Atlanta's Movers and Shakers: Heidi Rew and Mike Stoudt co-owners of Atlanta Voiceover Studio!
One of the many questions I’ve recently received is “how do I become a voiceover artist?” This week, Atlanta Film and TV interviewed Heidi Rew, Voiceover Artist, On-Camera Host, Actress and co-owner of Atlanta Voiceover Studio. In this blog post, Heidi shares answers to questions about the voiceover craft and what it takes to become a voiceover artist.
Could Give us a little background about yourself? Tell us how you got your start in Voice Overs.
Mike Stoudt and I (Heidi Rew) were both on-air at an Atlanta radio station,104.7 The Fish. In the early-to-mid 2000s, Mike got his first voiceover agent (Richard Hutchison Management in Atlanta) and also started acting on-the-side. He ended up booking his first VO gig the very week he was signed. Mike then encouraged me to do voice overs on the side, as well (this was before we were married). I signed with a smaller agency in Florida, then signed with Richard Hutchison Management, so we both were on his roster. It took me 4 years to book my first job! But I kept plugging away. I’d work my full-time radio gig and audition as much as possible. But after I booked my first job, I started booking more and more. Seven years ago, I left radio to pursue acting and voiceover full-time. Mike followed a year later.
Why did you open the Atlanta Voiceover Studio?
We’ve always worked from our home studio, but I hated not seeing people. Our friends were opening a sound stage studio that had some smaller offices inside. Mike had the idea to create an outside studio where we could work, but also offer VO recording to others who didn’t have a good home studio set-up. (The added benefit was that one of us could record at home, and the other could be at the studio.) If you’re an on-camera actor and get a voiceover audition once every few months, it may not be worth it to set up a home studio. We didn’t want them to miss an opportunity, so we thought we’d fill that need. Our hope was that we could help people, but also cover the cost of rent.
Could you give our readers some background as to how you started Atlanta Voiceover Studio?
When people started booking audition time, they’d always ask, “Do you have classes/workshops? Do you do demos?” Our answer was always, “No, but here are some names of other places in Atlanta that do.” As people were asking and as we were referring, we soon realized there was a huge need in Atlanta for a VO-specific training facility. Around that time, Brian Bremer came to us and asked if we would need any help teaching. That’s when we launched our Intro to Voiceover workshop with Brian. From there, we’ve continued to expand, launching a 3-month Beginner Intensive (with 2 veteran VO talent - Jill Perry & Trevor Johns), Sally Neal’s Script Analysis, Steve Henderson’s The Character of You, virtual private coaching, Intro to Animation + Advanced Animation and many other genre and topic-specific workshops. Not only do we offer training but we also offer recording for auditions and bookings (if talent booked a job that required source connect, ISDN or phone patch). We have a full-time engineer on staff, and have recorded projects for Disney, Popeyes, Murder Chose Me, Atlanta Homicide, FedEx, Napa and more.
We’ve received several questions from our audience about the steps they need to take to break into the voiceover space here in Atlanta. What is the best way for someone with talent but no experience to become a voiceover actor in this market?
We’re not saying this because we run a training facility…feel free to go somewhere else but to “break-in,” you need to train. With technology the way it is, anyone can set up a home studio and audition from anywhere in the world. That means competition is fierce. And a big misconception about voiceovers is that people think: “I have a voice (or I’m an actor)…therefore, I can do voiceover.” It’s a craft to learn that takes a lifetime of dedication — just like acting. So since it is a skill, it takes time, training and practice to develop. Focus on training first THEN do a demo when a coach tells you you’re ready. A demo is necessary to get on with an agent or pay to play but that demo needs to showcase your range (and I’m NOT talking about just high or low voice). It’s also a way to say that you’ve got the skill necessary to replicate those exact reads in a session ON YOUR OWN…without a lot of coaching. If you want to learn more about our demo process and hear what an agent is looking for in a demo, we did a podcast episode with Jeffrey Umberger that goes into more detail: https://atlantavoiceoverstudio.fireside.fm/3. There’s a lot to voiceover. Mike & I have been through many private coaching sessions/workshops/classes on our own over the years — some good and some not so good. So when we opened this studio, we made a pact that we’d always be real, keep it real and not sugar-coat anything. Stewardship is a big value in our studio, and we want people to know that we are FOR them, have their back and will be truthful with them.
What types of services do you all provide at Atlanta Voiceover Studio?
We offer workshops, classes, demos, and recordings. If someone is interested in getting started, we ask that you begin with our Intro to Voiceover workshop. That gives you a baseline foundational overview of the industry. We also get you in the booth and record you — it allows you to know what’s required for a voiceover career. From there, we offer classes or private coaching and other specific workshops to help you reach your goals. We also send out a VO tip that comes from on-the-job learning each Monday morning in our email newsletter. You can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/ chj7kT Recording-wise, we offer audition recordings and booked recordings. Audition recordings are for when you get an audition from your agent, or you find one on a pay-to-play site. You can book a 30-minute slot for a nominal fee, we record you, edit you, and send you your files. Booked recordings are for when you actually BOOK a job, but they ask YOU to book a studio to record in. We also have that space available for producers, ad agencies, and companies that need a quality recording space with a sound design engineer.
Do you recommend that Voiceover Actors get an agent?
Absolutely, but you shouldn’t try to get an agent unless you’ve had training. In fact, the odds are, you won’t be able to get an agent until you’ve had training and have a professional demo. We all need to remember that agents are our “business partners” to some degree. They need to know you’re working on your craft and growing to become competitive in this industry. They need to know that IF they bring you on, that you’re going to be professional and that you know how to audition…and hopefully book that job. When you get paid, they get paid! There are also some pay-to-play sites out there that are great, but often, it takes away the protection of an agent. You have to make sure you know the correct rates, terms and are responsible for collecting the money. There are many sites out there that will take advantage of voice talent, so be careful!
Click here to learn more about the Atlanta Voice Over Studio. You can also follow the Atlanta Voiceover Studio on Facebook and @atlantavoiceoverstudio on Instagram. You can also follow Mike Stoudt on Facebook. And, you can follow them both on Instagram @MikeStoudt and Heidi Rew @heidirew.