Hello! I’m Vera Tan, a Singaporean Australian voice actor, and I’ve been doing this for about 1.5 years, but I’ve been singing for 10 to 15 (depending on whether you think just practicing without classes counts)! It’s pretty common for a lot of voice actors to have a background in music and theatre. I’m also an artist!
1.What inspired you to become a voice actor?
Funnily, the very first flames of inspiration didn’t come from any big shows I watched as a kid, or games I played, it was through YouTube series I would watch as a kid, where the actors would hang out outside of work because they were friends, and I just thought that was cool. Honestly I just wanted to be in some of these, and some really cool Abridged like DBZA, I really never thought I would be in like, actual games and animation. Lots of my fellows have aimed high from the start, but honestly I’m just glad to be here.
2.Can you describe your process for preparing for a voice acting role?
To be honest, after the audition, I completely forget about things until I’m either contacted or, sometimes, sent a rejection email. My memory is truly awful. Once I get confirmation, I have my own personal documentation where I note down contact details of the casting/voice director, character, project, payment, and put the session details in my calendar to remind me of when it all is! Here’s an example of what I note down (with payment removed of course, but don’t worry, this is all released now and you can see it here). (Also all the info there is 100% public, it’s all good)
Sometimes, we’re given some information to prepare with, usually the art of the character, if any, the script, any character descriptions provided, or get any DAWs/Plugins needed. For a role with singing, I had to get the trial version of Logic Pro and another plugin to allow the producer to control my DAW remotely so they could engineer my session, but in my limited experience this isn’t super common. Sometimes other than the audition, we don’t know anything until the session, including what the character might look like (for real, I’ve received a proxy of the character art as opposed to the actual art) and the script itself.
The only other option is to prepare for the session itself! Usually this just means taking care of your voice (no coffee, dairy, fried stuff, drink water, eat honey, stuff like that), waking up early to make sure your voice is awake, if you’re like me and all the sessions are early in the morning because you’re Australian, and making sure all your equipment is in working order!
3.What has been your biggest challenge as a voice actor and how have you overcome it?
Sometimes I question what I’m doing with my life when I wake up at 4am to prepare for a session at 5am and the existential dread from the late night hasn’t faded. Coaching and classes during times in the US are all at like, 3am to 7am, which sucks because I’m the kind of person to sleep at 3am to 7am because I’m a night owl.
I have ADHD, which also means I put off things I should do sometimes, like cold emailing, researching people to cold email, and sometimes the administrative work that I so love to add to for the sake of record keeping and organisation.
I’m also a cheapskate, and you don’t want to be a cheapskate while being a voice actor because to get good audio, you have to pay good prices. By good I mean good for Bunnings because I’ve probably spent like $400+ there just putting together my booth (Thanks Mr. Bunnings). Also to get good at making good audio, you need training a lot of the time, which also costs money because, well, you can’t just take up someone’s time for free when they’re working.
TLDR; High costs, high involvement (my sleep schedule has never been more insane), and high, um, outside-of-booth-hours in order to try and get more in-booth-hours.
But it’s fine because aside from the money exiting my bank account at Mach 1, I’m actually quite happy with the rest of it since I never had much of a sleep schedule to begin with!
4.Can you tell us about a particularly memorable project you’ve worked on and why it stands out to you?
There’s a LOT, but if we’re talking meaningful, I would say Mythic Meetup by Heartmoor Studios. This was a jam game for Otome Jam 2022, and so it was a relatively short term project.
This was one of the first, and few projects where I saw so much of myself in a character, the character being Lan (BestestBB). This was the first role where I’d get to use Chinese, my mother tongue that I’ve kinda lost the ability to speak (Being an immigrant is a whole other story), and her personal struggles with her family, the expectations of partners as an asexual person, and in many cases, objectification, were something I never had the chance to fully explore in myself, and this feeling reminded me of why I’d wanted to act in the first place. I wanted to know about my own nature, and the nature of other people, which is kinda selfish, but it’s something I’ve always been interested in as a customer and consumer.
This feeling, I feel, is the crux of acting. You understand the struggles and joys of your character so much that it simply is you. There’s a line in BB’s route where the you, player tells them to stop saying they’re broken when they’re not, and when BB replies “You don’t know what you’re talking about”, that’s just me saying it. That’s what makes it more real, even if BB, and the events of the game aren’t.
5. How do you handle the pressure of performing in front of a microphone?
Honestly, I grew up performing. I started singing at 4, and has my first performance at 5. As a child, I’ve had some interviews, some recording sessions in studios, for singing, and you simply just get used to performance. It’s basically second nature to me at this point, hell sometimes, I like it!
Behind the mic, you can hear yourself exactly as you sound. Because we don’t sound like what we do when we hear ourselves speaking normally, we sound exactly the way we sound specifically through a Neumann TLM103.
Jokes aside, it can be very jarring to hear yourself through a microphone, because it’s not like, a naturally occurring way we usually hear ourselves. Even me hearing myself sing on recording, or just hearing myself practise for a decade could not prepare me for the feeling of hearing myself act.
Once you get used to that, you probably have some live sessions with directors or classes at some point, which is somehow a magnitude worse, because unlike singing, acting flourishes when the emotions are as raw, and natural as possible, unlike music where you practise the piece in and out for ages.
But for the most part, directors, engineers, and of course, teachers, are here to help, are here to get the best possible product collaboratively. They’re working with you, and if they’re truly great, can help you really loosen up and get rid of those nerves. If I’m feeling any of it, I’ll just chat to whoever’s directing me, get to know them, how they work, when we’re setting up, so that we work even better when the recording actually starts! Sometimes just a quick greeting can make the difference between making things a little awkward, or a good time.
Ultimately, we’re all just people, so there’s no point putting anyone on a pedestal, especially if you guys are working on something together.
6.Can you share any advice for aspiring voice actors just starting out in the industry?
Well as a fairly new person to the industry, I would say, don’t let a large amount of auditions, or even other actors you know or think have auditioned for a particular project stop you. As long as you fit the specs, and can act well, you lose absolutely nothing by giving it a shot. That’s the most basic advice I can give.
Specifically, communicating clearly and promptly with project managers, and directors is really important! You should be honest with them, and describe any difficulties you might have, or some questions you might have. And be friendly. Being friendly has actually gotten me places. Not fake friendly. Just genuinely friendly and helpful. When I say we’re all people, I also mean that you shouldn’t see them as stepping stones, or tools. The more you give, the more you receive in turn, be it support, advice, recommendations for jobs, so on.
The voiceover community is SMALL. It is incredibly small, speaking as someone who’s been an artist online for almost 8 years now. People remember things, and everyone knows each other, so if you help out others, people are more likely to remember that about you. If you’re known for grifting, or being shallow, or for some other negative thing, people will remember that about you too.
7.Can you tell us about a time when you had to adapt to a new character or voice?
Gosh, I remember a time where I was cast for a character whose voice reference is Raven from Teen Titans, and I think my soul almost left my body because A) I didn’t think I was gonna get this one at all, and B) If you know what I sound like, you know I’m a little squeaker. I had to get used to a new placement, using vocal fry, sounding dead on the inside (I may be dead on the inside but I sure as hell don’t sound like it), but my experience in singing actually made it so much smoother for me, since my training was in classical/musical theatre, which means I can use different parts of my voice in different ways very easily.
Which is why I also recommend singing training to anyone out there who wants to get better control of their voice, because you can get a new character just by switching from chest register to head register, by shifting how high and low your voice is, if there’s texture or vocal fry, and so on. Also with classical singing, you can learn how to roll your Rs for all the Italian pieces, which is not only useful for comedic effect, but also very fun to do for no reason in particular.
8. How do you stay motivated and engaged during long recording sessions?
Honestly, you have to be on the ball the whole time, which is great because I’m at the point in my career where I do get live sessions every now and again, but not as often as I would want, which is all the time.
I have been described to have “an infinite amount of energy” and when I was recording at 5am with someone in New Jersey, the director had to get a cup of coffee to try and match my energy. Honestly, I felt a little bad because…do I have too much energy? But apparently it was a good thing because it kept us both motivated, so the real question you should be asking is how do you pretend you’re a normal amount of energetic during long recording sessions.
For a serious answer, try to eat about 2 hours before, just so you have something in your system, and making sure you have no stomach sounds while recording is also really important anyway. Coffee is still a no before sessions, so please, try to avoid that as much as possible. Eat, make sure you hydrate throughout the session, make sure you’re taking direction well, and thinking about how to make your takes varied and interesting.
9.Can you tell us about an experience you had while working on a project where you had to improvise or come up with an unexpected solution?
Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever had to do anything too crazy yet, but with my booth, I had to make a tiny 35cm by 30cm space with 2 bookshelves, my apartment came furnished (poorly), three massive canvas paintings, copies of Canterbury Classic’s Ancient Greek Philosophy and the Complete Novels of Jane Austen, a random piece of PDF, my Chinese painting mat, and and my iPad and Apple Pencil boxes. Because my landlord had neglected to consider that some of us might need wardrobes.
Dubbing in that booth made me want to cry, but as I said, I’m a cheapskate, I like cheap things and not spending money. But after recording for AFK Arena in those conditions, I resolved to just build a damn booth, because at that point, I was pretty fed up with my shoulder touching the wall. Physicality is important to voiceover performances as well, so I made my piece with the price.
10.Can you share a funny or interesting story from your time as a voice actor?
So, in a live-action movie that I dubbed, a friend was directing me, and, we found out, after I had finished recording 1.6k words (Dubbing takes like, at least double the time of just, regular recording so let’s be generous with my mental stability at this point in the session), we both realised that one of the extra characters I play actually talks to the character I recorded for, and they’re both yelling, which is awful.
I don’t know if you’ve heard every single Mel Blanc scream he’s done as various characters, but when you yell, it generally sounds best when you use your natural voice. The problem with that, is that you sound….the same, effectively. Which was AWFUL in the moment, but absolutely hilarious in hindsight. It’s still a joke between that friend and I today, even though it’s been almost a year since we did that movie.
11.Can you share your favourite voice acting moment or performance?
It’s hard to pick because several weeks after I finish recording something, and I hear it by accident when it’s released, it sounds absolutely dreadful to me. But, my recent favourites have been Nora in Confessions Amongst the Poppies, which actually got a nomination for Best VA in Spooktober Jam 2022, so I have been validated, as has my Australian accent (I swear by the sausage sizzle at Bunnings)! Another one was Riley in Alaskan Winter Sky, she has moments where she’s in complete and utter agony, but she still tries to crack a joke, which gave me such an amazing opportunity to play and have fun with her character! Some earlier performances that I think fondly of are BestestBB for Mythic Meetup, Audrey in The Tales of Grumville, who was my first character in a game, and Gwyneth from AFK Arena: Just Esperia Things, my first anime! Well, my only one, but all these performances come with a lot of happy memories that I hold onto a lot, mostly because it’s anxiety inducing at the time and great in hindsight, because my experiences working on them allowed me to see that putting yourself out there is often more rewarding than it is terrifying.
12.Can you tell us about a voice acting project you turned down and why?
Frankly, there was one I was recommended to audition for by an acquaintance I had at the time, only for it to be the most annoying thing in the world because it was grievously mismanaged, and the NFSW elements of the art and the script weren’t disclosed, and it was very uncomfortable for me to go into this project playing a very shiny woman who had breasts larger than both her head and waist and was clearly treated as some sex object by her own creators, when I was not told about it before, and didn’t consent to it! It was the first project I ever had to quit, and the final straw was one of the writers sexually harassing one of the actors. I couldn’t take it.
I had spent weeks telling the director, who’d asked me for help on how to be a director, how to be professional, how to treat your team members with respect for their boundaries and their time volunteering for that project, and eventually, how you couldn’t just brush off sexual harassment. It was very exhausting, and I was neither the first nor last in the long line of actors who have left, and are still leaving that project.
13. How do you keep your voice in good condition for voice acting?
I am the worst person to answer this since I’m Singaporean, and our cuisine is features a lot of fried foods, and measles without a good amount of vegetables, but the short answer is, drink lots of water, I go through like 3 litres a day sometimes, eat lots of fruits and vegetables (apples are great). Have some honey and some Pi Pa Gao when your throat feels a little gross, they’re favourites of mine from my singing days too! So it’s tried and tested. Make sure you’re yelling and screaming correctly, otherwise you’ll really shred your vocal chords; I believe the technical term is using your false chords, but for me, it’s just the same muscles for singing. Basically, rest when you need to, that audition is temporary; vocal damage is forever. Safety is important even if you’re standing still in a tent for like 10 hours!
14.Can you tell us about a time when you had to take on a role that was completely different from what you were used to?
Well, this was quite early on, but I got cast for a mother, who was 45. Which was insane because I was only 18 at the time, and I’m only 19 now. Now, 19 year old me is used to sounding like a 45 year old mother, but 18 year old me….was not. I had to really think about how a 45 year old Northern American Standard mother might sound, and it took a bit of experimentation in placement, demeanour, and mannerism to really get it down.
I was lucky, in that I auditioned for and was cast for quite a variety of characters in the past, so I knew how to go through the experimentation process. But most of the time, you hash that out during the audition, as opposed to after you get cast.
15.What are your thoughts on All Ages of Geek and what can we improve on to make it a better platform?
All Ages of Geek is a really great resource for finding out about lesser known creators and of course, indie productions, and honestly it gives me hope that there are people championing for the indie creators, because as someone who primarily finds work in the indie scene, it can be discouraging sometimes, to put all your love and work into something and not have it be appreciated. This is really important from the perspective of an artist and a person.
Validation is internal, it’s something you do for yourself, but appreciation is something different entirely, though it’s as crucial. It’s not a sign of insecurity to yearn for a little appreciation once in a while. If you have self-validation but not some external appreciation, it’s easy to feel as if you are doing all these, for nothing effectively. All Ages of Geek is amazing, in that it gives indie creators a chance to have that much needed appreciation!
It can give all of us working on these unique and smaller projects that extra push we need to keep going, so please do continue to support All Ages of Geek, and other platforms just like it!
16.Where can people find you online?
On Twitter mostly! My tag is @veratanva, pretty simple. Sometimes I put funny things, and song covers on YouTube and check out my website is https://veratan.fun/ if you wanna see some more of the work I’ve been involved with! And if you’re a fellow actor, or sound designer, or director, as it says on my very professional business card: