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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Resistance Is Useless: Why Embracing Change is Essential for Voice Over Success

Are you a go-getter or a stick in the mud? Is your lack of knowledge about technology, computers and social media holding back your voice over career?

You had better change your ways... fast.

When I first started working in television, over thirty years' ago, I was called in to see the Director Of Programmes for a 'chat'. The big cheese was Charles Denton , a powerful telly man even in those days, though later his star was to shine even brighter as the BBC Head Of Drama. 

"Young man" he said, as I wondered what I had done wrong, "what are you doing here?"

I thought he was questioning my employment, even though it was only my second day. I explained I was a trainee continuity announcer  learning to link the station's programming output both on camera and as a voice over.

"Let me tell you" he said with authority "television is changing rapidly and 10 years from now your role will have disappeared, so think about doing something else."

He was both right and wrong. 

Television was changing, but today the demand for announcers and voice overs has never been greater. Back then in 1982 there were just 3 TV channels in the UK (although there were numerous regional opts) and a clutch of radio stations. Fast forward three decades and there are approximately five hundred TV channels and six hundred licensed radio stations, and this figure excludes internet based platforms.... and the thousands of international outlets.

In other words, today there are plenty of broadcasters in need of content and voices actors.

But the metamorphosis hasn't just occurred in broadcasting. Today audiobooks are booming, clients want their explainer videos voiced and app developers often require fresh new vocal talent. All inconceivable back in the good ol' days of analogue tape and UHF.

The important thing is that we recognise change as a fundamental part of the voice over landscape. Even more importantly we need to embrace change in order to keep our careers on track and move forward.

What happens if we stand still? 

This blog post was partly inspired by Woody Allen's comments this week about working for Amazon. The famously neurotic director has signed a deal with their  Prime service to make a groundbreaking TV programme. Interviewed in Cannes by Deadline Hollywood  he is reported to have said

"I don't own a computer or understand what a streaming service is; all I know is,  I regret a deal that has taken me out of my comfort zone"

Is this the same Woody Allen who set a new bar for filmmaking with the sweeping opening for Manhatten in 1977, with its vivid black & white cinematography and evocative Gershwin soundtrack, or the futuristic silliness of Sleeper back in 1973? These movies were pushing the creative boundaries at the time.

His work was fresh and contemporary. So what happened?

Most probably Allen blinked and the world changed overnight. This is what happens to many of us of a certain age. A few years' ago, my agent requested a fresh showreel from me, so I said I would send her my latest cassette montage straight away.

"Cassette?" she enquired incredulously. "Ok" I replied, wanting to show I knew a thing or two about modern media "I'll record a CD"

"CD's are old hat darling. These days everyone's using mp3".

I had no idea what she was on about and so began my journey on a new road of discovery.

Of course Woody Allen will have plenty of highly qualified people to guide him through the technological labyrinth, but you and I do not. We need to do it ourselves.

The good news is that there is plenty of help for the technophobes out there. YouTube videos allow the experts to take us step by step through the complexities of recording software; online shows such as the highly entertaining East West Audio Body Shop  make creating a home studio a lot less daunting and the numerous voice over groups on sites such as Linkedin provide invaluable help and support to voice over newbies.

Scaling the walls

It is very easy to become overwhelmed by the voice over industry. To outsiders it seems like an impenetrable fortress, perhaps even a closed shop.

I can you assure you it isn't. 

Everyday new voices are coming on the scene. Clients are constantly on the look out for the next big thing. Freshness and enthusiasm sometimes trump experience. One of my former students (who came to see me in 2011) has now become a creative voice over manager at E4, Channel 4's youth brand. Not only did she reach the same level as her coach, but she far exceeded it. 

And her humble beginnings? As a worker for the British health service, the NHS.


Keep an open mind and learn, learn, learn. Don't be daunted by change; instead use it as a springboard to develop new skills and open doors. 

Technology is merely a means to an end - reel to reel tape was superseded by CD, which in turn was replaced by mp3 and now streaming is the latest buzzword. But these are merely vehicles for your voice... how you perform and promote your talents is of far greater importance.

The future is bright, so don't be dim. 


Curious about voice overs? Try my online Voice Over Training For Beginners.

 Gary Terzza runs the Voice Over MasterClass VoMasterClass

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