narration

An Opportunity for Jack

I’ll start out by saying that neither of my twins dream of becoming full time voice over actors like me. And though they do not share my dream, they support me in every way possible and are actually part of my small business team in integral ways this summer. In the past few weeks, one of my VO besties reached out and said that one of her regular clients needed 14-16 year old voices to do some eLearning narration, and my twins happen to be 16. So, they submitted demo reads. Again, it is not their life’s ambition, but in the summer of Covid-19 they realize that this is a great opportunity to learn and to do something that most kids never get a chance to do.

A script came in for Jack first. He was delighted. He booked his first paying eLearning voiceover gig, and he just needed a little coaching. I will point out a few things. Anyone who works in voice over knows that it is not really about the voice, although I happen to think he has a really nice one. My twins are both dyslexic. Reading fluently is not an easy thing for them. Jack also lacks the extensive coaching that I had that gave and continues to give me so much confidence every time I step up to the microphone. And that’s another thing, if you have never worked with a coach, you need to learn basic mic technique and basic Twisted Wave skills. I am pleased to say all of this came very naturally for Jack. I think much more than doing the actual voiceover, there are many life skills that kids get from having an opportunity to have a voice over gig.

Following Multi-Step Directions

Following multi-step directions is hard for many adults, and there are very specific directions unique to every voice over job. This booking was for sure an exercise in following multi-step directions for Jack. For Jack’s first booking:

  • He had a pace guide that he had to match.
  • He had a pronunciation guide for Mandarin names.
  • He was told to keep an upbeat, happy tone.

Jack also had a lengthy, four page script to narrate while keeping all this in mind for his first time in front of the mic. It’s a lot of balls to juggle for a seasoned pro, let alone a newbie.

How to Take Feedback

Taking feedback well is something important in many aspects of life, and as a working voice talent, taking feedback in a professional manner is part of the job. After Jack submitted his audio, within 48 hours we received a spreadsheet from the client with minor feedback. Jack had done great work. For four pages of audio, he had only four minor corrections. This is pretty incredible for anyone, and especially considering he is so untrained. I explained to Jack how feedback from client works and how important it is that they have what they need. I also explained that we, as talents, cannot get emotional about it, we simply record and send. As a student who is used to the writing process, this is familiar to him. He was able to go back in the booth and re-record. There was one line that was quite long and needed to be read with more fluidity and different intonation. I gave him direction on the line and instructed him on how to break it down. It sounded great. Learning to take feedback well is a really valuable lesson for kids in voice over.

Interacting Professionally

Maintaining a professional demeanor in the professional world is important. I remember meeting Michelle Sundholm’s sons Ashton and Everett at VO Atlanta in 2018.They were so polite and they were so composed. It is this exact behavior that I am talking about. For Jack, since his interaction was online, it meant several details. First, it meant performing his work in a timely manor. It meant taking pride in his performance and doing his best. It meant sending follow-ups and  hand written thank you notes, both to the client and to the friend who referred the opportunity to him. Jack had to carry himself the way the rest of us do, and he took pride in doing so.

How to Be Part of the Team

Doing all of the above is no small thing, and in doing so Jack took pride in being a part of this client’s team and of being part of the other VO’s team. He understood that they had a choice and that there were other kids who could have booked the gig. He did his best. He was kind and he let them know he was appreciative.

My Reflections

I think it is great that my son got this glimpse of what it is like to be in front of the microphone, to live in my world. As the kids have been working for me doing marketing and social media this summer, doing the actual voice work only helps to better understand what it is they are actually marketing. I also think that the tech skills are great for anyone. Lastly, we are living in an unusual time. Kids had to regroup and reshuffle their summer plans this year. Some people who are pursuing in voiceover audition and audition and never book. It is really great that in this odd time Jack got such an exciting opportunity and he is very thankful.

Why Did I Want to Present

Last fall, which seems like a lifetime ago given how much the world has changed during the current pandemic, I began researching upcoming eLearning conferences. I was actually hoping to find more conferences in my region. As a working mom with high school aged twins, flying across the country can sometimes be a challenge. I was overjoyed when I discovered the  ICELW conference was to be held at Columbia University in the city of New York, my beloved alma mater. I submitted a proposal to speak about “Best Practices to Bring Your eLearning Module To Life” from the perspective that academics and HR people who never thought they would have to work with professional voice actors like me suddenly find themselves in the position to cast and work with voice talents as professional narrators for their eLearning modules and projects. I addressed questions that they should ask every time they have a project, VO tech and why it matters, and pricing for voiceover, including where it should be and what the price indicates. My presentation went nicely and it meant a lot to be a part of the dialogue. I am very excited, however, to share some of the larger takeaways from the more scholarly presentations during the conference as I reflect on how they will shape both my work, my voice over bookings, and client interactions as the eLearning industry continues to progress.

Reimagining Learning

With an international audience and an enthusiastic crowd, there was a lot of discussion at the conference about how the advancing technology would enable content creators to re-imagine learning. David Guralnick from Kaleidoscope Learning and Columbia University talked about opportunities to use “technology to humanize learning” and went on to present a thrilling example combining AI and interactive technology. In this example, the student asked questions about Ancient Greece and the Acropolis and was able to create a scene where he was present in Ancient Greece having his questions answered. Particularly at a moment when students around the world are relying so heavily on on-line learning, this was thrilling and wonderful to see. The advantages of this were how realistic the scenario is and how clear the examples are. Clearly the new technology enables better communication of content. As a narrator, I have been working with more companies that create K-12 content in the last year, and I am sure such technology would be a huge asset to them.

Critical Thinking

As the technology available continues to improve and emerge, teaching and discussing critical thinking becomes more and more essential.  Antonella Poce from Rome Tre University presented about critical thinking and digital learning. This is an issue I discuss with my own children often. Dr. Poce spoke of the importance of discerning true from false. She talked about knowing what questions to ask. My ears lit up when she said this, as a major section of my presentation was dedicated to this as well. My experience in hearing clients’ pain points is that they often did not ask the right questions at the beginning of work and consequently hired the wrong voice over actor. In her session, Dr. Poce spoke of how many tweets during the recent pandemic have been propaganda from bots. She spoke of the importance of being “correctly informed” so that we have time to do deep readings and reflect on what we learn. In that sense, we should use technology, according to Dr. Poce, towards critical and deep thinking. She also spoke of cooperation, collaboration, and creativity. When I think about my role in this creative process, as both an academic who is now a narrator of this content, I think truly understanding the character we are voicing, and the roles we are playing, opens up the opportunity to really help the end user to engage with critical content.

Interactive and New Technologies

There were multiple sessions during the ICELW conference that addressed new technologies like AI, VR, and enhanced/mixed reality. I was riveted by these sessions as well. Someone brought up that when Steve Jobs designed the first iPod, he did not do a focus group, he just knew it would be a better device and he was creating the technology to drive a potential future experience. That is what a lot of the new experiential learning technology does. There is vast potential, the sky is the limit so to speak. Michelle Cortese, a VR Product Designer at Facebook and Professor at NYU gave a thrilling demonstration of work her students are doing. I was fascinated as a former educator, as a parent, and as a working creative. I could not help but see the intersection between technology and improv, something that so many of us in voice over spend so much of our time training in. The social behaviors that occur were fascinating, and unpredictable, and again as a working creative this made me think of improv which is not something that I typically connect to my eLearning work. Although, under further analysis, the point of studying improv, is that we are supposed to bring it with us into the booth so that our reads and takes on characters are fresh and exciting. What I found so fascinating about the sample that Michelle shared is that all of the content in the VR chat was user generated and is in the moment art. It is a vision and content that comes from the user. When so much of the learning content that we work with is contrived, this opens up a world of creative possibilities for end users. Fernando Salvetti also demonstrated work with enhanced/mixed reality and I was riveted. The possibilities that are simple and user friendly are true game changers. Having worked in eLearning for years, being exposed to such projects is eye opening.

The Bottom Line

As in so many projects I am a part of, the bottom line matters. Dr. Tim Brock of the ROI Institute talked about creating  a framework that balances needs and feasibility. The needs need to be defined at the beginning. This resonated with me a lot. Often voiceover is left off of the budget entirely, it’s an after thought. This was another area that I was addressing in my talk, the price of the voice over. When a company is looking at the ROI, the return on investment in the overall project, the voice over, and typically in eLearning we are talking about a narrator, needs to be a part of that calculation, from the start. As the technology continues to progress and is better and better, the voice over needs to be a part of the initial plan, not a lost minute add on. In Dr. Brock’s talk, he spoke of feasibility, and as the technology becomes more and more advanced, having an overall understanding for the get go of the feasibility certainly makes sense!

What Did I Love Most?

The ICELW conference was fantastic. This blog could have been much, much longer and I could have written about each session! I loved the sharing, enthusiastic vibe! I most loved that it was such a scholarly, international crowd. I have attended numerous eLearning conferences around the country and the talks at this conference really resonated with me. I very much look forward to keeping in touch with the others that I “met” and I hope to attend in person next year! Fingers crossed!

Hey… What’s the Best….

Last night we were out to dinner with my folks and my husband’s folks. We were at one of our favorite places, Dough, in Caldwell, NJ and it was particularly fun because we were at a big, square table. The kids were asking my dad stories about law school, and it doesn’t take much to get him going. But this is not uncommon, a lot of times people ask my dad about his “craziest case.” Or we’ll be out with a friend who’s a doctor and we’ll ask them about their wild cases and boy, without violating HIPAA, can they tell some unreal stories. So I never feel put on the spot when people ask me about my craziest job or my best recent casting. But in case you’re curious, here are some, and these are not in order of favorites, just how they came to mind:

WWII Foundation Narration

I was so excited when this project came in. I was actually sitting at the Encore hotel and Casino in Las Vegas where I was staying right before WoVo Con 19 started when Brian, the producer called me. Both of my grandfathers served in the Pacific Campaign in World War II. I went to graduate school for History. My son is at present obsessed with World War II History. So, what could be more fun than voicing a project that would help draw high school students in and educate them about such an important period in time? The script was so well-written and Brian was so easy to work with, which always makes projects better! Being cast in this meant so much to me on so many levels.

Climate Change Narration for PBS and Chrysler Museum

PBS WHROI always hate to overtly give away my age, but when I was a kid we did not have cable tv, we had the networks, PBS, and maybe two other channels. So, when they animation project came in for PBS, a channel I grew up glued to, as did my kids, my heart went all-aflutter! I think I was so enthusiastic both because it was PBS and because it addressed climate change, something I am so profoundly concerned about. It means a lot to me to have an opportunity to voice projects with an impact. I have also always loved taking my kids to museums too, so when I learned that this was tied in to the Chrysler Museum it was even better. In this animation, I used a kids voice. Like the WWII project, my goal was to draw kids in and keep them interested. As a working mom and a former educator, I feel like I bring all of this with my into the booth for these projects.  When I have an opportunity like this, I am left feeling instilled with hope that change will come.

UK Tampax Spot

As an American who grew up in a Philly suburb and resides in a New York suburb, I was cast by a London ad agency in a UK tampax spot for their UK tampax channel? How, you may ask? Well, my nephews have grown up in a posh sloan square neighborhood so I just had their little voices in my head when I auditioned and I guess that booked it! I cannot do a range of UK accents, I can specifically do central London as that is what I hear in my head. I can sometimes do slight cochney, but that’s it. Anyway, for this project we had a live session with a European creative team. It was not 10 minutes and done. I remember it going about 40 minutes, which is long for me. But the spot is cute and I am pleased with it. And since we all get out monthly visitor, we not have something that is relevant for girls and women, right? This was a fun one for sure!

 

IMRC Commercials

Well, who doesn’t love a good tv campaign? And when the hospital that you are voicing the campaign for is bought out by Cleveland Clinic, it gets even better! And when your Aunt and Uncle have a home in the viewing area? It feels like a home run! In truth, anytime I have an opportunity to work with clients on a repeat nature I am delighted, but I love doing campaigns because I enjoy the continuity. It is nice to have the project to look forward to, and I am always so sad when they end. I loved these spots and hope there are more down the line. I think these resonated with me so much because the real life stories they used were just so touching. Also, even though the hospital is based in Florida, the Alan, the producer, is a Jersey guy, and that just makes everything better.

Cosmo Prof Training

I may have been born in Philly, but I’ve been here 15 years and I’d say that’s long enough to call myself a Jersey girl- gel nails and supah blond hair and all! So, when an eLearning came my way that was all about training for hair products, let’s just say I didn’t have to act to sound upbeat and enthusiastic! I was so so excited to do this module for CosmoProf and Sally Beaty. From brushes to straighteners to curling irons, it’s like they had me in mind when they wrote the content!

Five Years of Passion

As a working mom, I have talked about how working as a full time, professional voice over actor suits me in countless ways. It seems like yesterday I was sitting at my kitchen island and I was watching a GVAA webinar on eLearning. J. Michael Collins, who I think I have mentioned a lot recently, was presenting the outstanding webinar. Everything he talked about resonated with me. It was not just the rates for eLearning that were appealing, it was that I had come to the voice over from the academic world, so for me I felt an instant connection to an industry that I did not know existed!

I decided during that webinar that I would to an eLearning demo with JMC and I can tell you that demo has paid for itself in

Me with talented coach and demo producer J. Michael Collins.

spades. While I have had many conversations with industry friends about how processed eLearning demos should be, and a lot of folks are confident that there should be little production, I am very pleased with my demo for several reasons. First, it showcases my range from warm, millennial to professional, confident, and knowledgeable traitor and will work across the genres of eLearning. Next, I think my personality shines through. Lastly, it is pleasant to listen to! As most of my booked work is proprietary content and cannot be shared on my website, it is really great to have something that I am happy to share!

I have focussed on building and maintaining solid client relationships in the many years that I have been doing eLearning. While I have been full-time in voiceover for five years, I have really developed the eLearning strand of my business since 2016. Some of my best clients, that I continue to do steady work for, I met face to face at conferences like ATD, Dev Learn, and smaller conferences put on by the eLearning Guild.  I also have worked with some wonderful clients that I connected with on LinkedIn. Regardless of the source of the business relationship, my approach s the same, I treat each client as if they are my most important client and all of my

Finding the right conference to meet your business goals can be tricky! I have a lot of success at the smaller conference. There may seem to be a lot of potential at large conferences like ATD and DevLearn, but it is often easier to find content creators at the smaller conferences.

success depends on them. The result has been great, and as a consequence recent eLearning clients include Walmart, PSEG, Ace Hardware, Victoria’s Secret, Sam’s Club, CosmoProf, Sally Beauty, Club Pilates, and more!

More Casting Trends!

So with all of this eLearning work, what trends have I noticed? A lot of clients are writing the scripts for “real” characters with specific voice and tone requests. These are not typical narrators. I am not Suzie from HR, I am playing a role in a scene. as a voice ACTOR, this is actually great fun for me! For example, in a recent project of Sally Beauty, they wanted to voice to be

With an eLearning client Alicia that I get to catch up with at conferences!

conversational, fun, and upbeat! It was no problem, the script was a joy! Last week I was doing a training module for Ace Hardware. I have been doing their work for a while, but this was very different. They really had a specific character in mind. Before recording the entire module, I sent three samples for approval to make sure we were on the same page and that my interpretation matched their vision. I had so much fun putting these samples together. I think that as the technology continues to improve, the content creators will push voiceover actors even further in our roles.

Rates are HIGHER

As a working mom, I am pleased that as the demand for solid voiceover for eLearning increases, the rates that voice actors are paid is also increasing. It is increasing in two ways. First, session fees continue to rise. While I have old clients that still are grandfathered in at their original rate, new clients book at the appropriate industry standard rates. Jobs are typically quoted per finished minute or per word, and there has been a huge jump. When I first started doing eLearning, I was happy to have a minimum session plus $18 per finished minute. Now I quote my session fee plus $35 per finished minute of audio. Frankly, because of the intrinsic value of the content we are providing these clients, I think these rates are right where they should be for corporate clients doing training. 

My Goals

I love doing eLearning projects. Any project is welcomed and makes me happy. As a true Jersey girl who spends a lot of time in my salon getting my hair and nails done, I was thrilled to do so much work for CosmoProf and hope more work in the cosmetic industry comes in. I also love travel, food, and dogs, so if the universe and voiceover gods shine down on me and send me work related to my passions I will be delighted!

Booking Work is Great, But Repeat Clients Are Event Better

Every time a job comes in for a voiceover actor it is a good day! Jobs for us come from many different sources, but it can be simplified by saying a job is either from a new client or from a repeat client. For me, about 70% of my work is from repeat business. I’m not sure how this compares to the rest of the industry, but I am delighted that folks keep coming back! When a new client sends me work, it is my hope that it is just the beginning of our work together and I do everything that I can to make them happy. So, what are some of the tips and tricks to keeping my voiceover clients coming back for more?

Case Study of Now Foods

I thought to best way to understand what works, is by doing a case study of  a client I have had the pleasure of working with a lot in the past year.  Let’s look at my work with NOW Foods. Above is just one of quite a few projects I have done for them. Initially I booked the gig from a cattle call audition on Voices123. A video production company hired me. I loved their team and the project went well. There were no revisions or pickups and they were great to work with. I followed up with a thank you not and that was that.

A few months later that same producer reached out and said the company wanted to work with me directly and asked if I minded. I said I was happy to do whatever was easy for them. To my delight the company reached out and I have had the opportunity to work with them several times. I have made it a point to be:

  • responsive
  • have fast turnarounds
  • friendly
  • appreciative of the work

I think the combination of all of these factors is critical to building lasting client relationships.

Quality of Work

Do a good job! Every job that you do must be outstanding. Whether the job pays a small amount or a small fortune, treat them all the same. You never know which client with the small job today will have a years worth of work tomorrow. Every bit of audio you send out should have the same audio quality: pristine. Do not ever cut corners with your equipment and software. At the end of the day, if does not matter how sweet you are, you are only as good as you sound and if you don’t sound great your clients will never be happy and they will never call again, even if you are the nicest person on the planet.

Relationship Building

You actually have to put effort into building relationships. Some folks in the industry are friendlier than others. I have made an effort to visit clients when I travel. For example, I had a chance to see a regular eLearning client at DevLearn in Las Vegas this past fall.  Since they are based in the MidWest, it meant so much to me to be able to catch up in person. I went to visit another client that I do regular narration work for when I went to Orlando for an eLearning Guild conference last year. I spend time talking to my clients, whether it is at the start of a guided session or during an actual phone call.  Put simply, if you don’t talk to them, you can’t possibly get to know them.

It has also helped me to get to know my clients by reading their “about” sections on their websites. These are often even more personal than what they might share on LinkedIn and I am often amazed by how much we have in common. For instance, it is not only amazing how many of my clients have dogs, but how many of them bring their dogs to work! This makes it so easy to genuinely connect with the people I work with. I also always send both follow up emails and follow up notes. I believe it is essential that your clients know how invested you are in their project and that you are there for them to the end!

Be A Talent they Can Count On…

If you want to be a client’s go to talent, then you need to be someone they know they can count on all the way through the project! Revisions, pickups, and turnaround time all matter! They matter a lot because we all know that folks make script changes. Their teams just change their minds. It has nothing to do with us, most of the time, it just happens. And then sometimes they have no flexibly and need those new recordings right away. So, if we want to make them happy, we will take care of all of this in a jiffy. We will do it with a smile, and we will make it easy for them. And when you are this “Angel of Voiceover,” i promise they will fall in love!

Sometimes you realize from the start of a project that you need to hire a professional voiceover  actor. But other times, the voiceover is an after thought and much of the budget for a project is almost gone. Then the production team realizes that they need a voiceover talent. They scramble to find someone who is willing to work within their meager budget. They may have very advanced technology, spent a ton on instructional design or graphics, but now this very essential element is overlooked! Let me flesh out why it is better to go back to your client and re-budget for voiceover than to look for a cheap voiceover actor. You will never be happy if you hire a low budget talent!

1.You want pristine audio quality and a cheap voiceover talent will not deliver that.

Why? Anyone who has invested thousands of dollars in their studio is someone who cares about quality. They understand that the quality of their equipment impacts the quality of the finished audio they produce and consequently would never settle for sub-standard rates. When I decided to work in voiceover full time, I had a custom studio built. I paid my contractor to coordinate with not one but with two audio engineers: George Whittam and Roy Yokelson. This way, the sound in my booth was designed from the start to be outstanding.

Over the years that I have been in business, I have made countless equipment upgrades. I now use a Neumann TLM 103 and an Avalon M5. I am confident that the combination of this microphone and this preamp give my clients pristine audio on every single job that I record. As some of my radio clients like the audio sent RAW, my sound quality is outstanding with these devices. Having made this investment in my business, I would never lower my standards by working with folks who under pay. I am so proud of the audio that I deliver, and as they are receiving audio completed in a broadcast-ready studio, the rates I charge reflect that.

2. You want a well-trained professional voiceover actor, and a well-trained talent will never accept cheap of low rates.

I always wonder if our clients think about this, but it takes a lot of training to go into voiceover successfully and most of us continue training and ongoing professional development. Top coaches start at $150 per hour and charge upwards from there. Imagine that for each demo we likely had upwards of 20 hours of coaching, and think about how many demos we all have on our websites! Those conversational, authentic, relatable reads that sound so natural? Well, believe it or not, we did not just wake up knowing how to do that!  And just like our equipment, after investing so much in coaching, our voiceover rates reflect the level of training we have had.

3.  You hire talents based on excellent demos, so why would someone spend thousands on their demo and then settle for cheap rates?

Our demos are our calling cards. There are trends in demos to be sure. For example, right now our first spot is supposed to be short. We are trying to show a change in emotion. Regardless of genre, the demos show case a variety of reads. This is true across the board. In voiceover, different demo producers are sought after depending on the genre. They typically charge well over $1800 per demo. Again, in order to thrive in voiceover, we all have multiple demos. So, if we are willing to invest that much money in ourselves, we need to book jobs that will enable us to build a sustainable income. We are not looking for a race to the bottom.

4. You want to work with a team player who maintains industry standards, and a cheap voiceover actor undermines the entire system.

Voiceover actors typically work alone, all day, in padded foam booths at home. Most of us are super friendly folks who are eager to be a part of your team! We are looking to build long term relationships and work with you over and over again:) But guess what, we are also part of another team: the voiceover community! And the voiceover world is pretty close knit and supportive! We are in constant contact through social media and we talk about rates all the time. We help each other sort out tricky situations and we share rate guides. Just as you want to hire team players in your office, you want someone with that mentality as your voiceover talent too! You would never want to work with someone who is willing to throw their industry friends under the bus for a quick $50, right? Wouldn’t that make you suspicious? Instead you want the talent who shares the professional rate guide and explains what their standard rates are based on.

Best of luck to you in your voiceover endeavors!

Just a Philly Girl…

Everyone knows there is only one type of Eagles fan. Growing up in Philadelphia, I remember dreading the ride home from Sunday school every week. It did not matter whose dad was driving carpool, we would be listening to the Buddy Ryan Show the entire ride which was upwards of 30 minutes. My friend Candace can tell you those rides felt like an eternity. Football was a major part of my childhood, but I do not recall in those years ever hearing women voices as part of the dialogue. I also was not taken to games or included in the pre-or post-game banter. It all kind of happened around me. Still, I felt and continue to feel tremendous pride and spirit for our teams. How can you not when there are so many game day rituals?

Now, years later, I am married to a New Yorker (gasp) who is such a sports aficionado that he will have sports on the computer while he has sports on tv on mute while listening to sports on the radio. Harlan seems to love to watch videos on youtube and ESPN footage of old great plays talking about why they were amazing. Again, All. Male. Voices. So…. Let’s spice things up and try this…

Connected Female Narrator

The music is the same. The footage is the same. The content remains EXACTLY the same. The vocal quality is attached, connected, emotive, strong, confident, proud. But there is one major contrast. The voice of the professional voiceover is now a conversational, millennial narrator. Tradition aside, with more women who audition, the more women are likely to get these roles. But it is not just about numbers. When voiceover jobs are posted, often male narrators are sought for specific roles. Or, when both male and female voices are considered, if there is one female voice and ten male voices, the odds still favor a male narrator. As Britni de la Critiz from the Ringer explains, “women need to have champions in order to succeed in these roles.” With women like Randy Thomas announcing ABC news Nightline for the first time, hope for professional voiceover actors is on the horizon. For the first time ever, Amazon rolled out some all-female football casters.  This is certainly a step in the right direction.

The Winds of Change

Still, it is clear that multiple changes need to happen for women to be considered for these typically male dominated roles. First, those doing casting need to be willing to cast a broad net and listen to auditions from a wider range.  Next, voiceover talents have to be bold and be willing to shake things up when submitting their reads. We cannot be afraid to standout, we must be eager to shine and be heard so that our addition stands apart from the others. Our vocal quality can be nothing short of outstanding so that those castings are just choosing the best read. Perhaps if the casting agent hears 100 reads one way and you zag you get cast.

The Main Event:  Super Bowl Sunday

As a professional voiceover actor, some of us are lucky enough to have a super bowl spot air. There are also related spots on the radio, as YouTube bumpers, and in the days following the big game. But, we all know that across America, come came day, in homes across the country family not only watch the came with eager anticipation, they watch the much anticipated Super Bowl commercials!  What is the viewing audience looking for? Often we want a pang of emotion. A shocking plot twist. A good laugh. A thrill.  Is this beginning to make you think of what we go after in our voiceover demos? Hmmm… See, for a professional voiceover actor, every single day we try to bring out the best in the scripts that we are given, but on this day, the day of all days, these commercial spots are truly incredible. And for the voiceover talents who have been smiled upon by the casting gods and are lucky enough to have some part in the quintessential American holiday we all love, their creativity can flourish.

I don’t know where you will be this Super Bowl Sunday, but I will be in my house surrounded by my family and wonderful neighbors. Even though my beloved birds did not make it this year, every year we host a great party. We have lots of delicious food, a lot of our friends, and our family. And as a girl whose Sundays have revolved around football for more winter’s than I’d like to admit, I can say with certainty that as much attention will be paid to the commercial viewing as to the game next Sunday.

It is my hope that if I revisit this topic in a few years there are a lot more women involved in all levels of sports casting and narrating such videos on a regular basis! If the Eagles can make it to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t seem like such a long shot…

from ipDTL to Source Connect and Everything in Between, Laura Schreiber Talks about her preferences

So You Want to Direct Me…

The answer always is, and should always be, great!  I always want to make my clients very happy, and this is just another opportunity to do so! As a full-time, professional voiceover actor, I have been set up to provide my clients with live/guided/directed sessions since I opened shop. One of my coaches used ipDTL for every session, so I felt very comfortable on that platform from the very start. I remember my first directed session like it was yesterday! It was a video game session with a German director. He wanted to use skype and their were 3 others on the other end giving me feedback. I loved working with them because I was able to give them specifically what they needed and wanted from the character that I was playing, a teenage badass called Jes, in the moment they needed it! There was no need for revisions because when the live session ended they had every line just as the wanted it. I put so much energy into each take and gave them multiple options. Having feedback as I recorded was so valuable.  I was not nervous, I loved every minute. Another advantage of live sessions is that it is much easier to get to know your clients and build relationships with them when you actually work directly with their team. I learned that early on too. While you can certainly get to know clients from back and forth emails, there is nothing like actually speaking to them and working with them to make them happy. Guided sessions are fantastic and that is why I offer so many options to accommodate my clients!

ipDTL and the ISDN Bridge

I love using ipDTL. As I mentioned earlier, I started using it during my coaching many years ago and loved the clear connection and the ease of use. As I try to be a client centered service provider who makes everything as easy as possible for the folks I work with, I like that this as a service that I provide my clients free of charge for them. I simply send them a link and we are ready to go. I have never had issues with my ipDTL connection and my clients always comment on what a clear connection it is. Here is a brief video where I show how user friendly it is: 

I also have a direct ISDN line with my own Los Angeles phone number through an ipDTL bridge. Several of my agents said they would not sign me without an ISDN line, so this was the easiest way to solve that challenge as Verizon stopped installing new ISDN lines in the winter of 2015.  I have been pleased with this as well although I have had some hiccups with the ISDN service. The owner/founder of ipDTL looked into it and found no problems with my line, so I was left befuddled.

I do also like the ipDTL facebook group. It has helped answer a lot of questions over the years! It is free and a great asset for those of us who use ipDTL often.

Source Connect

To be totally transparent, I actually signed up for Source Connect in a state of total hysteria when my ISDN would not work and I needed to connect with a studio in LA for a big commercial at that moment! Thank goodness it was up and running quickly and Source Connect saved the day. I did not initially find it as user friendly as ipDTL and needed a lot of directions and help from others. Since installing Source Connect, quite a few producers have wanted to use it which is great. The connection is extremely clear and it is also easy to use, once you know what to look for!

Skype

It seems that a lot of my overseas clients still want to use Skype. Skype is fine. It is not great, it is fine. There can be a frustrating latency issue, or lag. I also find that there can be a lot of hiccups when there are software updates. It makes me nervous to use Skype in lieu of ipDTL of Source Connect, but when a client strongly prefers this I will always accommodate.  Perhaps when they are comfortable with the format this drives their preference.

Speaker Phone

I have had a handful of clients demand to use the speaker phone in my booth! My mobile phone does not work in my studio as it is so sound proof it blocks the signal. I do have a land line there instead and I can use this upon request.  This is the worst option as it does not go through my pre-amp and microphone, so clients cannot hear the actual audio quality and sound. There are nuances to the recording that they will totally miss. Again, if the client is most comfortable like this I will oblige.

Sum Up

Over the years I have had a chance to do countless guided sessions.  Across genres, for all sorts of projects, I have had clients direct me for everything. While most commonly they are used for commercial sessions, I had one helluva narration session where the client was paying for an hour and she intended to use every minute of it! Boy did she have me jump through hoops, it was somewhat shocking! Whether it is for commercials, narration, IVR, video games, or promos, there is one thing in common: every session should end with a very happy client!

Between Generations…

When I was in high school, a movie that was supposed to epitomize our generation, Generation X, came out. “Reality Bites” was supposed to be about us. The problem, which my sister and I have discussed at length, is that we just miss being Gen-xers and we just miss being millennials. How much of a problem this is I’m not sure, but I loved the drama of reality bites and wondered why my life was so lacking of such problems. As a teen, I thought this was clearly because I was really not a Gen- xer, not understanding at the time that it was Gen-X in Hollywood.

But what I now appreciate is that being born in between periods gives me an advantage, I hope. I easily identify with and relate to people a little older and a little younger, finding a lot in common with both, and this is essential in helping be the voice of a brand. As a full time, professional voiceover actor who does a lot of commercial work on tv, radio, and internet, I want to make sure that I deliver what my client wants: an advertising package that is memorable!

Get their attention

When my sister and I used to get in and out of taxis in college in NYC, somehow we often said hello and greeted our driver in unison. This in turn would call attention to our high and youthful voices which were then typically commented on. I never minded, especially since it has now turned into a career. That was the beginning of getting their attention. You want to pick a voice to represent your brand that people associate with it in a positive way.  When I do youtube videos for the New Jersey lottery, and I get to say the famous tag line “Anything can happen in Jersey,” this is my chance to give my spin on the brand. I imagine being the girl at the party or in the casino that is so fabulous that everyone wants to be with her, the life of the party that no one can resist, and that is the sound I project. As the voiceover talent, it is our job to self direct and coordinate with our clients to create the right image for that brand.

Keep their attention

Casting the right voiceover actor allows you to get brand recognition.  Using the same voice for a campaign instead of hiring talents for one-offs allows them to get to know the brand. This brand recognition helps you carefully define the relationship you want your clients to have. This can happen very commonly with on-camera talents, but it happens quite a lot in voiceover as well. For example, I have been working on an on going campaign for a hospital in Florida. It is very important that all of the reads for these local tv spots be the same: warm, comforting, trust worthy, and reliable. That voice is now associated with the brand. When I work with the producer, the only direction he needs t give me at this point is how to pronounce the different names in the spots, because we need to maintain consistency for each commercial. The viewers in that area recognize what the ad is for as soon as they hear my voice, and that is brand recognition.

Stay Current

Choosing the right voice will not only enable you to draw in your dream clients, but it will help you reach across generations from millennials to baby boomers. Why have major brands like Cadillac chosen a millennial female voice for their national tv campaigns recently? Because they know this voice reaches across generations and has universal appeal. The millennial, conversational read is the sought after commercial read of the moment, where it sounds like you are the girl-next-door talking to a friend. If you want to reach your dream clients and keep them listening this is who you need to cast for voiceovers.

Maintaining Relationships

If you want to maintain a lasting relationship with your clients, then you need to cast a voiceover talent who will work hard to maintain a relationship with you! In order to have brand continuity, a professional voiceover talent who can truly deliver will work hard to get to know what you are looking for during the duration of a campaign to bring out all of the nuances of your brand. She will work hard to deliver the best quality audio and let you know that you can rely on her repeatedly. And in the end you will be proud that you chose so well. You want new. You want fresh. But at the end of the day you also want reliable.

It’s not about the voice…

The voiceover is never about the voice. There are so many of us out there who can do the same job, and there are a lot of talented folks. And it is not even about the studio, because we do all have different studios that give you different finished audio. It is about the result of the voiceover that we leave you with, the impact it has on your brand and on your marketing. You need a talent who understands that!

Laura Schreiber Voiceover Actor walking her dog! Come On, Just One Line

I was walking my dog and ran into one of my friendly neighbors working on her flowers. She asked me how my “whole voiceover thing” was going. Then she did what commonly happens. Krista said, “Can you just do one of your lines from a recent job?” This actually happens all the time, at dinner parties, doctor’s appointments, temple- folks ask to hear my work. They want it live, unscripted, in the moment. This is funny for several reasons. While I have been trained in improv, that is not typically part of what I do, especially in most of my commercial work. A very small percentage of both my auditions and my actual bookings ask for a voiceover actor who can improv. Next, all of my work is done with a script. I seldom memorize the script. There are often in-session script changes that require me to mark the script with the new lines as I go. So these impromptu performances? Well, they do not represent my actual work. But, it does get at the heart of what is really being asked: that folks I run into understand that I have found my passion in an exciting industry and I have the fortune of booking a lot of commercial work as a full-time, professional voiceover actor. I have found such joy in the 15, 30, and 60 second commercial spots full of emotional twists and plot turns and voiceover for commercial are my thang.

On the radio, ohhh on the radio

Since I started in voiceover, I have booked a lot of voiceover commercials. Perhaps this is because I am super expressive and radio is so different than tv. Without the visual for the listener to understand, as the commercial voiceover actor, all of the story is in the voice. The change for discontent to the solution to one’s problem, the shift from happy to vulnerable, it all has to be audible, and I eat those scripts up. From Am to FM to satellite to Pandora to Spotify, I enjoy all sort of commercial spots. Even the tags are fulfilling to me! I particularly love those fast-paced disclaimers that come at the end of ads. Whether it is a 15 second spot or a 60 second spot, I very much enjoy working on the script and figuring out what I am saying and why I am saying it. I get so much out of these commercial reads.

My Uncle Heard Me…..

Whether it is a one off or a campaign, local, regional, or national, I still get so excited to book television commercials at all levels! I have had the fortune to book a few campaigns in Florida where my Aunt Jody and Uncle Mark live, and they have seen the spots run which is extremely fulfilling to me. Often friends and family will comment that I don’t sound like myslef, or that they did not recognize me when I am on tv. I’m not sure if that is a compliment or not, but I am super happy and bubbly in my daily life, and not all scripts are written that way, so as a voiceover actor it is my job to play the role that I am playing in each commercial. I typically have a warm, conversational tone and I try to make each spot sound believable and sincere. As a professional voiceover actor in commercials, it is my job to bring the client their vision for the script and offer different options for the read. There are typically so many right ways to do it each time. I am so happy to be cast in each commercial, as long as the client is happy in the end that is all that matters.

Hello Again:)

In both radio and tv commercials, my greatest joy as a voiceover actor is the opportunity to work with clients again. Whether it is a producer or casting director, I love working with the same folks again and again. This does not mean I assume what they want or need on a project. But, I am always delighted that they are pleased enough with my work to use my voice for another commercial. Whether these clients needed guided sessions via ipDTL, Source Connect, or ISDN; or, they had me record and submit the work independently, their repeat use of me means they were happy and I more than met their needs. I am going for over joyed every single time I deliver the audio.

Staying in the Game

So, in this ever changing industry, with so many great talents going after the same gigs every day, how do I keep up? I believe the answer lies with on-going professional development. Just as doctors and lawyers must, so do professional voiceover actors.  I work with private coaches and I go to conferences. Often some of the rosters that I am on also bring in coaches who are top in our field to train us. I take advantage of all of these opportunities so that I have the confidence to know that every day I am bringing the best I can into my commercial reads.