Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Recently, during my EURO VO Retreat in Barcelona, I had one of those moments where I overestimated my ability to handle everything at once, and it almost cost me a fantastic client.
With our beautiful Studiobricks booth set up at the villa, and having the occasional hour or two between presenting and hosting duties, I decided booking some client sessions wouldn't be a bad idea. The first couple went off without a hitch, but on Tuesday night I woke up restless at 2AM, knowing that I was well behind on email, administrative tasks, and other minutiae that probably could have waited. I tried falling back to sleep, but after thirty minutes abandoned the effort and went to the living room to work on my laptop. I figured I would work for an hour and then be able to crawl back in bed until 6; Fortunately, our son Tom had been sleeping well, so this sounded like a reasonable plan. Instead, I worked until sunrise, getting into marketing and demo editing after the emails. Before I knew it, breakfast-time rolled around and it was time to put my host hat on. Okay, I thought, I can do one night with no sleep. No problem.
I had scheduled a 90-minute live-directed session with a major new client for that afternoon. I presented on conversational reads in the morning and my energy was fine, but by lunchtime I was starting to fade. Nevertheless, the show must go on, so at the designated hour I set my laptop, 416, and travel preamp up in the booth, and opened a session awaiting the client. Connectivity at the villa was not the best, so the client was already a little irritated by the occasional mis-connects and drop outs. But, the session went well. We got through about a dozen scripts in a little over an hour, and everything seemed good to go. I had a quick listen to the raw file through the computer speakers, and not sensing anything amiss, (I'd done this a thousand times, right,) I endured the slow upload to Dropbox and fired that bad boy off.
Then the panicked email came. Something was wrong with the audio. I sounded off-mic and tinny. Impossible, I thought....I was on a 416 with a decent pre in a quality booth, and I like to think I know my way around a mic. Just to be sure, I grabbed my all-star audio engineer A.J. McKay to have a quick listen with me and tell me I wasn't nuts. Problem was....I screwed up. Rushing from hosting duties into the booth, on two hours of sleep, I had failed to do one simple but crucial thing.....change the input on my laptop from the computer mic to the preamp. The client had over an hour of audio recorded on the very high-end, industry-standard voiceover mic which Sony builds into every new Vaio. OMFG.
Not only that, I had training to do that afternoon and a dinner to host later. There was no fixing this until the next day. The client was understandably livid, having hired not just my voice but my credentials and experience as well. It was easily the biggest VO Fail I've had in the past decade, and I was about to lose the account.
I fell on my sword, dropped the bravado, and explained what had happened and why they would have to wait. I fully expected them to toss me out like a radioactive potato. But, I sincerely apologized, and I offered to comp them 100% of the work that would be done throughout the week, until I returned to my studio, regardless of whether they kept me on or not. This was several thousand dollars worth of spots. I also offered them schedule priority for the week I returned, and told them I would clear any times they needed since they were now behind on delivery.
When I stay at a hotel, and their laundry service ruins one of my shirts, I expect them not just to pay for the shirt but to make a gesture of apology as well. A smart hotel will do something that has a quantifiable value, like send up one of those $30 bottles of Champagne that they charge $100 for through room service, or offer a free dinner. It makes you forget their mistake, and builds trust through a show of good faith. You suddenly like them again, and not because they just threw money at the problem, but because they demonstrated contrition by taking something out of their own pocket that they didn't have to.
Smart companies engage in service recovery that delights the customer. Everyone screws up once in awhile. It's how you handle it that determines whether it ends the relationship, or gives you a chance to build new trust. In your VO business, when you fail, when you try to be super-human and realize you aren't, and when your clients suffer because of it, fix the problem, and then show them your sincerity by doing something they won't soon forget. You might just save the relationship.
Anyway, I've gotta run. I have another dozen spots to do for that client in just a few minutes.
Monday, September 11, 2017
I recently had the privilege of working with the absolutely brilliant Jodi Krangle at my Las Vegas Conversational VO workshop, which led to our collaboration on two spectacular new FIRST CLASS DEMOS. (http://voiceoversandvocals.com/) Jodi is one of the most gifted talent I've had the chance to direct.....I joke that she made me feel like a potted plant most of the time, just nodding my head in agreement with her flawless reads. In this interview, we get to know Jodi a bit more, and find out about her journey in voiceover.
How did you get into the voiceover business?
I've been a singer all my life (http://www.jodikranglemusic.
so being in front of a microphone - both with recording or live
performance - is something I already loved doing. Way way back, before
the Internet, I remember seeing a newspaper ad that mentioned voiceovers and how you could just "take this course" and then "go on to great
things" (I'm paraphrasing). I took their "course" (I use the word
loosely), at a downtown Toronto warehouse-like classroom with a bunch of
other folks and then they handed me a cassette tape they'd recorded as I
tried things out, that made me sound just like everyone else in the
class (I remember it being SUPER bland!). And then they wanted
something like $2000 to continue on with the course work and end up with
a demo. I didn't have that kind of money so it fell by the wayside. I
had no idea what kind of scam I'd narrowly avoided.
In 1995-96, I volunteered my time to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) reading books on to tape because I thought it would be fun. And at that time, it really *was* tape - reel to reel. I found the operation of the equipment to be almost more interesting than the voicing. That was my first hint that I probably wouldn't end up voicing audio books. ;)
I ended up working in web design, and then Internet marketing for clients around the world up until 2007. I woke up one morning and just couldn't do it anymore (WOW was I bored! And by then, Google was basically the only search engine in town). It was time for a change. I searched on the Internet for more information, found Julie Williams' voice over message board, volunteered some more on Librivox.org ... and things progressed pretty quickly from there. I was still an entrepreneur working from home. It was my focus that changed. And a lot of the things I'd learned about the Internet up to that point - and about running my own business - helped to get me where I needed to be in my voice over career.
You're based in Canada, right? How does the market there differ from the US
It's really not that different, other than the fact that there's a smaller market here. And Canadian content laws (to keep the 9 billion pound elephant on our doorstep from taking over our media. ;) ). Since I'm just outside of Toronto, that's my "home" market. And it's a lot like NYC or L.A. in that you really need to go into the studio when you get a gig here. The client wants to be there. I've been in some fantastic studios, met some amazing audio engineers and worked for some really fun and prestigious clients here. But honestly, since the majority of my work these days is with people who *aren't* local to me, I spend more and more time in my "padded room" (i.e., professional home studio).
What was your most memorable job as a voice actor?
I tend to get a lot of work as a "straight man" to counter the funny happenings on screen. In one instance, I was the end announcer on a spot where a woman decides to take pole dancing lessons to "break out of the ordinary". It was for Ontario Turkey. https://www.youtube.com/watch
a slightly understated kind of tongue in cheek humor here in Canada
that I have always admired.) That was one super fun session.
Here's another commercial where I once again ended up in that role: https://vimeo.com/628997
63 (for Goo Gone Oven Cleaner).
I don't know that I have *one* most memorable one. But I've done everything from voicing an instructional video for a conception aid, to the voice of a fairy queen in an animated cartoon, to a singing ladybug (reminiscent of Billie Holiday) for an iPad app. Every one of them has been memorable in some way. I'm sure in another 10 years, I'll have some more interesting stories to tell! It's different every day - which is what I love about doing this.
The landscape of the industry continues to shift. What are you doing to prepare for the future?
I'm researching and contacting potential clients directly, reaching out to them personally. Agencies often have a set roster that are their "go to" people and my goal is to be on a lot of different rosters, all over the US, Canada and Europe. Each company has access to different types of projects and I love the diversity. I'm also focusing on adding content to my website to help with SEO and I participate in Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter. And along with that, I'm a member of both Voice123 and Bodalgo. I don't audition often on either of them, but when I do, it's for projects I know I have a good chance of landing. And my ratio is pretty darned good. There's a lot to do - so I take it one step at a time. That way, it doesn't become overwhelming.
What advice would you give anyone just starting out?
Coaching is so very important. It's a constant - not just to keep track of trends, but to keep track of *yourself*. (I still get coaching and will continue to do so until I leave this business - which won't be for a LONG time.) The thing that makes you unique in your delivery of the words you speak, is something that can be hard to tap into when you're a beginner behind a microphone, in a completely manufactured environment (and occasionally in front of a crowd!). First, you need to overcome that manufactured environment and trust your own imagination. And then you need the techniques that will make all of it sound natural.
Maybe I'm deconstructing this too deeply, but ultimately, it's about delivering a script with *your own* authentic voice. A coach will help you find it. And your "voice" may change over time. But you can bet - even if a client can't quite put it into words - they can hear your authenticity (or lack thereof). Hone the craft and you'll never regret it - even if a particular coach's instructions don't resonate with you in the end. In that case, keep searching.
Oh - and if any coach tells you he/she can teach you how to do this over a weekend and will get you a demo when you're done - for the bargain price of only x amount of dollars (which is generally astronomical) run away REALLY fast. There's no easy fix or fast track here. If you're serious about this, the rewards can be wonderful - but it takes time, money and dedication. Sustainable careers don't start without investments - of at least *some* kind.
Have a look at the World Voices Organization - https://world-voices.org/ - an industry association specifically for voice actors, where you can find resources, advocacy and support. They have an excellent mentoring program that can help too.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Nevertheless, as with all things, time affords perspective. While the news is still fairly fresh, the nest remains intact, if dented, and the collective buzz is starting to settle into a determination to protect and preserve....and, perhaps, to swarm.
Voices.com has openly stated that they want to take over the world of voiceover, becoming the reflexive choice for buyers both union and non-union alike to source their talent. The acquisition of Voicebank.net gives them an entree into the realm of union VO, ostensibly moving them closer to their stated goal. They promise that nothing will change with the way Voicebank operates. If this is the case, the addition of their resources, backed by Morgan Stanley, could serve simply to grow Voicebank and increase opportunities across the board. In a vacuum, this would be a good thing.
That said, when I hear their promises not to start adding new and various fees to the agents and other consumers using Voicebank, I'm reminded of the old fable about the scorpion who asked an alligator for a ride across the river. "Sure," the alligator said, "but you have to promise not to sting me, for if you do we shall both surely die." "I promise," said the scorpion. Halfway across the river, the alligator felt a searing pain in his back. The scorpion had stung him. "Why did you sting me?!," the alligator asked. "Now we will both die." All the scorpion could say in reply was, "It's my nature."
Voices.com has demonstrated over and over that their only abiding purpose is profit. Despite numerous promises and overtures over the years, they have systematically eschewed the value of good will in order to squeeze every possible cent from talent and buyers alike. You can make an argument that this makes sense if their sole purpose is to drive the value of the company higher and sell to a larger interest, or launch an IPO where the balance sheet is the only thing investors care about, but few companies thrive without at least some measure of good will between themselves and those they work with or employ. A visit to any VO industry forum will reflect the overwhelming negativity of talent opinion about the company....a negativity which I'm given to understand has left Voicebank's leadership stunned and saddened at the guilt by association that has attached to a brand that was once embraced by talent and agents. Furthermore, a glance at Voices.com's review page on Glassdoor.com offers a chilling insight into the company culture. The vast majority of reviews speak of a soul-sucking profit-at-all-costs atmosphere leading to disillusionment. This is not the foundation of a healthy company.
Moreover, while the leadership would like to believe that voice actors are as easily replaceable as Uber drivers, this is belied by the fact that the greater portion of the work on the site is being consistently booked by a couple hundred talent. This realization is surely one of the drivers of the acquisition of Voicebank; As the available labor pool becomes more cognizant of the company's actions, it will become more disillusioned. Acquiring Voicebank, while looking like a masterstroke on the surface, may also be an act of preservation, hoping to firmly lock-in a larger pool of quality talent to the Voices.com mothership to hedge against the prospect of having a big shiny platform that has been abandoned by those who can do the work well.
Ultimately, though, Voices faces the danger of irrelevancy. If that's a little hard to swallow while they are staggering around throwing millions of dollars in various directions, I understand.....but think about it.
*Voice123.com charges roughly the same for a membership as Voices.com, and offers a similar quantity of work and a higher quality of work in most cases when compared with Voices.com. Voices.com enforces a 20% commission masquerading as 'escrow' against talent, (you can quibble over whether the talent eats this or the buyer pays it, but it comes from the overall budget regardless.) Voice123.com charges no commission to talent or buyers, (though a strictly optional and legitimate escrow system would be welcomed by some.) Bodalgo.com also follows the latter model, and while there is less buyer traffic on Bodalgo, the rates are screened by site ownership and the quality of the jobs on offer is almost universally high.
*Voices.com offers buyers the ability to have their jobs 'managed' by an account manager from the site, (people who, despite being good and well-meaning folks in my experience, have no industry background,) who then curates the talent presented to the buyer, and does everything in their power to prevent the talent from having contact with the buyer. For this service they retain 40-50% of the client's overall budget according to a recent interview with their CEO. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfLy654-h2k&app=desktop) Meanwhile, long-established agencies charge about half this amount to perform the same function, fielding a roster of talent selected strictly on merit, with no regard to how low they are willing to bid for a job.
Given these facts, it is hard to see what value Voices.com offers to buyers when compared with rivals Voice123.com and Bodalgo.com, and when compared with traditional talent agents and casting directors who have years of industry experience. Why would a buyer spend 20% more to use Voices.com than they would spend to use Voice123.com or Bodalgo.com? Why would they pay a Voices.com 'manager' double what an agent would charge? Especially when the same pool of talent are generally available on the other sites and on those agency rosters? It just doesn't make sense. Voices.com adds no value to the process on the buyer side, and as this becomes clearer to those who hire from the site, it's hard to see why they would keep their business there.
Those of you who know me know that I supported Voices.com for many years. I still believe that the concept of online casting will be the driving force in our marketplace for years to come, whether that is in the form of current players, new initiatives incorporating agents, casting directors, and the union, or some other shape that we haven't seen yet. I once very sincerely believed that Voices.com could be that platform, and that all boats could rise together under a tide driven by the ease of use of the site, and the broad reach of their SEO. Indeed, there's no reason that even now Voices.com could not make necessary overtures and concessions to the talent community and traditional casting community in order to integrate everyone into their vision of prosperity. Perhaps the leadership of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital can overcome the instincts driving the corporate culture in London, Ontario, and recognize that establishing rapport with the people who drive their business will be good for all involved. I fear, however, that the rapacious lust for money that has permeated this company may ultimately prove too entrenched. After all, it's their nature.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
It's one of the more controversial aspects of online casting platforms: Bidding. Many industry professionals believe that talent bidding against each other drives rates down, and surely in some cases it does. It would be nice to say, "I won't work on a job that requires a bid," but taking such a stand means losing out on a lot of potentially high-quality work, and ignores the fact that almost every other freelance industry has moved to a model where contractors bid against each other for jobs. I'm not here to pass judgement on whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, but ignoring economic realities and buyer preferences has helped lead us to a world where corporations working against our interests are trying to control more and more of the marketplace. Even the good sites acting strictly as matchmakers, (Voice123, Bodalgo,) allow clients to post jobs with a budget range or a budget to be defined. It's up to us to submit a professional bid, and hopefully this article will help you maximize your earnings.
With this in mind, let's look at three common types of buyer on online casting platforms, and some scenarios that might help you submit a bid that will win the job. Surprisingly, this doesn't mean going low in most cases.
Please note that the following scenarios assume the usage and length of content is fair for the range provided.
Scenario 1.) The Budget-Minded Buyer
Budget Listed: $250-$500
Let's face it, while some buyers falsely cry poor, many are producing low-impression-count jobs that don't justify a high budget for voiceover. I always think of the hypothetical example of Joe's Pizza in Piscataway, New Jersey. Joe's got a store in Jersey, and maybe one in Connecticut too. Joe has posted his local radio commercial job on an online site himself, not through a production company or ad agency. You're dealing directly with Joe. The spot will run for 13 weeks, and Joe's total cost between production, ad buy, etc.... is about $15,000. Maybe less. Joe thinks $500 sounds like a lot to spend on a voiceover for something with his total budget, and he's probably right, though he's open to going that high for a voice he falls in love with. Ultimately, though, Joe would be comfortable around $300, which is 2% of the total production cost.
Now, think about this: How much does McDonald's spend on an average commercial, start to finish including ad buy? A million dollars? Two? If you were getting 2% of that pie you would probably be pretty happy, right? 2% of Joe's overall spend isn't a lot of money, but it's probably fair for a limited run in local markets. Joe's looking for a $300 bid, and you might consider accommodating him here.
Signs of a Budget-Minded Buyer:
*Posts the job directly, not through a production company or ad agency.
*Posts as an individual; Joe Smith versus Medical Holdings, Inc.
*Language and direction in the post are colloquial, not corporate-sounding.
*Seems to have limited knowledge of industry terminology, and how things work.
Advice: Use your judgement, and don't compromise your standards. Some Budget-Minded Buyers may be too budget-minded to justify a bid in the first place. That said, assuming the entirety of the range is fair for the work posted, this is one case where bidding on the lower end of the range is likely to yield better results, though you should still avoid going to the low number or below, as even a Budget-Minded Buyer is prone to being turned off by what looks like desperation.
Where would I bid? $350 for a 13-week run. Maybe some reasonable accommodations for re-buys.
Scenario 2.) The Garden-Variety Production Company
Budget Listed: $500-$800
Probably 50% of jobs on online casting sites are posted by production companies, and sometimes ad agencies. You can often recognize them by use of an adjective followed by an animal as their company name: Glittery Dinosaur, Impetuous Monkey, Jazzy Gopher, and so on. Okay, sometimes the names are more conventional, but I digress.
Production companies come in all shapes and sizes, but let's assume this one is your garden-variety, middle-of-the-road production house in a big city, posting a job for a web ad for a medium-sized regional brand to be used for one year.
Our Garden-Variety Production Company is on a fairly defined budget that is part of the overall bid they submitted, (yes, production houses often have to submit bids, too,) to the end client. They have allocated up to $1,000 for voiceover, but aren't telling you that. They'd love to find Johnny Goldenthroat or Jill Perfectpipes for five hundred bucks, but having sifted through the mounds of garbage auditions online a few times before, they understand that the 10-20% of talent who are usually competitive tend to charge a little more, (though they've gotten lucky once or twice.) So, they've set their budget between $500-$800, figuring they will end up at the high end of that range, and hoping their ideal voice doesn't come in over their number, though reserving a little cushion in case he or she does.
Now, in my personal experience casting from online sites, most jobs come down to about five talent who really fit the spec well and have executed a competitive audition. Production companies are like Macy's buyers. They like the big brand names, but probably aren't going to spring for a Ralph Lauren suit unless it is on sale. At the same time, if they see something in the discount underwear bin, even if it's Victoria's Secret, they are likely to pass. If they have five decent reads to choose from, the person bidding $500 and the person bidding $1200 are both probably out.
This scenario is the paradigm for the classic online casting bidding advice of aiming for the high end of the middle.
Signs of a Garden-Variety Production Company:
*The word "Productions" in the name of the client.
*The word "Agency" in the name of the client, (this likely means ad agency, not talent agent, who don't generally put their jobs online.)
*Another company name with a 'creative' feel.
*Broad budget ranges.
Where would I bid? $725 for one year license, 110% optional re-buy.
Scenario 3.) The Deep-Pocketed Corporation
Budget Listed: $500-$1,500
In the final scenario, we find the Holy Grail of online casting clients: The Deep-Pocketed Corporation who has posted their job directly to an online site. These companies are my bread and butter online, and probably comprise about 30% of the work available on these platforms.
The Deep-Pocketed Corporation typically posts their job directly because they realized they needed a voiceover for their internal presentation, training video, lengthy e-Learning project, or B2B sales video, and somebody in the responsible department said, "Well, there's gotta be a site for that, right?" Let's hope they chose the right one, but regardless Linda in HR or whomever may be casting still thinks of VO as glamorous, TV, radio, HOLLYWOOD! This is a Fortune-500 company, or close, and all they care about is getting the best voice. They have a budget in mind, but it is the back end of a six figure appropriation for the project, and they aren't married to it....in fact, the large range indicates that they don't really know what this stuff costs. Oh, and they need it yesterday.
The individual responsible for choosing the voice for this Deep-Pocketed Corporation is often a senior manager or junior executive...sometimes even higher on the food chain. They are quality-minded in everything they do; The kind of person who sees a Gucci bag that they kind of like, hears the price, and then wants it even more because it seems so EXCLUSIVE. And, oh yeah, how cool is it that they get to play Simon Cowell for an hour and choose who gets to the final show!
My friends.....these are the clients you want.
Signs of a Deep-Pocketed Corporation:
*Company name is something serious and soiphisticated.
*If it's an individual, their name is followed by a title, or letters of academic qualification.
*On certain sites the company name has been hidden by request.
*Very precise in delineation of terms for submission and payment.
Where would I bid? $1,800 for one year license, 110% re-buy.
As you can see from these examples, bidding doesn't have to mean lowballing. Most clients will respect a confident bidder more than a passive one, and a lot more than a desperate one. As a buyer, I've personally passed on talent who were competitive when their bids were suspiciously low....thinking, "What am I missing?"
I wish we lived in a world where every client had a set budget and this didn't require so much thinking, but until we do, polish up your poker game, understand who else is at the table, and play your cards well. You might just end up with a big stack of chips!
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Juliette Gray is the very definition of class, both as a person and a voice. Recently, I had the privilege of producing a new suite of demos for this class act, and she was a true joy to work with. You can hear her here: http://www.juliettegrayvoiceover.com/
Today, Juliette shares her thoughts on the business with all of you.
How did you first get into voice acting?
I had been working for the movie studios in Los Angeles for 15 plus years and although there were times when I really enjoyed it – there were many times that I felt like a prisoner between 9-6 – sometimes later. I had to leave my identity at the door so when the opportunity came to take a lay off I took it. After a few months of collecting unemployment, the thought of going back into another office environment started to make me feel physically ill. Then one day I was in an athletic footwear store (which is an almost never for me) and the person who helped me was British and he told me that he was studying voice over. I didn’t know what that was but he gave me some information and once I went to the first class I felt a level of enthusiasm that I don’t remember having before.
As a British talent based in Los Angeles, what has been your experience of the American VO marketplace, and how does it compare to the industry in the UK?
I really don't know much about the U.K. Market, as I never worked in the U.K. as a VO. From my research I think things are quite a bit different locally although a lot of U.K. talent are crossing the pond to see what we are up to here and how they can get into our market.
I will say that I have worked for more clients in continental Europe than in England. That could be because they already have so many British people. But if I make that assumption then it doesn’t say much about me having a unique style and brand. Its just that I have to work harder at marketing for people over there to find out I exist (therefore I am!) – sorry Descartes.
I think there is also some disparity being in a time zone where we are not at work at the same time during business hours and the fact that in London at least a lot of the clients like the talent to physically come in.
The good thing over there is a lot of jobs are filled just from demos and not so much from auditioning. As I just completed a Transatlantic reel I plan to market that to England which may be of more interest to them than “just another British demo.”
What do you miss about England?
Not the weather! Although when the sun does come out you feel you have really earned it compared to Los Angeles where you feel sometimes that you wish it would rain.
I miss the energy of London and having real walking streets where you can window shop and watch people in cafes. It has a more NYC feeling than L.A. and that makes you feel more a part of humanity which is a good thing.
Also the quantity and quality of the culture, art, music, theatre, fashion, food is so fantastic in England. Yes there is suburbia – but so many of the neighborhoods have been gentrified in parts of town that used to be awful and its great that there is more to London than the west end now. It gives people a wider perspective on what a good life can offer.
The great thing about England is the proximity to the rest of Europe and being able to take short weekend breaks to other countries and other cultures.
What has been your most rewarding VO job?
I love the jobs where I actually go to an outside studio to record and where there is a director and it seems more like a collaboration. I also love working that way because the technical part is with the engineer and I can concentrate 100% on my craft.
Working for the U.N. news service on projects concerning the refugee crisis, third world problems like no clean water, and lack of medication, especially for children resonate with me. I did this job several times a week for a year until they lost their funding and it brought about a visceral awareness of the things that are inequitable on our planet and has made me more pro active in feeling we in the west should be less selfish.
If you had to start over in voiceover, is there anything you would do differently?
I would have done more self marketing. Looking for my ideal client rather than depending on agents and auditions.
It also would depend on when I would have started because the business has changed even during the 7 years I have been involved. There comes a time with any pursuit where you have to adjust to new paradigms. I think I have done that. I still could be better at the tech side of things and I think if I had been I may have gotten further earlier on.
Unfortunately there is not enough coaching in this area. But if you need it there are people out there who can help. I used to spend way too much time on jobs that didn’t warrant it because of my poor editing skills. That has improved but if I continue to get long jobs I will either hire an editor or satisfy myself that I am good enough to do it myself. Because now I realize my time is money. I didn’t think of it that way in the beginning.
What advice do you have for talent just starting out?
Firstly, be honest with yourself about whether you are cut out to do this work. Do you have some innate talent. If you are not sure, explore coaching and find a coach that is willing to be honest with you rather than just take your money.
I was told by one of the top coaches quite soon after I started that it really takes 10 years to reach a decent place on the ladder. So if you really want to do this you have to have patience.
Your success is partly people getting to know who you are, and building a liking and trust in you.
Do your due diligence. Don't put the cart before the horse. Figure out what your brand is and what you can offer that is different so you stand out.
Then…… you will take incremental steps with some detours on the way. It can be expensive so don’t complain because its an expensive career, but no different than a four year college degree, just a different way of learning that requires more of you to make sure you are approaching things for your individual needs. Its up to you where you spend your VO dollars – a quality sound home studio is a must and coaching is necessary on an ongoing basis. So is keeping up with the trends because styles change. Watch different news shows to see what the latest technology is and listen to the commercials for products in your demographic.
Most of all you have to believe in yourself to be able to handle the periods where things are slow and use that time productively for marketing and research.
If you have to work a day job until you start building your VO career figure out a way to be able to fit things in during working hours. Maybe explain to your boss that there might be an occasion when you have to disappear for a short time to do an audition, etc. and that you will make the time up. But don’t get resentful about your job as you still have to be there, and that negativity can show up in your reads.
Most of all, enjoy the journey and the people in the industry. You won’t find another area of work like this – so make the most of it.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with talented voice actress Rain Gwinn about her journey in voiceover. We met at VO Atlanta where Rain took part in my X-Session, and subsequently worked together on her new E-Learning demo, which can be found here: http://www.raingwinn.com/
Today, rain offers a few thoughts about her time in the industry.
Does your medical background give you any advantage in VO?
Having a medical background helps with medical narration of course but even in other less obvious ways. Attention to detail, hours on my feet and endurance.
What is your dream voiceover job?
My dream VO job? Wow, it may sound trite but being able to do this work is a dream! I'm so lucky to be able to do something that I love. My long term goal is to do documentaries and audiobooks. I will get there but I'm enjoying learning and growing as a voice actor along the way.
What genres of VO are your favorites?
I love long form, such as audiobooks and eLearning. Anything related to medicine feels familiar and 'homey.' Commercials are fun and exciting!
What advice would you give to new talent?
Patience and perseverance are key because it won't happen overnight.....but achieving any goal is going to take hard work. There's so much more involved than having a great voice, that's just the start! Find a great coach who is willing to invest in you and your career. Do your research! I I started voice acting at 14, I was a disc jockey and did commercials and live events. I had the coolest job in high school and college! But before I got back into this work, I spent hours and hours doing research, getting caught back up. This field can change rapidly so keep up!
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
It's one of the most intangible pieces of direction we get as voice actors: "energy."
What does it mean? Where does it come from....and how do we know if we have correctly judged the buyer's meaning? More importantly, how do we inject energy into the reads that demand it?
When I see the word 'energy' offered as a direction point, it tells me that the buyer is looking for someone who is engaged with the copy. One of the great challenges we face as voice actors is connecting with copy that is often boring or full of promotional hype. Even the most conversational and authentic commercials usually end up with some sort of pitch along the way. It's what we do, and even the best actors among us can struggle to stay motivated when we are faced with price points and hyped up adjectives.
A frequent mistake that I see talent make is equating volume with energy. I've directed many sessions where I have asked for more energy, only to wind up being shouted at. NO ONE LIKES SHOUTING! Be careful not to misinterpret a request for more energy as a request for loudness. They are not the same thing. Moreover, that fancy mic that you and your audio guru of choice have perfectly dialed in is going to pick you up just fine....there's no need to get aggressive. The mic is not impressed.
Other talent will take direction for more energy and try to get there with inflection, usually raising certain words in order to create a more energetic feel. In occasional small doses this can be effective, but more often than not it results in a sing-songy delivery that becomes predictable and monotonous. It can even get a bit announcery if words are stretched in the process.
What's the right way to do energy? Two elements that will help make your reads more authentically energetic are pacing, and most importantly, smile. Pacing requires care, because if it becomes too fast it just sounds rushed, but if you are being directed to be more energetic, try kicking the pace up ten or fifteen percent. Then, if appropriate given the content, add some genuine smile. Be careful not to go overboard and become saccharine, but well-judged smile will add real energy to your delivery as your body loosens up and you start to have more fun. Physicality always adds energy to reads, and smiling is just another element of a physical delivery.
Looking to add energy? Add smile and a little tempo, and don't use volume or inflection as crutches, and you'll be on the right track.
Monday, July 10, 2017
This week I'm talking with new talent Jim Cooper, a former commercial production pro, who recently booked his first gig as a professional voice actor. Jim's a talented and interesting individual, and I enjoyed working with him on his delivery and new demos over the past few months, (hear them here: goo.gl/vKgJ54, goo.gl/fAiBFJ.) Discover Jim's perspective on getting into the industry below.
How did you get interested in voice acting?
I'd like to say a white light fell from the sky to guide me into the industry where my talents would be most useful. But that's not going to fly is it? OK. I spent many years in radio but the part I always liked the best was the commercial production side. Being on-air was cool, but creating commercials was my favorite, letting all my creativity break out and have fun.
As a new talent, what process did you go through before deciding to pursue this professionally?
I had my own home baking business - does that count? I attended a VO seminar in Manhattan some years back and was told I was too "announcery" for voice over work - all that radio training was working against me. It wasn't until recently that a voice inside my head told me it was time to get over myself and get some training.
What sort of VO work puts a smile on your face?
I have the most fun recording scripts that are fun, witty and well-written, regardless of category. Characters with well defined emotions that I can really dig into.
What is your dream VO job?
I don't know that I have one yet, as I'm just starting to experience the many facets of this business. On my VO bucket list is recording an audiobook, being part of a cast in a radio drama, and being the introduction announcer for bands at concert venues.
What have you found most challenging so far in your VO journey?
Patience and keeping expectations real. The first few weeks of auditioning provided many lessons; it took awhile for me to pay attention to them. For example, it dawned on me eventually that I didn't have to audition for everything; that doing auditions that were outside of where my core talents lie was a waste of time. Also, having been exposed to advice from many of the top VO talents, the one thing that really struck me was to just be myself - use my own voice. I don't have to be Sam Elliot or James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. They certainly aren't spending any time trying to be me - that's my job.
Monday, July 3, 2017
goo.gl/tuD9Ao, Pharmaceutical Commercials goo.gl/8AnE3h, Political goo.gl/xJzeV6, and TV Narration goo.gl/r1xf4T.) If anyone has, "the voice," it's Mindy. I often joke that she is a thoroughbred, blessed with classic pipes that touch the most refined VO notes effortlessly. Check out what she had to say below.
You've been in the business for awhile. Tell us about some of your favorite jobs.
How did you get started in voiceover?
What advice do you have for new talent?
I understand you are a client of Celia Siegel. How has she managed to advance your career?
You specialize in a more traditional, polished sound. What encouragement can you offer talent who just don't do the whole 'conversational' thing?
If you had to start again today, what would you do differently?
You've been in the business for awhile. Tell us about some of your favorite jobs.
WOW that's tough....
Over the (many) years of my career, I have enjoyed most of my jobs thankfully. So let's see.....
I LOVED being the Female voice for HSN -it was a great group of people to work with and I had a great run for over 7 years there. I often really enjoy directed sessions, and I absolutely LOVE Promo work - so doing Dateline and Weekend TODAY was awesome. I enjoyed being an animated avocado more than I expected - perhaps thats why I love guacamole so much? Midas Muffler, Volkswagen were memorable as well. And there a several local companies who I will always love and adore as they have been with me from the beginning. Truly a special place in my heart for those!
SO many jobs...SO MANY YEARS ouch!
How did you get started in voiceover?
I started as a morning radio personality. I was on the air in Miami/Ft Lauderdale for almost 15 years. Not unusual I know, and I have had to work hard to "beat" the radio out of me.
What advice do you have for new talent?
You have to decide if you want a hobby or a little side money.....or if you want a career.
And Voice acting is NOT easy and it IS acting.
I understand you are a client of Celia Siegel. How has she managed to advance your career?
Celia really helped take my career to new levels. Marketing and promoting has never been my strong spot, and she changed that. Celia really helped me find excellent representation i.e. Abrams in Los Angeles. She keeps me accountable and is a partner in my success.
You specialize in a more traditional, polished sound. What encouragement can you offer talent who just don't do the whole 'conversational' thing?
Haha! If I had a nickel for every gig I didn't get because I wasn't natural enough...
I have trained and been coached and I can get there SORT OF.....but I don't beat myself up anymore. There is plenty of room for all of us in this industry. I focus on what I can do well and just keep climbing the mountain.
If you had to start again today, what would you do differently?
I would take it more seriously from the beginning, and wished I hadn't waited so long to get the support I need. For example, I use a virtual assistant (Raquel Wilson from PeachTree Virtual Assistants.) It's been a game changer for me! And more recently, I wish I hadn't eaten that donut this morning.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
I recently had the pleasure of working with Kabir on a collection of new demos, which can be heard at the following links, (goo.gl/dFNmgY, goo.gl/fyRCji, goo.gl/GaRosu.) Today, I interview Kabir about his rise to voiceover success, and his tips for talent just starting out.
Tell us how you got interested in being a voice actor.
I never wanted or desired to do anything in entertainment. I was always a poet at heart. After college, I got a corporate job with lawyers. 2 years into it, I started to realize and feel my unhappiness. After some research I quickly learned that there was zero dollars to be made in poetry (at least in the beginning).
So- I researched “how to make money using your voice” – I came across “The Art of Voice Acting” from James Alburgur.
The story starts here. 2 years of “post awareness” I planned my exit out of corporate America by taking my first class with Marc Cashman and then going deep into study with Bill Holmes. 2008 I got fired and was forced to purse VO. No money. No savings. All hunger. The grind involved daily work, beyond 9-5 in the beginning.
Is there one job or client you are especially proud of?
I am not a fan of the word proud. I know its strange, but sometimes I don’t see my accomplishments as anything to be proud of. However, with all that said, it may be surprising, but my “proudest” client was my first VO job for $100 through Voices.com. Why? Because it gave me hope. It confirmed that a kid who came from a trailer park with 0 connections to the industry – can make this “VO thing” happen. HOPE is very powerful. That 1 job started this journey and gave me belief in my ability to accomplish anything. I felt fearless and I felt even more hungry.
This job will never be forgotten. It still fuels me today.
What advice do you have for new talent?
Stay hungry- dam near- starving. Every single day. Hungry for knowledge, hungry for guidance, hungry for self-improvement and hungry to compete with TOP talent. Hunger dies in the land of comfort. 6 years into my journey, successful and very accomplished now, I am hungrier than I have ever been. Fearless to fail and learn from my mistakes. I cannot make this clear enough- I suck. I am not talented. There are 1000’s that are more talented than me. But- I will work harder than anyone (at least in my mind). If my competition is next to me and we are both trying to accomplish a goal, you will have to kill me in order to out-work me. So in summary – stay hungry and be ready to die before you let anyone outwork you (assuming you want to be successful)
You post motivational videos and have started speaking at conferences.....how does your life story inspire other talent?
I don’t even know if my story inspires anyone. I hope it does. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for the inspiration of others. Men and Women that have guided me in my life. Without beating up the story of Kabir too much I can share some snippets:
I am a son of a single mom. I met my father for the first time when I was 10. He died in front of me when I was 13. Up until my 2nd year of College, I was the lonely Indian kid in an all-Black/Hispanic school. My stories of being bullied would bring tears to even the toughest of men. But- I learned a lot through these experiences. One of the best lessons I learned- empathy. Empathy is so powerful and can be very contagious.
What inspires me now? What fuels this hunger? My mom and my sister. My sister has polio. My mom is 66 years old. I see her every day. She is my angel. Each breath I take is for them. I want the responsibility that my father never did. To take care of my mom and my sisters. To provide them with comfort. I am 30 years old, and sometimes I feel 60. What I used to consider a burden in my 20’s, I know see as a beautiful responsibility.
I have this one life. One life to be positive, make something of my-self and help others. I am no body without the help of everybody.
Your sound can best be described as modern and urban. What advantages and disadvantages come along with that?
Urban and modern is in. It won’t be forever and I am highly in tune with that now. It’s the “flavor of the week”, the swag and the personality. I have been able to master this swag and personality and allowed it to become a part of my daily get down. The opportunities are endless and lots of producers are searching for great urban talent. With all that said- the disadvantages are you can become limited in your endeavors and auditions. If you can’t tweak that urban read and really go from urban to just a cool millennial- your opportunities become less. So, you have to develop your “knob of balance.” To be able to tweak your flavor to the right taste. It’s possible, but if you don’t, its extremely disadvantageous.
If you had to start over again today, what would you do differently?
With no ego I must say- Nothing. Trust me when I say- I have failed. Failed demos, failed classes, failed meetings and failed auditions. BUT, each failed memory revealed a valuable lesson. Till this day I can recall each LESSON from my FAILURES. I wouldn’t do anything different because I love my failures.
Thank you for interviewing me and allowing me to share part of myself with whomever reads this. JMC has helped me grow my business unlike any other resource out there. I owe a lot of my successful business strategy to you and I appreciate you very much sir.