Panel Recap: Wait… I Know That Voice
We’ve all had that moment. You know the one where you hear a voice and stop in your tracks. Who is that? It’s on the tip of your tongue, if only you can remember… Wait… I know that voice!
GGD ‘16 was filled with incredible panels, but one of my favorites focused on some of entertainment’s most exciting women in voice over. The panelists included Ashly Burch (Borderlands 2, Life is Strange), Sarah Elmaleh (Gone Home, Call of Duty), Michele Morrow (Embers of War, Dragonstone), and Jennifer Paz (Steven Universe, Mulan). The panel was moderated by Amalia Larson.
GETTING INTO THE BIZ
Most of the voice actors on the stage said they stumbled upon voice work. Sarah learned about the profession through her love of video games and Mark Hamill’s voice work over the years. Her mind was blown that there were people out there making a living doing something so fun.
Jennifer started out as a musical theater performer. After touring in the musical Miss Saigon, she found herself in LA. There, in a TV town, she wondered what to do as an musical theater performer, so she made a voice demo. It took some time, but her past work evolved naturally into voice acting career.
It seems that there are countless weird avenues into the voice acting business. The panel all agreed that if you want to get into voiceover acting (VO), practice your skills. This way, when the opportunities arrive you can “stick the landing.”
ABOUT THE BIZ
Voice over acting has traditionally been a mysterious business. Until con’s began to give voice actors a platform, they and how they work were often unknown.
“It’s all about talking,” Ashly said. An important part of the work is getting used to hearing your own voice. We’re often shocked when we hear ourselves recorded. The ability to objectively listen to your own voice is one quality that makes a voice over artists successful.
Creating your own work was another big trend among the artists. “Don’t wait for permission,” Jen told the crowd. “Creating your own content and you’ll find your path.”
Another big part of the business is networking, although many of the artists said that it was their least favorite part of the job. Sarah said that she enjoyed networking for games because she loves talking about them. Even so, making connections with strangers can be daunting, but it’s a large part of the business.
What it all comes down to is letting yourself be seen. As Ashly said, “it’s about putting yourself out there.”
MINORITIES IN THE BIZ
Jen was happy to talk about minorities in VO. Her current project, Steven Universe, can boast that it has the first female creator if a greenlit show for Cartoon Network. In fact, Jen says that behind the scenes many of the Steven Universe voice actors are people of color.
The artists spoke to the desire to see more three-dimensional female characters in games. Ashly recently voiced a game called Life is Strange, which featured female characters with full psychologies. It’s games like these they hope to see more of in the future.
Jen felt strongly that the focus should be on changing the conversation. It’s her opinion that questions that begin with “how does it feel?” are no longer the question. “We’re not the minority anymore,” she said.
Even so, non-white characters are still underrepresented. The general feeling from the panel was that they would rather see one fully fleshed out minority character in a game than a bunch of token characters
CHANGING THE BIZ CONVERSATION
The illusion that the gamer identity was only one type of person was shattered with gamergate. The industry and the public’s eyes have been opened to what’s possible in a more inclusive gaming community. Many on the panel hope that this will result in a shift in gaming content.
With that in mind the artists had some specific advice on how to effect positive change.
Money talks. Spend your money on entertainment that represent all people with respect. What would that look like? Some possibilities include characters of color that do not speak in tokenism or dress as stereotypes or female main characters that with motivations as clear as their male counterparts.
Keep pushing creators! Although we are often overjoyed when we see developments representation in entertainment, the panel didn’t think we should let them off the hook. Their take was that when you see someone who has begun the process, let them know they did well. Then, let them know that they can do better. Some people may feel bad criticizing when a creator makes something that has better representation, but the panel wanted to impress that it’s OK to keep pushing them.
This panel was filled with enthusiastic creators who love their work. As our time together came to a close, they wanted to remind all the hopeful voice actors out there that voice over is about imagination. Don’t let getting older get in the way of that. Keep your imagination. Keep dreaming.