Friday, October 30, 2009
--Josephine "Posie" Beam, student of the Mentor Program
Posie took the Masters Program back in 2008, but with her farm to run, grandchildren to spoil, and tours at the conservation center -- her priority of getting her voice-over career up and running slipped down in the ranking. Where she lives, no one would know what you meant if you said "voiceover," much less could she find a local voiceover agency. To keep her on track, Posie joined the Mentor Program in January with Such A Voice producer and coach Brian Thon.
Although Posie and Brian only meet once a month for half an hour, she has seen an extraordinary amount of improvement. She has become more confident in her technique, which she says one one of the hardest things to believe. "I used to get stage fright when I would get behind the mic!" Posie says. She also would be too hard on her own voice, and would only compare her work to the "super professional voices on TV." Even though she's been told her whole life that she has a great voice, it took her a while to believe Brian when he would tell her, "Posie, you're already there!"
On technical aspects, Brian has been instrumental in helping Posie get the best sound out of her home recording studio. With Brian's recommendations, she has been able to eliminate the echo that was destroying her recordings, as well as an annoying ticking sound that she would come across in the editing process. No matter what the problem has been, Brian has been able to give her sound advice.
Perhaps one of the best tips Posie has gotten from the Mentor Program with Brian is that she realized she's in a great place to get into the market she's interested in. Whereas before Posie was concerned that she was in too much of a rural setting to find a voiceover agent who could work with her, she now realizes that she's well networked within her community to start doing voice-overs for one of her life-long passions: conservation videos.
Conservation videos, which she says are just becoming professional in quality, are in dire need of warm, voice-over talents. Other than the big names you hear doing voice-overs in nature videos, such as Steve Irwin, David Attenborough, Jeff Corwin, and Sigourney Weaver -- who she says sounds too cold and detached from the subject matter, the vast majority of people doing voice-overs for TV shows and movies do not sound professional at all. Either they dramatize too much for effect, or they don't understand the subject matter well enough to provide a quality narration. And yet, those are the people who are hired for most of the jobs!
Brian has helped her realize that she has a wealth of people who are well-connected in the conservation field to start working on in her very own town. Posie is going to record some tours for the Conservations Research Center she volunteers at, and she knows other people who would like to use her voice for up-coming films, such as one on the Shenandoah River.
Whether or not Posie finds a voice-over agent or not, she's in a great place to land some gigs she can be passionate about!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Where You're From: Rochester, NY, and went to school at University of Miami (in Florida)
Job Responsibilities: Since I started working here in 2003, Such A Voice has grown and evolved in amazing ways. I take a lot of pride in that. I've been responsible for most of the direction of the company, the hiring process, managing how we do things internally, and managing how we take care of our clients. It's really important to me that Such A Voice clients have a great experience with us, and that they feel like they have us as a resource throughout their career. I hope that gives them confidence when they're getting out there to know that they can deliver, and to know that they're not out there alone!
Favorite Food: Sushi, and Lobstah of course!
Hobbies: Boating, Waterskiing, Windsurfing, Skiing, Tennis, Working Out, Playing Guitar in my Bluegrass Band (www.myspace.com/themedicinals), seeing live music, taking my dog Charlie (the bubs) for his adventurous walks and just making the most of life!
Destination Vacation: Switzerland. Incredible Mountains. Gorgeous lakes. No place else like it.
What are you listening to right now: Cinematic Orchestra and Thievery Corporation.
One piece of advice for aspiring voice over talent: Just remembering that voice-overs is a business, and it takes real consistent effort to succeed. You have to make it a priority and you have to know that marketing yourself as a voice-over artist is a numbers game. You can't take it personally when you don't get the gig, and you have to get your demo out there to as many potential clients as you can. The hard work early on can pay off big time in the form of regular clients that will give you regular work for years to come. That most important time though is early on when you have to market yourself really hard without having a lot of work under your belt. Stay motivated and the rewards are great!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Sometimes it's going to happen. You'll fall into a voiceover training rut. Maybe you are getting bored with your voiceover training, maybe you're not practicing, or maybe you're getting too comfortable in your niche. Whatever the case may be, however you really feel about your voice-over training -- the client will hear it loud and clear.
One tool that might help you climb out of your voice-over training rut and get back on top of your game is to realize that voice acting IS acting. Unlike other forms of acting, the only aspect of you that gets captured is your voice, so you have to focus more energy into vocalizing what would normally be non-verbal communication.
It's no wonder you hear about big-name actors who do voice-overs for movies and commercials. They don't necessarily have the best voices in the world, and many of them don't get press recognition for the spot, but the techniques they work on for acting translate easily to voice-overs.
The next time you get behind the mic, notice what the rest of your body is doing while you're reading the copy. If you find that you're not using your body how you would naturally in conversation -- gesturing with your hands, shrugging your shoulders, making facial expressions, etc. -- then try to relax. Being mindful of the mic and how loud your clothes might sound if you're gesturing too wildly, experiment with the rest of your body and see if you can get a different tone or feeling from your voice.
As Mel Allen used to tell his students, "Get your clown shoes on because I want you to sound like a complete jokester this time!" Not that you want to do a "serious" read and a "silly" read for every copy -- you don't! The point is to step out of your comfort zone, see yourself as a character for a script, and become that person.
While your introductory voice-over training was instrumental in helping you find and develop your niche, start to pull copy from voice over websites that challenges you. Learn to do things completely over top. Learn how to speak at the fringes of your good vocal area, not just at the center. Practice being that different person, and think about what mannerisms go with that character. Initially, you'll just find practice material from voice over websites, but after practicing outside of your comfort zone you'll expand your niche in a whole new direction -- whether it's for narration, commercials, or a podcast!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Where You're From: I was born in Kentucky, but I mainly grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. I lived in Miami, Florida for 5 years, and after that I served with the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan, and then lived for 1.5 years in Istanbul, Turkey. Now I'm at home in Burlington, Vermont!
Job Responsibilities: I handle press releases to the media about up-coming voice over training classes, cool things our teachers are up to, and new directions our company grows in. In addition, I write articles on the voice-over industry for internet publication, correspond with students for the newsletters, and facilitate volunteer events in the community for our teachers and employees. In my spare time I also help out with web pages and copy editing.
Favorite Food: Right now, I'm enjoying all of this New England squash and pumpkin! There's no limit to what you can do with it! Other favorites: artichoke hearts, salsa, hummus, and chocolate covered espresso beans ... but not all at the same time!
Hobbies: I have to stay physically active, and my recent obsessions have been cycling, running, and swimming. I'm a fan of making up my own triathlon routes with friends, and I'm pumped to get more into skiing this year as well. I hope I'll have opportunities to travel and meet people for the rest of my life! And dancing. All kinds, any where, any time.
Destination Vacation: I would really like to check out Argentina for the tango and for the food. If I could go anywhere in the world right now, I might just go back to Istanbul! It's full of the most wonderful, warm-hearted people, fascinating culture, breath-taking landscapes, and delicious foods.
What are you listening to right now: My favorite podcasts: This American Life, The Moth, Common Sense with Dan Carlin, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, Vegetarian Food for Thought. Music right now: Jeff Buckley, Wax Taylor, and Devotchka.
One piece of advice for aspiring voice over talent: It's really only the dedicated ones who make it! The more diligently you practice, the more voiceover training you get, and the more consistently you audition, the greater your chances are of landing that gig.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sciglimpaglia got his start in voice-overs while he was still practicing law full time in 2005 by attending the Masters Program with Such A Voice. Prepared to enter the industry doing small gigs here and there, he was pleasantly surprised when he landed his first gig -- with PBS. It took him a few months to get steady work in voice-overs until he realized that there was a vast new world in on-camera acting jobs as well, which often require the same techniques he works on for voice-overs. His training and skills transferred naturally to acting , and he landed his first on-camera role in the 2007 film with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, Music and Lyrics.
It hasn't all been iPhone commercials and feature films, Sciglimpaglia admits. "This is an industry of rejection." For every 100 voice-over auditions he submits, either live or online, he knows that he may get 10 roles. He doesn't mind the legwork, however, and some of his favorite gigs to audition for are independent and student films that he might not even be paid for.
Ostensibly, Sciglimpaglia has been extraordinarily lucky, but he doesn't see it that way. He attributes his successes to his hard work and disciplined approach to practicing, auditioning, and networking. Rob reminds his students all the time, "The longer you hang in there, the more successful you'll be." Most students, he says, don't understand they have to practice their techniques. If you are prepared by staying on top of your voice when a client contacts you, then you will have a better chance of landing that dream gig when it comes knocking. After that? Rob says, "This business is like bananas: it comes in bunches."
Rob is excited to continue working with NBC, and he has other projects in the making. In addition to practicing law, Sciglimpaglia will be playing the role of Coach John in an off-Broadway production called "Broken Foot Prints," which is slated to run in the winter 2010; teaching voice-overs with Such A Voice; and, he will be appearing as Al Capone on the History Channel's new series MysteryQuest. You can check out the new iPhone app commercial HERE.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Name & Title: Katherine Maund, Social Media Marketing
From: I'm originally from Augusta, GA but currently reside in Burlington, VT and have lived in Florence, Italy for a short time.
Job Responsibilities: I am responsible for creating and managing the online identity and presence of Such A Voice by using various networks such as Twitter, Blogger, and Facebook. I tweet about up-coming events, Charlie the office dog, and additions to our programs. I try to engage and create personal relationships with our students and potential clients in online communities.
Favorite Food: As much as I try to keep the south in me tamed, I am a sucker for a rockin' bowl of cheese grits. They go even better with a fried egg on top, but that's pushing it!
Hobbies: I'm a huge music fan and love to perform. I play guitar and sing at venues around Vermont and am always down for a jam session. I also love to travel any place I can go - from biking trips around the town to plane rides to foreign countries - I love it all and want to go everywhere. If I'm not working, you can find me drinking a cappuccino, hiking, or singing in the shower. (The steam really does a number on those vocal cords! You'll go from William Hung to Pavarotti in no time!)
Destination Vacation Spot: I've traveled to Western China and all over Europe, but my favorite vaca spot would have to be Capri, Italy. I've never seen water so blue, met people so warm and passionate, or eaten such delectable cuisine.
What are you listening to right now: I'm listening to the Michael Buble station on Pandora. It's Friday and it's impossible to get down when poppy jazz is blasting.
One piece of advice for aspiring voice over talent: GET ON TWITTER. :) Social media is not the wave of the future, it's marketing at it's best right now. I think promoting your voice on social networks will give you the highest return on investment, hands down.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Librivox.org is an extraordinary site, one that relies entirely on volunteers in all aspects of the organization. Let me tell you a little about them and what they do, and how as a voice over student this site can truly benefit you and how you, in turn, can be of much use to them.
Librivox in a nutshell: An open source audio-literary attempt, to harness the power of the many to record and disseminate, in podcast form, books from the public domain. But that simplistic explanation does not do justice to the volunteers and the original organizers of this site and great undertaking.
Librivox has volunteers record books that are all in the public domain; more specifically, books that are at risk of disappearing forever on some dusty shelf, forgotten in the annals of time. It is a truly worthy undertaking for the preservation of some really important books. In translating these books into audio, it allows the visually impaired access to books that they perhaps would not have had access to before. Not only are novels recorded, but poetry, plays, autobiographies, medical and other textbooks, art books….the list goes on!
So you may be asking yourself what does this have to do with me as a voice over student? Plenty! Librivox is a fantastic opportunity for any voice over student to hone their voice skills in many different fields. As a volunteer, you can record chapters from novels and practice your narration and acting skills at the same time. It's a perfect win-win situation! Not only do you get to practice your voice over, but also your recording and editing skills. It is a fantastic opportunity to help others and by doing so, yourself, along the way.
You also get the added benefit of public exposure, being listed on the search engines under the Librivox banner, and are possibly listened to by possibly hundreds of people. I had only been there for a few weeks when someone heard a poem I read, emailed me, and asked if I would be interested in recording some audio for students learning English as a second language. Also, in every recording you do, at the beginning or at the end, you have the opportunity to promote both yourself and your website.
Another benefit of doing this as a student is that you can see how much you are progressing in your voice over work. When I listen to some of the earlier recordings I did for Librivox, I cringe. However, I can hear how my voice is progressing and I can hear how my editing and recording skills are improving. People at Librivox do not judge your recordings or your voice, they will, however, help you get your recordings to the standard that they set for the site by giving you tips and pointers. They are a very, very nice bunch of volunteers, all totally passionate about the work they are doing.
Did I mention there is no pressure on you whatsoever? None! Record as much or as little as you desire, and if for some reason you are unable to complete a project you started – no problems! They are all volunteers there and realize that sometimes we over-commit ourselves, or life intrudes. Simply let the project controller know, and someone else can take over for you.
There are so many fantastic opportunities that this site offers the voiceover student. The voice over professional can also put the power of their knowledge into a community project that genuinely benefits the world wide community… any language, any country!
What better way to give of your time and voice over talents than in helping preserve some very valuable and old manuscripts for generations to come after us? Join me and hundreds of others to volunteer your talent for a worthy cause? For more information visit www.librivox.org.
I look forward to seeing you there!
P.S. Another thing that Librivox has just done is to create a file of all the different accents from different countries that record there, all recording the same story. If you are looking to hone a foreign accent for your voice over work, then you can use these to practice with. It is a great resource!
Friday, October 9, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Voiceover artist, Rodney Saulsberry, says that now is the best time to break into the voice over industry. "Companies are looking for real people with real voices to promote their products." He also mentions the benefits of having a home studio. This short video is a great snip-it into the life of a voice over actor and the types of jobs that are available.
You can find Rodney's book HERE
Monday, October 5, 2009
When Bill Sleeper decided to take the Master's Program with Brian Thon back in February, 2009, it was the culmination of 14 years of saying, "One day...". In fact, Bill had been working as a singer/songwriter/musician for decades when his passion for voice-overs rekindled, Life threw him a couple curve balls, and his tentative plans to get into the voice-over business full-time snowballed before his eyes.
Bill graduated from the Master's Program and immediately wanted to jump into Mentor sessions with Brian Thon. Having been exposed to many of the voice techniques already, Bill had more questions about how the industry runs and how to get his face (and voice) out there.
"Brian Thon not only brought his expertise to the table -- he brought his experience. That, for me, spoke louder than words."
Brian worked with Bill over the course of 5 months, meeting via teleconference once a month. Each session was focused on a different aspect of the business: how to create a jumping off point, creating branding messages, the necessity of the checklist, etc. Brian gave Bill real-life homework tasks to complete before their next session. Says Bill, "Having one month to accomplish my [homework] goals was the perfect amount of time: It was long enough for me to succeed at my task, but it wasn't so long that I could put anything off ... It helped keep me on task!"
Beyond sharing his insights into the voice-over industry, Brian also gave Bill great penny-pincher ideas. For example, when it came to finding the materials to set up his booth in his home recording studio, Bill went to CraigsList to find the carpet, drapes, boards -- everything he needed, for under $5! Brian also taught Bill how to get the most bang for his buck when it came to Google ad words, CDs, demos, and business cards. And it was all tailored to Bill's specific needs, voice-over niche, and market.
Brian and Bill worked together to get Bill into the local markets, and he is currently working out a contract with local colleges that looks like it could turn into repeat business. His voice can also be heard in a mockumentary that is soon to be released in the Portland area. "None of this would have been possible without the Mentor Program and Brian's help," Bill graciously says. "I already had the intangibles to the business, and now I know it's just a matter of time before I'm doing this full-time."
Bill's mantra is simple: "Go out and meet people. Get them to know you, get them to like you, then get them to trust you."
Friday, October 2, 2009
I often receive inspiring applications for the Talent of the Month contest from graduates of our programs, but it's rare that I receive one from a student-in-progress who is already following the right steps to become a success in the industry -- even before he has completed the Master's Program. Jeff Hering impressed me by his "go-get-em" attitude, his passion, and his pragmatic approach.
Jeff graduated from Madonna University with a BA in Social Sciences at a time when his industry, the auto supplier industry, was in the process of tanking. He, like thousands of others, lost his job. Instead of viewing this as one of life's misfortunes, Jeff saw it as an opportunity to pursue something he has long been interested in -- the voice-over industry!
Jeff has one of those voices. You know, the type you hear and immediately know that he was meant for radio or public audiences. Hering says, "Honestly though, after you've gotten complimented on your voice so many times, you either take it as a sign to do it, or you ignore it and continue in a career that you either don't like or do just to pay the bills. That's not for me." When Jeff saw that Heather Costa was teaching a class at his alma mater, he jumped on the chance to get his feet wet.
He has been working closely with Heather the past few weeks, and he looks forward to attending her up-coming Master's Program. He sets aside time to practice every day, with a consistency and determination he sees as being key to becoming a success in any field. In addition, he has already set up his home recording studio, and he is learning to use the technology -- all in preparation to hit the ground running once he has completed his demo CD. But that doesn't mean he isn't already marketing himself...
"I have already begun to seek out potential clients by simply telling them what I will be doing -- friends who have small businesses, etc. In this world, you have to make things happen for yourself. Nobody is going to ring the doorbell and hand you a job to compete with a huge paycheck. You have to do the legwork. And that's where the networking starts."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
After he gradates from the Master's Program, Jeff plans to develop his resume by offering his services for free to any and all new-comers. "Commercials, narrations, radio, TV, whatever the case, whatever the job -- I will be looking to make my mark quickly and responsibly ... I'm ready for any challenge!"
Advice to fellow newbies? "Prepare and stay motivated! Write out what you want to accomplish, set a few realistic goals aside, and see them through to fruition." What about if he can't find work for a while? "You always have to be ready for a few knocks, but that should just make you want to work harder and build your motivation!"
Congratulations, Jeff Hering! We can't wait to hear about your successes -- or listen to them on the radio!
Your vocal cords are similar to other muscles: the more you tone them, the more deftly you can use them. Before you begin working your voice, it's always a good idea to loosen up your muscles that directly or indirectly affect the quality of your voice.
Warming up is extremely important because if you get behind the microphone and you are feeling tense or stressed, guess what? You are going to sound tense and stressed! The more relaxed you can be, the better you will sound. Start out by doing some light stretching.
Side stretches are great for expanding your rib cage and making your lungs feel like they are full of air. Simply take a deep breath and raise your arms up to the sky. Exhale and slightly lean to the left, lengthening in your side body. Hold it there for just a couple of seconds before you inhale to center, and then exhale over to the right.
Next, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale your arms up to the sky, then slowly bend at your waist on the exhale and take your hands toward the ground. It doesn't matter how far you can go, the action of bending over is enough to give you a nice, warm stretch! Stay there for a couple of breaths, and then on an inhale slowly come back up to a standing position.
After you have done your side stretches, your standing forward bends, and whatever else you need to do to make your body feel loose and relaxed, you can turn your focus to your face.
Moving your fingers in a circular motion, massage your face where your jaw hinges. This will stimulate blood flow to your jaw muscles, where many of us store tension. Gentle head and neck rolls can also make you feel more comfortable behind the mic.
Yawning is also a great way to loosen things up! If you can make yourself yawn, you will feel the space from the back of your mouth to your sinuses, and that is actually the best place to put the speaking when you are reading.
If you are yawning because you just woke up, do not get behind that mic just yet! Just as an athlete wouldn't jump out of bed and run a marathon, don't attempt to record a voice-over before you've had a chance to wake up and loosen up. Treat your voice and your body well, and it will treat you well in return!
Let us know how these tips work out for you by posting a comment to our blog!