If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting to find out when the film and TV industry is going to start again and how they’ll go about it. The SAG-AFTRA guidelines for filming have finally been decided and put in place by unions, producers, studios and networks in the US. In Canada, BC is resuming filming, but ACTRA Toronto and the Quebec union (UDA) are still discussing safety protocols for actors.
What Will Acting in Film and TV Be Like?
The short answer is that it will be complicated and that it will take some getting used to. While the prospect of working again is exciting, it’s also a bit terrifying. As actors we’re on the frontlines and being on set will no doubt be more stressful than it already was. Everywhere in North America, social distancing, access to handwashing stations and sanitizer, along with the use of PPE equipment in all filming locations aside from the actual set, are policy. Be prepared to be reminded often of where you can go, what you should do, and when.
Keeping Actors Safe
In the US, the main strategy to keep actors safe is testing for Covid-19 (the fun nasopharyngeal kind) multiple times a week (thrice). In Quebec, you may be requested to do your own make-up and to use your own wardrobe. In Canada, travelling from other countries requires a 14-day quarantine before being able to work, effectively eliminating the possibility of being a local hire on short notice. The Canadian government isn’t allowing productions to shoot abroad either. In the US, aggressive testing negates the need for quarantining when coming from outside of California, but some states are requiring travelers to quarantine upon arrival on their grounds, so again, being a local hire in other states won’t necessarily be straightforward. In BC, testing will depend on the production company, and producers are asked outright to minimize the number of day players and background performers. Because more people means more danger, we can expect sets everywhere to be smaller. As you can imagine, incomes will dry up for many, even as sets resume activities.
Lastly, in all locations, unions are encouraging productions to conduct remote auditions, so to keep acting, you’ll need a reliable self-tape set up.
Voice Acting to Make Ends Meet
In this Return to Work pandemic environment, actors are being put to the test and for those without a “name” getting acting jobs may be more challenging than ever. This is where voice acting comes in. Note that in Quebec, recording Wallas (sound atmospheres for film and TV), which requires groups of voice actors to record and improvise together (loop groups) aren’t permitted. While this isn’t good for loop group actors, producers may decide to follow other part of the voice acting industry and resort to recording wallas from actor’s home studios. Nothing is impossible at this point.
The Pandemic: Bad for Most, Great for Voice Actors
Most parts of the voice acting industry have been quite busy during the pandemic and producers have been hiring voice actors with their own home VO studios. And it doesn’t look to slow down. Unions, especially in Canada, are encouraging producers to continue hiring voice actors from their home studios. In Quebec, if that’s impossible, ACTRA encourages voice actors to use their own headphones. But smartphone earbuds won’t do the trick. Since VO headphones should be professional-grade, why not equip yourself to record voice overs from home altogether?
While the Return To Work protocols may differ on different coasts and countries, once thing is for sure: making a living with your voice is one way to keep acting and earning a living safely, in the comfort of your own home. For one, the industry is still mostly working remotely, and since it was heading that way for some years, it’s quite likely that recording from home will simply be the norm for hereon.
How Can I Become a Voice Actor?
If you’d like what it takes to become a voice actor and stay in business, read my series of books about Voice Acting & Announcing. You’ll learn everything you need to know like what training you need, what kind of budget you should have, the important decisions you may need to make, recording and editing voice overs, building a VO studio, audio file formats and specifications, creating an effective recording workflow, best voice over business practices, and VO marketing.
If, at this point, you’re simply curious about voice acting equipment, here are some standard voice over equipment recommendations for you.
The pandemic may feel like life just threw us a huge lemon, but there’s always a silver lining. It’s up to us to find it and in this case act on it (no pun intended).