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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).