Are you addicted to voice-over training?
Jan 26 2017
An Edge Studio student of voice-over asked us, “Is it possible to become addicted to training?” Wow, what a good question. We don’t mean, “Are you addicted” in the way that you’d answer “yes, they’re always fun!” This time we mean, are you so addicted to the point that you don’t let go and take the next step, which is to start your VO business?
It would not be professional for us to say, “No, keep taking all the courses you can.” In fact, it would not be correct, and there are a number of reasons why:
As Edge Studio founder David Goldberg told that student:
“Certainly some voice actors become addicted to coaching sessions,” he said. “Coaching at the beginning of your career is absolutely necessary for learning standard industry practices, preparing your personal capabilities, and building your voice-over business. But once you’ve learned, it’s time to cut the link, because voice actors ultimately need to do this on their own.”
Why do some people hang onto coaching too long? And when is the right time to stop for awhile?
Given the word “addicted,” we also spoke with a clinical psychologist, Bennett Pologe, Ph.D. (He is also an actor, currently recording the audiobook version of his book, “Stop Lying: Getting Un-lost and Un-stuck in Your Life.”)
“People cling to lessons, coaches, therapists, et cetera beyond the time when they’re still learning,” said Dr. Pologe, “simply because it’s a bit scary to go out and be on your own, without a net … without asking the teacher ‘is that ok?’. That applies to anything, but especially something as personal and difficult to quantify as voice acting.”
In other words, it’s like a form of stage fright. It’s normal. (In fact, many great performers continue to have stage fright throughout their careers.) In this case, the solution is to … just get out there. When your coach says you are ready, implement your business plan. And turn any nervous tension into the energy required to complete your business-startup tasks.
The “ready-aim-ready-aim…” cycle
A variation on the theme … some people tend to figure they need to touch up one more thing before pulling the trigger. When is it time to take the shot? Dr. Pologe told us, “Just ask yourself if you’re still learning anything.”
David Goldberg fine-tunes this to the VO coaching environment: “When starting out, train until you and your coach(es) feel you’re able to do what you want on your own. Then train from time to time in order to remain relevant and grow your business.”
Here’s why your coach’s signal is important. An experienced VO coach (and this means they are not just a voice or acting teacher but are also familiar with the VO business and the process of getting started in it) will know when the time is right. You shouldn’t wait too long before hanging out your “open for business” shingle, but also don’t launch prematurely.
As Dr. Pologe, reminds, “You may be re-learning something, but that counts as training. People often have to relearn something before it becomes internalized.”
That need is even more the case if you’ve had a negative experience. “Resistance makes us ‘forget’ and have to re-learn something many times before it becomes internalized,” he said. So the answer varies from individual to individual. But there is an answer.
It’s not you; it’s the coach
“More often, the problem is with the coach,” said David Goldberg.
We’re not talking about a “Svengali” situation. Svengali was a fictional character who psychologically dominated his student and made her dependent on him. It has come to mean anyone who exerts such control with evil intent. In VO coaching, we’ve never encountered that, so we didn’t even ask the doctor about it.
But there are many well-meaning coaches out there who fall short in one or more of these ways:
- They take too long to teach voice actors what they want to teach.
- They are just not good teachers.
- They teach things that are too advanced for a particular voice actor to learn.
- They teach things that a particular voice actor is unable to learn.
“Lastly, and sadly,” David added, “there are some coaches who take voice actors for a ride.”
That’s not a Svengali “addiction,” but it’s just as bad. The student is being taken for a ride if the coach has encouraged them, but they’re just not suited to VO work, and will likely never reach the professional level. Or if someone else has given unwitting encouragement, and the coach is too happy to oblige.
At Edge Studio, we politely discourage people for whom voice-over training does not seem appropriate.
The bottom line is that coaches should teach, rather than direct, so that voice actors learn to work solo.
Even if (or especially if) you’ve opened shop and are getting work, it’s time to cut the cord. Relying on a coach for every audition and paid job is costly and takes extra time. Worse, when the coach is not available — especially on a last-minute audition or job — the voice actor is, well, s*****d.
Proper VO training not only teaches you how to do things. It also gives you the experience and confidence necessary to make sound performance judgments and do them on your own.
In that, David and the psychologist agree:
Dr. Pologe: “If you’re no longer learning new things, then maybe you are just being a bit timid to go out and use what you know, to do what you can do. Do it.”
David Goldberg: “When starting out, train until you and your coach(es) feel you’re able to do what you want, on your own. Then do it.”