Circling Back: VO's Giving Back Part II

I had some great comments on my LinkedIn discussions re: Voice-Over performers giving back and I wanted to share a few quotes and add some thoughts to their points of view. Chris McHale, who I’ve known for a decade and is one of the great creatives in the industry, remarked, “your personal performance is the only one you control. Which means the only competition you have is yourself!”  He’s right and I’ve echoed this same thought thousands of times except I believe this advice is much more nuanced.   Chris’s point is spot-on for the audition process and for jobs but Chris mentions too that “so many elements play into it” (getting work) and, as a long-time agency creative/executive, very few have seen more.  Now I admit, choosing talent is subjective but what I see more often than not is the “elements” combine in a manner where the “best” talent(s), don’t actually get the work.  An obvious example of this is when we receive a commercial breakdown for a “trailer voice”.   There are only a couple dozen performers who actually make a living working in trailers, and they have honed their expertise over countless sessions and several years yet when that commercial comes to air… rarely will you hear the actual trailer voices.  Instead, there is an imitation of the trailer voice usually by a local actor despite actual trailer voices auditioning for the same job.   What happened?  It doesn’t really matter. The elements have “come into play” and someone else besides a "trailer voice" is working.

Another comment came from Howard Ellison who lives in UK who said among other things… “It’s amazing what you learn from helping others.”  I couldn’t agree more. In my line of business our “helping” or “teaching” is the same as “development.”  I know from personal experience that despite being in the very enviable position of working with amazing talent with great track records that unless I somehow consistently engage in “development,” I am leaving a vital part of my skills and expertise fallow.  What development is for me can be anything from working hand in hand on a new demo or focusing one-on-one on a new read but I admit I reserve my development for my clients so I can’t truly claim I’m being altruistic.

Dave Pettitt, who is an exceptional talent (and a client), comments “Unless I see a real talent and think I'd be willing to devote some time to mentoring that person, I say nothing. Then, it's up to them to take the bull and wrestle the hell out of it.”  I can’t tell you how much I support this line of thinking.  Any advice I give to new talent is often very linear and entails a handful of steps.  At the end of the conversation, I always give the talent the option of reaching back out to me once those steps have been taken.  Unfortunately, very few actually take the steps I suggest but the one’s who do, I know are serious and I’m keeping an eye out on them.

Finally, Joan Bogden (also an exceptional talent and a client), mentions her secondary career as a coach.  Joan begins by saying “true I get paid…” but explains that the “whole process continuously adds to my knowledge of the business, and I really enjoy and value collaborating with these folks.”  I enjoyed this comment so much because Joan is so transparent in that she is receiving dual value in her coaching career; 1) she is being paid for her expertise and 2) she receives personal fulfillment doing it.

Now let me be clear and say I’m not encouraging everybody go out there and coach or even pursue financial gain in offering your voice-over expertise, but I do believe in a system of quid pro quo and strongly encourage anyone helping someone else in this industry to consciously understand what the “return” is for them in providing their assistance.  Dave Pettitt and Joan Bogden both are clear about what they expect but what about everyone else?  What is the appropriate quid pro quo for your assistance in someone else’s career?  Let me know your thoughts.


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