Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

July 9, 2014

Time for a Kick Start

Filed under: Auditioning, Musings — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 6:45 pm

I am a working voice talent. I make my living doing this. And as with most voice talent outside the major markets I find that I rely more and more on my own abilities to self-direct. Especially at the audition phase.

As someone who has been doing this a long time, I have lots of repeat clients, referrals and direct leads from my website – most of which don’t ask for an audition because they know me, or they simply like what they hear on my demos and don’t ask for an audition.

But, oh those auditions…

It is true that the booking to audition ratio is getting worse. More agents receive the same copy – which means many more people end up auditioning for the same spot – where in the past one or two agents would submit just a few of their talent.  This is ancient history. And if you are on any of the Pay-2-Play sites, you will find that in some cases the producer asks for 100 auditions.

Today your auditions have to stand out with at least three things to help land you the job. They have to be Quick. They have to be Different. And they have to be Right.

Quick – in delivery, because of the sheer numbers of auditions being submitted. At some point the producer will hear something that catches their ear and stop listening. So, the quicker you get the audition in the better.

Different – because many auditions will have a similar feel. People will read a piece of copy at the same pace with the same inflections, stopping in the same places. Now, the bigger the project, the less this happens, because the quality of the talent is just – well, better.

Right – this is one of those intangibles in some respects (and is actually related to being Different I suppose), because you may be giving a fine performance that stands out, but you simply are not the voice in the producer’s head this time around.

So, how do you deliver an audition that grabs the producer by the ears in a timely manner?

This is actually on my mind quite a lot these days, because I have noticed a trend in what I am booking off auditions.

The stuff I do every day for my repeat clients, referrals and direct leads is the bread and butter of our industry these days – the corporate pieces, websites, eLearning, marketing, company communications. (My last blog post highlighted a couple of these pieces.) I have worked for some of these clients for more than 10 years – a few for much longer than that. A few are new clients who heard my demos and made the leap. I don’t have to audition for those jobs.

The irony here is that in looking at my auditions this year, when I have to audition for the type of work I do all the time, I am not booking the jobs.

What I do book off auditions are dialog roles for radio spots or eLearning projects. Wives, teachers, moms, grandmothers. Some funny. Some caring. But always a real person delivering realistic dialog. Not crazy characters, but ordinary people with a point of view.

But these are not major market spots that will pull in the “pay off the mortgage” dollars. They are fun. They are almost always ISDN which means actual people on the line having fun with you. But they are almost always regional spots with a limited shelf-life.

The eLearning dialog is also lower on the pay scale because the roles are usually small.

So, time for a tune up – a kick start. Time to trust one of the most trusted coaches in the industry to help me figure out how to find my voice for the endless opportunities in corporate narration and the once in a while high dollar commercials that come my way – and Quickly produce a read that is Different and rings Right to the person making the decision on who to hire for the job.

December 15, 2012

Advice for Producers is Also Good Advice for Talent

Filed under: Auditioning — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:56 am

Just ran across this blog post by Marc Scott cross-posted on Voice123. It is aimed at the people seeking voice talent, however it is good advice for both the seeker and the seekee! In fact, as a user of the online casting sites myself, I have a similar set of guidelines as I decide which projects to audition for.

One of the biggies for me is a poorly written script. As a long time award-winning scriptwriter and corporate producer before jumping into voiceover full-time, I wrote many many scripts for other talent to read. A well-written script is ALWAYS easier for the talent to deliver. If you are new to the art of writing a script for someone to verbalize, put your words to the test. Record yourself reading the material aloud before you send it off for auditions. If you have a hard time getting the words out, try to figure out why? Are the sentences too long? Is the script simply a transcription of a white paper? There is a big difference between writing for the eye and writing for the ear. So, when I am deciding what projects to audition for, if I find that a script just doesn’t roll off the tongue easily in a logical and interesting way, then I am likely to pass on the audition. Other factors will come into play of course, but a good script will help you get good auditions from better actors.

“Why Am I Not Receiving Quality Auditions for My Project – Part 1” Part 2 is on his blog as well.

I’m just listing his points here – jump over to his blog to get the details.

  1. Poor Direction

  2. Unclear Budget

  3. Poorly Written Script

  4. Conflicting Information

  5. The Kitchen Sink

  6. Must Read Entire Script

  7. Unrealistic Budget

  8. Unrealistic Timeline

  9. No Pronunciation Guideline

  10. No Script

 

May 21, 2012

Why Can’t People “Hear” Themselves?

Today it is easier and easier to get feedback on what you are doing. Why don’t people listen? Or perhaps, why – when given good feedback – why don’t people take action to improve what they are doing? Do they simply not hear themselves?

So many people these days have been told by endless “voiceover” coaches that they can make it – all they need is determination – and their signature on the bottom of that check paying for more classes. They stop listening to themselves and never develop their self-evaluation skills.

Most of the forums for voiceover people include critique areas where people can post demos for comments. I’m referring to demos from newbies, not updated demos from people who are making actual money doing voiceovers. You can get honest, yet sometimes highly conflicting advice. And if you follow the subsequent comments to a thread, this advice is often rejected by the person seeking the advice.

For a fee of $7 per month, you can join VoiceRegistry and do their Weekend Workouts, where actual working top agents and casting people will listen to your submissions and provide individual feedback – which everyone who submits can see as well. Scary thought isn’t it!

But what a great way to develop, not only a thick skin, which you need in this business, but a keen ear on what works and what doesn’t. What the agents/casting people are liking at a certain moment in time. While some of the comments are probably kept pretty tepid (the agent really wants to scream because the submission was so far off the mark, but instead says something “kind”), there is enough information for you to read between the lines and sort the best from the worst. Your own ears should be able to pick this up without their comments, but sometimes you can hone in on why they think one read was superior. And this is valuable information.

The other weekly competition is over at Edge Studio. This one is free and probably because it is free and they are pretty high profile, their contest submissions run in the neighborhood of 200 per weekend. I have been listening to a few of the “winning” entries over the past few weeks and reading the commentary on why submissions didn’t win. Two weeks ago, they decided to record a teleconference discussing a dozen or so of the submissions and why NO ONE was selected to win that week’s competition.

That phone call was filled with people – a few of whom simply didn’t listen to instructions on how to mute their phones. That was distracting for everyone. And another example of people simply not hearing what has been said to them. The meat of the discussion showcased once again how this business is part subjective and part objective. People’s comments were wide ranging and often directly opposite thoughts. While I wouldn’t recommend that David do calls like this on a regular basis, it did inspire me to enter the contest the next week to see if I could make it to the Top Three.

I entered. Twice. With two different anonymous user names and two different styles of delivery. Then, when the competition closed and all bazillion entries were posted for review, I listened to them all. And most of the entries were really so bad it’s – sad? frightening? scary?

Obviously many of the people who entered are wannabe’s and some newbies, but what I want to know is if they thought that what they submitted was good!? While bad audio can be forgiven to a degree for an audition – there are no-cost ways to reduce background noise.  But to leave the TV playing in the background while you are recording something for a contest? Huh? Read the reasons why people didn’t get selected for the Contest ending Friday, May 18th.

Of the 200 or so submissions, I jotted down 14 names, including my two – for a total of 16 – that I thought were worthy of consideration. All of the top three were on my short-list. But listing only the top three may not be enough for people to understand BOTH the subjective nature of this business and get enough information to be able to apply it to their own submissions.

I fessed up to David Goldberg in an email that I had submitted not one, but two entries in the contest that week. We chatted a bit about the process. Apparently, his staff goes through all the submissions and creates a short list that he then listens to, jots down some notes and then picks first, second and third place.

I suggested that it might be even more educational to identify all of the top picks. From there, he could, for the purposes of handing out the weekly prizes assign the winners. But with auditions, it is usually the overall tone and pace and quality that the producer selects, knowing that in the session they can get a take that addresses those little nuances, like hitting a word just a tad stronger or warming up on a phrase. I live for my ISDN sessions (or actual in the studio with live human beings) where I get to actually interact with the director and make them happy!

So, hearing the whole range of what made it to the selects would be a great teaching tool – for those who will listen.

Enough suspense?

I made it to the Top Three with my BonnieK entry. And he told me that my other entry was in the top selects as well. I would have been very very surprised if it had not been. I was sort of expecting to pick up two prizes, but there you go! Another example of the subjective nature of the biz! If you want to hear the other, do a search on the page for KayT.

March 2, 2011

Conversational Read? Sure – What Flavor?

Filed under: Auditioning, Techniques — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 3:40 pm

We get it all the time in casting directions these days – the client wants a conversational read. They specifically tell you that a non-announcer read required.

But what flavor of conversation do they want? There are a lot of different ways to be “conversational.” Just listen to real people have a conversation. In fact, record yourself having conversations with different people.

(It might not be a good idea to record your conversation with the phone company after your phone lines have been down for 3 days. Or your call to the power company after the hot switch of the meter blew out your dishwasher and microwave. Although there are probably copies of those calls and if you run for public office they will surface.)

A lot of the nuances in just what conversational style will be right will come from the particular script you are reading, but Pam Turlow recently blogged about this subject and listed a few specific conversational “styles” that should help your taste buds get warmed up for your next non-announcer read.

http://pamturlowvo.blogspot.com/2011/03/what-is-conversational-voice-over-read.html

June 11, 2010

Audiobook Insights from VOICE 2010

Filed under: Auditioning, Marketing — Tags: , , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:03 am

“Narrating audiobooks is one of the fastest growing niche areas of voiceover!”

This is a quote from Hilary Huber’s Audiobook panel materials for her Friday, June 4th Breakout session. On hand were Scott Brick and Pat Fraley to discuss what skills you need to actually work in this area.

The biggest hurdle for many people with aspirations of recording audiobooks is the simple fact that you have to read aloud for a LONG time. Most people THINK they can do this, but when faced with 500 pages of book – with multiple characters of different genders, ages, ethnicities, etc. – the reality is that it takes much more than thinking about it.

If you have gotten to the point where you can comfortably read for several hours a day for several days, without an excessive number of stops and starts or abundant mouth noise, then perhaps you are ready to market your services.

The current trend for demos (and this is not an exact science) is at least three – 1 minute excerpts with a slate before each. Pick from familiar books – good books, but not best sellers done by well known audiobook narrators. Although it was suggested that you could send a specific producer a snippet from something they have produced. This would require several demos customized to each producer, of course. Your demo should also have pristine sound – rent a studio if necessary – and use a director.

Got your demo(s) done – look for a publisher who will take a chance on you – probably not the big houses, but the smaller publishers.

Some links for researching audiobook publishers:

http://audiopub.org/

http://www.audiofilemagazine.com

http://www.booksontape.com/

One final thought from the panel…

“Slow down on action scenes.”

June 9, 2010

Censored!

Filed under: Auditioning, Techniques — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:15 pm

I would like to share the g-rated moments that I gleaned from Nancy Wolfson’s VOICE 2010 session on Friday, June 4. Her session was definitely pushing my comfort zone at first, but, hey, if Bob Souer can do it, then by gosh, I can try it too!

First of all some basic f*!#g tips.

  • Active hush – I may need someone to post a response explaning what this actually means, but I think it relates to the next bullet…
  • Avoid Volume and Cheerfulness – instead to add energy use vocal tension
  • Watch the smile (the Joanie Gerber “psychotic” smile may be old-school?)
  • Keep the copy higher than your eyes
  • Keep your body loose – ready to pounce

The x-rated portion of the session was all about using your natural instincts and doing three takes.

  • The Admit take – this is the gut take – no extra words
  • Then “throw down the “f” word” before the key words in the copy. Don’t worry, you’ll find them.
  • Now take out the “f” word and underline the vowels in the word that followed the “f” word.

Try it – it seems to work.

February 24, 2010

Paul Strikwerda Bursts the Audition Bubble

Filed under: Marketing — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:06 pm

Paul is one of my favorite bloggers. He can stir up the pot a bit at times, which is fun. But usually, he has something brilliant to say about the business.

I’ve been ruminating on auditions lately. About the fact that I haven’t auditioned so much as I have since we moved into a remote casting era. But what I didn’t say (and that Paul says so well in his latest blog post), is that I am extremely picky about what I audition for. I checked my “stats” for the past 6 months at Voice123. I have deleted more than 1050 audition opportunities – and sent in auditions for about 75. Number of actual jobs? Very few from V123. Same basic ratio at Voices.com, but with far fewer audition opportunities.

http://nethervoice.com/nethervoice/2010/02/24/bursting-the-audition-bubble/

Something I talk to my introductory students about is learning to practice so that you actually improve – and not build in bad habits. 

Pauls says, “In my mind, you practice to audition. You don’t audition to practice.” Great stuff Paul!

January 15, 2010

Can’t get away from it – even in Paradise

Filed under: Auditioning — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:44 pm

Just got back from about a week in Hawaii (the Big Island). My first trip – most of it spent driving around the island stopping at every point of interest. Amazing place.

Went over there for a VO Workshop – Medical Mumbo – with Julie Williams. That was one day in Hilo in the middle of the trip. Decided not to drag my laptop studio with me. Just the BlackBerry for email that mostly informed me of all of the auditions I was missing, as well as the ability to post pics to Facebook. It also rang a couple of times with jobs that needed to be pushed back until I got home. Luckily I was able to push them. Most of the time, when you leave home, you lose money.

But because this was a VO workshop, I did have a chance to do one audition that I just didn’t want to let slide. The “studio” was temporary. The closet with someone holding up a reflecting blanket to block out the sound of the tiled bathroom in the background. So, speaking into a mic nestled in the pants and dresses, I did a couple of takes and sent it off to the agent.

December 23, 2009

You Just Never Know…

Filed under: Auditioning, Business, Marketing — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 10:04 am

After all that ruminating about doing so many auditions and lamenting that most people were not casting off our demos (see prior blog post – https://isdnvoicetalent.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/ruminating-again-about-auditions/), I had a direct hit off one of the P2P sites that will result in an ISDN session this morning.

So, you just have to keep everything honed and at the ready…’cause you just never know the path someone will take to find and hire you. Keep your generic demos fresh!

It’s just one part of any good business plan. Scroll back a few posts to see some great responses from a couple of pros on some of the other business thoughts I’ve had over the past week or so.

https://isdnvoicetalent.wordpress.com/2009/12/22/more-on-the-business-of-vo/

https://isdnvoicetalent.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/tangible-and-intangible-assets-needed-for-voiceover-biz/

December 21, 2009

Answers about casting from Rudy Gaskins

Filed under: Auditioning — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 8:59 pm

In light of my recent blog post (and subsequent article on VoiceOverXtra) about the selection process, Rudy Gaskins has some answers in his most recent article on VoiceOverXtra (Part 3).

He offers some fabulous insight in why he would select celebrity vs. working class talent. He also talks the process of selection – not the process of rejection. One question I may ask him is how many custom auditions he listens to and at what stage in his process. The article implies that he casts off the generic demos on the sites such as http://www.videovoicebank.net/.

Check it out – http://www.voiceoverxtra.com/article.htm?id=dyjk7quv

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