Editors are storytellers.
Post production editors, mixers, motion/graphic artists, animators, composers, cinematographers, directors, and other creative technicians often work in secluded rooms using creative vision as a compass. It’s not for everyone, but for some, it’s the only thing they could ever envision doing.
Please excuse the sharing of someone else’s work, but when I saw this tribute piece for Taylor Hawkins I was floored. I don’t know who produced and edited it, but we rarely do, do we? It hits all the right notes and deftly combines the emotional impact of losing such an inspirational figure with the artistry of this production to generate a visceral reaction. The rhythm, the shot choices, the length of each shot, the song, the timing, all of it comes together to say what words never could. It tells a story succinctly, passionately, honorably and completely.
Music is what got me into this business and it’s what prevents me from ever leaving. I have to be close to it. It’s the same for many of us. As a vo artist/audio post mixer (and drummer) navigating a career path through the intersections of creativity and commerce, it hasn’t always been an easy business to be in. But I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
RIP, Taylor Hawkins. Thanks for the music and the joy. And thanks to the lifers in this crazywacky business who remain unsung, which is most of us. And we’re fine with that. #postproduction
I voiced this spot for Rugged Rugged Ridge in which they are (or, rather.. I am) talking about their AmFib Snorkel System. It allows off-road vehicles to aspirate their engines when crossing rivers and creeks while venturing off-road. Looks like a hell of a lot of fun. I asked for, and did not receive, a testing of the product in the form of an off-road adventure, backcountry-style. Check out their bad ass products and find a local dealer here: Rugged Ridge.
I’m a voiceover guy. I provide a very specific service to my clients. The service I offer is SO specific that I realize I’m not always the right person for the job. A client might need a different voice, a different gender, someone with a different background or perspective, someone with a different overall vibe in their reads. The list of why I might NOT get booked gives clients ample opportunity to go somewhere else for their narration, commercial, corporate of other voiceover genre project. That’s why I value my clients so much. – especially regular and repeat clients. They are EVERYTHING.
Are you a small biz person, solo entrepreneur, or whatever you call being in business for yourself, BY yourself? The relationships you develop with clients, vendors, consultants, service providers, contemporaries/sounding boards, etc. – are so incredibly important and gratifying. They are, quite literally, the reason you are in business. If not your WHY, they are absolutely your HOW.
It’s essential that you stay in contact and let your clients and vendors know how much you appreciate them. It doesn’t take much. A short, sincere note or kind gesture goes so far when it comes to staying in touch and letting them know that you’re there for them and that you value their business.
If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to people or think it seems transparent, just remember to be as authentic as possible. Speak from the heart. You appreciate their business because they are helping you stay in business. It’s as simple as that. So keep it as simple as that.
Here are a few suggestions when relaying messages of gratitudes to people you interact with professionally or otherwise.
Below are a few simple notes you can send in a card, postcard, coffee gift cert or some other token of appreciation that will hopefully brighten their day. You can always email it too. Short, sweet and to the point. Although in this digital age, snail mail and a physical letter or card is very rare and always appreciated.
Personalize pronouns, sentiment and message to match your situation.
As a professional voice talent, or “voiceover artist”, or “voice actor”, or whatever else it’s called, people often ask me how they can get into the business. They’ve been told they have a good voice and they should get into voiceover. Or they have a talent for doing characters or impressions. The spoken word and people’s voices are something that we can all relate to. It’s totally understandable. “You get paid to talk?!” Yeah. Well, sort of. I get paid to talk.. now. I didn’t get paid to talk a couple decades ago when I was breaking into radio, then working in the advertising industry writing copy, developing marketing plans and recording and producing commercials and audio content, then working as a recording engineer and producer for studios and production companies. More accurately, I was occasionally getting paid to talk because the voiceover thing was more of a side gig. But truthfully, I was always doing it, always fascinated by it, always practicing it and studying it. And I was always thinking that perhaps, one day, it would be my main gig. Because in this weird, dynamic, ever-changing business a couple of the best and most useful things you can be is versatile and willing to adapt.
So if you want to break into voiceover, assuming you’ve got a knack for it and have been at least practicing and remaining aware of trends and such, the first thing you should do is find a coach. Top tier coaches may not be the place to start. Although you can try. There are coaches in L.A. and New York and other big markets (where there are a lot of studios and production companies and talent agencies and CLIENTS) who are working with talent that consistently book national-level projects. If you can get in with one of them go for it, but be prepared to be broken down before being built back up. You probably want to start with someone a little closer to home or without such a long waiting list. And there are a lot of great coaches who are very accessible and very affordable. Talent knows no boundaries. So ask around. Join some Facebook groups. Find other talent and see who they studied with.
Once you’ve found a coach, be prepared to work on your craft for a while – like, a couple years. Seriously. You might get good enough to book some gigs more quickly than that, or it could take even longer. But you need to learn how to break down copy and have it become second nature. You need to be able to see the writing techniques that copywriters are using as they lay there on the page and then interpret them via inflection, mic technique, mood, dynamics, speed, etc. It is acting, after all. And there are no eyebrows, wrinkled noses, smirks or incredulous looks to telegraph what it is you (or more accurately the copywriter, or even more accurately the client) are communicating. Like anything else, it takes time to fill your toolbox.
After you’ve acquired some tools you need to make them yours. You need to engrave your name on all those techniques. Because even when it comes to characters you need to bring something to the performance that no one else can bring. That something is you. You need to sound authentic – especially now. Today’s audience is extremely media savvy. And when I say media I’m including social media, online content, video games, anywhere actors or spokespersons are relaying a message. Today’s audience has seen and heard it all. And if you come at them with anything other than a “conversational” delivery when that’s what’s being called for, they won’t even bother ignoring it because it will never have landed with them in the first place. It simply won’t get through because it smacks of inauthenticity.
Oh, and be prepared to have failure be a regular part of your day. And that’s not offered in a negative spirit at all. Winning auditions are definitely about talent, but also about numbers. Most of the jobs you audition for you will not get. That’s just part of the business. More often than not it’s just because you just weren’t what the client was looking for. You wouldn’t hire Robert DeNiro to play .. I don’t know .. Thor. Would you? Well, he could probably pull it off, but you get the idea.
There are other hurdles, nay “opportunities” that come along the path to becoming a professional voice talent such as building a mic locker, software to record and edit, sound treatment, marketing, websites, representation, etc. But most of that will reveal itself to you along the way as long as you engage and stay engaged with the voiceover/production/post-production/general creative community.
We haven’t addressed demos. At some point you will need to have demos of various voiceover genres. Demos are your audio calling cards. Commercial, explainer, corporate, radio imaging – these are all different types of demos that will provide examples of what you’re capable of. It’s often a good idea to either have your coach produce your first demo when you can both agree that you are ready, or find a qualified demo producer. Don’t skimp on demos. Good demo producers write scripts for you and emphasize your strengths and range. Open with your strongest reads and keep clips short enough to keep it moving and long enough to get an idea of your abilities. Five to ten seconds for each clip is a solid length. And around one minute or slightly longer is a good length for the full demo. But if potential clients, agents, etc., don’t hear something they like or something they’re looking for within the first few seconds of listening to your demo they won’t continue to listen.
I’ve included a couple interesting resources at the top of the post. Check them out and feel free to share any you think might be helpful to other folks crazy enough to get into this amazing, fascinating, creative, exciting, crazy, unpredictable business.
This Super Bowl spot I voiced last year for Therabody won the production company that produced it a Vega Award for writing and story. BlueGiant had me in to voice the spot and they did a great job with it.
The spot is titled “There’s Only One You”. Here’s the Vega Award post with the info.
This is a recent promo trailer I voiced for the video game “Hidden Deep”. Video games and the media associated with them are a massive industry and a huge part of the voiceover and post-production world. It’s always a blast to work on a new project with game developers. Their imagination and vision is incredible. When you first receive a script for a part, whether it’s a trailer like this, or a part for a character, you don’t always have the benefit of a treatment, a video or even an illustration. It’s up to you to interpret their vision and bring it to life while enabling it to match what will eventually be a (virtually) living, breathing character with a backstory. It never gets old and it’s always a challenge.
Another interesting aspect, as an aside, is the audio, music and sound design. As a post production mixer and musician, I hear elements of Ableton Live in the production. If you work on Ableton you’ll hear some of the sounds and instruments.
Dan Wright, a.k.a. “Gravelthroat”, is a working voice actor and one-time vocalist for hardcore and metal bands. His raspy, gravelly vocal tones can be heard on national commercials for ACE Hardware and hockey broadcasts and promos on ESPN as well as other places in the media and internet universe. We talk shop about all things VO including breaking down copy, finding the sweet spot in your reads, coaching and gear. We stray a bit too and get into music-related topics and our past histories. This episode is something of an experiment as we’ve talked about starting our own podcast. Join us, won’t you?
Today’s wisdom comes from The Bard of Avon himself, William Shakespeare who has all kinds of wisdom cleverly implanted in his many works of comedy, tragedy, history and poetry. The quote is “The devil can cite scripture of his purpose”.
It’s the classic wolf in sheep’s clothing scenario. Beware of hidden agendas and be aware of those who see the world through convenient filters in that they tend to justify behavior under the guise of belief systems.
We should be equally aware of these filters in ourselves. Sometimes, what we take on faith or mistake for fact can be a lack of intellectual honesty and authenticity.
The full quote from The Merchant of Venice as uttered by the character Antonio:
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice