Posts Tagged 'Voice over'

The Other Italian Job

….. and not a Mini in sight.

If you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans, so they say.  I’ve probably been a constant source of hilarity over the years, and I may not be the only one.

I’m sure he was chuckling away the other evening.  With six months’ worth of being a voice over artist under my belt, I thought it was about time I started to review things and look ahead at the same time.  Should I continue doing this full time for a while longer?  Should I start looking for some PR work and do voice overs in my spare time?

One of the first things I needed to do was to assess the various websites I’d joined in an effort to land myself work.  How were they performing and were there any that simply weren’t doing it for me?  There was certainly one: the number of potential auditions was noticeably low compared to the others and, once I eliminated all the opportunities that were looking for a transatlantic style of English – which most definitely isn’t me! – the resulting number of actual auditions struggled to make double figures.

So, with about a month to go on my subscription, I let them know I wouldn’t be renewing.  Job done.

But just a couple of hours later, an email arrived – via the very same, unproductive site.  An Italian production company wanted to know if I would be able to do a 45 second voice over for a training animation.  The job was to be in English and I agreed.  The following day, the script arrived and, in the space of about an hour, the job was done and I’d been paid.  Sweet.

Except that the irony of the booking coming from the site I’d just discarded wasn’t lost on me.  It seemed that the Law of Murphy had prevailed: I pull the plug and the site comes up with the goods.  Chances are that, once my subscription expires, there’ll be loads of gigs I could’ve auditioned for.  Cue mirth from on high.

But, thinking about it, this isn’t so unusual.  You send in an audition for a job thinking that, at best, your chances are 50/50 and you forget all about it.  What happens?  You get it.  You do another which you think is really in with a shout – and it falls on deaf ears.  I guess it’s just another instance of learning to live with the unknowns and the unpredictable nature of the voice over life: you enjoy the highs of getting bookings and cope with the lows of rejection.

Actually, instead of coping, maybe just moving on is a better approach.  But that’s a subject in its own right, and something for another time.

I am, I should add, sticking to my guns.  The gig was fun and the way it came about certainly did my confidence no harm, but it’s still the only one that the site has produced.

Of course, in saying that, I might be tempting providence.  The offers could start flooding in, just from that one source.  Or could they …….?

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Into The Unknowns

Did Rumsfeld know what it was like to be a voice over artist?

Exactly ten years ago to the day, much-pilloried US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld uttered his most famous words.  You know the ones I mean.  The ones about “known knowns” and “unknown unknowns”.  At the time, it seemed gibberish, but actually there was a nugget of truth in there – particularly about “known unknowns”.  Anybody would think he was closely acquainted with the voice over world…….

There are so many unknowns when it comes to getting voice over work – at least, that’s my experience so far – that it should come with a health warning for those of a nervous disposition.  Before taking the plunge, I’d worked on a contract or freelance basis, so I was used to a level of uncertainty.  Which is just as well. 

If I’d moved straight from corporate life to being a voice over artist, it could have been something of a shock.  While the job market has changed in recent years, the convention still exists of getting a job description when applying for a role.  And, while receiving silence in lieu of a reply isn’t as unusual as it used to be, some form of response is still likely.  If you get to the interview stage, and you’re using an agency, they can often give you an idea of how many other applicants you’re up against, as well as some feedback at the end of the process.

All of which seems a dim and distant memory.  At the moment, I’m using about six websites to get bookings: it sounds a lot, but it should up my chances of landing work.  After all, I’ve yet to find the same job on more than one site. They all work differently but the basic idea is much the same: to give you a showcase to get work.

The whole process is full of known unknowns, to use Rumsfeldspeak.  You do your audition, you submit it via the website – and then you wait.  Sometimes, in theory, you could wait for ever.  On some sites, you only hear anything if you get the booking: otherwise, silence.  On others you can track the progress of the job, but only know if you’ve got it when you’re emailed with an offer: otherwise silence.   And I should say I do appreciate that the equation No Reply = No Booking is regarded as the acceptable norm.

It’s like working in a vacuum, whichever site you’re using.  On one site that gives you something approximating feedback – but very much at the client’s discretion – you can see how many others have auditioned for the job.  And, again depending on the client, you can also see where you were ranked among the other applicants and whether you reached the final selection process.

But it’s those unknowns again!  You don’t know who you’re up against when you’re auditioning: in some cases, you don’t know how many either.  And if you’ve applied on the site giving feedback, you might receive a ranking, but you don’t know what the standard was.  Being ranked, say, 30th out of 40 sounds really grim – but if they were 40 really top notch auditions, then 30 isn’t so bad.  But you never know …..

Nor do you know why you didn’t get a particular booking.  Even the site with the ranking system doesn’t go this far.  In fairness to the clients, if they did this they’d spend all their time giving feedback and never get their jobs done, but it is still rather sterile from our perspective.

The audition itself can be one large guessing game too.  There are clients who give you a good script and everything else you need to decide how to pitch your audition.  On the flip side there are the minimalist ones that tell you hardly anything about what you’re auditioning for.  Sometimes there’s not even a dummy script, so you’re flying blind and have to turn detective to glean as much as you can from the crumbs you’ve been given.

Do I sound like I’m whingeing?  I don’t intend to.  This is simply the reality as I’m finding it at the moment and, as I’ve said, I’m used to some uncertainty. This just takes it one step further.  It’s also a word to the wise for those who are considering going into voice over work or think it’s a highly-paid doddle.  It’s neither.

I do seem to be turning a corner, though.  My first piece of work arrived a few days ago and I landed my second last night.  It’s another student project, so unpaid (again!), this time a film interpretation of a poem, with yours truly reading the text.  Hopefully my third one will have some money attached to it.

It takes time to set up a new business, especially in the current climate, so I’m being patient, determined and learning a heck of a lot along the way, none of which will be wasted.  With a mail-out of my voice reel planned for a month’s time, together with the launch of my website, I’m hoping that will create some interest – but, again, I know it won’t happen overnight.

In the meantime, I can live with those known unknowns – after all, they’re better than unknown unknowns! – because I know that if I can make this work now, it’ll work at any time!