At the end of the day, we were treated to an expert panel Q&A session featuring Rodney Saulsberry, Billy Serow, Evan Farmer, Heather Frenz, David Ciccarelli, Dan Dinsmore, Jay Silverman, Jenny Marcotte, and David Bourgeois.
Get some fabulous insight and then some here on VOX Daily.
Rodney Saulsberry, Voice Actor, Author and Voice Over Coach
Q: What kind of steps did you take as a fledgling artist?
A: I saturated the market and made a lot cold calls, if you want the top guy or girl, call late close to 5 or 6. You need to know the name of the person you™re calling so do your homework. Get their name right. Know who you™re calling and be fast on your feet.
Jay Silverman, Voice Coaches Instructor
Q: Should I put non-paying vo jobs on my resume?
A: Absolutely, pro bono (no pay) is a good way to get your feet wet, but you can start practicing voice overs over the air to the blind and visually handicapped. Organizations that offer these opportunities exist everywhere. When you go to do a pro bono piece, make sure that you get a CD of what you have done so that you can put the recorded material on your demo. Pro bono work shows professional growth and you certainly should include it in your letter. It’s a great way to get started and build your reputation.
David Ciccarelli, CEO of Voices.com
Q: Should I join as many marketing sites as I can?
A: Just as Rodney said, saturate the market and get your name everywhere you can. Get on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Before you sign up with any sites that require you to pay a membership fee, make a call to their office to speak with them to see if their service is a good fit for you. Be sure to note the quality of their customer service. Compare competing sites and get comfortable with a service before making a financial commitment. Look for testimonials, read up on the company’s latest news and ask colleagues about their experiences.
Dan Dinsmore, CEO Overit Media
Q: How long does it take to get visual branding done?
A: The process varies and is dependent on the interaction between the designer and voice over artist. On average it takes about 2 weeks to get a brand together and fulfillment.
Billy Serow, Abrams Artists Agency
Q: Should people who are in the union go non-union to get work?
A: If a member of the union who declares themselves Financial Core, they lose the right to vote (among other privileges), however, with Fi-Core status you can audition and procure both union work and non-union work. The stigma attached years ago to the status of Financial Core and prejudice against talent who were Fi-Core is not as great as it once was. Tough times call for greater understanding of the choices voice actors are making to go Fi-Core.
David Bourgeois, President of Voice Coaches
Q: How do you feel about the unions?
A: We support the union but understand that many of you are in smaller markets will not become members of the union. For more info on AFTRA, check out the literature at the back of the conference workbook.
Heather Frenz, NY Voice Actress
Q: Can women who have families make a successful living working in voice overs?
A: Women with families can make time for voice over and it is a good career if you can make it work for you. I have a family myself. Oftentimes there is little amount of work for big return.
Evan Farmer, Television Actor and Voice Actor
Q: How do you get work?
A: When you are looking for work, you’ve got to be in the hunger category; I would pursue all the jobs I could and my entire approach to the entertainment industry was to get work. I came to New York City to get work, and I found myself doing everything that presented itself to achieve my goals. One of my first character voice acting gigs was voice acting on the MTV program œDaria. I joke that I booked my first job in a towel because I got the call about it fresh out of the shower.
You need to approach everything with the purpose of getting work, a hint of desperation, and a little more enthusiasm than the next person. You can get out there and get work if you are more prepared and more motivated to get the work than your competition.
Jenny Marcotte, Voice Coaches
Q: Are talent given the opportunity to pick a time slot when they have a session?
A: Sometimes flexible we’re flexible and can work around someone’s schedule but if we need you in for a session immediately or have booked all other time slots, it’s important that a talent respect the schedule and take the session that is available.
Q: Were there days that you wanted to pack it in? How did you react?
A: There are days when we all experience those kind of days, but I have faith. If you have a lot of auditions you don™t worry about any specific one. Once I was out golfing with Denzel Washington and one of his friends. We had lunch, and when the whole thing was over, Denzel said to his friend, “He sounds just like Pick (James Pickens Jr, actor on Grey’s Anatomy), doesn™t he?” to which his friend replied “Yes he does.”
Later on I had an audition for Grey’s Anatomy. When auditioning for this role, I wanted so badly to tell them that “Denzel thinks¦” but I made the decision to make it on my own merit. As I was waiting for my turn, I was told œIf they™re looking for somebody to act it, you™re probably going to get it. I got a call saying “The people at Grey™s Anatomy want to know what your availability is for a given day.” You’ve got to take every opportunity that comes your way. I’m encouraging you to join Voices.com, get auditions and get out there.
Q: Is there such a thing as overdoing follow up calls?
A: It™s funny, Heather and I were talking about this and she believes in every 6 weeks to follow up, I believe that you should follow up every 3 weeks. If you pick a time frame between 3-6 weeks, you™ll be in the right ballpark. Be assertive and don™t be obnoxious. Say what your business is and what you want to do, express interest, and always leave a phone number.
Q: Who gets the gig?
A: Sometimes it is the easiest person to go to who is hired. Not every demo is listened to even though it would be great to be able to sit in a soundproof room and listen to everything. Remember that the most difficult job to get is the first one.
It takes 60-70 percent more effort to get an initial job with a new client than more work from someone you™ve already done business with. Always be looking for the next work opportunity in an established relationship.
Q: Can you just stop in anytime to follow up or say Hi?
A: Remember that people are in business and make appointments out of courtesy for those whose work you are disrupting. By making an appointment, you’re showing consideration for both your time and the client’s, and they’ll appreciate that greatly.
Q: How important is branding for voice actors? Does it affect whether or not you hire?
A: You want to have consistent branding on your website, CD packing, and so on. I receive anywhere from 10-15 demo CDs a month of potential talent looking for work in commercials and ad campaigns. Usually I will throw away 50% of packaging that I get based upon professionalism and looks because I need to present my clients with something professional. You are selling yourself to an agency or network for work and your product needs to look professional. This is a business and anything that doesn™t look professional will probably get tossed.
We have worked with numerous artists and one woman would call every so often. She sent a gift once that I still keep in my wallet (gift card). Every time I open my wallet it makes me think about that individual because I have a piece of her branding with me at any given time. Once I use the card, that’ll be that, but for now her branding is with me everywhere I go. To reiterate, make sure that you have a professional package to represent your business.
Q: How do you feel about packaging?
I listen to every demo that is sent to me because it’s a piece of someone’s heart, now that being said, it might just be for 10 seconds or so. Bad packaging? I’ve seen it all, including CDs that have names written on with sharpie pens. Most CDs with poor packaging end up in the circular file, and sometimes I want to see how bad it will be (or will it be a surprise?); more often than not it lives up to its expectation. Success in voice over has everything to do with your talent and voice and nothing to do with your appearance. My greatest pet peeve is people putting picture on a CD. Don™t put your pictures on your CDs.
One woman sent an incredibly beautifully designed CD along with a crystal (she paid pretty good money for it because I went on the Internet and checked). As I do with each CD, I listened to it and liked it regardless of the crystal. I called her up and said I’d like to bring her in for an appointment, but only on one condition — that I could give her gift back to her. I told her that bribery is inappropriate and the CD stood on its own merit. She did graciously accept the crystal and because of her talent ended up getting signed.
Q: When you™re an on-camera host do you have more input in to what your voiceovers should be?
A: It depends on the producers. When I started While You Were Out, they dictated a lot of things, including hair, to which I argued “You hired me based upon who I was in the audition”. In the early days I didn’t have as much influence but as the show progressed, more and more of my suggestions were implemented and I felt more like myself. If you have a good relationship you can negotiate certain things.
Somewhere down the road if you have an ongoing gig, you become the person that they™re hiring. By the end if you put the first show up against 372 show, there™s more Evan input than in the beginning. With regard to voice over hosting, the work was very technically derived. I had to squeeze in 3 words per second and had a limited amount of time to hit marks. In the end though, creativity won out and had full reign.
On Evan’s participation on While You Were Out
A: The While You Were Out people did ask Evan what he thought later. Producers are counting on you to walk in as a collaborator. If you give more creatively it™s easier to turn it down rather than try to pull energy out of you. Once, we recorded 2 episodes in 40 minutes.
Q: Is there any one quality that you are looking for in a voice talent?
A: Professionalism, politeness, and personality. Please show up for appointments.
Q: There are so many talent out there. How does one stand out?
A: Give a unique headline as description for your voice and use graphic design to help solidify your brand. Only include your best work on your demos. Keep things current culturally as well as relevant to the calendar year. For instance, don’t have a Christmas theme demo on your page during the summer.
Q: Do you know of any ways to help someone relax immediately in the booth?
A: Adrenaline is good. I was nervous today and I™ve been talking before people forever. I don™t think it™s a problem. If you miss you have to be good because the competition is good. Embrace nervousness because it™s energy and you need energy. When you get to the job you still have to get it right. Take some deep breaths.
There is no technique for immediately getting rid of nervousness. Be prepared and that will help to make you more comfortable. Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Preparation cuts some of the nervousness because you know what you™re doing.
Adding to Rodney’s comment
A: Think that everyone there wants you to succeed. That’s how I maintain composure if I am nervous. Everyone wants you to have the best performance possible. Their success depends upon your comfort level and performance.
Further comments on being nervous
People who are nervous are worried about if it is right. It shouldn™t be your concern ” that™s someone else™s decision. Read aloud, be aware and be open to suggestion. Creatively approach the copy. You have your best possible performance and worse possible performance ” hit for upper middle range.
On pressure continued
A: Pressure that makes you nervous is that if you screw up you don™t get the job. The worst thing I ever did was walk into the room when you were still making decisions ” clear your head ” you™ve done the work ” there™s nothing you can do in the last half hour before the audition. Get it out of your head ” it™s the best thing you can do. It makes your performance that much more natural because you are connecting with the casting director.
Your confidence makes casting directors less nervous and more receptive to your audition.
Q: Since I™m not in or near a major market what can I do to market my talent?
A: You can be anywhere today but Billy makes a good point. Big jobs are in major markets and residuals come with the union. If I were somewhere else in today™s times, I would still make it in this hussle. Yes, you can be anywhere but union work is mostly in NY or CA.
Do you have any comments on the panel?
Looking forward to hearing your feedback!