To celebrate the release of Making Money In Your PJs, freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs, I organized a “Who-wants-to pick-Paul’s-brains contest.”
Today, I’m excited to introduce one of the winners. Her name is Perdita Lawton from the UK. She’s been a professional (voice) actor since June 2006. The photo she sent me immediately stood out, and I had to know the story behind the picture. Perdita:
“The picture was taken on my first scuba diving holiday in Malta. One of the dives was near the set of the 1980’s film Popeye starring Robin Williams. It was taken during a surface interval (to allow residual nitrogen to be absorbed). I thought it was a perfect setting, and time to read your book while taking a picture.”
When and how did you know that you wanted to become a (voice) actor? Who inspired you?
“I guess it was in training at drama school that I realised it was an equal option to theatre, television and film acting. My tutors often told me my vocal work was very strong, and a tutor and mentor Pal Aron (a professional actor) told me to get a demo done as it’s another string to an actors bow. Pal was an inspiration as well as the late Daws Butler, Nancy Cartwright, and Michael Winslow (Larvelle Jones in Police Academy). As a child I watched that series in awe of Michael’s talent!”
A lot of VO artists have a radio background. What’s yours? What kind of training did you have?
“My radio background was limited. I did a few weeks of work experience when I was 15 at a hospital radio station, and then a local radio station respectively. I really loved radio work but focused more on stage acting as I’d got the bug. I went to University where I studied English and Drama, and then I went to drama school. Vocal training involved accent, and general voice classes where you focus on breathing, pitch, tone, resonance, and projection for the stage.”
Do you have a niche, and if so, how would you describe it?
“I think a niche of mine is definitely character and animation voices, I especially enjoy doing eccentric and comedic characters. My range gets wider the more I practice and it seems to be scoring jobs in that market.”
What came first for you: voice acting or on-camera/stage acting?
“Professional stage and screen acting came first, then voice acting came due to circumstances. My late father invested money in some amazing equipment for me so I could set up my own studio in the house, while caring for him as I couldn’t commit to work away from home.”
Do you think on-camera/stage actors have a tendency to underestimate voice-over work? If so, why do you think that is?
“I think most drama schools teach vocal work, so for a lot of actors, the training is already there, and they appreciate how hard it is to convey a message and character just through the medium of voice without a physical form. They do however underestimate us being a ‘one man band’ as described in your book. They certainly underestimate the cost, marketing, business skills and technical knowledge required for a professional home set up (without paying a professional).”
How do you land jobs in this very competitive industry?
“I started getting jobs on a Pay-to-Play site. This got me a body of work built up which lead to an agent, and now I’ve got returning clients as well as new ones from the Pay-to-Play site. I’m also recently scoring some big auditions from my agent.”
What project or projects are you most proud of and why?
“I’m actually very proud of what I did Tuesday. It’s the biggest step on the ladder so far. It’s an award-winning Polish animation that’s being dubbed into English, and I’ve voiced the lead female role along with a few smaller roles.
I spent the day with a great audio engineer directing me, and we had great fun doing so, the ‘Auntie Hen’ character I play is hilarious as are the storylines. Animation voice acting is similar to pantomime. You have to go as large as possible, and I really like that.”
What has been your greatest obstacle/challenge in your career, and how did you overcome it?
“My greatest obstacle was getting work initially. It’s the catch 22, that I’m sure many have experienced. Without experience you aren’t offered work which prevents you from getting experience. I overcame it by getting local experience voicing newspapers, and magazines for the blind. I also make my own clips when I have time, and post them on SoundCloud, social media and my website. It allows me to be creative, whilst keeping my tools sharp, and lets people see I’m active. The dating.com girls are probably my creative highlight.”
How do you approach your auditions, and how do you deal with not being selected?
“I approach auditions making sure I’ve done everything in my control to get the job: I’ve warmed up, stayed away from dairy products, and done my research on the production/company/writer or whatever may be useful to know. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I also never take rejection personally. What is for you will not pass by you, and just because you weren’t right for one voice over job doesn’t mean you won’t be right for another. The world is subjective, and it would be a boring place if we all liked the same thing!”
Tell me about your ambition. What would you really love to do, professionally speaking, and how are you working toward that goal?
“My voice acting ambition is to be England’s answer to Nancy Cartwright. I’m working towards that by getting my cartoon video seen by as many people as possible. It’s already attracted clients as well as making people laugh which is awesome.”
And lastly, back to Making Money In Your PJs. What has been your biggest take-away? Why should colleagues read it?
“There are several take-aways. It was so good, I re-read it to answer these questions to the best of my ability!
My primary light switch moment was about asking for a testimonial at the same time as agreeing to the job. I’ve been chasing after testimonials for ages with no joy. As soon as I’d read that chapter I had a job come through, and I put it in my terms of agreement, and they were happy to oblige.
Also customizing each and every demo, and not playing safe with demos too, knowing my worth and value, how to chase clients that haven’t paid and asking for a raise. I may get the Freelance Creed printed to keep in my studio.
Colleagues should read this because it’s seasoned advice from a professional, mixed with an amazingly positive attitude, and with tips that really work!”
Many thanks, Perdita!
You can follow Perdita on Twitter @LittleMissVO, and on her website at www.perditalawton.com.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Be Sweet. Please retweet!
Ted Mcaleer says
What a wonderful interview, and it offers such a unique perspective to mine. Her background is a lot different to a lot of ours yet, in her acting experiences, the one thing she hit was “How do you do the business of “Business””. Anyone in business for themselves can take the information, apply it and see immediate results. It’s become my go to “Open book and pick a chapter…” Required reading for me.
Paul Strikwerda says
Good point, Ted. Going to drama school definitely has its advantages from an artistic and technical point of view. But just like many conservatories, graduating students are usually ill-prepared to treat their career as a business. I’ve seen many talented people fail because of this, and mediocre talent succeed.
J. Christopher Dunn says
Not only a fun interview to read, but an amazing testimonial for your book, Paul. Perdita seems like she’s got the perfect mindset for taking on the world of voice acting. Her determination really shines through in her responses.
Paul Strikwerda says
You’re absolutely right, Christopher. I predict that she’ll have an American agent in no time. The sky is the limit for this girl!