Ask The Voicecat
A lot of great V-O questions came in this month, but the most pertinent one—and one that a lot of NowCasting.com readers might be interested in—was asking about how to get voiceover representation from a talent agency if you live outside the big three U.S. cities.
Q: I’ve been training in voiceover for about a year, coming from singing and acting. I started a new full-time day job at the beginning of this month, and the small department I work in includes my boss, another guy under him, and two other guys hired about when I was. We’re in charge of promoting internet advertising and driving traffic to our site. So… my boss is aware of my pursuit in the VO world and he’s totally okay with that and supportive of it. He mentioned that he’s had a computer animator from overseas working on a short animated promotional ad in cartoon style. My boss wants me to voice the character in the spot. It’s only about 15-20 seconds long. Initially, I figured it’s fine for me to go ahead and do it as part of my job anyway. But I wanted your take on it in terms of trying to build my V-O business. I know it’s still the beginning, so I didn’t know if it was even worth bringing up the topic of V-O compensation when it’s part of my job which I’m naturally being compensated for anyway. Thanks for your input. –Michael B., Sherman Oaks, CA
A: I love getting questions like this, Michael, because it’s such a practical application of your voiceover training. Volunteer for this project. This IS part of your job description, particularly after you’ve made your boss aware of your aspirations. A :15-:20 read isn’t a problem regarding compensation, but if you’re asked to voice a much longer project, I’d ask for some compensation, kinda like asking for overtime pay when you’re working on holidays. When it’s finished, upload the segment you star in to your website. You’ll be archiving EVERYTHING you perform (that you’re proud of) on your site to showcase your versatility. Consider having different pages for Stage, TV/Film and V-O. Break a lip and send me the piece when it’s done.
Q: I’ve been doing V-O for a couple of years, and I still get confused about how to deal with exclamation points. Some people tell me to put a lot of energy into them and others tell me to ignore them and just smile. Any advice? –Joanne G., Thousand Oaks, CA
A: Joanne, there’s a chapter in my book (for info, see below) titled, “Get the Point!” which I’m reprinting here for your reading pleasure. J
Punctuation marks can be easy or difficult to navigate for some voice actors, depending on their skill and depending on how good or bad the writer is in using punctuation correctly. And while the period, comma, colon and semi-colon can be used fluidly; the question mark can be used in dozens of different ways; and narrating quotations marks takes a bit of skill in timing; the one punctuation mark that needs to be honored and should never be ignored is the exclamation point.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard voice actors ignore exclamation points! And I don’t understand how they miss them! They’re impossible to ignore! There’s no other punctuation mark that makes its presence known as well as the exclamation point (okay, I’ll stop with the exclamation points for now!). Granted, copywriters use them liberally, particularly with retail or direct response copy: “Do it today!” “Call now!” “But wait, there’s more!” But that’s no excuse to miss them or pretend they’re not there. The writer placed them there on purpose–they didn’t plant themselves on the page by accident.
But exclamation points are used for just one purpose: to convey excitement! And when you see exclamation points in copy, that’s the writer’s way of saying, “Make this sentence exciting!”
Just how much excitement should an exclamation point convey? It needs to be appropriate to the product, situation and audience. Exciting copy for young kids for Hotwheels™ is going to be read differently than exciting copy for a casino aimed at adults. And there are so many different degrees of excitement — the amount of excitement and projection varies in myriad situations. Shouting in a stadium, “All right, a home run!” or ringside at a boxing match, “Knock him out!” Exclaiming “Happy Birthday!” or “Happy New Year!” at a party. Seeing someone take a fall and exclaiming, “Oh my God!” or accidentally knocking something over and apologizing, “I’m so sorry!” Calling to your kids, “Dinner’s ready!” or hailing your neighbor from your porch, “Hey, haven’t seen you in a while!” Then there’s hushed excitement, when you lean over to whisper to your friend or relative or spouse at an opera or a recital, “I been waiting for months to see this!” Confessing to a loved one, “Oh, you are gonna love this!” or fighting with them, “You never listen to me!” Sometimes excitement goes into the realm of terrorized or insanity!
Tip: Here’s a tip if you see a lot of exclamation points throughout a spot: be careful not to get too excited—unless you’re talking to little kids. They love excitement, and we love getting them excited, too. But you can’t get too excited when you’re talking to adults—your peers. Too excited sounds a bit psychotic. I like to think of exclamation points as conveying sincere enthusiasm. The best way to approach exclamation points in that context is just to give the phrase that ends with them some oomph. It’ll sound naturally enthusiastic. Plus, if you’re being directed in a session, the director will explain the appropriate energy you need to give exclamation points in the script. Just don’t ignore an exclamation point. Honor it and give it its due. Get the point!
I’ll be sharing more voiceover questions and answers in the coming months. If you have any other questions, please write anytime and I’ll get back to you.
Cashman Commercials © 2016
MARC CASHMAN creates and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television, and was named one of the “Best Voices of the Year”—three times—by AudioFile Magazine, and has been a keynote speaker and Master Class instructor at VOICE 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 (the international voiceover convention). Winner of over 150 advertising awards, and a working voice actor as well, he instructs voice acting at all levels through his classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques in Los Angeles, CA, and works with undergraduate and graduate students at CalArts. He also coaches one-on-one with voice actors all over the world and conducts online V-O classes. You can get a copy of his best-selling book, “V-Oh! Tips, Tricks, Tools and Techniques to Start and Sustain Your Voiceover Career” through his website, on www.Amazon.com or through his Square page at http://mkt.com/cashman-commercials-inc. Marc can be contacted at email@example.com or www.cashmancommercials.com.