Have you ever wondered what happens when over 800 voice actors meet for a long weekend <gasp> IN PERSON?! From March 23-26 I got a front row seat to the 10th anniversary, sold out VO Atlanta conference — the triumphs, the challenges, and the hordes of introverts navigating their sociability.
So… What is VO Atlanta?
VO Atlanta is a conference started 10 years ago by Gerald Griffith for voiceover artists of all genres, from animation to medical e-learning. Now spouses J. Michael and Anna Collins run VO Atlanta! It has grown to become “the industry’s touchpoint for building community bonds and discussing the most important issues” facing voice actors today. It’s 3 ½ days of seminars, breakout sessions, exhibits with prominent names (and voices) in the industry. Oh, and there’s karaoke.
The One… The Only…
To start things off with a bang, the keynote speaker was none other than the illustrious Debra Wilson — yes THAT Debra Wilson. She’s Daisy Duck, she’s Grandma Shark, she’s the voice you hear in a ton of video games including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Halo Infinite, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Y’all, she’s an absolute inspiration. I have a huge crush on people who can speak in public and particularly without notecards being clutched in their clammy hands. (I mean, that’s never happened to ME, but maybe, I dunno, a friend told me what that’s like.) She gloriously reminded the rapt audience about the kindness and generosity found within the VO community, likening them to “carnies” who pull together to get the job done, even if their time together is brief. Lastly, Debra’s advice to us all was to pursue the craft of voice acting as an au pair instead of a babysitter. Both care for children, but only one learns about their charges, plans for play, and provides the nurturing necessary for the children to thrive.
Knock, Knock… Who’s There?
So with a conference as well known as VO Atlanta is, you’re undoubtedly going to see some big-name talent. Here’s just a smattering of the 130+ speakers and presenters you might have encountered:
Animation: Lori Alan (SpongeBob SquarePants), Katie Leigh (Gummi Bears), Bill Farmer (the current voice of Goofy), Daniel Ross (Donald Duck/Gremlins), Melissa Disney (As Told by Ginger), Abigail Estrella (Alice’s Wonderland Bakery), Deb Munro (Dragonball), Melique Berger (Rick & Morty)
Video Games: Dave Fennoy (The Walking Dead), Michael Scott (The Callisto Protocol), Victoria Atkin (Assassin’s Creed), Julia Bianco Schoeffling (Casting Director, Gotham Knights), Elley Ray Hennessey (Cookie Run: Kingdom)
A number of agents and casting directors gave their time to present and give feedback, as well as VOs from audiobooks, commercials, narration, and promos. All of the sessions were geared towards teaching VO artists of all levels ways to grow in both their craft and careers.
No, There is Too Much… Let Me Sum Up
One of the greatest takeaways from a conference like this is reinforcing your belief that the voiceover industry is one of the kindest, most generous, most supportive communities out there.
A great example of that generosity is demonstrated through the Unicorn Award, which is bestowed to a VO who has donated their time and energy towards giving back to the community. I found myself overwhelmed by not only the philanthropy of the nominees, but the prizes that were donated to the nominees and the winner, which ended up having a value in the tens of thousands. The winner of the award was Jeff Gelder, and please take some time to look up his charity (holidaymagiccd.com) that benefits hospitalized children.
But overall, if you are an aspiring or experienced voice actor, VO Atlanta and conferences like it are a great springboard for learning and networking. I laughed (a lot), I cried (just a little), I got hit by the world’s most aerodynamic mouse pad (thank you George the Tech). Amazing times all.