auditioning

The Comments…

A beautiful spot in the middle of Barnard's campus that I loved so much.As a full-time voice over actor, I have the joy of working as a creative all day every day in an industry that I love. You have no idea how many times people have said to me, in my family and in passing, “It’s a shame you aren’t using your degrees.” This always leaves me scratching my head. I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to go to attend Barnard College, the undergraduate women’s college at Columbia University if you don’t know it, and to go to graduate school at Columbia University. As a small business owner I use all that I learned in my years at Columbia throughout the day every single day. When something becomes part of the fiber of your soul, part of your identity, and shapes the way you approach all that you do, it’s sort of hard to think of how you could exist without it. But still, because this has come up A LOT, let me try to flesh this out a little more specifically.

Writing the Business Plan and Analyzing the Data

Here I am in my suite over Ollie’s on 116th street my junior year. The one thing not part of the Barnard curriculum was how to keep a clean room!

From the moment I thought I decided to pursue voice over, the research skills that I crafted at Barnard were used. Before I began actually working in voice over, and well before I began working with coaches and studying the craft of voice over, I spent months researching other industry talents. I was listening to demos and making spreadsheets. I was curious who was booking what. I listened to see where others with voices like mine were booking work-wise. I tracked where certain demos lead certain talents. I had spreadsheet upon spread sheet. This was research that I generated for what I needed to know to ensure that this was a business that would make sense for my family. Where did I learn this creative approach to research? Barnard. Where did I learn how to analyze data? Barnard. And where did I learn how to use the data that I collected in Excel to make a compelling argument in one way or another? You guessed it, Barnard.

But just gathering and analyzing data was only the beginning. I was setting out not to just be a voice over actor, but to be a solopreneur. In order run my own business I needed a working business plan. I remember thinking all those years ago that the business plan would be fluid and would change, but that I needed it to guide the choices I made early on and to make projections about my income. I used a strategy that I learned in graduate school called “Planning Backwards.” Anyone who has ever taught is probably very familiar with this, but I set short term and long term goals for myself and then I wrote a business plan around them. Again, everything that I did in terms of my business was all based on the way I was trained to do in my years at Columbia.

Researching Brands

I loved meeting friends at the steps in between classes. I had so much fun setting here and socializing. This was quite a hot spot!

Brand research is necessary when auditioning, when booking work, and when determining which companies to reach out to when direct marketing. When auditioning, it is important to understand the brand that I am reading for. I research their current add campaigns and try to understand the overall gestalt of what they are trying to put out. If whatever I have been sent is a departure from previous work, I try to figure out how that fits in too. When I book work, again, I strive to understand where it fits into the big picture of the brand. I immediately go to the brand’s website and social media pages. When I direct market to companies, I spend a lot of time getting to know a brand so that I can individualize my outreach. Again, all of this thorough research and these strong investigative skills come from my years at Columbia.

 

Understanding the Jargon

I loved my time in the Theta Psi chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. The women in our sorority were campus leaders. My AXO sisters are brilliant and incredible and I am lucky to call them sisters, including my actual sister Julie! Here we are at the Revlon Run Walk for Women in Times Square in 1999.

In addition to my commercial work, I do a lot of eLearning. There is a lot of complicated jargon in these training modules.Sometimes I feel like a kids back in school, because for me understanding the text is very important to my delivery. Because I read so much in school and spent so much time in academia, I am thrilled by this part of the job. In addition, I have also taken professional voiceover training to improve my read rate and this has helped with some of the complicated reading. The amazing Kim Handysides has created a curriculum for this, as I confess that in all my years at Columbia we did not do much reading aloud. In fact I can only recall one History seminar taught by the great, late Professor Yerushalmi where he had us read primary source documents aloud in class. Typically, we read on our own and analyzed together, so I find that on-going professional development is still essential in this area.

 

 

 

Running a Business

Here I am In Low Library for the Senior Awards ceremony in 1999 at at Commencement. On the top I’m with my sister Julie. In the bottom I’m with my husband Harlan (GS 96′). On the left I am with Professor Peter Juviler of blessed memory who was my thesis advisor. I am so grateful to have worked with him.

As a full-time working mom, I think credit my years at Barnard and Columbia with my ability to run my own business. In school we had a very challenging course load every semester, were involved in on-campus activities, and had off campus internships. I was juggling a lot of balls at a young age and I was not alone, I was surrounded by a campus of high-achievers and this was the norm. Those years of scheduling not just my classes, but carefully planning when I would write my papers, study for exams, work, volunteer, etc, well-prepared me for life as a working mom. I did not expect to sit on the steps eating burgers from the law school barbecues without a care in the world forever, I had a sense of urgency that I always had to be somewhere and that my time was limited. I feel that sense of urgency every day now and I am so thankful for the years I had inside the gates on 116th street. They are a part of who I am and I know that I am better for it.

Talking about it all at Sunday Brunch

My friends often remark about how much time my family spends together, but it is something I look forward to all week. Actually, when I travel for work, I have FOMO from being away from my family because we all have so much fun together and are so close. When I say my family is together, I am talking about me, my husband, our twins, my parents, my sister, my husband’s parents, my husband’s sister, and her family. That is a lot of people!  Our time together often involves lengthy conversations about where we should eat, and you can imagine with so much input it is hard to make everyone happy.

Anyway, last Sunday we were at a new South Orange hotspot opened by a well-known Brooklyn restauranteur called the Fox and the Falcon for our brunch. I was in my glory because I got to sit next to my four year old niece Emilia and she is quite precious.

As a small-business owner and professional voiceover actor, people in my family and in truth random acquaintances alike are always making “helpful”suggestions about potential clients I should pursue. So at brunch my dad said, in his heavy Philly accent, “Hey Laur, I was thinking. It would be really great if you could do a car commercial for Mercedes.”  Really dad? I am not a sarcastic person by nature, I am pretty much all rainbows and lollypops. But did he really think it never occurred to me that doing a television or radio commercial for a luxury brand like Mercedes would be a dream come true? Or that I did not already have such ambitions? There is only one way to make such voiceover dreams come true: to pursue them with all the ambition I have in me.

Delivering For Our Clients

The single most important thing to remember is that our clients have a dream. Perhaps vision or goal is more appropriate. They may have a personal career dream, but for the specific project we are supporting them with, they have a vision and it is up to us to bring that vision to life. Any voiceover actor who has had a live session recently can tell you that you will give multiple versions of the same line until your client hears what they need. They know what they are looking for and they want us to match what they have in their head. I have been told over and over that producers don’t know what they want but that is not my experience. We have to give them exactly what they want only better so that they are overjoyed when our session is over. We not only leave our clients feeling over joyed by providing amazing reads, but our studios must be broadcast ready and our sound has to be perfect. That is how we deliver their voiceover dreams.  We make it feel effortless to them so that they are delighted and thrilled and then we thank them for casting us. It’s that simple. We have to be a pleasure to work with and they have to have exactly what they need at the end of the session. So making our client’s dreams come true is entirely about the service that we provide for them.

 

How Do We Make Our VoiceOver Dreams Come True?

Making our voiceover dreams come true is a lot more complex! First, you must know what your dreams and ambitions are. The idea of “success” is far to vague. For me, I have always been extremely passionate about commercial work, so I cast a broad net in other areas of voiceover that were tangentially related, including radio imaging, promos, and telephony. That strategy has worked well for me. My dream is not just as vague as having consistent, sustainable income in this genre. Like my dad suggested, I do dream of specific clients and have been fortunate enough to work with them.

Roll Up our sleeves and work hard: Cold Calling and Cold Emailing

The only way to add new clients to our roster continually is to make cold calls and cold emails regularly. Yes you will have a lot of rejection, speak to a lot of morons who have no idea what you do, and feel like you are waisting a ton of time. But for the past year I have done countless phone messages for Whole Foods Markets. And guess what? That was the result of cold calling. I have been on Pandora Radio’s roster for several years. That was the result of cold emailing. I have more than 15 agents. All of them were from cold emails. Every day I typically email between 30 and 100 radio stations in hope of getting them to sign a retainer for ratio imaging. All of the stations I presently work with I have found this way, and with over 12,000 stations in the United States alone there are a lot to go after. It is imperative that you actively pursue your dream and if you are not willing to do this then you must question how dedicated and determined you really are.

LOTS of auditioning

Auditioning will also help your dreams come true. Whether they are for pay to plays, direct from clients, or for agents, this is your chance to showcase your abilities. I have heard other industry people say that the audition is the job and I could not agree more! You cannot audition too much and if you have a poor audition ratio than you likely need more coaching. Your auditions are a microcosm of your actual work, so you cannot fear auditions.

Sitting and waiting never helped anyone!

In any industry, have you ever heard of anyone who just sat home and waited for success to find them? That never works. In an industry filled with go getters and lots of legitimately talented folks, you must pursue your dreams with all of your ambition. Your dreams can come true, but they can only come true in voiceover with hard work, perseverance, and determination.