You might not recognize Sarah’s gorgeous face, but you might have heard her in a McDonald’s commercial, in movie promos, or yelling at you in your favorite video game. Today, she’s telling us how she fell into this career, the weirdest sounds she has to make as part of her job, and how she takes care of her voice!
Hear Sarah’s voice over reel here.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hello – I’m Sarah Sido, a voiceover artist and actor. I’m originally from Vermont but have lived in Los Angeles for quite some time now. My age? I’m a grown-up and if it’s alright with you I’m going to leave it at that. Not because I have an issue with age but just because it’s helpful to be able to play quite a range in my business and sometimes too much specificity can get in the way of people’s imaginations.
Most of my non-work hours these days are spent with my son, exploring the many parks, playgrounds, and museums of the city or re-reading our favorite books.
For those of us who don’t know, what does a voiceover artist do?
Basically, anytime you hear a voice in media without seeing an actor, that is a voiceover (with the exception of radio DJs or the news, that’s a whole different thing). Voiceover work can happen in animation, video games, radio and television commercials, tv shows, movies, movie trailers, industrials, you name it.
We tell stories, sell things, impart information, just as on camera actors do, but we need to communicate it all with our voices alone.
What qualities make for a good voiceover artist?
I think the biggest misconception about voiceover work is that one must have a certain kind of voice, that sort of “voice of god” authority voice, to be in the business. While those sorts of jobs certainly exist, every type of voice is needed in the industry.
What the voiceover artist brings to their work is an understanding of their specific voice and how to use it, an ability to follow direction, and a desire and adeptness at communicating the thoughts behind the words. Like any profession that deals with clients, being great to work with, punctual and fun should be part of the package.
Tell us how you ended up working as a voiceover artist.
My entree into voiceover work was actually pretty silly and grew out of me making a total rookie mistake. I was in New York City pursuing acting work. I was looking for on camera agents and I mailed off my headshot and resume to a whole bunch of them, but failed to thoroughly do my homework first and sent one of my packets to a voiceover agent. He must have been having an incredibly slow day because he called me to tell me about my mistake.
After speaking on the phone for a few minutes, he complimented my voice and suggested I look into doing voiceover work. He told me that if I put a demo reel together he would happily listen to it and consider representing me. Well, I was young and hungry so I immediately set about getting myself into a class and putting a demo together. I had a bit more beginners luck when the teacher of my class put me up for a job and I booked the whole campaign.
I then went back to the agent, who I must have reached on a busy, stressed out day, because he totally dismissed me even though I was now reaching out with the right materials. But with these in hand I quite quickly found a wonderful voiceover agent, and I’ll forever be grateful to the man who took the time to call that day and set me off on this path.
Tell us about an average day on the job.
Well, there are really two types of days on the job, even though you only get paid for one of them. Some days you audition and some days you go record for a client. The later are technically your work days, but auditioning also has to be regarded as work and you will spend far more time doing that than actual gigs.
My auditions usually fit into just a portion of my day. I have wonderful agents, and they usually contact me in the afternoon about something that needs to be recorded the next day, though occasionally there is a last minute piece of copy that needs my attention immediately. I sometimes record at home on a simple set up – an innovation of the last few years that makes life incredibly easy – and sometimes I need to go to either my agency or a casting director’s office in order to audition.
I actually really love to audition. A teacher of mine a long time ago talked about it as “an opportunity to perform” and that is how I think about it every time. All the different ways in which I do it have their perks – being at home is super convenient, but going out to the offices gives me the opportunity to catch up and nurture important relationships with my team.
A day with a booking is always exciting to me. They almost always take place at a recording studio where you might meet the director, the writer and the client, though sometimes some or all of those people are not actually there, but are listening in through a phone patch or will have the completed project sent to them. A session can be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours long, depending on the material. Your job is to give them what they want, in the time they need, and play – bringing something exciting/surprising to the table is as important as showing up on time.
And in reality, there is a third type of day too – one in which you have no auditions or paid gigs. Being able to handle those days without dropping into a spiral of worry that you will never work again is just as important to your long-term voiceover career as the other two. So get together with friends or family, cook, go outside, read in your pajamas all day, something to make you feel good about this crazy, unpredictable path you have chosen.
What’s been your favorite gig so far? The strangest? The most challenging?
This is a hard question for me to answer because I quite honestly have loved every day I have spent in the booth. I feel incredibly lucky to work in this field. One of my favorite gigs is also my least flashy. A local ad agency has been calling me in for over seven years now to do regional McDonald’s spots. Regional spots don’t make the kind of money that national ones do and they don’t have the cache of a big film or video game, but I get to see the same people every time and I absolutely adore them. I’m also so flattered by their loyalty.
Another favorite definitely also counts as one of my most challenging. I did VO work for the promos for “Team America, World Police”. Often with VO work, you lay down the track first and then the graphics or animation is created to your timing, but with Team America, the filming of the marionettes was all finished and we had to basically lip synch to the puppets. A really fun challenge and I loved being a part of that film.
The strangest has to be video games. Often, after you finish recording your lines the director will walk you through a series of “efforts” where they give you prompts and then you create sounds. For example, “Let me hear a hard punch and then two kicks”. You then make the sounds (and often the movements, if that helps you be accurate) of your character punching and kicking. Or maybe it’s you being punched and kicked or you drowning in your own blood and you proceed to make those sounds. Sometimes you do this for hours on a video game. I always have moments in the midst of this that I have to laugh that this is my “day at the office”.
How do you take care of your voice and vocal chords? How do you deal if you find yourself catching a cold, etc?
Drinking enough liquids is so important, especially if you have a video game booking like I described above. I drink a lot of water and herbal tea with honey before, during and after a booking. I try to get enough rest and generally take care of myself. Obviously, no smoking. I have a bit of a scratchy voice and that is part of what people hire me for, so I’m not trying to do away with that but I want to keep as much range as possible. I do vocal warm-ups before jobs and any audition that requires it.
I tend to be a natural remedy person, so the onset of a cold is usually met with me making some sort of drink – hot water, honey, lemon, cayenne, and ginger are favorites. Herbal teas for your throat can be really helpful. In general I’m an omnivore but I will do away with dairy if I feel something coming on. Coffee can dry out your throat, so I keep that to a minimum.
If it’s serious and I have a booking coming up, I’ll do whatever is needed, including medication. It can be stressful to have a component that is out of your control but totally central to your ability to do the job. I just do what I can to stay healthy.
Do you anticipate doing this long term?
Can you share one thing that you’ve learned on the job that we could all use in our daily life?
You are uniquely you and that is why you will be hired. It is also why you will be utterly wrong for some jobs. And that is ok. You cannot and should not try to please everyone. The creative director at my super loyal client says he brings me in when he needs a sarcastic girl or to bring on the sexy. Awesome.
Can I also be the happy upbeat girl, the voice of authority, the mom, the sales pitch? I think so, but I am so delighted that he has a type that when he needs it, he thinks of me, that I would never try to convince him I can be all those other things. I explore my range within my auditions and work, but no matter what I’m playing, I am in there.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Sarah! Do you guys have any questions for her?
P.S. True story: I’m a hand model (!!)
P.P.S. If you want a behind-the-scenes peek at what it’s like to be a working actress in Hollywood, you’ll love Sarah’s bi-monthly emails. Super interesting!