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Q&A with Natalie Edwards at Excellent Talent


We recently spoke to Natalie Edwards, from Excellent Talent. It was such an illuminating chat about what agents are looking for when taking on new voice talent. Natalie shared her expertise on how you can stand out, industry trends, issues around diversity and lots of useful tips.


Can you share some insights into what you look for when you're signing new voiceover talent?


Natalie: Primarily, we're looking for unique elements we might be missing, like a specific accent, language, or ethnicity that isn't currently represented in our agency. These factors play a significant role in our selection process. In addition to this, experience is highly valued.


Natalie: We don't expect everyone to have extensive experience, but a strong application with impressive voice reels can be a great asset. We also appreciate applicants who demonstrate their commitment to the field, such as those actively participating in workshops and showing a deep understanding of the industry. While we don't have any specific requirements at the moment, these are the key aspects we consider when reviewing submissions.


How important is formal training for aspiring voiceover artists?


Natalie: Formal training is extremely important. It's a key differentiator between having a nice voice and being a skilled voiceover artist. The willingness to undergo training significantly influences how you're perceived by agencies, casting directors, and clients. A piece of advice from my old boss has always stayed with me: there's a vast difference between simply having a nice voice and being a good voiceover artist. Training involves learning about the industry and how to adapt your voice to various sectors. This is what makes a good voiceover artist stand out.


Melissa: At BRAVA, we often discuss how choosing a coach or training program is a leap of faith. However, after the first session, many realise there's much more to voice acting than they initially thought. Voice acting is a craft that requires more than just watching online videos; it demands dedication and commitment.


Natalie: I recall a humorous incident from my early days at the agency. People used to audition over the phone, which is not advisable. One person, a taxi driver, was inspired to pursue voice acting based on a compliment from a passenger, who was supposedly the famous Rob Brydon. When asked for a voice reel, he was unaware of what it was.


Melissa: Reflecting on my time in California, I found it easier to connect with people in the industry compared to the UK, even though the UK market is smaller. These experiences highlight the diversity of the voiceover landscape.

At BRAVA, we focus on three core demos: narration, commercial, and characters. What do you listen for in these genres in talent demos?


Natalie: Initially, it's quite interesting to note how the industry has shifted from compilation reels to more focused ones. In terms of what I listen for, industry trends are crucial, especially in commercials. The British commercial market currently favours a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic style, often voiced by comedians. This indicates a trend that talents should consider. Narration covers a broad range, from nature documentaries to reality TV shows. It's about finding where your voice fits best and tailoring your reel accordingly. With character work, the focus is on what unique abilities you can offer that stand out and are in demand.


Melissa: At BRAVA, we take an intensive approach with our talent. We work closely with them to identify and develop their strengths, but also challenge them to explore new areas. It's about differentiating between a voiceover artist and a voice actor – the latter being someone willing to experiment and utilise their full range of skills. Despite the cost, a well-crafted demo that showcases your best work is a worthwhile investment. It's representative of your capabilities as a voice artist.

Do you cast more via auditions, or direct from demos these days?


Natalie: At Excellent Talent, we cover all areas of the industry and represent a diverse range of voiceover artists. For gaming and character-based work, we primarily use auditions. It's rare to cast these roles from demos unless there's a last-minute requirement. Generally, the trend in recent years has been to use auditions for character work, while demos are more commonly used for other types of voiceover jobs. I personally refer to demos as reels, reflecting their importance in the selection process. So, for character roles, auditions are the norm, and for other roles, it's typically through reels.


Melissa: It's essential to have both auditions and demos. In the UK, casting used to be predominantly from demos, but now auditions are also a significant part of the process, much like in the US and Europe. When it comes to corporate jobs, often they contact me directly after finding a demo, leading to a booking. It shows the importance of having a strong, accessible demo or reel.

Are there any common mistakes that new voiceover artists might make during auditions? How can they be avoided?


Natalie: The most common mistake is merely reading the script without any real connection or understanding of the brief and the direction required. This issue isn't exclusive to new voice actors; sometimes, even more experienced artists can fail to connect with the material. It's essential to not just read the lines but to understand and embody them, considering the brief's specifics.


Melissa: This highlights the importance of training. At BRAVA, we ensure that our artists are trained not just to read the script but to bring it to life, to lift it off the page. It's about mastering the skill to deliver the script in various ways, understanding the nuances, and being able to provide multiple interpretations. This level of understanding and adaptability is what separates a skilled voice actor from someone who is just reading lines.

Can you talk us through any ways in which your VO audition can stand out and be memorable?


Natalie: Many casting directors often mention the value of a 'wildcard read'. It's about being imaginative and thinking outside the box with the script, delivering something unexpected. While it's important not to go too far off-script, offering a unique take on the material can make your audition stand out. It's not always about being the wildcard, but about showcasing your creativity and understanding of the script.


Melissa: Sometimes, the magic in an audition is innate. For example, my younger son recently had an audition where he just naturally connected with the material and ended up booking the gig. It made me wonder if his relaxed approach, not worrying too much and enjoying the process, made a difference.


Natalie: Enjoyment is key in auditions. We always encourage having fun with it. Just recently, a voice actor nailed the brief in a casting for a game, and his relief upon receiving positive feedback was evident. It's important to enjoy the process and not get too caught up in worries.


Melissa: Remembering that voice acting is, after all, acting, and enjoying the act itself is crucial. Stressing over auditions isn't beneficial for anyone.

Are you observing any trends in the core areas of narration, commercial, and character work? How are these trends developing?


Natalie: We're certainly leaning into current trends. In mainstream content, there's a noticeable shift from big names and famous people on platforms like TikTok or reality TV, towards more authentic and relatable voices. During the lockdown, there was a preference for reassuring, conversational tones, akin to chatting with a friend. This trend towards more natural, regional accents seems to have stuck, moving away from the classic Received Pronunciation. In terms of characters, the push for diversity is increasingly evident in casting briefs. Generally, there's a greater emphasis on voices that listeners can relate to and feel comforted by.


Melissa: I've noticed a resurgence of humour in recent times, especially after the past few years, where it seemed to diminish. It feels like we're returning to a place where humour in voiceovers is appreciated and celebrated again.


Natalie: Absolutely. The return of humour is refreshing and adds a brilliant touch to adverts and other media. It’s great to see this trend making a comeback.

How is diversity being addressed in the VO industry today?


Natalie: In character work, there's a strong focus on casting voices authentic to the characters' ethnicities. It's about being careful not to miscast roles and being aware of the sensitivities, especially given the loud voice of social media. We're conscious of our casting choices and aim to educate on the importance of authenticity.


Melissa: At BRAVA, we face challenges when actors don't self-identify or choose labels. It complicates casting, especially in a diverse environment. In commercial work, casting often involves ticking boxes, but it's more nuanced than that. The choice of self-identification rests with the voice actors.

What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the voiceover industry?


Natalie: Don't rush into it. The industry is booming, and many are eager to join, especially post-lockdown. However, remember it's a craft that needs to be honed. There's a wealth of training available for all levels. Before approaching an agency, make sure you've embraced the learning curve and understood the craft.


Melissa: I echo that sentiment. Take your time and choose your training wisely. It should feel right. At BRAVA, we're privileged to work with amazing talent, and those who do well understand the value of patience and proper training.

How can a voice actor stand out in an increasingly competitive industry?


Natalie: Stay on top of everything. Keep your material and reels up-to-date, adapting to the latest trends. Think about where you could fit in that might not be immediately obvious. The best part of your reel should always be at the beginning to capture attention immediately.


Melissa: Less is definitely more. In demo reels, quick impact is crucial. We listen for something unique in the first few seconds. Before training, many have lengthy demos, but it's about having the right support to create a reel that truly represents you at your best.

What's the balance between natural talent and trained skill in a successful voice acting career?


Natalie: In our submissions, we often encounter natural talent, especially from those just starting out. There’s a certain innate quality in their voice that suggests potential. However, training refines this raw talent. It transforms mere reading into a dynamic performance, bringing the script to life. Trained artists exhibit specific nuances and a polished style, which might be lacking in untrained, albeit naturally talented, individuals. The trained voice artist’s work is finely tuned to the demands of narration, commercial reading, or character portrayal.


Melissa: We see varied experience levels at BRAVA. Some less experienced talents are immediately noticeable for their potential. The key is how they deliver their talent. Good voice acting is subjective. Training enhances an artist's potential and prepares them for diverse opinions and preferences.


Natalie: Another crucial aspect is reliability. A great reel is one thing, but can the artist deliver equally well in a studio under professional conditions? We need to trust that the artist can perform consistently as per their reel.


Melissa: At BRAVA, we’re not a talent agency, but we often collaborate with agents. We recommend talent whom we know can handle the pressure, fix issues on the spot, and have their equipment ready. Reliability and adaptability are as important as talent. We provide ample support and feedback. A lack of feedback often means they’re doing well.

How does Excellent Talent support the development and progression of the artists they represent?


Natalie: At Excellent Talent, we are hands-on in managing the background elements like profiles, website content, and social media for our artists. Ensuring everything from bios to headshots is current and reflects the artist’s true self is key to our approach. We're very communicative, constantly updating our artists on what needs to be improved or changed.


Our interactions might not be daily due to our busy schedule, but we're thoroughly involved in providing feedback and guiding our talents. It's a collaborative process where artists are expected to be equally proactive in updating their materials and staying engaged.

What role does AI technology play in the VO industry today? How should artists adapt?


Natalie: Adapting to AI is crucial as its presence in the industry is growing. We are aware and prepared for changes AI might bring, especially in segments like e-learning or IVR systems in the UK. However, I believe there’s still a strong preference for real voices, particularly in acting roles. Being informed and legally protected, for instance by drafting clauses to prevent unauthorised use of one's voice, is important. Optimism and staying true to the craft are essential.


Melissa: The key is to hold your nerve. AI, while developing, is still a tool and not a replacement for real talent. Voice actors should understand their rights and possibly seek legal or agent assistance in contract negotiations. The industry may be changing, but there's still a strong demand for human authenticity in voiceovers.

How do you manage the expectations of clients? How do you select voiceovers?

Natalie: We manage client expectations by having a deep understanding of our talents' capabilities, which helps us in placing them appropriately. For non-character-based work, we typically suggest around five artists per brief, ensuring they align with what the client seeks.


We don’t rely on our entire roster; rather, we focus on those we believe fit the brief best. This targeted approach helps in building our reputation as an agency that understands and meets client needs.


Melissa: It's about fostering long-term relationships. Even if an artist isn't right for a particular job, their audition can make a lasting impression, leading to future opportunities. It's always worthwhile to submit auditions, as this can build a reputation over time and open doors later.

How can I catch an agent’s eye if I can't afford extensive training?


Natalie: Networking within the industry is crucial, and not all opportunities require payment. Engage in conversations, join groups, and attend free or low-cost workshops. Many resources are available, including books and online materials. The key is to be proactive and make the most of these resources. Being visible and active in the industry, even without expensive training, can attract an agent's attention.

Do you prioritise voice actors or also consider actors who do screen and stage acting?


Natalie: Being a screen or stage actor doesn't automatically translate to success in voiceovers. The skills required for voice acting are distinct and need to be understood and mastered separately.


Melissa: Voice acting, while a form of acting, demands a specific skill set. It's essential to learn and understand these unique requirements. Success in voice acting comes from mastering these specific skills.

What are your thoughts on follow-up emails when seeking representation?


Natalie: We encourage follow-ups, especially if you have new material to showcase. Our policy is to respond to submissions with this advice. Patience and persistence are key. It's important to regularly update your material and stay in touch without overwhelming the agents.


Melissa: Persistence can pay off. It's crucial to know how to pitch yourself effectively. Timing can be everything, and it's essential not to give up. Sometimes the right opportunity comes later, and being prepared and persistent can lead to success.

How important is audio quality for demos and auditions?


Natalie: For demos, the quality must be impeccable. We send these to clients and casting directors, so they need to be professionally produced without any flaws. Auditions, however, have different standards. While clear audio is important, they don't need to be as highly produced as demos. Sometimes, a simple recording done on a phone can suffice, provided the voice and articulation are clear.


Melissa: I completely agree regarding demos. They need to be perfect, as even a small error can be a turn-off. The demo is often the first impression, so it needs to be professionally crafted.

How do you view people who do voiceover as a side hustle alongside another profession?


Natalie: It's completely normal and quite common for people to pursue voiceover as a side hustle. There's no judgement at all. Many in our books have other jobs alongside voiceover. It's impressive when someone does voiceover full-time, but equally commendable are those who balance it with other work. If you're passionate about voiceover, it's perfectly fine to pursue it alongside your other job.


Melissa: A significant number of voiceover artists treat it as a side hustle. It's a practical approach, especially considering the unpredictable nature of the industry. Diversifying your activities allows you to use your creative skills in voiceover while maintaining financial stability through another job. The majority of working voiceover artists manage multiple commitments.


Natalie: Additionally, pursuing voiceover alongside another job can provide a much-needed balance, especially when you're still building your voiceover career. Having another focus can be beneficial rather than just waiting for auditions. It allows you to develop your skills in voiceover while not solely relying on it for income.

Is age range important in what material is used in reels, especially regarding swearing?


Natalie: In gaming, swearing can be part of the script, particularly in intense scenes. However, generally speaking, swearing isn't common in the reels I've come across. I'd advise against including swearing in your demo reel, as it might not be well-received by all casting directors. It's better to play it safe and reserve such content for specific auditions where it's appropriate.


Melissa: We definitely advise against including swearing in demo reels. It's important to focus on conveying the intended emotion and intent without relying on explicit language. The goal is to express the character's feelings effectively, regardless of the specific words used.


10 takeaways from our Q&A with Natalie Edwards at Excellent Talent

  1. When signing new voiceover talent, agencies look for unique attributes like specific accents, languages, or ethnicities not currently represented.

  2. Formal training in voiceover is crucial. It differentiates a skilled voiceover artist from someone with just a nice voice and helps in understanding the nuances of the industry.

  3. Voiceover artists should adapt their demos to current industry trends, especially in commercials. Narration and character work require a focused approach tailored to specific genres or styles.

  4. For character-based work like gaming, auditions are primarily used, while demos are more common for other types of voiceover jobs.

  5. A common mistake in auditions is merely reading the script without connection or interpretation. Training helps artists bring scripts to life and deliver them in diverse ways.

  6. Creativity and the ability to deliver an unexpected 'wildcard read' can make auditions memorable. Enjoying the process and bringing genuine emotion are essential.

  7. Trends include a shift towards authentic, relatable voices, and a resurgence of humour, especially after the pandemic's impact on the industry.

  8. The industry is focusing more on authentic casting, ensuring voices match the ethnicity or background of the character. This approach avoids misrepresentation and caters to a more diverse audience.

  9. Many voiceover artists work in the industry as a side hustle. Balancing voiceover with another job is common and seen as a practical approach to building a career.

  10. While some voiceover roles, like in gaming, may involve swearing, it's generally advisable to avoid explicit language in demo reels. Focus should be on conveying emotions and intent effectively.


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