100% Genuine Snake Oil

Snake-oil
I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve joined a Seattle VO meetup group. This has put me into contact with a lot of brand new VO talent looking to get coaching and break into the business. It’s a wonderful little group, all willing to share information. “Mr. LA Coach is in town next weekend for a workshop at XYZ Studios.” “Ms NY coach will be doing private sessions and you can even record your demo if you have a few thousand dollars laying around.” Okay, so maybe this kind of information isn’t helpful. If anything, I find it downright disturbing because you suddenly become aware of the sheer number of people who will happily take your money and leave you with the promise of a career.

Just in my few years training in VO I’ve had a coach contact me advertising his latest class with a reminder that he’s getting ready to help cast a major project so maybe if I sign up for the course, I can get hired too. I had another VO talent who I had contacted in regards to how she handled her British and American demos, who bombards me on a weekly basis with email about this course and that course that she’s selling. Even coaches who are supposedly beloved by professionals for taking them to “the next level” don’t seem above coaching beginners and producing their demos. I even saw a VO talent, with only two years in the business, teaching classes online, charging for basic information that is readily available online for free.

This isn’t to say that all coaches are like this. If you attend a Bob Bergen class for instance, he won’t even let you take another class for two years. Personally, I still remember working with Mary-McDonald Lewis, as we wrapped up the intro to voice over class she was teaching. She urged all of us in the class to continue studying with different coaches and not even think of making a demo for two years. Is that two years a hard and fast rule? No. Not necessarily. But she’s right that we shouldn’t make a demo until we’re absolutely ready. This business is harsh. You don’t get a second chance to make that first impression, and you have to be able to compete with the pros in LA who have tons of experience.

So how do we get that training? Well, for starters, by being discerning. Research, research, research. Lately, it seems, a lot of LA actors are discovering that Seattle is near enough away to come here for the weekend and teach a class. This is great news if that person is a working voice talent. But if that person has a small handful of video games under his belt and is more famous for his on camera work, maybe that isn’t the best way to spend $200. Ask around. Really ask around. Private message people. Nobody wants to openly bad mouth folks in this business, but they’ll be a bit more open about their experiences with certain coaches if they know it’s not available for the world to see.

But remember, it’s not just about coaching. We learn in all kinds of different ways. Some of those ways include practising with other voice talent so you coach each other. I actually hope we get to do more of this at our Seattle meetup group. If you don’t know any talent nearby, go to Edge Studios and record some of the practice scripts and put them up for evaluation. Also, go to voice bank and listen to demos from the pros. Record yourself reading copy, and listen critically. Compare yourself to the pros, and try to get a sense of what they are doing that you’re not doing. Voice Bank’s Voice Registry also has a great weekly workout session, which is a relatively cheap $84. The point is, coaching is great, if you can find a good coach you trust, who will bring the best out of you, but it takes more than money to get a voice over career started, and you may regret that four thousand dollars you spent on a demo when you consider that the average non-union voice talent earns about $4500 a year.

In other news, Intertwine, the time travel romance I recorded at the beginning of the year, hit number 11 on Audible (may have even gone higher than that, I only just discovered the stats) and was last seen planted between two Diana Gabaldon titles. I’m pretty chuffed, I must say! In the meantime, The Sea Queen by Jovee Winters is getting ready to be released on Audible, and I’m ging to be starting recording on book two of The Black Prince triology.