Blake Farha is a talented actor, musician, improviser, author and voice actor based in Berlin. Hailing from the United States, he has worked in the city’s bustling creative industries for the better part of a decade. We spoke with Blake about his experiences starting work as a voice actor at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, recording at home, and of course his favorite coffee shop in Berlin.
Do you have a favorite place in Berlin to grab a coffee or a tea?
Aprilkind. It’s what you’d expect from a Berlin coffee shop, but they make very good pastries and good coffee. It’s lovely and they have a nice big terrace that overlooks a children’s play park, so there’s the laughter of children.
You’ve been an improviser and actor for years – what inspired you to pursue voice acting specifically?
I was performing a lot and I have kind of a deep voice. It doesn’t sound that deep to me but I guess it somehow is. Over the years I had all these experiences where people would say, ‘Wow your voice is so amazing. You have such a nice voice. Have you ever done voice acting?’ Once at a party, a friend was just like, ‘Man Blake honestly your voice is like the piano. I just wanna listen to it all day.’ And I never really thought much of it.
And then the pandemic hit. I couldn’t teach improv and work in person anymore and I thought ‘well I don’t wanna teach at all if I can’t teach in person. I have no desire to do that on the internet’. And I just thought ‘Okay, what can I possibly do that I can earn money with from home starting today?’
I’m a musician so I have microphones and I have speakers, and I’m very familiar with recording my voice and recording instruments. So I had everything I needed to record.
One day I made an Upwork profile and I gave myself 30 minutes to apply for jobs, just to get started and by the end of the first day I had two clients!
Do you still get to exercise your acting skills?
It’s definitely a mixed bag. Only recently has it taken a turn towards more of the acting side. It’s definitely the thing that I’m more interested in. In the beginning it was a lot more narration.
Recently I was on a children’s TV show and I got to be a bigger character on the show. So that was really fun because I actually got to go into a studio and work with a director and there was a sound engineer and the whole thing and I’m actually getting to put all my acting skills to use.
The more that I do it, the more I push toward the direction of acting. I look much more for acting gigs. That said, I also work for Deutsche Welle, where my work is predominantly narration, so I narrate films and documentaries.
How has becoming a freelancer impacted your work style?
I think, especially for people who are working for themselves, as I am, you have to be your own advocate. Even if people really believe in your work and want to pay you, they’ll only pay you as well as you ask them to. And so there is a moment where you have to take a leap, or at least I’ve had to take leaps, of faith in my career where I say, ‘I’m gonna say this much money and just see what happens.’
And it’s shocking how often that works! If you are just confident and are able to say, ‘This is what I’m worth.’ You have to believe it yourself!. And you must be willing to work hard and deliver on your promises.
What have been some of the main things you’ve learned about the industry since you started working as a voice actor?
When I started doing this I was doing it from home during the pandemic and my vocal booth situation was desperate. The amount of echo in my room was horrible and I was recording under my desk, under blankets and duvets. Don’t get me wrong, the quality was still there. I still gave them what they wanted – but it was really difficult recording in that environment for up to five hours a day.
Now, well the apartment that we got just happened to have this space that isn’t really useful for anything else. And I was like, ‘Well I am a voice actor. This is what I do now. I’ve been doing it for two years. I have to make a booth.’ And so this space was perfect for it.
Something that I’ve learned throughout my time as a freelancer is that you need to invest in yourself. It always comes back to you. It can be quite hard to invest in yourself, especially if you don’t have a ton of money. But what I’ve learned – and what is always proven true time and time again – is every time I invest in myself, whether it be buying a better microphone or getting sound insulation, exponentially that money always comes back.
What was something you didn’t expect about being a voice actor?
Definitely. The first time I did an audition in a professional sound studio, it was really intimidating. I realized I had no idea how it worked, being alone in the booth working with the sound engineers and directors on the other side of a window.
This was with an animated series, which I had never done before. And the director said, ‘You have to say this line in three seconds, because that’s how it’s been animated. There’s these markers on the screen that show you when your time is running out.’ And I’m watching all this happening, and I realized I had no clue what was happening. They saw that I was struggling, and they said, ‘Blake, have you ever done this before?’ And I just was like ‘Okay I could lie. Or I could just be honest and I think they’ll appreciate that.’ So I told them the truth.
They were very kind and explained it to me, and from that point on, I was able to get going. Then they said ‘Oh wow that was really great! Your voice is exactly what we were looking for for this character.’
And I ended up getting the part! Even though it was scary, I still made sure to enjoy the experience. So you need to just stop and remember that what you’re doing is crazy. You’re getting paid money to dance around a sound studio and act like you’re this animal character in a cartoon and people are really happy with your work. I have to remind myself that this is the part where I have to enjoy it. This is such fun work – even if it can be stressful.
How do you prepare your voice for each recording?
It’s something that I struggle with because I have some bad vocal habits. I strain my voice all the time.
I have a voice coach that I’ve been working with for the last two years to continue learning and improving my voice technique. I have vocal warmups that I do every day. I drink a ton of water. And whenever I feel like I’m getting a little sick I make sure that I take care of myself before my voice is impacted.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to try voice acting?
My advice, for anyone interested in voice acting, is to just go out and do it. You won’t know what the market is like and what unique things you have to offer until you start doing it yourself.
Taking acting classes and voice classes can also help you to prepare yourself as well. If you already have the voice and acting skills, there are tons of platforms where you can post your profile and services. Fiver, Upwork, and Voice 123 are some examples.
I don’t love the idea of working for free and I don’t really recommend it to anyone – but when you’re just trying to practice and even just test if you like something before you invest in, say, better equipment or more microphones, there’s a ton of opportunity out there. Just record your voice and put it out there and get feedback on it as fast as possible. Go out there and find someone who needs your voice, give it to them, and get their feedback. Then you can grow from there.
What is your favorite sound? Whose voice is your favorite voice?
My favorite sound is the sound of coffee beans being poured into a coffee grinder!
And my favorite voice… well, I’ve been listening to a lot of Julia Jacklin lately. She’s an Australian singer-songwriter. I don’t think she’s a voice actress or anything, but when I listen to her voice it just feels like someone’s petting my soul.
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