Children and teens are more likely to be exposed to voice acting than adults, since the media marketed to them often does not involve physical, on-screen acting. The cartoons they watch and the video games they play all depend on strong voice acting. There is a major demand in American animation and voice acting projects for “authentic” voices of child characters when possible. And there are child actors who actually go back and forth between voice and on-camera acting. Other times, they specialize in voice acting and maintain lifelong voice-acting careers.
There may never have been a time like now, when opportunities to land voice-over jobs are literally everywhere, but this industry may prove to be hard to break into for newcomers due to the competition. So how do you make sure your child stands out among the rest?
Many believe that all you need to get a voice-over career rolling is to produce a quick voice-over demo. A demo reel is often your child’s introduction to agents and casting directors. While professional assistance is recommended, a voice-over demo reel can be made at home with some careful planning and organization.
How You Prepare Your Child’s Voice-Over Demo Reel
Listen to other demos in the market.
One effective way to know that your child stands out is to know whom they’re up against. Remember, the demo is often your child’s first and only shot at getting the attention of an agent or client, so it must be a well-produced showcase of the best of what your child can do. In an industry where time is precious, your child rarely gets the chance to make a bad impression twice. So always showcase your child’s competitive best. Google working voice actors’ demos, and learn from them. From there, your child’s demo should be competitive by comparison.
Do not use already aired or currently airing material.
If your child has previous work produced, the production can vary and it may not necessarily showcase their best or their potential as your child may have been constrained by a client’s standards. Remember, your child’s demo has to show off your child’s competitive best. Unlike acting reels, your child’s voice-over demo should showcase what your child can do now, not what they did. It’s much better if your child’s demo features freshly produced material that a potential client could easily imagine dropped into their current or future project.
Copyright does not matter in demos.
A voice-over demo reel is not recorded to be sold, so it’s perfectly fine to use a scene from a movie or a show. The only problem that can arise from using an iconic scene is not being able to live up to the scene’s matching iconic performance. Since you won’t be caught up in copyright issues when using published scenes, you may change names and cut the scene short to reduce the chances of being compared to the original voice actors.
Look for current, popular, and iconic scripts.
Seek script sources that suit your child’s abilities in shows they would like to work on. Transcribe a scene that they like, rewrite it, change the names, and hone it down to make it compact, simple, and unique. Make it a mini story with a turn or a transformation that shows your child’s acting. You can also draw from iconic animated or fantasy films or popular video games or graphic novels then repurpose these materials for your child.
Demonstrate your child’s acting ability and range.
Choose the material that best implies interaction and action, the need for something, a subtext, an objective, a dramatic shift. Acting switch ups are essential to show you can create characters that connect and tell a story. An abrupt tone shift from segment to segment also holds the listener’s interest.
Be wary of impressions.
Some voice-over coaches also advice against imitations of iconic characters or personalities. Know what the core character of your child’s voice is and build on that, instead of them trying to sound like Nemo and end up sounding like a bad Nemo. There is actually little need to replace a living voice actor. On the other hand, classic cartoon voices need to be accurately imitated in for some revival feature or commercial, which is actually rare. If your child is good at it, you may choose to record a separate demo solely for impressions. But are you sure they’re good at it? Nobody booked a role after delivering only a spot-on “What’s up, doc?” Can your child convincingly read the ingredients on a cereal box in that character’s voice? Can your child narrate their day as this character or read a book out loud? If not, then you aren’t ready to put this character on a demo.
Be sure your child is able to sustain each voice.
Don’t overdo it. Only include what your child can easily replicate and sustain in a real-life recording session, which runs for a few hours to a day, without hurting their voice. For example, if you include a wildly screaming character in one segment of your child’s voice-over demo, you’d better be sure that your child is able to get through a recording session with that amount of voice for a period of time.
Categorize your child’s demos.
Record voice-over demo reels according to category. For example, you may choose to record one demo reel for commercials, another for games, another for interactive media, another for impressions, or another for character demos. Different character voices in five- to ten-second increments are advised if your child can do numerous voices. On the other hand, if your child only has one voice, a short and sensational thirty-second demo is enough.
Get a professional sound engineer’s help if you can.
Like we mentioned, a demo is your child’s first and only chance to be accepted by every agent or audition you submit to. Thus your child’s voice-over should come off as professionally made, not homemade or amateur. A talented voice actor who sends a crummy demo to a prospective agent will probably never get an audience with that agent again, unless they manage to get a stellar recommendation from a trusted client at the agency. This goes the same for average actors with a mediocre demo.
So go seek help from a good sound engineer who can guide you, help edit, and provide polished production value. A decent demo producer should care about the end result as their reputation is partially at stake with it. Hiring a professional costs money, so be sure that the demo itself is competitive and top-notch. Don’t ever pay hundreds of dollars to an engineer if your child is not ready to produce the best result.
Keep it short.
You may be tempted to record a demo that lasts over three minutes, but don’t even think about it. Agents and casting directors simply do not have the time for that. Go for a voice-over demo that lasts sixty seconds or less, one that features smash cuts, not fades, from one style or tone or genre to the next. Don’t waste more time with repetition, fillers, or excessive segments. Worthy voice-over demos are ones where listeners don’t get so bored that they hit stop.
Good luck! For common voice-over audition mistakes, check this article out.