This month's Marketing Tip is a reminder for those new to voice-over work to be wary of strange voice-over gigs. If it's too good to be true, it might not be real. If it's too weird to be true, do a background check. Inspired by one creepy client and multiple voice-over artists...
It all started when Sharon Young got a call from a blocked number. The person, "Tom/Tim Walsh" reportedly got her phone number from her website, and contacted her because he thought her background would make her the perfect person for a "Zyrtec" commercial that required a good sneezer. Sharon says:
"He said he was a casting agent from New York. He said, "Don't laugh at me." He said he was doing auditions for sneezes. I thought to myself, "I wonder how he saw my website. Maybe it was from a Voice 123 audition I did, or maybe through voiceoveruniverse.com, since I haven't paid extra to have it available easily on the web. I thought maybe because I have done a little acting...
He wanted to hear how I sneezed on the phone, then he would send me a few auditions to try. How would I describe my sneeze? I said it was about medium. He asked if I would sneeze for him on the phone. I asked him if he wanted a phony sneeze or a real one. He said a real one.
He instructed me to get pepper, take a pinch and insert it into my nose. He wanted me to tell him how I was feeling each step of the way, as it was building up, etc. He seemed excited that I was willing to do this for him. He always said, "We," when referring to the audition. As he continued to direct me throughout the call, his voice became more low and intimate. I was feeling a bit creepy by then, but thought, maybe he has experience directing talent and was trying to put me at my ease.
I put the pepper in my nose, but only coughed since it got into my lungs. He said to get a bobby pin and stick it up my nose. I thought that was pretty cruel and stupid. I got a q-tip and was giving him a play by play of what I was going through with regard to my feelings and methods. He excitedly said something like, "Now tell me everything you are feeling and doing."
After no sneezes developed, he said he would call the following week. I asked if I could send him a recording of myself sneezing and he said no.
However, I googled Tom Walsh and got Datron Management in New York and sent a file of me sneezing, about 1 minute in length, after I learned I could sneeze by sniffing the pepper instead of inserting it into my nose. The email failed. In the beginning, I had been excited that a casting agent from New York had called me. I thought it was a big break, which is probably what he was hoping I would think as a new, inexperienced voice over talent.
The second call was a couple days later. He said "Hi. Remember me? This is Tim." I said yes, I remembered him and thanked him for the opportunity. Now I was suspicious. Why would he give me a second chance when he had all the talent in the world to choose from? I told him I found out how to sneeze and he was very excited. He wanted me to do it right away and wanted a play by play.
There was heavy breathing involved as my sneeze was coming, and I was telling him that I could feel it coming. It started to feel very unprofessional because if you didn't know I was just sneezing, it would sound like something very different... He was very excited, and then got a little colder in his tone and told me I needed to learn to control my sneeze and that he would call me in a few days. I thought that was pretty weird and rude.
Thankfully, I had my Guru Session with Heather Costa later that day and through all of this experience, I have learned to trust my instincts more plus learned a dialogue that I could share on the phone when in doubt. I am sure this article will help with that, as well. Plus, we discussed it on Such A Voice's page on Facebook.
I received another call from him because I cannot block calls on my cell. I can only block texts. He said something like, "Hi, is this a good time?" I said no, it wasn't and that I was feeling a little uncomfortable. He asked me what I was feeling uncomfortable about. I said I didn't know anything about him or his company and would he please email me information about himself and his company. He said, "Sure, what is your email?" I told him it was on my web site. I told him I have to go. He said he would email. I haven't heard from him. I hope I never do.
When I called the Atlas Talent Agency in New York, after investigating the cell phone number and paying to find out who he was (even though it was "restricted" on my cell phone, when I went on line, I found out the number), I spoke to David Copley. He said they had heard about someone impersonating Tim Walsh, but they did not know who he was. I told him I had his name and phone number. He was thrilled. I asked if I could email it to him and he gave me Tim's email address. He said Tim was waiting for the email.
I told my boyfriend and he was frightened for me in case this man comes after me, but I told him there was a report that Heather forwarded to me on John Florian's site about a woman who had it happen to her in 2008, plus another woman in 1/2010. I don't know how he could find out it was me who found out he was calling from Phoenix. [We aren't publishing the name here just in case we incriminate an innocent "Joe".] I told John Florian the sneeze guy was found, and he emailed me back and referred to him as the sleazy sneeze guy! I thought that was good."
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sharon. If anyone else has had a similar experience, please let us know by posting a brief comment here. Have other sketchy voice over jobs? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post comments on our Facebook page.