He has been awarded with several prizes in recognition of his work as a Voice Actor. He has worked for Marvel Comics, History Channel, Amazon, Ford and S2 Games. We talked with Jay Britton, an English voice actor, with an outstanding professional career within the audio-visual sector. Jay is a passionate person and his voice is versatile and adaptable for any project. He performs hundreds of character voices as well as being able to perform over 20 different accents. He highlights his participation in a Ford Mustang film and his work in ADR for Game of Thrones and also explains to us that he has performed the voice of Jarvis from the Avengers in a number of projects, as well provided the voice and body of Talking Tom (a crazy popular cat on YouTube). Jay Britton is a spontaneous and funny professional, he talks to us about his day-to-day life and also unveils significant surprising things from his profession.
Personally speaking, what does your profession provide you with?
To me the voiceover industry provides the opportunity to be myself, from the earliest age I have been mimicking voices, creating characters, even having conversations between a couple of the characters in my head out loud. When I get to step up behind the mic, especially for animation and video game projects it’s a chance to let out all of the voices and characters stored up inside. It’s an amazing feeling of freedom and creativity and when everything clicks together it’s amazing.
One of your expertise areas is videogames characters, if you could be one of them in real life, which one would you choose and why?
Now that’s a really tough choice, especially as most video games contain characters whose lives I’d have no interest in dealing with personally (think zombie apocalypse survivor!) If I could be one in real life though it would probably be Link from the Zelda games. Zelda: Ocarina of Time was one of my most favourite games and I’d love to be Link, riding across Hyrule on Epona with my sword and shield!
Is it hard to create a ‘voice’ for a character? What does influence you to create your characters?
I think what’s key for me is creating the voice is last in the process, if you start with a voice you immediately create the personality of the character from the voice characteristics when it really needs to be the other way around. I always like to see a picture of the character if possible as physical traits will often inform the voice (such as big, small, crooked, broad chested etc.) I then like to read the character in my own voice to get a feel for the emotion and context, only then will I add the cherry on top of the voice. I find by doing that at the end rather than the beginning the voice more often suits the character and is truer to the intentions of the writer.
Tell us about some of the projects you have been involved in. What is your favorite project to date?
I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in some really great projects, some of my favourites have been getting to do the voice of Jarvis from the Avengers in a number of projects (one for Marvel themselves). Most recently I played Jarvis in an Ironman vs. Lex Luthor fight in Deathbattle. I’m also the voice, face and body for Talking Tom (a crazy popular cartoon cat on YouTube) which is great fun. Every few months I fly over to Slovenia to record 5 or 6 episodes in motion capture clothing with a head camera mounted as well, it’s hard work but great fun. My most favourite project to date though has probably been a project I did with Ford, they flew me over to the states to drive the brand new Mustang for a small film they made about my voice over dreams. You can read the full story about it on my blog but it was a hell of a ride!
Is there anything you do to prepare your voice for a superior performance like drink a specific tea, vocal exercises, etc.?
Stamina is key in all voice over work and for certain genres shouting becomes a necessary skill and you need to be able to learn to shout without ruining your voice. Video games are especially notorious for this as is ADR as they both can involve a lot of death shouts, battle cry’s etc. Learning how to shout is a good skill, above that practice in building vocal strength so you can be consistent over long sessions and taking care of your voice are key. I personally don’t consume any dairy or caffeine (as they can both cause problems) and I drink plenty of herbal teas such as camomile and throat coat which can help keep your voice (and body) healthy.
Jay Britton’s studio
What’s a typical day like in the voiceover business? Roughly, how many auditions do you pass/go through in a month?
Usually my day is pretty consistent and is a mix of admin, marketing, auditioning and recording. It’s important to acknowledge that if you enter into a voice over career you’re starting a business. As such you should expect the majority of your time to be spent running and maintaining that business rather than behind the mic. In a way that’s nice as you do all the work then get behind the mic to play! Usually in a given month I will probably do somewhere in the region of 100-200 auditions, that doesn’t take into account any custom samples for direct contacts I’ve made over the month.
People might automatically assume that being a professional VO artist is an easy job. Is it so? What is the most difficult thing?
Voice over is easy to do, building and maintaining a voice over business and career on the other hand is a completely different ball game. You have to be constantly marketing yourself, constantly networking, constantly learning new skills and working on the craft. On top of that you have to find some time to fit in the work that pays your bills. To be a successful voice actor takes years of dedication and hard work, you also have to be extremely disciplined as most of the time you will be working on your own. The most difficult thing for me personally was to get used to rejection, for someone starting out in the business it’s difficult to get your head around the fact that most of the time you will be told “no”. If you book 1 audition in 10 you are doing well but at first that constant rejection is very difficult to take but you have to be able to dig deep and find the motivation to keep learning, improving and to keep going!
Do you consider that having a talent manager in this business is a must in order to get outstanding jobs?
It’s not impossible to get big jobs without an agent, in the advent of the internet everything is now more accessible than it used to be and some of my biggest jobs have come as a result of direct networking and going to the right events. I do think though that agents are still a key part of any voice actors business as sometimes they will be able to open doors that you simply couldn’t on your own. A good agent will also do more than just send you auditions though, they will be actively marketing you to the right people in the business and trying to sell you as a product rather than just waiting for the auditions to come your way.
Do you think this profession is well paid?
Well this is a can of worms! I think in general it is a well-paid industry, is every job well paid? No, but overall if you look at it in a £ per hour value it’s a good job. People can also set how well they are paid, to some extent. If you pitch yourself as a cheap voiceover then that’s what you’ll get paid so a lot of it can be how much you are prepared to ask for and what you think you’re worth. I do think that video games in particular can be poorly paid, given that some games will go on to sell millions of copies the voice artists will generally just get a session fee or a buyout fee which doesn’t necessarily reflect their contribution to the success of the game. There are movements underway in both the UK and the US to change that though. Another key philosophy I have though is that’s it’s only money, I love what I do and if I could earn more doing something else I wouldn’t, you should always do what you love not what pays the best.
Jay Britton, Voice Actor