auditions

My Chat With Liz…

So last night I was chatting with one of my besties who is not in voice over, Liz. Liz is one of those amazing geniuses and every conversation could go on forever because she is a goddess of her own life. A phd in chemical engineering, she is one of the most grounded people I have ever met despite her super important job at a pharmaceutical company. We were initially chatting about Unorthodox which I just finished watching on Netflix, and then the conversation shifted to work. She had hoped that my work would be positively impacted by the pandemic, and then I think Liz got an earful that she did not really want about my experience as a working creative during the Covid-19 pandemic.

My Bookings…

What I explained to Liz, and what is interesting, is that during the Pandemic I continue to book what I have always booked, there is just less of it. So what am I still booking? Commercials, eLearning, and telephony/IVR. For me, the amount of jobs I typically have in a day or even half a day on some weeks I am having total in a week. I am thankful for every single booking, but the volume of booked work for me during the pandemic has gone down. Typically, I do a lot of radio commercials. The commercials I have booked this month have been radio commercials. They have been from steady clients who continue to send work. Some are for clients here and some have been for clients abroad, as far as New Zealand. 

In terms of eLearning work, again, this is for clients that I had before the pandemic started. They needed me for specific work and we had live sessions booked via source connect. They were not canceled and I was very thankful.

The IVR work that I have had come in, believe it or not, has not been covid specific! This shocked me. It was just companies that needed messages. I gather some companies do not want to invest in temporary phone systems. I would not have predicted this, but this has been the case in the past two weeks.

My Auditions….

There have been some big differences in auditions so I think I should go point by point:

  • Quantity: On the pay to plays that I am on there are significantly fewer auditions. I continue to get a lot of private invitations and I am thankful for that, but in terms of daily numbers of postings, there is dramatically less. There also seem to be a lot of other talents submitting right away. On Friday, for example, I got an invitation for a job that wanted 10 auditions. My kids were off from school last week. Not remote learning, just on Spring Break, so I was giving them lunch. I waited about 40 minutes to submit, which is not so long. By the time I submitted there were already 32 submissions for the listing that wanted 10!
  • Rush Required: I see a lot of jobs, both from agents and on pay to plays, with RUSH in the specs. The turn arounds are very fast and they need availability to record in a very short window. I do not know if expectations have shifted as they know we cannot go anywhere, but I gather a lot of new content is needed and the clients are genuinely in a hurry to put out relevant content that makes sense in light of all that has changed, and the producers just need to accommodate the clients.
  • Source Connect Required: More than any other time in the past 5 years, I have seen Source Connect required when jobs are posted. I am seeing requests specifically for Source Connect more than Zoom, Skype, ISDN, or ipDTL. A lot of specs tell talent not to audition if they do not have the professional, paid for version of Source Connect up and running already.
  • Agent Specs Are Changing: Agent specs are becoming more specific than ever before and there is a sense of no-messing around. All of the above is true of the listings that agents are sending out, and some agents are sending out job listings before they even know the rates. Listings the previously would have been LA only are now open to those of us with Source Connect. Things are shifting…

Feelings About Supporting the Community…

In general it feels like everyone is being very kind and supportive. It feels like it is a time when a lot of people are looking to reconnect. Still, I have gotten my fair share of inquiries from those new to the industry or those looking to move into voice over now. When I started in VO, I never expected free advice, and this does not seem like the time for free advice. After years of working hard to build my business and coming up with clever and innovative ways to get on rosters, with no shortcuts, I find it frustrating when those who have been curious about voiceover for five minutes feel entitled to what the rest of us came by through hard work. This is not the time to expect the keys to the castle for free. I do feel that there is a profound difference between networking and keeping in touch and crossing a line. Let’s all use this time to lift each other up, make the community stronger, and help those in our network already who need it.

Real Age Vs. Vocal Age

Ok, so I am at the point in my life when I cringe when I have to reveal on print, or anywhere else for that matter, my real age. I feel as energetic as I did years ago, and in my mind I do not age those around me. But to help you place my age, I am old enough to have twins turning 17 this summer. Soooo… I am fortunate to sound younger than I am since millennial voices are highly sought after at the moment. My vocal age, then, differs greatly from my real age. How does this effect me? Greatly! I am sent, audition for, and book work that is NOT based on my real age but is booked on my vocal range.

Here are some examples, an adult voice:

A kid voice:

Auditioning

I pay close attention to the desired vocal range when auditioning. My sweet spot tents to be the 17-22 or 18-35 category. When they ask for the conversational, millennial read little fire works go off in my head as that is my sweet spot. When they want the girl-next-door who sounds like she is on the couch talking to her best friend, that is me. When they want someone with gravitas and rasp, that is not me.  Why does it matter that you know how you sound? Why waste the listeners time? And when you only have precious time to audition and submit, why not maximize your own time submitting for what you are most likely to book.  Although I can do a character granny voice, if there is a commercial casing wanting a senior female I would never submit. They are not looking for me and there are talented folks in the senior vocal range with a more mature voice who will offer the sound they want in those spots. In those moments I simply move on to the next read.

Demos

Your demos need to show your range within your age range. Your demos also need to be tagged in a user friendly way, especially on pay to plays, so that clients can find what they need. If you sound young, and your demo is comprised of demo spots, then make sure that you actually have spots that would hire someone in your vocal range. No one wants my voice selling adult diapers, hemorrhoid cream, or talking about retirement communities, right? There is a reason I do fitness campaigns and brands like Kind Bar and Dove. I sound young and upbeat, and I market myself directly for brands that want this kind of fun, sassy, playful sound. A funeral home is probably not looking for my happy, bright voice. Although, interestingly I did do a narration for a women’s shelter who wanted someone who sounded happy and reassuring.

Bookings

This blog actually came to mind because last week I booked a character job where I played both a mom and a kid in the same job. How? Well with training and years of practice I do a lot of work in kids practice. And the bottom of my voice, and yes I have a bottom, is my mom voice. So if you understand how to use your voice, you can offer this  kind of versatility to your clients. I have had this opportunity, as have many of my industry friends, where we are cast in multiple roles in the same job. It can happen in eLearning, commercials, video games, cartoons…And it is about understanding how to use your voice. It is also about understanding the role you are playing, the nuances of the role, and how the characters relate to each other.

Your vocal age is often not your chronological age. I do a lot of work for Pandora, and typically the range they send me is 17-22.  That is my natural range. When I work out of that range, I have to understand specifically what the client is looking for, and I have to be able to match it for pickups and revisions. It is much easier for me to sound older late in the day. When I book work, I typically note on the script and in my notes in my CRM when I recorded the job, so if there are changes later I am best able to accommodate the vocal age.

Conclusions

You need to understand your voice. You need  to understand how others perceive your voice. Without a strong vocal awareness you will be limited in what you book and what you can provide your clients. In character work you have a chance to shine and to play and to test your limits. While we are acting, to be sure, some genres lend themselves more to being creative and submitting outside the box. Be aware for the sake of your time and of others.’

The Audition is the Job

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, we all know that the audition is the job. Whether auditioning for an agent, for a pay to play, or directly for a client, booking is based entirely on how good our audition read is. Sure, people who have connections can get doors to open but, ultimately, voiceover is a tough industry with a lot of really talented actors and your auditions have to be really good to stand out against the crowd. Often, hundreds of people will even submit for jobs with minimal pay, so when you are going after the coveted commercial gigs, you really need to wow your clients.  It’s nice if you ask for feedback; but, ultimately, if the listener does not hear what they want in the first four seconds, you will not book that job. That’s it. As someone who has done more commercials than I can count, you need to nail your audition reads. You have to stand out in the beginning. If there is nothing unique about your read, yoo will not book. So here are some things that I think about for commercial reads:

Who is the Client?

Both the person casting and the end client matter. If the client is a well known luxury brand asking for a sophisticated voice and the person casting is an established ad agency with an abundance of options who has asked for a young adult voice, do not go in with your most sultry Kathleen Turner sound hoping to stand out. They want what they want. And when they want sophisticated luxury, don’t give them bubbly and upbeat. I also DO read the specs. I have had people tell me not to read them. Why on earth would you not read something that the person casting the job has spent time writing? I actually stopped working with a well-respected Los Angeles coach again after that person advised me no to do this. I thought it was not a good idea. In this scenario, they are the boss and we are the potential hire. Sometimes the clients ask for two reads and want very different takes in each read. If you don’t read the specs, you won’t know. Now, we all know that sometimes there is a great disparity between what books a job and the end result, so give them the read that books and do not worry about the end result until after you have booked.

Microphone Technique Matters SO MUCH!

There are so many good microphones, and most good microphones are very sensitive. I have a Neumann TLM 103, and the

In this pic you can really see the back side of my Neumann TLM 103, but the position in my booth matters so much! I cannot move it from that side to the other or the sound and audio quality completely changes. In my reads, proximity to the mic also matters a lot!

placement of my mic in my booth matters a lot. My proximity to the mic matters. I have learned that my proximity can be used to evoke very different moods and create a sense of closeness and intimacy. I also have learned that I have to be careful not to fidget during a read, because shifting from side to side will cause irregularities in sound and my mic with pic it all up! A good coach teaches this technique. A good talent listens to their work before they submit. Make sure you listen to your recording and you can hear these subtleties. It would be such a shame to nail the read but lose out because your audio quality is less than pristine. Audio quality is everything, and you are only as good as you sound in this business. If you want your commercial auditions to book, they must sound excellent.

Sometimes the client Just Wants Good Samples- SO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT!

Four times this week I was emailed for jobs that either wanted very specific demos or samples of work I had done in a specific genre. All were new clients. This is awesome! Either you paid to produce a demo that showcases your best abilities, or you booked a spot because you killed it! Either way it’s a win, so respond immediately before someone else does and show this new client exactly why you are the right one for the job! I keep a lot of such samples accessible via drop box, so that even if I am out and about, I can get them right to a client and they do not have to wait. More importantly, their end person does not have to wait!

Lastly, I want to broaden your thinking of what an audition is. Anytime you put yourself and your voice or samples in front of a client that is an audition opportunity! A phone call, and of course a cold call, gives a client a chance to hear you. A direct email to someone you have met with your demo likewise gives a client a chance to hear you. Meeting someone at a conference or a networking event and talking about why your service is different from that of other voice actors is an in-person audition: you have their undivided attention, they hear your voice, and you are speaking! An audition is not just a read with a script or a demo submitted. Always be prepared with you 30 second elevator shpiel and be proud of who you are and what you do. Sparkle!

What We’re Told

Professional Voice Over Actor Laura Schreiber in her booth

Years ago when I started auditioning, I was told a few things about auditioning that stuck with me. First, I was told that that audition is the job. I have heard this over and over and it’s true. We have precious seconds to set ourselves apart and catch their attention or the gig is lost.  Next, I was told once I submit my audition never to think of it again. Fred Frees, one of my beloved coaches, said it’s like flushing the toilet. We submit, click, and  it’s gone.

The Reality

The reality is that some auditions are easier to forget than others. It also depends on how many auditions a voice over actor is doing in a day. If you only do a handful of reads, each audition could, in theory, weigh on you more. For me, on a typical day, I submit between 20 and 40 auditions. When I’m really ambitious or there is a lot out maybe I’ll do 50. I have a pretty solid booking ratio on pay to plays, so I have gotten pretty good at not fixating on auditions. Like most professional talents, I also track the amount of reads I submit to what I book and this keeps me aware of what I am doing relative to others in the industry.

I will tell you though, that even with all of these reads, some auditions just seem like the were written for me. And those are the ones that I fixate on. Those are the ones that I check to see if they have been listened to. I hope to be short listed for “these” special few. I seem to keep those top of mind even when I know, after all of these years, that I should just be moving forward.

Last week I was called into a studio in New York to read for a project. I was already short listed when I went in. I knew that only a few others had my sound. I made the final cut. I will confess that I have been fixating on this audition. I have discussed it with the gals in my accountability group. They, too, have had this happen. They are short listed for projects, held on avail, and think that they are perfect. Sometimes the casting g-ds shine down on us, sometimes they do not. The fixating cannot make it so. All the meditating in the world has not sent the casting my way yet.

The Other Girl

The other night as I was falling asleep and fixating on this casting, I had a thought that put my mind at ease. My revelation was of the other girl. The other girl who got the email or voicemail or actual call that she got the booking. That she must have had such joy and been so delighted. I know that joy as I have been fortunate enough to experience it so many times over the years. In a job field where we either book or we don’t, the way to survive is not to think about the rejection but to basque in the joy of every single casting. Each booking matters. A lot. And knowing that someone out there got that joy, and in this case we are talking major joy, gave me solace.

Connecting the Dots

In voice over, as our careers progress, we build strong bonds with like minded talents who are also striving to reach similar goals. We typically support each other. One year, I was short listed for several jobs and put on hold for them, and ultimately the casting went to another gal, not once but twice. Well I met the other gal at VO Atlanta! I was delighted to chat with her and she could not

Andi Gibson Stal is lovely and a brilliant talent. Clients chose Andi for a Target campaign we were both up for and she did great work for them!

be more lovely.  I recently had a great Zoom chat with another talent who has a very similar business model to mine. I get the feeling we share more than goals, I think we share a work ethic and clients too.

I find the other women in my business to be a constant source of both motivation and support. Voice over is different that other fields because our network really does become like a family. When we visit each other we stay at each other’s homes. We share holidays and are there in good times and bad. So pulling long and hard on this thread of the casting has made me think about what I am unraveling. I may not get this campaign, and the more time that goes by, that seems to be the case, but knowing that one of these other great gals did, makes me feel better. And in the mean time, I’ll just me taking a long, hot shower, and belting out “Let it Go” over, and over, and over until I really do!

The possibilities are limited only by our imagination and determination, and not by physics.” ~ Mike Duke, PhD, NASA Geologist

THE question:

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, I get a lot of questions; but, the one I seem to get the most, is “So, how many hours would you say you work now?” Somehow saying that it’s a full time job has net been a clue. So, what I gather is that folks can’t imagine is how the work of a creative can fill an entire day, or perhaps weeks and years on end. Given the opportunity, I will happily, and enthusiastically elaborate and tell you what days are like for a working voiceover talent.

The Home Studio

Like most voice over actors, I have a professional home studio. This gives me the ability to accommodate clients in different time zones, not just in the Unites States, but abroad as well. I love getting started early, because I feel like I have gotten a lot done in a day. In truth a lot of my steady clients are on the West Coast, so I often go back down to record jobs that come in late after dinner as well.

Daily Tasks

The amount of booked work I have shapes my day. I typically record all booked work before doing anything else. If a big audition comes in, I will pause a job and record and submit that. While I record, I hydrate continually. I drink water all day long. I limit myself to one coffee a day. Once I am done recording actually bookings, my day is divided between auditions, client outreach emails, LinkIn follow ups, and general marketing tasks. I do try to do 20-40 auditions a day, and they come in from clients, Pay to Plays, and agents around the country. If a booking comes in mid-day, I stop what I am doing and record. For bigger jobs I typically have advance notice. For example, I did 20 videos on Thursday, but I new about them about 2 weeks in advance so that I could book out the day on my calendar. I do I lot of commercials and have a lot of RUSH work as well. I am always happy to do rush jobs. I understand when folks have deadlines, and I never mind getting audio right back to clients. Often when more booked work comes in, time on LinkedIn or for marketing takes a back seat. I tend to keep up with my client correspondence as that is very important to me!

Mom Life

It seems the more I get into a rhythm with my business, the less I feel in control of life at home. When my twins were small, they had all of my focus and attention. I was with them full time and I could spend all of my energy thinking about meals and school and their clothing. Now I worry a lot about their school work since they are in high school. But, our house is not as organized as it was. Our dinners are not planned. I often scramble to make lunches before taking them to the train in the morning. I am so so so thankful that the groceries can be delivered or I am not sure we would ever have any. 

Another issue is that because I am a small business owner, even when I am driving my kids to sports or taking them to the doctor, I am still thinking about my work and checking for client emails. I can’t ever completely detach because there is no one else to man the fort. Since I am the business, if I disconnect, it ends. I find it challenging to find the right balance between savoring this precious time with my children, which goes entirely too fast, and catching the momentum of my business which I have worked so hard to build.

I do remind myself that my kids are learning from see me running a business at home. They see me working not just at nights but on weekends. They hear client calls. They get to hear and see my actual work. This all cushions the blow. So the house may not be perfectly tidy when the family comes for a visit. And we may have to get takeout more than we had planned. And I may often forget to go back out and put the cover on the grill. 

My hope is that while friends that we meet for dinner may have natural questions about what it’s like to be a full-time working creative, my kids, the people who matter most to me in this world, will not have any questions because they see everything. I also try to talk to them about all of the issues that I grapple with and pose thought provoking questions.

So, I can tell you with certainty that a working voice talent has plenty to keep them busy! Odds are their more than 40 hour work week blows by and they have a hard time figuring out where the time has gone!