Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Both Sides of the Glass

We've all heard the phrase 'working from both sides of the glass'. For anyone not familiar with that phrase it describes (in relation to voice over) a person who works as a talent and an audio producer (the 'glass' being the wall that separates the talent and producer during a typical session).

I was so fortunate to have been trained many years ago as not just a voice actor, but also an audio producer. I spent several years producing radio shows- my job included producing liners, sweepers, features, commercials...you get the picture. I've always thought knowing both sides of the job helped me understand, as an actor, what the producer needed from me.

If you've ever read my blog before, you know I like to draw parallels between different parts of my life and voice acting. Recently, I had just such an occasion.

My photography instructor invited me to the studio this week to stand in as a live model for one of his other students who was learning about portraits. (I'm using the term 'model' lightly- I was really just a warm body) I jumped at the chance, because I always try and see the bigger picture. The way I figured it, I could listen to everything my instructor said to this other student and apply it to my own photography.

While I did learn a lot about the technical side of photography, what struck me was how important it was for the photographer and me, the talent, to be comfortable with one another. Here was a relationship in which we both wanted something from the other (both of us wanting the pictures to turn out well), and the best way to achieve this was to communicate clearly, and relax around one another. (The instructor pointed this fact out on more than one occasion!)

In voice over, we don't always get to see the people we are working with. We don't get to make eye contact and shake their hand. So, we have to find ways to communicate and relax while over the phone, over ISDN, or over e-mail. As voice talent, if we aren't relaxed- it will show in our voice, just like stress will show in our face during a photo shoot.

So, how to relax and get comfortable with a stranger you can't see? It's easy- It comes down to something as simple as having the confidence to be yourself. If you are confident in yourself, the producer will be confident as well. When you are both confident, you can then establish trust- trust that the other will do their job to the best of their ability. With trust and confidence, magic can happen!

Now back to that 'glass' I mentioned earlier. Knowing how the audio will ultimately be shaped, being able to respond to producer lingo in an educated manner, offering suggestions when the director is 'stuck'- all of these are examples of how having experience on both sides of the glass will make you a better voice talent.

Does this mean you have to be trained as a producer? No. But, taking an afternoon to go to a local studio to see how things are done will certainly help you as an actor! The more we understand about each aspect of the business, the more equipped we are to be wildly successful!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do You Still Get Excited?

A short post today.

As voice actors we often record a file, send it off (or disconnect the ISDN line), invoice, and move on to the next project. I find that I rarely see or hear the final product, unless it's an on-line project or I happen to hear it on the TV or radio.

Earlier this afternoon, one of my clients sent me a 'preview' of a TV spot I voiced a couple of weeks ago. I was so excited to see it, and couldn't wait to show my family!

It's funny, no matter how many projects I voice- big or small- I still get excited to see the finished product. The excitement is still as strong today as it was 13 years ago when I heard myself for the first time.

I truly hope it's a feeling that never goes away, and I suspect that it never will.

So I ask, do you still get that giddy feeling when you hear a finished product? What other things help to keep your spirits up in the world of voice over?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Try Not to Miss an Open Door

The morning began early- I had a lot to get done. There was music and SFX to be chosen for one project, voice tracks to be recorded for another project, files to be rendered and uploaded, e-mails to answer, calls to make, etc. I knew my afternoon was full - I had an appointment that would likely take until 5pm- so I was wasting no time getting everything done. At 1pm I received an e-mail asking if I could do an ISDN session at 5pm- and I knew it was going to be a very tight squeeze. Unfortunately, the client couldn't push it back any further. So- I gathered my belongings to head to my appointment early, in the hopes it would be over early- getting me home well before my 5pm session.

As I juggled my purse, my cell phone, my car keys, and my bottle of water (I like to always stay hydrated!) I made my way to the door. That's when a nice looking man in a dark suit caught my eye through the window just as he rang my doorbell. I had been spotted- there was no ignoring this visitor. I knew in an instant he was there to sell me something- I could tell by the little notebook he held in his hand. Plus, it's a billion degrees in FL- why else would someone wear a suit?

I cracked the door slightly and before he could say anything I blurted out, "I'm really in a rush- I'm sorry!"

Undeterred, he went straight into his spiel, "Hi- I'm starting a new business in the neighborhood- and doing a survey- do you have time to answer some questions?"

"No, I really don't." I said.

"It will only take a couple of minutes."

"I'm sorry- I'm really running short on time right now, do you think you could come back another time?" I asked.

He grimaced for a moment before replying, "It's only five questions."

"No, I'm sorry I really have to leave." And I shut the door.

Driving to my appointment moments later, something struck me. I had given this man a metaphorical open door- and he failed to use it! I asked if he would like to come back at another time, and he chose not to accept my offer. Whatever his mission may have been when he first knocked on my door was doomed to fail because he wasn't willing to go a little out of his way to make it happen. However, he was more than happy to have me go out of my way! A sure-fire recipe for failure if you ask me. Had he done as I asked, not only would he have had my complete attention, he likely would have won me over by showing me- and my time- a little respect.

Whether cold calling, e-mailing, or writing letters- I always like to end with, "Thank you for your time." Time is valuable and we have to respect it. Especially when asking someone for something (in this case, business). The big lesson here, however, is to never miss an open door. If someone is willing to hear you out at a later time- by all means be available! Jump though whatever hoops necessary to make it happen- you will be glad you did.

To sum it up- I made it to my appointment a bit early (Ironically it was for a 'stress test'- pretty sure I failed!), and made it home with time to spare for my ISDN session. All in all a good day- and one more valuable lesson realized!

Kara Edwards Voice Over

Sunday, August 2, 2009

So, What's Your Job?

Last week, following my photography class, I was invited to join my instructor and a few fellow photographers for lunch. At one point during the meal, conversation turned to business, and the different aspects of marketing, networking, etc.

We all agreed that one of the most difficult parts of owning a business is prospecting for new clients. We admitted that we had all lacked a time or two in our follow up with potential business.

I remarked that as creative professionals, 90% of our time seems to be spent trying to get work, while 10% of our time is spent actually doing the work (something I've said many times before!).

That's when Chris (yes, that's his real name) explained a different way of looking at things. He said that prospecting for clients IS the job. All of the calling, e-mailing, researching, networking, marketing, advertising, accounting, paperwork, etc- that's what our job is. Now, getting the work? That's one of the perks of doing business!

Since I had never really looked at my business from that angle, I thought it was important to share. Perhaps you've been looking at it all wrong as well? I often say, "I love my job!" What I mean is, I enjoy the perks. From now on, I plan to change my attitude and embrace the job as a whole.

So- starting first thing this Monday morning, I am excited to get to work! And, I'll make a point to relish the 'perks' that come my way!

Kara Edwards Voice Over