Today, we wrap up our series “Gimme The Mic” with a critique of my voiceover demo. My burdgeoning voiceover career never really took off, even with the help of NYC voiceover coach Marla Kirban. I sought out Kirban almost ten years ago after many people told me that I have a nice voice and asked, “Did you ever consider doing voiceover work?” Because I also spent a couple of years recording the ticket call-for-action announcement on Geraldo’s talk show, I really thought I could have a new career.
For those of you wondering what a voiceover artist does, here’s a quick overview. Voiceover artists provide voices for television, radio, commercials, documentaries, and even corporate presentations. They read a narration or act out a voice. It turns out a lot of it is acting and creating a feeling in a convincing speaking voice. A narration or script might be long or short and voiceover artists can be paid anywhere from less than $100 to thousands of dollars. I recently saw the independent film In A World, which gives a little behind-the-scenes look at the industry. Check it out if you have a chance.
In last week’s installment of “Gimme The Mic,“ voiceover coach Marla Kirban, who has a long list of celebrity clients, gave us a few tips on how to prepare to do voiceovers and how to master the craft. A good speaking voice is a plus, but not enough. The field is VERY competitive and hard to break into.
Ten years ago, I was not be deterred by the above information. I bought one of Marla’s package deals and got started. The package included several classes a week, weekly copy to take home and practice, a list of agents and casting directors, and, of course, my demo. I attended several sessions a week for a few months and even participated in a “pro-jam session” where I read copy in front of a large group for practice. Ugh! Talk about nerve-wracking.
When my sessions were over, I walked away from the experience having learned a few things.
Lesson #1: Talk to one person. Marla used to remind me to breathe and pretend I’m talking to one person. Easy to do standing in a room in front of her.
Lesson #2: Once you get the copy, create an opinion and attitude. If it’s happy, sad, serious, or jovial, there is an opinion in there.
Lesson #3: The copy has an intro and body. It also has has rhythm and timing. I used to highlight certain words to emphasize and underline other words. I usually put an accent on the product.
Lesson #4: Smile! It turns out that smiling during your read adds levity. It relaxed me and you could hear the smile in my read.
When Marla read the same copy as me, she would put on a big smile and own it. Our two reads sounded very different, and, of course, I wanted to sound more like her.
When an artist goes in to audition, voiceover clients are very clear about the voice they want for a spot. Female, male, white, black, serious, sassy–you get the picture. In last week’s post, Marla explained, “A voice that’s perfect for a voiceover is the one that the producer wants. There’s no perfect voice; just the one that the ad agency feels is right for the product they’re selling.”
Marla and I spent quite a bit of time working on my “black, sassy girl” voice. I think she wanted Atlanta Housewife NeNe Leakes and I was giving her Valley girl. LOL! I also had problems giving her a sultry and sexy voice at at 9:00 a.m., standing in a light-filled room with a coach watching me. Today, the whole thing makes me laugh.
When it was time to record my demo, Marla coached me through it and I felt much more natural than when I first walked into her studio. In the end, I was quite happy with the final product and actually felt pretty good about my chances of getting a deal. Since you haven’t heard my voice on television or anywhere else, I bet you can guess how this all turned out.
After mailing out at least 25 demos and running to a few casting calls with no response or call back, I gave up the voiceover dream. Ten years later, I still have the box of demo tapes. Other than the 25 agents who I sent it to and my family, no one has heard this demo until now.
For our series, Marla agreed to critique and give my demo a facelift or earlift, in this case. LOL! Here is what she had to say:
“Voiceover styles have changed. Things aren’t as animated as they were before. Things are more matter of fact, even bored sometimes. There are a lot of spots on the demo that are a little too performed and over the top. It needs to be real, and not as ‘schticky.’ Sexy has been replaced by an ‘I don’t care what you think’ attitude. Less is more. Also, there are a lot of possibilities and opportunities to do industrial spots, video corporate spots, so what I’d like to have on the demo is something that is more informative to cover that category.
“The product might have to be more current, in keeping with what is around now. Gucci might be replaced by Michael Kors, for example. And technology is outdated very quickly. Your demo has somewhat withstood the test of time, but the clock is ticking! There are opportunities here to make it sound more current.”
Oh, God, do I dare?
Marla Kirban is a group instructor and Marla Kirban Voiceover seminars focus on the New York City market of voice-over, including television, radio, promos and narration. In her seminars, students get the opportunity to read copy, perform partner reads, and learn how find their niche. She has also taught at many universities around the country. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-397-7969.
TV/Social Media Producer Debbie Mitchell is an Emmy nominated producer who is a member of the Producers Guild of America (PGA). She is currently a member of the James Beard Broadcast and New Media Awards Committee. If you are interested in “Book Case TV” or are a brand interested in Social TV, blogger outreach campaigns, or a blogger or personality interested in television placement, follow Debbie Mitchell @SocialTVDeb and/or email SocialTVDeb@gmail.com.
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