This week in Awesome-Jobs-You-Can-Do-From-Home, we caught up with Tod Fennell. He’s a Canadian actor you might have seen and, if you’re a gamer, have definitely heard. In addition to on-screen appearances in movies like The Spiderwick Chronicles, and shows like The Art of More, Fennell is a voice actor featured in your favorite Ubisoft and Eidos games: the Assassin’s Creed and Deus Ex series, The Division one and two, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and (my favorite) he played Bean in Far Cry New Dawn.
Never thought about being a voice actor? Now might be the perfect time for a career change. “As a voice actor, your work isn’t tethered to your face, and you don’t have to physically be on set to perform,” Fennell explains. He says he’s spending his quarantine time building out a sound studio at home to help support his WFH workflow.
Now’s the Time to Hone Your Skills
If you’re already an actor, or you work in media, you have a head start. But even a newbie can get their foot in the door. Fennell says to start small. “It’s the perfect time to do some online acting classes through Udemy or Masterclass,” he says, “and you can practice at home as long as you have a way to record and play back your voice.”
Fennell says the biggest hurdle for beginners to get over is self-consciousness. “You learn to stop being afraid of looking silly,” he laughs. “I do vocal warm ups with my five year old and he loves it.”
Hold On To Your Big Ambition, But Find Small Jobs
Every actor has stars in their eyes and big dreams, but Fennell emphasizes that acting is still a job. “It won’t always be satisfying in a creative sense,” he advises, “but that’s okay. Small jobs lead to bigger jobs, and eventually you’ll find your groove.”
Fennell started his career with a few small screen roles, and those led to shows like the Nickelodeon classics Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? As his career has matured, Fennell says he’s picking up more and more commercial work through major brands and agencies. He’s been able to voice ads for McDonald’s, Subway, Reese’s, eBay, and more, through major talent agencies like Cosette and Sid Lee.
Link Up With a Growing Company or Agency
Fennell struck gold when he started working with Ubisoft, a then-emerging video game company who needed a voice for their playable demo of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Fennell landed a small part, and has grown with the company ever since. “It’s been so much fun growing with Ubisoft,” Fennell says. “I’m lucky to be a part of their story.”
The popular game developers are back in the headlines amidst worldwide protests against the kind of violent authoritarianism many Ubisoft games glorify. Ubisoft has made their position clear by cancelling lucrative community livestream events and making cash donations to Black Lives Matter and the NAACP in a show of solidarity with protesters. “Finding a good company or agency to grow with is the best thing you can do,” Fennell says. “Like any industry, voice acting is about the relationships you build.”
Explore the Range of Voice Acting Opportunities
Gaming isn’t the only place you can lend your voice. “Working in games is fun, because you’re acting against fantasy characters and environments you can’t see,” Fennell says. “It’s a major team effort, and all the pieces—from character rigging to texture mapping to voice acting—have to fall into place for a scene to work. When it does, everybody is over the moon. It’s a wonderful feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment.” While he says he loves working in games, Fennell advises not to limit yourself to one kind of job.
“Commercial work can be very gratifying, because it often challenges your vocal instrument in ways you might not have pushed it before. And it usually pays well. Voice acting for animation is a little closer to traditional acting than video game acting is, and it’s also a lot of fun. There are so many avenues to explore.” Don’t get too caught up in expectations, he says. Allow some room for surprises along the way.
The world is changing fast, and for many of us, careers are changing too. If you’ve lost your job to the pandemic, or are looking to seize the moment to start doing what you’ve always wanted, now may be just the time. As Fennell puts it, “I’m lucky to be doing what I love and to be working from home. To any actor or aspiring actor who’s thinking about getting started, there’s plenty of room in the industry. Don’t miss your chance!”