Not everyone who works in animation use fancy pencils or advanced software; Anthony Reece's tool is his voice. This 25-year veteran in the voice-over industry has been using his voice for decades to bring life to his customers' cartoons, games, pilots, presentations, narrations, and media productions.
Anthony's company, VoiceTOONS provides voice-over services for small to large animation companies, game designers, films schools, freelance animators, ad agencies and TV and radio producers.
Anthony's company may provide services to professionals, but Anthony himself has dedicated much of his life to helping students, especially aspiring animators. For years Anthony has been offering advice and guidance for grad films, reels, and contest shorts—undoubtedly giving back some of the good fortune that the industry has given him. He even runs a voice-over training course for students looking to round-out their skills in the business, VO 101.
So, it was no surprise that Anthony jumped at the chance to offer advice to our readers:
What is your firm's focus within animation and what led your firm to have such a focus?
VoiceTOONS supplies custom character voices and voice casting services for cartoons, games, animations, student films and pilots around the world in countries such as India, Italy, Canada, France, Poland, Russia, Japan, Argentina, Dubai, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, and more. Our voice over studio offers discounted voice casts to schools and student of animation, film and gaming to help assure they too enjoy professional, high quality character voices for grad films, reels and festival entries. We also service small and large established studios, and gaming companies alike. We also offer stock character voice clips, voiced sets, and character themes for games, ecards, student films, and just practice.
Fill in the blank: The future of animation is _________.
Global and competitive. Thanks to the advancements in PC processors, technology and affordable software such as Toon Boom, etc, graphic designers and animators can now equally compete on a much higher level than ever before. The web, social media and high-speed broadband has created a global marketplace for animation, allowing animators, and game developers around the world, a global marketplace for both co-development of titles, and faster, more efficient distribution of content unlike anytime in the last decades. This too applies to our area of character voice overs, giving our studio the ability to work with anyone anywhere.
What are the best and worst aspects about working in the animation field?
While this global marketplace, great technology and faster broadband has opened up the world to our studio, it also creates financial hurdle when offering our services to certain markets. While our studio enjoys working with every studio small and large, the dollar to X exchange rate is often an issue. For example, we've had clients in India propose "very small budgets" when comparing the dollar to the rupee, so it can be cost-prohibitive for a smaller animation house to use US talent. While our studio enjoys working with studios everywhere, professional US, UK, Canadian, and Euro based voice talent still require X in US or EURO funds to work with our studio, so it can be a slight challenge to arrive at a equally realistic budget, as to assure we make a profit and cover talent fees. The norm in the US is about $200 per hour for animation and gaming voice talent, so this can be a burden if the funding available for the overseas client in their currency. By far this is my hardest area to address as a US based studio.
Among your firm's achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
While VoiceTOONS has won various awards, and been part of many successful projects, such as helping Skylined Studio in Poland win the Microsoft Imagine Cup for Pitchforksville in 2010, and our recent work with Boulder Media Ireland on a pending title with Disney, we take great pleasure when we hear when one of our schools like Solent University in the UK, or a animation student like at Full Sail in Orlando Florida has been honored for their animated work, using our character voices. We take great pride in this and I personally find there is nothing more rewarding than hearing such news around the industry.
What skills/qualities does your firm seek out when hiring new employees?
Our voice actors around the world and in the USA must be experienced, excellent at taking direction, have great quality equipment if not local, diverse and most of all be willing to work at discounted rates, along with our normal industry voice rates for more established clients. If they are not willing to "pay it forward" we will usually not accept them into our voice talent pool. We only work with the best, ethical voice actors across the voice acting industry.
What particular schools, if any, does your firm recruit new hires from? If none, where do you recruit new hires?
The voice over industry includes voice actors and voice talent from every walk of life, such as schools, colleges and any industry. Many voice actors are full-time teachers, policeman, lawyers, realtors, accountants, even animators, producers and more. The beauty about voice acting is, you do NOT need to have a degree in a certain field, or specific qualification to work in this profession. However you must be a trained voice talent, understand the industry, having some acting skills, theatre, or on-camera experience and as with any profession, market yourself to excel in the industry. We find and use talent from across every industry.
Along with directing at VoiceTOONS, I also offer a voice over training course and voice coaching program for those looking to enter the voice over industry called VO 101 located at vo101.com. Anyone who has the desire, and willingness to learn voice acting can take the online "self-study" course and become a voice actor over time. I also consult business clients, animation students, studio directors, animators, game developers, and other professionals looking for advice on finding, hiring, directing and working with voice talent in the consultation area of the VO 101 website. I also offer private classroom and group consultation via Skype.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
Understand how important having GREAT voice cast is to your title. I can not tell you how many times, I'm asked by animation and gaming teams, to cast and direct the voice actors for their title, or game, only to hear they do not have a budget for the cast. The voice overs and cast are just as important, as the animation, or programming budget on any project. Truth is, the cast can and will make, or break the success of a title in the market, or at retail. Today more than ever, we have a much wiser consumer and they know the difference between professional acting, and a person hired just to do voices on a title. Too many times, we see gaming studios, students and animators will place more effort and focus on the sound effects, or music, verses a professional voice cast for the dialogue used in a game, animation, short-film, or cartoon pilot. When you budget your title, budget for your cast just as equally.
What were your most challenging projects, and why?
The most challenging thing for VoiceTOONS is working with a client who is not prepared, or has not done their homework with regards to the voice over part of a project. When one is ready to hire and work with a studio for voice overs, one must have a final completed script ready, a brief profile for each character part, an image of each role for motivation by the actor, and a list of any action, or scene sounds for each part within the project. Most of all, one must be willing to allow the casting director the freedom to do their job. Many times, the titles that fail, are those where the client attempts to take control of everything, not allowing the casting director, and voice actors the ability to do their jobs, act! You MUST trust your casting team, and have faith in their expertise, and see them as the professionals in that area. They must become part of your team and again do not under cut the budget for your voice cast. You'll get, what you pay for.
What kind of education did it take to get you where you are today?
Truth is, 25-years in the school of hard-knocks. No college, or university can teach REAL WORLD "hands-on" experience in and around the voice over industry. More so, it takes time to know how to deal with day to day issues running a studio, or managing a project. This industry as with animation, gaming, acting, etc, is full of egos, and personalities within the entertainment industry all fighting for control, the spotlight, a promotion, or creative power.
Our industries are run by creative visionaries and everyone wants to be the next rock star. So one must understand how to work with all types of characters, and personal traits so to say. You can not take anything personally, or allow your pride, or own ego to get in the way of what is best for the project. I've learned after many years to LISTEN, and allow my voice talent, staff, and clients to be open and free to express ideas, thoughts and even new concepts. A perfect example is the Pixar model, they have pajama days, and fly your kite days. Who would not love to work in a place where it is acceptable to be a kid, and an adult all in the same work day. Can you say happy campers?
What software packages does your firm prefer to use? Which one would you recommend to beginners?
I always suggest Adobe Audition 3.0 to new voice talent, or students, or animation studios who are looking for a cost-effective, affordable audio software for cutting voice tracks and audio production. It is easy to use, cheap, and most of all very reliable and not over resource hungry. Today more than ever, studio microphones, processors, small mixers and recording equipment is very affordable and my #1 suggestion is to shop at Musicians Friend. musiciansfriend.com
Could you share with us your best story about working in the animation industry.
There is not really one story that stands out from the rest. Every day, I'm excited to see, just what project from around the work might be sent my way for us at VoiceTOONS. The are all unique, and in one way or another, each is a new challenge. Whether it is dubbing a past Spanish title into English, or working on a new crazy iPhone APP, a new gaming title, cartoon pilot, children's DVD, a large 13 episode animated series, or a student film. They are all a joy equally. It is so true when they say, "if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life". So I guess it is fair to say, we get to play all the time and I never know who our playmates will be on any given day.
Do you think that there is an increasing or decreasing demand for voice over and casting professionals overall? Why?
Personally, I feel voice casting and voice acting is growing in numbers by the month, again thanks to the web, social media, technology and global marketplace. If you had told me 10 years ago, I'd be working on any one day with clients in India, Poland, or New Zealand I'd have laughed at you. Yet, here we are today using Skype to hold creative meetings around the world.
If one wants to become a voice actor, it is as easy as taking a course like the VO 101 one offered above, and setting up a small recording suite at home, or in the office for about $500. You do NOT have to go to LA or NY to work with a voice casting professional, or great character voice actors these days, when you can now partner with a studio like VoiceTOONS anywhere around the world.
While it is that much more competitive at the same time, game designers, animators, and animation schools are now seeing the importance of partnering with a great voice casting studio, and voice cast for their titles, projects, indie games, pilots, and even student grad films making them that much more professional when they are entering the animation market. I'm very excited to see where voice acting goes over the next 3 years and the global animation, and gaming market expands.
Check out more interviews at The Animation Career Review Interview Series.