Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

August 31, 2011

Talk about your work around!

Filed under: Musings, Recording, Technology — connieterwilliger @ 3:01 pm

Well, as I posted last week, stuff happens.

This week I started hearing a little BobCat driving up and down my alley. And when I poked my head out to see what was going on, I saw the tell-tale signs of upcoming concrete demolition. The road was covered with colorful spray painted arrows and initials detailing the underground path of gas pipes, water and sewer lines.

And a day later the truly irritating sound of a concrete cutter combined with a jack hammer – followed by large back hoes and dump trucks. Even when the concrete cutter wasn’t actually cutting, the generator truck was constantly running in the background.

I trudged down the alley yesterday to find the foreman to ask him what the “schedule” might be. Along the way, I navigated around and over large piles of dirt and was careful not to step in the new trough being gouged out along my side of the alley.

Well, like with so many things in life – there was only the barest suggestion of a schedule. “It depends.” If they run into a problem, they could shut down immediately until someone is able to figure out what to do next. If they don’t run into a problem, then they could just continue to power through from 8:30 to around 5. Lunch break? Again, that depends.

What he did tell me was that it would take 3-4 weeks! And after they are finished laying the new gas lines, the Water Department is going to follow and replace the sewer pipes in a completely different trough requiring another few weeks of concrete cutting and jack-hammering.

Hard to schedule a session in my studio around that.

So, back up plans are in effect. My portable recording gear is set up in an acoustically treated space in the main house (that sounds fancier than it is – trust me). And I have a couple of friends with studios on alert in case a client wants to direct and the construction is simply too crazy.

But for right now, during the daytime while the crews are working, I will be able to use the “inside” location. Everything is networked, so I can save to my regular recording tower, so that works. And I can always start work at around 4 PM when they usually are gone.

Sounds like everything is fine…yeah, right. Either my technical skills are deteriorating, or my stress level has started to affect my brain. I could NOT connect the dots yesterday while scrambling to get a phone patch session ready in my regular studio, and at the same time trying to get the back up system up and running in case there was too much noise.

The MicPort Pro is a very simple device and I have used it many times while traveling. I couldn’t find the cable – and to make matters worse, I was looking for the wrong cable – actually I was trying to use the headphone out jack instead of the mini USB jack and it wasn’t until I was wandering around Frye’s asking someone for a mini-plug to USB cable and finally LOOKING at the MicPort Pro that I realized I was a complete idiot. Left Frye’s with some M&M’s to cover my embarrassment. I was going to resort to using my dbx mini-pre, but somehow the power supply has disappeared.

I was actually able to use the regular studio for an emergency session yesterday around 4PM, but somehow a “pad” button on my new mixer (don’t quiz me on what that is) was depressed when it should not have been and the phone patch was distorted. Why I could hear playback of a QuickTime movie and not of my recording is still a mystery. And then, after I finished the session, why was I unable to record an audition 10 minutes later? Apparently the software had decided to revert back to the computer’s sound card instead of my Gina.

But today, everything seems to finally be working – with a quick troubeshooting trip from the engineer, my regular studio has all it’s ducks in a row again. The back up studio has new foam pads for the Sennheiser 414 – new bungee cables for the Hamburg’s shock mount – and a selection of pre-amps – a Mackie mixer, the MicPort Pro, a Mobile Pre USB (thanks to a fellow VO friend!) and the dbx (if I can find the power supply).

So, I SHOULD be all set for the chaos of the next couple of months. Cross your fingers that I don’t lose any more brain cells, or that the stress level goes down a notch or two.

August 28, 2011

We Interrupt This Program…

Filed under: Business, Musings — connieterwilliger @ 9:00 am

Life happens. And our work may take a back seat to whatever situation is demanding our attention.

Right now, my voiceover friends on the East Coast are battening down the hatches, shutting off their studios and hunkering down waiting for hurricane Irene to do whatever it is she is going to do. In that arbitrary way nature has, she will surprise some with a tree limb through the front porch, or an inch or two of water in the basement, or pass over with nothing more than a few small branches in the street.

Thankfully the worst is probably over now – for Irene. But something else will come along and interrupt our regularly scheduled programming.

Actually, some of life’s curve balls can be predicted and planned for – sort of. The past couple of years I took on the added responsibility of taking care of my mother. Moved her out to San Diego from New York State when it became harder and harder to solve the problems cropping up from 3000 miles away – over the phone.

I was really not prepared for the reality of what this meant. The result was that I ended up working at odd hours just trying to service my existing clients as I balanced the unexpected nature of developing dementia. Marketing took a backseat to making sure mom was safe and happy – and that work was delivered on time and with the same high quality.

My mother is now in Assisted Living and we are both starting to adjust to the new freedom it brings. I know that she is safe – which means that I don’t have to jump up and run over to solve a problem. She always has something going on so there don’t seem to be so many problems! This allows me to start getting back to a more regular schedule.

As a free lancer working out of my house 90% of the time, I actually had the luxury of a great boss ( ;-) ) who understood the need for time shifting in order to meet deadlines. And my existing clients are a wonderful bunch who have understood the occasional need to move a session or delay a delivery a little bit.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, tornados, tsunamis – Mother Nature is not as forgiving a boss. Plan for what you can. And if the unexpected happens, we have to do the best we can.

August 23, 2011

Variety. Is it the Spice of the Voiceover Life?

Filed under: Business, Marketing — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 8:43 am

We’ve all heard the saying “Variety is the spice of life.” What does it actually mean? I take it to mean if you do the same thing over and over you can get in a rut and perhaps  ultimately get bored with what you are doing. Toss in something different and it tends to work as an energizer.

How does it apply to the voiceover business? As a voiceover performer, there are two basic schools of thought how to approach the business. Do one thing well and market that. Do a lot of things well and market all of them.

Do One Thing Well

I think this works when you have a truly unique vocal style and delivery. People come to you because of your proven record doing this type of delivery. You might be a “personality” and what they want is you – your unique style – your pacing – attitude – tempo – rhythm. This happens to movie stars and local DJs. The difference in the paycheck is considerable.

OK, so you are not a movie star – and you don’t really want to stay in your local market doing low budget commercials in your branded DJ voice. What are your options. Well, if you truly are a one trick pony, you need to dig deep to find clients who want to buy your specific delivery. There is work to be found, but perhaps the time spent digging will off-set the actual work.

Consider taking a refresher marketing 101 class – one that understands the new ways of connecting with people – and kick start your career using online and off-line methods of networking and marketing.

Does doing the same kind of read lead to boredom? Well, if you are making thousands of dollars every time you open your mouth because you are a branded super-samer, then perhaps not. (I am not a branded super-samer, so I really don’t know how they feel. Perhaps at every level, the “grass is greener?”) Now, if you are working in a local market cranking out the same kind of work day after day after day for small dollars, I would think that the boredom factor would set in. There is an in-between level, where talent prefers to do one kind of thing and is versatile within a small range.

Telephony and standard eLearning projects are two genres of VO work that come to mind.

Do Several Things Well and Market All of Them

A lot of “working class” voice talent do a lot of things well. They don’t have just one style of delivery. Certainly they may have a style that is uniquely them, but they know how to make adjustments to the vocal placement, pitch, pacing, tempo, rhythm, characteristic – all within a realistic, non-character space – so that they can be a lot of different voices to a lot of different clients.

This opens up their marketing efforts, but it can complicate things due to the sheer number of people that end up in their contact list and client files. And a lot of time can be spent on marketing in this scenario as well – simply because of the amount of research and follow up that could be involved.

My personal work load each week includes telephony, commercial (radio and TV), eLearning, animation, marketing, informational, documentary, and motivational projects. Some of the producers I work for specialize in one kind of media – others are like me and will produce a variety of projects. Sending my corporate producers my latest commercial demo is not really going to benefit either of us.

Which is Better?

Well, the answer is – that depends. This is where you own personal self-evaluation comes in once again. Plus an understanding of the business and the trends. It all goes back to knowing what you can do well, creating something that proves it, and then getting it into the hands of the people who want to buy what you have to sell.

Having a broad range can be a double-edged sword. There has been discussion on several of the voiceover networking sites I frequent that the top agents signing commercial talent are seeking that something special, that single unique sound (with versatility within that sound), rather than a jack of all trades.

And if you are not signed with a major agent and are marketing yourself using your website and other avenues, then you need to be uber-organized to make sure your multi-pronged approach is addressing the right people. I have a couple of smaller agents across the country who like versatile voice actors – but even the versatile voice actor needs to understand that they can’t be all things to all people. I don’t audition for everything that comes into my In Box.

Get in the Know

Know yourself well. Know your “competition” well. Know what is selling. Know who is buying. Know your clients. Know how to network. Know how to encourage referrals without being pushy. Know that what works for one person will not necessarily work for another person. Know how to adapt to the changes in our business. Know when to say “no.”

Variety is the spice…

In reality, even if you find that you are doing the same kind of work day in and day out – unless you work for one single client who hires the same writer for every project – you will have different subjects/topics to read, different styles of writing, subtle differences in attitude, different audiences with different perspectives. All of these things are variety – and if you approach it with that attitude, it will spice up your day just as much as a voice talent who flits from character, to promo, to commercial, to documentary.

August 5, 2011

Video Marketing Works – When Done Right

Filed under: Communication, Musings — connieterwilliger @ 2:47 pm

One of the electronic publications that I read faithfully is MediaPost’s Online Video Insider.

The latest column – Bulleted Points Miss the Point, by Jerry Bader, took me on a little trip down memory lane and at the same time gave me some very interesting facts about online video marketing.

As a video producer and scriptwriter in a former life – I spent long hours with colleagues discussing what it was we were actually supposed to be doing for the client. Guiding them to the right media for their message was what we all hoped would be the answer from the bosses. And most of the time, in most of the companies I had the pleasure to do business with – either full-time or as a free lancer – we were afforded this power.

And our job was to make sure that the client’s message was delivered to their specific audience within their budget and time frame in such a way as to achieve the desired effect.

Many times while I working full-time in the video and film department of a major defense contractor, the client would show up at our door wanting to “make a video.” And after reviewing their needs, it became clear that in fact, they might only need a PowerPoint presentation – with bullets! But that was 20 years or so ago – and making video presentations has come a long way since the days of 1″ machines and linear editing. Surely it is easy now to make a video! Or is it!?

From the article (which focuses on marketing)…

However using the right tool is only effective if you are using it correctly, and using it correctly means more than a technical understanding of what buttons to push. Video marketing starts with concept that is implemented by means of an appropriate script and delivered with an entertaining performance. Much of what we see on the Web is either off-the-cuff winging it by do-it-yourselfers who think they know what they’re doing but don’t, and mind-numbing corporate videos that go in one ear and out the other. The overall quality of business videos on the Web is appallingly bad — both amateur and professional alike  — and it’s often the result of business’s failure to understand how video communication works, an unwillingness to invest in hiring firms that do, and a penchant for being too impatient to stick to a clear, consistent brand messaging strategy.

From the first time PowerPoint appeared on the desktops of the engineers we have seen the quality of business presentations sink lower and lower. As software advances and everyone can “make a video” we will see more and more marginal messages being produced by people who know how to move a mouse, but don’t know how to communicate.

This quote from the article – actually the summation – clearly states the importance of the multimedia producer knowing how to communicate.

Listing a bunch of features as bulleted points is not communication, even if those bulleted points are presented as animated fly-ins beside a sterile spokesperson spouting platitudes. Real video communication requires context within the script and subtext within the performance in order to reach deeper into an audience’s psyche to create a meaningful, memorable message — that’s the essence of real video communication.

In my former life as a scriptwriter, I strove for that deeper understanding of the audience and their wants, needs, expectations as I found the “right” hook for the script. Now, as a voice talent and occasional on-camera actor, I use my background in scriptwriting and understanding the client and the script to find the right subtext as I deliver the words – looking for the “right” read.


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