Behind the Microphone – A Feature on Voice Acting and Directing
A motion picture is created by talented individuals, and some of its most dedicated contributors are found behind the microphone. Veteran directors in the local and international industry share their experiences about voice acting and directing.
Kyle Phillips is an experienced ADR director at FUNimation Productions, LLC. Kyle has worked as an ADR director on Overlord 1 and 2, the currently airing The Ancient Magus’ Bride and Dagashi Kashi 1,2 and the very popular Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. His notable acting roles include Suigin Riku in The Silver Guardian 1 & 2; Hairo in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K; Sho Tokugawa in Cheer Boys!!; and Marco the Phoenix in One Piece.
Image © Kyle Phillips
Vic Mignogna is an established ADR Director on the Jūni Taisen series, and whose notable acting roles include Edward Elric from the Fullmetal Alchemist series, Tamaki Suoh in Ouran High School Host Club, Qrow in RWBY, Broly in DBZ, and many more.
Image © Vic Mignogna
Remesh Panicker is a 40-year veteran of the voiceover business. He is also an multi award-winning executive producer, writer, creative consultant and an acclaimed, award-winning actor. He is both a voice actor and narrator, and lends his voice to documentaries, commercials and corporate films. He’s been heard on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, The History Channel and Channel News Asia, and “LIVE” at prestigious events like Singapore’s National Day Parade and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Inaugural Youth Olympic Games.
Image © Remesh Panicker
Lim Koon Soo is an established Audio Engineer/Sound Designer with over 25 years of experience in the media industry. Owner of multi awards winning Audio Post-Production Studio, Suite Sound.
Image © Lim Koon Soo
MediaConnex speaks to local veterans Remesh Panicker (former SRT Associate Artistic Director) and Lim Koon Soo (Director, Suite Sound) about their experiences about voice acting and directing in Singapore. We’ll also speak to established ADR directors Kyle Phillips and Vic Mignogna (FUNimation, USA) about their experiences in the global industry.
- Past Experience
Most of these veterans began their careers as actors. They share about how their acting experiences have shaped their directorial journeys.
“I started out at 17, simply by chance,” Remesh explains. “I was sitting in a food court with my friends. This guy (the owner of Studio 3) tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I wanted to do a voiceover for a commercial. Over time, when my voice was out there more, the work became more frequent.”
According to Phillips and Mignogna, their acting experiences have also helped them in their current positions at FUNimation.
“My experiences as a voice actor have allowed me to get in front of many different directors, allowing me to see their individual styles.” Phillips shares. “I like to think that I’ve taken the best traits of these directors, and have incorporated them into my own style.”
“I’ve always believed that the best directors are actors.” Mignogna continues. “It’s important to be able to speak the language of the actor and effectively communicate what you’re looking for in terms that the actor can connect with. It’s equally important to have a working knowledge of the technical side of ADR recording, and to be able to work most efficiently with the engineer.”
- Present Experiences with Clients and Collaborators
Lim regards his clients as close collaborators, as “[they] became friends as time passes”.
“They know that we’ll always do our best to deliver quality work, and I have to give credit to my entire team at Suite Sound for doing a fantastic job.” Lim explains.
Similarly, Phillips and Mignogna speak highly of their experiences with FUNimation’s cast and crew.
“Working with the fantastic crew and actor pool that we have at FUNimation is awesome!” Phillips shares. “Our ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) Engineers are the best in the industry, and we get a variety of actors with all sorts of different backgrounds and skill levels.”
Mignogna shares his sentiments, as he regards FUNimation as “family”.
“I’ve been playing roles for FUNimation productions for almost 20 years,” Mignogna explains. “I’ve come to so dearly love and appreciate the people I’ve worked with there. I feel such a close connection to people I create things with, especially things I’m proud of, and FUNimation is at the top of that list.”
Remesh and Lim share about the major challenges of starting their careers as creative practitioners in Singapore.
“I’ve been doing this since 1977. So, I perhaps don’t face some of the challenges someone wanting to get into this business now would – and that’s being noticed.” Remesh states. “Still it is always good to remind producers and audio studios that you’re still around. So a bit of self-promotion doesn’t hurt.”
“There were number of challenges—funding, looking for the right location and more importantly, how were we going to get jobs.” Lim explains. “As a recording studio, space is crucial and a bigger area equals high rental cost and I can’t afford that as a start-up. So we settle for a heartland location instead of town area, which is slightly more affordable.”
Lim explains how his persistent attitude allowed him to solve his challenges during his early years at Suite Sound: “We also had to make cold calls, email to potential clients and sent out show reel. Soon with all the hard work and good word spread. We begin to get calls. The initial years we have to do any projects that come our way just to pay bills.”
Phillips and Mignogna are experienced ADR Directors at FUNimation Studios. They share about the major challenges of their professions, and how they have overcome them.
“The major challenge directing in the SimulDub era—sometimes I’m directing blind.” Phillips shares. “We never get a “story bible” from the Japanese licensor, so we don’t know what direction a show is going. Sometimes, source material will be available, and we consume as much of that as we can. A show won’t necessarily follow the source material exactly, though, so we still have to be cautious.”
Although this challenge seems daunting, Phillips shares about how FUNimation has addressed it: “Our production management is very aware of this issue, and they’ve adopted the policy of “if something surprises us, we’ll fix it for home video”. Not ideal, but the final product that we deliver to fans is still our highest quality work, whether it’s home video or the “uncut” upload to FunimationNow.”
In addition, both Phillips and Mignogna highlight the challenging tasks that ADR directors must accomplish, and they explain how organisational skills are important for their positions.
“The most cumbersome part of directing for me is the organizational side…filling out forms, checking boxes, turning in paperwork, keeping up with time sheets, etc.” Mignogna states. ”But, it’s a necessary part of the position, so I do my best with it!”
“We typically do the work of multiple positions at the same time—Casting director, Script Supervisor, Script Editor, Director, Producer, etc… These are all roles that we do on a daily basis that are normally split into individual jobs. It can get stressful!” Phillips shares.
“But in the end, it allows us to have greater creative control of the shows we work on, so I wouldn’t want it any other way! Plus, just being organized and planning out as much as you can alleviates a lot of the potential stress of doing it this way.” Phillips concludes.
- Future Opportunities and Advice
Phillips highlights opportunities for individuals in Southeast Asia to serve as voice actors, production assistants, or any ancillary roles in international communities.
Phillips elaborates on opportunities for actors at FUNimation: “As far as voice actors go, it’s a big pool of independent contractors, so it’d be a big risk to move here just to do voice acting. That said, the DFW area has a pretty big theatre and industrial/commercial voice acting community. Plus, there are a number of video game companies here, too!”
When asked about opportunities for aspiring producers and directors, Phillips explains, “Since FUNimation isn’t a very big company, people looking for work here from outside the DFW area will find it a bit of a challenge. That said, you can always check our website for job openings and apply!”
These professionals provide aspiring actors, directors and creative practitioners with insightful advice.
“Make sure you have a passion for acting.” Phillips says. ”It’s hard to make a living just as a voice actor, so have voice acting be a piece of your overall acting pie! Go to school and take acting classes! Get on stage! And most importantly: have fun!”
“Get all the experience and training you can in ACTING.” Mignogna explains. “That is the key to being a good voice actor. Almost every veteran voice actor I know has a load of training and background in acting. If you wish to be a voice actor, you must not be the kind of person who gets discouraged easily. Working in creative fields is rough…lots of people want to do it. It’s the ones who don’t give up and stay with it that will prevail. It must be a passion that comes from deep inside.”
“I can only speak for those who intend working in the English language – although I reckon, the same advice applies to other languages too.” Remesh shares. “Learn to deliver the language in the manner it is meant to be delivered. It is alright to use Singlish when required, but a good voice talent should be able to navigate the diction, delivery, enunciation, phrasing and intonation required of standard spoken English. Being able to code switch with the language expands your range. Finally, develop saintly patience – it will keep you from losing it in the studio when you’re doing your umpteenth take of a single line.”
“You need to have passion.” Lim concludes. “Just like any other career you are pursuing. You need to love what you do.”
Written by Tiffany Lim