A VO Scholarship of Limitless Possibility
By Paul Cartwright
June 4th, 2021
The time was 2:30 a.m. I was sitting in front of my computer, my wife and children fast asleep and unaware of my plight as I was trying to figure out my life. I was lost and unsure how to get my voice-acting career off the ground. I had some basic equipment, and a general understanding of the industry, but didn’t know where to go or to whom to turn. I was attending conferences and trying to network, but that year was my first time attending the That’s Voiceover Career!™ Expo in Los Angeles. It offered so much value, beyond anything I had seen from other venues. As I perused the Expo schedule I noticed something new; the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences J. Michael Collins Academic Scholarship had been posted, a chance to win a substantial compensation package of coaching, training, and support for a lucky voice actor. All I needed to do was submit a short essay as to why I should be that lucky soul.
As I wrote out why I felt I deserved the SOVAS scholarship, I was honest and brief. I was lost in my journey and needed help, but felt I had what it took to succeed in this industry. After submitting my entry I soon forgot I had entered and didn’t think about it again. When the time came for the That’s Voiceover!™ Career Expo in L.A., I arrived with a certain anxiety that quickly changed to excitement. It was all new to me and I didn’t know anyone. Soon the time came to reveal the winner of the SOVAS scholarship that I had completely forgotten about. I remember sitting out in the vast throng of people wondering who that fortunate soul would be to take home such an opportunity. I also remember not believing what I heard when J. Michael Collins read my name and I saw it projected in huge letters on the screen. I had won! I didn’t know what that meant at the time, and had no idea how that scholarship would completely change my life.
J. Michael brought me on the stage to the applause of all in attendance, and I was shocked and stunned. I remember him pushing me to the microphone to say a few words and I babbled on about who-knows-what. After the commotion ended, there were many congratulatory handshakes and acknowledgments, but I still didn’t really know what had happened… until now. As I look back on that amazing opportunity, I have a clearer understanding of the absolutely incredible launchpad that skyrocketed my career into existence.
Enter The Voice Arts® Awards
Winning the SOVAS JMC Academic Scholarship provided me the opportunity to coach with Joan Baker on several occasions and start fine-tuning my commercial reads. There is a subtle nuance and learning curve in commercial reads I couldn’t have learned on my own—I needed help, and Joan gave me exactly what I needed to start booking. I also received several coaching sessions with Rudy Gaskins, the ultimate producer and brand manager. He looked over my website and marketing materials and made it very clear in a tactful and impressive way that my website needed a lot of help and my logo and marketing materials were sub-par. His kind and generous approach gave me the confidence to understand there was room to improve and I needed to make that jump.
Apart from the acting classes and coaching opportunities that came from the scholarship, I also got to work with J. Michael Collins on a new radio imaging demo. The demo we created together ended up winning a Voice Arts® Award for best radio imaging demo, and we have been collaborating together ever since.
In the short two years since winning that scholarship, I have booked three national commercials, gone full-time into voiceover making six figures, am represented by the top agencies in the industry, and have worked with Disney, Pepsi, Visa, Lay’s, Mercedes Benz, and many more. There is no question that winning the scholarship fast-tracked my success. People often say “The sky’s the limit,” but I have learned there is no limit—no end to the successes and victories to be achieved. We are always learning and always improving, and I can attribute all my successes to the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences J. Michael Collins Academic Scholarship.