Entries Tagged as 'voiceover advice'

‘help me for free but first, this insult’

don't burn bridgesFirst impressions, they matter.

Last weekend, another person looking to get into voiceover email me. Yes on a weekend and yes I answered (if I wait until Monday, I’ll forget).

I’d had absolutely no previous interaction with this person before they sent me the following email.

Hello Mr. O’Connell my name is (OMITTED) and I’m trying to figure out where I would start with Voice Over work. Many people have told me I should pursue this but I’m confused if I should talk to someone if I do have the voice or voices for this work, or take some training to hone in on what I want. If you have time to respond to this e-mail thanks and have a good day!

As I do with all these types of inquiries, I directed this individual to read the Voiceover Entrance Exam.

Hi OMITTED,
There is a free ebook on VO that I wrote – see if that helps you.
Best always,
–Peter

He read it and, in his professional opinion, was significantly unimpressed.

Tell you the truth I thought the ebook was lackluster and a warning more than something to guide you. No book can gauge ones drive and talent while seeing what they have over the computer. It wasn’t a waste of time but it was in a way, like how you said you get straight to the point I do too. I appreciate the Ebook warning and how long it took you to write that but if you have serious input to give on the matter pls email me thanks.
-OMITTED

He’s right on one count, the book ain’t Shakespeare. And it is a book with a direct point of view, because people who are going to make a professional and financial impactful change of career need to understand the reality. And it is just my viewpoint, it isn’t the Gospel of voiceover.

Further, I’m OK with criticism. You don’t have like my stuff, you can even dislike my stuff.

But this person, new to our industry, is looking for help. Free help. I didn’t email him/her, she/he contacted ME.

I’m reading this email thinking to myself ‘don’t come looking for help, “appreciate” my effort in writing a boring book and then tell me if I care to get serious about helping, you’ll be awaiting my email’.

It’s not the criticism I find fault with but rather the sophomoric arrogance with which this person communicates to a stranger. A stranger that he/she wants to learn something from.

My book is a warning that voiceover is a business and needs to be treated as such. And business is about building relationships with strangers to the point where strangers gladly give you money.

I’m thinking this person is not a relationship builder so much as a bridge burner. And one I will remember.

I moved on quickly from there.

If my book was lackluster than anything else I would say would probably be heard as the same.

Good luck and seek your help elsewhere.

Best always,
–Peter

No one, especially me, is expecting any kind of reverend deference from someone seeking business help, only professionalism and courtesy.

#voicestrong courage

#voicestrong for voice agents

History has taught us that it is NOT easy.

Experience has taught us that it is rare.

Life has taught us that it is within each of us in large and small ways…but it IS in there.

The mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

– The definition of courage

Courage_audioconnell_350

History books and movies are great at depicting amazing and even dramatic acts of courage.

But the truth is, in comparatively smaller, even daily acts, courage can be just as profound.

Profound because showing courage in almost any situation is hard.

One example.

To wake up one morning and find that, completely outside of your control, a key profit center of your business has been significantly altered in a way that is antithetical to your core business beliefs is a situation no small business in any industry wants to face.

But that’s what happened this week to hundreds of voiceover talent agencies and casting directors when a Los Angeles-based, central voiceover casting web site announced it had agreed to be acquired by a generally disrespected Pay 2 Play voiceover web site based in Canada. This Canadian company is known for and has admitted siphoning money budgeted for voiceover talent into their own corporate coffers under the guise of project management, unbeknownst to their paying clients.

Putting aside for a moment the ethical dilemma faced by agencies having to consider having business dealings with a disreputable company like that who now controls a key lead generation tool used daily by agencies, for these small business owners there is an important and hard financial decision to be made.

If agencies stay in partnership with this new ownership, they risk working for even lower commissions based on lower fees likely to be offered to voice talents on project posted by the Canadian company that now owns this popular casting site  (which is something the Canadian company, as a P2P, has been documented to do for some years now). But if the agencies drop the relationship with the new company, they will get commissioned on 100% on nothing. A key revenue source will be gone. How will they replace that lost revenue?

An ethical and financial quandary at the doorstep of voice talent agencies around the globe, all before breakfast.

These voiceover agents are small business owners just like you and me. Some are bigger than others and each has their other lead sources and contacts. Nonetheless, a decision either way impacts their bottom line.

A very hard decision, with unknown and unforeseen consequences, was before them. Take less of something or 100% of nothing.

I would like to introduce you to some people.

Erik Sheppard of Voice Talent Productions

Jeffrey Umberger of The Umberger Agency 

Tanya Buchanan of Ta-Da! Voiceworks

These are three of my voiceover agents.

Liz Atherton of TAG Talent

Stacey Stahl of In Both Ears

Carol Rathe of Go Voices

Susie DeSantiago of deSanti 

These four folks are not my voiceover agents but like Erik, Jeffrey & Tanya, each faced a very tough business decision following the Canadian company’s purchase. And decide they did.

Each has notified the casting website that they are leaving and will no longer be a paying member. Their collective lack of respect for the new ownership and it’s reputation for depreciating voice talents, agents and their services seems to have helped them make their individual decisions.

There may still be more to add to the exit list, but right there are seven (7) examples of small business owners who individually faced a business problem head on, individually had a tough decision to make and individually made the decision to walk away from a table with money still on it (less though it will likely turn out to be).

The chance for them to lose significant income is very real. So are their mortgage, car and school payments. Doing the right thing can be very difficult on many different levels.

Everyday courage doesn’t often make it to the big screen. But that doesn’t make these specific acts any less courageous.

And courage like that, from people voice talents have trusted as partners in our careers, deserves our unwavering support. #voicestrong

don’t be a $5 voice actor

Twitter adIf you are brand spanking new to voiceover, this post is for you.

If you have attended VO Atlanta or some other massive voiceover meeting anywhere in the world with stars in your eyes on how you are going to become a voice actor, this post is also for you.

If you are an experienced voice talent and you have or currently use Fiver as a way to get voice jobs, you have my sympathies for your difficult financial conditions but you’d be better off reading Monster.com or Indeed.com to find a new job than reading this blog post.

That ad at the top of this post, that’s a real ad.

Some young or stressed or imbecilic media producer may actually think they are getting a pro voice talent for that fee.

The voice (and no, I won’t say “talent”) doing the job for $5.00 for that producer may think they are a “professional” voice because they are getting paid.

Neither the producer nor the voice is correct.

I’ll make this brief.

The journey to becoming a professional voice talent is as unique as the person living the journey and no two journeys are exactly the same. There is no perfect way, mine included.

But every journey has universal pitfalls and $5 voiceover jobs…most any VO job in that range of pricing is less a pitfall or a pothole as it is an enormous moon crater that go so deep you cannot see the bottom.

Just follow this advice: don’t be a $5 voice actor.

I hope this helps.

that place

Crescent Beach 2017If we are fortunate, and sadly not everyone is, each of us finds a place outside of home and outside of work that brings us peace and joy.

Sometimes it’s a nearby place, sometimes it is a far away place.

Maybe, if you’re really lucky, you have many “places”.

Wherever it is, it is a place where you feel at ease and maybe (as in my case) you’re family feels that same peace and joy there.

Having been there, I was reminded that I should remind you…go to that place.

Why?

Because it creates in you a special feeling, new or renewed thoughts, calmness…it might even have smells that bring back or create memories.

The computer is off and the phone is away.

This is not a pipe dream but rather something quite vital to your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well being.

I’m really not kidding.

Sometimes, to get to that place, money is an issue. I respect that challenge, so I would encourage you to search for an interim place. Some place new and away from the norm that brings you peace and joy without stressing your wallet.

If you feel you don’t have time, I would like to encourage you to MAKE the time.

Life (yours or someone else’s) can end in a second.

Work is not life. Money is not life. Stress is not life. Those are mere elements of life that we each obsess over. Obsessing is not living.

Live life.

Find that place.

 

#voicestrong

#voicestrongBefore I talk about #voicestrong and it’s impact on the voiceover industry, two quick observations.

You know the great thing about life? Everything is always changing.

You know the problem with life? Everything is always changing.

Three examples.

When audio technology improved to allowed more affordable, professional audio recording into people’s homes, it was a revelation. For the voiceover industry, it helped voice talents build better, very professional home studios. But it hurt recording studios who had to find new streams of revenue lost since voice talents were not recording in the studios’ booths.

With that audio technology update, more people could live their dreams of being a professional voice talent. But many of those folks were only dreaming, because they had neither the training nor the talent (or even business savvy) to operate a voiceover business. These less knowledgeable new voice talents also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

Advances in Internet technology also allowed companies to create on-line casting sites (known now as Pay 2 Play sites ((P2P)) for voice talents that allowed voice seekers to get hundreds of voiceover auditions with only a few mouse clicks and no in-person meetings. But voiceover agents, who for decades had managed those auditions and booked those castings, now have to work especially harder to secure those auditions and castings. Oh and the P2P model has also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

retail onlineThese examples are business realities in the voiceover industries. Change happens in every business. The old General Store lost to the local department store, who lost to Macy’s, who lost to Wal-Mart, who seems to be currently battling with Amazon.

Ones personal reaction to change in business is usually based on whether you’re being eaten or you’re doing the eating. So change, while not always pleasant, is always present.

But in the voiceover industry, there have been a few of these P2P players who have grown to be the biggest in their business category and, because of that scope, naturally have an impact on the industry.

I had been a member on both of these bigger P2P sites and have long ago since resigned and pulled my profiles from them.

In their infancy, both sites offered opportunities. But then their business models changed, adding elements of control to money transaction and job management that were at the least questionable and, in many states, likely illegal when it came to requirements of imposed by actual professional agents and managers – which is the category these new P2P business models put these P2P companies into (although they have denied such assertions).

I found their practices improper and unethical (to BOTH voice talents and the hiring companies) and I left the P2P sites I’m referencing. But their models still exist and thrive to the detriment of novice and (strangely, to my way of thinking) more experienced voice talents.

One has to respect that every voice talent has the right and even the obligation to run their business as they see fit. If they have a financial need to try and make money via Pay 2 Play voiceover sites, then the discussion is over for them.

Voiceover P2P Ethical Business audioconnell

They will not consider the downsides of Pay 2 Plays because they cannot do so…to do so would mean they would have to either drastically change their own business plans or even cease working in voiceover. I understand the financial imperative to them personally and I respect the argument.

And it also needs to be said that there is at least one other, smaller Pay 2 Play voiceover web site, run in Europe, that I believe is ethical and is not having as negative an impact on the voiceover industry, save for some projects with ridiculously bad fees that I personally noticed.

So if change is a constant in business and change has created large P2P companies who are negatively impacting the voiceover industry, what options do the rest of us have in what historically should be just another cycle of change, albeit what I and many others consider unethical change?

A simple answer is to publicly and repeatedly expose the unethical business practices of these large Pay 2 Play sites. Doing so will help new voice talents better understand the P2P playing field (and let them make their own decisions). It might also allow established talents to understand what their business relationship with these unethical P2P companies really mean to their business and the industry they hope to thrive within. They too will make their own decision.

My friend, Erik Shepard, who is also one of my longtime agents, has recently resurrected #voicestrong . The purpose of this campaign is to foster discussion about, and even put pressure on, the unethical business practices among Pay 2 Play voiceover sites. Erik made a video about his opinions (many of which I share – not all).

I believe the history of this particular hash tag in the VO industry came about after a rather unprecedented interview that voice talent Graeme Spicer of Edge Studio held with the CEO of possibly the most questionable and unethical of all the Pay 2 Play voiceover sites.

The interview, pretty infamous among those of us in the voiceover world, was a total public relations #fail for the CEO, who offered inconsistent and embarrassingly thoughtless answers to direct and reasonable questions about his own company’s documented and dubious business practices. A later presentation by the same P2P company at VO Atlanta in 2016 confirmed the company’s complete lack of respect for the voiceover industry and those who work in it.

Full disclosure – at one time, early in its creation, I was friendly with the CEO and his spouse who also works as an executive at this company. As their business methods changed, so did our interactions. There’s that change again.

If #voicestrong can help bring to light the unethical corporate business practices of those who I believe take certain advantage of people in my industry who might not know better, then I too am #voicestrong.

all voice talents are steve whitmire

There’s on old saying that you haven’t really worked in radio until you’ve been fired.

True of my old business, but for my current business I’ve always felt the saying should be you haven’t really worked in voiceover until you’ve been hired…for the day. The next day, until you get a VO job, you’re still not a voice talent.

muppet montageSteve Whitmire, who has worked with Jim Henson’s Muppets since 1978, has been the puppeteer and voice of Kermit THE Frog since Jim Henson’s death in 1990.

We found out this week that Whitmire had been fired from that job in October of 2016. He evidently kept the dismissal quiet in the hopes the Muppet executives would have a change of heart.

As of this writing, they have not.

Just a brief background, before I get to the meat of this post.

When Jim Henson died, I kind of lost my interest in the Muppets. Not out of any disrespect for those that continued after him but just cause when I saw Kermit in a show or movie, I knew Jim Henson wasn’t there. I know I am not supposed to think of the actors at all when I watch The Muppets, but I do.

I thought of Henson and it made me a bit sad.

Through Henson’s children and the talented puppeteers and writers, the show went on as it should. Steve Whitmire was elevated to the puppeteer and voice of Kermit and has performed admirably. Whitmire should be nothing but proud of his work and how he honored Henson with his interpretation of Kermit.

Under whatever circumstances or whatever ‘new creative direction’ the Disney management (who now owns the Muppets) wanted to move forward in, I don’t know. Whitmire was called and told his services were no longer required. He stated recently that working for the Muppets and being Kermit was very much a way of life, given his tenure and history with both Henson and the company.

This job was clearly very personal to him. I very much respect why that was while also admiring his great talent.

To be clear, I do not know Steve Whitmire.

But to me it seems likely, having read his recent blog post, he’s been living with a great deal of pain and sorrow since October 2016. He may be well over it by now and I hope that’s the case.

It’s a pain and sorrow almost every working voice actor has known at sometime.

I have been there. Maybe you have too or, if not, someday you likely will be.

Though not within anything as incredibly famous and ingrained as Whitmire’s work, I’ve been fired from a few really nice, longer-term voice acting jobs over 35+ years.

Sometimes the firing was because of a “different direction” for the project, a couple of time I screwed up (it happens) and sometimes I just could not give the producers what they wanted, hard as I tried.

That subsequent feeling of failure, depression and fear for the future (“do I even have a career”) after losing one of these gigs can be paralyzing.

‘Get up in the morning?! What for?!’

And yet we must get up in the morning. And the morning after that.

As much as we may identify our lives with our jobs, we are MORE than our jobs.

We have much to offer other clients or in some cases, other industries.

It is SO hard…but we must move on when we lose these big gigs.

We cannot wallow. Wallowing can start to feel good after a while but it leads to excuses, laziness and a list of other not good things. Do. Not. Wallow.

We need to remember what we were like when we got that nice, big  voiceover job…what was our attitude, how did we present ourselves, how did we sound?

What was our mindset? Likely, it was that the world was our oyster and we wanted to go out and get the big gigs. We need to do it again. And we can.

Yes, we’ve been handed a slice of humble pie. We ate it and now we move on. Only WE can control our future. But also, WE control our future.  That’s pretty cool!

We are voice actors, we have skills, we have talents and we have contacts.

Train, audition, network, market, repeat.

Losing a big gig may FEEL like the end of your world. But it isn’t, as long as you won’t let it be the end of your world.

I hope this helps.