The Sins of Voice Over
Voiceover accountability extends beyond wins and losses. Are we running our businesses professionally and ethically?
Are you familiar with Yom Kippur? In voiceover parlance, it’s the Jewish holiday of accountability. Specifically, for a deep dive into ourselves to reflect and atone for our mistakes, poor judgments, and deliberate misdeeds. A time to make amends and resolve to become better people in the coming year. A 25-hour fast to pray and seek redemption, purification, and reconciliation.
There is nothing in Jewish prayer that refers to voice overs. Unless you consider references to the voice of G-d throughout the Old Testament and our prayer books. Hope the Big Guy doesn't hold it against me that I'm referring to His booming presence as a type of voice over, albeit the one, original, and most holy of all voice overs past, present, and future. I'd better stop before I get blasted with a bolt of lightening, but it did get me to thinking that there are voiceover sins that we voice actors are collectively likely to have committed. And now is as good time as any to acknowledge them and decide to do better.
So, without meaning to be sacrilegious, and because Yom Kippur was just last week and thus fresh in my mind, here are the sins of voiceover for which I atone, on behalf of myself and all others in the past year who've slipped behind a microphone and called themselves professional voice actors.
We have sinned, we have led astray, we have been led astray....
We have harmed our fellow voice actors (clients, agents, managers, loved ones, etc.) by committing:
Sins of the Audition
Auditioning before we're truly ready to do so. Professional training must come first.
Failing to properly warm up before a session. Or warm up at all.
Waiting to drink those 2 liters of water until just before your session.
Not reading the audition specs carefully. Or again, at all.
Not caring if we match the specs, because once they hear OUR audition, they'll change their minds about what they think they want once they hear our mind-blowing submission.
Treating casting sites as places to practice, so therefore "it doesn't matter" if our sound or performance are any good, much less if we even remotely match the specs.
Not following the file-naming specifications EXACTLY. Hey, we're artists, right? And that's what agents are there to fix.
Overacting. You’re not playing to the back of the theater, fella.
Underacting (as in, are you alive in there?).
Submitting auditions with such poor sound quality that it reflects badly on the calibre of VOs in general.
Failing to learn how to properly edit our auditions. Funny, but most clients really don’t like those loud mouth clicks and heavy breaths. Go figure.
Thinking we’re different. As in: we don’t need coaching. Or training. Or help with our audio quality. And it shows in our auditions.
Sins of the Booth
Not investing in a professional, high-quality recording space.
Claiming to have broadcast-quality sound when we know that we really don’t.
Claiming to have paid Source Connect Standard when we really just have the free version. And thinking we can get away with it.
Failing to consult with Uncle Roy Yokelson, George Whittam, or any of the other top-notch, trusted gurus of sound to certify that our booths are up to snuff. Or if our recording spaces fall short, enlisting their help to get us there so that we live up to our claims as pros with high quality sound.
Not learning how to properly operate our equipment. And asking for help when needed.
Not having sufficient back-up equipment or a plan in case your equipment, internet, or power go out. Which one or more WILL do at some point during a client-directed session.
Sins of the Terribly Misplaced Attitude
Failing to uphold decent rates (hello, GVAA rate guide!) to support the VO community.
Cheerfully bidding $5 to record that voice over on a certain casting site that shall remain nameless, but we all know what it is anyways.
Deliberately undercutting VOs everywhere – living, dead, and unborn – with notoriously low rates. There's a lot of making amends with this one; it'll take a full year to properly atone.
Telling friends “you can do this! All you need is a (insert supercheap mic here).”
Telling ourselves over and over again that we’re not good enough, will never be good enough, “I suck” mentality, etc.
Comparing ourselves to voice actors with much more experience and judging ourselves accordingly, i.e. harshly.
Failing to appreciate the teachers, coaches, managers, and agents who do their best on our behalf.
Not caring if casting site clients don't want to listen to our poorly performed audition, complete with raunchy audio quality, because - hey! it's only a casting site and we want to get our money's worth out of our subscription. (This is the twin sin of one under Sins of the Audition.)
Failing to appreciate other voice talent who’ve helped us along the way, even if with a word or two of encouragement.
Refusing to help other voice talent who look up to us for advice. Not talking about giving away free coaching or gobs of time. Just a little kind payback for help that other more experienced people gave you once upon a time.
Thinking "I don't need no accountability group" before even trying one.
Deriding other talent who support one another with accountability and workout groups.
Sins of Unprofessionalism
Agreeing to do that commercial “in perpetuity and throughout the known universe.” Professionals avoid known conflicts and unacceptable terms of usage.
Bad-mouthing other voice actors, casting directors, agents, clients, VO conferences, or casting sites that truly respect voice actors. (Sleazy casting sites are fair game in my book.)
Bugging our agent or managers incessantly to get more work.
Expecting our agents to correct our mistakes in labeling auditions.
Begging our agents to let us send our auditions in after the deadlines have passed.
Boasting about our accomplishments, especially to newer talent trying to find their footing. There’s a nice way to promote recent work and celebrate the clients who've hired us or the agents/managers that have brought us on board. Pure, unadulterated boasting is not it.
Sins of Marketing
Not doing any.
Thinking that “they’ll find me.”
Posting virulent social media content with heavy political, religious, or otherwise inappropriate content. Or at least don’t do it under our real or stage names.
Having a poorly designed or non-functional website with faulty links to demos.
Not keeping our materials up-to-date: website, demos, testimonials, social media profiles.
Sending long-winded emails that fail to get to the point.
Sending introductory emails without verifying that recipients are actually in our target group.
Thinking that sending "hire me" emails to other voice actors will work because "everyone knows someone, so what the heck do I have to lose?"
Representing ourselves as other than who we are or saying we have skills that we clearly don’t possess. Or can prove in a recording session. Or can replicate in a session the skills showcased in our demo.
For all these sins, Lord, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.
Laura's Quick Tips
Accountabililty is more than a list of wins and losses. It's also an assessment of how we conduct our businesses and how we can improve.
We are a community. How one voice actor runs his/her business DOES affect us all.
We can always improve, whether it's through performance, equipment, or in our marketing.
Attitude is everything. A positive outlook will be reflected in your auditions and dealings with potential clients. And therefore, in your bottom line.
Professionalism is expected from your clients, agents, managers, fellow voice actors.
But the good news is that we have all year to do better. And truthfully, most voice actors reading past all the doom and gloom to get to this point are probably not the ones needing the most drastic course correction.
I'm guessing that most professional voice actors are struggling with self-doubt, discouragement, and a drought of bookings. It happens to just about all of us in this intensely competitive field. Soldier on and know that your fellow voice actors are on your side. Because we're that kind of a caring, supportive community.
May this next year bring your happiness and prosperity, plus contentment and gratitude for all you do achieve. And for Pete’s sake, whenever you're feeling a little down, take a lesson from a wise guru and say after me:
“I’m good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” - Stuart Smalley