Here’s why: The really great-paying jobs still require you to live in NYC or LA. (with some notable exceptions).
The good news: Enterprising freelance VO’s from Gainesville, FL to Port Angeles, Washington are making a good living as a voice actor. Making a living…not a fortune. As recently as the late 90’s to early 2000’s, you almost had to live in the New England metro area, or the Hollywood hills to even DO voice-work.
As a closet sociologist I call it the flyover states conundrum. Plenty of people living in South Dakota or Tennessee could not imagine leaving their comfortable confines to take on the traffic, congestion, and intimidation of SoCal or the Tri-state area. What they sacrifice in that decision is closeness to the powerhouse entertainment industries that require instant access to creative communities at their doorstep.
Those communities also benefit from close internal association to other like-minded talent. Witness the many professional and social in-person gatherings of groups like the FaceBook Voice Over Collective. If you live in Albuquerque, you will not find it convenient to regularly attend Tim Friedlander’s weekly workshops, or go to VOBS live shows.
So, more than just job opportunities, these creative cultural communities challenge their members in unique ways by virtue of their number and togetherness. Individuals benefit from a high threshold of association to like-minded talent.
PROXIMITY IS A PLUS
Internet-enabled technologies like ipDT and Source-Connect — even legacy products like ISDN — have opened doors for talent in “flyover states” to be available to big-name producers in LA or NYC, but the culture of instant access and physical proximity persists. People hiring talent in those two entertainment-focused metro areas consciously or unconsciously believe that the BEST talent for their projects are near Hollywood or NYC. That’s true only because (in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy), talent also believe their best opportunities are near Hollywood or NYC, and therefore flock to those centers.
What’s your priority? Forests, farmland, and a small-town atmosphere?… or a bustling urban energy powerhouse? “Good enough” compensation… or undisputed access to the very best-paying jobs in VO? The lines are not distinctly drawn, but the differences are clearly there.
URBAN vs. PASTORAL
Humans in developed countries just naturally seem to gravitate to major population centers for opportunity. Internet or no. Something about the physical proximity to urban advances makes it so. The perfect example is the enormous population shift from China’s countryside to it’s new burgeoning urban areas during the economic awakening in that country.
Is the best of humankind to be found in its major urban areas? Of course, there are two schools of thought on that. Many sociologists believed that broad, cheap internet access would level the playing field between the haves and have-nots. While that effect certainly HAS been felt…traditional face-to-face human interaction seems to trump the virtual or digital substitute(ipDTL), and an equitable distribution of opportunity and compensation in ALL areas is elusive.
Sitting as I do on the geographic cusp of the LA market, these differences seem acute. I’m close enough to drive to SoCal when and if I need to. Almost without exception, though, my availability in this way is just not close enough for Hollywood’s agents, producers, and decision-makers. I’d at least have to live in Pasadena.
ISDN now sold. No one was calling. (could be my lack of talent)
Close friends and associates Dan Lenard from Buffalo, NY and Brad Venable from the huge metroplex of Dallas/Ft. Worth, have now made the transition…opting for LA. Audiobook whiz Jeffrey Kafer moved from the population center around Puget Sound…also to LA. It’s not like Dan or Brad or Jeffrey were living in cow pastures. But I applaud their decision. I hope and pray it was the prudent move.
In the late 70’s I lived in LA (Hermosa Beach) for a year. I wasn’t talent then, I was in sales. Still, after a year in LA traffic, I knew no combination of money or opportunity could make me stay. I’ve been a flyover guy ever since.
Am I bitter? A little.
Have I accepted my quality-of-life priority over making the very best dollars possible in voice-acting? Until the Internet disruption is complete (if ever) I have to.