My blog is configured so that I moderate the comments. Otherwise, it would be overloaded with spam comments too ridiculous to repost here. As I was approving comments tonight, I saw this legitimate one attached to the entry titled A Plan to break into voice-over. Even though I usually don’t provide career advice on an individual basis, I felt inspired to answer this question as its own entry.
Hi Karen, I took Paul Armbruster’s Intro to Voiceover class, been through the various levels of classes with Della Cole and also produced a demo. I met with one agent who told me I needed to get rid of my NY State accent, so I sent to two different “accent reduction” coaches and am now at a standstill. I know I need to market myself but should I redo the entire demo or just have one produced with a couple commercials in my “neutral” voice? Your website and blogs are very informational. (BTW, I am now reading Secrets of Voice-Over Success…) Thanks again! D. J.
Several things came to mind as I read this question, and none of them is a short — or even direct — answer to the question. First, I can’t really answer the question about the demo since I haven’t heard it, don’t know how old it is, and don’t critique demos for other voice talent. In the post I just referenced, I concluded with these comments that definitely apply to D. J.’s situation:
“Much of your work in a voice-over career is going to be in managing the business aspects of the job, which starts with your good demo. I recommend that you consult only a few trusted advisors in whom you have confidence; otherwise, you can get too much input and spend too much time perfecting your demo and not enough time marketing it.”
Before asking about re-doing her demo, she wrote: I know I need to market myself but… Here again, I don’t know how much marketing she has actually done to know whether her current demo is effective. I refer her back to these entries for some ideas and questions to help her analyze her marketing plan and her demo promotion efforts:
Persistence will keep the voice-over dream alive
Persistence is especially needed in marketing
25 ways to get publicity and traffic to your web site
Need help in creating a marketing plan?
Last week, I read an article by C. J. Hayden, author of my favorite and most highly recommended marketing book GET CLIENTS NOW!, titled What’s the Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing? that also may be helpful to D. J. or anyone else struggling with their next step.
Reading between the lines of her message, though, I had a sense that D. J. might feel on some level that her efforts are in the category of “not good enough”. That’s the point that I really wanted to address today.
I actively listen to both radio and TV commercials, and I encourage you to do the same thing. I often hear commercials with females who have a speech pattern that I find especially irritating to hear. It’s that flat, back of the throat kind of sound with words ending on a higher pitch — it’s a dialect I call “upspeak”. It reminds me of California Valley Girls of the 80s, especially the way they pronounce words ending in -ER.
It seems that many women in the under-25 crowd have adopted this sound as their own. I suspect they are emulating someone they heard on a TV show because I hear that upspeak dialect even when in the mall or at restaurants. I felt that if I didn’t sound like those women, I couldn’t be marketable for national ads. Also, the majority call of national ads call for younger voices, so I could think that’s 2 strikes against me before I start.
The other big trend I hear is in the 25-35 year old age bracket. These women always seem to have that “crinkle” in their voice — that little trace of gravel on certain key words. I don’t know if it’s done intentionally to meet specs calling for “quirky” voices or these women speak that way all of the time.
Whether it’s the upspeak dialect or the quirky crinkle texture that a producer wants to hear, I would never book that job. I decided to embrace my own speech patterns after my coach Nancy Wolfson gave me these pearls of wisdom:
- You have to trust that you are ENOUGH. After undergoing voiceover training, you deserve to be there — at the audition, in the session, on the finished product.
- Don’t apologize for anything that you bring to the table.
- If you have an agent who is sending scripts to you, your agent thinks you meet the specs.
If you’re concerned about an accent, you can do one of 2 things:
- Work with a speech/dialect coach to reduce it
- Embrace it
Option 1 is certainly viable, and you should be unashamed to pursue it. However, there’s also no shame in embracing an accent. In fact, you may be able to garner a lot of work in a regional market.
Training, a great demo, and a marketing plan will only take you so far. To achieve your voice-over dreams, you’ll need to set aside the self-doubt and know that you are ENOUGH!
Thanks to all of you who read my voiceover blog and write meaningful comments! I’m always pleased to find real comments from aspiring and professional voice talent sprinkled among the inane drivel like this, which is only posted to be a link to a site unrelated to voice-over:
A few days ago I found your blog and have been reading along quietly. I decided I could leave my opening comment. Im not sure exactly what to write except that Ive loved reading it. Nice site. I shall carry on coming back to this site now and again. I have also grabbed the RSS feed for updates.
Doreen Janis says
Thank you again, Karen, for your invaluable information and answering my question. I will continue to access your website on a weekly basis. It’s a great thing to see someone “paying it forward!”
Doreen, I’m so glad if anything I have written helps you move forward in your career. Best wishes for your continued success!