Don’t Specialize

Hey, there!

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t some a version of this question:

“I’m trying to figure out what VO I’d be good at. Can you listen to my voice and tell me?”

Or a statement like: “I think I’m going to be best at commercials and animation. I’ve got that kind of voice.”

Sentences like that make me sad. Here’s why.

On the face of it, trying to figure out which categories of voicework you should concentrate on seems like a worthy endeavor.

Why not?

If you know you’re going to be better at certain things than others in VO, you can audition more for those things, right?

If you know you’re not going to be right for certain VO jobs, you can save time and not pursue those categories, right?

Seems reasonable.

Except…it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s what I think:

None of us can safely predict what we’ll be offered, be good at auditioning for, be apt to book – because we have no idea what opportunities are in our future.

And, we have no way of predicting the systemic details around those opportunities.

Are they going to be hard fought audition battles?

Or, like my first ADR job, a straight offer? One that was hardly expected (I’d never done ADR before, but I was offered the gig because I do a really good news anchor and sportscaster archetype).

The day before that happened, I was completely unaware that I was going to embark on a 40-plus film (and counting) ADR career with the most prestigious loop group in the world.

But…I’d prepared for just such a possibility. I’d taken an ADR class here in town, so I had a passing knowledge of how things worked in an ADR session. And it came in real handy when I started to do ADR work for my on-camera work on Heroes.

My advice: don’t try to be so smart about your future. Let it unfold. Be a generalist and be open to anything.

Hope this helps!


13 Responses to Don’t Specialize

  1. Kelli September 2, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Great post! If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your branding. :D

  2. Kate Kennedy September 3, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Good points here!! Thanks

  3. Darla Middlebrook September 30, 2015 at 5:42 am #

    But….sometimes the idea of specializing is the right idea. I started out by saying I would do audio books because that is all that I am good at. Sooo many of my coaches (all of them, actually) tried me on other aspects of VO and came to the conclusion (and stated to me) that “you should be doing audio books”. It’s always funny when that happens.

  4. David H. Lawrence XVII September 30, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    I disagree, and do so strongly, in an attempt to defend the success of your future career. You may be more comfortable and used to doing just audiobooks, but, unfortunately, I think your coaches (all of them) gave up on you. I haven’t coached you yet, but that’s not how I’d handle it. And, frankly, it’s not funny at all – I am sure that anyone that’s good at audiobooks will be good at all aspects and categories of VO – many are much easier to learn than is the process of recording audiobooks. And that was the whole point of my article. What you assume is true isn’t always the case, nor will it always remain the same.

  5. steve latham September 30, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    Thank you, I have been dealing with the issue of which niche I should concentrate on.I have been advised by some to go one direction and by others to go another I have a slight regional accent–North Texas.

  6. Arnold July 27, 2018 at 6:35 am #

    It’s interesting to hear you say let it unfold and be open to anything.

    I’m currently training with an acting teacher who doesn’t encourage preparing for a scene. Rather, do what interests you in the moment or “let it unfold and be open to anything.”

    Now I’m really going to be paying close attention to this, not just for my VO career, but also for my acting, and maybe even for my life in general.

  7. Victoria Prather July 27, 2018 at 6:41 am #

    Really love this and can’t wsit to see what unfolds! Thanks for the motivation, David.

  8. Julia July 27, 2018 at 7:40 am #

    Hi David, great article and I also liked reading your ADR article as well. Can you recommend a class in Los Angeles for ADR?

    • David H. Lawrence XVII July 27, 2018 at 10:49 am #

      The only one I’m familiar with I took, and ended up asking for a refund. There are lots that discuss the concepts, I’m sure, but actually working in an ADR space is an expensive proposition. I’ll investigate further!

  9. Ian Coleman July 27, 2018 at 3:19 pm #

    Great advice! Thanks David!

  10. Kathy July 30, 2018 at 2:16 am #

    Thank you for this. I can’t tell you how many times a VO coach would tell me “you should be doing this” or “you should be doing that.”


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