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It’s pretty easy to get discouraged sometimes, right!? This week I’d like to talk a little about persistence.
This is a tough business.
I mean, it’s easy enough to get involved, pretty much anyone can get a microphone and some editing software and go for it (OK, maybe not very WELL, but going for it anyway). And it is BECAUSE it’s pretty easy to get involved, it is also very competitive. Don’t get me wrong, it is not cutthroat win at all costs competitive…it’s just there are so MANY people all competing for the same work. Honestly, I am sure there are some, but NONE of the people I know are unhappy when you book a gig. Maybe it would be better to say “It’s crowded” instead of competitive.
A hungry school of fish.
Have you ever been to a lake where they sell loaves of bread to feed the fish with? You know how the fish crowd around a single piece of bread, climbing all over one another to get at it? Yeah, that’s what I think of when I say competitive. It’s like a hungry school of (non-shark) fish all trying to get to that one piece of bread.
If you spend any amount of time on any of the online casting sites, you’ll know what I mean. Just this morning I saw a job that was posted yesterday, which was open for the next 8 hours, who wanted to receive 50 auditions. When I saw it early this morning, it had over 150 responses. THREE TIMES what the client asked for. In all honesty, if you don’t get your audition in within the first 25-30 submissions, odds of you getting the gig are miniscule even if just because they will never even GET to your audio. On top of that, if they DO get to yours, by the time they do audio exhaustion will have set in, and your fine nuanced performance may as well be a jackass braying into the microphone. Go ahead, try listening to 150 audio clips of the SAME TEXT and see how you feel after 30 of them. Not good.
They’re not ALL bad.
I’ve talked about online casting sites (P2P) in an earlier post, so I won’t belabor it here, but suffice to say that using a P2P site is not an inherently bad idea; you just need to use it to draw clients away from the P2P and to you as a return client. Your goal with the P2P sites should be to make satisfied clients who reach out to you when they need your services.
I’ve also previously mentioned that a voice over artist, especially when just getting started, should expect to book ON AVERAGE about 2 out of every hundred auditions. On average…this means that sometimes you book 5 out of 100 and sometimes you book 1 out of 300. It’s just the way averages work, sorry.
But it can be so discouraging!
Yep, it CAN. Trust me, I KNOW. But here is the rub: You book exactly ZERO of the jobs you don’t go for. It is important to KEEP TRYING!
Here’s the thing: Every audition you do teaches you something and makes you better at this craft. It’s true, auditioning should never be the tool you use to practice, but the act of auditioning DOES give you practice and teaches you valuable things. Just make sure you are reasonably proficient at recording and editing your audio before you start auditioning and never stop getting training and coaching. While auditioning does give you experience, and valuable lessons, it is definitely NOT a substitute for training. Besides, remember earlier when I discussed casting directors getting WAY more auditions than they asked for? What they DON’T need is to have to listen to someone’s (or many someone’s’s (I made that up just now) practice auditions).
If you just want to practice…
Then a good way to do that is record several takes using the script for the audition, edit it, master it and then LISTEN back to it. If you wait a day between recording and listening, you are bound to hear the flaws in the audio. Better yet, find a partner that has some experience and ask THEM to listen and give feedback. Feedback from someone who knows what they are talking about is invaluable, and something you never get from an audition. Well, never…except when they book you, I suppose that’s a form of feedback.
Another reason not to use auditions as practice.
Many of the clients posting jobs on casting sites do it over and over again. See, the casting sites got the memo about return customers. If you are submitting substandard auditions in order to “practice”, before long when these return clients see your name, they skip right past your audio…after all they have 149 more to listen to. Using auditions to practice is like shooting yourself in the foot to enter a marathon.
Anyway, back to persistence…
I suppose this goes for just about anything in life, but just because you “fail” (don’t get the job) doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to do this work. For me this applies not only to voice over, but screen acting as well…maybe for you too. I know when I was a kid my mom always used to tell me: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. I modified that in my teen and early 20’s years to say: “If at first you don’t succeed, try once more then give up. No sense embarrassing yourself”. Clearly, as I have started this third career at sixty years old, that advice didn’t work out so well for me. I highly recommend you follow that FIRST piece of advice from my mom and not listen to young, flippant, ignorant me.
I read a good book recently called The Dip. Full disclosure, the book ALSO talks about quitting things as well as persevering. You have to choose which things you pursue, but once you decide, you have to work through the dip. That period of time after initial success that gets discouraging. You see, it happens with nearly everything. You jump in, have some minor success, get excited, then everything slows down and you get discouraged. That discouraged part? That’s the dip. If you work hard through the dip, you come out the other side successful. I’m paraphrasing, you really should read this book.
Did you know?
Think about all the cool gadgets we have for our convenience these days. We carry more computing power in our pocket now than was available on the NASA rocket that sent men to the moon and back. Have you ever thought about what it took to get these things into your hands? Things we take for granted today didn’t exist, and in some cases weren’t even being considered 150 years ago. Here are some examples of when persistence paid off.
Today, we think nothing of buying a ticket, heading to the airport and jumping on a huge airplane to head, well, just about anywhere we want to. But the airplane is a relatively new invention in the overall scope of things. The Wright brothers are well known for their invention of powered, manned flying machines, but their first successful flight lasted only 20 seconds and traveled a meager 120 feet. Did you know that the successful flight in 1903 came after working on this idea for more than 7 years? They started by modifying kites into unmanned gliders to learn about aerodynamics, and from 1896 to 1899 when they started working on a manned version, they encountered failure after failure. Imagine what the world might look like today if they had given up after the first few? Best case, someone else would have figured it out, but no one would now know the names of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Persistence pays.
Everyone knows the name Thomas A. Edison, because without him, we would still be reading by candlelight. I’ve read accounts that Edison failed more than ONE THOUSAND TIMES before successfully developing a light bulb that worked. Edison is famously quoted as saying: “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” What if he had stopped at 1000? It was the 1001st try that has us lighting up our house like a Christmas Tree (AND lighting the Christmas Tree!). Persistence pays.
Ever heard of a guy named Alexander Graham Bell? Yeah, me too. Think he just set out one day in 1876 and after a week or so, there was the phone? Guess again. Bell first envisioned the telephone in 1874, and two years and 31 failed attempts later he finally muttered those fateful words “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you”. And HE was already researching speech and sound waves, so he was YEARS ahead of the game when he started. Had he given up on the 30th attempt, we might still be sending telegrams. Persistence pays.
It takes years…
I’ve said it before, and I still don’t know who to attribute it to, but it takes years (and a lot of hard work) to become an overnight success. You don’t hear much about all the failed attempts leading up to success, you only hear about the success. While voice actors are hardly household names, think about actors who are household names. Do you think Robert De Niro started OFF as an academy award winning actor? Nope. You can google him if you’d like details, but De Niro’s first role was in 1963, and he didn’t really get “noticed” till 1973 in Mean Streets. It took him 10 years to become an overnight success!
And you, too!
It will take time for you to become successful as a voice over artist or if you choose screen or stage actor. There will be flops and failures along the way, as there is for everyone. If you get discouraged and give up, what happens if you give up JUST before the perfect role for you; just before you get noticed? Persistence paid for the airplane, light bulb, telephone and De Niro’s acting career. It’ll pay off for you too!
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