The Great Divide

by | Jan 10, 2017 | Analysis | 4 comments

In the starry voiceover galaxy, there’s Los Angeles, and then there’s everything else.

Don’t ask for hard data. I have none.  But seriously, can anyone miss this truism?

Not even mighty New York City comes close… it’s a distant distant second at best.

And understandably so.

LA is the home of Hollywood… the movie industry, and all its attendant services (which are considerable).  Actors have been “starving” to be in LA for decades; and voice actors, after all, ARE actors.

Without naming names, I can think of 5-10 voice actors from other parts of the country who have migrated to the City of Angels in the last coupla years expressly to advance their career.   How?

  1. Opportunity.  All the big movie studios, animation, video games, and legacy audio facilities are there….and want you to BE there for their auditions — in person.
  2. LA has the preponderance of best VO coaches.
  3. LA’s talent agency and booking agency culture is vibrant, and so far unaffected by the internet.
  4. SAG-AFTRA is based there, and from what I can tell, LA talent is all they REALLY care about.
  5. ISDN rules on the West Coast, and is under no duress…further proof that traditional practices are in place.
  6. Despite online communities, it’s in LA that voice actors most often gather in numbers, and in person.
  7. Compensation rates are consistently the best in the biz.

I know of maybe 10-15 full time vo pros who do NOT live in LA, and make more than $200,000/yr.  Whereas, my guess is there are upwards of 100 voice actors in LA who make that and more.  Again, anecdotal evidence. But prove to me I’m wrong.

Some years ago, after a Pat Fraley/Scott Brick audiobook weekend workshop, a prominent audiobook narrator and producer wondered if I would join the roster under his umbrella.  Of course I was flattered…until he found out I didn’t live in LA.  I never heard from him again.  Apparently, he wanted all of his talent to be essentially “in-house”.

Already in this young year, I was lucky enough to get a referral to a well-respected LA talent agent.  The referral came from the agent’s sister.  Not bad.  The agent reviewed my website, listened to my demos, and was overall very complimentary.  Then…this:

“…I only take on new clients based in Los Angeles.  A large portion of the animation and video game companies are based here and we tend to find that out-of-state clients can’t make or do half of the jobs we work on.  With our small and select client list, we need our actors to work on everything.  If you ever end up moving to Los Angeles please feel free to reach out and I’ll revisit representing you…”

I can tell you with 99% assurance, that I will NEVER live in Los Angeles again.  Not in a million.  Even the 3.5 hour drive from Las Vegas is not “close enough”.  Hey, that’s the choice I make, and I understand that limits my advancement in this business.

And don’t think that this blog article amounts to a judgmental bitterness or resentment.  I genuinely honor the decision that others make to rise to the pinnacle of their career in the best possible VO marketplace.  Bravo!

Despite sweeping changes and greater opportunity ushered in by the internet, LA is impregnable.  Nothing substitutes for “being there”.  I keep meaning to ask Randy Thomas about that.  For a while, she seemed to be forging a new path by living in faraway Florida.  I notice she’s back in LA now.

I’ll add that thousands of voice-actors seem quite content pursuing their profession from Georgia, New Jersey, Minnesota and elsewhere. That also is commendable.  One of the luxuries afforded by our business is the freedom to choose a home base in a part of the country that suits you… and just set up a studio. 

 Always know though, that when shooting for the VO stars, no other supernova shines as bright with opportunity as the City of Angels.

CourVO

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4 Comments

  1. Keith Michaels

    I visited LA and Hollywood for the first time in my life back in November when I was nominated for a Voice Arts Award. I couldn’t wait to see everything and talk to the people that live there. What I found was a dirty city, with a vibe I couldn’t connect with, and living costs that blew me away. $500,000 for a 1,000 sf home on a busy street in Burbank? Not to mention that taxes? How does anyone starting out make it there? So I feel extremely blessed that from my home base, I am able to have an amazingly comfortable living, with no help from agents, with a mortgage payment of $1,200 and a 2500 SF home. I had starry aspirations in my twenties. Now, I just enjoy a cold beer at the end of a fulfilling voice over day. But to those who take the plunge, I salute you.

    Reply
  2. Howard Ellison

    In relation to the supernovae of voice, I hack an existence on Pluto – a.k.a. rural Devon UK.
    London (5 hours away) would be our LA; Manchester (7 hours) our New York. Oh, the web’s a wonderful thing… but we do miss real-life colleagues.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Howard,

      I want to come to visit. I’ll trade you a house in Vegas for a week. Or a farmhouse in Illinois near St.Louis. Your choice. And see?…you’re surviving in the hinterlands, right?

      Thanks again for your readership…and responding.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  3. Lance DeBock

    Bravo Dave! I concur wholeheartedly, however there is one spot that I know of where not being in the major markets is not much of a problem. That’s the Jersey Shore. It seems it’s the perfect spot for me and a few others VO actors. Being about an hour and a half from NY or Philly affords me the luxury of being able to commute to either town for voice work when needed. I guess ‘The Shore’ is considered pretty local to those cities.

    Hey Dave, Keith and Howard – come on over!

    Reply

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