Getting Paid, by Rachel Fulginiti

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This week I received a delightful and unexpected gift. I got paid for a job I thought I’d gotten burned on. Let me backtrack. My business is divided into two parts. There’s the agented side of things: I audition for jobs with my agent (s) either at home, in their office or at casting places and when I book a job they send me to the studio. These are the “Cadillac Jobs”. Kushy and smooth. I am just a voice for hire. I go into an awesome studio, record for a half hour and then get a check sent to me a while later. No engineering, no invoicing, no call for pickups, (unless there’s another paycheck attached!); it’s pretty sweet.

But to make it as a VO in this day and age, you pretty much also have to have a home-based business, as well. On this side of things, I am not only the “talent”, but also the engineer, as well as the accountant and office manager. Most times, I am also the director and sometimes the producer. Jobs come to me through referrals from past clients, online sites, or by people finding my website.  Someone contacts me about a project, I provide a quote and tell them my policies, they send me a finalized script and I record it, either with them on the line or on my own depending on their preference. Then they may come back to me with one round of pickups. After that the job is usually (hopefully) just another good memory. Next. I fondly refer to these jobs (privately!) as “turn and burn”. No disrespect, they’re great. I get paid, complete the job quickly and it’s wrapped up nice and tidy with no unnecessary time and energy lingering. Everyone’s happy.

To this end, I always ask for payment up front, especially the first time I work with a client. I didn’t always do that, but I learned the hard way. Many times, clients seem to magically disappear after they get what they need, and understandably so; they are typically on tight deadlines and still have post production ahead of them. A few times I was stiffed completely. More often, I would eventually get paid, but it might take months and months…and that meant months and months of me following up with them, sending gentle reminders, more terse reminders…you get the idea. The whole process was a hassle, uncomfortable for me, a time suck and just plain not fun. So, I decided to adopt a policy that was in place at a corporate job I had years ago.

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Alan Rickman: It’s not all about his voice, by Edge Studio

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With the recent passing of the actor Alan Rickman, much has been made of his voice. Which is more than the vocal department at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art said he would make of it. Many years later, he told an interviewer that his voice had been “heavily criticized.” In fact, Rickman described one teacher as saying, “Alan, you sound as if your voice is coming out of the back end of a drain pipe.” So it would be tempting to make this article about pursuing your dream, never giving up, and not heeding the opinion of even a prestigious drama school.

But would that be wise?

Yes, and no.

No, in that if three people tell you you’re drunk, you should at least consider switching to soda, and if qualified professionals suggest you should consider a different line of work, maybe you should at least reconsider your game plan.

But we note that Rickman did not say his teachers discouraged him from acting. And his voice has been described more lately as seeming like a cello.

So there’s the “yes.” In fact, many a “yes.” Rickman’s acting career provides a wealth of examples to inspire the growing voiceover artist.

To begin with, Rickman started relatively late for an actor. Although he had been interested in acting as a youth, professionally he first tried his hand at graphic design, figuring it would provide a more dependable income. It didn’t, so in his mid-twenties, he got himself accepted by the Royal Academy. Then he spent a dozen years on the boards and British TV repertory.

It was soon apparent that Rickman had more going for him than his voice. It wasn’t just the voice, it was how he used it. That’s another valuable lesson to heed.

For example, in Rickman’s first movie role (in “Die Hard”), he not only ranged through that German-who-learned-English-in-England accent, it was his idea to connivingly switch to American. Rickman also offered (or maybe “insisted on” would be more accurate) certain creative views as to his character’s actions, revealing his judgment and ability as a director. (He went on to direct and teach, including here in New York City at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.) Throughout his career, from the first days in repertory, through to the end, he showed range and versatility in both drama and comedy.

And, as many have noted by now, Alan Rickman showed how he could use that voice. (Including off-camera; he voiced the depressed robot in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and the Blue Caterpillar in “Alice through the Looking Glass,” an animated film not yet released.)

Many obits have mentioned that in 2008, a scholarly study found that Alan Rickman had the “perfect male voice.” Well, yes and no to that, too.

The study was commissioned by Post Office®, the British government-owned entity providing retail mail, financial, telephony and other services. Why on earth were they investigating the perfect voice?

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The Biggest Misconceptions About Voiceover Demos, by Kate McClanaghan

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A voiceover demo, by definition, is a professional demonstration of what you do best and what you want more of. Yet many well-meaning, even experienced talent fall prey to the following misconceptions regarding what should be included on your voiceover demos.

  1. “My make-shift demo oughta hold me for a while until I start working steady—then I’ll make a ‘good’ demo.” 

Okay, who’s foolin’ who here? The truth is you can’t book work with a lousy headshot—or a lousy voiceover demo. Period. Do it right the first time and save yourself time, money and frustration.

  1. Your demos were created solely for talent agents. 

The standards for what should (and shouldn’t) be included on your voiceover demos are defined primarily by commercial creatives (producers, copywriters, and creative directors) from advertising agencies. They’ve been creating demos defining their own aesthetics for more than 50 years now with the intent to remain employed. Producers and their assistants contact casting directors and your talent agents when they are looking to hire you. If you’re not servicing the producers with your demos, you’re not hitting your target audience. They’re who you created the demo for in the first place.

  1. Every spot on your demo is a something you were paid to voice.

Just because you were paid to voice the job, doesn’t mean that segment belongs on your demo. Many of the jobs we book don’t necessarily best define us professionally and therefore should NOT be included on your demo.

  1. Commercial and Industrial spots can all be included on the same track.

A commercial demo consists primarily of spots that sound like national caliber TV spots. Industrial demos (also known as Corporate Announce, or Narrative, or Non-Broadcast) by design are meant to service producers looking to hire voice talent that demonstrate narration typically reserved for training films, documentary, medical, corporate sales, or tradeshow style narration. (To name a few.) Consolidating a variety of voiceover styles on the same demo cancels each other out. It exhibits a lack of understanding for the client’s professional needs, and therefore a lack of professionalism overall.

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Agents – Part 1: The low-down, by Rachel Fulginiti

Today kicks off the first in a new three part series, inspired by one of my readers (thank you Britt Dyer!). Over the next several weeks I’ll be talking about agents: what they do, how to get one and how to work with one once you’re in partnership. It’s a subject that can often feel mysterious or frustrating. Sometimes it’s a challenging part of getting “to the next level” in your career, but it doesn’t have to be confusing!

What exactly does an Agent do? Well, the short and sweet is: they negotiate contracts. Legend has it, there was once a day when they sought out budding young talent with potential and cultivated it…but that doesn’t happen much anymore. Basically, you and your agent are part of a team. You come to the table a completely formed product, and then your agent (hopefully) helps to sell it. Ideally, they find lots of opportunities for you, they talk you up, push for you and go to bat for you, and when you book jobs, they get you the very best deal they can, which will be mutually beneficial for both of you, as they earn 10% of what you make. With union jobs, that 10% is typically added to the top of your rate, so the agent’s cut doesn’t actually take away from what you’re making on the gig.

Wait, how are Agents different from Managers? Technically, to call themselves an agent (at least in the state of California), they have to have a license, adhere to certain guidelines and practices, and they can only take 10%. There are no requirements for someone calling themselves a “Manager”. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some great managers out there, and typically they get more involved in the day to day career of the talent (or at least, they used to), but beware, there are tons of unscrupulous ones out there, as well. Most managers take between 15- 20%. A lot of times they will add an additional percentage onto the client’s bill and still (also) take 15-20% out of your cut. That being said, if they are getting you work that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, then it’s probably still worth it.

So, do I need one?

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