Avast ye maties! I’m sure ye’d be knowin’ that this be a special day! Aaarrggh, it be Talk Like a Pirate Day, like it be every time the September sun rises on the nineteenth day.
Another lass and I were discussing this auspicious occasion yesterday, and we wondered why you never see any female pirates in the movies. She advised me that peg legs throw of your balance when you’re wearing stiletto heels. I added that stilettos wouldn’t be very safe when walking on wooden planks. Also, women tend to pursue more hygienic habits and environments than men. Of course, there’s that whole “women considered property through the ages” thing…but I digress.
I have a theory that one reason that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were so incredibly successful — besides the action-filled storylines, brilliant acting, magnificent scenery, compelling musical score and dentistry appropriate to the time period — is because of the perfect casting. Geoffrey Rush not only looked the part of the pirate, but you have to agree that his pirate talk made ye shiver in yer timbers! Johnny Depp, meanwhile, belied the pirate stereotype and spoke in a completely unexpected manner.
I think a lot of men enjoy creating pirate voices that sound like Geoffrey Rush. If the man is a voice-over actor, he might be tempted to put that pirate voice on his commercial demo. It’s the same for women imitating Margaret Hamilton as the infamous Wicked Witch of the West. We all want to show our range, and some part of us likes to play the villain.
It may be fun to talk like a pirate or a witch, but don’t put those voices on your commercial demo if you want to get booked.First of all, do you ever hear pirates and witches when you listen to TV and radio commercials? The only time witches and pirates seem to invade the airwaves is around Halloween. I wince to admit that my first commercial demo way back when included a witch voice that probably sounded very much like Hamilton. The copy was from a furniture chain’s ad that ran at — you guessed it — Halloween. I later learned that pirate and witch voices are overdone on demos to the point of being trite.
About this time last year, Mary Lynn Wissner of Voices Voicecasting critiqued demos for 19 members of Susan Berkley’s Inner Circle coaching program. I learned much from hearing her comments to other talent. She said you should have a separate animation track only if you can do a lot of voices and can nail the voices perfectly.
Listed below are 7 of Mary Lynn’s tips from that critique session for creating your commercial demo:
- Get a great director for the commercials demo. Narration demos are easier to produce on your own.
- Make sure the first spot is your voice, and it jumps out. If the first spot doesn’t grab her attention, she would delete the file. She can hear right away whether you can act, if a voice is interesting or the read is compelling.
- People get bored within 10 seconds, so a trained ear gets the voice print in 10 seconds.
- The demo should be no longer than 60 seconds.
- The 5 foundations of commercial voice-over direction are Warm/Friendly, Wry/Dry, Cosmetic, Authoritative and Real Person.
- Make the segments short and have variety between each spot so that the voice quality sounds different. Her frequent comment was that the demo contained too much of the same sounding voice.
- If you’re trying to obtain work in a particular niche, only send the demo appropriate for that niche. In other words, don’t send the commercial demo to the audiobook publishers and training departments.
I do have facility with character voices. I can talk like a pirate or just about anything else you can imagine. I have learned to let those character voices come out to play when it’s time for an audiobook.
In fact, my commercial demo contained a few character voices. Mary Lynn liked a couple of them but then said they sounded like people she knows in Los Angeles. If you use real copy on your demo (which may be another topic for another day), be careful that you don’t use something that people in the business will know is voiced by someone else. She repeated that comment to another group member who had used the “Mastercard…priceless” copy on his demo.
You will notice that I currently am not promoting my commercial demo. I switched to my current coach Nancy Wolfson in large part because I knew that my commercial demo was overdue for an overhaul. With her keen ear and branding expertise, Nancy listened to my demo. Like the barmaid said to the drunken pirate, Nancy said my demo was not serving me. I made that demo walk the plank, and I won’t raise the flag for it until a new one comes aboard.
Two of Nancy’s observations about my last commercial demo may help you:
- She said my authentic voice was hidden for almost 40 seconds. Busy casting directors won’t listen that long to hear your money voice.
- Just because you were paid for a spot doesn’t mean it has any place on your commercial demo. Outdated styles of copy and/or production issues like improper volume or musical choices can easily send your demo to Davy Jones’ Locker.
Me hearties, I be supposin’ that this be enough talk about demos and marketing for one day. In the words of me favorite pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow: Now bring on that horizon.