Armin Heirstetter interview, Part 2

Getting More Voice-over Work in Europe: Interview with Armin Hierstetter of Bodalgo.com, Part Two


TT: How can we tailor our demos to suit the needs and tastes of European talent buyers? Most American narration voice-over demos from the major markets (LA/NYC/Chicago) are about 60 seconds, have 4-8 clips of 6-12 seconds length each, usually with sophisticated music tracks and production values. Is this what your talent buyers need and want?


AH: Talking about non-custom demos I have one word for you: KISS. Keep It Short and Simple. In an ideal world you’d have a set of standard demos for different types of jobs, for example: There is one where you cut through some commercials, another one featured narrative stuff, a third one is IVRs/announcements, next in the line is training/elearning and one that combines the other four.


An ideal demo (in my opinion) starts with slating the talent’s name, followed by a voice only clip (no music, sound f/x) blending into produced stuff with music, sound f/x (where appropriate). Length: no longer than 30 to 45 seconds maximum. Why that short? Because: I am a firm believer that a voice seeker decides within seconds whether she/he likes the voice or not. There is no need for long demos as probably nobody will hear them until the end. That’s not because voice seekers don’t appreciate the effort one puts in her/his demo, but simply because it does not take that long to judge whether a voice could be right for a job or not if the demo is produced well.


AH: This one is especially for talents starting their career: NEVER EVER record demos using brand names you have never actually worked for! Apart from the fact that you risk to infringe the rights of others, you also risk to be seen in a negative light to say the least.


TT: I want to address the very important issue of “intellectual property rights” right away. Upon reading your statement about not using brand names and scripts unless the talent has actually performed them, I was struck immediately with the realization that the US has very different accepted business practices from Europe when it comes to using actual commercial scripts that have been broadcast on TV or radio. In our market, we commonly will use scripts on our standard demos for products or companies that we have NOT actually been hired to perform in real life. It is understood by any knowledgeable casting agent or producer here that when they listen to an American demo, the talent has not necessarily performed every clip on their demo in the real world – much of it was “borrowed” and then recorded in a studio. Nor is the talent claiming to have actually performed this work simply by having it on their demo (falsely claiming a credit on a resume or cover letter is a different matter, though). This practice is accepted in every major US market. Yes this is unauthorized usage, but because our demos are not being sold, there is no legal or ethical conflict in our system.


Your standards, if I understand you correctly, are much more strict in this regard, and I am sure that most if not all of your American talent are unaware of this. So what script options do American talents have for their standard demos? Can we write new scripts that have fake company names on them (i.e., “Superior Motors” instead of Volkswagen?). Can I use a portion of an actual script which I did not perform, as long as a company name isn’t mentioned? Or can I only use clips from actual jobs I have been hired to perform?


AH: Regarding demos using real brand names that the talent has not worked for – this is infringing copyright. You can’t go out using the name BMW if you never worked for them. And if talents use those demos to get work they ARE actually using it in a commercial way. But what disturbs me more is the fact that a talent using brand names gives the voice seekers the impression that he already has references he never really had (if you have it in your demo the seeker can’t but think you actually voiced for them). Imagine how YOU would feel as the talent originally in charge of the clip when you hear somebody else performing “your” clip …
(However), I appreciate that America has a different approach on that and won’t ban talents who use this practice (of using scripts they have not actually worked on). The rules indicated will not apply to American talents.


(Also, in a further e-mail exchange Armin said that using fake scripts and brand names was the ideal way to bypass the rights issue. Using a portion of an actual script that doesn’t mention a brand name is still a problem, since it does not address the issue of securing the permission of the owner of the script. Personally, I am going to revise my demos for the European market so that I am only using scripts that I have actually performed in real life. My philosophy is to conform to the standards and expectations of the market I am trying to approach).


AH: And – MOST IMPORTANT AND I CAN NOT STRESS THIS POINT ENOUGH: LISTEN TO YOUR AUDITIONS USING HEADPHONES!!! I know that many people think their auditions sound great, but I listen to many, many, many, many audiitons that are of poorest quality in my opinion. Many talents don’t seem to hear that ALL of their recordings have background hiss. And if you, the reader, now think “he is not talking to me” you are probably wrong. You cannot judge the quality of your demos with normal speakers. You need to put up a decent set of headphones to be absolutely sure about the quality.


Here is a “How to test recordings for dummies” (this works best with a demo with a few seconds of silence before the voice kicks in): Put up headphones. DONT PRESS PLAY YET! Before you play your demo, check if you already hear hiss (depending on the quality of your gear you might hear a bit of hiss – that’s fine because that’s the hiss of your equipment, not of your recording. Then press play and listen closely to your recording BEFORE your voice kicks in. Did the amount of hiss change? Are there any other backgournd noises? If you ticked yes you got a problem. Not an unsolvable one but you need to learn how a noise gate works and maybe invest in better equipment if a gate does not do the trick (and a gate set up wrongly can even worsen your recording – you need to work on your technical skills).


“Modern” voice talents need to be able to cope with two tasks: Apart from keeping your voice in shape, you need to be willing to gain technical skills, too, to be able to live up to client demands.

AUTHOR: tomtest-wpadmin     CATEGORIES: Blog
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