Thursday, October 28, 2010
Recently, I heard from a fellow voice actor who expressed frustration with one of the “pay-to-play” voiceover sites. She (let’s call her Jan)told me that she had recently subscribed to the site, but hadn’t won any auditions yet. Jan wondered if I had any tips on how to win a gig; she also wondered if it is just a “numbers game” or is it that certain people are hired for most of the jobs?
Here is what I told Jan. First, let me say that it didn't happen right away for me either. I had been getting most of my voiceover jobs locally or regionally up until late 2006. Then, a friend suggested I join the online sites to increase my business.
I started with two of them in January 2007, and didn't get my first job until May. When I won that first one, I went back and studied what I had written in that proposal, and how I produced the audition.
Then, I started browsing other talents' pages and I listened to their demos. I "borrowed" several ideas from the people who seemed to be most successful on the site, and the more I polished my audition process, the more jobs I booked.
I definitely do not believe that it is a numbers game. I have often heard others say that you shouldn't audition if there are already over 25 or 50 auditions submitted. Baloney. More than once, I have had a client say, "We listened to over 180 auditions, and you were the best of them" or something like that. Point is, if you feel you are right for the gig, you owe it to yourself to audition - no matter what that number says.
Also, download some of the demos of the top players, and compare them to your demos. Are they comparable to your demos? Get a friend to listen, and get unbiased opinions. Demand honesty. Flattery will truly get YOU nowhere.
Just hang in there, Jan. It will happen. Case in point, another VO friend of mine hasn't scored a job on the “pay-to-plays” since he signed up a year ago. So he started examining things more closely. Not to pat myself on the back (but don't mind if I do - heh-heh), I directed him and produced 3 new demos for him. A couple of weeks ago, he got his first job, and it may go national! Also, he has been in contact with someone who may use him in movie trailers. Pretty cool to see someone make so much progress in such a short amount of time - but only after he struggled for a year.
Again, ignore the numbers and the naysayers. You can do this, and you've got to go through some minefields to win the battle!
Here’s to Jan’s future in the VO world!
Friday, October 22, 2010
The only downside to it all is that most of those leaves eventually fall. Before we bought our home seven years ago, we had no idea that the house was in the “direct line of fire.” It sits at the end of a cul-de-sac, and every year the wind seems to conspire to blow all of the neighborhood leaves up the street and settle in our yard… our gutters… our window wells… you get the idea. One year, I told the next door neighbor that I noticed that the people up the street never seem to get around to raking their leaves; I said, “I think they know that eventually those leaves will end up in our yards anyway. So why bother?”
Every year, I’m like a tired, old general crouched in a foxhole. On windy autumn days, I take my seat by my living room window and wait. Then the invasion begins. The leaves slowly march up my street. There is no escape. I raise my binoculars to see what my leaf blower and I are up against. There are hundreds, no thousands, perhaps millions of the feisty foliage!
By the time the wind settles down, we are surrounded by a sea of red, yellow and brown leaves. Several times in the season, nature seems to laugh in our faces as little whirlwinds appear out of nowhere and toss those leaves – this usually happens shortly after I have raked the leaves into several neat piles. It’s as though Mother Nature has bratty kids who play practical jokes on me each year.
In the end, I get the last laugh. Raising my binoculars to my weary eyes, I scan the neighborhood looking for any conniving leaves that might be planning a last minute, surprise attack. After determining that the coast is clear, and the enemy has settled in to their positions surrounding my home, I move in.
Those dastardly gutter cloggers are about to feel the wrath of my leaf-sucking, mulching machine!* Slowly I attack them, luring them in with the promise of another dance in a whirlwind. Little do they know that this whirlwind will be their last.
The next day, after the completion of yet another autumn conquest, I spread the remains in the yards of my neighbors down the street.
Okay. Maybe not. However, it sure seems like the perfect ending, doesn’t it.
*No actual leaves were harmed in the making of this story.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I love the English language. My interest in language is so great that sometimes I have to resist the urge to correct others. Ask my wife, and she’ll probably say that I am obsessed with the English language.
Here’s a free tip for you young guys: “Never correct your wife’s grammar unless you are wearing protective gear.”
Come back here. I am not going to lecture you about grammar. Quick! What is the object of the preposition in that last sentence?
What is most fascinating to me about language is the power it packs. The words we choose can make others happy, sad, glad, angry, calm or violent. With words we can make others smile, frown, laugh, cry or even sleep.
Consider these examples and notice how you feel towards the individual based on their statements:
- I’m so friggin’ pissed off about these high taxes!
- I’m very mad about these high taxes.
- I’m miffed about these high taxes.
So I am thinking the first guy needs to have a long chat with his friend Jack Daniels and sleep it off; you probably don’t want to talk about the high taxes with him unless you are wearing that protective gear I mentioned earlier. The second person is probably going to cut you off in traffic, flip the bird at the mailman, and kick the dog. However, person number three seems approachable, although his statement might make you secretly giggle.
What if you introduced me to your sister and later asked me what I thought of her? What if I said, “Man, she is butt ugly!” Uh-oh, protective gear time. Okay, how about, “Your sister is okay, but she’s not very attractive.” Well, sometimes honesty is not the best policy, is it? Instead, what if I answered, “You know, your sister is a good person, but she’s not my type.” Enough said.
Have you ever heard that commercial claiming a product can improve your English? The announcer says, “People judge you by the way you speak.” That is so true. People will also react to you according to the way you choose words.
I think American Southerners are among the best at wise word choice. Take for example what a friend’s wife once said to me:
“Scooter, you have a face that only a mother could love.”
My reaction to her words was a smile. The next morning, I woke up and realized what she said. I remember blurting out, “She called me ugly!” Of course, she never used the word ‘ugly,’ and she said it with a smile on her face. Yes, it was an insult, but it was so skillfully uttered that my reaction was extremely delayed. Granted, she probably didn’t need to say anything at all about my looks, but at least she didn’t friggin’ piss me off!
Nah, I was just a bit peeved.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Ten years ago today, my wife Stacy and I stood on the Royal Grounds of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, and exchanged wedding vows that we had written for each other. It was a beautiful day in many ways, and it's hard to believe that it's been 10-years already. Time flies when you're madly in love with your best friend. I'm not just saying that. We really are one. Sounds cliche, I know, but we're living it.
So there I was, in my studio, thinking about my bride. Don't ask me what possessed me, but suddenly an old "Flintstones" episode popped into my head. Maybe you remember it. A group of guys sing "Happy Anniversary" to Wilma, and keep singing it over and over again. When I was a radio guy, I used to do a rendition of the bit on my show for people who called in anniversary dedications.
I just had to do that for Stacy today. So without further ado... (does anyone say that anymore?)... my lounge lizard bit for my bride of 10-years.
Click to Play--> Happy Anniversary, Babe!
And many more...
Monday, October 11, 2010
Has anyone ever said to you, "Hey, you've got a great voice. You should be on the radio." If so, I have good news for you. You're on your way! Well... you're about 1% there. Yup. A "great voice" is about 1% of what it takes to get started.
"What!?" you say. "If I've got the voice, all I have to do is get in front of a microphone and read the script, right?"
Just what makes a "great voice" anyway? I believe most people have a good voice that can be used in various types of voiceover projects; however, before your voice can be used, you have to know how to "use" it.
Like many others in the voiceover world, I get several emails, phone calls and even face-to-face requests for advice on getting into voice acting. Recently, I decided to compose a 10-point list of tips, a list that would make it easy to attach to each email to voiceover hopefuls. It's not the law of the land, just my personal thoughts on what it takes to get started.
1. Keep your day job. Rarely does anyone, even an experienced voiceover talent, make enough in the first few years to call it "a living."
2. Consider a voice coach. Ask them for references!
3. Read everything you can about voice acting.
4. Polish and update your demos at least once, preferably twice a year. If necessary, hire a professional to produce your demos. Like me. ;-)
5. Join every Internet forum and community you can, and network, network, network.
6. Watch experienced voiceover talent on the job whenever you can, and take notes. This includes watching videos on the Internet.
7. Join the pay-to-play sites. In many cases, you do not have to sign up for a paid subscription unless you feel you're ready to start auditioning. My top preference is Voices.com. You can learn a lot there.
8. Market your demos to and establish relationships with businesses in your community.
9. As with any other trade, practice whenever you can - in the studio, in the car, on a break, in the shower, in bed, wherever you can!
10. Network, network, network.
Voice acting is a lot of fun. It's also a lot of hard work that does not involve time behind the microphone; in fact, most of your time in the business will be spent doing things to keep your business moving forward.
If you think you've got what it takes, and you're more than just a "great voice," I wish you much success. Break a lip!
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Have you ever witnessed a speech that nearly or actually did put you to sleep? Think about it. What did the speaker do or not do that put you down for the count?
The worst speakers in the world are the ones who read their speech. If the speaker just delivers the words without thinking about the words, the message is lost. Zzz... I suppose it would have been better for the speaker to just submit his speech in a blog.
Hey, wake up.
The same goes tenfold for those of us in the voice acting business. If all a voice actor does is read the script aloud, the client might as well use a text-to-speech service.
When I first started learning to act with my voice, I was just 16-years old. My coach said something that seemed silly at the time. He said, "If you want to show emotion when you act with your voice, you need to overact."
Yep. Overact. Think about it. Can the listener see your facial expressions? Can the listener see your hand movements? What? You don't use your hands when you speak?
Okay, let's try an exercise. Say this aloud without facial expression: "What are you talking about?"
Now say it with a scowl on your face. Lower your eyebrows, throw both your hands up in the air, and imagine your ticked off. "What are you talking about!?"
Notice the difference? Do it again. This time, really go overboard. Remember, nobody can see your facial expression.
If you're a sports fan, you might understand the phrase "Be the ball." Okay. Be the script. Forget that it's written words. Make it your words!
Read these words without speaking: "I am a super hero."
Now stand up, put yourself in that traditional Superman position with both hands on your waist, and say it with pride.
I bet you noticed a difference that time.
Some of the best voice acting is done with the hands. Next time you are in front of a microphone, let your hands do the talking.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Who am I? First, I'm Stacy's husband and Ryan, Adam, Ben and Roselynn's dad. Second, I'm a voice actor. Like many voice actors, I spent a lot of years in radio; however, I've been doing voiceovers since I was a teenager. I left radio a few years ago, and at the urging of and with the support of my wife, I began doing voiceovers full-time in 2007. All of it takes place in my home studio in Pennsylvania.
Just recently, I expanded my business. With a little push from up-and-coming voiceover talent Doug Warner, I am now directing and producing voiceover talent in the making of their demos. What an exciting adventure, too! I supply the scripts, and then direct the talent via Skype or phone patch - I prefer Skype, because voice acting is more than just saying the words on the script. Voice acting involves your hands, the way you sit or stand, breathing right and take breaths before you begin, and even facial expressions. Say the sentence, "I'm so sad," with a frown. Now say it while smiling. Hear the difference?
On that note, I'll write more about voiceover secrets in my next post. Until then, keep your feet on the ground and... no, that's not mine. My incredibly creative radio sign-off was... are you ready... wait for it... "That's it for the Scootman. Seeya!"
Monday, October 4, 2010
I'm a little timid about stepping into this, but I suppose that's just a form of stage fright. Once I get my feet wet, I'm sure I'll start enjoying the swim.
Blog world, here I come. Please be gentle. This is my first time.
My first blabs are coming soon...