It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. The “Uh oh!” moment is NOT a fun thing. But if you’re a professional and you’re good at what you do, in this case, voice acting, you’ll work it out. But let me back up…
On Monday I got a call from one of my agents that I’d booked a gig and I was on hold for 10:00am on Thursday. Awesome. The client had auditioned talent via demos so this was the first I’d heard of the project. It was recording at a studio I’d never been to before, and an impressive space: The lobby was a two-story area with lots of designer elements and what appeared to be custom-made things like lighting fixtures, stair railings, etc. The receptionist asked who I was seeing.
I actually had no idea. I tried to call my agent’s office but just then a woman phoned the receptionist to ask if I was there yet and that I’d be meeting with Nancy. Great. Crisis averted. Apparently this place was so big and busy, even in this economy, that they had a jillion sessions going on this morning and so, you know, not knowing who I was working with could’ve been a bit of an issue. Especially since the receptionist asked “Hmm, are you here for a singing voiceover session? To record a jingle?” Anybody who’s ever heard me sing would know the answer to that would be a resounding, in unison, in stereo where available “NO!”
A few minutes later, Nancy arrived via elevator and took me up a couple of floors. In the elevator, she tells me “So, we listened to a TON of demos…and picked YOU!” As a voice actor, that’s no less rewarding than actually auditioning, specifically, for a project. At least for me. And plus you hear that little voice inside your head go “Yesssss!”
Once at our floor, Nancy led us through a series of winding hallways past any number of recording studios, past a screening lobby, to the studio where we’d be doing our session. The client wasn’t there yet, but she introduced me to a guy named Steve, as well as the engineer, Brian. Both nice guys who almost immediately started to discuss American Idol, in the process lulling me into a sense of comfort as I chatted along with them.
Then the client arrived and it was business time. To be honest, I always get a little bit nervous with a new client. Not so much in a “I hope I don’t screw up” way, but in a way similar to how you might feel going to dinner with a client for the first time. You want it to go well, right? So the client, and his associate, both seemed like good guys, too, which was a nice, quick hop over the first hurdle.
But then came the “Uh oh!” moment…
“So…” the client begins, “we liked your demo a lot.”
“Great, thanks,” I replied.
“Especially,” he continued, “the Olympus spot. The tone of that was great.”
Um. There’s no Olympus spot on my demo. In fact, I don’t think there’s even a camera spot of any variety on my demo with which to confuse for an Olympus spot. Oh, crap. There was the uh oh moment. The thought that I couldn’t get out of my head for the next 2 minutes.
They hired the wrong talent, and the wrong talent was me.
Of course, I feigned a bad memory: “Hmm, I don’t remember that one…” I sorta mumbled as I turned my head and pretended that I wasn’t pretending.
But there was no way I was going to let that little detail ruin a perfectly good session. After all, the client could have mis-remembered the spot. If they did truly listen to a lot of demos, that could be a thing that could happen, realistically, right?! And besides. I’m a professional. I mean, this is what I do. All I have to do is take direction well and deliver the goods and, provided they weren’t looking for a DLF performance, I should be good to go.
And in fact, the words “natural” and “conversational” came up. No sweat. I can do natural and conversational no problem.
I should point out that there were five scripts, and as we were recording voice for the launch of a big, new product, the client wanted to make sure we had time to get it just right, and as such had booked the studio for a double session.
Now, direction comes to you in a few different ways. Sometimes, it all comes from the client. A couple weeks ago, in my session for Corona, there were five people from the ad agency as well as one person from the beer company, the engineer, an assistant, a guy who just seemed to be wandering around, somebody ready to get bagels and coffee and, for some inexplicable reason, a mime wearing a banana suit. Don’t ask. But all of the direction came from one of the ad agency people: The woman who, I believe, had written the spot.
Sometimes, though, the direction comes from the engineer after he or she speaks with the client following a take. Sometimes it’s all from the engineer. In this case, it was a combination. Mostly, the client would give comments to the engineer who would in turn give me some new direction. Sometimes the client would give me direction himself, and then I would intepret that based on what I’d just done and follow up with “So, kind of like this…” and then give an example.
The first script was the shortest, and I think we did 7 or 8 takes of that one. After that, the voice and tone were set and on two of the other scripts, they were happy with the first take. Awesome. Of course we did a couple more of each as safeties, but I was glad that they were digging what I was doing and, to be honest, after just the first couple of takes of the first script, the “Uh oh!” moment had left my head and it was just business as usual.
In all, we were done after about 35 minutes. The client seemed to be very happy. He thanked me and said he hoped we’d work together again…a sentiment I shared. (I’ve worked with clients before who seemed like they either had no idea what they wanted or no idea what they were doing, so working with a client like the one in this story, who definitely knew both of those things, is always a very good thing). Nancy walked me back through the maze of halls to the elevator, telling me “Wow, that went a lot smoother and faster than we were even hoping it would…great job!”
Sweet. I was pleased with myself, professionally. As I walked out of the elevator and said goodbye to Nancy, it struck me again how great it is to be able to do something that I love to do, and get paid to do it.
But most of all, I was glad that I didn’t let the “Uh oh!” moment get the best of me.