Susan Blu, Molly Ann Mullin and Cynthia SongÃ©’s book “Word of Mouth: A Guide to Commercial Voice-over Excellence, 3rd Edition”, is all about the rudiments of voice acting, giving yourself permission to play, and learning how to release the characters within.
VOX Daily Book Club Selection “Word of Mouth”
This week, I’m pleased to present you with a new book review for the VOX Daily Book Club 😉
Word of Mouth: A Guide to Commercial Voice-over Excellence, 3rd Edition
“Word of Mouth: A Guide to Commercial Voice-over Excellence, 3rd Edition” is authored by Susan Blu in collaboration with colleagues Molly Ann Mullin and Cynthia SongÃ©.
First published in 1987, was the first-ever book written that focused on voice-overs. The edition printed in 2006 (the edition being reviewed) addresses technological changes that have developed since the initial printing.
The book has 160 pages of core content, a glossary, an industry contact list and also includes an entertaining instructional CD that was recorded at the time of the book’s first release in 1987. Many of you know about Susan Blu’s extensive career in animation voice overs (Transformers, Smurfs, etc.) and also know her as a casting director and instructor.
I found the preface, which set the pace for the book, to be very affirming and encouraging without over-selling the notion that “everyone can do this”. As is presented in the title, the goal is to achieve voice-over excellence, which is not an easy thing to do by any standards.
Susan is friendly and very amiable in her descriptive writing style sharing information about preparation (study) and performance. The pictures of voice actors working in the studio also adds another element to the reading experience.
The More the Merrier
“I’ve come to care less about having to get every single job and more about the fun and passion for the work itself that I’m experiencing on a daily basis. Don’t misunderstand! I love getting the job, winning the audition. But now I have a heartfelt appreciation that the right jobs are mine and that the others are yours. I know that there really is room for all of us.”
— Susan Blu
Want to Be a Working Voice-Over Actor?
1. Talent and passion
3. A belief in oneself that can’t be shaken, rocked or questioned
There is always room for excellent new performers who will risk and take the chances to allow their creativity to come through. As a person in a position of authority where casting is concerned, Susan shared that she remembers people who go the extra mile in pursuit of voice-over excellence and champions those who have the talent and drive.
Reading this book is a step in the right direction and it’s comforting to know that it is authored by three people who care deeply about properly educating aspiring voice actors.
One that I liked in particular was that you have a host of characters living inside of you… you just have to identify them and let them out! Susan advises to look inside yourself to become all of the different people you already are. You’re not just reading. You have a character who is a particular someone in a particular situation talking to another particular person (or group of people) about a particular product. If you can become that particular person and respect the particular world that they live in you’re on the right track as a voice actor.
I thought you would enjoy hearing about these myths. Not to include too much detail (you should really read the book for yourself), 5 myths are busted, including:
1. Voice overs are male dominated
2. There is a clique in the industry
3. You need to have an unusual voice
4. You have to be a certain age to do certain characters
5. You must already be a professional actor
Why Are You in Voice-Overs?
Susan asks the pointed question “Why are you in voice overs?”, an important question to ask yourself at any stage of your career. Whatever your reason, be sure that the reason is substantial enough to get you through the hard times. Your reason should serve as a motivator when the going gets tough. Tip: If you aren’t having fun doing voice-overs, do yourself a favor and get out of the business. The least bit of boredom or discontent will show up in your voice. The microphone doesn’t lie.
1. Be a student everyday and keep learning
2. Treat VO as a game with the objective of winning (results of success will be automatic)
3. Have healthy attitudes and believe that you can achieve anything
Be Willing to Have Fun
Susan places a strong emphasis on the willingness to play and to really shoot for the stars, equipping her readers with a basic process to achieve believability called “Endowing the copy”. There are great exercises throughout that help with everything from the basics of reading copy and interpretation to fleshing a voice over out through attitudes and characterization. There are plenty of innovative ideas that keep practice / exercise more “game-like”.
You’ll find 9 commercial scripts to practice with. There’s also an entire chapter dedicated to the demo CD that clearly states that people should not record a demo before they are ready! That’s some sound advice. Page 95 includes criteria for selecting a demo producer that you will find useful should you be in that boat. “The demo represents you. In your absence, it auditions for you. Therefore it should always showcase your very best work and be of the highest quality.”‘
This book was very good and quite comprehensive. On the performance and theory end of things, this book is one of the best I’ve ever read for voice acting.
However I found a couple of items to be surprising considering the publication date:
1. Complete absence of voice over marketplaces in the chapter on promotion and in the book in general.
2. Inaccurate information with regard to number and accessibility of non-union jobs.
The revised edition was published in 2006 and the marketplaces have been online since 2003.
Page 136 poses the question “Do I have to belong to a union to get a job?”.
The answer reads:
“Not necessarily, and certainly not at the beginning of your career. Non-union jobs do exist, but they are generally fewer in number, harder to find and less lucrative.”
In 2006 non-union work was quite bountiful and easily found online via marketplaces or through drumming up business the old fashioned way offline. Today, non-union voice over work accounts for the bulk of voice over jobs. As we learned in recent weeks, major markets are seeing an upward trend in non-union work, even in the heart of Manhattan. As notable talent have said, the writing has been on the wall outside of NYC and LA for a long time… it’s just finally hitting the two union strongholds and now being formally acknowledged.
Those two items aside, the book is a winner that I recommend finds its way into your library.
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