Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Technique Tip of the Month: Fake It Till You Make It?

If you're a new to voice overs, this may not have happened to you yet. But it will!

At some point, you may get called in to read a script by a repeat client who you
think you know. You will walk in anticipating a script on a familiar subject matter only to be blown away by a left field commercial -- one that might not jive with your personal views.

What do you do when you're asked to voice a part you aren't comfortable reading for moral reasons?

Knowing how to handle the voice jobs you don't feel good about reading will help you deliver the goods. Handling the situation gracefully will prevent you from burning bridges, and your clients will respect your professionalism in the long run.

Take it from Mel Allen, who was once hired by a company to voice a "feel good" piece about their commitment to the environment. He says:

I knew they had recently been fined by the EPA for illegal dumping, and I was handed the script in the studio. It was a two-minute narration piece that I wasn't comfortable reading, but I didn't feel like I could back out. At that point, I had to weigh which was more important -- my word that I would do the job (even though I hadn't seen the script beforehand) or my moral disagreement with the piece."

What did he do? "
I completed the project for them, but after I completed the project I informed the producer that I wouldn't be comfortable doing a piece like that in the future."

The producer admitted they were not comfortable with the script either, and they respected his honesty. Because of the way he handled the situation, Mel actually got
more work from them in the future -- work he felt comfortable voicing, that is.

Furthermore, Mel says, "
I learned from this experience, and since then I have never given full commitment to a project without seeing the script first."

If you have this similar experience, try getting into character first. Become the person who would voice this script with conviction, even if it's hard. There are hundreds of voice talent who will never become voice
actors. Figuring out which describes you will only come in time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Marketing Tip of the Month: Optimize Your Sick Days!

For voice actors, getting sick is a particular inconvenience. Working freelance has many perks, but paid sick leave sure isn't one of them!

As tempting as it is to work through your flu-like symptoms, complete a big project for that important client, and tell yourself that you can edit out the stuffy nose sound in post -- your efforts are better spent on other areas of your voice over business!

Let's get that first part out of the way. If -- no,
when you get sick, do yourself a favor and simply let your clients know that you are unable to complete the project by the agreed upon deadline. Giving your clients as much notice as possible will let them decide whether to hire someone else for the voice job or extend the deadline. Sure, it's a bummer to pass up a gig, but you should never send your clients less than your best.

Don't despair! Sick days needn't be wasted on your couch when there are so many creative things to do in your studio. Suggestions from our Facebook page:
  • Mix and match existing files.
  • Re-record famous opening narrations for TV shows (i.e., "Space ... the final frontier ... ")
  • Record a newscast for a fictional TV station.
  • Write zany voice overs for real or fake products.
  • Marketing!
It's nearly impossible to stay on top of all the trends in the voice over industry. Use your sick time to catch up on social media posts/tweets/blogs/comments, make sure your website is up-to-date with a list of project you are most proud of, work on your newsletters, check out new products for your studio (even if you can't afford them!), and check out what your fellow voice talent are up to.

Even if your vocal abilities are temporarily impaired, your ability to organize isn't! Clean out old files, tidy your in-box, and balance your work account.

If you're really under the weather, then surrendering to your jammies and daytime TV for a day or two won't hurt you either.

Other recommendations? How do you voice actors make the most of a sick day?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Advice Worth Not Following

When you do a basic internet search for training techniques for
voice overs, you will find a slew of recommendations to deepen your voice, raise your voice, sustain your voice, or change the character of your voice altogether. If you are new to voice acting, it's natural to follow the advice of the voiceover sages who have made it big in the industry.

While the pros have great pearls of wisdom to bestow on us all, don't forsake your common sense to enhance your voice and your career! Not all advice out there is worth following, and many pieces of advice can actually hurt you.

Although I can't give you a complete list of advice that's safe to follow, I can give you some pointers of what not to do:

  • Drink whiskey and smoke. Duh, right? Maybe not. DJs used to be [and probably still are in many places] advised to drink and smoke on the job to give their voices resonance. The effects of smoking and drinking help them gain resonance, but they lose their range of pitch at the same time. What most people don't know is that this process happens naturally as you get older. Meaning, the person who drinks and smokes frequently loses the "young sound" so that they get the "old sound" when they're young, and when they are older they have no sound.
  • Drink a shot of alcohol to calm your nerves. During the hours before you record, you shouldn't be drinking anything other than water for your vocal cords' sake. If you are actually doing a live recording session with the client, it's definitely a bad idea to drink before you meet them. Even if that one drink let's you relax enough to get a couple good takes, it looks (and smells) unprofessional. You might get through the recording session without a hiccup, but the client will likely call another voice talent for future gigs. Forget about the mouthwash -- instead, invest in yoga classes or a stress ball.
  • Vocal cord surgery. This one baffles me. There must have been successful operations in the past, otherwise no one would even think about it ... The bottom line is vocal cord surgery is likely to be expensive, and there is no guarantee what your voice will sound like post-op. If you are unhappy with the quality of your voice and want to work in a different niche, consider taking voice over training classes to enhance your technique. Especially because more and more clients are opting for voice actors with good natural speaking voices to market their products, there's simply no reason to mess with what you were born with.
  • "Test" your range to the breaking point. Finding your vocal cords' breaking point will just break your voice! If you aren't able to comfortably work in a low or high range, that means you probably shouldn't be doing it. Stressing your vocal cords won't round out your voice, but it will change the sound of your voice. And you probably won't be happy with the result.

Voiceover techniques that are safe shouldn't make you feel uncomfortable or strain your physical abilities. Trust your common sense, and when you hear something that is too good to be true -- like drinking margaritas will help you get tons of voice jobs -- then it's probably not true! There's no quick fix in this industry, and there's no substitute for hard work.

Have you heard other bogus recommendations? Post them hear so we know not to follow them!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Are Voice-Overs Right for You?

Every now and then I like put out a gentle reminder that working in the voice-over industry isn't always as glamorous as it sounds from the outside. It's certainly not for everyone -- no matter of how good your natural speaking voice is!

Certainly no job is
always perfect all the time, even your dream job. Voice acting, like other professions in the entertainment industry, often requires long hours for not a lot of money or recognition.

If you are considering getting into voice overs, ask yourself what your motivation is. Answer these questions:

Are you willing to work more than a 9am - 5pm job? If not, you might have a hard time as a full time voice actor! Some of the most talented and successful voice actors I know are up before dawn and can often be found recording work for clients well into the night. Sure, there are breaks throughout the day, but you should expect periods of feast and famine.

Have you been passionate about voice acting for a long time? Even before you knew what a voice actor was, did you pay attention to how a good orator speaks? Did you tend to analyze how something should be read aloud, even if it's an excerpt from a book, the back of a cereal box, or a newspaper article? I like the wisdom, "The key to life is finding something you love doing, and then finding a way to get paid for it." Essentially, if you weren't paid to do it, would you still want to do it?

Do you require a lot of face-to-face interaction throughout the day? The life of a voice talent can be a lonely one at times! We joke that voice actors are most comfortable in a padded cell, but there is truth behind that. Unlike working in an office setting, you are often only interfacing with clients via phone or email. A funny student of ours once told me, "I don't mind it at all -- I've got all my character voices to keep me company!"

If you can't take a risk. Voice acting takes training, just like "regular" acting! Investing in voice over training is a prudent decision if you are pursuing a professional career as a voice actor. If you aren't willing or able to take both the financial and career risk, then consider a back up plan. The market for voice jobs is ever growing, so don't let me discourage you. Just remember to treat voice acting with as much respect as any new career -- it takes time to build it up!

Do any of you voice actors have other questions you would ask an aspiring talent before choosing this career? Post your nuggets of wisdom here!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to VO School?

You know summer is starting to wind down when everywhere you look you see "Back to School" sales and fall fashion trends.

As a voice talent with a family, the end of summer might mean you can take on a busier workload when the kids go back to school. If you aren't yet a professional voice actor but would like to become one, the end of summer might get you thinking about which voice-over training program is right for you.

If voice acting is a whole new career for you, whether you intend on working part- or full-time, there are several things to think about when you go shopping for a program.

1. How much coaching will you get?
Figure out how much individual and group coaching you will get right off the bat. While many people think they only want private voice coaching, don't dismiss the value of group coaching. Working with a group of people on your level will give you the chance to see yourself through your own eyes. It is likely that you will make the same mistakes as most people early on, and group coaching is the perfect way to learn more quickly by other people's mistakes.

2. How will you get this coaching?
Some programs offer coaching over the phone, and you might be lucky enough to find a private coach in your area who will only meet with you one-on-one. Again, if you opt for only private lessons, you're actually missing many benefits of training with a cohort. For the most part, your initial training sessions will be over the phone or Skype. Coaching over the phone, especially in the beginning, is a convenient way for you to work with some of the best coaches in the country who may not live in your area. While it is in your best interest to choose a program that will give you in-person coaching before your demo, there are tons of technique tips that you can learn over the phone.

3. What will you get in the end?
If you are going to make the financial investment to get professional voice training for your new career, make sure that you and your coach are clear from the beginning what you will get -- and at what price. I recently talked to a student who came from another program who had spent thousands of dollars on different workshops she was told she needed. It was only when she told the company she was taking her business elsewhere that they said she was finally ready to record her demo! (At an added cost, of course.)

You definitely don't want to get side-lined by hidden costs or tricky salespeople when it comes to your investment in your education. The best training programs out there will only record your demo when you're ready -- and not make you pay extra!

4. Who is recording your demo?
Leave it to the engineers! While voice actors record and edit their own material for voice jobs all the time, it doesn't mean they know how to choose your scripts, arrange the voice overs on your demos so that your versatility shines, and then pick contemporary background music to match. Engineers spend many years in school for a reason -- trust them! There's nothing more embarrassing than not being able to give an interested client your professional demos.

5. What about the other stuff?
When you shop around for a voice-over training program, do you think you only need technique training to succeed? Most students don't realize until they finish the training program that they're not sure where to start! For example, setting up a home recording studio is riddled with challenges that require creative solutions, and hopefully you invested in a training program that has a lifetime support policy.

What about marketing? Unless you have experience setting up, marketing and running a small business yourself, which isn't many of us, you'll need guidance.

Signing up for a voice-over training program is like going back to school! Making a career change shouldn't be taken lightly, and you should expect to put in long hours, get frustrated, and want to quit at times. It will make you feel that much better when you start getting the voice jobs and you realize you're making it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Talent of the Month: Jesus Ivan Blanco (JB)

This month's Talent of the Month recipient goes to JB for his success in carving out his niche(s) in both English and Spanish voice-overs!

Jesus Ivan Blanco, or JB for short, stumbled into voice overs almost by accident! Ever since he was a teenager, JB liked voicing commercials and doing narrations for friends and family.

The first time he realized that he had a shot at a professional voice-over career was when he visited a friend in North Carolina and ended up participating in a show! When people around him started saying, "Wow, listen to that voice. Who is that guy?" JB just smiled to himself and decided he would go for it and get voiceover lessons.

JB came to us for his voice over training because, "I knew that I needed to work with people who know what they're doing. At Such A Voice, I got good hands-on training that helped me become successful in my career."

It wasn't hard for JB to get started either. Having done
radio voice jobs for Venezuela and Costa Rica, as well as commercial spots for companies in Panama and Argentina, his resume already spoke volumes when he started his formal training at Such A Voice. Now, JB does the voiceovers for a show called Real Women Have Curves.

What does JB love about being a voice talent? "I love the flexibility of the job," JB says. "I am my own boss, and I can spend more time with my family this way. -- Plus, this is definitely not a boring profession!"

JB explains, "The market for Spanish voice overs is so big right now. I get regular work from all over Florida [not just Miami], California, and all of Latin America!" He adds, "Sometimes, I'm actually too busy!"

JB is an even more special Talent of the Month because he is joining the Such A Voice team to teach intro classes in English and in SPANISH! Ole! Stay tuned for more information on the new Such A Voice En Espanol classes -- coming this fall!

Check out JB's demos here!