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voiceover industry - questions

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Hunter Hempenvoiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:21:18 am

Not sure if this is the right place to ask questions about this - if not just direct me to the proper forum section. Thanks.

But anywhooo, I am currently a college freshman with a voice talent recognized by several of my proffesors...and I've been advised to pursue a career in voice-over. I've always kind of had an interest in this sort of thing - not nearly as great as my interest in video, but I think it would be a good side job if I can make that work.

So my questions. How do I start? Resources I can go to? I'll even go out on a limb and ask what equipment I might need as well as how much to charge?

Hope this isn't being to broad.


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Ed CilleyRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 3:30:07 am

Check out a talent we have used for years...he is also a coach, author, etc.

He has a Recommended Reading tab on the side as well as other ideas on his site.

Best wishes,

Avid and FCP Preditor
Anything worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
- Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield

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Mark SuszkoRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 4:54:16 am

A lot of this stuff is now done remotely over an ISDN or better high-bandwidth, high-quality live connection, you need the interface box, I forget what they call it, so that you can "phone yourself in" from anywhere and sound like you're right in the studio. Yes, you could do it cheaper, at first, by recording in high quality then FTP'ing the file over to the user, but it is not a real replacement for the immediate feedback with clients and producers. A friend of mine does this for a living, from his shack in the Midwest, he's doing voice work all over the globe.

That's about hardware, as to marketing, you have to make a killer reel, and put up lots of samples on the web. I would try to talk to casting agencies about auditions as well.

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Todd TerryRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 5:27:40 am

Good for you... I love working with great voice guys, and just listening for voices.

I've been privileged to work with some of the great ones through the years, from the guys you've never heard of (but know their voices), to the bigshots like John Leader and the late great Don Lafontaine. Don was always a total hoot, and a heckuva nice guy, despite being the true Voice of God. I'm so sad that I never got to work with the great Hal Riney before his untimely death last year. If you wanna hear absolute first class narration, check out the spot he voiced (and wrote) 15 years ago for the Texas Rangers at I still hope to get to work with Hal Douglas some day.

Right now, I find myself using Peter Thomas a fair bit, when a really emotive and smooth read is needed. Peter is not only the King of Smoothness, but a nicer old gentleman you'll never meet. I have no idea how he does it, but keeps a middle-aged voice at 85. And still works everyday (Burger King, Monday Night Football, NBC News), plus one loooong session a week recording Forensic Files. The man is a machine.

I'm digressing to make a point.... all of these guys are narrators. None of them are announcers. The big radio-voiced announcer went out of style a long time ago. The guys in command now are the ones who can truly tell a story with their voices. That's why so many name actors are doing VO work now. Work on your ability to tell a story, to act with your voice (without overacting), not just the quality of your golden pipes.

While most of the big time voices are on either coast, the good thing about voice work these days is that you can work anywhere. Don was in L.A., Hal Douglas is in N.Y..... but Peter makes a bazillion dollars a year from his home studio in Naples, Florida. You can literally be anywhere.

The great voice guy Stew Herrera used to have an excellent "So you want to break into voiceovers" section on his website. It's been a while, so I'm not sure if he still has it up, but you might check out and see if it's still there. It had TONS of great advice.

What equipment do you need? Not that much, at minimum. A computer, and a great microphone... and some sound editing software. In his later years LaFontaine and his wife traveled a lot, and while he had a million dollar studio in his house, more often than not his work came out of his "studio in a briefcase" (just a laptop, his trusty Neumann mic, and a pop screen) when he was on the road... recording movie trailers and FOX promos in whatever hotel room he was in at the time.

What can you get paid? That's the tough part. The bigshot guys make pretty darn good money, especially considering there's no heavy lifting involved. But there are scads of guys on the next lower (and next lower) tier trying to make it. Some of them are very good... and most of them don't charge very much. Even some of the very good ones at that level are working for peanuts. Just like any performing vocation, there are tons of people trying to "make it," to get their foot in the door, and catch a big break. I probably get somewhere in the neighborhood of five or six "cold call" emails from voice guys every week, directing me to their websites or online demos. I got two today.

You're young, so I'd say right now don't worry about what you can get paid for it. Worry about buiding your reel. Do spots whenever you can. Work on your voice. Read books out loud. Take some acting classes, even if you don't consider yourself an actor. Practice telling stories.

It's a hard business to break into, but for those who make it, it's a great one.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Bill DavisRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 7:04:28 am

Having about 2000 paid VOs under my belt I guess I can weigh in on this.

The piece of gear that Mark was referring to is a Telos Zephyr. For many years, that and an ISDN line were the keys to doing remote VO work.

Not so much anymore. Anyone with a laptop computer, a decent quality mic and pre-amp - and an understanding of recording technique can record a technically proficient VO virtually anywhere. I've done them in hotel rooms, hospital rooms, cars, and closets - and they've all aired and been paid for.

For client feed back, I'm as likely to use iChat today as a Zephyr - simply because fewer and fewer studios and clients seem to have them. YMMV.

The best advice you've gotten here is to PRACTICE. Your voice is muscles. Just like your legs. If you wanted to run competitively, you'd have to start training your legs and lungs. To do VOs, guess what? You have to train your muscles the same way. The muscles involved are primarily your diaphragm and lungs, plus the muscles that control the mechanics of tongue, jaw, and teeth.

So near daily reading (out loud!) to a VO talent is the equivalent of daily running practice to a road racer.

Once the muscles are conditioned, you still have to work on the intangibles like delivery, characterization, breath control, and intonation. You need to develop your talent. But you can only do that by doing the work.

As to equipment - any decent modern laptop will record audio without breaking a sweat. For a pre-amp, just buy a simple in-line Centronics Mix-Pre or equivalent. Buy some Sony MD-7506 headphones so you can hear yourself. As to a microphone, there are zillions. But for a starting talent I'd say go with a simple, clean large diaphragm dynamic mic like a Shure SM-7, Sennheiser MD-421U, or an Electrovoice RE-50. All of those have been used in gazillions of voiceovers.

Each of these are more for spoken word than singing. Mics that are great for singing, like the venerable Shure SM58 are pretty mediocre voice mics, although I've done spots on them as well.

The key is to understand that neither the mic nor any fancy electronics can actually make your voice better than it really is. Better mics just do a better job of recording the voice you have. So work on the voice and performance first, and worry about the perfect equipment somewhere down the line.

Good luck.

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Rebecca GillaspieRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 7:20:07 am

Have you ever checked out It's a good place to get a v/o on a budget. You'll need a good demo. For years, I've hired great v/o talent I've found online, I send them a script, have them do a read through over the phone, and then they record it, they even clean it up and email me a link to a wav or aif file. I believe on they have situations set up where you can even audition for certain things and then people will select you based on that. It's probably like the "craigslist" for announcers/narrators, but, it may be a good starting point. Check it out!

Best of luck.


"Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstein

Rebecca Gillaspie
Producer, Editor

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Steve KownackiRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 11:55:09 am

Hi Hunter and welcome to the biz!

While I agree with all that's been said, I don't think you're ready to get hung up on gear - be sure to check out the audio forum too. Starting out it's difficult to be an artist and technician especially if you're not getting any direction on delivery. I have found that the great voice we had in our studio is crappy when they record at home because the high-priced vocal chain is now a USB mic to a laptop without a tuned room. Again, check out the audio forum.

A book is good but will only go so far. Pick some programs and mimic then on delivery, pacing, control. What I love about great VO talent is the ability to take direction, you don't just come in and read. You have to understand what the director is looking for and then your talent takes it there. You have to be able to breathe correctly. The narrator that can read a full page of complex terms without me having to edit is something I love. We just recorded a 67 minute program with 2 narrators in about 3 hours. I've had "talent" before that would take 6 to do the same - aggravating.

My suggestion is to contact your local production companies and offer to do a few free sessions and in return ask for coaching and genuine feedback AND a copy for your demo. I have a great relationship with the local college's theater dept and every once in a while she'll bring in a few interested students and I have them read stuff for my website or message on hold - some suck, some don't - but they get a feel of a real gig. I have one guy that I now pay well for jobs. He REALLY wanted to be a VO talent and came over anytime he could to sit in on other sessions and just see what it was all about. He's interning with us in the spring too just so he can hang around and learn.

Be passionate and tenacious about your career & don't undersell yourself. Great voices get work.

Good luck!


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Nick GriffinRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 3:52:25 pm

I couldn't agree more with most of the comments here so far, except for the fact, Todd, that the original "Voice of God" was Norman Rose. (I last worked with Norman in New York in the mid-1980's and he was in his early seventies then so I doubt he's still around, let alone working.)

Bill's comments about exercising the muscle are an interesting take on a complex process. To it I would add the idea of necessary mental development. The average normal human being is clueless about the subtleties and nuances of voiceover. Our brains aren't tuned into these factors without a great deal of practice and training. Tell someone to "Take that same paragraph you just read, get prideful on the word 'exclusive,' stay flat on the 'furbisher' sentence, go warmer on the tagline and shave half a second off the whole thing." Even with direction the normal mind doesn't perceive, let alone remember the numerous factors that make up these micro-performances.

This is also why so many actors easily transition into voiceover work. Their brains are already attuned to the details of performance. Getting to focus only on voice and not physical expression and blocking can be viewed as a luxury.

Good luck with getting into voiceover, Hunter. With hard work, concentration and a boat load of practice you can go far and make a good living. Even everyday voices used well can go far. If you have "golden pipes" like a Don LaFontaine or Peter Thomas that's a plus.

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Todd TerryRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 5:37:19 pm

[Nick Griffin] "the original "Voice of God" was Norman Rose. (I last worked with Norman in New York in the mid-1980's and he was in his early seventies then so I doubt he's still around, let alone working"


I thought we lost Norman a few years ago, but looked him up to make sure. Last Thursday was the five-year anniversary of his death. He made it to 87.

We've lost a lot of the great voice guys... Lafontaine, Hal Riney... anyone ever get to work with Danny Dark? Danny was great and so prolific, tons of commercials and the voice of NBC promos for years and years. I think that's why NBC uses Townsend Coleman so much now... his voice is very evocative of Danny's. Danny died the same year as Norman Rose. Always wanted to get to work with him but never did..... sigh.

There are some great younger dudes (i.e., Stew Herrera, Rino Romano), but it seems like my favorite voices these days... Hal Douglas, Peter Thomas, Ed Grover.... are all old guys (although they don't sound like it). Ed is in his 70's and Hal and Peter are both well into their 80's.

Looks like there will always be room for new blood.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Jeff BonanoRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 4:13:47 pm

I agree with what everyone says here for the most part but I would like to share something I learned in my VO classes.

First, if you want to get into voice overs you have to understand there are two kind of voice overs. The announcer/actor voice over or the character/impersonator voice over. The later of the two choices is most profitable, but only for a small small small market of talented people. So unless you are really really top notch in impersonations and stuff, I would shy away from that one.

Second, yes you have to train your voice, and your mouth...but it all starts with a smile! Along with infliction of your voice, it really makes a difference when you smile while you speak. Sounds easy? Not at start. You usually find yourself forgetting to hold that smile while you speak so it takes practice.

Third, equipment actually wont cost that much like it used to in the past. Here's a great set up that I suggest you look into:

Microphone: see the other posts for your question. I saw a lot of good suggestions. You can find a decent one for a few hundred bucks to get started but sooner or later I would upgrade.

Laptop:(or desk top, but if you want to do it in the comfort of your own living room or while on a business trip, a decent lappy is worth the investment). Don't need much, and you can get one easily now for $600-$700 bucks.

M-box w/Pro tools: This device from digidesign will only cost you maybe $250-$400 tops and it comes with Pro Tools LE which is all you really need to get started. You plug your headphones and mic into this and it controls your audio to your liking then sends the clean data to your laptop via usb2.

Headphones: get a decent pair for around $100 bucks (or less, I'm not too picky about my headphones like others are) and if you want to hear better sound at playback, you could also get a small set of speakers for the lappy too.

You used to have to spend a LOT of money on equipment and/or for studio time. But now you can have clients that e-mail you a script, and while still in your pajamas, could be doing a big ticket job, while you are still in bed! And if you find the right deals, it could cost you only $1000 bucks or so to get started. Once you get going, then maybe later upgrade to more advanced equipment. For now just get a demo put together and get your voice out there!

Jeff Bonano

"I want to have a cool quote at the bottom of my signature, just like everyone else on the cow forum!" -Jeff Bonano

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Todd TerryRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 5:10:23 pm

I'll pop back in with one mic recommendation... especially since you said video production is your primary thing but would like to do some voice work on the side.

On location we typically use the Sennheiser MKH416 as a boom mic. It's a really sweet shotgun, and one that you'll see on a lot of productions. It's not a $5000 Neumann, but it's not a $60 Radio Shack mic either. It's somewhere in the middle.

It was sometime after we started using the 416 as our primary boom, that I discovered a lot of higher-end voice actors also use it as a VO mic, which really surprised me. I knew it was the boom-of-choice for a lot of sound guys, but hadn't thought about using it for VO. It has a very warm and open sound, a bit friendlier sounding than some of the usual booth mics, that can sound a bit sterile... and since it is so highly directional you can use it for VO in some places that might not be as acoustically isolated as a quiet-as-a-church audio booth. I tried it a couple of times in a booth, and it really does sound great. The 416 was Don LaFontaine's mic of choice, and I believe it's the one that Joe Cipriano, Andy Geller, and Townsend Coleman (the main NBC promo voice) use as well. Probably a bunch of other guys too. It has a lot of range, too, so it's good for both the Voice of God types (LaFontaine, Geller), as well as higher-register voices like Cipriano and Coleman.

Of course a dedicated booth mic is ideal. We have the Audio-Technica AT4060 in our booth, which is a decent quality VO mic, with a middle of the road pricetag as well (about $1300). BUT, if you plan on doing a lot of video and maybe some audio, then a double-duty mic like that Sennheiser might be a good investment, since you can use it for both. The MKH416 comes in at about a grand, maybe a little more.

Keep in mind that most higher-end VO mics require 48v phantom power to operate. That used to mean they needed to go to a mixer that outputs phantom, or you had to use a separate dedicated phantom power source. Now though, there are some USB mic connectors that provide mics with phantom power, so that's really all you need.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Ty FordRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 7:11:46 pm

Todd, et al,

Please tell me which Neumann costs $5k.

While gear is important, what's even more important is being able to play your instrument. Having teachers, friends, and the pizza delivery gal tell you you have a great voice is one thing, Being able to do something WITH it is something else.

I do VO classes for the AFTRA/SAG local membership. I have had guys walk in with voices so deep they make the couch move when they talk, but they don't know what to do with it and can't learn because they don't really understand the language at a level deep enough to know what to do. Give them a script and they're dead

Unless you can figure that out, the best mic and preamp on the planet won't help you. If you can figure out the meaning and bring that to the session, you're just another piece of meat.

Some folks get the notion, "So I can talk and people will pay me? Cool! Let's go!" It's not that simple. If it were everyone would be doing it. It takes a lot of hard work and endless marketing to pay off. And if you're fortunate enough to lock in some clients that'll pay scale. Union or non-unoin, please know that there's always some hosebag who'll pitch that they'll do it for less.

There are 8 types of work.
1. Spots
2. Narration
3. Political Spots
4. Talking Books
5. Documentaries
6. Characters (these days for spots, computer games, animations)
7. Real People
8. TV and Radio Station Imaging

Each is a bit different.

Can you do this in your spare bedroom? Maybe. Probably not. Why? Because a lot of thought goes into gear and acoustics to get the right sound. Unless you have engineering chops, you won't be able to make sense out of what you're hearing so you can do the right thing. Can you learn that. Probably. Will it happen tomorrow? Probably not.

Is there a market for entry level players? Sure. When Clear Channel (with over 1200 radio stations in the US started dumping jocks and using voicetracking, a bunch of DJs got laid off. They know how to talk into mics and record stuff. They have tried to continue to make a living with their voices. They are finding it hard to do because there are so many out there.

I do less work now than I did, but I get the harder scripts. Ones that require interpretation or are technically difficult. They've usually tried someone cheaper and found the performance isn't quite there. The easy scripts go to the other guys and gals where it doesn't matter so much what the message is. It's "good enough."


Ty Ford


Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide

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Nick GriffinRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 7:44:13 pm

[Ty Ford] "I get the harder scripts. Ones that require interpretation or are technically difficult."

Right 'dat! I can personally testify that Ty did a spectacular job voicing one of the most arduous and lengthy projects of my career. He has that rare knack of being able to take difficult terminology and concepts and make them sound perfectly logical and understandable.

One thing I would like clarification on if you're still with this thread, Ty, is under what circumstances do you use a large capsule mic like the Neumann versus the smaller hyper cardioid Schoepps? I've seen you use both and not sure why.

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Ty FordRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:18:07 pm


The script thing is a function of practice and experience, I think. There's a melody and rhythm to most scripts. You have to know what the power words are and what to do with them.

The script I did for Nick was not unlike one I did years ago for the Georgia Nuclear Power Plant System. It was a basic CYA safety video that all employees had to watch and sign off on. In essence the gig was talking shop to guys and gals about how not to injure or kill themselves.

Literature? No. But there is a way to talk to people instead of at them, even when the script has gone though too many lawyers and middle managers. At that point, it's up to me to breath some humanity back into the words.

LD, SD, Jeeze, Nick, I don't know. the 416 mentioned earlier is an SD. I use a U 89 a lot. It's arguably a LD but just a little smaller than a U 87. Sometimes it's what I have on the pipe (mic stand) at the moment. It's about the PARTICULAR LD or SD, that's for sure. Hard to go wrong with a Schoeps cmc641. It's very much a mic of choice for film dialog. Dialog is usually a bit more natural than spots, but you can get there with a bit of EQ anyway.

When I go into someone else's studio, I usually use whatever's up. That has ranged from a Shure SM58 to a Neumann U 87. At some point, with the right voice, the particular mic doesn't matter. If I need a bit more bottom, I just know to move in a bit more.


Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide

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Todd TerryRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:48:37 pm

[Ty Ford] "There's a melody and rhythm to most scripts."

[Ty Ford] "...when the script has gone though too many lawyers and middle managers."

I think Ty hit the nail on the head there, those bad overworked scripts are what separates the men from the boys. A good voiceover artist can perform a great script and sound pretty darn good. But a great voiceover artist can read the phone book and make you cry. And make it sound like a story.

I think that's why Hal Riney was so successful at it... because Hal was an ubersuccessful ad guy himself, and personally wrote many of the scripts that he performed. He knew how to sound his best, and knew how to write for his own voice. I still smile as Hal's inspiration lives on every week during Tim Russell's "Ketchup Advisory Board" segments on "A Prarie Home Companion" ("These are the good times, for Marge and me..."). Tim really nails it.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Todd TerryRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:15:48 pm

[Ty Ford] "Please tell me which Neumann costs $5k."

Wasn't sure since it has been so long since I looked at them, so I looked 'em up... the new Neumanns I found range from about $700 to $13K+.

In the "Over $5K" category...

M149....... $5K
RSM191AS....... $5,300
USM69iMT....... $5600
RSM191....... $6K
USM69i....... $6K
USM69iMT....... $6K
TLM50-S....... $5,700
M150....... $6400
SolutionD....... $13,300

Now, not all those are good choices for VO mics (one or two are shotguns, and one or two are stereo mics), but that's a quick look at the higher-priced Neumanns.

Older Neumanns also command huge prices on the used market.

Great mics, but definitely cheaper options out there that will serve just as well.

Funny story that I read or heard... I can't remember which: Audio guy finds one of the super-sweet vintage 20-year-old Neumanns on line at an unheard-of low price and buys it. It was something like a U87i or one of those really sought-after Neumanns. He waits and waits, but delivery seems to be taking forever. He mentions this to somone in his office who says "Oh, that came. I opened the box but the mic looked like it had a couple of scratches on it. I sent it back with a note telling them not to try to pass off a used mic, we'd want a new one."


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Ty FordRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:26:16 pm


Pretty much none of them used in VO unless you happen to own a big music studio and happen to have them there. Thanks for helping me make my point and sorry to put you to the trouble of proving it.

The U 87ai is considerably less than $5k.

The new Neumann TLM 102 streets at $699.

You can hear it here:


Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide

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Nick GriffinRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:39:24 pm

[Todd Terry] "Older Neumanns also command huge prices on the used market."

So, Todd, you're telling me that those two U-87s that I let go in 1985 when I closed my audio studio are actually worth more than I paid for them in the late 70's?

[Homer Simpson] "Why do things that only happen to stupid people keep happening to ME?"

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Todd TerryRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:57:10 pm

[Nick Griffin] "...those two U-87s that I let go in 1985 when I closed my audio studio are actually worth more than I paid for them...?"

Nick, I just found a couple of vintage U87s going for $2K each, and another for $2200. I've also seen them higher than that.

I think that fear is why I never get rid of anything. But for some reason my stuff just depreciates to zero. Hmmmmm.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Eddie EagleRe: voiceover industry - questions
by on Dec 4, 2009 at 4:54:03 pm

Get your acting chops in shape first. Performance is the key here. All the rest is just perfunctory. If you are a good actor or improviser use those talents to further yourself.

You only get hired if you deliver the act.

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