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Friday, May 19, 2017

3 Things.....

It's Friday again, and time once more to scattershoot about what's on my mind this week....

ENERGY

Throughout the webinars and coaching I've been involved in this week, one consistent theme has been a particular focus of mine: Energy! Are you bringing it to every read? Many talent are afraid of going too far with their delivery, when in fact buyers and casting directors are often looking for the read that jumps out and gets their attention. Moreover, we perceive our own energy level as higher than it registers with the average listener; it's a phenomenon of the human ear that we think we are more energetic in our speech than we actually are. Top VO talent aren't scared of making a jackass of themselves, and audition-weary buyers sometimes need to be startled awake by a talent who is totally committed, (or perhaps should be.) Don't hold back!

CONFERENCES: THEY AREN'T JUST FOR VOs!

This week I picked up a copy of the sponsorship prospectus for DevLearn, the nation's largest conference dedicated only to E-Learning developers. You know, the kind of people who hire voice actors for their modules. Moreover, those who attend this conference of over 3,000 E-Learning industry professionals are ponying up almost $1,500 each for a ticket, plus hotel and travel, which means the companies they work for probably aren't the type to skimp on talent quality to save a few bucks. I'm considering setting up a booth in the exhibit hall, either on my own or with a group of fellow voice actors. As I've often discussed, E-Learning is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative genres in voiceover. I want to be where the buyers are.

WOVO CON

I'm looking forward to being in Sin City in just over a month for WoVO Con, where I'll be joining Dave Courvoisier and David Rosenthal for a live Rates Roundtable, and presenting on The Future of Voiceover. Will I see you there?

Enjoy your weekend!

JMC

Saturday, May 13, 2017

3 Things

Today I'm launching a new weekly blog series to take a look at three voiceover related topics that are top of mind at the end of my week.

First up:

The Future is Here

The issue of rates and compensation continues to percolate around the industry, and there is a certain sky-is-falling character to much of the discussion. In a figurative sense, the sky may well be falling. Rates at the highest end of the market are clearly under pressure. We are all seeing jobs from agents these days that look like they are missing a zero compared to what they once might have paid. I tend to believe that this is more a result of changing media consumption habits reducing the effectiveness of traditional broadcast media advertising than any supply/demand issue, but there's no denying that there are a lot of talent willing to take on major projects at lower rates than ever before for the sake of the credential. It will be interesting to see how this phenomenon progresses over the next couple of years, but the likelihood is that the days of making deep bank from working strictly on the national broadcast level are slowly coming to an end.

Nevertheless, there is a strong argument to be made that the broader voiceover industry is healthier than it has ever been, and will only continue to offer more and more opportunity to those with the ability to anticipate its evolution. For years, I've been telling people that the future of VO success is earning a robust income $500 at a time. That future is here. This doesn't mean accepting peanut rates for broadcast or new media work that generates large numbers of impressions, but rather embracing that the future for most talent will be found in corporate/industrial work, e-learning, and local/regional broadcast. Indeed, that's already how the vast majority of full time voice actors are making their living. The good news is that as commercial, and especially big league commercial, continues its inevitable decline due to new media and more segmented/targeted advertising, these other sectors are growing at an exponential pace. Moreover, the supply/demand curve for these genres is far more favorable than it is for commercial and even animation/video game voice actors. There is more work out there than there is quality talent to do it, which a quick review of auditions from any online casting site or other non-curated talent pool will demonstrate in abundance. The flow of $300-$1,000 jobs has never been stronger, and it will only continue to grow.

The sky is very much intact.

Demo Length

I've been following a few discussions on this topic this week, and I'm concerned that the debate over demo length is becoming a little too simplified. Not all demos are created equal. The conventional wisdom of around a minute with a fair amount of variety is a good baseline for high-impact demos like commercial, promo, trailer, and imaging. These demos lead to auditions or a foot in the door more often than direct hires, and buyers in these genres, very generally, tend to be high-end creatives with trained ears able to form impressions quickly. Fast paced, exciting, and packed with (reasonable) variety is key. No one wants to listen through two minutes of commercials, either, no matter how good you are.

What gets lost sometimes is the difference between buyers/gatekeepers in the genres mentioned above and those who are hiring for industrial narration, explainers, e-learning and the like. I've heard a lot of narration demos lately that are barely distinguishable from commercial demos. When I'm hiring for narration, or considering suitability based on a demo, eight seven-second cuts doesn't tell me much. Do I want to hear your range? Sure, but I just need to know how much of the conversational to polished spectrum you can cover. 3-4 different styles is plenty. What I'm more interested in hearing is whether you can sustain a read and engage my audience. These both require more than five or ten seconds of copy. Anyone hiring voice talent for multi-minute industrials/explainers or thousands of words of e-learning has run into talent who can flash greatness in short bursts but cannot sustain a read over time. This leads to awkward situations where re-casting can be necessary and compensation comes into doubt. Buyers in narration genres hire straight from demos more often than they do in other parts of the business. I would much rather hear 3-4 twenty to thirty second reads if I'm making that decision than a bunch of quick cuts. Show me competence, consistency, the ability to tell a story.


The Xanax Read


It all started with that Facebook Live commercial, (youtube.com/watch?v=YDmYpWhuGx8,) and now it seems like the post-Millennial trend is to reads that are actively sounding bored. Not even bored in a slightly edgy or sarcastic way, but rather just simply disconnected entirely from any emotional investment in the copy. I have my own theories on why this is, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on this emerging trend. Are we all going to have to learn how not to act?

Until next week, this is JMC.


Monday, April 17, 2017

A Good Day

I had a nice Thursday last week. One of those days where a few things come together and you unexpectedly book more revenue in 24 hours than your usual monthly target. A happy dance may have been involved. Perhaps two.

My instinct, sitting there at about 3PM on the Thursday before a holiday weekend, was to power down the studio, slap myself on the back for a job well done, and open a nice cold cerveza. See you Monday, voiceover business.

Instead, I did another 30 auditions over the next few hours, replied to client emails, worked a bit more on my upcoming book, began writing several scripts for student demos, and did some marketing. I quit around 10:30 that night.

Do I have a problem? Maybe. It's hard not to love what we do. It's harder still not to take it for granted when it is going well. Yet, I recalled last April, when after a surprisingly good March considering over a week of lost workdays for VO Atlanta, I had the ugliest month I've had in a few years. Yes, it was an aberration, but missing your standard monthly target by 40% even once lingers in the memory. So I passed on the beer, and went back to work.

One of the most critical separating factors between the talent I see acting relaxed and comfortable in the consistency of their business, and those who always seem to have a little panic around the eyes, is the sense that the only answer to how much VO work is enough for the former group is always, "more." While many talent will catch lightning in a bottle from time to time, the glow of that big booking or career-advancing step fades quickly. Consistent, repeat business from a core of stable, loyal clients does not.

How do you get there? You do 30 auditions when you would prefer to have a brewskie. You make one more marketing call when you'd rather spend a few minutes making monkey noises with your kids.

You don't stop. You push harder. You keep going.

Monday, April 10, 2017

What Are We Really Selling?

The issue of what we should charge as voice actors continues to be the most talked about topic in our industry. From talent lamenting major national buyouts coming through agents for $5,000, and then reappearing elsewhere at even more egregious rates, to the festering discomfort caused by mega-discount portals where anyone with a USB mic can sell their voice for five bucks, to the Wild West of online casting, where excellent rates mingle with exploitative ones, it seems that each day brings a barrage of questions from talent both new and experienced alike about what they should charge. What is often lost in the conversation, however, is how they should charge.

Unlike craftsmen who create an object of great beauty or utility, or a professional who is paid to complete a defined task that serves a particular temporal purpose, voice actors ply their trade in a field where the majority of what we do creates lingering value for the buyer. When a voice actor is hired, their work is used to generate revenue over and over again; It is not a one-and-done proposition.

Unions understood this well when crafting the concept of cyclical and residual pay for signatories, most often applied in relation to voiceovers that are broadcast on traditional media. This is a structure non-union talent would be well advised to emulate.

That said, in an industry changing more rapidly than ever before, it is difficult to pin down what work has what value and for how long. What about Corporate/Industrial narration? E-Learning? Perhaps most critically, Web Ads and Pre-Roll. How do they fit in?

As talent, we are often thrilled to book a job and get paid. It's a rush, talking into a microphone and making more in an hour than most people make in a day, or a week. We are blessed, to be sure, but that doesn't mean we should compromise our value, especially when our work is being used to generate profits far beyond the compensation offered. Furthermore, it's easy to spin things negatively from a supply and demand perspective for talent, but a quick listen to the quality of the vast majority of auditions submitted online will demonstrate that we are in a much stronger position than we think.

We are not selling clay pots, or sculptures, or accounting services. We are not even selling voiceovers. Huh? What are we selling if we aren't selling voiceovers? Very simply, we are selling licenses.

Like musicians or software bundles, we should not think of our product as static or temporal. We are selling the right to obtain value from our talent for a limited time that is also limited in scope. This can apply to anything that isn't strictly internal-facing.

Don't be afraid to ask questions of your clients:

* How long will you be using this?

* Where will it be used...on what platforms/media?

* How many views/impressions do you anticipate it will receive?

The fear of losing work because you assert your rights too aggressively is not unwarranted, but it is overcome by the long-term gain in securing clients who are willing to treat you fairly. Moreover, if a client has reached out to you about a job, they are likely already committed to or nearly committed to your voice. You are holding more cards than you realize.

For Corporate/Industrial, E-Learning, Explainer, Telephony, and Medical, try negotiating a one year buy. For Web Ads and Pre-Roll, use union cycle templates if you can, such as the thirteen week standard, and go for a year as a compromise.

Remember, perpetuity means forever, and forever is worth a lot.


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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

VO Atlanta 2017 Panelist Profiles: Cliff Zellman

As a preview of my upcoming series of panels at VO Atlanta 2017, I will be profiling
each panelist in the coming days, getting to know who they are and what they bring
to the table as leaders in our industry. We begin with Cliff Zellman, king of Automotive
VO, and a legendary demo producer.  


JMC: You have built a niche for yourself in the Automotive voiceover space. How did
that come about, and what makes Automotive different than other genres of voiceover?

CLIFF: I started off as a rock & roll / R&B audio engineer in L.A. After 20 years of 18 hour 
days, (and a new baby girl,) it was time to shift lifestyles.  I was offered a position in
Dallas with a young and aggressive ad agency specializing in Automotive. Wow! 
loved it. 

I love the idea of working on multiple projects a day, rather than 10 hours on the
perfect snare drum reverb. I love cars, I love directing VO’s talking about cars, and
I love the incredible technology I use everyday. After 21 years and over 20,000 
broadcast TV & Radio spots, I STILL love it! It’s like the best of video games. Maybe 
I’ll create one called Auto Sales Hero!

Retail automotive brings a different twist to the “typical" retail read, (if that even exists.) 
Success in VO for Automotive requires understanding the 14 essential points of an 
automotive script, what they mean and how to deliver them. Wanna know more about 
it? Drop me a line.

JMC: What advice would you have for talent just getting started?

CLIFF: First and foremost, learn your craft. Take acting & improv classes. 
Take music lessons, (piano for 6 months,) and don’t jump in too quick. That is a 
surefire way to fail. Learn audio! It can be done. Start slowly and read, read, read. 
Get a Sweetwater catalog and start to familiarize yourself with the tools of the 
industry. Seek out the best VO coaches and strategists. Learn where the VO events
are happening and consider attending. Think about what genre you’d like to specialize
in, (or at least start out,) and focus on that. Don’t ask silly questions on social media
when the answers can easily be found through Google. Be sure you are fully prepared
before accepting ANY jobs.

JMC: You are one of the leaders of the Team Challenge at VO Atlanta. What's that all 
about?

CLIFF: Up to 9 teams, each creating a :60 radio spot for a client to be announced. All 
members must participate. Only music and effects from a supplied production library 
will be allowed. BIG prizes and MAJOR bragging rights, plus a whole lot of fun, 
new relationships built and an experience never forgotten! Every team is a winner, 
for sure.

JMC: One of your many hats is as a highly regarded demo producer. What goes into a 
great demo, and how does your process differ from other producers?

CLIFF: What makes a great demo? I’ll go into that more during our panel session, but 
my process is quite different than most. Each session, we record a full spot, (up to 8 
sessions.) Within each recording session there is direction, coaching, audio tips, funny 
stories etc. No time limit per session. I pull the ‘golden’ from each full spot to create 
the segments for the demo. We have a lot to chose from! I write scripts throughout the process as I better learn the artists strengths. Music and effects are carefully chosen and edited to best highlight the copy & overall performance. All sessions are performed at the talent’s home studio as we connect via ipDTL or SourceConnect. I also record on my end for safety. This insures the talent can deliver the same audio quality as in their demo. If the talent’s studio isn’t up to par, we work on that before beginning production. My demo process can take up to a month and a half! Oh my!  It’s ZERO pressure and totally fun! The talent is 100% involved. I also give you the full spots! It’s ALIVE!

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

CLIFF:

Again more on that during our panel, but in a nutshell,

1) Honesty.
2) A true understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
3) Reproducibility.
4) Accountability.
5) A transparent business plan.
6) Candor.
7) Under promise and over deliver.
8) Being a point of inspiration.
9) Union compliance (If applicable).

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Good Faith

It's one of my bedrock principles to never speak out on a subject from a perspective of sanctimony or self-righteousness. No one's hands are entirely clean where the often dueling forces of profit and integrity intersect. All of our houses have corners where there is more glass than concrete, and in an exchange of stones no one would emerge unscathed.

Recently, however, it seems as though the numbers of wholly unqualified aspiring talent being sold expensive services designed to play upon their dreams and prey upon their wallets is reaching an all time high. Within the voiceover community, discussions of exploitative coaching practices, demo-mills churning out hundreds of cookie-cutter reels guaranteed to be dead on arrival, and middlemen looking to monetize every step of the casting process are proliferating as never before. Far more often than in the past I find myself replying to a request to listen to a demo or evaluate a series of auditions with words that, however diplomatically constructed, are likely to shatter a dream.

This March, at VO Atlanta, I will have the privilege of hosting and moderating the final featured panel discussion of the conference, which will be an exploration of Ethics in Voiceover, and what responsibilities talent, coaches, demo producers, and those who earn their living through casting have to one another. The assembled panelists are some of the brightest lights of integrity and honorable conduct in our industry, and I am looking forward to a deep and thoughtful discussion.

Between then and now, I would like to offer a simple thought on what message should be shared with anyone looking to get started in voiceover: Seek out good faith.

What do I mean by that?

Every individual or organization offering coaching, demo production, or casting services to talent for a fee has made a mistake somewhere along the way. We've all taken on someone we shouldn't have, as a result of being in a hurry, a mis-evaluation of talent, or a failure to do due-diligence. Casting sites sometimes permit jobs to cross their platforms that they shouldn't, with marginal budgets for major work that devalues our craft. In most cases, however, these are the exception to a rule of working both in the interest of profit and in the interest of seeing the person paying for whatever service is offered achieve a return on their investment. Most of us are acting in good faith, even if we don't get it right 100% of the time.

If you are considering investing in becoming a voice actor, or you are advising someone who is, I implore you to engage in a diligent evaluation of the motives of those with whom you do business. Do research....the internet never forgets. The people or companies you will ultimately invest your money with are certainly trying to make a profit from you. We all are. That is the nature of business. Ask yourself, however, whether that is their only motive. Does your coach, demo producer, or training organization have an easily-verifiable list of positive references who can demonstrate success after their training? Can they refer you to people they have refused to work with based on a low likelihood they would see a return on their investment? Does the casting site you are about to join think about the good of the greater industry, and how they can help you compete? Or do they undermine the talent they claim to serve, offering them up as scab labor when fellow talent are striking for better working conditions, and seeing talent and buyers alike only as profit centers?

Think long and hard about these questions before parting with your money, my friends. If you don't, it's likely you will never see those funds again.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Are You Doing to Move Your Business Forward Today?

Life is busy. Between having or building a career in voiceover, caring for family, spending time with friends, and general household responsibilities, it's easy to let little tasks or ideas that might help you grow your business slip onto a never ending to-do list, or disappear from sight and mind altogether.

The daily grind as a VO is challenging enough. Audition, audition, audition....market, market, market....and, if you're lucky, bookings, bookings, bookings. Add administrative and accounting tasks to that mix, and it's hard to think about the small things that might help you add revenue.

Lately, I've started keeping an organized list of the stray ideas or side projects I'm working on in order to make sure they don't get lost for eternity. Moreover, I've committed to doing at least one of them each day after my initial morning sweep of emails, client work, and auditions. It's helped me have a more productive start to my year.

What's on my list this week? Building an IMDB Pro page, (I've been incredibly remiss in never paying IMDB any attention, and I hardly have a footprint,) updating my master client contact list with new clients from December and January, working on my upcoming book, (which is almost done!,) creating a niche demo for Christmas-themed radio imaging, and looking at using additional Twitter screen names to drive client traffic. All this in addition to a sustained campaign targeting small and regional market agents for new representation in parts of the country where I'm not currently represented.

Most days, I'll spend about thirty minutes on whatever task I've chosen. Progress isn't always instant, but it is steady and the tasks ultimately get done. When they do, I have the satisfaction of having added one more small piece to the grand puzzle that sustains a thriving business.

So, what's on your list this week?