Learning Is Not an Isolated Affair
It takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes, but an even wiser man to learn from others.
We learn from each other. We learn from others’ mistakes, from their experience, their wisdom. It makes it easier for us to come to better decisions in our own lives.
Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.
Over the course of the past several months, as I have been learning more and more about what it takes to make it in the voice over industry, one prevalent theme has become very evident: you need to learn from other people in order to succeed.
As an introvert and a (constantly) recovering perfectionist, I tend to lean toward self-education and self-growth when it comes to learning new things. With the internet the way it is today, it doesn’t take more than a few clicks to find online courses, tutorial videos, Q&A boards, and so much more. The resources for learning are virtually limitless. I could spend the next several years sifting through a fraction of the material, picking up tips and tricks, all without ever actually interacting with another human being. To be sure, all of these learning materials are created by actual people who have valuable information to share. I have learned so much from the classes and tutorials I’ve engaged with. But there’s just something about real interaction with others that really drives the point home and helps solidify the learning process.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the greatest assets The VoiceOver School offers is access to a community of other aspiring and successful voice over artists. From this wider community I have been able to develop relationships with a handful of other voice actors. We meet virtually on a weekly basis to share our victories, work through challenges, give input on recordings, answer questions, and hold each other accountable to the goals we set each week. As much as I’ve learned from online courses and YouTube videos, I’ve learned as much, if not more, from this group of people who are further along and more successful than I am currently. More recently, we’ve welcomed new members into the group, and I have had the privilege and pleasure of sharing some of what I’ve learned with them. Not only do we learn from others’ experiences—we also learn from sharing our experiences!
In addition to networking and learning from colleagues and friends, one of the tried-and-true essentials to making it in VO is coaching. Audiobooks, animation, commercials, eLearning, video games, etc.—each genre within VO is unique and has its own idiosyncrasies that a voice actor needs to be aware of and able to perform. And there are coaches for every genre to help actors hone their skills in nailing that type of performance.
Personally, animation is one area of VO that I long to be a part of. My all-time dream would be to voice a character for a Pixar film or a Marvel or Star Wars cartoon (remember, I’m a nerd). I can create whimsical character voices and make weird creature noises—and do them well— until I’m blue in the face, but if I don’t know the ins and outs of performing for animation, I’ll never achieve my dream. Enter my animation VO coach! For the past few months, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with Jason Simpson (The Dragon Prince, League of Legends, My Little Pony), a Canada-based actor, who is helping me learn how to read and interpret animation scripts. Each week, I prepare a few “auditions” and he gives me feedback on how I might improve my performance. There is rarely any talk about whether something is right or wrong (acting is interpretation, after all, and we all interpret things differently), but he shares what has and hasn’t worked in his own experiences, as well as giving me insight on various industry standards that I wouldn’t otherwise know about. I have learned so much valuable information from Jason in our sessions, and much of it has nothing to do with making up funny voices.
We live in such a time that it is both easy and possible to lock ourselves away in a room and access practically any piece of information we can imagine. But why would we? Why limit oneself to a singular perspective of interpretation? Why pretend any of us are unbiased enough to succeed completely on our own? I have benefited firsthand from the input, direction, and experiences of my coach and colleagues to such a degree that now I’m always on the lookout for who else I can study under and learn from. I can’t wait to continue growing my sphere of influence and working directly with others who have more knowledge, clout, and experience than I do. And who knows? Maybe someday someone will seek me out to learn from what I’ve accomplished!