Network VO... this is not a "Game." by Zurek

(This applies to all the voiceover categories, I chose to speak on what I personally know... Promo, but the rule is the same.)

Recently I was apart a panel at VOICE 2010 called, "Diversity in Voiceover," moderated by Big Llou and in that panel I was between two of the most prolific voices in the industry, Dave Fennoy & John Garry, and got an earful :)

These guys have been in the "game" for a while, and have seen, heard and experienced some things that some of us would have liked to have been a fly on the wall to witness.

While many look & listen from the outside in, some of what you hear can be a little shocking to your pure, virgin ears. When asked "How did you get to where you are today?" John Garry let it rrrrriiiiiiip! While explaining he also said, "If you want what I have you will have to kill me, this is not a game." This was the first I had ever heard jaws drop, but I totally understood for the first time, and Don LaFontaine instantly came to mind when he said, "It's the world's dream gig, just wait until I die." Even still, a miner can't break in that easy.

Here's the truth about voice-over, on the outside it is glamorous, fun, mysterious & exciting all in one, but until you experience the non-stop calls from the network clients at odd hours... even holidays... you won't understand.

In late June 2010, I was in LA for the opening of the SAG Foundation's Don LaFontaine VO labs, and it was also the same weekend for the 2010 BET awards which I am the voice of, I wasn't prepared for what would lie ahead....

Plans were made with character coach/talent Erin Fitzgerald, Marice Tobias, Busken photography and LUNCH... all of these important meetings fell through!

In the parking lot of the Cheese Cake Factory in Marina Del Ray, I had to whip out my VO 2 GO kitt >> DELL mini, Sennheiser 416, MicPort Pro, Virgin Mobile prepay wireless card... with the engine & AC turned off, the 90 plus degree beat down in the car for45 mins worth of VO sessions began.

The network called me non-stop for promos, tags and redos for their biggest event of the year, and I was obligated to do them IF I knew personally that I wanted to keep my job and enjoy the life I have, and I had to be back in Miami in time to pick-up my daughter, and for my ISDN session with ABC for the "Detroit 187" promos at midnight on Sunday!

If we think for a second that the networks are looking for the next VO star just because... unthink your thoughts.

For the most part, the networks have their guys, but there are some rare times when some aren't available right now, so they have to go to the next voice in line. The promo is due right now! If "Voice 1" isn't available for another 30 mins, "Voice 2" gets the call, but "Voice 3" gets the gig because "Voice 2" wasn't ready right now, but would have been ready in 15 mins.... not good enough sometimes... it's business.

If this continues to happen with "Voice 1," he all of a sudden is not the go to voice anymore, and his life suddenly changes, so he will not leave the dungeon very often... it's a catch 22.

The gig is fun, exciting and also incredibly demanding, but the most reliable person KEEPS the gig and KEEPS his chops moving forward and sets the standard for others to follow.

The Network Voice enjoys his peace & quiet w/family & close friends, tennis, golfing, hiking, biking, rides down the PCH with the top down or perhaps taking flight over the land in which his over-worked voice resides.

Because on Monday, It's back to the daily grind if he wants to live his peaceful life.

Joe Cipriano said it best,"For me, Heaven is a Friday and you get a call that you've got a Monday booking. It's always good to know you got a job come Monday."

The faces, names, voices and top coaches that you've hear(d), are the same ones the eat, sleep, and bleed VO. So if you feel snubbed because you didn't get the 100th hand shake... don't be... jetting out with a smile, wink, and wave (s)he's got more work to do and time isn't on their side.

If you want true success in this game, note first, that the voice-over industry is really not a GAME at all, it is a SERIOUS BUSINESS, and when the phone rings... you'd better answer the call.


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Comment by Brent Halfyard on July 19, 2010 at 7:40pm
Great Blog Zurek. I recently landed the gig as promo voice for Knowledge here in Vancouver ( I had a voice job the other day that needed to be delivered within the hour. I delivered files in record time. I make a point to be always available and recently booked a studio in Kauai to be available even on vacation!
Comment by VU - Founder - Zurek on July 19, 2010 at 7:10pm
Yes, DC!
Comment by Shannon Rice on July 19, 2010 at 3:28pm
Insightful! I'm not even close to being there yet, but someday...
Comment by Helene Weinberg on July 17, 2010 at 1:38pm
Zurek, thank you for sharing this post and it made me wonder: Do you think we, as artists- are generally too humble in our approach to procuring (and sustaining) business? Do we think that grooming our competitive side is somehow out of sync with grooming our artistic side? What do you think? - Helene
Comment by Rodney Jackson on July 17, 2010 at 12:16pm
This is truly inspirational and very uplifting thank you so much for sharing.
Comment by James Eastman on July 17, 2010 at 8:50am
Availability. Dependability. Reliability. Relationship, relationship, relationship.

I loved this straightforward openess. Bravo to John Garry! ~ James
Comment by Connie Mustang on July 17, 2010 at 1:34am
Great post Zurek! It prompted a very nice thread to bring to light the dedication that is necessary to get the job...and keep it. Just because you got the gig today doesn't mean you can sit back and watch the money roll in, there are NO guarantees. As I said at the VOICE 2010 banquet, I believe the Diversity panel was a much needed shot in the arm for all v.o.'s. I understood John Garry wasn't trying to be discouraging, he was being honest. He loves his line of work, so he does what he must to keep it. We should all have such passion for our careers. He was setting the bar for those who wish to follow in his footsteps, you better "get serious" if you want to even be considered at his level. Yes, it was jaw-dropping for some, but reality isn't always wrapped in a pretty package. I hope you guys will join us again at VOICE 2012. Llou, great suggestion about mentoring. I am far from the level that you "vets" are, but as "green" as I am, even I am capable of helping. I do so with many beginners, and those "considering" v.o. as a career choice, with patience, kindness and a loving dose of reality. It brings the heart unimaginable joy knowing you've made a positive difference in the life of another person. “Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” Alex Noble
Comment by Mark Fisher on July 16, 2010 at 7:14pm
Words of wisdom, as always, Zurek. Voice talents often get some "down time" between sessions. I always think to myself, "I wonder what so and so is doing with his "down time, if they have any at all"? Immediately, I'm back on it. Making calls, reaching out, and creating new opportunities. I missed Voice 2010. I WON'T miss voice 2011! Thanks again for sharing.
Comment by Brian Lee on July 16, 2010 at 4:09pm
How true.
To be the voice on a network and/or a movie trailer is truly a privilege.
Every time the phone rings or an email comes in for a is a gift, just for me.
Yet I know, I should never expect it, nor demand it. My contribution to the promo or trailer is not only my voice, but also my availability and dedication to the project. The promo world doesn't stop for us...but we must help it turn if we want to play a part in it. If it stops and it's our fault, someone else will asked to step in to keep it turning.

Comment by Bobby Sheldon on July 16, 2010 at 3:43pm

Thanks for sharing these hard-earned words of wisdom!


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