Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Human Connection

Photo thanks to carbonated.tv

There’s nothing like real human contact, eye contact, a handshake. Seeing a person’s smile, getting and giving high fives, it’s so nice. As much as I love working from home, I really try to make it a point to meet as many people that I work with face to face as I possibly can. Why? Call me old fashioned, but it’s great to know the person behind the email address. Not just know their face, but get to know the actual person.

A few years ago my husband and I set out in our Mini Cooper on a cross-country road trip to visit friends and family. We drove from California all the way to Michigan, down to Florida and then home to LA. We thought it would be so fun to meet many of the people we worked with all of the time. So we called ahead and told many producers we’d be passing through their area and asked if it was okay to stop in and say hello. They were all thrilled, and amused by our little adventure. 99% of the producers I’d been working with and corresponding with for years, but had never met before. It was such a blast! I loved meeting the staff, touring the studios, laughing about how different we all looked than how we'd pictured each other. We learned that we all had way more in common than we ever knew. 

Not only was it fun to meet clients and producers, it’s also so great to meet fellow voice talent. So many of us chat on Facebook or get to meet at occasional voice over events, but making a point to meet people and build long lasting relationships and friendships is a beautiful thing. Oh, and don’t overlook getting to know fellow talent and producers in your own backyard. I am thankful for cyberspace but nothing beats a hug in my book. Just one quick side note as I come to a close with my little story, it takes 44 hours to drive straight through in a Mini Cooper from Tampa, FL to Los Angeles, CA. In case you were wondering. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Session

An example of a voice over script

You booked it. It's session time. You received the copy 24 hours before your session, and you've had time to carefully and thoughtfully revisit what you brought to your award-winning audition. You take the time to artfully mark your copy to capture every nuance you have in mind for the gig. Just kidding. It's two minutes before your ISDN box locks with your client and the script just came through. Oh wait, it's two minutes after your session started and you just got the copy and oh, look at that. It's a totally new script because its been revised 2,044 times. Being prepared for sessions can be challenging at times, but here are some things you can do to enjoy the process and keep your clients happy.

If you do get your script beforehand, look it over and run it down. Make sure you know how to pronounce everything. Yeah, especially the client's name. I keep a $5 stopwatch from Big 5 Sporting Goods on my desk, and I clock everything I read before I get on mic. I like to know if it's tight for time, or if I can breathe. I actually print all of my scripts for live sessions because changes are bound to happen during session, and I prefer to be old school: paper, pencil. I use a pencil because if they change their mind once, they'll possibly change it again and again. [Insert winky face here]. 

I always write the name of the producer I'm working with and the clients or creative team at the top of my script, so if I have a question I can address everyone by name. It's polite. If you don't get the copy beforehand, don't sweat it. You're a pro. You've got this. This is where your amazing cold reading skills come in handy. If you're not a good cold reader, start developing that skill, stat. It's one skill you will need. If you do need a minute to look things over, just coolly and calmly ask for a quick minute to scan it over. You'll get 27 seconds to check it out. Maybe 28. Another thing that I've found to be invaluable is following the lead of the people I'm working with.

Whether you're physically in a studio for the session, doing an ISDN or phone patch session, you can get a pretty good idea of how everyone's feeling in about five seconds. If you're getting the serious lets-get-down-to-business-vibe, it's probably not a good time to talk about the weather or about who got kicked off Survivor last night. Mirror your clients and producers. Be pleasant. Always say, yes. Yes, you'll do another take with a Southern Accent. Yes, you'll do it faster. Absolutely, you'll add more smile. Don't ever take direction personally. You're a piece of clay. Yes, you're Playdo. Let them sculpt you however they want. 

I can't forget to mention that we are not there to help suggest how to rewrite the script. If it's coming in eight seconds too long and you know a few words they can cut to make it come into time, let them decide that. We're the voice talent. I've seen a lot of talent try to be helpful by doing this, and it just annoys the writer client producer. Think it all you want. Just keep it to yourself. You'll thank me later. 

Okay, so you're there. You are the voice they've chosen for their project. How great is that? Be a good listener. Give them what they ask for. Be flexible. Be kind. Be patient. Be thankful. Because guess what, there's a pretty good chance if you're easy to work with and you do a good job, you just turned that customer into a client. And that's always my personal goal. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


No my number isn't 867-5309, it's an 80's song reference.

We all have to start with that very first break. Someone takes a chance on us. We build our first relationship with a production company, we book our very first client, or that agency we've been really hoping to sign with says Y-E-S. It starts with one. One gets you going. One fuels the fire to get you to two and so on. It’s a domino effect really - and it’s awesome. 

After working hard and studying voice over for a couple of years, anxiously, I decided to take my shiny, new demo “tape” with my fancy font phone number on the side around to local producers. I jumped into my beetle and set out on a scary, exciting adventure. Keep in mind this is about 11 years ago, and my strategy was to make a genuine connection with all of the local production companies in Las Vegas where I lived. 

Well, someone said yes. John McClain, the now owner of Dog and Pony Show Studios in Las Vegas called me on this thing called a telephone - the kind with a cord. He must have liked the fancy font I put so much thought into and asked me to come in for a live audition. The studio where he worked at the time was considering new talent for their roster, and liked what he heard on my demo. So, he had me read a variety of scripts, many different styles, moods, and attitudes. I was so nervous I thought he could hear my heart beating through the mic. He was so nice and laid back, and threw a lot of different direction at me to see how well I took it. He said, ”Well, you've got quite a range there. Nice job. I'll put a good word in for you. We’ll give you a call.” Gulp.

He called again. I was added to their roster. It was my first Y-E-S. My game-changer. It’s now more than a decade later, and at this point, thankfully and humbly, I have booked thousands of spots. And to think it all started with one. You know the coolest part? I still regularly work with John after all these years, and I don’t know if I've ever told him this story. So, thanks, John for taking a chance on this nervous, hopeful girl who wanted to make a career voicing. And to all of you voice over hopefuls out there: work hard, be prepared, get your mp3 file polished up and set out for your first Y-E-S. Someone is going to take a chance on you.