I often think back on my first voice-over mentor, a casting director I met at a seminar she hosted, with fondness and a bit of incredulity.
Why was she so helpful? Why was she so giving of her time? There must have been something wrong with her. She did eat a banana. Maybe her kindness is an allergic reaction to bananas? Or maybe she took a shine to me because I reminded her of a distant cousin who was super cool to her as a kid. Perhaps, I had a voice that was trending at the time, and it was just a matter of her sending out a few emails to agents, no big deal.
Those emails got me my first agent, who I’m still with over a decade later. And yes, my voice had something to do with it, but she cared enough to get me in the room.
What was my part in creating that relationship with my voiceover mentor? I was a trained actor at the time, but I also came to every class on time, scribbling notes furiously, filled with questions and excitement whenever it was my turn in the booth. I was just me – my passionate self. I also spent a year auditioning for this woman, eventually booking work, before she sent the aforementioned email. I didn’t go in expecting her to take an interest in me, but I was happy she did. I’ve had many other casting directors that did not result in a mentorship or friendship. And that’s okay. She was the one I needed.
Later on, as the industry changed, I struggled to keep up. I had become the old dinosaur still feeding on wilting ferns while the others had moved on to greener terrain and kobe steaks. I knew I needed to update my approach, but didn’t know how. So I sought out others. I went to voice-over events, networked, met people in the industry, and lightning struck again. I met another fellow voice-over actor, and eventual mentor.
She guided me through the new reality of voice-over; being done from home, and from anywhere. That was a massive change from when I started in NYC, when voice-over auditions were held in casting offices near Union Square or Broadway, and jobs were done in person with engineers taking care of the tech side.
What a kind soul! This new mentor of mine shared the lessons she gained from weathering all those failures and successes, that are an integral and unavoidable part of every journey through any industry.And again I thought, “Why is she helping me? Could she be having the same rare allergic reaction to bananas? Do I remind her of a distant cousin that was cool to her as a kid?” Turns out, she is a good person, and we just clicked.
You might be thinking, “Where are all these networking events and casting directors? I live in a small town far from NYC or LA!” The answer is in the clouds…I mean the cloud…I mean ONLINE! There is an entire community out there. I once had an actor friend that I introduced to my first mentor, via email. Part of me was hoping my friend would find the same open arms that I had so long ago. But who knows? It’s like dating in a way, you can’t force love on either side.
Finding a mentor does not guarantee you getting your foot in the door to an agency, nor should you expect it to. But it will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation for the industry. It will be like suddenly having a compass dropped into your hand. And once you do have a guide, be respectful. I never over-asked of my mentors or depended on them. They have their own business to run. Do your part, work hard with the gift of knowledge they have given you.
Which brings me to the big VIP, the most important member of your team, the mentor you already know. The one you already have. You may be thinking, “Oh Simone, I predict some super corny hogwash coming here.” You’ve already guessed it, haven’t you? Well my friend, it is YOU. Only you can keep putting all of the things you’ve learned into practice. And when you forget them, remind yourself: you are the only one that can teach yourself how to navigate setbacks or disappointments, or celebrate the successes.
It is easy to forget after not booking that audition for that beautiful Austrian short film; it was so close, you were in the final two actors to be chosen. You were perfect for it. The images still linger in your mind and the sweet words still dance across your lips…why, oh why?!….oops sorry, I drifted there. And yes, that just happened to me. The other gal got it, and it stung big time. I ate a whole tub of jello and whipped cream that day. But, the director did say he’d like to work with me on future projects. So hey, that’s a win.
Be on your side always, and focus on the wins. Even if you have to develop a rare allergy to bananas, take an interest in yourself. No friend or voice-over mentor can do that for you the way you can.
Looking for more? Here’s another article on the SAV blog about building teams!