By Dan Friedman
The voiceover community is well known for being a friendly, helpful and social community. Considering we sit in isolation for much of our lives it is no surprise that we need to get out once in awhile just to keep our sanity (assuming we have some to begin with of course). It is easier now than ever before to share our knowledge and seek the help of others when we need it. Seriously, how many social networking and meet up groups for VO are there now? Even with all of the technology that allows us to connect with one another over wires and through the airwaves, few things are more advantageous than actual face time.
There are at least three big events for voice talent coming up in the next several months, all before the end of this year (here in the US, I’m not sure about other countries) “Faffcon3” in September, “That’s VO” in October and the New York Mixer in December . They are being widely mentioned in social media and they all look really interesting and fun. I wish I could be at all of them (Anyone want to fly me out? Shameless… I know ;-)). But while all of these events will undoubtedly be filled with great information and amazingly talented people, this is about something a little closer to home… the local meet up group.
When I mentioned recently that I was going to be attending the meet up group in Charlotte, I received quite a bit of feedback from those wanting to be part of a meet up, start a meet up, or get one going again. I talked to Gabby of Voice Hunter (who organizes the Charlotte group) about all of the interest I had received and she said it was reasonably easy to get it going. The Charlotte group started out as a bunch of friends in the industry getting together and, over time, it developed into much more than that. I can only guess that this is how most of them start, but what information is critical to help keep the group going?
I began thinking about the various things that voiceover meet up groups could do to generate initial interest and more importantly, keep members coming back. For people already in the industry, getting to know other industry professionals can be informative or educational. For people new to the industry, access to working professionals is invaluable. Interest in voiceover as a career has never been higher and those who want to get into it need to learn from those who are already working professionals. Reading about the business is good; meeting and talking to people who work in the business is better.
Soon after I began writing this article I worked on a session with DB Cooper, who had recently attended a meet up/workout group in Los Angeles with Dave Fennoy. I heard Dave mention this workout group in an interview on the VAU. He emphasized the need for a comfortable environment to really work on scripts. This environment should be safe and confidential, so that everyone can succeed or fail, without worrying about clients or any of the bad stuff making it out into the public domain. Good thinking.
Everyone, new and experienced, benefits from the advice of guest speakers. Especially if these guests have information to offer that is outside the realm of expertise of the majority of group members. If someone is not local to your area, guests could easily attend with the help of Skype.
Performance is fun, but voiceover is a business and all topics related to business could certainly be beneficial to group members. Everything from accounting and billing to advertising, marketing, web design and even legal issues are critical to keeping a voiceover business flourishing.
Who can forget about the technical aspects of our business? Nobody. From microphones to mixing boards, there is plenty to discuss. Everyone in this business needs to understand the importance of choosing the right gear, how to set it up and what role room acoustics plays in overall sound.
Practice and in depth discussions on all of these topics can help voice talent with their careers. But, what I suspect may be the most critical element to keeping a meet up group together is support. Despite how it looks to the casual observer, voiceover is not an easy career choice. There are many disappointments, struggles and rejections. The competition is fierce. Having a local group of friends and trusted advisors, who truly understand what you do and can help you achieve your goals, is priceless.
I don’t personally run a group, although I have thought about starting one. Besides the groups in Charlotte and L.A., I know that Dallas also has a strong VO community and meet up group. I would love to get feedback from those who organize these and other meet up groups, and from those who participate. Share your knowledge, ideas and expertise over wires and through the airwaves (or right here in the comments section of my blog), to raise the bar for this industry and help other voice artists support each other much closer to home.