You've Heard This Before
I’m back to that place again. That dreaded feeling of being over-whelmed by the vortex of VO talent blogs, posts, groupies, conferences - everyone disclosing their secrets (and all at the same time I might add), sharing endless wisdom they absolutely have to get off their chest, news that someone somewhere is recording a commercial and they had to let us know how “productive’ they were that morning, etc. More of the same, more or less. (CUE booing and ‘ugh, Christian, GOD, WTF dude’)
Are you also feeling a bit over-whelmed? Is your head spinning?
Well, make the choice to get away and stick with it. That’s what I did and do often.
I went on a vacation for a few days and came back recharged.
I watched my girlfriend devour a lobster during a Patriots game in Cape Cod.
I reached a new level of candy crush.
I introduced myself to new people.
I developed a newfound love of The Real Housewives of New Jersey as I watched Joe and Teresa Guidice deal with the repercussions of fraud and tax evasion.
I avoided the pre and post Faffcon craze but couldn’t resist the urge to tweet about it….because I (secretly) feel bad about missing it.
God, it felt so good to be away. You’re probably wondering why I haven’t been developing consistent and beautiful content each week for you to be mesmerized by. Well, I’m back after a few long weeks and the truth is– I’m running out of ideas. I’ve spent a great deal of time working, completing my daily duties as a voice talent, finally booking a national radio campaign- that I’ve cared so much less about wanting to fulfill someone else’s marketing advice, write this blog and drink more kool aid, subjectively speaking. I’m growing increasingly wary about the content I share or divulging any of my secrets to others.
However, it then dawned upon me recently, that I haven’t actually written a "tips” kind of post. I’m not one for bragging about my accomplishments on social media, as I’d rather save it for a monthly newsletter to actual clients, not other voice talent. I get much more of a thrill out of sharing things in piecemeal fashion. And I’m straddling the temptation to cross over into the world of voice over coaching someday. Right now, no.
I thought perhaps it’s time to do some kind of advice column that sheds a unique perspective from someone living the life of a Voice talent in NYC.
I waited long enough.
1.) Desperate Much?
We all know that a job applicant who fails to research the listing, complete description and company profile may not be prepared in the interview. What unfolds can be regretful.
The same applies to voice over…or any industry for that matter. As many of my colleagues have preached time and again, your best bet is to always get specifics about the project first before committing to anything. This can prove difficult, especially on some casting sites, where there is little to no information about the project and you only learn the gritty details after you book the job.
“Wait, you want me to do HOW MANY videos for $200?!"
The potential client may not always feel the need to post that information, especially when they’re facing tight deadlines and don’t want to further narrow the amount of responders. As far as they’re concerned, the deadline was last week and they NEED YOU. C'mon, who’s desperate now? Sometimes you may get caught in the above tricky situation. Lesson: It’s good to ask.
"But they might think I’m being fussy. Is it really appropriate?”
Fussy?! Hell no. Anything but fussy. Don’t be afraid. You’re covering your little (or big) behind and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For example, last month I was contacted by a production company I had reached out to on my own.- yes, 'cold-called’ :) The producer had previously expressed interest in my materials/reels so I figured he would reach out to me personally. Well, yes and no. As is often the case, and this is very lame I might add, some production companies will ask me to audition through a casting site, even AFTER I have already reached out to them personally or previously worked with them. It’s truly baffling, but anyways, he asked me to go to the custom form on this specific site and find all the information there. It couldn’t have been more vague. The description read something like this:
“TV Commercial at Fixed (Insert egregiously lowball rate)”
I’m sure you’ve all seen something like this before. In this situation though, since I had a head start, I knew I had a golden opportunity to ask.
What is the running cycle? Usage? Budget? What cities it it airing in? TV, Radio, Internet or all three?
His response: “The information is there just read it. Nothing else provided man”
The worst thing you can do in this case is create drama and destroy a relationship. Chances are if they even considered hiring you for that low a fee, they probably think you still have a day job or are an amateur. Or they’re honestly on a tight budget- yet I prefer to rule out the latter initially. Make sure you have all the necessary information before you commit to anything. At times, it’s just a judgement call. Is this project worth it for me given what little information I have? Do I really want to do this? And if so, am I desperate?
2.) You Booked It Already
Perhaps I’m opening up a can of worms here but, to me, Voice Over isn’t acting in the conventional sense. You’re not using Stanislavsky or Meisner methods to approach the copy. Perhaps more so in Animation or Audiobooks worlds. But, as the role of 'AVO’ in most Corporate Narration, Promo or Commercial copy, we are creating an opinion, an attitude about a particular product, brand or service. It requires a certain level of technique and familiarity with how to approach each type of copy. Without a doubt, that most definitely takes training and practice! You don’t need to enroll at Tisch though to learn this.
For voice talents who don’t audition as much, it is easy to fall into this habit of mediocrity, not giving it your best read, in fear that you may not book it and getting further psychologically trapped. A great VO coach of mine in New York, always emphasized to treat the audition as a booking. You booked the gig and already know (even though you don’t know what the client wants)- that’s the ounce of acting that’s required. There’s some imaginary circumstances for you to approach in a truthful manner. If you figure you’ve booked it already, you’re chances of selling the client on your read have vastly improved. Confidence is key.
3.) Drop Your Baggage At The Door
Airports have baggage claims. Casting offices, talent agencies and recording studios don’t. No casting director or agent will gladly accept personal problems in exchange for giving you an easier time in the booth, and especially not after you’ve booked the job.
The last thing anyone wants to deal with is your personal drama. Be a professional. Go down in history as the talent who didn’t create a scene- unless you’re Alec Baldwin. Otherwise, you will be remembered as the talent who caused the most problems, made a big fuss over everything and unfortunately, that’s more reason to never hire you back.
Create a lasting impression and make them want to work with you again.
And again. And again.
4.) Be Realistic
Ask yourself this question: Is the project worth it? I’m not talking just the $$$ factor here. A couple of weeks ago, I auditioned for a client and booked the job. They needed the audio by end of the weekend. Without looking over my schedule, I told them I was free. I forgot I had made prior plans. While I had some time to record, I didn’t have time to wait around until the last minute for client revisions. It would have required lots of leg work on my part and not something I was willing to do given the circumstances.
Be realistic with yourself and don’t commit to a project with a deadline you’re not willing to work around. If you can’t do it, simply say, thank you and explain the issue. Perhaps it’s a long-time client and they’re willing to work around your schedule or come to some compromise. If they’re adamant, you may have to pass. I try not to leave my clients empty handed. If for whatever reason I need to back out of a project, I’ll almost always recommend other talents that might be a suitable fit.
In conjunction with #1, don’t be desperate. Don’t send your reel to everyone. Don’t audition for every project. You don’t want to be the talent who constantly auditions for projects they’re not right for and will not be hired. It’s ok to turn it down.
5.) Learn to Let Go
If you’re starting out or having an off month, patience seems almost impossible. Well, it’s a virtue remember? You send 10 auditions in a row to your agent and you never hear back. You contact your agent wondering if there was any feedback from the casting director and still don’t hear back. Unless it was for a job you already booked, please STOP.
Like rejection, learning to let go is one of the hardest truths of this business. Online casting sites have made the process of letting go much easier. Now you can easily check to see if you are “in the running” for a project. And you can continually check back to see any updated status. This is a convenience not offered in a real-world setting. Don’t take this personally. A professional voice talent who is constantly auditioning will not let this affect her performance on other projects. She’ll move on.
Constantly auditioning, getting in front of the right people and being HEARD will get you work. Worrying about every potential job will distract you from giving it your all. Do it and move on. You’d be surprised at the results.
6.) Ask Questions
This is a major rule of thumb.
If something is unclear or incorrect in the contract or NDA you’re about to sign, speak up.
If you don’t understand the pronunciation of a word or words, speak up.
If they’re asking you to record in the morning but the session was scheduled for the afternoon and you have prior plans, speak up.
Also, unless a client asks you for your professional opinion, don’t chime in unexpectedly with your two cents.
They’re the producers, you’re the VO talent.
7.) Don’t Apologize
A couple of weeks ago, I was at my agent’s office for an audition. In the booth, I was “flubbing” aka constantly tripping over my words and starting from the beginning. I guess you could say I was nervous or had an off morning but I prepared the copy beforehand, understood the product and what it called for, and how I was going to deliver. I kept apologizing and starting over. Finally, I nailed it on the third or fourth take. My agent is a pretty cool guy and is usually understanding about these things.
“It’s ok, don’t apologize, just keep going. It’s a lot of copy and you’re doing fine” he said.
When I got out of the booth, he offered me some words of encouragement and told me not to get discouraged. It happens all the time.
Don’t apologize for being human.
Apologize when you bring your drama into the booth and storm out of the studio cursing the casting director, agent or producer. Maybe they’d forgive you but call you back? Highly unlikely. Things could certainly be worse.
As Voice Talents, sometimes it’s difficult to get in the moment when we have so many external factors limiting us. Am I going to book this? Is it worth it? Will they settle for the announcer-type instead? My read sucks. etc. Chances are your “flubbing” is all psychological.
You’re getting in the way of yourself.
Thanks for reading! Until next time….