A Guide for Choosing a Voice-Over Coach

I just finished voice talent Marc Scott’s excellent review of voice-over coaches (http://tinyurl.com/n6yyl2x), but realized there were several dynamics that were not discussed and need to be reviewed before hiring any coach, and especially before producing demos. Although I am familiar with the work and reputations of almost everyone out there, I am not going to name any names myself. Coaches and subsequent demos are a highly personal decision and depend on various factors including:

  1. Budgets
  2. Your personality in combination with the coach
  3. Your experience
  4. Who’s producing the demo

Google Searches and Phonecalls Do Not Solve the Problem

Googling “voice over coach” and starting to make calls is not the first step either. Instead, do real research on your own, such as checking out coaches’ websites, Wikipedia pages and LinkedIn profiles. Are there any holes in the bios or inconsistencies? There are always reasons and some are good and some less so.

If I had to choose the type of teacher I would recommend, I would personally prefer someone with experience in casting either from the talent, talent agency, or production side, but finding these people can be difficult. If I had to prioritize based on one specialty I would do so in this order:

  1. Casting director (currently casting better than a former casting director)
  2. Former agent with extensive booth experience at their agency
  3. Actor with significant experience in their specialty
  4. Everyone else

Asking for Coach Recommendations

If I had to ask someone for a recommendation I would ask agents first. After all, the majority of demos are geared towards getting their attention anyway, and actors secondarily. If you do ask other actors for recommendations, listen to actors’ demos prior to calling, and evaluate the demo yourself. If you think the demo is strong then their recommendation carries much more weight.

But enough about that

Let me get to the questions, the very same questions I would ask if I needed coaching and a demo. I explain the motivations in italics for each question below:

My first set is geared towards a Casting Director (referred to below as ‘CD’)

  1. How long have you been casting voice-overs? Experience matters.
  2. Do you work union/non-union or both? Most likely he/she will answer both, but the best case is he/she has significant union experience as it begets more big brand experience.
  3. Do you have a specialty or specialties? Almost all will have a specialty in commercials or sometimes animation, but see if they have broader experience
  4. Do you have experience at a talent agency or in production? You should likely have an idea with your homework prior to calling, but let them explain regardless.
  5. Do you have a facility? A facility isnt necessary and, in fact, working over the phone, Skype or FaceTime can often be more productive, but generally if the CD has a facility, they are doing some relatively significant work.
  6. Do you limit the number of students you take at one time? The best case answer is yes, but the honest answer is usually they take as many students as they can fit around their casting.
  7. Who does your demos? As soon as they answer, write down the name(s) and Google them later.
  8. Do you produce your demos or does someone else? Often times the CD will direct the tracks and a producer will put together any music, SFX etc.. Regardless, you want to know.
  9. How many coaching sessions will be necessary prior to embarking on the demo? There is no right answer here but the honest answer should be, I dont know. Why? Because they likely have no idea how talented you are or what types of spots you will need for your demo.
  10. Can I get a best case and worst case in terms of how much this will cost? Almost always their estimate will be inaccurate. Everyone tends to underestimate, but see what they say, then add about 25% and see if it fits within your overall budget.
  11. Do you ever recommend students to agents or producers? The answer should almost universally be yes as CDs make recommendations all the time, but see what they say, first.
  12. Do you have any references? This question ranks as the #1 Hated Question, and a performer who did the research and hard work would hate the question, too. My advice is to gauge if the question changes the tone of the conversation for the worse. If it does, more than likely that coach will not be the right fit for you.

Next week: Questions for the former Agent/Booth Director Coaches

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