For a long time, voiceover agent Portia Scott thought it was her destiny to be an actress. She'd earned a master's degree in theater but decided her job as a development executive at Universal was a better fit. Then she dabbled in casting but scuttled that, too. So she was as surprised as anyone when she started representing both youth and adult actors doing voiceover work.
One day, while directing someone in a recording booth, it dawned on her — in a moment of clarity — that she'd found her dream job. "I realized that all the things I learned as an actor could be used in working with my clients," she says. "That's when the joy came. It was like, 'Oh! This is my path.'"
Now the director of voiceover at Coast to Coast Talent Group, Scott downloads roughly 800 auditions a day. Most run about a minute and twenty seconds, maybe a minute-forty for animation. Next comes the evaluating, evaluating, evaluating. Mostly she listens for range, depth, comedic skills and the ability to tell a story in a truthful way.
"Animation has shifted to a live-action [sound]," she says. "I'm looking for authenticity. If you're like, 'I can do all these funny voices!' I'm like, 'Fantastic. But are you an actor? Have you studied the craft? Do you understand it? Do you ask the right questions?' I can hear that."
Then comes the sorting phase: placing submissions in folders marked "Save," "Submit" and the trashcan-of-shattered-dreams folder called "Delete."
Back in March 2020, when Covid shut down most of Hollywood, Scott said the need for voice actors — for dubbing, voice matching, animation, videogames, you name it — grew exponentially. "I think that's because voiceover was all there was," she says, adding that her business is still about three times bigger than it was pre-pandemic.
Coincidentally, Coast to Coast had been urging its talent at least two years before lockdown to build home recording studios, even if that just meant a DIY padded closet with a pop filter and a fancy Sennheiser microphone. "I think that drove business through our doors," she says. "It was like, 'This agency is ready to go.'"
When it comes to diversity in voiceover, Scott sees a need for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC talent — and for representation in boss-lady positions as well. "I'm going to put that on the agency owner," says Scott, the only African-American woman in charge of a top division. "I know all the premier agents. I'm the only one giving face in this space. Expand your scope! Recruit!"
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #12, 2022, under the title, "Voice Vote."