Forging a career in voiceover is a challenge, even for the most honey-voiced “everyman.” The Internet has massively increased the talent pool, and awareness of this corner of the entertainment industry has increased exponentially. But what if you are not a native of the country in which you work? What if your voice has a certain exoticism? Does this increase or diminish your opportunities?
While I would never describe my own voice as exotic (outside of marketing materials) my innate Britishness has certainly served me well in the United States, a country of Anglophiles. But how restricting is it to have a defined accent in America? And how does that affect your ability to work in your own domestic market?
After an exhaustive, “Revenant”-style trek through my own experiences, and in talking with some of my fellow “funny-sounding” peers, here is my list of pros and cons of being a non-American voice actor living in America.
1. Reduced competition. This sounds wonderful, but it goes hand in hand with a reduced amount of jobs. You may even find that your competition is more fierce as a result of the limited opportunities.
2. Unique work. This somewhat contradicts the aforementioned point— the sheer amount of work only available to the non-American. Dubbing and re-voicing commercials, video games, training videos, etc., is comparatively plentiful. While this may not pay quite the same or come with the cachet of the original, many voice talents forge their careers on the back of this kind of work.
3. Culture clash. It is inevitable that at some point you will be asked to say things that make you culturally cringe. A cliché about your homeland, geographical, historical, or political mistakes, and inaccurate terminology all occur with rampant frequency. Unless it is especially offensive, it is wise to engage your sense of humor and remind yourself that voiceover is one of the best jobs you can have!
4. Unexpected opportunities. Some talent have an accent that is hard to place. They use this to their advantage, marketing themselves as “global” or “European.” Paul Strikwerda is a Dutch native who lives in Easton Pennsylvania…
“Demand for a Dutch narrator isn’t exactly overwhelming, and thanks to the Internet, my competition in Holland is only one click away. My real niche is in ‘neutral English’ voiceovers, meaning my accent is neither British nor American. It’s more of a European twang, and businesses wanting to increase their global appeal hire me because of my international sound.”
5. Alienating your domestic market. In most cases, the biggest market for your voice is in your native land. If you live abroad then finding representation, booking jobs that you can record remotely, time differences, currency conversion, and money transfers can make your life particularly difficult. Hiring you becomes an unattractive proposition when compared to local talent. You can find yourself in a no man’s land between your bountiful domestic market and the ultra competitive niche American one.
6. The perception that you are expensive in your homeland. Countries with an economy that isn’t as strong as the U.S. rarely hire talent in America. Simone Fojgiel is a Uruguayan talent based in Tampa, Florida...
“For me, it has been practically impossible to be considered for possible castings/auditions for the Uruguayan market after I moved to the U.S. Sometimes when we make it in this country, those who see us from our own origins think that we are in an “upper level,” making hundreds of thousands a year.”
7. Pigeon-holing yourself. Great, you have a marketing angle! But when that promotion borders on the caricature, you may have a hard time presenting what makes you unique. People have a picture of the foppish, bumbling Englishman that I occasionally play up, but that doesn’t fully reflect me as a person or as an actor. Sometimes I even do emotions!
8. Accent drift. It is very common to unintentionally incorporate American syntax and inflection into your voice. Surrounded by it day to day, it can easily seep into your delivery. It is important to recognize and control this, and use it to your advantage. I will receive feedback like, “Great, Jamie! Let’s try it one more time, but a little less British, please.” (It is important to note that when working in your native country, you will have to readjust back, and this can be harder than you’d think!)
Working as a non-American voice actor in America can present a broad and unique palette of work. It can be a precarious tight-rope walk, with the occasional light collision of cultures. But embracing and capitalizing on your own culture and unique talents can really pay dividends in a very competitive industry.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.