Interview with a Voice Over Pro – Peter Kent
Melbourne Voice Over Actor – Peter Kent
The Melbourne voice over community has always been filled with talented, warm and generous people – voice over seems to attract them!
One of my favourite voice actors in Melbourne is Peter Kent.
To say he was an all-rounder would be an understatement – his skills as a voice performer are pretty amazing!
I wanted you to meet him, so I threw a bunch of questions at him about his life in voice over.
I’d love you to tell us how you got your start in the business?
My first encounter with the voice over world was when I was doing some acting back in the 1980s.
I read a few commercials back in the era when sound recording was done to tape and editing was a very hands-on process involving a razor blade!
I then moved away from that world for a few years to run an advertising and desktop publishing business with my partner, before deciding in 1997 that I wanted to give the voice over thing a proper go.
I knew I had a natural talent for character voices and I gradually learnt the ropes through my first few jobs. I got the jobs with the help of a self-produced demo CD and some good old-fashioned cold calling and networking from an initial list of contacts and studios.
It took a while to develop some initial momentum, and then things kicked off a bit more as I got to my second demo.
It contained samples of actual client jobs I’d done and helped to fuel the word-of-mouth referrals.
What kind of work are you cast for?
All sorts – TV and radio ads are the staple, along with Audio Visual narrations for TV shows, DVDs, documentaries and corporate and training videos for websites, animations and occasional live gigs at corporate events.
I named my voice over business ‘Kent A Crowd’ because I’m particularly known for my flexibility with accents and characters, so I often get called in for things like the big movie trailer voice, or a celebrity “sound-alikes”, or sports commentator and newsreader style voices, etc.
Do you have an agent?
I’ve been self-represented until now, as it’s suited me to manage myself.
However, this may change, as I’ve been revising options lately due to developments with my other vocational interests in vocal coaching and writing – I’ve recently self-published my first book.
Do you have a home studio and how much do you use it?
Yes, and I have done a few jobs that way but only a small percent. I generally prefer going to a studio and being able to concentrate just on the voice component, rather than also having to handle the recording and editing.
Also, because my studio isn’t fully sound proof, I’ve sometimes had challenges with the odd barking dog or nearby chainsaw.
So these days, if the client wants me to arrange the recording as well as the voice over, I have the option of using a fully decked out associate studio just 5 minutes away from me.
How do you market yourself…your voice?
I generally send out an introductory email which has attached to it a couple of mp3 demo files, as well as PDF’s of a written list of the voices I do plus a short bio.
I’m also currently looking at putting this stuff online (via a website or possibly Facebook), so that it can be accessible via a link to one place.
How often do you update or make a new demo?
Funny you should ask, as I am currently working on a new demo update as we speak.
I’ve only done a few updates over the years. The demo I did fairly early on has served well for quite a while, and more recently I produced an additional demo in the form of a ‘voiceover postcard’.
I love your ‘postcard’ – it’s brilliantly put together, and totally entertaining. Peter wrote and created this ‘spoof’ on all things voice over to send to Studios in the summer break, to let them know that he was not on holiday. Have a listen to this piece of solid voice over marketing.
What is the wackiest piece of direction you were ever given?
My favourite would have to be “Can you give it to us again, this time restrained but zany … kind of held back but out there”.
Can you tell us about one of the worst jobs you ever did?
Probably the worst job I’ve done was a 3 hour stint in a booth literally no bigger than a broom closet with no ventilation, reading line after line of single phrase responses for interactive computer video games (“I’m sorry, try again” … “Better luck next time” … “Congratulations, you got it right!”… etc.).
After 15 minutes in there you could have counted the oxygen molecules on one hand.
As a result of the accumulating CO2 levels, my brain started to misfire and malfunction and I was mashing up simple syllables and reading words that weren’t there!
What have you loved working on lately?
I’ve recently enjoyed voicing a kids TV show called ‘We’re Talking Animals’, which required a narration style somewhere between David Attenborough and Jeremy Clarkson, and also doing a range of character voices for animals like elephants, giraffes and wombats, which was a lot of fun!
Last year I also got to be the villain in a cartoon animation for kids called ‘The Jar Dwellers’, which has aired on Channel 10 in Australia and in other parts of the world.
This was a great opportunity to do a slightly hammy ‘mad professor voice’ for 52 episodes. It was also great because it involved full days in the studio with a bunch of other voice actors, which creates a nice team/ensemble environment.
Yes, Peter, ‘Jar Dwellers’ is fabulous – its an international production made here in Melbourne by Viskatoons. I love your villain. Here’s a link to a promo vid for the series – you’ll spot the villain straight off.
What do you notice has changed in voice over in the past 5 years?
There’s more internet-based work and with production technology becoming more and more available in our modern communications-orientated world. And there’s an increasing number of people producing audio-visuals.
Do you have any advice you’d like to pass on to those working in voice over or wanting to build a career?
Breath is the foundation, so keep it deep and stay connected to it – always stay relaxed.
Remember that ‘less is often more’ and be mindful of unnecessary projection or effort.
Get in touch with the core of your natural voice, rather than getting caught on trying to emulate what you think is ‘voice-overy’.
Allow yourself a good warm up … get the resonance going beforehand so you can walk in confident and ready to do your thing.
Stay professional and personable, and even if it’s a challenging situation, don’t get flustered, apologetic or self-critical.
And finally, as the great Elizabethan voiceover actor William Shakespeare said, ‘be yourself’.
*Thanks Abbe for having me in your interview series. It’s been good to focus on these questions and be reminded of the things I’m thankful for about this unique and wonderful job.
It’s been my pleasure Pete!