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If you’ve found your way to this article, you probably have decided that you’d like to hire some voice actors with British accents to work on your project. But, how can you be sure you’re picking the right actors for the job?
As a content producer looking to finalize your product before distributing it to your users, you might find yourself overwhelmed at the prospect of hiring voice actors. Whether you work in movies, ebooks, video games, or any other audio content, voice actors are undoubtedly a make-or-break component that will have a dramatic impact on the quality of your finished product.
To make the hiring process a little simpler for you, we’ll take a look at many of the factors that may affect your hiring decision.
First, let’s cover the basics.
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This post was updated in June 2021
What are British accents in voice acting?
The idea of a British accent confuses some people, and for good reason. When most people think of the accent of a particular country or region, they have a pretty clear-cut idea of what that accent will sound like. When you think of a British accent, your mind probably conjures up the sound of someone from England speaking in the traditional English accent.
The truth can get a little muddier.
Since the island of Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales, some people consider a Scottish or Welsh accent to be “British.” The popular language learning website Babbel.com, for example, offers a lesson on mastering the Welsh accent as part of its British accent curriculum. Even more confusingly, Ireland is one of the major islands that make up the British Isles, leading some people to consider the Irish accent to be “British” as well.
Even if you eliminate Scotland, Wales, and Ireland from the equation on the basis that they each have their own very distinct and recognizable accents, the term”British accent” would still encompass a huge range of regional accents that occur within the country of England. From the Cockney English of Eastern London to the “Peaky Blinders”-style accent of Birmingham, you’d have a hard time selecting just one signature sound as a true “British accent.”
So, what actually counts as a British accent when it comes to selecting the perfect British voice over actor for your job?
For the purposes of making your hiring decision, you’ll need to keep the subtle differences between each region and dialect in mind.
First, you will need to have a thorough understanding of your main goal. What do you hope to gain by hiring voice actors with British accents? What theme and tone are you trying to establish?
Which British accent would be the perfect match for your content?
It doesn’t occur to all content producers that a voice actor’s accent conveys a lot more than just that character’s country and region of origin.
In today’s world of tolerance and acceptance, it seems almost prejudiced to accept the reality that different types of British accents still convey a strong impression based on ingrained stereotypes.
But take a moment and think about the ways you can use these natural assumptions to your advantage.
Audiences have come to recognize different regional British accents and associate them with themes they know from modern culture.
Some associations are quite obvious. Characters from London would likely have classic London accents, for example.
Others are not so obvious at first glance.
Here’s an example.
Let’s assume that you are in the business of making cartoons. You need to hire several voice actors. One of the characters in your cartoon is a royal prince, and your show takes place in 15th or 16th century Europe.
For this character, a voice actor that specializes in thick, Cockney London accents would be an unlikely choice! Instead, you would want to shop around some more and audition a few voice actors who can nail the clean, “posh” accent you are probably familiar with from popular TV shows about royalty.
Though it would be ridiculous to assume that the modern polished accent is the way royalty in historic times actually spoke, the fact is that the clean, high-class British accent has become so associated with nobles and royalty from TV and movies that a voice actor in that style is the natural choice. It doesn’t have to be an accurate portrayal of history; all that matters for most audiences is that you have hit the tropes in the way your viewers have come to expect.
Remember to vary your choices appropriately, even if you are hiring actors for the same project. A medieval knight should not have the same accent as a noble from the castle!
In contrast, a video game about 18th century English ruffians would feel quite odd indeed if you chose those same voice actors as you did for the cartoon about nobility and royals. In this scenario, you would want to choose a cast of actors who bring a rough, gritty feel to each of the game’s acted scenes.
Depending on the content you wish to have your voice actors record, make a list of characteristics and qualities you ideally want for each character or narrator.
Consider the characteristics of each of the following themes that audiences commonly associate with different types of British accents:
- royal: for when you need to convey class or status
- medieval: great when used as a marker of a time period in which a fictional piece takes place
- modern: excellent for painting a classic or up-scale mental image for your listeners
- distinguished: ideal for conveying authority and expertise about a particular subject
- intelligent: for characters who need to stand out above the rest
- scruffy/scrappy: for characters who stay tough and never back down
- professional/business: fantastic for business advertisements
- soothing: ideal for audiobooks, so listeners relax and enjoy the content
- entrancing: perfect for hypnosis audio recordings
- exotic/seductive: great for fictional characters with intrigue or romance undertones
A comprehensive list of themes would be impossible to put together, but this list should give you an idea of where to start.
As you listen to voice actor auditions, close your eyes and think of the gut-reaction, first impression stereotype that pops into your head. The mental impression that each sound profile creates for you will likely be similar to the mental image your viewers will settle on, as well, so be sure it makes sense for the character’s context.
What is the process for hiring voice actors?
Once you’ve decided exactly what thematic elements you would like your voice actors to convey, it’s time to start auditioning talent.
The magic of the internet means that you have an almost infinite pool of talent from which to choose.
If you haven’t already, ask yourself the following questions in order to narrow the pool of prospects to a more manageable size:
- Do you prefer to work with voice actors who have native British accents, or would you be okay with someone who has learned the accent with practice?
- If you require a native accent, would you be willing to work with a voice actor who still resides in the UK? Consider that time zones and currency conversions may be obstacles to work around.
- If your voice actor does reside in the UK and all work will be completed remotely, how will you feel about not working face to face with your team?
Utilize casting agencies as valuable resources for advice.
Some casting agencies will listen to your project requirements and help you choose the voice actor or actors who match your needs most closely. This can help a lot if you’re not sure how to recognize the different regional accents, or if you’re otherwise confused about where to start.
Post your job ad and reach out to your top choices.
If you’re using a casting agency, you can likely trust that each voice actor the agency selects for you has been matched to your project’s needs. If you find that you’re interested in a particular candidate, however, don’t be afraid to reach out personally and make your interest known!
Judge the auditions your applicants send in.
Auditions may come in a number of different formats. Many actors will send out videos or recordings of themselves doing different varieties of character voices as an advertisement of their broad range of acting skills.
Others prefer to audition specifically for the role you are casting by reading a segment of your content if you choose to provide samples.
Consider whether you would rather take a chance on someone new or stick with proven talent.
Voice actors are frequently freelancers, even if they contract under the umbrella of an agency. As such, new voice actors who are trying to get a foot in the door might offer much lower prices to their first few customers who decide to take a chance on them.
Whether you feel comfortable with this risk is up to you.
If your voice-acted content will be mostly short snippets, for example, “Ahoy there!” in a video game or something similar, consider giving a new actor a fair shot. However, if you need an actor for a larger role, or a role that needs to convey serious depth of emotion and subtle nuances, you might prefer to choose an established, recognized voice actor with a proven track record of quality.
If this is your first time hiring voice talent, don’t feel too overwhelmed. If you take care to hire a reputable cast of actors, you will likely find the process smooth and enjoyable. There’s nothing quite like receiving the finalized audio recordings for your project and hearing your dream truly come to life.