Voiceover - What Do You Believe? -

31 January 2012
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Voiceover – What Do You Believe?

By Dan Friedman

I believe that as an audio engineer, voiceover talent and author, I have a responsibility to you and to the voiceover industry to provide the best and most accurate information whenever I write a blog or am asked to share my expertise. I believe that I have a responsibility to my clients and to those who recommend me, to be the best voiceover talent that I can be. I believe in helping newcomers who have a true passion for voiceover and are willing to work hard to be among the best, as well as those who have earned my respect by demonstrating that they believe, as I do, in raising the bar for this industry. I believe in helping my friends. I believe that being a voice talent and audio engineer is not just about earning a paycheck, its also about the love I have for doing it, the pride I take in doing it to the best of my ability and the joy I get from being a part of this great industry. I believe in earning credibility through accomplishment. I believe in speed, accuracy and efficiency. I believe in being positive and I believe in honesty.

But this post isn’t about me, I promise.

So… why am I telling you what I believe? Because I also believe that many of you could be an unknowing victim of those who are self-proclaimed experts, gurus, coaches, trainers and whatever else they claim to be, when in reality they are either:

– At best, unknowing purveyors of bad information.
– At worst, knowingly trying to capitalize on people’s inexperience, emotions or desires.
– Somewhere in between

Whether you are a pro or just starting out, the possibility exists for you to lose a job or miss opportunities because you were misinformed or misguided by the ignorance of others. Worse than that would be to lose the money you already have to people who are deceptive or trying to take advantage of you.

This past weekend several pros sent emails to me that contained links to things that were either completely inexplicable or simply despicable. While we shared some laughs about what we were witnessing, the prevailing feelings were those of disbelief and frustration. For me, it is disheartening to see, read and hear things that are contradictory to ideas and concepts that I post about regularly in my blog. But what is more concerning is when bad information is being shared that, if mistakenly taken as fact, could hurt someone’s career. I don’t expect everyone to believe in the same principles that I believe in, but some of what I was reading and hearing was outrageous. In at least one instance the information being shared contradicted the laws of acoustics. 🙁

I know what you are thinking, WHO? SEND ME THE LINK! I WANNA SEE! I WANNA KNOW WHAT AND WHO YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!

As much as I would like to share these things, I believe that it is important to let my “keep it positive”  and “praise publicly, criticize privately” mantras prevail. But because it is important that everyone understand just how unbelievable some of this stuff is, without naming any names, I will share one thing to illustrate my point.

If you are one of those folks who is currently seeking voiceover coaching by searching the internet, you might just feel as though you are walking through a minefield. Whether you are new to the industry or a working voice talent wanting to further your training, the choices for coaching are vast. Type “voiceover coaching” into google and you’ll see what I mean. I see over 2 million possibilities. Even if 1% of those are relevant, that is a big number of sites to deal with.

One of these coaching sites had a post that stated it was okay to make mistakes and perform pickups whenever necessary. In the audio presentation, the speaker encouraged it. It was suggested that this could help your delivery. The “coach” actually said, “If God hadn’t wanted you to make mistakes… he wouldn’t have invented editors, editing software…(etc.)” WOW?! Now, even if this was said in jest (and I didn’t get the impression that it was), is this the kind of idea that makes any practical sense at all? If you want to share your paycheck with the editor… it might be.

A proper coach teaches how to deliver a script with all of the feeling, emotion and communicative skills required, without needing pickups to do it. Obviously we all need to pickup from time to time, but that isn’t the point. Imagine what the engineer (or editor) is thinking if your attitude as a voice artist is, “My coach told me that I can screw up as often as I need to, because the engineer will put it together.” Believe me, knowing that there is job security in working with you, will not make the engineer want to work with you even more. Not to mention that more editing requires additional studio time and that will cost your client more money. This is the antithesis of what it means to provide good customer service. Do you think this will put you at the top of the booking list?

Is this the sort of thing that a voiceover coach should be teaching? Do acting coaches teach that it is okay to forget a line or miss a mark because someone else will fix it?

What I’ve just shared with you is absolutely true. But sadly, it is also only one example of bad information out of several I could share. Furthermore, this and the other examples are things that could effect anyone at any level of their career… there is plenty of bad information to go around.

There is not much any of us can do to stop this activity and it certainly is not limited to the voiceover industry. We all know that the internet is full of both good and bad information. Complicating things even more is that the people sharing this information probably don’t know or believe they are wrong, or were just lazy and didn’t do the necessary research before making their presentation. In the example I presented above, its a matter of perspective. The “coach” is only thinking about what seems to be good for the talent (in the short term), not for the engineer/editor and definitely not for the client, which will only end up hurting the talent in the long term.

So what can we do? First, don’t be fooled by slick marketing, websites and web videos. These don’t reveal the whole story. They only reveal what the creator wants you to see and believe. Second, do some research (a seemingly lost art in this country). Usually, a little bit of additional research at undeniably reliable and factual websites will reveal whether someone knows what they are talking about or what they stand for. Use your ears. The best thing about being in voiceover is that there is usually some audio available that can help to confirm whether someone is who they say they are, that they know what they are talking about or whether they can deliver on what they promise.

Generally speaking, I don’t believe that back and forth battles in chat rooms, social media groups and forums are all that productive. Too much context can get lost and intentions can be easily misinterpreted, which has the potential to create even more and greater problems. So finally and most importantly, talk to people with first-hand knowledge of (and experience with) the people you are interested in working with, or from whom you are getting your information.  Many people share the mantra “praise publicly, criticize privately” and valuable information will be revealed in private conversations. Communicate with people you trust and don’t forget to trust your own instincts as well.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what I believe or what anyone else believes. It only matters what you believe.

20 responses on “Voiceover – What Do You Believe?

  1. Mara says:

    Cheers to THAT, my friend. Ironically, over the past couple of days I too have witnessed some absolutely despicable & childish behavior involving a very recognized name or two in the industry; and it’s beyond disheartening to realize that newcomers to the VO community might eventually become subjected as victims to these “pros” who have such an unprofessional attitude and clear lack of passion for truly improving the business.

    You are 100% right when it comes to letting your ears be your guide. Forget the connections, the labels, the awards… if these “pros” don’t sound any better than newbies, you’d better start fine-tuning your ears before dropping down your hard-earned cash to them as gurus.

    Thank YOU for being a legitimately knowledgeable and genuinely passionate resource for all those who need it. You are valued beyond measure!

    XOXO,
    Mara

  2. Dave Wallace says:

    My English teacher once said that it’s very important to be a good writer, because–and I’m quoting her–“If become a good writer, you can sound like you’re an expert on something even if you have no clue what you’re talking about.” So I agree that it’s very important to figure out–especially when you’re considering a coach–who’s good, and who’s just a good writer. Thanks for a very important reminder to that end, Dan!

    Kind Regards,
    Dave Wallace

    • Dave Wallace says:

      UGH…

      “If you become a good writer…”

      NOT…

      “If become a good writer…”

      That’s a rather embarrassing error for me to make as someone who was going to be an English major. 🙁

      Kind Regards,
      Dave Wallace

  3. Judy Greenberg says:

    Can I just say….I like you! and I like your blogs. I wish you were in l.a. so we could have a cup a joe sometime!!

    Don’t even want to tell you how many I’ve run into…

    I believe pretty much everything you beleive!!

    Best regards,

    Judy

    • Dan says:

      Thank you Judy! I’ll be in L.A. in March for FAFFCON4!! 🙂

      If we don’t meet then… perhaps some other time.

      Thank you for commenting!

      Dan

  4. Amy Snively says:

    Preach it, Brother! Some of these parasitic pseudo-gurus will take an aspiring VO’s money and actually move them even further from their goals than where they started. Caveat actor! Check credentials and ask around before plunking down your money.

  5. […] February 1, 2012 by Bob Take a few minutes to read Dan Friedman’s latest blog post called What Do You Believe? These are sage words of advice that I hope you will both read and […]

  6. Credibility can’t be bought. It has to be earned.

    There’s money in misinformation. We live in the day and age of the quick fix and the fast road to fame. No experience needed. We take all credit cards. A need meets with greed.

    Here’s my one consolation: those who fall for these schemes without doing the proper research, get exactly what they deserve and pay for.

  7. Kitzie Stern says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for this post. There are many people who think this profession is an easy way to make money, and it’s hard to hear when yet another tells me how much they’ve spent with a “professional” who produced a demo that will be useless in getting them work. Like any other profession, it takes time to build the skills it takes to make decent money. But that’s the truth people don’t want to hear.

  8. Well said Dan! “Trust but verify” rings in my ears. With a veritable glut of information on the Information Superhighway, it’s easy to get lost in the sheer volume of options. Aspiring Voice Actors need to do their homework, research, research, research, especially if someone is calling themselves a sought-after resource for coaching or career growth!

    I’m thankful for the community of working voice actors I’ve come to know who are willing to so generously mentor young talent, and point them toward credible resources, and I’m proud to count you among those friends.

    Thank you for caring enough to stand watch, and to sound the alarm when needed. You’re one of the Good Guys! 🙂

  9. Ron says:

    Good stuff Dan, as always!! Enjoyed.

  10. Dan and I are in complete agreement on this topic. However, the dissemination of incorrect information is not limited to that we might pay a ‘coach’ for.’ Misinformation (whether simply confused statistics or outright non-factual rubbish) is also being dispensed online free-of-charge by those calling themselves gurus, masters, and other lofty self-serving titles.

    Because one may have worked for a few years as an assistant in a music recording studio or a number of years in radio is not enough justification that they know what they’re talking about. If you’ve spent considerable time and/or money on something that doesn’t return the expected results because the information you relied upon turned out to be false, that can be quite a setback.

    Misinformation helps no one. True experts will happily disclose the sources of their information.

  11. Dan says:

    Thanks to all of you for your kind words and support. We can all help raise the bar together.

    Much love and best wishes to all of you!

    Dan

  12. Dan Hurst says:

    Thanks Dan!!! You’ve said exactly what so many of us have felt for so long. Thanks for putting it into writing. Great businesses usually attract great charlatans to rip off people, and unfortunately ours is no different.

  13. Ansley Boggs says:

    Dan,
    I registered for your webinar through Edge Studio, so wanted to read more about you! You are absolutely right about all of the “opportunities” out there! I am so thankful that I did my research and discovered Edge. David Goldberg and the coaches are very professional! I know that I am being trained well.
    Thanks for the post, and I look forwarding to learning from you next week!
    Ansley

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