Here's something for you to hand your next door neighbor, postman, hairdresser - whoever - next time they say "Hey, I could do that.  How do you get started?

So You Want to be a Star  by Debora Duckett


There are a LOT of wannabe talents out there – from actors to dancers to musicians to artists of every type. I should know. I’ve owned a talent agency for almost 32 years. And I’ve seen or heard the best and the worst. So how do YOU realize your dream and take it to the next level?


Oh sure, you say. You live in Austin, Texas. How many “real” artists could you have possibly dealt with?  Well, I guess that depends on what you consider to be a “real” artist. My definition is a person who can make a decent living doing what they love to do. That doesn’t always translate to living in a Beverly Hills mansion. But it may get you reliable transportation, buy you a house, put your kids through school, take some cool vacations, and eventually retire without starving.


Sound good to you?  Then do your homework!  Learn about how to run your business. You ARE the business and business has little time for whiners.  Do you understand how to develop a marketing plan?  Do you have a working website? Do you understand how to put money away so when that record label disappears you can survive until the next one comes along?


I know, folks walk up to you all the time and say, “Wow, your daughter is sooooo cute. She should be in a film or doing commercials.” Or, “You’ve got a GREAT voice. You sound like an announcer. You should be on the radio.”


Those comments will get you into a legitimate agents door in about – well – I don’t know how to count the minutes in NEVER.  Do you have any experience? Have you taken classes or acted in community theater?


So - do you go it alone or look for an agent? If you want an agent have you been to their web site to see who else they rep?  What’s so special about you? What will an agent or ad agency or producer get from you that they can’t get from 1,000 other guys? Do you know how to submit? Should you do it through the web site, through the mail, just walk in?  What materials are needed? If it’s for voice over do you have a voice demo for all the categories in which you want to land jobs (game industry, IVR, commercials, political advertising, industrial to name a few)? And if you don’t know what those categories are why not? Isn’t this the industry you said you wanted to be in to fulfill your dreams? How about headshot and resume for on-camera work?  Do you have one for film/TV acting vs. commercial acting?  A modeling portfolio?  A live performance recording of you and the band? Photos of your band?



Do you know what the union rates are? AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists –, SAG (Screen Actors Guild – and AFM (American Federation of Musicians -  Do you know there are both regional and national rates? Do you know how and why those rates were developed? Do you know how they’re changing and why?


Or maybe you planned on just posting on a pay-to-play web site or Craigslist and hope to take any job at any rate to get you started. How many of you are now Googling pay-to-play?


Maybe you thought you’d call an agent or walk in the closest agent’s door and wow them with your greatness. Of course, it’s up to them after that. Isn’t that their job? Think again.


Learn the business before you submit.  Have great materials. Take classes. Understand who’s going to ultimately hire you and why your particular skill, look, sound is needed. Have a business plan. Have a niche. Then you’re looking at a win-win for everyone. And who knows – maybe you WILL be the next biggest thing since the invention of the Internet.

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Comment by Bill Pryce on February 1, 2012 at 2:08pm

Good stuff. Debora has been one of my agents for years now and she is as sharp as they come.

Comment by Virginia Hamilton on January 30, 2012 at 8:33pm

Debora--such fine points made.  Most of the time when people say to me that they want to do what I do... they don't really know what I do.  I don't know any career where you could walk in the door without some kind of training, some experience and leap up the rungs to the top of the ladder (or even half way up).  And today more than ever, "multi-tasking" is an understatement.  Anyone out there making a living doing vo these days must have skills in engineering, editing, directing, marketing even accounting! 

Comment by Brian Talbot on January 30, 2012 at 10:51am

If you want to be good at golf, you practice, get a coach and surround yourself with people who can make you better, but it is still up to you to make it happen. If you work hard enough and do the right things, you might actually go pro. Same with voice acting. Debora, you gave great advice and a realistic view of what it takes to make money in this business. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Rebecca Davis on January 27, 2012 at 12:35pm

Great article!  I actually got my voiceover career started in Austin!  So many opportunities there.  Is ADV films still around?  

Comment by Jennifer Sims on January 26, 2012 at 11:40pm

Hear, hear, Debora!  It's called show business - it's my responsibility as a voice over artist to do my homework, know the demands of the market and determine how I may be of service to my clients. 

Comment by Randye Kaye on January 26, 2012 at 5:01pm
great post! so many think it doesn't apply to them. I taught a VO marketing webinar and one attendee asked this question: "gee, couldn't I just get an agent and let them do the marketing for me?" I am totally serious.

Randye Kaye

Comment by dB Talent on January 26, 2012 at 4:04pm

Shane, I don't like to recommend any particular persons' class. There are good and not so good classes but you'll learn something from all of them. I DO think a general marketing class is the most helpful. And business classes. That's assuming you're already in the game and have good demos. Voice "actors" sell better for me than announcers but there's a place/need for them. Promos are another way to go. I do a lot of work with video games and that's another area. Pick an area (maybe start with commercials/conversational) and learn about that one area if you aren't already working. Don't start out being all things to all people.  And have separate demos for each category.  Best of luck.

Comment by Marty Moran on January 26, 2012 at 3:53pm

Nice article, Donna!

Comment by Shane E. Hays on January 26, 2012 at 3:52pm

Debra. Do you recommend any particular classes to "learn the business"?

Comment by Bob Wood on January 26, 2012 at 12:23pm

Great words of truth.

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