I played sports in high school. And I say "played" loosely. Mostly it was a chance to get great exercise and hang out with the guys. I went to a very small school in Montana, so making the team wasn't a huge task. But it was my first taste of what "coaching" was all about. Someone to push you, challenge you, and sometimes yell, with the only goal of winning...for both.
Over the years studying voice over I've taken a lot of classes, attended seminars, and even a short stint with improv. Only until recently did I actually seek out a "voice over coach". Someone who can work with me one-on-one, and really focus their energy on my development. Choosing a voice over coach is not something to be taken lightly. It should be treated like a job interview, and you're the hiring manager.
There are a lot of great coaches out there! Resources like Backstage, One on One, or Actors Connection are great places to find some names. Your job is to research, vet, and choose...wisely. Start by asking yourself these questions:
Points 3 & 5 can be subjective and where you will fall into a pit of confusion and noise. Regarding the 3rd point, do you know the answer to that question or are you guessing? Meaning, do you think you need to learn how to deliver a more natural read or do you think just going to a coach will be enough to "get you there"? Don't be fooled. Just having a coach doesn't mean you'll get to the next level. Lay out what you hope to accomplish, be realistic, AND specific.
Point 5 is widely subjective and it's where you can throw money down the tube and gain nothing! A few years ago a newbie voice talent came to me asking for a listen on his demo. I was still a full-time Creative Director, and he and I had met through a friend. He was very excited to lay his freshly made demo on me, since he paid a lot of money for it, had taken a series of classes and thought he was ready. After listening to about 10 seconds of the demo, which was all I could stand, I sat back staring at a blank email wondering what to say back to him. The demo was a train wreck. Both in read style, script selection, and production. Do I be honest about the demo or just say "good luck" and call it a day? I decided to be honest and tell him; I didn't think it showcased his best effort. I gave him a few examples of where I thought it could go in a different direction and offered to listen again once it was re-produced.
He took it...uh...not well. He didn't understand after spending all that time and money how I could think it was so bad. It turns out the "voice over coach" and "demo producer" he used was another voice talent. Someone that really didn't have his best interest at heart, but only had interest in being paid (A LOT I later found out), for his services. This person was not a current or former casting director, producer, agent, or anyone who would be considered a "voice buyer". Someone who casts, produces, or works with talent daily are the ones that have the real insider info to help you along.
I know I could be whacking the hornets nest here, but my spidey sense tingles when I hear a voice talent go into demo production and coaching. If they end up making more money from those services than being a true talent, their motivation is now skewed. It's basic sales. If a service line generates higher revenue (coaching/demos) than another (being a talent), then wouldn't they try and sell more of the higher revenue option? Doesn't mean their qualified. Just means they offer it more often.
Marktree Productions did a podcast last week on the VO Minute #109, about choosing a coach. It hits home and is worth a listen.
While I still take group classes and attend seminars, I do have a current personal voice over coach; Marla Kirban. She was someone I sought out specifically. She has never tried to sell me more classes or services, or even push me into getting a new demo done. She kicks my ass and I'm grateful for it. Her ineterest is simply; helping me do my best. She pushes me like a coach should, and if I book a job with her help; we both win.
It's Christmas in July her here at the studio! My first of many "new gear boxes" arrived yesterday and it felt just like running down the stairs to see a tree filled with presents...less the footie pajamas. Do they make those for adults? I'm putting that on my " to research list".
I'm making some updates and upgrades to the studio over the next 60 days. While I'm excited for everything that's going to be added into the arsenal, I almost can't contain myself with my new friend. He's a long, lean, punchy voice over mic with big sound and a studio favorite. You all know and love him...Sennheiser 416!
I did a quick sample while I was patching him in. The first read was from a job I recorded earlier on my previous setup (Shure SM7b - Symetrix 528e - Mbox Pro - Pro Tools). The second take, recorded later in the day, is the same processing chain, but with a 416.
Now off to play with my new toys until I get tired of them, then go watch cartoons!
Growing up I was a HUGE Freddy Krueger fan! I think I was him for Halloween at least 6 years in a row. Now, it might sound odd that a kid between the ages of 5 - 11 was a horror movie nut, but I was! I recently asked my mom why she let me watch it, and she said "Well you understood it was not real. So I figured why not?" She's the bestest! One of the greatest things about that franchise was the tenure it had! 8 films from the original series, then a remake. You always knew there was going to be another, because Freddy never really dies. You can't kill him off. He's an institution. A staple. A guarantee of slasher goodness.
When I read articles, or talk with industry folks about ISDN, I think about Mr. Fredrick Kruger. ISDN is an institution. A staple. The cornerstone upon which all other studio communication is benchmarked, however it's outdated and tired. However...IT JUST WON'T DIE!!!
The debate of how/why to kill off ISDN always floats around the same things:
All of these in execution and logic are flawed in one way or another. Mostly it's straight ignorant thinking. Studios are not scared or afraid their investment won't payoff. If you've spent anytime in good studios you'll know these hard working folks are always looking for the latest and greatest. They are tech folk just like you and me!
Do you want to know why ISDN won't die anytime soon...because there is NO SINGLE AGREED STANDARD TO REPLACE IT! ipDTL, Source Connect (in it's various forms), SoundStreak, blah blah blah. Until one technology is developed that will easy replace ISDN and will be an agreed upon standard IT WILL NOT DIE. Well at least not easily anyway. The only way to kill it completely is the telecoms not supporting it at all. That's it folks. Until that happens, buckle in because there is still life in this franchise...ISDN 10 DREAM SESSION (or something like that).
Think about it, each time a new technology comes rolling out, ISDN is the benchmark. You can argue all you want about audio quality, and connectivity, etc...but without proper acceptance of a new standard any of these other new technologies are just doomed to be thrown on the pile of dead app carcasses. And let's just all agree that any "ISDN replacement" that is out there is superior in quality and connectivity. It obviously is! It's been developed in, at the least, the past 5 years! ISDN has been around since WAY before I was born. The ease of connectivity alone is well beyond anything ISDN can even think of doing.
Want to know what will replace it? A magical box that can take either existing ISDN lines and convert it to IP or the other way around. Especially ones that can talk to existing ISDN boxes via IP. Names like Zephyr and Musicam have to get into the fight by developing technology that will be familiar but adopting new standards.
Until there is a new standard, this nightmare is going to continue. It just won't die. But whatever you do...don't fall asleep...
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Tips, Tricks and Insights for casting, producers, agents, managers, creatives, and talent in the voice over industry.
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