Getting More Political Voice Work

With the Citizens United ruling, the floodgates have opened to even more spending on political campaigns. Whether or not this is good news for our democracy… it sure can be good news for voice talent! I did a fair amount of VO for campaigns across the country in the 2010 midterm elections – candidates in MI, CA, OH, SD, OR among others – and my biggest goal for 2012 is to get a lot more of this type of work.


Political voice-over work is a different animal from the usual radio/TV and corporate work that is always available. It is mostly seasonal, happening every two years (except for special elections). Also, I’ve come to realize that political VO work is mostly driven by consultants, rather than by ad agency people. Which is part of the reason political ads are such cookie-cutter affairs. These consultants are mostly based in New York, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. The people who produce political radio and TV spots often require extremely quick turnaround. Something a candidate says in a debate, or a major gaffe on the campaign trail can be turned around into an ad in very short time – strike while the iron is hot!


If a talent wishes to get into this field, the first thing they must decide is: who will I work for? Many (if not most) talent have a mercenary philosophy about it – they’ll work for anyone whose check doesn’t bounce. I don’t mean to disparage that philosophy by terming it “mercenary.” Many people are indifferent, even jaded about politics, and it does not bother them to do work for a candidate that they wouldn’t vote for.


For better and for worse, I’m enough of a political junkie that where a candidate stands on the issues does matter to me. In my personal life, I’ve voted for Democrat, Republican, even a Green Party candidate once (I sure as heck wasn’t going to vote for Illinois Governor Blago, who is now in jail for corruption!). I describe myself as socially liberal and fiscally moderate. I am not a knee-jerk Democrat. However, I’ve decided to limit myself to working only for Democratic candidates.


My reasoning is that I expect that I would find too many spots for Republican candidates objectionable, and that an agency that works for (R) candidates would not be willing to let me “cherry pick” those scripts that I find acceptable. This is not an easy decision. I’ll be passing down opportunities for well-paying jobs. For example, I got a call recently from an agency that works with Republican candidates. I checked out their website and found that they represent Gov. Christie (R-NJ), whom I do like quite a lot (socially moderate, fiscally conservative). But they also represent a lot of far-right politicians that I would not feel comfortable working for. Since I cannot cherry pick, I had to reluctantly turn down their offer to be on their roster of talent.


I am sure that I will come across some ads for Democrats that will make me want to take a long shower after reading for them. I expect that I would have the freedom to turn down *some* of those ads without repercussion, but if I turn down too many, the agency will stop calling on me. But when I consider all the factors that are important to me, while I do have mixed feelings about limiting myself to Democrats, I think it is a very practical strategy for me. I can live with it and still sleep well at night.


Once that decision is out of the way, the next step is to produce a specialized Political VO demo. Relying on one’s Commercial VO demo is probably not good enough. In my case, that meant finding good scripts – including writing my own. I decided to re-record several scripts that I had voiced from 2010, since I’ve upgraded my studio considerably since then. But I also wrote a few of my own scripts. For inspiration, I listened to as many political spots as I could bear (and believe me, there IS a limit!). I looked at a large collection of contemporary spots found on political blogs, plus other talents’ political demos (of course, I did not use their scripts, but I used some as sort of a template for my own version).


There is a fair amount of diversity in the reads, enough to make a :60 demo not sound like the same thing over and over again. There is the “folksy story-telling” style when relating the life story of a candidate. There is the “inspirational” read. The darkly negative read. The sarcastic negative read. Then there are TV spots where the copy speaks for itself so strongly that the narrator really pulls back and lets the words do the work.


So after my research, I gathered enough scripts to record 3 versions: a 60 second generic Political VO demo for may agents, composed of both positive and negative spots, and also versions that are strictly Positive and Negative which will appear on my own website, plus my online profiles for Voice123.com, Voices.com, etc. I little tip: I make the file name for my demo something like “TomTest_DemocraticOnly_7734169374” and I label my demos “Democratic Political VO.” That way I don’t waste anyone’s time, and they can do a word search to find me more easily.

AUTHOR: tomtest-wpadmin     CATEGORIES: Blog
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