It is a hotly contested topic with voice actors around the world. ‘Voice talent’ who undercut, underbid and undermine others just to get the work.
In what was once a thriving and lucrative industry, cattle-call-like casting websites, along with the technology to record coming down in price, allowed literally anyone to call themselves a voice actor.
This was to the ire of established professionals who saw the open source environment allowing for a watered down version of a voice over agent and the long term risk of jobs being devalued.
One voice talent who unashamedly agrees that he is one of those that happily accept and seek out the low paying jobs is Richard Dynas, who goes by the stage name ‘Ugly Dork’.
Dynas recently volunteered to partake in a session of ‘IamA’ at the popular social news website Reddit, where other users can pose questions to the host and get an anonymous response if the host chooses. The site has previously helped one aspiring man looking for voice over work, achieve his dream.
The title of Dynas’ ‘IamA’ was: “bottom feeder Voice Actor – I do voice overs the union actors won’t touch AMA!”
The topic exploded with questions and answering flying thick and fast. Dynas had no qualms with being brutally honest and stating his gripes with the experienced voice actors who so regularly slam those like him just wanting to find more work.
Voice Over Herald chatted exclusively to Dynas and followed up with him whether there was any fallout, or if he had any regrets.
How long have you been involved in voice overs?
I started voice overs by accident in 1989. I was dating a girl who worked in a studio on Elmwood ave. in Buffalo, she was a receptionist. I went in to grab her for lunch and the owner heard me. He asked if I wanted to read a commercial and I nailed it. I did a few more and the girl and I broke up so I never went back. I always missed it. In the 90’s I did some stand up at Charlie Goodnights open mic nights in Raleigh NC. to recapture that feeling of being center stage. I have done a few TV commercials, (I am 22 seconds blue shirt – wife before I even knew her is at :24 seconds!) here and there over the years until I met my wife and had kids in early 2000. Marriage and young kids took up most of my time but I really love doing voice work. For Christmas a few years ago I asked for gift certificates so I could build a studio in our basement. My wife thought I was crazy and hated it, but it has paid for itself. For 3 years I have been doing it as much as I can and loving every minute of it!
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve seen in starting a voice over career?
It’s the same for everyone – getting work. It is tough living in a city not named New York or Los Angeles. I live in a small town south of Buffalo, not a hotbed of activity. I have to have a real job while I do this and hope someday to have an agent and get more and more work. There are a ton of guys with USB microphones thinking they have a great deep voice so they can act, it doesn’t work like that. I had a very good friend of mine who can mimic tons of cartoon voices, tell me he wanted to do what I do. He came over and saw my studio and what I go through to get a $100 job, I never heard from him again about voice overs. It’s a tough business. Everyone thinks they are movie trailer guy or cartoon guy. The problem I see most, is guys and girls who can mimic x, y or z actor. Well, most commercials don’t want those actors or they would hire them. This business isn’t about being a parrot; it is about using your own voice and acting to sell a product or idea. I would give anything to have a national commercial or cartoon, but who am I? Unless you can get yourself in front of one of those decision makers, you take what you can get. Networking is key. From what I see on Twitter, Facebook and other websites, are the guys who are moderately successful making a good career out of selling us small guys the dream. They all seem to promote their training and coaching because they know the newbie’s will eat it up.
Sometimes I wonder if that is where the real money is? Honestly, I know you need coaching to help you get better, that’s a fact. But it pains me to see all the seminars and personal training that these guys push because they prey on the new people and separate them from their money. I guarantee that if someone comes to them that has zero talent and a headset mic; they will take their money and coach them up anyway, knowing they will never make it. I’m sure I could coach that same person and feed them the same lines. It annoys me that the entire voice over community is predicated on training and coaching, and who is doing all the training and coaching? The working voice actors! Do you really think that these people, who have made connections and got lucky, networked, knew someone, want to help you take a piece of their pie? Hell no! They complain all the time about how the market is flooded with new people who suck and take jobs for $50, then in their next breath tell the same people “I can coach you” now send me a check!
Hypocritical? Yes indeed. I don’t think anyone who is a really good voice actor making money doing big visible projects gives two craps about helping someone new. Do you think Julia Roberts is coaching some unknown actress? Hell no, she makes too much money and has no time. So, why do all these great voice actors have so much time to coach newbies? We know why, they want their money and they aren’t really all that busy,are they? Its the ugly unspoken truth about the industry.
I don’t care if I speak my mind, none of those people pay me or talk to me, I am a nobody because I don’t pay them. If you are so interested in someone’s talent, help them for free! Be a philanthropist. Don’t criticize those same people you gladly talk out of their money for taking low paying jobs. Its self perpetuating. Those voice over coaches are feeding on the dream of many for cash. It drives me crazy. I should pay you to coach me and then shun me? Help me for nothing if you believe. I cant afford coaching or a real demo, it hurts me and I know it. I do the best I can with what I have, if I make real money doing this, I will get coaching from someone reputable and same for my demo.
I am not against coaching or demos, just the scum who take money and bitch about those people out the other side of their mouth.
You recently participated in the Reddit ‘IamA’ session and referred to yourself as a “bottom feeder” That’s a pretty strong term and one that’s sure to ruffle some feathers. What was the motive behind the post?
Anger and Jealousy. Sick of seeing medium talent voice actors complaining about non-union scrubs pricing down their meal tickets. I say medium talent voice actors because the top dogs don’t give a shit about us. The medium talent who think they rule the roost. These are the guys who do some national and regional work and work from home, don’t live in LA or NYC and make a living doing voice over while their spouses have jobs. They have websites and training all over the internet. Just look up voice over training and you will see them. They have slick ads that make themselves look like big time actors who will give you, the little newbie, the tools to make it big for a price.
I really think that without their training seminars, they would not be able to live. I am 100% sure that I will get hate mail and people will be pissed. Look at it this way, when you see ads on the internet from scammers promising to make you millions working from home part time, who are they targeting? Poor, uneducated and desperate people. If someone was making that much money, why would they share the secret with you? Why would they care if you become rich? Did Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak share their secrets with anyone for a price? The same with coaching, why do these people care about you taking a piece of their work? They don’t, they know most people won’t follow through or invest in their craft. It’s a safe bet.
If Mike Rowe or Seth MacFarlane contacted me and offered me coaching and work, I would kiss their ass. I love their work and could listen to them all day. Some guy on the internet who has done a few McDonald and Nike commercials is not getting any money from me. I am broke and I can’t afford to give my money away. I just keep taking the low paying jobs so I can keep doing something I love hoping that someday I will get “discovered”.
Let’s look at Ted Williams, the guy who was discovered by a highway. This guy has an awesome voice. He ruined his life with drugs and alcohol. Even after he was discovered he has continued to have these same problems. Why is this guy being rewarded and I am sitting here at 9:30 in my pajamas writing this and trying to figure out how I will retire? Luck, luck and luck.
I am doing things the right way and being a good husband and father and I keep getting laid off. My College degree has not kept me working, three layoffs n 12 years! If it wasn’t for the “bottom feeding” jobs I pick up, I may not have a mortgage payment one month or money for kids dance classes. To be honest, I am damn good at what I do. I don’t feel any less of a voice actor than the people who do the big boy national commercials or cartoons. I have an awesome voice, I can act and I have awesome cartoon voices. The difference? I haven’t been “discovered”. I am not putting down the people who have busted their asses in LA or NYC to make a name for themselves. I am sure some luck went into anyone breaking into the big time, but sometimes you have to make your own luck.
Do I want to make it big so others hate me and are jealous, hell yeah! I want to make enough money that my kids and wife are taken care of and we have a great life. Now, we struggle like most families.
Back to the original question, my motive was to educate a person trying to make this their career and what it is like from the perspective of someone who is at the bottom. I want to be famous and rich, who doesn’t?
Dynas certainly isn’t holding back. Tomorrow we find how if there’s been any backlash to his post or whether it’s improved his job prospects. In part 3 we get feedback from a former Casting Director about what Dynas should be doing to find work.
What are your thoughts on “bottom feeders” and Dynas motives and non-traditional way of finding work? Sound off in the comments below.