This transcript of the Voice Coaches expert panel will make you feel like you were there, and for those who were there, you get to relive some of the event!
If you’ve been wondering what the difference is between NYC and LA for voice over, when it’s time to redo your demo, what the current trends are, working as a voice actor in an animated film or cartoon, what it takes to get the gig and why it pays to be prepared (and a little nervous), sit back and let the experts deliver the answers to you here at VOX Daily.
Warren Garling: We want to start with David Bourgeois because there is something that came up just in the last little bit this afternoon.
David Bourgeois: Just a quick thing I want to add in, here. I had somebody approach me and suggest I clarify this. Some people seem to have a misunderstanding when it comes to marketing yourself with an MP3 versus marketing yourself with a physical demo, that it’s a one or the other thing. It isn’t, it’s a both thing. When we think about services like Voices.com, the clients on that service who are looking for voice actors expect to be marketed to that way. Stephanie and David have put together a tremendous way to effectively market yourself that way. When we speak about not marketing yourself with an MP3, that’s when we’re talking about blindly sending somebody out an MP3 who doesn’t suspect it. Put something physical in their hands in that case I think.
Warren Garling: Well, if you’ll allow me just to add, my last two voice over jobs came from folks that I’d given my CD to 18 months before, and it’s because it sat on their shelf and because when they thought, “Oh, now I know what I want to use this guy for”, they pulled it off their shelf and there it was, but 18 months, a year and a half! I talked to them maybe once or twice in between, so don’t tell me that it doesn’t work, it does work, it’s out there.
Warren Garling: Let’s get started. Evan, in animated movies, are the voices of the characters all voice actors, or movie actors, or both, and how would one get into the animation film business as a voice actor?
Evan Farmer: The short answer would be all of the above. I have to clarify first of all, I don’t think to my knowledge I’ve been in an animation movie yet, so Rodney would probably be a much better person to ask that, but, how do you get into it… My experience getting into my voice acting career started and ended in that genre about ten years ago and back then we didn’t have MP3s and digital and all that stuff. I actually left a voice mail (laughing) on somebody’s tape cassette answering machine. Back then I called in at a specific time because there wasn’t call waiting and I would actually just read when I was in my bathrobe the lines they had given me earlier.
Every job I’ve had since has been an offshoot of networking, somebody had heard my voice, or another project had sort of led to somebody questioning “Hey is this guy available for this sort of thing? Can he audition?” In my experience it’s always been an audition of some sort. Now more often than not, it’s an audition based upon someone recommending me who was familiar with my work. I don’t know if that really answers the question because I really don’t have a lot of experience in the film industry.
Warren Garling: Well, let’s move next to Rodney then, and just ask how did that transition for you? How did you find yourself doing animated characters?
Rodney Saulsberry: Someone just asked me that question too, up front. You know, it’s another branch. You find out that you can do it, and you audition, and you get lucky, and you get cast. Once you’re cast once in something animated, that’s part of your credits and so you’re trusted to audition for other things. One thing I do want to say is that a lot of times, people think that animation is some funny voice. Bob Bergen is Porky Pig; we’ve got Porky. We’ve got some other people who do these voices, but every time I’ve done some animation, I must tell you that I’m talking pretty much have been talking like I’m talking now, especially the character I was hired for, and contractually, they get two more characters out of me and then I may get into a character voice, but for the most part, it’s just who you’re hearing. Cartoons have gotten real real these days.
Warren Garling: Very good, thank you. Stephanie, the question is obviously we all have limits on what we can spend up front on our careers. After the initial investment, what makes the most sense? I’ll go through a list here and maybe we can put these in order. Books, online coaching, home studio, membership in the chamber, membership at online at sites like Voices.com… I have a feeling I know what you’re going to rank first (laughter), but where else do you think it is very important to be spending money?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: Well, that’s a good question, because obviously money is part of the whole thing. If you are in business you need to be investing in your business. I would say some of the first places you should be spending your money are in education. You’ve already been through Voice Coaches, there’s still more to learn.
Before you do anything else, even before you upgrade for a membership at Voices.com, I strongly suggest that you then invest that money into your studio, because if you don’t have a studio at home, you really stand no chance to compete with everyone else who is professionally voice acting on a daily basis, and also it’s the only way that you’ll get access to those auditions.
So, if you have a home studio, then at least you are positioned to be able to record on the fly, you don’t have to check in with a studio to see what their availability is, and you’re also saving some money there. Now, I would say lastly, invest in a membership at Voices.com because unless you are ready to go up against people who have been doing this (voice acting) for 25 or 30 years then there really isn’t much of a point. If you don’t have a studio in your home, you don’t have your education, and you don’t know how to act, then you’re really at a great disadvantage and you won’t get anything out of the service and you’ll be disappointed. Does that makes sense? Educate, build your home studio, get some experience and then sign up for a membership at a voice over marketplace.
Warren Garling: Very nice, thank you. Dave Goldberg, as a voice over talent with a home recording studio, how much should I concern myself with learning more about or becoming proficient at mixing and editing and adding sound effects, music and that sort of thing?
David Goldberg: That’s a great question and it really depends on the type of voice over you are pursuing. So, if you are pursuing, for example, audiobooks, the average unabridged audio book is I think 9.5 hours long. And as Dan spoke earlier from Full Cast Audio, it can take four hours to complete one hour of audio. It takes that long because you have lots of retakes, and you make mouth clicks and pops and you have to go back and start things over again. All that means is that when you go back it, you have 36 hours of recording to clean up, 36 hours of editing. If you are not proficient, it’s going to suck. The more proficient you become the more money you make per hour, so again in audiobooks, you are paid by the completed hour of audio. So if you’re paid, for example, $100 per completed hour, if it takes you four hours to complete that audio including editing or ten hours, you are at a much better advantage if you can do it in four hours.
With respect to adding music and sound effects: It’s a wonderful service if you can be a one-stop-shop for your clients, but adding music and sound effects is very difficult. We’ve been doing it for 21 years and we’re still learning, we really are. Stephanie said, you have to continue learning. I believe that if you offer a service to clients, and you don’t do it very well, you’ll really hurt your relationship with your client, so go to Voice Coaches. David Bourgeois and Jenny have a wonderful studio and hook up with them, let them do the music and sound effects for you, and maybe do a little markup on the thing, but be a one-stop-shop for your customers. I hope that answers your question, but now I’ve forgotten what the question was (laughter). See, in voice over you have a script so you don’t have to memorize anything so you don’t write notes!
Warren Garling: Jenny Marcotte, I really want you to think of me the next time you’re looking for a voice. What should I do to make that happen?
Jenny Marcotte: Please keep in touch with me. We were kind of talking about this before where people will go out with their demo and they’re sure they are going to do this and I never hear from them. Or, we’ll have potential new students call me and say, “How many people are successful in doing this?”, but until you tell me and you call me to say, “I’ve done this job,” or “I just got done with this” I won’t know and that’s actually the best way. I need to know you’re still doing it. I think one of the worst things would be to recommend someone and call them up to find out, “Oh, I actually really haven’t done this since I made my demo” so it’s really important. Please just keep in touch, let me know what you’re doing, send me an MP3, send me a quick note, that’s the best way.
Warren Garling: Thanks, Jenny. Billy, how much difference is there from East Coast to West Coast re: style, formality, % of use of Internet vs. studio?
Billy Serow: In my world, which is the union world, the voice over business is structured very, very differently between the west coast and the east coast. The east coast is still for the most part a casting director driven business. I was a casting director before I was an agent. I saw with the proliferation of the internet, which in turn made sites and talent agencies building their own in house studios, casting directors are really fighting for their livelihoods because it is easy to get an audition, but casting directors want you to be in their studio to audition for them with the benefit of their direction so they can get some kind of credit from the advertising agency for doing a good job and choosing the right talent.
Budgets for casting sessions for voice overs are small. They are smaller than budgets for on-camera commercials. On the average for an on-camera audition, a casting director might audition 50 people or a hundred people for a role because they have the budget and the time and the day to do those auditions. For voice over auditions, casting directors are usually given a half a day or a quarter of a day to do an audition, even if it is for a major, national campaign. The number of actors who are auditioning for those sessions are maybe 8 to 20 to maybe 25 if it’s a very long half day. What’s good then in the New York market is that your odds are then 1 in 20 of scoring the job. In LA, partially because of the geographic nightmare that is Los Angeles, there are very few casting directors who actually concentrate on voice overs because they can’t make a livelihood on it any more so most of the auditioning is done in an agent’s office at an agent’s studio.
So if the job goes out in New York with a casting director, if a job goes out to 6 agents, and each agents sends in 3 or 4 people per job, in LA if the job goes out to 20 agents and they’re putting on tape 10 to 20 people, well, you can do the math. You’re competing against 200 to maybe even 400 voices. If an advertiser is listening to 200 voices, theoretically, chances are they are not listening to 200 voices. Chances are they are listening to the auditions that come in and when they hear someone they like, they go “OK, I’ll take that guy”. So, the structure of the business between Los Angeles and New York is very, very different and certainly easier to break into in the New York market.
Warren Garling: Would you agree with that, Rodney, or do you want time for rebuttal? (laughter from the audience)
Rodney Saulsberry: No, I definitely agree. Everything Billy said was right. I think it’s important to find houses. I’m in LA, and when I have an audition at my agency, which is William Morris, the competition is a lot more because we’ve got all the William Morris clients plus every other agency in California, in Los Angeles, whereas…
Billy Serow: (off mic) Sometimes also New York.
Rodney Saulsberry: And also New York, Billy’s right, however, when I go to a Carroll Casting, which is a big casting agency in Los Angeles, and I’ve been quite successful there, Carroll has decided on about 8 to 15 guys, so that’s it. Elaine Craig Casting… so any time these houses call you, you have a better chance of being successful. Amen to what Billy is saying because everything he is saying is correct.
Warren Garling: Thank you. David Bourgeois, am I always free to use quotes and name of people/brands that I’ve worked with or do I need permission?
David Bourgeois: I think to a large degree, particularly at the local and regional level, corporate training level, it’s assumed by the client that you are going to use some sample of the work on a demo or a quote they gave you or something like that in regard to your marketing material, I do however, and I’ve run into this professionally… once in a while you will meet resistance and the best course of action is to ask permission to do that. You’ll certainly run into situations where you’re going to eventually do material that can’t be released. A great example, I had a friend do a series of work for the New York State Department of Corrections. Some of it is training for prison guards that can’t be released, he can’t go putting that on his demo or a lot of prison guards will get beat up, but for the most part, I think absolutely, and I think that it would be unusual for somebody who you work with or have a professional affiliation with to not allow you to do that, so usually, yes.
Warren Garling: All right. Evan, back to animation from a few years back when you did an animated character. What’s the difference between doing that kind of a session and a voice over session for what you did on “While You Were Out”, which you did in our studios, I’d like to say.
Evan Farmer: That’s a great question. One, it’s a lot of fun, because there are absolutely no boundaries for a free spirit like myself, it’s great, but I learned to enjoy the technical aspects of While You Were Out, and I’ll explain the difference. When you go in, and at least the cartoons that I was involved with, we didn’t do what’s called ADR, I didn’t have to match a characters mouth or film when you do ADR, there’s a technical aspect to that. I would go in and it was acting as you’ve heard quite a bit today. It was really all about creating a character using your imagination which is one of the wonderful advantages to voice acting over regular acting in that there’s a lack of self-consciousness that you can really grab onto in a studio, in a dark studio with a microphone and it’s your imagination that’s speaking. I really enjoyed that aspect. I would go in and read lines… usually we would go until both the engineer and I were laughing. That’s kind of why I tended to get hired because I’m a goofy kind of guy and I was willing to go there.
I made an allusion to it but my first cartoon voice acting job was for a cartoon called Daria on MTV. I phoned in my audition and I was literally in a bathrobe because I almost missed my audition. I totally forgot the time and everything, and I’m looking at myself in my living room mirror, I’m half dressed, on the phone, just thinking of how ludicrous this was and it loosened me up. That’s one of the great things about a home studio as well. It’s the same effect. I was safe in my own environment.
Now with the technical side of going in to do voice overs for a show that you’re hosting, for example, there’s mostly a time requirement and a formula that’s alluding me right now, but there is a certain number of seconds per word, so when somebody is writing, a good producer or director who is writing the copy will know that if they have a space they need to fill on the show that they’ve got 5 seconds, that they can only use a certain number of words. You could always tell, as somebody who has worked on 300 episodes of While You Were Out, for example, 300 episodes where I had to do an hour’s worth of voice over narration, you learn very quickly which directors were good at dialing that in, however, I didn’t always have the option to change the copy, which would have been a great option so you have to learn to make it work.
The technical side of it mainly came with the experience and the practice and that was being in the studio time and time again. I got to the point where, David (Bourgeois) can testify, we’d go through an hour’s worth of voice over and we’d knock it out in about 20 minutes because I’d be dialed into that and he’d say “You’ve got 3.2 seconds” and I’d hit it at 3.1, and he’d say, “One more time, you’ve got to add a .1” My brain automatically knew what .1 seconds sounded like and where I needed to get that and still get the inflection. That became a very enjoyable aspect of it to me because it became a sense of accomplishment. I could go in and deliver this great 20 minutes of solid, hit it out of the park work because I had mastered the art of the technique. They are two different beasts altogether, both of them tremendous fun from different perspectives.
Warren Garling: Terrific. Stephanie, we’re back to the union again. Does the VO talent have to be a union member for the jobs on Voices.com?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: To answer the question, no, a voice talent doesn’t have to be a member of the union. We have non-union talent as well as union talent on the site. There are clients who search for one or the other or they audition both. To some people it doesn’t matter and some people are looking for something very specific. But in short, no, it really doesn’t matter if you are union or non-union, any voice talent, as long as you are professional and confident in what you can do, and prepared to actually do the work and be ready with your studio and education, training, all the good things that Rodney brought up earlier, then you should be set and you’re more than welcome to be listed on Voices.com.
Warren Garling: Very good. Dave Goldberg, what if you are offered a job for an ad promoting a product/person/company that you don’t like or support? How could saying ‘no’ affect my chances at getting work as a voice actor?
David Goldberg: That’s an interesting question. I guess I should say that I know a lot of voice talent, a lot of voice actors who have turned down jobs over the years because they just don’t believe in the personal product or it could be a politician that you don’t support and so forth, so to answer the question how could it negatively affect you?
Certainly, you could lose a relationship with that particular client, and of course as most of you have heard throughout the day, you do one job and you meet the script writer who knows the video editor of another thing and one job can lead to many jobs, and you know, it can have an affect. I think at the same time, if you’re working with an agent or a casting agent or a director, producer, copy writer, whoever your direct client is, if you word it in such a way and you stand up for your beliefs, they can possibly come to your aid, and say, “This guy is pretty good. They’ll read only what they want to read.”
Maybe it makes you look very professional, that you are not so desperate to take on a job that you turn down a job. There are certain things that I personally won’t produce, our studio won’t produce any commercial for cigarettes, that’s our thing. I think it really comes down to what your beliefs are and how important they are, and it probably comes down to how expensive your rent check is and how badly you need to pay your rent check. You have to weigh the pros and cons.
Warren Garling: Good point. Rodney, we get this question quite often from folks and maybe you can help us out a bit. “I’m really concerned about being too nervous when I enter the booth. What can I do to relax?”
Rodney Saulsberry: Well, I think nervous is good, I really do. I said this last year, I was terribly nervous before I came out and spoke with you all today. But if I ever lose that, something would be wrong, and I think that you take that nervous energy, you use that adrenaline to be successful. That’s what it does for me, it keeps me on my toes. If you are a basket case and you have a real problem and you never pull it together, I think you’re going to have to work on that, I don’t know that I can necessarily say how. Taking deep breaths are good I think, just sort of settling yourself. Breathing is real important in voice over and I think it cures nervousness too, at times. But don’t fear nervous, embrace it. I think it makes you better, it makes you sharp.
I want to go back to something real briefly about doing work that you don’t want to do. I had a person ask me to do a job and they said the money is not that great. OK, that wasn’t a problem. Then they sent me the script and I wrote back that I’m not into doing this because I didn’t want to be this guy. The guy was the guy who was sexually harassing somebody on the job. And I said in the email, “Don’t I have the right as a voice over artist to turn down something I don’t want to do?” to which the person wrote back, “Yeah you really do. Well we’ve got other spots, what if you aren’t that guy but the victim or something? Would you be into that?” And I’m like OK, because I’m into the cause, I’m not into sexual harassment on the job, but I did say no to saying the slimy things that this guy was saying and I was respected for it. She wrote back in one email and said, “Why? Is it because of the money?”, I said, “The cause, I would do for free. I just don’t want to play this character.” I thought when they switched and gave me the next character that they were going to say, “Well now you said you would do this for free… would you do it…” but they didn’t do that. (laughter)
David Bourgeois: I just want to add to the nervousness question. I agree 100% with Rodney. It can be important to be nervous, it can be an advantage. I would love you all to be nervous, as long as you’re nervous about the right thing. Too many voice actors I meet who are new to the field come in to do a professional job, and when I meet them ahead of time, do you know what they are nervous about? They’re nervous about getting it right. I need to be nervous about that, I’m the producer, or the client needs to be nervous about that. Getting it right is not part of your job description. You’re not going to be determining what right is unless you are self-producing that job through Voices.com.
You’ve got three things on your plate here, read aloud, take and interpret direction, and very importantly, apply creativity to the material you are reading. You focus on the things you should be nervous about. Develop your reading skill, develop your direction, taking it and your ability to effectively apply direction, and for goodness sake, always with people like me who are producing, I always prefer to have somebody that takes a unique and creative approach to the copy, even if it’s 19 miles away from what I’m looking for, I’d rather have that than somebody who comes in flat because at least I know there’s somebody who I can work with.
Warren Garling: Great, thank you. Jenny, what are some of the things voice actors you’ve hired did RIGHT to get invited back to work with you again?
Jenny Marcotte: Did right. Practiced, definitely, came in on time, professional, followed up, thank you. Just what he (David Bourgeois) was saying, you can tell when they were able to take direction, they were creative, they were fun to work with. All of those things definitely help me be able to hire that person back and refer somebody to them.
Warren Garling: Don’t forget cookies!
Jenny Marcotte: And the cookies, right, definitely! And cheesecake I think we got too, recently.
Warren Garling: Chocolate chip especially
Jenny Marcotte: Yes, we did. (laughter)
Warren Garling: Let’s ask the other side of that and have Jenny answer again. What has someone done wrong when they’ve come into the studio that in your head you’re saying that you you’d never invite this person again or hire this person again?
Jenny Marcotte: How much time do we have? (laughter from the audience) Just on the flip, we recently had this happen. I had a pretty good demo and referred this person. She had not practiced from the time she made that demo. It was an extremely long and painful session I believe, really hard to work with and basically what it does is it then costs us that client, too. People not showing up or thinking it’s okay to show up an hour late to a session, having to reschedule… I know it probably sounds ridiculous, but it actually has happened, and it does get mentioned after so please keep those things in mind.
David Goldberg: Let me add a comment to this. I’ve seen this happen so many times with new talent. You’re on your first job and you look at the script and the talent says, (leaning in) “Who wrote this piece of garbage?” (audience laughter) and the client is right there and it’s not a good thing to say.
Jenny Marcotte: You can think it all you want.
David Goldberg: Yes, think it, you know… and also, actually, it’s kind of a rude story, but I have to tell this and I’ll make it fast. We had a woman in the studio once, quick background: there were about 10 producers on this particular job, don’t ask why, but the creative director, the script writer, the video editor and so forth, the woman forgot that the microphone was on when she went in the booth and she passed gas (audience laughter), and had no clue, and then all of a sudden 10 people on the other side of the glass are laughing and she had no idea what happened. So remember, the microphone is always on and you don’t want to lose a job over silly things.
Warren Garling: Billy, have you noticed a change over the years as to the kind of voices businesses are requesting?
Billy Serow: (leaning in) No. (audience laughter)
Warren Garling: Thank you, next question!
Billy Serow: Ah yes, Rodney touched on this greatly so I’m just going to I’m just going to sound like a broken record. Yes, the operative word “real” and these are the days of the anti-announcer. Every single day, and it’s so funny how people say it as if you’re supposedly hearing it for the first time. “We’re looking for a guy, 40-45, NOT announcery” (audience laughter). Hmm, OK. You take them at their word and then you read the copy and the copy says “Introducing!”, something that nobody says in real life, and you’re supposed to sound real while saying the word introducing, so yeah, the operative word is “real”.
Warren Garling: Stephanie, I notice that you require a minimum $100 fee for any voice work offered through Voices.com. Why can’t I charge less?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: Why can you not charge less? Well, the answer is that you need to respect yourself. If you are putting all this work into the audition itself, and your studio, your education, all of these things have culminated to something worthwhile for you in your business, so if you start quoting less than what is suggested and what the client is actually prepared to pay, then you are doing yourself a disservice, your peers a disservice, you’re doing the industry a disservice. So please keep in mind that if a client has specified this is my budget, this is the high end, the low end, please meet me somewhere in the middle or do your best to quote, remain within that budget. Also, don’t take yourself for granted because your skills, everything you put into yourself, your work, your voice, how they are going to use it… you’re worth so much more than undercutting yourself and everyone else who is on the website (applause from panel and audience), so that is why you shouldn’t bid less than $100.
Warren Garling: Very nice, absolutely. Dave Goldberg, is there any seasonality to the VO business? Is there a good time of year, bad time of year?
David Goldberg: It depends what you’re talking about. We’ve found at our studios that summers are typically a bit slower, the amount of production work that comes in, meaning for you that it’s a fantastic time to market yourselves. Producers have a bit more time on their hands, or their ears, so take advantage of it. And certainly, I guess there are different kinds of commercials that sell more during winter and summer, it depends on the product that’s being narrated but, otherwise I’m not familiar with any seasonality.
Warren Garling: OK, thank you. Rodney, how has marketing yourself changed over the years as you’ve become successful? Do you still have to market yourself just as hard as you did from day one?
Rodney Saulsberry: Yes, you do, and I talked about YouTube. It’s just the same. In my book I talk about saturating the market, but it is important to do your research first, you know you don’t want to just throw things out there that don’t go anywhere. Have a plan, have a group of people that you are going to send something to. If you can, make contact with people at these places that are hired to listen to these demos, and trust me when I tell you that they were hired to do that for a good reason because that’s what they are supposed to do. Sometimes they actually do listen, and sometimes you are successful, but you have to take those shots and market yourself. I talked about simplicity.
Someone asked me about pictures on a CD. I think it’s a personal thing. If you want to, you can, but when I’m asked my thought about that, I say No. I say that we need to be recognized by our voices and our talent as opposed to someone seeing a picture and deciding something about us and that may make them not hire us for the job. I had a situation recently where I did a cartoon and all of a sudden they said they wanted to see me for a motion cap (motion capture), a mo-cap, they call it, session, and so I had to drive to San Diego and put on this scuba diving type suit and all of these balls on me and this thing on my head. The character that I played, the body and the movements are based on my body, the face is not, it doesn’t look like me, but the movements that I’m making… well, you know, I do voice overs! I’m working for 4 or 5 minutes, 30 minutes et cetera, I’m done, they’ve got me for a day, 8 hours, and all of a sudden I’ve got rifles in my hand and they’re asking me to roll around on the floor and all types of things, and I’m thinking to myself, as
I looked at all these younger people around me, they thought my voice sounded like something (laughing), but now I’m here and I’m not necessarily that same guy. I may not have ever gotten there if they had seen a picture, so let your voice do the work for you and yes marketing is very important, just as it was when I wrote that book in 2004 and talked about saturating the market.
Warren Garling: Thank you Rodney, Mr. Bourgeois, what techniques do you recommend for slowing yourself down when reading text?
David Bourgeois: Well, like Billy said, we have definitely gravitated toward conversational, believable, sincere delivery. One of the most common differences in how people read text and how they speak text is that reading becomes task oriented with the goal being reaching the end. So, everyone has a natural tendency to accelerate their pace when they’re reading.
I used to do a little experiment with people where I would have them speak for a couple of minutes off of the top of their head, and this goes way back to when I started training in this field, and we’d bring them back in the control room and play that back a couple of times, write it down word for word, and ask them to go in and read it at the same pace that they felt that they had said it. We never, and I did that with many people, had anybody able to read it in any more than half the time it took them to say a couple of minutes of material. It’s very interesting.
So, a great technique to fight this is to use what I would call reset points. Take your pencil and just put little reminder marks in your copy to reset that pace back to a genuine, believable, conversational pace. You always want to be working off of what I would refer to as your conversational average, your average conversational pace. As the excitement level increases in the copy you’re reading, you’re not just going to speed up, you’re going to use more variation in the pace. As your perception of the excitement level in the copy lessens, you don’t just slow down, you come back closer to that conversational average. But maintaining that conversational average is difficult, feel free, mark your copy up, put reminders at the beginning of the third or fourth line that says, “Hey, settle down back down and get that energy together again”. To the client, to the copy writer, to the person trying to convey that information, the words later in the copy are just as important as the words you started out with.
Rodney Saulsberry: I love that, and I call it scoring the copy. For me, all of this voice over is analogous to music, right, and so I draw lines where I’m going to pause, I draw lines up where I’m going to take a line up at the end, and I think about something that Evan said when he talked about how from doing this over and over again, he began to have an internal clock that just naturally happened, you know, and that’s what I’m talking about practicing. The more that you do something, the better you are going to get, and the notation that David is talking about, and what I’m telling about, you’re going to do that – I still do that today – but you will find that if you keep doing it, practice is practice, and then pretty soon it’s in you and you got it, and you don’t even need to mark it as much, but do in the beginning, and if you have to mark late like I still do, mark.
Underline words that you’re going to emphasize, if you’re going to go down, you’re going down, if you’re going to go up, it’s going up.
I do an exercise where I can have two people, and we can have a paragraph, no let’s say a few lines, four or five lines. I will have one person score the copy, come up with an interpretation and then score it. Underline words they are going to emphasize, make a line go up when they are going to go up, make a line go down. I will have that person read that interpretation that they have just scored, or do just what David said, and then the next person will tell us and tell that person where their underscores were, where the lines were going up, where the lines were going down. Do you see what I’m saying? That’s how important scoring copy is and that’s how obvious it can be if you have written this map that is so right on that somebody can tell you what’s on your paper. When we looked at the paper, the next student got it exactly right, because the person read their interpretation just like they scored it.
Evan Farmer: The power of the scoring, and for me it’s mostly on-camera stuff, is so evident that when I score an audition for a sitcom audition, for example, and I’ll see other actors also doing the same thing in the room, I’ll take my sheet into the room and typically I’m off-book by the time I go into read. I’m a big believer in preparedness. It’s one way to take the fear out of an audition. Anytime you feel anxiety about something it’s usually nature’s way of saying, “Hey prepare, prepare for what’s coming. Are you prepared?”
Sometimes there are other things like what we’ve spoken about before, but my copy of that audition sheet to me is such gold, that I wouldn’t in a million years let another actor see it, because my interpretation that I have come up with could the the ticket of why I got the job, and I’ll give you a quick example of that.
Austin Powers III : Gold Member, anybody see that? Young Number 2 character, Robert Wagner, originally Rob Lowe, I was the high school version.
Now, to give you an idea of what I was up against, when I auditioned for that I was 30 years old, I was playing a high school character, and in film that’s not always a leap of faith, but the people they had already cast for characters to play next to me were in high school. But, I went in and I auditioned, and actually it’s a longer story and I’ll make it shorter, I auditioned for another character, the casting director came in and said, “Hey, that guy looks like Rob Lowe”, thought I looked like I could be the part, mind you, I was at the apex of my career, I had a big television show, I had been in the MTV thing where we opened up for Britney Spears, I could go into malls and get my shirt ripped off my back and yet I was in there auditioning for the first audition just like everybody else.
So another example, it never ends, you’re never too big, and your marketing never stops, but that’s not the point.
I go in there, and I had this line, and I’ll never forget it. It didn’t end up in the movie, and I’ll tell you exactly where it comes, but my character was supposed to explain his existence in the prequel episodes of the movie, and my character, Number 2, I walk up to Young Doctor Evil who is looking at his class standings, his ratings in the class, and he says, (in character) “Hey look everybody, I’m Number One!” and that was the part I originally auditioned for and I clearly didn’t get it for that reason you just saw.
Anyway, my character comes up and I walk up in my Robert Wagner / Rob Lowe kind of voice, and I did a lot of preparation, in fact DVDs for me are a great way because I needed to find that voice and I had to find something that kind of had a blend of both of them. So I watched the DVDs and watched Robert Wagner in the special scene selections and Rob Lowe talking at the end of those. That’s how I prepared for that movie. So anyway, my character comes in and says (in character), “Hello, I’m Number 2” and so he goes, “Hello, Number 2”, and I have to explain to him, and this line is how I got the movie, I explained to him, “No, my name is not Number 2, I’m Number 2 in the class”, and then he goes on to say something, he goes, “Well, what’s your name?” It was something like Mark Banibischibinibinischwitz, or something ridiculous, you know, some Hollywood… and he says, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that”, and then of course this is the part, and my script actually had this little sign I have for a take when an actor kind of takes a moment and acts without saying anything, and I took a deep breath, and he says, “I’m sorry to hear that”, and I went (huskily, airy Robe Lowesque), “Tell me about it”.
It was this big pause in this scene that had this rhythm and it broke the scene up. So fast forward, I get the part, return that $700 suit I bought at Macy’s to audition with (audience laughter), always keep the receipt, and I’m on set with Jay Roach and we’re doing the scene, and I notice on the script that the line had been cut out and I was a little upset because I knew that was my moment.
That was actually the very moment I could see on the casting directors faces and the directors faces that I got the part. Sometimes you don’t know, but sometimes in an audition you can just get that visceral, boom, I’m in. That was the moment.
So anyway, I walk up and Jay was having a hard time getting this good scene out of me and he couldn’t understand why because he didn’t realize it had been rewritten 17 times. He’s like, “There’s something you did in the audition. In fact, Mike Myers…” – this is one of those great moments where you get a glimpse into the decision making process – “In fact, Mike Myers and I watched your audition tape and we both” – and I can’t say it – “Beeped ourselves. It was awesome. What did you do?”
I knew because I remembered it was that moment that I’ll never forget that I got the part. And I said, “Oh, well it was this line that is no longer in it (the movie)”. It was that, and I made that decision on my couch while I was reading through this, and I found an opportunity for me to shine, for me to give a little piece of me that nobody else probably will, and now had somebody seen my sheet, if they could even read my scoring, I don’t know if they could have picked that up but that one take is how I did. That’s how critical it is from a perspective of on-camera as well, and to this day I never let anybody see my sheet, and I write in code (audience laughter).
Warren Garling: Thank you very much, Evan. Dave Goldberg, it’s been a while since I did my first demo. When do you know it’s time for a new one?
David Goldberg: If it’s been a while, yes. A couple of things to say about this. The most important thing, I think you said it, Jenny. It’s so important that if there’s a time lapse between when you’ve made your demo and got your first job that you are able to reproduce the sound on your demo. Does that make sense to everyone? Because we’ve lost clients over that same reason and it’s not good for anyone.
So when is it time to make your new demo?
1. When you have improved.
2. If you have a new specialty that you want to focus on, so for example, you may have a demo that just focuses on general commercial or general narration but perhaps you decide to focus on animation, or audiobook or documentary or educational or sales and presentations and so forth.
3. It’s time to produce a new demo when the styles on your existing demo are all out of date. And you don’t need to produce an entirely new demo, but if you have a demo that sounds like it was done in 1997, add one or two new spots on your demo, and now hopefully if a casting agents ears are in tune, they’ll listen to your demo say, “Well, it sounds like they were working ten, twelve years ago and they are still working today,” because you have a new sounding style on your demo, it appears as if you’re very experienced, you have been working for twelve years. There’s some thoughts.
David Bourgeois: Yeah, I agree completely with what Dave says, and the mindset should be like this, your demo is your resume; your demo is never done throughout your voice over career. You’ll continue to add to your demo, tune your demo just based on exactly what Dave said, you know, you develop a new skill, you want to focus on a specialty, particularly in a B market, you’ve done some recognizable work that you want to include on your demo, but it’s a resume – keep it fresh and I 100% agree with Dave on a point he made – you’ve really got to bring your skill set into the studio with you. Make sense?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: I’d like to add something to this too, and I think David you kind of pointed to it, you can have older material on your demo just make sure it isn’t dated like, “1997, come get our Ford whatever it is!” because right away you know that is 10, 12 years old. That, and also keep in mind that you will age too, your voice is going to change. For women, your voice matures when you are 40 years old. It will go through a variety of different stages depending on how old you are when you start your voice over career. You will go from sounding one way to maturing and so forth.
Men, your voices tend to stay around the same area for a while. When you’re middle aged, you’ll still sound like you’re younger, potentially. Your voice will shift as well, obviously it will happen, but as you age, take a look at it. If you listen to your demo and all of a sudden you don’t recognize the voice on that demo (audience laughter), it may be time to reconsider because it’s just like a headshot. If you get a headshot done and you’re passing out this picture of yourself but it doesn’t look like you anymore, you’re misleading somebody with what you can do.
So, if you keep up with the trends, keep up with the different things in the market, but also make sure that what people are hearing is actually something that you can still do, as you age obviously you can still manipulate your voice to sound younger perhaps, or to sound older, but if you can’t maintain that anymore and if your natural speaking voice has shifted into a different register, for men, sometimes tenors will become baritones, so keep that in mind, but specifically for women, you’re going to want to look at this more because the female voice ages more dramatically as the years go on, more so than the male voice does, so I just thought I add that in there.
Warren Garling: Thank you Stephanie, and that’s going to have to be the last word. Ladies and gentlemen, can I hear a rousing thank you for these folks (audience applause)
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Looking forward to hearing from you!
On behalf of everyone on the panel and at the Voice Coaches Expo, thank you for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed this conference coverage.