As someone with very few interesting traits - and a variety of profoundly boring ones* - I am fortunate to have made the acquaintance of a variety of very engaging folks. It occurs to me I should write about them more, so I'm going to try doing some more profiles on the site. Hence, this.
Back before my knee ass-ploded, I enjoyed a brief career as a mediocre recreational Ultimate Frisbee player. Despite being rather ineffective as a defensive mid-fielder, my days in the heady world of barely competitive frisbee did yield some new friendships. One of them was with Melissa Altro, who, in addition to being an all-around cool person, is also a professional voice actor. And, as she informed me a few weeks ago, is now running her own business aimed at helping aspiring voice actors break into the business. This all sounds pretty neat, so I thought I'd chat to her about it.
By way of an introduction, give us the 100 word Melissa Altro bio.
I've been using my voice to animate cartoon characters for over 15 years. I'm originally from Montreal, and since 1995 I've played 'Muffy' on the 4-Time-Emmy-Award winning program Arthur. I've also played a variety of leading roles in popular cartoon series like Grossology, World of Quest, Pippi Longstocking, Postcards From Buster, Z-Squad and Bolts and Blip(in production). I'm now sharing my industry experience with emerging artists through Voice Pro Studio by offering voice demo production, one-on-one voice coaching and animation voice workshops that focus on microphone technique, creating characters and taking in-studio direction.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: That's 93 words, in case anyone is taking the question really seriously.
So, in short, you know what's what when it comes to voice acting. In my casual flirtations with the acting world, it seems like "voice work" is a sort of mystical holy grail where the work is easy and the money is good. Two part question: how did you get into it, and is it the easy street everyone says it is?
This question makes me giggle…yes, the work is so much fun and yes, you are paid very generously. All that being said, it takes a lot of energy, technique and focus to deliver a respectable performance. I started when I was 12 years old back in Montreal and loved the work right from the start. I entertain myself daily with speaking in silly voices and creating vocal caricatures. As a voice actor, I get to work in the studio exploring different sounds, intentions and characters without having to actually look the part. That’s freedom if you ask me! I feel very fortunate to have been introduced to the industry at such a young age because it is a made up of a considerably small community of actors and it takes a lot of perseverance and talent to break into.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently recording my 14th season of Arthur as the role of Muffy Crosswire, the prissy yet lovable (I hope!) monkey. We are in the studio weekly and just finished recording our 177thepisode! It’s pretty incredible that the show is still so popular after all these years and that the quality of the program has stayed true to its high standard of providing educational television for children.
For the record, every show should have a "prissy yet lovable monkey". But say I want to get into voice acting.
Where do I start? By taking my workshop! Ha! Seriously though, it’s important to learn about the industryif you want to work in it,and a good way to do that is to take a workshop or some one-on-one coaching with an experienced professional. Then you should visit www.voicebank.net. This site hosts all the premier voice talent and their demos in North America and serves as a database for casting, producers and directors to hear talent. Creating a voice demo is definitely the next step. A voice demo is an invaluable tool to help you get an agent and to promote your abilities. Once you have an agent, you will be in a position to be posted on Voicebank and to be sent out for auditions.
Tell me about Voice Pro Studio.
Voice Pro Studio opened in the fall of 2009. I am very excited to respond to what I understand is a huge existing curiosity and desire by actors and non-actors alike to learn about the world of animation voice recording. Every time I meet somebody new and get asked the question “What do you do?” and I say “I do cartoons!” the response is always “Wow that is soooo cool!”, immediately followed by “I would love to do that. How do you get in to voice?” Voice Pro Studio is geared towards answering those questions by teaching emerging actors about the ins and outs of the industry and working towards the actor’s development of microphone technique,taking direction and the production of voice demos (which gets your voice heard).
What's next for you?
Well, right now I am delighted about the fact that my days are filled with working in the studio as a voice recording actor, instructor and demo producer. That being said, when the timing is right, I would love to move into the realm of voice directing and casting for animation series for television. I think that’s pretty exciting stuff.
*According to my girlfriend, whenever I start a sentence with "Well,...", you're in for a boring twenty minutes.