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Monday, March 20, 2017

VO Atlanta Recap: A New Bar for Excellence


For the third year in a row, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at VO Atlanta. The past two years have been content and information-packed events which lifted the industry, and brought the community closer together. Somehow, Gerald Griffith and the team that make this event happen raised the bar even higher in 2017.

The content speaks for itself. With a lineup of presenters featuring dozens of the industry's leading lights, 8 separate training tracks, a youth program, a Spanish program, and a plethora of optional value-added X-sessions, not only was there something for everyone, there were full days of learning for anyone who attended, regardless of what their particular niche or specialty was. Add to this the included meals, constant giveaways and opportunities to connect with people who might advance your career, and VO Atlanta 2017 was a stunning success by any objective measure.

It's the intangible side of things that makes VO Atlanta truly special, however. The voiceover community is unique in the entertainment world in its selfless and unpretentious love of one another, and commitment to giving back. Petty jealousies and gossip that define so many other performance industries don't seem to have penetrated those who live behind the mic, and away from the camera. The discussion of community, mutual support, and spirit of sharing what many would consider to be valuable secrets aren't just matters of lip service in our industry, they are the way voice actors live their lives. Perhaps this is born of the blessing of abundance, the collective gratitude that comes from working in a field where those with talent will not run out of opportunities, but it is nevertheless a testament to the character of our colleagues and friends.

The buzz began as early as Wednesday, as voice actors from around the world converged on the Atlanta Airport Marriott, the staff of which likely had no idea what they were in for. The din that began more than 24 hours before opening ceremonies was but a preview of what would essentially become a 5-day rolling party spread throughout the public areas of the hotel, with singing, dancing, drinking and eating both planned and spontaneous turning a sleepy airport conference hotel into a funhouse to rival any nightclub. Through it all, one thing was clear: Here, there were no social classes, no stars separated from fans, no nervousness on the part of new talent engaging with industry leaders.....here, there were just friends.

What did I learn at VO Atlanta 2017? Unfortunately, I didn't have much chance to take in a lot of the incredibly valuable content, as I spent the weekend busy with presentations and social engagements....but I learned a few things nonetheless. I learned that people love baby pictures, that the British can drink anyone under the table and somehow remain both standing and able to have a witty and intelligent conversation.....I learned the origin story of the name 'Gravy for the Brain'.....I learned that when Joe Cip wants to share a Martini, the only answer is yes......and that not drinking much more than that might have saved me from the official conference virus.....I learned to be glad not to have to follow the irrepressible Scott Parkin on stage at any time....and how committed Gerald Griffith is to making talent understand the importance of the business of the business. I learned that in my future X-sessions I'll warn people not to wear shorts, and to bring a winter coat....and that online casting sites can be loved by voice actors when they take the time to love us back. I learned that Armin is still a rockstar, right down to the stray F-bomb.....and that the A/V team are the ones who really make everything come together. I learned a great deal from my colleagues on the E-Learning panel, and hope I offered a worthy contribution....and that Paul Stefano is not Peter or Mary. I learned that sushi sometimes takes two hours to prepare, but that a real friend will help it find its way to you nonetheless, and that people care about ethics in voiceover. And, on Sunday, I learned that when well-meaning people come together, a life can be changed, and an industry can elevate one of its own in the spirit of thanks and love.

I hope you learned as much as I did at VO Atlanta 2017, and I look forward to seeing you all again next March.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

VO Atlanta 2017 Panelist Profiles: Armin Hierstetter




Today I chat with everyone's favorite rockstar, Armin Hierstetter, CEO and founder of Bodalgo.com. Armin is sitting on my Online Casting Leadership panel this Friday at VO Atlanta 2017. Apologies for any formatting issues as I post from my iPad.


JMC:

Tell us about your role with Bodalgo.

ARMIN:

(laughs): It would be far easier to tell you what's NOT my role. Seriously: Not many people are aware of the fact that bodalgo is me, myself and I. There are no employees. I am basically running the show myself. For a year or so, I have had a dedicated PR manager, though, that helps in that respect. Apart from that, I am doing it all by myself. Bodalgo is programmed that way, that tasks like accounting and maintaining the website are very much automated – except approving profiles and jobs. This is ALWAYS done personally by myself to avoid abuse and fraud.


JMC:

What was your professional background before you started Bodalgo?

ARMIN:

I used to work in publishing for about 20 years. I started as a junior writer at a computer magazine, later I was editing a few magazines, (including the German edition of PENTHOUSE.) Later on I studied Media Marketing and went into management. When I lost my job during the financial crisis of 2007/2008, I was Publishing Director of FHM, one of the most successful men's magazines in the world.

In 2004, I started doing voiceovers, mainly by coincidence. First, I did training on the job, later I went to coaches. At the moment, I hardly have time to do any voiceover work myself, though. Bit of a shame, but you can't have it all, can you?

JMC:

You are based in Munich, Germany, right? What is Munich like?

ARMIN:

It is the "biggest village in the world" – that's how I describe it most of the time. A wonderful place with lots and lots of everything you ever want to do: Nature, culture, night life, sports (the Alps are an hour away) - you name it. Whenever your readers make it there, they should drop me a line in order to meet!


JMC: 

What do you find most enjoyable about running an online casting site?

ARMIN:

First, there is one thing I really love about being self employed: Freedom. Nobody tells me what to do. The best thing about running bodalgo is to see that it actually… works! Clients post jobs, talents audition, people are getting booked and making money. That's so awesome!

JMC: 

What advice would you offer talent who are new to the site?

ARMIN:

DO NOT GO PREMIUM! Wait. And then wait a bit more. Get familiar with bodalgo. Have a look at the jobs shuffling in. Are they of a quantity and quality you like? Then you might want to try going premium. But do not sign up and upgrade the first second. You are not in a hurry. Be patient, relax and get a good feel for it first.

Apart from that, I keep telling the same wisdom for years: You need to market yourself as a product. Like laundry soap commercials. It's no difference. Your product is your voice. And as laundry soap it needs to fulfill only this: It needs to be a relevant, distinct benefit for your potential client. You need to explain in as few words as possible why your voice is best and your demo must 100 per cent reflect that. That's the whole magic.

JMC:

You are a Panelist on the Online Casting Leadership panel at VO Atlanta. What is Bodalgo's philosophy as a leader in the online casting marketplace?

ARMIN:
 
Bodalgo wants to be the best Online Casting platform out there. Period. Now, I know, of course, that other websites have many more jobs than bodalgo (yet, bodalgo is very competitive because bodalgo features far fewer premium talents on the other hand). But when it comes to quality of talents, quality of jobs, budgets paid, usability of site, accessibility in multiple languages and many more thing – bodalgo is by far leading the market already.

But I also expect something from the talent, and I do appreciate not all talents would agree to this: I do not advocate a mind set of entitlement of any kind nor do I support a mind set where people do not seem to care any longer about the consequences of what they are doing (and what they are not doing) and expecting customer support to iron out their oversights. I tend to react very "direct," (I really should change that, then again: that's me,) when approached with a mind set of: "I am the customer and no matter what I did, I expect you to sort it out immediately because that's how customer support works!" No, it does not. At least not with bodalgo. 

Thankfully, 99 per cent of clients and talents are wonderful to work with.

Monday, March 6, 2017

VO Atlanta 2017 Panelist Profiles: Juanita Casas



Today I chat with Juanita Casas, head of Voice123.com. Juanita is a panelist on my Online Casting Leadership Panel at VO Atlanta 2017!

JMC

Tell us about your role at Voice123.

JUANITA

As Head of Operations at Voice123 I have a hand in virtually every aspect of the business. I am tasked with ensuring that the everyday activities run smoothly, and that the team has the best working environment, processes, and the right tools to succeed.

JMC

What was your professional background before joining Voice123?

JUANITA

I’m an Industrial Engineer, I studied this career in Bogotá, Colombia. I have a Masters in Industrial Economics and Management from a University called Blekinge Tekniska Högskola in Sweden, (no, I don’t speak Swedish.) Before Voice123  I worked with companies in the real estate sector in areas of production and management.

JMC

You are based in Bogota, Colombia, right? What is Bogota like?

JUANITA

With a population of over 8 million people, everyone might think that living in Bogotá is hectic, and crazy. Somehow, it is true: the pace of life is fast, but there are many possibilities. The city has an awesome urban feel to it. With lots of restaurants, nice bars, and cool cafés, Bogota offers thousands of places to hang out and meet with friends. The weather is quite variable, (if you don't mind some rain,) and it is always between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Bogotá is a large city where you can find anything you want.

Even if Bogotá has traffic jam problems, pollution and congestions in peak hours, the energy you feel is amazing. People think outside the box and are very creative when it comes to finding solutions. We are kind. We’ll smile at you in the street.

JMC

What do you find most enjoyable about working at Voice123?

JUANITA

At Torre, (our parent company,) our culture is solid. It represents who we are as people and as a company. I enjoy the positive attitude and the energy of my teammates; everyone is creative and passionate.....we keep an open mind and consider all opportunities. I also enjoy the communication with the users of our platform, learning from them and working to give them a better product. When we say that we want to help you take your voiceover career to the next level, it really comes from our hearts.

JMC

What advice would you offer talent who are new to the site?

JUANITA

The online market is fast-paced, exciting, and competitive. I’m sure you want to give yourself every advantage so I suggest that you follow these two points:

1. To be successful, coaching and training are absolutely essential.
2. Have a home studio to audition. In today's world of online casting, most buyers will expect you to record professional, high-quality audio from your home studio.

JMC

You are a Panelist on the Online Casting Leadership panel at VO Atlanta. What is Voice123's philosophy as a leader in the online casting marketplace?


JUANITA

We believe that great voice overs are created by those who master their craft. Voice123 was born to add value to the voiceover industry. We do exactly what we say we do:  Voice123 is transparent, trustworthy, concise and direct, energized and engaging. We are different and unique. We want to remain authentic until the end of time.  For these reasons we take very seriously the importance of achieving innovation while meeting the customer’s expectations to improve the effectiveness of our developments and technologies we intend to bring to life.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

VO Atlanta 2017 Panelist Profiles: Rob Sciglimpaglia

Today's post features voice and screen actor Rob Sciglimpaglia, who as a practicing attorney is widely recognized as the leading authority on legal issues in the voiceover industry. Rob will be sitting on my Ethics in Voiceover panel at VO Atlanta 2017!

JMC:

In addition to being a voice actor, you've also had an extensive career as a screen actor. What's the biggest difference between the two?

ROB:

There really is no difference. Acting is Acting. Of course, the medium is different so people don't see your expressions and movements on a voice over performance, however, if you make the same expressions and move the same as you would as if you were on camera, that will be conveyed in your VO performance as well. So I tend to approach on camera and VO the same and just perform, and do my best not to think too much.

JMC:

What advice would you offer to people just getting started in VO?

ROB:

Learn, Learn, and Learn!  First learn the CRAFT, and never stop learning it.  Second learn the BUSINESS, including legal matters.  Third, learn about yourself so you can market yourself properly.

JMC:

Of course, you are also a lawyer, and a well known authority on legal matters surrounding voiceover. How often do you find yourself helping a talent with a legal issue?

ROB:

I help talent of all types, vo artists, actors, musicians, constantly.  I would say it averages out to 1 a day.  I help artists avoid getting into trouble with the law by setting up their businesses, contracts, trademarks, etc, from the beginning, and I also help those artists who are in trouble and need help collecting on their bills, or who have been sued, etc.

JMC:

What's the best piece of wisdom you could offer talent looking to avoid legal entanglements?

ROB:

The major piece of advice I must give is to make yourself aware of the legal entanglements you can encounter in the VO business so that you can properly avoid them.  Too many talent starting out wrongfully say "I can't be sued in the VO business" and then inevitably end up with some type of legal issue.

JMC:

You are a panelist on the Ethics in Voiceover panel at VO Atlanta. What does Ethics in Voiceover mean to you?

ROB:

Ethics in VO means the same to me as ethics in any other profession. Law for example, is subject to stringent ethical standards and if those ethics are breached, a lawyer can be subject to sanctions including losing their license to practice.  Although there are no "licenses" needed to be a VO artist, I believe the same ethical standards should be followed because in my opinion, that is what makes VO a profession versus a regular "job."

Monday, February 27, 2017

VO Atlanta 2017 Panelist Profiles: Dave Courvoisier



Today's installment of my VO Atlanta 2017 Panelist Profiles series features CourVO, the irrepressible Dave Courvoisier, voice actor, TV anchorman, and President of the World Voices Organization. Dave will be sitting on my Ethics in Voiceover panel at VO Atlanta 2017.

JMC:

You are the President of the World Voices Organization. How does that shape your outlook on issues affecting the industry?

CourVO: 

That unique vantage point gives me a hopeful outlook.  But it also underscores the spectrum of challenges and personalities that make up the Voice Over community.  From within our approx. 800 members, there is a profound organization-wide exuberance and quest for excellence that buoys the community at large.  Outside WoVO, the lines blur and an every-man-for-himself attitude seems to pervade the viewpoint.

JMC: 

As a respected voiceover blogger, what subjects do you find yourself most passionate about?

CourVO:

Being a geek, my attention is often skewed towards “shiny new things,” like hardware, software, and digital advancements.  Those are more of a tangential concern to voice actors, though, so I try to rein it in, and focus on things that I think matter to my readers, (and matter to me, too;) challenges I encounter on my road to VO success; topics like compensation rates, auditioning, agents, marketing, prospecting, coaching, demos, and the challenges of being a freelance business person.

JMC:

In addition to your many other hats, you are also a bit of a local celebrity as a prominent Las Vegas television news anchor. How has that shaped and informed your voiceover career?

CourVO:

In both news broadcasting and voice acting, the talent must use their voice.  That’s the only point of intersection.  I made the mistake of thinking a segue to VO from TV would be a cinch.  It is not.  The greatest challenge in the transition is not the talent demands, but the new responsibility of being in charge of my own business.  There is also a bias against ex-broadcasters in the land of voice-acting due to the belief that TV/Radio guys are announcers.  The bias is not without merit, but can be overcome with coaching and persistence.

JMC: 

What advice would you offer talent just starting out?

CourVO:

Practice due diligence as you would entering into any other career. Research. Ask questions. Find a mentor. Train/practice. Check references. Buyer beware when it comes to coaches and demo producers.  Success in voice-acting generally is a marathon, not a sprint.  Don’t give up your day job…yet.

JMC:

You are a panelist on the Ethics in Voiceover panel at VO Atlanta 2017. What does Ethics in Voiceover mean to you?

CourVO:

The phrase “taking the high road,” comes to mind.  Most people have a sense of what that means. Humans are imperfect, but when the goal is lofty, the conduct tends to follow.  I believe freelance business people especially should espouse actions that are honorable… revealing right intentions, and conscientious outcomes.  Also: good or bad behavior doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  The ethics question should always be considered in the context of community, but with the grace to know that in grey areas of unclear choices, harsh judgement rarely engenders solutions.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

VO Atlanta 2017 Panelist Profiles: Paul Strikwerda


Today I interview Paul Strikwerda, voice actor, respected blogger, and a frequent commentator on issues of ethics in our industry. Paul will be appearing on my Ethics in Voiceover panel at VO Atlanta 2017.

JMC:

Tell us about how voiceover became a career for you.

PAUL:

When I was seventeen, one of the public networks in the Netherlands picked me to produce and present radio and television programs by and for teenagers. A week after I got hired, I recorded a promo for my show. It was my very first voice-over. Fast forward thirty six-years, and I’m still in studios talking to invisible people as a disembodied voice. It’s weird, but very rewarding!

JMC:

You are very well known as a blogger and thought leader in the industry. What inspired you to take on this role?

PAUL: 

Writing has always been something I very much enjoy. When I came to the United States at the end of 1999, I needed an affordable and effective way to introduce myself to clients and colleagues. Blogging seemed to be the best way to boost my business. With close to 38,000 subscribers, I have a feeling that it’s working!

By the way, I never set out to become a thought leader. I did notice that as a European I bring a different perspective to the table. Every week I try my best to be informative and entertaining, and sometimes I push the envelope a little bit. Why? I think it’s the job of a voice-over to be outspoken.

I care a great deal about my community. My blog is also a way for me to give back, by helping people become more professional, and more empowered as a person, and as a freelancer.

JMC: 

Tell us about one job you are particularly proud of.

PAUL: 

A few months ago, I recorded a romantic mini movie called “The Tale of Kat and Dog,” (https://youtu.be/VVhFOOl0ovo) for the Holland Marketing Alliance. In it, I voice an adorable little dog, taking an American girl on an unexpected tour of Amsterdam. Even though I‘m now a U.S. citizen, I’m really proud to promote the country that means so much to me in such a fun, lighthearted way. In my next life, I want to come back as that dog!

JMC: 

What one piece of advice would you offer anyone starting out in voiceover?

PAUL:

Funny you should ask. I just blogged about it last week. My advice has to do with carving out a niche. I always tell my readers and my students:

Find something that defines you, but that does not limit you.

In other words; you want to box yourself in to emphasize what sets you apart, but you want that box to be big enough to attract a wide audience. If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one.

JMC: 

You are a panelist of the Ethics in Voiceover panel at VO Atlanta. What does Ethics in Voiceover mean to you?

PAUL: 

In short, ethics are moral principles that shape our lives; beliefs about what’s right and what’s wrong. These beliefs guide our decisions, and help us make choices based on what we think is important and good for us, and for society.

In the context of voice-overs, a common ethical dilemma is the choice between money and morals.

For instance, would you record a political campaign ad for a candidate whose ideas you do not share, just because it pays well? Would you voice a pro-life video, even if you’re pro-choice?

Would you align yourself with a company that rips voice-overs off by asking you to do more and more for less and less? Is it ethical to undercut the competition by working for a bargain basement rate?

These are important questions that are rarely discussed, and I can’t wait to weigh in on these issues in Atlanta!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

VO Atlanta 2017 Panelist Profiles: Bev Standing

In this second installment of my panelist profiles series, I talk to Bev Standing, prolific talent and advocate for industry standards.

JMC:

Tell us how you got into voiceover.

BEV:

I started out by taking a weekend voiceover workshop at VoiceWorx in Toronto. I took the course to simply keep busy at a very sad time in my life. From there, a few of us in the class decided we would look into Improv at Second City (Toronto) as recommended during the course. Five levels there led to taking acting classes and more VO workshops. Through the people I had met, I received a phone call asking me to audition for a radio imaging spot. I immediately went to a store and purchased equipment to create a home (closet) studio and the path was laid.

JMC:

Your career has grown very quickly. What worked for you in growing your business?

BEV:

A number of things that I've done seemed to have been successful, such as constant training and networking. The P2P sites I have done well on, but I have to say more importantly, my dedication to the craft and work ethic. I would work my full time job and then spend 3-4 hours every week night (and usually Sunday afternoons) auditioning and reading articles. Now that I am a full time voice talent, I still spend hours every week learning from my peers, blogs and other webinars etc. I have established a large client base and I do my best to stay in touch every so often, just checking in so to speak.

JMC: 

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in voiceover?

BEV:

Research, research, research. Make sure you know who you are training with. Don't hesitate to get testimonials other than on the coach's site. Same with demo production. Look on the internet to learn about the equipment needed. When you're starting out you don't need a $1000 mic but in the same breath you do need a quality mic, among other items. So, home school yourself.  Google and YouTube provide tons of information. Listen to what everyone says, and then find what works for you. Research the P2P (pay-to-play) sites that are out there and understand their terms before signing up. If you do decide to use the P2P sites, make time to do the auditions. That's a great opportunity to practice all kinds of different reads, characters etc. It doesn't mean you have to submit the audition if you don't like it. It also allows you to get an idea of what your niche is. Most importantly, read aloud every day. The newspaper, a book, a magazine; anything.

JMC:

Tell us about a job that has meant a lot to you.

BEV:

Mostly recently I voiced for a small company that was nominated for a Voice Arts Award which was truly special, but honestly, the job that has meant the most to be was a TV commercial I voiced for Kraft. My Dad was an ad exec, and he had the Kraft account for years.  If he was alive today, he would have been thrilled. My childhood bear was the Kraft Crunchy bear that my Dad got for me. Yes I still have it.

JMC:

You are a panelist on the Ethics in Voiceover panel at VO Atlanta. What does Ethics in Voiceover mean to you?

BEV:

Honesty, to yourself and to others. 
Respect, to the industry and your peers
Quality not quantity
Knowledge - learn what you need to know



Add all these things together.