world that represent the best-of-the-best when it comes to talent. These are the true gatekeepers; if you are working with a good agency, you can guarantee that the talent they provide you will be excellent. If you want absolute no hassle recording, this is the way to go. They will take your casting requirements, help you refine them, and then find the talent that meet your needs within their roster. They will add a commission to their price for their services, and they will demand good rates for their talent, but you just can’t go wrong with a good agency. Many agents nowadays represent both union and non-union talent, and can help guide you through the hiring process.

Agents generally operate within a specified region. A Google search will do you very well here. Some great names of places I have worked with at some point in my career: CESD, SBV, Atlas Talent, DBTalent, Agent99, Heyman Talent, MDT Agency, Stars, and DeSanti. This list is by no means exhaustive.

VO Casting Companies: Here are some of the absolute experts in matching your project with the right voice - it’s literally their #1 job. They’re talent-agnostic, meaning that they don’t only want to use someone on their roster. They’re primarily concerned with finding the best voice for your project. In Los Angeles (where most of the major casting companies are), we have Kalmenson & Kalmenson, Elaine Craig, Carol Casting, the Voicecaster and others that have access to gigantic pools of talent (many of them via their agents noted above). They will strategically select talent even before auditioning and present clients with intensely refined results, far less broad than many other methods. Some of the biggest gigs I’ve booked have come through casting companies. 

Production Houses. These guys kind of function in a similar way to agents, but in a much smaller capacity. If you’re outsourcing some of your production, ask your studio who they have on their list of voices. I can guarantee you they work with voiceover artists all the time, and have a couple of people that they go to regularly for work. I get a huge amount of my work from studios that produce content, and offer me as part of their whole production package.

These aren’t the only ways you can find a voiceover artist, of course. I’ve had people find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but the above represents 99% of the way people reach out to me.

If this has been helpful to you, or you have questions, please feel free to comment below! You can follow my blog by signing up at the top of this page, and you can get more updates via Twitter and Facebook.

Happy hunting!

Hiring a Voiceover Artist: Do I Really Need a Voice Actor?

Welcome to the Hiring a Voiceover Artist series! You can find the repository of all articles HERE.

So, you’ve got a project, and you’re looking for someone to put a voice to it. You might be a veteran producer, filmmaker, animator, or video game developer. You might be a student, or a brand new producer still trying to figure things out. Before you go any further, there is one important question you need to ask yourself.

Do you really need a voiceover artist?

I know, it seems weird to say anything but that you need to hire one, especially since it’s kind of my career on the line. The truth is, though, that there may be occasions where your extremely limited budget might be better off spent elsewhere.

If you’re still in school, and you don’t stand to profit from whatever it is you’re making, maybe it’s time to barter with someone else who has a decent reading voice. Trade them help on their project for some help on yours. Get something that is “good enough for government work” as we used to say in the Air Force. If having a professional read your work isn’t going to alter the course of your career or your wallet, maybe take a step back and see how you can work around it.

If, however, your project is public facing in any real capacity - greater than a couple of people, especially if those people are decision-makers - then you probably want to consider hiring a professional voiceover artist. It took you tons of time, patience, and love to make your message ready for public consumption; you need to have it delivered by someone who is trained to convey that message in a way that will most strongly resonate with your audience.

Think about the engine of a sports car. It’s meticulously built for power, speed and performance. It’s going to drive beautifully, so you put it in a beautiful frame that will take the greatness of that engine and enhance it with design, aerodynamics, ergonomics. If you took a sledgehammer to the frame of a Lamborghini, you’d still be able to drive it, right? The engine is still there - the core message and the content. But you can hardly say that driving it would be enjoyable. Certainly not to the full potential of the vehicle.

That’s what a good story is like. A good story poorly told is, suddenly, a bad story. Think about how many movies you’ve seen ruined by bad acting. Books you’ve read, ruined by a lack of language mastery.

You want your message to shine - so put it into the caring hands of someone who has spent their life doing just that. And in the next article, I’m going to give some tips on finding that someone. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow my Twitter and Facebook page for updates.

Hiring a Voiceover Artist: New Blog Series

Hi everyone!

I mentioned this a little bit ago on my Facebook and Twitter pages, but I wanted to formally introduce the HIRING A VOICEOVER ARTIST blog series. 

This will be a series of at least ten different articles, each tackling a specific topic of voice acting, voiceover, etc. but from a client-centric point of view. There is a huge glut of information out there for voiceover artists on how to get gigs, get gear, and hone your voice, but there are so  many questions I get from clients on HOW to work with us in this new, internet age. With over 3,000 projects under my belt, I wanted to weigh in on what I’ve found to be successful during my career. 

We’ll be covering topics  like whether or not you need a voiceover artist, where you can find voice actors, what the hell the union is, and how to determine a fair rate. 

Although each of them will be released as a separate blog post, I am creating a page that will be a repository to link to all of them as well. You can view that page here.

I’m also currently considering making a small video/audio series for these articles as well, so you can listen to them in your car or watch them on the go rather than read. More on that as I come up with it.

If this is something that interests you, the absolute best way for you to keep up to date would be to subscribe to my blog on this page. You can also follow my Facebook and Twitter pages, where I’ll be posting links to each post as they come up.

I hope this serves as an edifying and useful experience for everyone. I have most of the articles written already, they just need to be organized and posted. You should expect an article about every week from here on out, with the first one coming in the next few days.

If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see included, please drop a comment below. 

See you soon!

My New Videogame Demo

Video games, as a medium, do a lot of incredible things that other media just can’t. They immerse people in stories in a new and innovative way, bringing a level of personal experience to storytelling that isn’t available in movies, television, or even Choose Your Own Adventure novels. That’s one of the reasons I love working on them so much. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I moved out to Los Angeles in the first place.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been honing my craft as a voice actor in several different categories, working on specific skill sets that would help me grow as an actor and a storyteller. I’ve been meeting with David Lyerly, a NYC-based coach and video game connoisseur, and the journey has been an interesting, difficult, and rewarding one. At the end, we produced a demo reel that I am really proud of.

I present to you my brand new video game reel:

We tried hard to focus on the recent trend of video games to be more theatrical, relying on the actor to provide subtlety and nuance to the dialog in order to bring out specific elements - not just what’s going on visually, but the implications all of that has on the story surrounding all of it. Video games have become so realistic and raw lately, and we tried to focus on that here.

I hope you enjoy taking a listen! I can’t wait to continue having a part in telling these incredible stories.

Filling in the Spaces: GOD EATER and DURARARAx2

Typing Durarara is literally one of the most difficult/hilarious things I’ve ever done on my keyboard. I never know just how many ‘ra’s I’ve typed, or how many more I have to go. And then we added x2 in there to signify the sequel to the anime series, and things got even worse. Pretty soon we’re going to start talking about Kingdom Hearts titles, and then we’re really going to be in trouble. Right after we play Kingdom Hearts π/215.5 Flavor Space Dream Pop Lovers Ball, HD Special.

This may be the earliest in a blog post I’ve ever digressed so far. Let’s get back to business.

Right. All I really wanted to write about was a couple of cool voice acting gigs I’ve booked lately, which you might already be guessing from the title. That’s right! It’s Super Mario Brothers. No, I’m kidding. It’s God Eater and Durararax2. Keep up.

Playing lead roles is crazy fun and challenging in its own right. Star Fox was a blast, Syndrome was awesome. Side characters, like Steve from Space Run Galaxy, are just as great. But lately I’ve had a chance to work on a couple of really big projects in a different capacity - the IMDB category you always see as “additional voices.” What does that mean? Well it means all the side characters, the little accents that you might only see once or twice in an episode, or even a series.

Let me tell you something - it’s HARD.

With Fox, or other main characters, you have one guy and you have to sustain him for the entire performance. You reference past audio if you fall out of character, and you have a storyline that you can fall back on for context. In God Eater, I did the voice of a cool/calm pilot, a frantic citizen trying to figure  out how to flood a dam, some old guy yelling about Aragami, some young kid trying to prove himself, and 3-4 other characters that had one or two lines and no context. And I had to make them all separate, distinct characters. Different ages, different texture levels, different states of mind.

Durararax2 was its own kid of fun. I got to work with a larger group of actors doing walla (background noise) for the series, which ended up being an absurd amount of fun. You know all those zombies who are chanting “I love you” all the time? I’m one of those guys.

Also, when a guy throws a vending machine across a crowded street, people react. What does that sound like? Well…me and a bunch of other actors making surprised noises. That’s what that sounds like.

Anyway these experiences have shown me just how expansive and wonderful the voiceover industry is. So much of what we use every day has voice behind it, so many characters in the background of every show, movie, video game. And each one of them, to build a compelling narrative, needs to have their own personality.

Stories take so much effort from so many people to make an impact. It’s so much fun to be involved in any part of it.

Now go forth and chant “I love you” at people!

Majora's Mask - A Terrible Fate, Part II AND MOVIE!

If the word “ocarina” immediately makes you think of a hookshot, I think you’re in for a treat.

If the word “ocarina” makes you think of a 90s dance song, please go buy a Nintendo 64 and start playing The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask right now.

I mean, it wasn’t even called the “ocarina.” It was the macarena. You disappoint me.

Anyway, the brilliant and talented Jason Gallaty, also known as Theophany, has dropped a two-run homer consisting of two absolutely incredible fan projects centered around the Majora’s Mask game. I had the privilege to be a part of both of them in different capacities, but even without me (maybe especially without me) these two projects are just wonderful to behold.

First, here’s Majora’s Mask: The Story of Skull Kid. It’s a bit of an origin story behind the tragic villain of the game. It’s made by Ember Lab, which has put out some stunning stuff in the past. I got to play the voice of the Skull Kid himself, which mostly consisted of guttural screams and noises. Which means it mostly consisted of fun.

Aside from being spoonful of visual awesome, it’s a chilling story told with no words at all.

Then, I’d like you to bounce over to www.terriblefate.com, which holds the now two-disc Terrible Fate album. Two whole discs of music from Majora’s Mask, re-interpreted and re-imagined into some of the most gorgeous tracks I’ve ever heard Jason write. He invited me to play some instruments on some of them, and I was, as I always am when Jason comes knocking, happy to help.

In one of the tracks, it sounds like he has like a hundred soprano singers going absolutely nuts. So I asked, “Jason, how did you get it to sound like you have a hundred soprano singers going absolutely nuts?” And he responded “we got a hundred soprano singers to go absolutely nuts.” That’s the kind of awesome that Jason brings to this album.

Go. Listen. To. The. Album. And then go hug a nerd while you both softly cry.

And then go learn the macarena.


Well this became viral way quicker than I expected. Here are some links to stories about this project that you might be interested in:

Majora’s Mask Cartoon Is Real Good - Kotaku

Witness Skull Kid’s Origins in “Majora’s Mask” Fan Film-Crunchyroll

This Amazing Majora’s Mask Fan Film Explores the Origins of Skull Kid - Escapist

Majora’s Mask Fan Video Brings To Life Skull Kid’s Origin Story In Stunning Detail - Gameinformer

My New MoCap Demo!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve written, namely because I’ve had roughly 8 flights on airplanes in the last 3  months, one of which was a trip to Japan, because why not? I’ve been working on a whole host of things, but I recently completed one project that I wanted to share right away because I am so excited about it.

I present to you, my new MOTION CAPTURE DEMO!

I am so happy with the way this turned out! 

Some of you might be wondering: what the hell is motion capture? Motion capture or MoCap, is a brilliant technology that allows animators and programmers to integrate human-like motions into a game for the purposes of increasing realism, streamlining programming, and overall creating a more realistic, expressive experience in game. Here’s a little video produced by FullSail that explains the process a bit more:

To me, MoCap is the next evolution in video game voice acting. Not only can you capture the voice of the actor, but you can capture the actor’s movements as well. This allows the voice actor to do things that were previously impossible or difficult - act with his/her body, without worrying about staying “on mic.” In the booth, you can’t really move your head away from a very thin degree arc, or the microphone won’t pick up your voice well enough to include in a video game. 

In short, MoCap is a great technology that allows us to tell stories in new ways, which is enough to give it a pass in my book. 

Thanks for visiting! 

Welcome to the New Website!

Hi everyone! Some of you more discerning, observant types might have noticed that something is slightly different about joezieja.com. Well, you’re right.

In partnership with the excellent designers over at Cubicflow, I’ve taken all of my disparate internet resources and merged them into one, comprehensive page. I discovered that trying to split myself into multiple personas was both inefficient and bad for my therapist, and I wanted a central web location.

You might have been redirected here from Voices By Joe, which used to be the home for all of my voiceover stuff. Don’t fret! You’ll still find all of the same content here, but it’s organized in a more streamlined, easy-to-access format. As of right now, please continue to use the contact form to reach out to me regarding new projects. I’ll likely be shuffling around some email addresses soon, but it will hopefully be transparent to you.

If you find anything out of sorts, please feel free to either let me know here in the comments section or give me a shout on the contact page. You may find that you’ll need to re-follow the blog if you had done so previously. You’ll find a space to do just that over to the right. While you’re at it, I encourage you to hit me up on Facebook and Twitter, where I post all kinds of news and fun stuff on a daily basis relating to writing, humor, voice acting, and general nerdery.

For now, enjoy exploring the new site!

MECHANICAL FAILURE Voiceover Mad Libs Contest Extended

Hi everyone!

I've gotten some amazing responses on the Mechanical Failure Voiceover Mad Libs contest. So much so that I'm extending it for one more week!

If you're not familiar, head back to the original blog post for the rules and prizes, as well as links to how to submit your entry! Don't forget that by pre-ordering your book and tweeting with the #MechanicalFailure hashtag (and including my name so I can see it, @JoeZieja) you're eligible to submit in BOTH categories.

The entries I've already produced are up in full here but here are a couple samples embedded in the post below.

CONTEST ENDS MAY 24th. Winners will be announced by Friday that week.

Come join the fun!

MECHANICAL FAILURE Contest: Voiceover Mad Libs!

UPDATE! Everyone is having so much fun that I'm extending the contest. You can see current submissions here.


Hi everyone! I'm still super excited about my role as Fox McCloud, but I'm switching gears here for a minute. We have less than 45 days until the debut of my novel, MECHANICAL FAILURE. To celebrate and promote the release, we're merging the two major career paths of my life - voiceover and writing - to create what I'm calling the "Voiceover Mad Libs" contest. Since I'm a military veteran, we'll go ahead and create the acronym VML for brevity's sake.

Here are the basics of the VML contest. YOU, my readers, get to fill in the blanks of one of two different voiceover scripts that I've created - a romantic comedy trailer or an infomercial. I will actually get in the booth and record and produce them to make them sound like ACTUAL voiceover spots, and then publish them to a page on SoundCloud for everyone to listen, download and laugh. You will get an actual produced copy of your spot if you enter. 

What will they sound like? AWESOME.

Here is a sample of the TRAILER spot. 

Here is a sample of the INFOMERCIAL spot. 

After two weeks, I'll close entries and me and my team of lab rats and minions (it'll pretty much be me and my agent Sam) will decide on the funniest entry, one for the TRAILER category and one for the INFOMERCIAL category. No purchase is required for a single entry.

Prizes will be awarded as follows:

1st Place: Signed hardback copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE and I will professionally narrate your voicemail message in any requested style or character in my repertoire. You write the script!

2nd Place: My literary agent, Sam Morgan, will read and critique a short excerpt of one of your novels. If you don't write, he will critique a picture of your face. If you don't have a face, I will professionally narrate your voicemail message in any requested style or character in my repertoire.

3rd Place: A free e-book of MECHANICAL FAILURE to read or give as a gift, and I will professionally narrate your failure to achieve first or second place.

BUT I AM HILARIOUS AND WANT TO SUBMIT ONE SCRIPT IN EACH CATEGORY you say? Well, you can do that if you pre-order a copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE and tweet a screenshot of your order to @JoeZieja with the #MechanicalFailure hashtag. Once we see that, I'll go ahead and read both of your submissions. A Twitter follow and a Facebook like wouldn't hurt, either. Also cookies (oatmeal raisin gets your entry deleted though so choose wisely).

What are you waiting for? Enter now via the typeforms below!

Click here to submit your TRAILER script.

Click here to submit your INFOMERCIAL script.

Click here for a FREE, EARLY copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE! 

*** A couple of notes before you go. First, if the spot doesn't conform to reasonable language standards or length of phrasing, I reserve the right to edit it. Feel free to include profanity, but it MAY get censored. Honestly, sometimes it's funnier when it gets beeped out. But when writing your entry, try to conform to standards of common decency.***

I am Fox McCloud!

I am so thrilled to announce that Nintendo of America has cast me in the role of Fox McCloud in STAR FOX ZERO:  THE BATTLE BEGINS!


THE BATTLE BEGINS is an official anime-style animated vignette that fills in the story before the new game Star Fox Zero, which released on April 22nd of this year. It was produced by the same folks that worked on the amazing Attack On Titan, Ghost in the Shell, and, of course, the legendary creator of Mario, Star Fox, and Zelda:  Shigeru Miyamoto.

Being a huge anime and video game fan myself, I was so nervous about fan reception. When you take something so beloved as Star Fox and try to do something new with it, the space between making your fan base scream like children because they're excited and making them scream like children because they're angry is a thin, treacherous area. But to my delight, the overall reception was wonderful. The animation quality was fantastic, Phil Bache's voice direction was incredible, and all in all everyone that worked on the project was a superstar. The result was well over half a million views in a week and thirty thousand thumbs up on YouTube, all surrounded by pleas for a series. I couldn't have asked for a better response unless someone bought me a functioning Arwing.

And what a rush! I didn't know I was working on a Nintendo project until literally 4 days before I recorded, and it was still codenamed until about 12 hours before I stepped in the booth. I was sitting on my couch on a Sunday when I got the email from the casting director, and my wife knew something was up when I started gleefully yelling profanity.

"What is it?!" she yelled.

"FOX @#$&@#$& MCCLOUD!" I yelled back. Repeatedly. Over the next day. It became the house slogan.

And in just four days, I went from not knowing a project existed to being the lead role of an iconic video game tie-in. Wow.

Just to clarify, since I've been getting lots of questions, Mike West is still the voice of Fox in the video game. He's an iconic, incredible voice actor and I currently have no plans to dethrone him and burn the franchise to the ground. My plans mostly include eating these new IHOP Cupcake Pancakes that are in front of me and slipping into a diabetic coma.

So long everyone! Don't forget to check your G-Diffuser system!

MECHANICAL FAILURE Gets A Narrator - And Other News

Hello readers! As we near the end of March and the beginning of April, that means we're looking at just a few months until MECHANICAL FAILURE hits the shelves. I thought I'd give a little update as to how the trilogy is coming and what you can expect over the next couple of months.


First, the book itself. ALL EDITS ARE DONE! WOO! This means the book is in its final written form and no other edits will be made. Soon I will have shiny galley copies in my grubby little hands. If you host a reputable review site, and would like an early copy for review, please contact me.

Second - and here's that announcement - we've sold the audio rights of MECHANICAL FAILURE to Tantor books! That means that an audio version of the book will release simultaneously with the version that has actual visible words. And here's the fun part: I've also been hired as the narrator! In an inception-like moment, we sold the audio rights to my own book and then hired myself as a narrator. I'm not even sure what tense to put any of those verbs in. The point is, I've already started some recording and I am having tremendous amounts of fun. Tantor has given me creative license to do some really fun things with the book that just make me giggle with delight. I hope you will too!

Oh, and we've also sold the audio rights to the next TWO books to Tantor as well.

Speaking of next books, book 2, COMMUNICATION FAILURE, is sitting on my editor's desk waiting for consumption. Yep, that's right. I already wrote the second book. I'll be waiting to start the first draft of book 3 until I get some solid feedback from my editor at Saga, just in case he lights it on fire and tells me to start from scratch. These things happen.

In the meantime, I've got to start getting geared up for MECHANICAL FAILURE's release, which is happening in like two months and change. That's ridiculously exciting. Soon I'll be starting to plan my book tour, most of which is going to happen in the greater Los Angeles area. I do plan on making stops all along the west coast, from Portland and Seattle to Buenos Aires. Maybe not Buenos Aires. That'd be cool as hell though.

Stay tuned to my Facebook and Twitter for news on upcoming events, guest blog posts, and more!

(Almost) Five Things I've Learned About Working From Home

For those of you that don't know this already, I've had a pretty radical career shift within just the last couple of years. I went from working for the US government after a long stint in the air force to a full fledged creative career, for which I never had to leave my house. I didn't even really need to speak to other people for 90% of my work. Hey, let's take it one step further - I literally started working in a 3' x 5' soundproof box. How's that for isolation?

Needless to say, there were some adjustments to be made. With my day so rigidly structured - and with 10 hours of it not even available for self-determination - suddenly having to plan my day from wake-up to sleep was a good mixture of thrilling and daunting. I won't pretend it wasn't awesome to not put on pants, but I also won't pretend that not wearing pants affected me psychologically over time. So here are five things I've learned about self-employment/working from home.

1. You need people. God, this was a hard one for me. Look, I know it's cool to say that you don't like people, but let's be honest. You just don't like most people. There's a non-trivial percentage of the population that you need to talk to every once in a while because they're funny, or they help you expand your mind (now I sound like I'm talking about an LCD dealer) or because having them in your life enriches it. You ain't gonna find that in a 3x5 box. Socializing with and helping others is an important part of life, and it's easy to forget when your job doesn't force you to talk to people.

2. You need structure. Put. On. Pants. Seriously, put them on. Staying in your pajamas all day puts yourself in a state of mind that says you're about to go to bed, or you just woke up, or you just watched The Notebook again and really need some ice cream. Decide when you want to work and stick to it. Eliminate distractions. And when you're done working? Turn the goddamn computer off. Don't click random icons like you did when you were in the corporate world. DO WORK. BE DONE. GO AWAY.

3. You need to remember what number 3 was supposed to be.

4. You need self-care. The 9-5 lifestyle tells you when to sleep, eat, bathe, work out, etc. Without that structure, you might find yourself skipping meals, eating constantly, ignoring physical activity. There's a fantastic self-care chart that I refer to that shows you what to do every time you feel like the deck is stacked against you. Sometime's it's as simple as being hydrated.

5. You need gratitude. At the end of the day, you need to look at yourself and consider how lucky you are to be doing what you do without a boss and without having to put on a suit. Not everyone gets the chance to pursue their own business or creative endeavors. So when you're dealing with a crappy client or you can't get your F@#$*KING USB SLOTS TO WORK PROPERLY...ahem...take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember how good life really is. This is not an excuse to accept the status quo - striving for improvement is important - but it is a reason to keep a positive attitude.

That's it! Those are literally the only 5 things you need to know about being self employed and working from home. Seriously. When you go to a bank and try to get a business loan for your Bonk-o-Matic Bread Throwing Device and they try to find out if you're qualified to get their money, mention this article. They'll practically pour money on you.

What's My Favorite Voice Work?

Possibly the hardest question that I get asked from people when I talk about voice acting is "What's your favorite thing you've ever done?" Everyone has projects they love, and everyone has projects that they don't love as much. It really is hard to pick one.

So much goes into what makes a project fun or fulfilling. A lot of the time it's actually the client. How many of you have ever worked at a job where the work you do is really amazing, but your boss makes you hate your life? I had a few of those during my government days, for sure. It's amazing how one person can make working to defend freedom/save the world/defeat Hydra feel like mucking medieval horse stables. On the other hand, a two minute video on a new cat medication can be a riotous good time if the people on the other end of the line know how to have fun.

For example, I had a client once ask me to use a lead in (ad-libbed introduction) to a line to make sure that it really felt like the next statement was a "wow" moment. It's a common technique; you say something off-script that helps "lead you in" to a moment and make it feel more natural.

So I took a breath and yelled "HOLY SHIT! This software is three times more likely to detect security threats before they become a real danger to your system!" We had a good laugh, one that I couldn't have had with all of my clients.

So, the people you're working with can make a project fun, even if you're not particularly enthusiastic about the subject.

As far as projects that I enjoy purely for the content...well, that has to be video games and animation. That's a broad brush, since the two can be very different, but these two types of projects are basically the reason I moved to LA. There are a lot of things about character work (a term I'll use to lump these two things together) that make it appealing to me. First, of course, is that it leans heavily on what I've discovered is the central theme of my life: storytelling. Yes, there are storytelling elements in commercial and promo, but not change-the-way-you-think-about-life storytelling. Character work has that. Plus, I get to be different people. Check out some pictures of characters I've played:

 Archer Artwork.png

Second, I'm not exactly a guy that people would describe who lives with his heart on his sleeve. I'm usually measured, calculated, and standoffish. It's just an aura that I've picked up over the years, from being an east-coast Italian boy and from the military. So when sometime hands me a script and gives me permission to lose my mind? What a release that is for me. Pardon my sappiness for a moment, but acting has let me get in touch with and understand not just my own emotions, but the emotions of others. Acting is an extreme exercise in empathy. It has - like storytelling - expanded my point of view.

Third, I'm a nerd, and the thought of being in video games makes me giggle. I was playing Oxenfree last week and heard my own voice come out of the radio, heard the other characters talk to me, and I actually chortled like a small child. So sue me; I like validation.

If you're a freelancer - or if you're a dayjobber, who cares? - post your favorite type of project, and what makes it special for you, in the comments below!

Check out my voiceover page, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, for the occasional voiceover update and clips from projects I've completed. 


Oxenfree - Video Game Voice Acting Through A Radio

One of the biggest reasons I moved to LA this year was because, unlike the other areas of voice acting such as commercial and promo, you need to be local to get into the animation and gaming scene. Being a storyteller, I wanted access to the opportunity to be part of story-focused platforms. That made for an exciting moment when I was contacted by a friend of mine - Theophany (Jason Gallaty) - who was working on some sound design for a game called Oxenfree. He knew I was a voice actor and wanted to see if the producers liked me.


Well, long story short, they did, and I got cast as the "radio" voice as well as the tour guide for the entire game.  Sean and Adam, the heads of Nightschool Studio, came over to my home studio and talked about the project, we laid down some tracks, and a new character was born. The radio/tour guide is a really interesting character, as it is the medium through which the protagonists speak with the spirit world. It made for a very non-standard dialog that reminded me of a sedated Wreck-Gar from the Transformers movie, in that I used catchphrases and advertisement pieces, as well as radio drama dialog, to communicate.

It was fun. And I thought, well, that's that. Job done.

I'll be honest with you, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it. I've done maybe a dozen video games in my career, most of which are available on Steam or iOS/Android, but they were all fire-and-forget projects that I never heard about again. I sort of thought this was just another one those

Yeaaaah I was wrong. I found out that the cast I was acting alongside was from titles like Borderlands and Wolf Among Us. Britanni Johnson, Gavin Hammon, Erin Yvette, Aaron Kuban are all fantastic actors to be alongside. The studio's team had worked for Disney, Telltale Games, and had a huge amount of industry experience they were bringing to bear on this project. In short, I had no idea who I was dealing with.

And then, as the game was about to release, stuff started popping up in my news feed that I didn't expect at all. Apparently, people were paying attention to Oxenfree.

For example, opening up my latest issue of GameInformer and seeing a title I worked on staring me in the face from the reviews section. I about jumped out of my seat when I read "fantastic voice acting drives the experience" in the summary. The LA Times did an article on it, calling it "the first  must play game of 2016." Kotaku has a whole bunch of paragraphs on the radio and how it was employed in the story.

Oh. and a movie.


I have no idea where this is going to go from here, nor do I have any idea whether I'll actually be involved. But it was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this really unique gaming experience, and it sits right on the edge of what the medium is capable of and transforming into. Video games can tell stories in ways that other forms cannot, and Oxenfree is exactly the kind of title I've had my eye on for years. Adam, Sean, and the Nightschool team are the kinds of people that are bringing gaming to a completely new, terrifically exciting level.

For now, you should check out the game, available on XBox and PC. A PS4 release has been announced.


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