Entries Tagged as 'voice casting'

:30 seconds notice and no script

Peter K. O'Connell Moderates Voice-Over Agents Panel VO Atlanta 2016

VO Atlanta 2016’s Voice-Over Agent Panel. L-R Peter K. O’Connell, audio’connell Voice-Over Talent (Moderator); Erik Sheppard, Voice Talent Productions; Jeffrey Umberger, Umberger Agency, Tanya Buchanan, Ta-Da Voiceworks; Marci Polzin, Artistic Talent; Susie De Santiago, De Santi Talent and Ralph Cooper, Capital Talent Agency. Photo Courtesy of Tom Dheere.

It was about :30 seconds between the time when I was asked to MC the Voice-Over Agent panel discussion at VO Atlanta 2016 and when I hit the stage and kicked off the session among a hotel ballroom full of people.

And oh by the way, there was no agenda, no script and no panelist bios.

Go!

Adrenaline? Nerves? Panic? There seriously wasn’t time to consider any of that.

The audience didn’t know about the birth process I was zooming through, they just knew the baby was coming – they wanted to hear the panel. For all they knew, I was scheduled as host weeks before.

Um, no.

Yes, I have moderated many panels and events over the years. I’ve done tons of live announcing and a bunch of emcee and hosting work for trade shows, conferences and award shows. It’s something I enjoy doing and I’ve been lucky to get high marks (and paychecks) from clients for my work.

Most importantly, with each of them I enjoyed lots of preparation, plenty of notes and a script.

Not Saturday.

By the way, that’s not anybody’s fault. Most panel discussions I’ve done, a moderator crafts a series of questions to start things off and maybe to fall back on if the panel discussion lags…they rest of it often is pretty free-form discussion.

So here’s the background on this special instance.

I was a first time attendee at VO Atlanta. I was not there in any other capacity – not a host, teacher or janitor.

The Voice-Over Agent panel was the second session of the morning on Saturday in the main ballroom. I started the day in this room because I had attended the previous panel session on voice-over marketing, featuring my smart friends including Celia Segal, Tom Dheere and Joe Cipriano.

The agent panel was an important focus for me at the conference because there were some folks on the panel I wanted to meet. I was about to get one hell of an introduction to them.

They included Ralph Cooper from Capital Talent Agency in Washington, D.C., Marci Polzin from Artistic Talent in Los Angeles and Susie De Santiago from DeSanti Talents, Inc., in Chicago.

As my unexpected adventure progressed, I would find it very helpful that the other three  voice-over agents on the panel were already my longtime voice-over partners/agents including Tanya Buchanan from Ta-Da Voiceworks in Toronto, Erik Sheppard from Voice Talent Productions in Austin and Jeffrey Umberger from Umberger Agency in Atlanta. We knew each other pretty well from various projects we’ve work on and I had a sense in this setting (as in every other instance we’d each worked together) they would have my back. (It turns out, I was right).

It all started innocently enough. Prior to the event starting, I was standing off to the side of the stage, just talking to Tayna and Erik, when Jeffrey approached us to advise that he was not only a panelist but also the moderator. In passing, Jeffrey offered that he wished he was just a panelist. We all said something along the lines that he would great (which he would have been).

I left the group so they could do whatever prep they needed to do and I took my seat near another voice-over friend Jackie Bales. We were talking about voice-over and people we both knew in the TV news business, where Jackie worked before going into voice-over full time.

Suddenly, we both became aware that the panel was about 10 minutes late in starting.

Spider-Man had his spidey sense. I have FaffCon-sense, which tells me when an event or program might be running in a small bump in the road (like not starting on time).

That same sense also caused the trouble I got myself into here.

I looked around and saw no VO Atlanta staff in the immediate vicinity (there was lots going on in other rooms at this particular time). I jumped up and over to the area the agents were. I said to Jeffrey that they needed to get up on stage.

Please note: I was totally out of line saying anything like this, because it wasn’t my event or responsibility. Yet these were my friends and I was trying to help them and the event.

Jeffrey said they were waiting on one more agent but that she was late and that they needed to get going.

And then he said “Hey, can you be the moderator?”

In the milliseconds that followed, I remember mentally processing only these three things:

  • This event was late getting started
  • This one event needed help
  • It was my friend and agent Jeffrey that was asking me for a favor

Being in “event” mode (again, not my place but it’s a fault I have) I said yes and I began to usher everyone up the stairs to the stage.

It was on those stairs that I changed into “broadcast” mode.

“Jeffrey, is there a script?” Peter asked.

“No.” said Jeffrey.

‘Oh s—.’ thought Peter.
As I picked up the hand-held microphone at the moderator’s podium, Jeffrey slid in front of me the open page of the program which listed the names and company names of the panelists.

That program and my cell phone were my tools for the next very live 80 minutes.

As I discussed later in the evening with my friend and fellow voice talent (and accomplished broadcaster) Mike Cooper, live broadcast training comes in very handy during many of life’s unexpected moments. Without a doubt, that training served me well in this situation.

Mind you, I haven’t been ‘on-air’ since 1986 but I have come to find out broadcast skills simply don’t leave you once you have them (see: riding a bicycle).

Peter K. O'Connell_Moderator_VO Atlanta 2016I brought up the mic and just started to talk (never let them see you sweat, right), beginning with a welcome (‘what was this panel’s official name? Uh, make something up’) and then I presented a format for the session. I quietly hoped there wasn’t a real format for the event because I went all Houdini on them with the format of my choosing. Abracadabra!

My mind was swirling as I spoke: ‘hmmm, I need to create actual questions!! Better yet, I need to stall for time so I can WRITE some questions’.

Well, with no bios, I called an audible and asked each panelist to introduce themselves and their company and tell the audience about their background.

‘Good, they’re talking’ I thought to myself. Via quick math I decided if they each spoke for a minimum of :30 seconds, I should have about three minutes to write some questions that would allow agents and talents to help better understand each others perspective. That would be good, right?! It would make sense, wouldn’t it!

Oh heavens, I hoped it would make sense!

Here are my Murrow-esque inquiries that I furiously typed into my phone while panelist introductions went on:

What’s trends in voices

Trends in clients

Your daily challenges

?Communication with talent

Communication on slate and details

Yes, I know these word strings don’t make much sense to you, but I just needed to have word cues for the questions in my head. With these points I knew I could formulate something (somewhat) intelligent when the time came. Maybe intelligible would be more accurate.

The rest of the session for me was a bit of blur, made completely awesome by the way all six panelists gelled so quickly with each other, continuing their own discussions without much prompting from me  to keep the conversation going.

To the audiences delight (and my relief) the time went by very quickly.

People said nice things about the event afterwords, which I took as a passing grade, nothing more nothing less.

And I aged about 5 years in 80 minutes.

It was fun. Well, it’s fun NOW cause it’s over!

female voice talents – there may be an opportunity for you

npr_logo

News from All Access today reported that National Public Radio is dropping their current underwriting voice talent. They have one in the interim but it sounds like they may be willing to audition other voices. They seem to want a female voice. Go get ’em, ladies (and no I don’t know where to send you — you have to do SOME work here).

Now while you ladies are practicing saying “This is NPR. National Public Radio” I’d like to address this change of voice talent at NPR.

The long time underwriting voice talent for NPR was a gentleman named Frank Tavares, who had been the underwriting voice talent for a reported 31 years. He was great but a change was made and that’s showbiz.

The network’s idea, it would seem, was to insert a cost-saving move while also vocally changing things up a bit by adding a female voice. OK, no problem there.

Auditions were held and the winning voice talent was an actress named Sabrina Farhi, who started on NPR in October 2013.

Her NPR underwriting reads were awful. Dreadful. Like nails on an angry chalkboard.

And none of the bad NPR reads were her fault. Repeat, NONE of them! I can prove it.

I’d heard Sabrina’s underwriting reads and could not get past the horrible, robotic read she voiced. This was the winner? Didn’t anyone else hear how tone deaf and unlistenable these underwriting reads sounded?

So after a while, during the few times I actually listened to NPR, I just switched away during the underwriting reads. Not what the network wanted, I’m sure. But I assumed it was just my professional ear not being able to grasp what the network was looking for. Maybe I was missing the musicality of it all. Certainly, I’d been wrong before (I told myself) and maybe I’m wrong on this.

Well, given the announced change, I guess not.

However, after reading tonight’s news on the change at NPR, I went to Sabrina Farhi’s web site and listened to her commercial voice-over demo. I couldn’t figure out how this voice got hired!

Upon further investigation, I rule as follows:

Sabrina Farhi has a wonderful voice which offers a clean, thoughtful interpretation of copy. The voice I heard on the TIAA CREF commercial was NOT the read I heard for the NPR underwriting voice-overs.

This woman is a talented voice actress with real chops who, if she was directed to use that TIAA CREF voice on the NPR underwriting reads, would and probably should still be employed today. On a side note, she like me has terrible trouble pronouncing the word “statistically”. And so if she’s anything like me, she’s an amazing voice talent! 😉

So my professional experience leads me to believe that it’s not the voice talent that’s at fault in this case, it’s the producers.

Yup, somebody either in underwriting production or in the underwriting department directed Sabrina to read in a monotone, cold and oblivious way that was evidently unlistenable to more people than just me.

The underwriting voice for NPR has to have a certain authority to it, yes, but NPR (more than any broadcast network) has a kind of humanism attached to it (in my opinion, anyway) that needs to be conveyed in the voice of the radio network. Frank did a great job doing that and Sabrina probably could have too if someone was directing her correctly.

So now it’s been announced that voice talent Jessica Hansen will serve as NPR’s underwriting announcer in a trail run beginning this month. Here’s hoping that she gets a new director who better understands voice-over direction, voice talents in general and the NPR brand.

walt disney meets db cooper

d.b._coooper_voice_talent

I always enjoy sharing projects featuring my voice-over pals and this video featuring the voice talents of DB Cooper is a very worthwhile watch.

who do you know who can help tom rohe?

Tom Rohe was a professional voice over talent until about a year and a half ago. He is still involved in a voice over agency called SunSpots.

Because of complications following oral surgery, Tom has enormous trouble even speaking today without the help of the drug Ambien.

What Tom is asking for is help from anyone who can direct him to medical professionals who might better diagnose and help treat his condition which I would imagine to be enormously frustrating and as a voice talent, heartbreaking.

This is a video of his plight.

If there IS someone in the medical profession who you think Tom should speak to please contact Tom at Tom (at sign) mysunspots dot com.

Thanks.

“that’s voiceover” moves to la

That's Voiceover

Rudy Gaskins pinged me the other day to remind me that “That’s Voiceover” (to which I guess I still have a free ticket since I paid for the first “That’s Voiceover” but never got there cause my plane couldn’t land in NYC) is going to LA on October 6th.

It looks to be a much more involved event than in previous years, with seminars on audiobooks and microphones preceding the main event and later the drink fest, -er, networking event.

It really does look like a fun and informative event that Rudy and Joan Baker have put on for, I think, three years. And a portion of the proceeds from “That’s Voiceover” will go to support the Alzheimer’s Association.

I hope you’ll enjoy this fun event.

if you’re in l.a. on august 13th…

d.b._coooper_voice_talent

…and you are a voice actor, I have a professional suggestion I would like to make: do D.B.

By that I mean do D.B. Cooper’s Exertion Sounds for Video Games and ADR Seminar from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 13th.

My friend D.B. is very good at everything she does and I know I would enjoy this class if I could get there.

So you go for me, OK?