VO Dojo and Apogee Let You In on The Secrets of Voiceover work!

The V.O. Dojo is a training, networking, and resource center connecting voiceover actors of all levels, from those with an initial spark of interest to seasoned V.O. professionals.

Inspired by the discipline of martial arts and the fun and playfulness of improv, VO Dojo encourages voiceover artists to approach their craft fearlessly and with the wisdom of a warrior. Unlike many other training programs, the Dojo takes a wonderfully unique and holistic approach to the business of voiceover. “We concentrate not only on formal skills and techniques but also on the mind/body/spirit connection necessary to communicate your truth and connect with your audience.” 

On Wednesday, May 12th VO Dojo & Apogee hosted a special Workshop/Livestream “Have you ever been told you should do voiceover?” The free event gave an overview of ways your voice can earn you money and the tools you need to deliver the highest quality audio for voiceover work.

Tish Hicks, founder and Master Sensei of the V.O. Dojo and a highly successful L.A. voiceover artist in her own right gave us some insights into VO Dojo, their programs, and how Covid-19 impacted the voiceover community.

How did you get started in V.O. & who were your inspirations/mentors?

My V.O. career started in my hometown, Chicago…with what I call “the helicopter” coming… a friend was a producer at Leo Burnett and said he had some radio spots he thought I’d be good on. I had never done V.O. before, but I had all of the ingredients…I was a recent Northwestern University theatre grad, a trained Opera singer, working at Second City, doing regional Shakespeare. I came into the session on a whim and left with a mission (and a nice paycheck that came in the mail a few weeks later). Shortly after that, I moved to LA and was on fire to make this my way of life. I was inspired by everyone I knew from Second City who had moved to LA had incorporated VO into their success plans… Steve Carrell, Jane Lynch, Dan Castellaneta…asked them all the questions and acted on their advice. Through the improv scene, I met my friend Jennifer Hale (Guinness World Record holder for most prolific female video game actor), who planted the seeds and pointed the direction to the A-List V.O. path from the start. And then I did the work, studied the art form, and learned the business as I trained with the best. Pat Fraley took me under his wing as I was starting at my first agency; Sue Blu, who wrote the first book I read on V.O., also directed my first animation series! Creative Director, Rob Jamieson, cast me in some of my first campaigns when we started out and still do today! And, of course, my crew of amazing V.O. colleagues who have come up together and have been riding the waves of our sustained successful careers since!

What is VO Dojo community like, and can you tell us about the courses/programs the students go through at V.O. Dojo?

The V.O. Dojo community is one of the most dynamic, diverse, and vibrant groups you will find…

The Dojo is home for people from all walks of life who come together to apply the mastery they have from other experiences in life to the medium of VoiceOver…singing, music, acting, stand up….

We recently had two ER doctors and the star of the Broadway cast of Phantom of the Opera in one class.

We have a dojo member who is a sophomore in college and one who is a retired judge…

People who have never performed in their lives and are exploring new avenues of themselves, and those who have been doing it forever and are looking to diversify their income revenue streams.

We have two divisions…  Development and Working Pro

Development Division begins with our 6-week introductory course – “You Should Do Voiceover” It’s a hands-on, hearts-in comprehensive overview and little taste of all the ways your voice can be making money.

If you are sparked, you can continue with the 14-month Full Training program – Mystery to Mastery (M2M) that guides, supports, connects, and accelerates you every step of the way from “I don’t know” to working pro. Following the Belt Level system of martial arts, the M2M program consists of four belt levels – Yellow Belt (Exploration), Green Belt (Self-Exploration/DemoPrep), Blue Belt (Demo Production), and Brown Belt (Integration).

Working Pro Division when you complete the M2M program, you earn your Black Belt and can continue with the support of the Dojo as you step fully into the mix on your working pro path.

The Nth Degree Focus Action Forum consists of Weekly Workouts and bi-weekly Focus Action Meetings that ensure you have Clarity, Consistency, Community, and Connection as we come together to amplify our efforts.

The V.O. Dojo Pro Fight Club is our working pro workout that brings together top-notch talent with the hi-caliber decision-makers who hire us in all genres… We call it a fiercely friendly face-off that turns the audition process transparent… We get some of the best in the biz for you to bring it for. The tagline for Fight Club is “Yeah, It’s Who You Know…”

We also have all sort of other offerings throughout each month – Ask the Sensei – Free Monthly Q&A,  Dojo Go Guides – successful Dojo members return to share their journey and best practices/action steps in different genres (think Inside the Actors Studio meets a Tasty Video), Demo-Listen Derby – our demo producer and I run demos through the gauntlet of the actual casting process revealing what makes a great demo…

We meet you where you are and help you take your V.O. career all the way.

What are some of the essential equipment that you use for VO Dojo sessions, and for professional VO sessions?

Technology has gotten so good and so simple these days… it really doesn’t take too much to get things rolling. I have a Sennheiser 416 and Apogee Duet running Twisted Wave on my MacBook Pro in my home studio. On the road, I swear by my Apogee Hype mic (which replaced my MiC). It has come through with clean recordings in the most harried situations… like airport bathrooms! And when I am teaching workshops in other cities.

How did the COVID-19 impact VO community? Have you been doing remote sessions, and if so, what was that like? What are the producers/clients’ expectations?

COVID – 19 has actually been a very busy time for the V.O. community… first of all, it really brought home how important having V.O. in your diversified performing portfolio is… V.O. kept going strong and stronger during the pandemic. Advertisers had to pivot and adjust their messaging every month or two as we have made our way through the phases…the “in these unprecedented times” to “we’re in this together” to “OMG, get me out of here” … 

It has also been an interesting equalizer and opened up new ways of doing business… in the beginning, there was a mad rush from new people and a lot of established V.O. to get their home studios session ready and know how to run that session. And where previously a lot of work in animation and video games, for example, was only in major markets… because everyone is doing it virtually, there is more opportunity to do it from anywhere opening up.

I’ve only been to a studio for one commercial session and one audiobook session this whole year… everything else has been from my home studio… I’ve been the voice of Subaru for the last 8 years, and I work with the same wonderful Minneapolis engineers at Sister Boss… We meet on Zoom, and they run the session; the only difference, I record here and send the wav. file after we are done. For other clients such as Workday and Shaklee, we do Source Connect, and the engineer takes it all. And I’ve done directed sessions with Creative Team and Clients where I am recording and running the whole session, doing playback, and editing hero take. I have to say I’ve become a much better engineer because of it and have an even deeper appreciation for all sound engineers do!! In terms of expectations… clean, clear sound, fast, strong internet connection through ethernet (not WiFi), knowing how to have all of the preferences set for zoom and recording, and the ability to run the session if needed, not just follow instructions.

If any of the readers are interested in joining VO Dojo, how can they contact you & what kinds of classes do you offer? 

All things Dojo are on the website www.theVOdojo.com

And if you’d like to talk more you can set up a free 15-minute Voiceover Once Over Call to talk with one of the teams about where you are in your V.O. journey, where you’d like, and how we might be able to help you get there! https://www.appointmentcore.com/app/freeslots/hsfIKv3CMX

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