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.

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.

 

 

 

 

January 19, 2013

Excellent Advice for Self-directing Audio Book Narration

Filed under: Techniques — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 3:16 pm

One of the things that a professional voice talent MUST have to succeed is the ability to self-direct. We do so much of our work – at least initially (and in many cases most of our work) – alone. Alone with our doubts, our insecurities, our patterns.

When we are auditioning, the ability to self-direct can be the determining factor in getting the gig. We don’t want to send out the “same” read that 95% of the rest of the talent is submitting. We want our audition to leap off the mp3 and straight into the “book that talent” column.

Last year, I tried my hand at fiction audio books for the first time. I am finishing up the 3rd. And while the verdict is still out on if I actually like this area of voice work, I have greatly enjoyed the process. Discovering how much time it REALLY takes. Is it better to have a proofer and an editor – or some combination of both? Do I like the stipend with royalty option, or just the royalty, or just a flat fee.

The first book was entirely self-produced – $100 pfh (per finished hour) stipend, plus royalties. It is coming up on a year since the book was released and the pfh has bumped up to about $175 pfh. The second book I did was a fluffly little Harlequin romance  with a pfh of around $125 – but I didn’t have to do the proofing or the editing. No royalties on this one though, so the one check is the only check I’ll be getting for that one.

I have 3 more chapters to go on the third book – a sweet southern story with a stipend of $150 pfh, plus royalties. So far I am self-producing this one. I sort of liked the team approach, but at the same time, I am used to doing everything myself – the artistic and the technical. I could be persuaded to hand off the technical, but the artistic is all in my hands. That part of the project is almost entirely in our hands. No one is listening to me as I read page after page – chapter after chapter.

Paul Alan Ruben is a Grammy award winning producer/director of audio books and he has written a wonderful article about the art of self-directing during that artistic phase of recording an audio book. He calls his directions – “techniques.”

And technique is defined as an actable performance tool whose purpose is to cause compelling storytelling.

In this article, he is interviewing his co-director – himself – who details 7 Directions that he gives – uh – himself – when working his way through the story. Here they are in a nutshell – you’ll have to read the article to get the details.

Verbalize feeling; Hold back; Flat; Less; Big; Dispassionately teach, passionately; Up the stakes!

If you record audio books – this is a must read. And I know that my co-director will be barking out a few of these orders as I finish up the last three chapters of the Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society.

July 13, 2012

Voices behind those familiar cartoon characters: “I Know That Voice”

Filed under: Business, Techniques — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 1:10 pm

I’m thrilled and a bit scared to see that a documentary on cartoon voice actors is in production.

Thrilled, because I know a few of the people in the film personally – one of whom was actually my agent way back in the 80’s before she moved to Hanna-Barbara – Andrea Romano.

Scared because it is more exposure to the business of voice acting – which will probably inspire more and more people to give up their day jobs to try to become a voiceover actor. So they will seek out advice – many asking far too many questions that will point out that they have nary a clue how to use Google to find the basic answers so that they can craft answerable questions.

I have included both trailers. The first one embedded here is lots of fun – but look just below for the other trailer. If you are one of those who have always made your friends laugh with your impersonations of cartoon characters – really listen to what the actors are saying in that first trailer. It isn’t about silly voices.

February 27, 2012

What Do Voiceover Folk Say?

Filed under: Musings — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:13 pm

The flood of S*%t People Say videos isn’t stopping apparently. Just saw one posted to Facebook by my good buddy Trish, the Dish.

This one was done by a bunch of Australian talent who work in studios. Pretty funny stuff. But considering that so many of us work primarily out of our own studios these days – the bits about the color of the cable or asking for a different set of “cans” – just wouldn’t happen.

But I have so many memories of working in the different studios around town. Some with cans that squeezed your head. Some with cans that fell off because they were so loose.

Watch the body language of the “mushroom” bit. I so wanted to hear what she came up with.

And I do that warm up in the shower! Well, not exactly that warm up, but something goofy.

RMK Management Pty Ltd is a leading supplier of creative services within Australia. Managing Voices, Actors,Child Talent and now Crew through RMKcrew.com.au

November 23, 2011

Are you still doing voiceover work?

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 4:34 pm

As a long time voiceover talent, I get email from past clients on a regular basis asking me if I am still doing voiceover work. I assure them that I am and their relief is followed by a script.

It begs the question though…how many times do clients return to someone and find that they are no longer in business? As technology and services change and it becomes easier for people to hang out their shingle proclaiming their voiceover prowess, it strikes me that many people who get hired today for a project (and may even do a decent job on that project) may not be able to sustain voiceover as a viable business and simply not be around when the client needs an update.

Their equipment may still be hooked up, but their new day job, the one they had to take to put food on the table and pay the mortgage is a traditional 9-5’er (or more) and doesn’t leave a lot of time to do VO work. Or time passes without doing or thinking about VO and skills (performance and technological) suffer. Their website hasn’t been updated for a couple of years and the links aren’t working anymore – or the phone number changed.

All of these things happen, so it is nice to be able to tell someone, “Yes, I still do voiceover work.”

Voiceover work has been part of my day job for most of the past 34 years. For the past dozen or so, my full-time job. That means I WILL still be doing voiceover work when a old client needs something. Oh, I imagine the day will come when I hang up the mic, or start to be extremely picky about my clients, but that day is still far down the road.

Of course there are other clients who I haven’t worked with in years who will simply send me a script and a deadline. No questions about still being in business. That happened this weekend. An International client – who I last worked for in early 2007 – contacted me about a project that needed to be done before Thanksgiving. It has been completed and invoiced.

So, if anyone asks me what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, I will tell them my clients, new and repeat, who keep me in business, so that I can be there when they need me, whenever that might be.

July 23, 2009

Working on another role play for eLearning

Filed under: Musings — Tags: , , , , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 3:46 pm

It is interesting to see how work evolves and how people hear you. When I started in the business, I did primarily corporate narration and straight commercials with a lot of “sell.” Now, in the past few years, a large percentage of my work has turned to more role playing than straight narration.

eLearning characters make up a big part of that – being cast in multiple roles within programs – ranging from some nebulous African accent, to redneck homophobe, to tough Boss Lady. I have had more than one casting as Tough Boss Lady – working on one right now which sort of prompted this post. But I have also been cast as “soft young Asian woman learning to speak her mind at work.” So I while I do a good tough boss lady, please don’t pigeon-hole me there.

A lot of my radio and TV spot work has also been as a real person, rather than an announcer. With several dialogue radio spots for regional clients such as Meijer and SouthernLINC. And more as the concerned mother (young and old).

Probably the most fun has been the multitude of little old ladies, moms, teachers, secretaries, little boys, animals and inanimate objects for Ring Tales collection of animated cartoon strips (New Yorker, Dilbert and Cul De Sac).

The delightful irony of this transition is that it bleeds back over into my annoucing and narration work, allowing me to bring more me to the session.

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