By Stephanie Ciccarelli
June 4, 2007
Enjoy a Q&A period at the Voice Coaches Advanced Marketing Expo!
Learn from industry experts Jim Sciancalepore, Heather Frenz, Bob Souer, David Ciccarelli, Billy Serow, Evan Farmer, and David Bourgeois.
Moderating the discussion was Voice Coaches Marketing Director, Warren Garling.
This aspect of the Voice Coaches Advanced Marketing Expo was definitely something that I looked forward to.
To wrap up the day, Voice Coaches Client Services Director Don Bowers introduced all of the experts on the panel, including Jim Sciancalepore, Heather Frenz, Bob Souer, David Ciccarelli, Billy Serow, Evan Farmer, and David Bourgeois.
Warren Garling, Voice Coaches Marketing Director, asked the first question of celebrity guest Evan Farmer from the hit TLC show "While You Were Out" and the new HGTV program "Freestyle".
I've included the thoughts of each panelist below, including some parting advice towards the end of this article from each expert.
Evan Farmer on VO on While You Were Out: The specifics of voice over in narrating for a television series is very different from the process of acting. The hardest part is to try not to go into autopilot doing a schtick. On television, you need to be very conscious of not falling into autopilot voice over responses.
Billy Serow on picking one voice over another: You could take anyone off the street and even uneducated ears could pick out who the best voices are. The masses will try to take the safe road and give interpretations that they think are expected of them instead of stepping out and giving their boldest go. Just as something can step off a written page, voices can step off of a recording. Interesting and creative choices book jobs, not safe interpretations.
Bob Souer on how he got his start: I started by working at a radio station doing everything, including answering phones. One day, I received a call and was asked if anyone would like to audition. I said "what about me?" Nine months later, I was working at a different radio station and still hadn't heard from the client. All of a sudden the phone rang and I had landed the government gig I auditioned for nine months previously. Thus started my voice over career.
I only work at 2 studios; the one at the Billy Graham Association and my own. The only work I record in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association studios is the work I do for them. All of my work for any other clients is done in my own studio.
David Ciccarelli on what impact the Internet has had on voice overs: The Internet and technology has given voice actors another communications channel to find work. It is a viable option to market your talents and is one of the most opportune methods to gain new clients and prospects.
Heather Frenz on working from her home studio: On-camera host for a real estate company and they wanted her to do real estate listings for them everyday. Heather reads it at home and sends the work back to them. Sending MP3s as audition material from her home, but no broadcast work yet because she wants to preserve her relationships with the local studios she has worked with.
Jim Sciancalepore on receiving CDs from talent: It goes without saying but the CD needs to arrive on the right day at the right time. Random unsolicited email promotions get deleted so the successful items are more traditional deliveries - postcards, demo CDs, etc. No seasonal recruiting - it used to be - now it is entirely random with other mediums in the fray like new media (podcasts), and keeping under the radar of local studios or casting directors or agents - networking.
David Bourgeois on the business of voice over: It's easy as a musician or actor to be aware of the fact that you need to develop your art skill, however the fail to recognize that it is a business where money changes hands. Make a business plan, develop a plan, make some goals, write down the steps that you are going to take to reach your goal. Make a plan and be aware that 95% of startups fail in the first 5 years.
Evan Farmer on liberties of being a host: While You Were Out, produced by the BBC, is formal, structured, news based but my producer was flexible and ended up giving me a large sum of creative freedom. You have to make big strong choices. When you do, you tend to enjoy it and become very passionate about what you are doing. I'm recognized more often for my voice than my face even though I am an on-camera host. Voice acting advice? Take the risk and you can pull back later. Most people are innately too shy to break out but this industry is all about acting like a fool or an entertainer if you want to be a success.
Billy Serow in agreement with Evan Farmer: A Casting director saying: "I can always pull you back but I can't always get you there".
David Ciccarelli on the difference between Voices.com and voice123: We have a comparison chart, but it really comes down to customer services and the fact that everyone here has a livelihood and needs. We truly believe that your success is our success. To differentiate even more specifically, Voices.com has entry level budget ranges for every job posted at Voices.com whereas the other site does not. The client needs to commit in order to work with Voices.com talent. From what is apparent, voice123 has no standards and people know that they can find professional voice over talent at Voices.com and get the job done right.
Bob Souer on his career: Longevity over 24 years working for a company doing narration. Many of my clients turn into longterm relationships. You will do well as a non-union talent and can make a living if you develop ongoing relationships with clients over the years. It's about starting and maintaining relationships. This is true of the people who hire you, of agents, of websites, it's all about the people.
Percentage of New VS Established clients for Bob: 30% - 50% of work each month is new work. 50% - 75% is ongoing.
David Bourgeois on getting voice over work: It's always easier to get the next job than the first job. In B Markets, there is more work in relationships than anything else.
Bob Souer on getting work: Once somebody knows that you can deliver the goods, you don't want to have to go anywhere else. Under pressure, under time, to the exact tenth of a second. It's risky to just go out there and try if you are not prepared.
Billy Serow on talent being too social at sessions: Voice talents can be their own worst enemies because they (the studios) want people who can come in, do their work and leave. You need to know the difference between schmoozing and work.
Jay Silverman on keeping front of mind: Stay on top of your marketing so that you remain in that category where people remember you and want to go back to you.
David Bourgeois on jobs: Capitalize on a work opportunity in every way that you possibly can and nurture that relationship.
Jim Sciancalepore on relationships with talent: We're hoping that this is a recurring relationship with a signature voice to impress the clients. It's being reliable, dependable and likable. It's a personal business and a fun business.
Heather Frenz on working in the field: I know most of the people I tend to work with. I goes in, know them, feel comfortable, know the client, and has developed skills as a likable professional and has fun at the same time. Always show your interest in other people.
Bob Souer on being professional: Being professional means knowing how to keep your cool. This always gets me "Perfect! One more time". There are times when it can get very emotional but you have to stay pleasant under extremely difficult circumstances, otherwise you won't be working as much as you could be.
Billy Serow on getting an agent: When looking for an agent, be careful to know something about the agency and how the agency works. Target specific people or it (your CD) won't find it's way into the right hands.
David Bourgeois on marketing: Don't imagine the Internet is the only way to market yourself. It's a great tool but there are many other ways to do it. Many beginner talent have a misconception that all they need is an agent and to be found online hosting their demos and not do any work on their own to try and improve their career.
Evan Farmer on breaking into on-camera from voice over: It's simple to get caught up in "I'm not ready yet or as soon as I've finished this course". You can't be afraid of rejection, because it's not personal. Don't be a passive performer. It's the last person standing who gets what they want. If you want it, you'll get it. Don't settle for comfortable when you can have outstanding. You have to think "I'm going to do it and whatever level I'm going to do it on is fine". If you want to work, you can work. You don't have to be the best, you just have to be the one who keeps showing up.
David Bourgeois on success: People who have made the decision to be successful take it to the next level.
Bob Souer on volunteer work: Yes, I do volunteer when I have the opportunity and time to do so if it is appealing to me. For example a science fiction audio drama. Or a church ministry asks, I might do it if I has the time.
Jim Sciancalepore on who has the most say in choosing the VO talent?: It depends on the client, but many of their clients trust us to make the right decision. We provide them with a few finalists to choose from giving our preferences and let the client decide.
David Ciccarelli on success at Voices.com: Success stories at Voices.com are numerous, for example, Bob Souer. Also many people get their very first jobs at Voices.com which is a success story in itself.
Heather Frenz on VO VS On-camera: I prefer VO work because I'm not up ironing every piece of clothing that I own. Wardrobe coordinating is not fun. I love VO because I can walk in as myself and get going. On-camera work is wonderful and I wouldn't give it up, but I feel that my image has become overused so I turned to more voice over work. No preference overall between the two.
David Bourgeois on the state of the VO industry: The lions share of the work is narrative (non-commercial in nature) Conversationality VS Announcer, broader range of voices, Internet is exciting, more than 1/2 VO produced at VoiceCoaches.com was Internet work this past year. Opportunities have never been greater or range has never been better in commercials or narrative - Voices for websites, DVDs, CD-ROMS, video games, cable television opportunities. Tremendously lucrative industry with loads of opportunities.
Billy Serow on men and women in VO: When I started in voice casting, the percentages for hiring VO talent used to be 90% men and 10% women. Now it's more like 55% men and 45% women.
Billy Serow on receiving material from talents: Cover letters are important to know if someone has been referred by someone I need to be aware of. Don't send gimmicks - also, pictures on CDs are not a good idea.
David Ciccarelli on watermarking: The point of watermarking is to use a watermark as a precaution to prevent unscrupulous clients from using your work without paying you. Place subtle tones throughout the audition, crippling the audio just enough so that it cannot be used without your permission.
Bob Souer on watermarking: Be very careful to say that you've made changes to the script in the custom demo or any alterations to timing. Actions were deliberate, not that you don't know what you're doing.
Evan Farmer on success: Inner instinct, listen to that voice - the "I wish I" is your gut and you need to listen to it, not your insecurities, and if you've figured that out, you're head over heels further along than many in this business.
Jim Sciancalepore on hiring talent on the web: Instant auditions are very convenient and a great source.
Jim Sciancalepore: Put yourself out to the world, the Internet has made it possible. A world of opportunity out there. When you are in session, go for it and let loose.
Heather Frenz: Start thinking of yourself as a voice over talent as someone who is going to be successful - stick to it and believe it now.
Bob Souer: This is a business, it's not a game. If you want to make money at it, you have to treat it as a business. Find ways to market your career and actually do it - things that are comfortable for you to do. For instance, Bob writes a blog to help promote his career.
David Ciccarelli: Treat VO as a business. As much as the marketing component is important, you need to focus on your operations and how you manage your clients. Develop systems and routines because next time you are in contact with a client, it's good to have details on hand to personalize your communications. Monetary rewards will come after an initial investment. Find out what works best for you and how to allocate your resources and time.
Billy Serow: There is nothing more fun or greater than winning a job. It's such a high and is so cool that you are actually being paid for this. Feel incredibly blessed to be working in this industry.
Evan Farmer in response to Heather Frenz's statement: I too didn't want to tell anyone I was an actor or musician because I didn't want to hear it. Once you do say that, you are committed and people can hold you accountable. It really is great when your art affects other people and the feeling you get - the rush, exciting, probably the most fulfilling thing you could imagine.
David Bourgeois: Do not care for words "break into" - you develop a skill, hone that skill, become aware of opportunities and then go out and do them.
About the Experts
Evan Farmer: Host of TLC™s œWhile You Were Outand HGTV™s design show œFreestyle.
Billy Serow: Head of commercial VO Casting for Abrams Artists Agency in NYC and VO teacher at Yale University.
David Bourgeois: Voice Coaches President and voice over producer for clients including Discovery Network.
Jim Sciancalepore: As the Vice President / Senior Creative Director for Media Logic, a major award winning Advertising and Communications firm, Jim regularly casts voice actors for a broad range of projects. Their clients include Visa, FYE, Cornell University, MVP Healthcare, and numerous others.
Bob Souer: Professional voice over talent and industry blogger.
Heather Frenz: Professional voice-actor and Voice Coaches Marketing Trainer.
David Ciccarelli: CEO of Voices.com, the #1 Voice Over Marketplace and professional audio recording engineer.