Sunday, May 25, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #7 – Working Via the Internet From Your Own Home Studio

So, you’d like as broad a marketplace as possible? The internet is obviously the place to be. But you need a web site, right? Not necessarily. Many of the larger voice over web sites you may list with will create a web page for you on their site as part of your listing fee. You can post demos, list experience, vocal quality, etc. and have a web page to direct potential clients to. Eventually, you will want your own web site, but…it’s ok to take one step at a time.

If you want to work via the web, you really need your own studio, though. If you have access to a studio free of charge or very cheap, you could go that route, but most internet work demands a speedy turnaround of auditions and often the finished job as well. Also, there’s not usually a lot of budget left for you to pay studio charges. With more and more professional equipment being made to work with home computers, you can set up quite a nice studio without a huge outlay of cash. You definitely want a good microphone with shock mounts, a preamp, processor, a good recording and editing program, and sound proofing.

When I was setting up my studio, I was fortunate enough to make contact with some very helpful people who were willing to share their advice. There are also books available with information on creating your home studio. You’ll find a listing of helpful professional voice talent how to books and books on creating and tweaking your home studio listed on my website.

Good Luck on Becoming a Voice Over Professional!

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and some useful information to help you on your journey.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #6 - Voice Over Agents

This is basically a reprise of a previous blog with a few additions. I felt it would be easier for those of you who are following my "Voice Talent Advice" segments to have it's title formated the same as the others, and as I mentioned there are a few additions.

A voice talent agent is often necessary for you to work in any given city. Ad agencies and casting directors look to talent agents to provide master demos, recommendations, and voice over auditions for specific projects. Where do you start? How do you find an agent? In addition to asking professional recording studios about local agents, get a list of the AFTRA and SAG franchised voice over talent agents in your area – they are the most reputable as they are bound by agreements to the performers unions. They can't require that you purchase classes or photos from them. They can make lists available to you with the names of photographers and teachers, but they may not provide the services themselves. They are certainly not allowed to require the voice talent or on camera talent that they represent to purchase services such as those in order to be represented. They do not charge you any fees for representation, although many agents do ask you to pay a portion of the expenses incurred for your inclusion on their master demos. Generally, they make money taking a commission on work they get for you.

The biggest agency in town is not necessarily the best place for a newcomer. If the agency handles a large number of working voice over talent, you may not get called for as many auditions. On the other hand, if you go with a smaller voice talent agency with a small voice talent pool, they may not get as many of the calls from the advertising agencies or casting directors. Experiences of other performers you talk to, common sense and your gut feeling will have to prevail. When you interview with an agent, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you! Do your personalities mesh? Do they seem to be genuinely interested in you? How do they market the talent? Are they energetic and enthusiastic?

If you’re going to seek voice over work via the internet, you’ll probably want to list with several voice talent sites which in many ways act as an online voice talent agent. They generally don't negotiate for you or represent you in the traditional role of a real world agent, but they function as a virtual voice talent agent in that they provide a place to list you and your voice talent services. Of course, they are not franchised agents, but more like listing services, and most of them charge a yearly listing fee. Again, if you can check with other talent to see what their experience has been with listing on a particular site, it might be helpful. But keep in mind, that whether they’re getting work or not does not necessarily mean you will have the same experience. As with a regular voice talent agent, some of it comes down to trial and error. You have to test the water to see what and who works best for you. Some sites charge around $200 for a yearly listing including all the bells and whistles – your own web page with space to upload many demos, and some even allow video! There are other sites that charge far less – but may work out better for you! There are some sites that charge much, much more and may not get you any work at all! Know that these listings, like your real world voice over agent, help you get auditions and find work, but you still have to do as much marketing of yourself as possible. Many agents, like the web sites, basically just list you and your demos, but do not promote you specifically. They’re not out there on a daily basis representing just you to potential clients. They’re representing their “pool” of talent. However, a good agent will, of course, recommend you specifically for projects for which you are well suited. Still, you can’t just sit back and wait for that phone to ring!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #5 - Voice Over Demo

So, you’ve been practicing the breathing and warm up techniques. You’ve also been practicing reading aloud anything you can get your hands on, including advertising copy in magazines and newspapers or any radio or tv copy you can find. Is it time to make a demo? Only you can truly answer that question. Do you feel confident? Have you been taking classes or at least practicing reading to others?

When you feel you’re ready to try a voice over demo, find a reputable studio with an engineer who produces a lot of commercial and corporate work. This voice over demo will be your major selling tool and you want to get it right. You want it to be as professional as possible. If you want to rough out a voice over demo on your own recording equipment or on paper beforehand to take with you to the session, that’s fine. It might be helpful for both you and the engineer. But don’t do a first time, beginner, homemade voice over demo and start trying to get an agent with it. Some might listen, but they’re going to send you for a professional voice over demo before they start representing you for voice work. If you’re working on your own in the voice over studio without a coach to direct you, be sure you work with a very experienced engineer and someone with whom you have a good rapport. These guys, who have been engineering for many years, have heard it all and can give you valuable guidance, but, you don’t want to be completely intimidated by them either!

As a beginner, you may just want to make one generic voice over demo to start. Try including a variety of styles that you do well and use commercial and corporate narration scripts if you feel your voice would lend itself well to the corporate world. But the first voice over demo you should create is definitely a commercial voice over demo.

After you have some actual work under your belt and have acquired copies of actual spots you’ve done, you may want to create separate specialized voice over demos which will be edited from actual work. Keep the demo SHORT – 1 to 1 ½ minutes or less. Most directors and producers make a decision in the first few seconds – much as we’d all like to think they listen all the way through to hear all that we can do. That’s assuming, of course, that they even take the time to listen at all. Sorry, it’s a tough world. Unless they’re casting something at that very moment or you have been referred by someone they trust, your CD, cute as the label is, probably won’t get heard if you randomly drop it off or mail it. This is why your marketing efforts will be so important - more about that in another post. As for the snap judgments when agents, casting directors or producers do listen to voice over demos, try it yourself. Visit a voice talent web site and just cruise through the voice over demos. At first, you might listen to each demo all the way through. Then, you’ll find yourself, hearing the first few words, and feeling like you’ve got the essence of that particular voice and you’re ready to move on. Imagine you're in a time crunch and have to find the right voice fast! And imagine you have 20 - 200 demos to listen to! You can see why it's actually very unlikely that your whole demo will be listened to by a producer who is very busy. This is why you will want to put your best stuff first on the demo. By the way, listening to other professional voice talent demos is a great way to learn what you’re going for – and what you want to avoid.

Be sure to find out what the studio will charge for your voice over demo. Some studios offer a special rate to talent producing a voice over demo. Others will not. You will have to pay for studio time, editing, effects, music, and duplication. Studio time varies, but can run around $100 + per hour. Some studios offer “demo packages” where they help you select copy, direct you, and then edit the finished product. These are great if you make sure to find a good one and you’ve got the cash to spend. They’ll run you $1,000 and up! You will probably be recording in the studio for about 1 hour and then the editing process, with the addition of sound effects and music, may take another couple of hours or more. This is why you want to be as prepared as possible! If you find a good voice over coach, it would be helpful to have him or her attend the session to help direct you if you’re working at a local studio who doesn’t offer a demo package. You will need to budget some payment for the coach as well. One of the most excruciating things for a performer can be trying to create that perfect voice over demo. It’s hard to be objective and hard to know what to cut. An experienced “ear” can be a tremendous help.

You’ll want a CD or two of the finished demo at minimum. If you have an agent or are seeking an agent, you’ll need to either drop it by or send a copy to them. Most everyone uses CD’s exclusively these days - either that or an MP3 sent via the internet. Many agents and internet listing services request that you mail a CD as they are concerned about opening attachments. You’ll have to either have professional CD labels made or create your own with special software on your computer. But don’t just take a marker and write your name and number on the CD. You may not have the fanciest label, but it should be a professional looking, easy to read label. You can either have many copies of your CD voice over demo made by a studio or web sites that specialize in making copies of CDs or you can burn them yourself as needed from your master if you have the required computer skills and equipment. You probably don’t need a huge quantity of your voice over demo CDs on hand as you may find the need to “tweak” the voice over demo as soon as you actually do some work or to meet the requirements of your new agent.

Next time, more about voice over agents!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Response to Voice Over Advice Segments

I just had to write today to thank the many voice over talent who have contacted me with their kind words about my blog and web site! It is so good to hear from you that the voice over advice I am offering is helpful to you, and so thoughtful and kind of you to take the time to email me to let me know. I do try to respond to everyone who emails, but I just had to mention it here,too, because it has touched me so.

I'm certainly not the ultimate authority on professional voice talent How To , but I'm happy to share the knowledge that I have acquired over the years as a professional voice over talent. We're all continuously learning more and more about our craft. With the additional technical elements in this day and age of the internet voice over talent and the voice over services we are asked to provide, there's even more to learn and master! I hope my future posts continue offering insights and advice that will prove to be of value to you.