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Q&A with Stevie Vallace

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VO Atlanta 2014 is proud to offer a special program at our conference designed specifically for young people.  We will be putting 100% into providing young attendees a unique and exciting experience. Our Youth Leader is none other than Emmy Award Winner Stevie Vallance. Young people will train with industry experts and have the chance to meet people that work with some of the largest and most respected companies in the world.

Here’s a Q & A with Stevie Vallance:

Q. What are the differences in working with children vs. working with adults in the VO industry?

A. I think adult actors are awesome and time-wise they make my job easier. This is a FAST MOVING INDUSTRY (not like ‘on-cam’ where there’s lots of sitting around). Creatively speaking, however, kids are often more accessible.  They don’t have ‘bad habits’ or I should say ‘tricks’ that have worked for them, in the past, on other shows. They are ego-less, fresh, natural and spontaneous. Adults sometimes have it figured out already and so they can’t even hear the direction. I love kids’ attitudes because they just do it and often take direction very well — IF they can listen. The problem I have the most with directing kids is keeping their attention focused for many hours.

Q. What opportunities are available now in the VO industry for youth?

A. There is plenty of demand but not many can do it. They love to use real kids, but sometimes it’s a hassle with school, guardians, teachers, and union regulations, so they will use adult women to play boys/girls (i.e. Nancy Cartwright/Bart Simpson brought that out of the bag). I love using real kids on my shows, however, because they have their own cadence and rhythm to their speech that is very fresh and hard to imitate. They instinctively know what’s new and edgy and what words are ‘in’. I would cast a ‘real’ kid over an adult anytime if they can keep up to the pace, which means being able to read well and stay focused for 4 hour sessions, which is often hard for kids.

The Disney Jr. show I just finished (Guess How Much I Love You) wanted ‘real’ kids for the leads and it was hard to find them. I looked everywhere in LA and elsewhere. Once you do cast them, however, they will work on EVERYTHING, because everyone will hear about it and say, “Hey, I want that kid on Stevie’s show”.

Q. What are 3 things parents should know when looking to get their kids into the VO industry?

A. Find the right Agent – someone who understands voice-over acting is not about ‘voice’, it’s about ‘good acting’; an agent who is not going to hassle the producers. This will turn them off and they will use an adult, or another child with a cool parent, if the parent is pressuring them about time, etc. I’m not saying take advantage of the kid, but what I’m saying is, understand a LOT is going on during these sessions, and it’s not all about your kid. It’s naive to think there’s a lot of money — especially in a show that’s just in its first or second season.

Be low maintenance. Be cool. Be ‘behind the scenes’ and be a good parent who prepares toys and video games and homework during the ‘down time’ that a child is alone in the booth. Be ready to be there to tutor him/her, if necessary. Be a good baby-sitter and don’t shuffle this off on the voice-director. It’s NOT THEIR JOB!!!

Get a fabulous demo! You will be ahead of the game if you do. No kids have demos for voice-over. Make sure it’s not long. Watch ‘R U Tooned In?’on YouTube, for more tips on ‘how to make a demo’. There are lots of tips on energy and ‘using your body’, etc.

Just an extra tip: Get your child in an acting class and, even better, get them enrolled in an ‘improvisation’ class so they can begin to create characters. While it’s true, we most likely cast an adult for the ‘other’ roles; it will give your child an edge if they can do multiple roles. i.e., the cat or dog role, the ‘other’ teen, play opposite genres to themselves (boy play girls and girls play boys ALL the time so they can’t be hung up about feeling foolish with this aspect).

Q. What are your expectations for the VO 2014 Conference?

A. I’m excited about the conference because I’m always searching for great child actors for my bosses. The parents would need to move to LA for the duration of the show, if their child got cast, because it’s a myth that we would pick up their lines over a ISDN or whatever. That doesn’t really happen unless you’re a star and you happened to be out of town for a day or two. We prefer ensemble casts — all in the same room. The producer often makes appearances at the Records so they can meet and know the Talent in their shows. A ‘Company-record’ provides a synergy that can’t be matched if someone has their lines picked up from another location. They simply won’t be cast if they aren’t willing to be in the city the show is recording in. Of course there are exceptions to this, but I’m talking about ‘union’ shows that make you 70 grand for 1 role in ‘4 hours’ work a week. When everyone’s together as a Company, lots of improvisation can happen — stuff the playwright didn’t write — and the actors play off each other. Bottom line… I hope to meet some fresh young talent and tell my bosses about them. ~VO2104~

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