Jimmy Shoffman recorded his demos at the end of last year, and since then has been booking work and building up his VO business. Want to know his story? Check it out below!
What were you up to before you got into voice-over?
Before getting into voice-over, I was performing pretty regularly in community theatre musicals and plays in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Mesa, AZ! I’ve always had a love of acting and truly look forward to any opportunity to shed my skin and create/become a new character on stage. From a very young age, I found myself wanting to mimic the voices I heard on my television and the radio. I think, in a way, I’ve been teetering on the edges and borders of VO all my life!
Had you heard of VO before or considered it as a career path? If not, what about it appealed to you most?
VO wasn’t a new concept to me, but I had frequently shrugged it off as a career path for many years. I also hadn’t fully realized the sheer scope of VO and all its types. As far as VO being a career, I was under the false judgment that my natural abilities and vocal tendencies were hobbies and nothing more. I think somewhere along the way, I had resigned myself to choosing a career based on practicality and not in pursuit of my true passions.
VO is a fascinating industry, and I think what appeals to me the most about it is how in demand ALL voices are. Sure, back in the early days of VO, the “announcer” voice was all the rage, but now, there truly is a market for every kind of voice. That aspect of inclusivity is inspiring to me whenever I’m in a lull between VO opportunities. I know that someone, somewhere, needs MY voice for their project.
What was the most valuable part of your training with SAV?
That’s a tough one, as I’ve enjoyed the personalized coaching, the demo reel recording sessions, and all the positive and supportive staff with SAV, especially Justine Reiss, Jessi Keenan, and Bill Brooks. I think the most valuable part is what I’ve only recently embarked on: the 12-month marketing program. Now that I have my demo reels back to me, I can really begin to build my brand and carve out my own niche in this industry!
What was your first paid voice-over gig? How did it come about, and how did it go?
My very first paid voice-over gig was a 30-second radio spot for a dental practice, to be featured on KOOL 94.5 FM, as a means to get the word out about their grand opening. My significant other at that time was a dental hygienist for that particular practice, and I was helping them with their school outreach program, getting dressed up as a clown conductor (the dental practice was train depot-themed), named Smiley O’Riley. Adopting a wacky persona and voice, I represented the dental practice as its mascot at the radio station, recording onsite. I got to see them take my sound clip and mix in music, editing out any pauses, mouth noise, or breaths. I was so impressed by how quickly the sound engineer produced the finished audio for the radio spot. I remember being in the car and hearing my radio spot play for the first time while I was driving around, and it was such an exciting feeling to hear myself on the radio!
I’ve heard you’ve got an interesting story about some of the pitfalls of this industry – want to shed some light on that?
Long story, but my contact for an e-learning project I had booked was fired in the weeks leading up to the recording; however, I was not informed of this news until after months of my attempts to reach out with zero replies. My proposed rate for the project was approved, and a draft version of the script was shared, but according to my contact’s replacement, my proposal was actually not approved. Just an unfortunate experience, and one that I have learned much from, including how to create stronger boundaries and draw up contracts to ensure I am protected from future instances like this.
How would you describe your sound?
I believe my sound is best described as versatile. Being a character actor, I can adjust my tone to match whatever the script requires, but with my natural voice, some attributes include warm, friendly, enthusiastic, “the young father” or “big brother”, an everyman, authentic, believable, conversational, and approachable.
What would your dream VO role/project be?
My dream VO role would have to be providing the voice (singing too) for a Disney animated movie. Coming from a musical theatre background, I love love love to sing. To take that skill and combine it with my VO skills would be such a wonderful experience. I also want to lend my voice to video games too!
Is there anyone in particular (at SAV or otherwise) that has been a mentor/role model in the industry?
I am truly inspired by a few people at SAV as well as elsewhere. My experience with Justine Reiss at the initial classroom experience was so enjoyable and hearing her talk about her experiences helped me to see that success was within my reach. She is super kind and very motivating. Throughout this experience, she has supported me every step of the way. Also, big shout outs to my coaches Jessi Keenan and Bill Brooks, who both helped me to hone my VO skills.
Outside of SAV, I have to say that Crispin Freeman has been such a great role model in the VO industry too. I’ve taken multiple workshops from him in Los Angeles, CA, and each one stretched me as an actor. His approach to character studies is excellent, and I use it regularly to help me plan my objectives in a scene. His podcast, Voice Acting Mastery, definitely provided me with awesome insight during my early days of dipping my toes into the VO pool.
What advice would you have for folks currently going through their VO training?
The best advice I can give is to truly hold yourself accountable to the training, readings, weekly sessions with your coach, etc. You get out what you put in, and if VO is a passion of yours, it should come very easily for you to want to put in the time to make it happen. That, and have so much fun with it. This career is ALWAYS fun. Even when it’s challenging. Embrace it and enjoy the ride!
Aside from VO, what are your hobbies or passions in life?
Besides VO, I have a weekly podcast called Geek So To Speak, which is a geek news-themed podcast. It started out as a way for my best friend Rob and I to remain close, even though he was moving away to California, and carve out some time to chat about the things we love: superhero movies, TV shows, video games, and comic books! Now, 94 episodes and 2+ years later, we are still going strong, gaining new listeners/subscribers all the time! It allows us to celebrate our inner geek every week!
I also love to read and am challenging myself to read one fiction book, one self-improvement book, and one graphic novel every month for 2020. So far, so good!
Living in Sedona, AZ has its perks too. My girlfriend Sarah and I love to hike various trails on the weekends! My favorite trail so far would have to be West Fork Trail.
Regarding your podcast: how has your VO training helped you in that arena?
I love that being active on the podcast keeps me behind the microphone. I get more and more experience from the recording side, as well as from the audio editing side, as I edit all podcast episodes too. And just like my peers, I’m constantly learning new editing tricks and hacks to improve my finished sound quality. I’ll teeter between using Audacity and GarageBand, but I have to say, Ben Marney’s SAV Audacity training has been instrumental!
Any other thoughts you have about voice-over in general?
Well, let’s see … I love it! It’s truly a passion of mine, and sometimes I kick myself for holding myself back all those years ago from pursuing something so fulfilling. As it turns out, a career CAN be enjoyable! I know that I’m not at the level I want to be yet, with a frequency of VO opportunities pouring in, but I’m prepared to apply myself and do whatever I can to improve and further plant myself in this industry.
Anything you’d like to plug?
Definitely! My personal website is www.shoffvo.com, and I do have a Facebook and Instagram account, both @shoffvo. Please like/follow me! My podcast is available wherever podcasts are played, but we love our ratings/reviews on iTunes or the Apple Podcast app, so just search “Geek So To Speak”, and we will pop right up for you! Thanks for listening!
Want to get started in voice-over? Check out our introductory webinar to learn more about how to get started!