Saturday, April 21, 2007

What you want versus what you need as a student of voice-over.

A discussion took place recently on the about VOICE2007, a conference that took place in Las Vegas last month, ostensibly as a networking and teaching/learning event for voice artists. About 200 people participated and from all accounts it was a great success. There has been much talk about making it an annual event and considerable enthusiasm has been expressed by those members of vo-bb who attended. Several of us who did not attend questioned the goals for the conference, and the response was a laundry list of reasons why such a conference is extremely valuable. Since my reasons for questioning the goals had nothing to do with the value of holding such a conference, and not wanting to beat the horse too severely in that forum, I thought I would continue my thoughts here, since after all, nobody will read them anyway.

My own reasons for not attending: it cost $500 to register, plus travel and lodging in expensive hotels, which could add up to $1000. That was the main reason. But if I had had the money in my travel & training budget to spend, I would not have spent it on a large group seminar. When my husband and I used to teach ballroom dance, we would always advise prospective students that they should take an inexpensive group class before spending money on private lessons, because there is no reason to pay a private instructor to teach the basic steps. The first group dance class I took was at a community college and cost all of $29 for a full semester (about 12 classes). Later, when I was training for competitions, I paid $45/hour for private instruction, and occasionally $100 an hour for a top-level instructor who was also a judge for international competitions. My advice for a voice-over beginner would be the opposite – private coaching is usually the more economical way to go. $340 got me 6 intensive hours of voice-over coaching with Charles Michel, another $400 got me my first demo including direction, recording and production. I got work from that demo pretty quickly and kept using it for over a year, at which point I felt it no longer represented the range of performance of which I was capable (I would hope that, after a year in the business, one’s range would expand! So that was all good). I currently produce my own commercial and narration demos.

Goals evolve. The longer you’re in the voice-over business, the more you start to focus on a niche and your marketing approach inevitably changes along with your goals. You may start to feel the need for additional training of a specialised nature such as training that addresses animation, ADR, audio books, movie trailer work – and some of this training may be as much about “getting connected” in your area of specialty as it is about skill acquisition. A lot of work can be done without paying somebody to teach you, if you have the discipline. But as Pat Fraley often says, “experience is the slowest teacher”, and it may be more economical to hire help. Targeted help that is directly related to what you have decided you want to accomplish. There are lots of qualified instructors offering weekend intensive workshops, even vacation voice-over cruises. What fun it would be to take them all. You might very well want to and of course you would get a lot out of it. But what do you really need? If your budget is limited, you need to think very carefully about what you’re trying to accomplish, what your goals are and what is the most efficient route to making them a reality. I’m still not sure of my goals, because despite narrowing my focus considerably in the last year, there are so many aspects of this business that I love and I can think of several empty voice-over niches that I could fill – I still can’t decide among them. So spending money on conferences that offer an overview of the entire business would be extremely unwise, and until I’m making so much money that I’m looking for tax deductions, I will not be attending these conferences, even though I might want to.



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