For most of us, finding one passion in life is hard enough. Bryan J Howard has two of them. In addition to being a musician, on tour with the band Cracker, he is also a talented voice over artist. Both of these professions are unique in that they require tremendous creativity to stand out, the ambition to succeed and a competitive drive.
Taking that last point into consideration, it's unusual that Bryan has launched the African American Voice Actor Database-- a platform that aims to give African American voice over artists the exposure they richly deserve.
I reached out to Bryan to learn a bit more about the site which is still in its infancy, get a deep dive into his own background doing voice over work, and hear his thoughts on why puppets will always be inspiring.
How’d you get started in VO work and what have you done so far?
I have always been fascinated with voice acting but really put my focus into music for most of my life but I also have a background in GIS work and software production. I was working at a software company, where it was made very clear to me that there was no chance of advancement, when I decided to get serious about VO. I did a ton of research and enrolled in a class. I talked to as many folks involved in the industry as I could. I read forums and message boards, watched videos, and tried to absorb as much info as possible. I got a coach and made a demo and I just started hitting it as hard as I could.
I have been lucky to work with some great clients such as Walmart, Delta Airlines, Phillips 66, Amazon, Wilson Basketballs, and many others. I do a good bit of corporate VO but have done commercials, audiobooks, eLearning, medical narration, film narration, and video games.
Was it difficult to get a foot in the door?
To get a foot in the door, no, but to get that door open is still an ongoing process. I was very lucky to have a friend send my demo out to some agents and I got my first agent the day after I got demo from the producer. I have to be disciplined and keep working everyday to continually try to improve and create more opportunities for myself.
Do you primarily work locally or nationally?
Most of my work has been national and international but I am starting to see more local work. I am trying to get the word out that I am here and enjoy working locally.
What led you to start the AAVADB?
It truly came about by trying to find something similar online. I was really surprised that I couldn’t find anything. So I decided that this might be something I could do. I know it may seem counterintuitive to build a site that highlights other talent for free (though we do take donations) but the real payoff to me is the networking possibilities and building a sense of community. I have learned a great deal through this process and am already making plans to improve it.
How do you go about finding voice over talent? Do they come to you?
I created a private Facebook group and invited some VOs to spread the word about what I was trying to do. Now I am starting to see more folks creating profiles that are not a part of the Facebook group. I am hoping it will continue to grow. At this point I am just trying to get the word out and get folks to visit the site.
Beyond having a demo reel, is there a criterion for joining?
Obviously the demo is key but also a dedication to professionalism, proper equipment, and the drive to succeed. I have been blown away by the amount and range of talent.
You are based just outside of Atlanta. What do you think this area of the country offers over New York or L.A. in terms of this kind of work?
I am in Athens, GA about an hour from Atlanta and I see lots of VO possibilities in Atlanta. We have a booming film a TV industry, lots of tech companies, and a thriving art scene all wrapped up in a laid back atmosphere. I believe that more opportunities are created here daily.
Was there any voiceover from your childhood, either in a commercial or from a show or movie that stuck with you?
Well, the obvious for me would be Star Wars and Darth Vader but also anything with puppets. I can’t get enough of The Muppet Show to this day.
This is great. a lot of people in this industry just have empty talk about helping diversity, while Bryan here actually made something useful to people who want to find diverse talent. I found someone here that I could use for a radio spot, her voice was fresh.
I love Cracker. I had no idea Bryan also does voice overs.