Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

September 28, 2013

East Coast – Left Coast – and Other Times Around the World

Filed under: Business, Musings — connieterwilliger @ 1:01 pm

I live in California. Pacific Time Zone. 3 hours later than many of my agents and clients. 9 or so hours different from several other agents and clients scattered across Europe.

This means that my operating hours are not 9-5 Pacific time. They are 9 AM to 9 AM anytime. Over, the years, as more of my clients are in far flung parts of the globe, I find that I do a lot of work very early in the morning. I get up fairly early anyway, but more and more it seems as though I must be “in voice” for a 7 AM session.

Just part of the customer service.

It used to be – when I was working in the local studios, I could ask my agent to arrange for sessions between 10 and 2 so that I didn’t have to mess with the traffic. This usually worked. Not for any on-camera work – that starts at the crack of dawn and goes to last light, but on the voiceover side – it seemed as though we could make the sessions work around our particular rush hour phobias.

Oh, there was the occasional “emergency voiceover job,” but that was more on the “can you get over here in 15 minutes” calls that merely interrupted your lunch, not your REM sleep. (Although I do remember a phone call late at night asking me to pack everything in my closet and come to a set to do an emergency on-camera shoot when two talents were felled by the flu in the course of trying to get the first shot. We shot all night.)

But today, the phone rings at around 6 AM on a regular basis as my agents or clients get into their offices and realize that they need to have a script read. Just part of the global aspect of our business.

Should I stick to strict office hours? I don’t think so, I have plenty of time – most of the time – to take time off during the middle of the day – to get out with the dog – to go to the park – to have lunch with friends. I don’t mind working weekends either. Unless I am in the middle of an audiobook, I don’t spend long hours actually in the studio recording. A quick job here and there actually makes me happy, not irritated that my weekend has been interrupted. Of course, I don’t have a significant other tapping their toes outside the studio door. I suppose if I did, I might have a slightly different attitude about the time I spend working.

September 19, 2013

I’ll Gladly Pay You Someday for a Voiceover Job Today

Filed under: Business, Musings, Negotiating — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 3:10 pm

Why is it that creative businesses (mostly independent freelancers) find themselves on the short end of the stick when it comes to getting paid in a timely manner? My voiceover friend Paul Strikwerda discussed this phenomenon today in his Nethervoice blog –

Why is it that the sub-contractors have to wait for their money until the prime contractor gets paid. This is not the way it is supposed to work. Paul postulates as to why we find ourselves in this position of being the tail on the dog when it comes to getting paid.

When I was an active video producer, I mostly worked in-house or for a large production company and didn’t have problems with getting paid for what I did, or paying the people that worked for me. There was a much larger machine chugging along with enough accounts receivable to cover the costs of the jobs. I just didn’t ever think about it. I worked. I got paid.

But when I became a freelance producer of corporate video, I quickly learned that I needed to have a lot of reserves in my bank account in order to make sure I had enough money to pay my sub-contractors in a timely manner.

It never, never, never occurred to me to delay payment to a sub-contractor until I got paid. I knew that I had to have enough reserves to be able to pay the people I hired even if I didn’t get timely payment from the person that hired me. I quickly learned that I didn’t like being the bank, and stopped freelance producing.

But as I developed my own personal freelance voiceover business, I soon found myself in the position of being the person waiting to get paid, because the person that hired me had not been paid yet.

This is really no way to run a business. Some of my agents even operate this way. Was it always this way? Is it just with the creative, freelance businesses? Is it because what we do isn’t life and death. You can get treated in an emergency room without paying for the service immediately. But if payment isn’t made in a timely manner, the screws will start to turn.

As a small one-person shot, our leverage is pretty weak. Read Paul’s blog to get his take on why freelancers are “Easy Targets.

Learning to trust your gut and how to use the word “no” are important skills for the independent business person. We don’t know when the next job will be coming. We need to be sure that we are not waiting for it in desperation. Desperation frequently leads to bad business decisions.

I suppose I am one of the lucky ones. My business is – at the moment – ahead of the curve. If someone delays payment (for whatever reason), I am not at risk of losing my house. And there HAS been a bit more delay in payment in the past year or so. Some of which is due to poor invoicing on my part. Some is due to hard economic times. Some is due to internal movements in large companies. Some is due to people waiting to get paid before they pay me.

So, what to do about it? That is the question. One thing about a union contract is that this is not going to be an issue. The producer has signed a contract agreeing to pay you no matter what happens to their accounts receivable.

At this point in my own business, I simply need to make sure I discuss the payment terms ahead of time. Ask the hard question – are you waiting to be paid before you pay me? And if the answer is yes – be prepared to say “no.” Be prepared to ask for money up front. Be prepared to ask for money before final files are delivered. Be prepared! Do I do this? Most of the time I do not do this. But most of my clients are repeat clients and referrals from trusted clients and respected friends.

So, anyone up for a hamburger? I’ll gladly pay you on Tuesday after I get paid for that job I did 3 months ago.

(PS – are you seeing ads on this blog? If so, does it bug you? Let me know!


September 9, 2013

Improv and Successful Voiceover Work?

Filed under: Musings, Techniques — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 10:44 am

I have long been told (and even suggest it myself) that Improv is a great training ground for voiceover pros. Instinctively I think I knew this to be true. But I have never been able to really articulate exactly why. Edge Studio published an article by Vanessa Richardson that finally clarified it for me.

Spontaneity is the word I have been using when thinking and talking about what Improv training will do to help improve delivery of a script, but it goes deeper than just being spontaneous.

The dictionary defines Spontaneous as “1. coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural and unconstrained; unplanned: a spontaneous burst of applause.” Or 2. (of a person) given to acting upon sudden impulses.”

This doesn’t really explain what is actually happening in Improv and how it might relate to reading a script.

It gets more confusing because the word improvise is defined as doing something without preparation.  We all improvise. Every day, all day, we move through our days with little acts of improvisation. For most people, we do not have a script written each morning that details our conversations and interactions. The improv we do here may or may not be good improv.  It may or may not be funny (which is not necessary for improv).  But even if it is funny, the simple act of making the mail carrier laugh because of a witty response to the garden hose bursting and both of us getting soaked is not going to bring in the paying crowds.

What exactly is going on? Let’s look at two facts…

– Good Improv isn’t scripted, but it is backed by lots and lots of preparation.

– Voiceover work is scripted and often times performed with very little preparation.

So, how do these two things go together to help the voiceover performer do a better job? It is all about the connections you make in each. And the key is included in this short quote from Vanessa’s article – drum roll please…

It’s called listening.

In our everyday lives, we all need to listen, being aware of our surroundings and open to a change in direction. This is a key reason why (as actors such as Meryl Streep have long advised), listening is at the core of acting. Listen to the other actor. (Or if you prefer, your character should listen to the other character.) Even when you’re working solo, listen to yourself.

Also listen to your producer, director or client. They are, in effect, your scene partner. The better you listen and are able to take direction in a relaxed and positive manner, the more able you are to make them look good.

As a voice talent, reading from someone else’s script (usually all by myself), it is my job to get inside the head of the other person listening to this “conversation” and – in the way I deliver the story – let their part of the conversation connect with my part of the conversation.

Read the rest of the article for more insight into how Improv and the art of listening and reacting spontaneously can help improve your performance when reading a script.





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