“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
― Henry David Thoreau


Are You Prepared to Deliver Your Very Best RIGHT NOW?

What if, hypothetically speaking, within the hour the greatest opportunity of your life landed in your lap? Let’s say you were sent a major audition for a project that would ultimately change your standard of living so dramatically that it would allow you scores of opportunities and generate work that fulfilled your life long dreams lasting you the rest of your life. Would you be ready at a moment’s notice to deliver your very best right now?

If the honest answer is ‘no’, or ‘I’m not sure’, then you need to prepare for precisely that. 

The fact is you never know.

This would explain why no less than a third of your job is keeping your skills sharp. Another third is promotion, and the final third is delivery (which you could consider to be part promotion and part product development). Each of these career components is reliant on the other for your career to exist at all.

Yet, we often hear novice talent gripe, “Can’t I just want to walk in and act?”

Not really. That’s a luxury reserved solely for child actors and established stars. Even then, they’re required to continually promote themselves: Child actors need to constantly audition, and established (known) actors live out of a suitcase promoting their films and TV shows. Additionally, established actors continually appear on talk shows to establish, develop, or maintaining their public image, and their lives are often strategically included as fodder for gossip TV and press. If that’s not promotion, I don’t know what is.

But even then, no one can simply walk onto a set and offer their best, or maintain a career in this industry if they are deemed as “unreliable”, unless you’re prepared and you rise to the occasion. At every strata of this industry you are expected to offer your best, and often at a moments notice.

The best chance anyone will ever give you in this business is YOU, provided you dedicate yourself to a daily regimen that will allow you to develop and maintain your skills. Do the work of a professional and you will become one before long. 

Be what you intend to be by doing the work (both in- and out- of the booth) and before long you will have a career you can be proud of. It’s always been this way. No shortcuts. Just muddle through, day by day. And much like what we coach you here at SOUND ADVICE, concentrate on what you want in the equation, not what you don’t want. That’s the first step to bringing the career you want into fruition. You can’t tell yourself how NOT to do anything. (We call it “Banana Directing”. Meaning: “Whatever you do—DON’T think of a banana!” Whoops! It’s counter-intuitive.) You can’t edit yourself prior to ever creating the career you ultimately intended. This might explain why so many “fail”.

Clearly it takes tenacity and hard work. The average career (if there is an average) is an accumulation of many auditions and bookings. It’s far easier when you honestly know what your job entails and you dedicate yourself to it! But then…that’s why we’re here.   ›

Collecting Your Spots

C.A. emailed, and asked us this: I recorded a regional TV & radio spot for a rebranding campaign early last month.  (non-union) A week later, a line needed to be re-recorded for the TV version.  At that time I asked if it was ok with them (production co.) and their client if I could receive a copy of the produced spots for my reel in the future.  The reply was yes, which surprised me because I thought they would say that they needed to ask the client first. 

A week went by and I sent an e-mail to my contacts at the production company restating my request.  The reply this time was that they needed to get their client’s approval and they would get back to me this week.  I haven’t heard anything yet.  I’m guessing replying to requests like this aren’t a top priority for them.

Whaddya think, did I handle this properly from the outset?  I’m thinking I should just leave it alone at this point.  What are your thoughts?

Here’s our reply:

You, my friend, handled this perfectly.  They spoke out of turn telling you you could have it right out of the gate. Perhaps you spoke with a more novice producer (or the assistant) and they simply didn’t know what I’m about to tell you.

This sounds like it could be a “demo” and they are testing it. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again—this industry is “demo-happy”! Film makers will make “demos” of films and spend $100,000 to $150,000 today to shoot 5-8 scenes in order to secure the proper funding to shoot the film the director/producers envisioned. So demos are used at every strata of the entertainment industry.

Commercially, I don’t think I’ve been on a job in 20 years where the client hadn’t first demo-ed the spot or campaign, especially if they’re re-branding. It may need to be tested and demo-ing is often how it’s done.

There’s a Union pay rate for voicing over a commercial “demo”, currently its $237.50.

Rarely, if ever, are the talent given approvals to receive a copy of a “demo” for a commercial after this type of booking for the simple reason the client doesn’t want their competition knowing their strategy—among numerous other reasons.

IF the job is later UPGRADED and approved for release (approved to go to air, or what ever they intend the final production of the project). Once the project is upgraded, the producer might then allow you access to the final, but there are no guarantees. If the project is upgraded you’ll want the final product rather than the demo anyway!

For the most part, chasing after “demos” is a fool’s errand.  The players (producers, copywriters, PBMs, assistants, etc) can change very quickly and it’s ultimately not their responsibility to insure you receive a copy of the final (or the demo for that matter). Producers are far more interested in getting their own work done and servicing the client over tracking down a copy of this spot for the talent.

Being non-union, you might never get that classification—“demo”, but producers treat production in much the same fashion regardless of whether the project is Union or not.

This is in large part why Creatives have routinely created spots for their own demos over the years.  They have greater control of the final spot and how well their best work is featured on it. Each piece included on a Creative’s demo communicates something specific about them and their aesthetic—this way the best stuff DOESN’T end up on the cutting room floor and doesn’t have to go through committee for the final approval.

Certainly you did what you could to snag a copy of this spot. That’s all you can do. Always worth a try, but sometimes it simply doesn’t transpire.  So it goes. Move on and prosper. ; ) Good job just the same! 

Auditioning for a Dialogue Spot

BC emailed and asked: “When you have an audition with dialogue, do you leave a bit of silence when the other person is talking, or do you have someone read with you?”

Here’s our answer:

Leave a tiny bit of space for the “response”, but you simply read it on your own!

Two full reads on a single slate (rather than sending back multiple MP3s) is perfectly acceptable as well. A three-in-a-row will work nicely, provided they are decidedly different inflections on each take.

This is generally how ALL dialogues are done, unless the audition states otherwise. This is also likely what you’ll do if you book the job. Each line will be delivered as a three-in-a-row, as if you’re talking to the other voice actor. It’s rare (and I mean extremely unlikely) for you have the luxury to play off another person at the session by today’s standards!

BC emailed again: “So should I be giving two takes every time I send in an audition?”

Our reply: There’s really no hard and fast rule here, but if the spot is under :15 to :25 seconds, yes. Do a 3-in-a-row. That said if you’re only happy with one or two takes, submit your best.

If it’s longer than :25 seconds, two takes are perfectly acceptable, unless otherwise stated, and (again) if you’re only happy with the one take—then simply submit the one take. The specs will usually state if they only want ONE TAKE ONLY. If the spot is a :60… one take is typically more than sufficient.

And if you’re auditioning for a Pay-to-Play site and you’re unsure whether those auditioning you might simply take your audition and use it without paying you—only record part of the audition. You can mention that you do this as a precaution. But be sure to deliver enough of the audition that the client can discern a proper beginning, middle and an end. ›

What’s Required On Your VO (Only) Web Page

Q: Do I just put the image (my name as a logo) and an MP3 of the voiceover demo on the web site…and the contact info… and that is it? Also, should we list the one agent I’ve got out of state?

A: Do NOT list (Out-of-State Talent Agent) on this site… we also want local agents and, ideally, another agent from yet another region as well! Listing contact information for four or five talent agents from across the country would only serve to confuse the issue. Put your own cell number. Employ a Google number, if you like. They are free and forward directly to your cell. This way should your public number ever become compromised in any way, you won’t have to go to the trouble of replacing your existing cell number. You simply replace the Google number instead.

As for the agents, understandably they don’t like to compete with each other and like to think of themselves as the only one.  They understand voice talent are often multi-listed—they just don’t like to be reminded of it.  Besides, it confuses matters for potential producers/clients who may opt to book you directly—allowing you the opportunity to field the work to the appropriate talent agent determined by region, the expertise of the agent (Commercial, Narrative, non-union, etc), or what ever the case may be for the given project.  All of this is detailed in the book under the Web Site chapter.

Now, who are you using to create your graphic and your web site?

Please tell me they are two distinctly DIFFERENT sources.  Typically, graphic artists DO NOT successfully do web design, and Web Designers, by and large, DO NOT successfully create effective graphics.  (Regardless of what either might tell you!) This is likely to be a LONG, drawn-out, over-priced, under-served project if you find yourself in this position. I’ve only seen this work out ONCE in the thousands of situations we have encountered. Once. Which is precisely why we recommend our trusted, experienced vendors. They know the drill when it comes to voice-overs. And, in most cases, you’ll have yours completed within 2-3 weeks, from start to finish. Our mission is to save you time, trouble, added expense, and unforeseen issues, of which there can (and will) be many.

This is also why I wrote these two chapters into the book, a chapter dedicated Graphics and a chapter dedicated to Websites. They are wholly different worlds and areas of expertise. (Check out our Featured Demos page for inspiration for both graphics and great web design.) ›


Copyright © 2014 by Kate McClanaghan, All Rights Reserved.