Paying For Your Prize

Smoking a cigarNot not so long ago, I read a story about a young Dutch guy who was about to be married. His friends invited him to a fancy restaurant for an unforgettable bachelor party.

It was a classy, dignified event. No lap dances or excessive drinking. Yet, the groom-to-be, ended up with a serious hangover.

At the end of the night he hugged each of his friends, and thanked them for a memorable evening. When he was about to put on his coat, the waiter tapped him on the shoulder.

“Sir, aren’t you forgetting something?”

“I don’t think so,” said the bachelor. “Is something wrong?”

“Not really,” said the waiter, “as long as you pay your bill.”

“But I assumed that everything was being taken care of,” said the soon-to-be-groom.

“I’m afraid not,” answered the waiter. “You owe us a little over two thousand five hundred Euro. We take all major credit cards.”

That night, the young bachelor made a few changes to his list of wedding guests.

The Dutch have a unique saying for these painful situations:

“Een sigaar uit eigen doos krijgen.”

Literally translated this means: being offered a cigar from one’s own box. In other words: receiving a gift you had to pay for yourself. That’s not really a gift, is it?

It’s an old marketing trick. Making people believe they get something for free, even though they’re paying for it.

“If you buy product X right now, we’ll send you a second one, absolutely free!”

“When you buy this car, we’ll throw in a premium accessory package at no charge!”

“Sign up for a 12-month subscription to our website, and we will give you two extra months as a welcome gift.”

Yeah. Right!

Have you ever received a cigar like that?


Last Sunday, the very first Voice Arts™ Awards were presented in New York. These awards were established by the relatively new Society Of Voice Arts And Sciences™ (SOVAS™). It’s an ambitious non-profit organization. As I reported in an earlier story, on their website you will find seventy pages of awards category descriptions. Each page lists about three to four different awards.

In theory, between 210 and 280 awards could have been given away during Sunday’s gala. In reality, 33 out of 100 nominees received an award (click here for a list of the winners). Depending on how you do the math, 177 or 247 categories were left out, either because there were no or very few entries, or because the quality of these entries did not meet the standards. SOVAS™ rules state:

“In the event that any individual category attracts fewer than 4 entries the organizer reserves the right to withdraw that category from the competition.”

In some categories there was barely any competition. In the Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Biography, the only nominees were Joe Cipriano for Living On Air, and Janis Ian for The Singer and the Song.

Only two audio books were nominated for Outstanding Audio Book Narration in the Classics category. There were two nominees for the local radio and television commercials, and two for the best national radio commercial. This reflected a trend. Check the list of nominees yourself, by clicking on this link.

Mind you, I’m not saying anything about the talent of the individual nominees. I’m just pointing out a few facts about the process. Facts some of you may have missed.

I’d like to make a few other observations.


Scott Brick, one of the jurors of the Voice Arts™ Awards, won for Best Male Voice in the category Outstanding Audio Book Narration – Non-Fiction.

Juror Nancy Wolfson produced the demo reel of Jay Britton, who won Best Male Voice in the category Outstanding Commercial Demo Reel. Nancy has also been one of Jay’s coaches. Jay went on to win a second award for his Animation Demo Reel.

Greg Russell received a nomination for Best Male Voice in the category Outstanding Commercial Demo Reel. His coaches were Joan Baker, Rudy Gaskins and Denise Woods.

Denise Woods was one of the jurors for this year’s awards. Rudy Gaskins and his wife Joan Baker are founders and board members of the Society Of Voice Arts And Sciences™. Gaskins is President and CEO of SOVAS™.

Linda Fouche was nominated for Best Female Voice in the Outstanding Commercial Demo Reel category. Her voice-over coach was Joan Baker, and her producer/director was Rudy Gaskins.


Gaskins and Baker are also the creators of That’s Voiceover, a series of entertaining, educational events bringing voice-over pros, voice seekers, and those interested in VO together. The last installment took place in New York on November 10th, the day after the Voice Arts™ Award gala.

Gaskins’ branding agency Push Creative is very much involved in That’s Voiceover. Joan Baker is co-founder and Senior Vice President of Push Creative, and she handles public relations for the company. 

Among the speakers at That’s Voiceover were Voice Arts Awards winners Joe Cipriano, Scott Brick, Chuck Duran and Stacey Aswad, and jurors Cedering Fox, Sondra James, Trosh Scanlon, Frank Rodriguez and Dave Fennoy. Steve Ulrich, the executive director of SOVAS™ was also one of the presenters. That’s no coincidence, because if you go to the SOVAS™ website, a redirect to the That’s Voiceover site is only one click away. 

It’s a small world, isn’t it?


I’m not against new initiatives that strive to promote and enrich the voice-over industry. As I said in my earlier story: I am willing to give these new Voice Arts™ Awards the benefit of the doubt. I congratulate the winners, and I hope the money they spent on entering this competition and attending the gala, will prove to be worth the investment. As Bob Bergen said in response to my previous article:

“Everything you’ve pointed out, as well as your question about ROI, was questioned when The SAG Awards began 20 years ago. Heck, the same issues were brought up when The Emmys began in the late 40s. Many in Hollywood thought that awarding people from that little window display of the furniture box in the living room was a joke compared to The Academy Awards, where you have that big screen and REAL actors! It’s all relative and nothing new.

Let’s allow this award show to organically grow and evolve. Just like The Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and every other award show has over the past 75 plus years. Each award show is always changing and trying to improve on itself from previous years. I really think honoring the world of VO is long overdue. I commend the producers of this for diving in. Let’s see how it goes!”

What does worry me, is that the Voice Arts™ Awards show seems to style itself after the Oscars and Emmys. To me, these shows have become highly staged marketing events where artistic integrity is sacrificed in favor of purchased publicity. Stars show up pretending to have a good time, knowing that they’re contractually obligated to plug their latest project. 

Television audiences are only watching to see their favorite stars on the red carpet, to see the big production numbers, and to hear the obligatory teary-eyed acceptance speeches. I don’t think the voice-over world should emulate that, and I don’t think we need to do that.

It is true: an Oscar-winning movie will do much better at the box office. I doubt that the masses will run to their favorite audio book store, to purchase the winner of a Voice Arts™ Award.

Why do I have doubts? Because for an award to have an impact, people need to know about it, care about it, and attach value to it. It needs to reach the folks outside of our cozy babble bubble. That has yet to happen. Perhaps I’m expecting too much from a young organization, but I think it’s fair to judge them by their own mission statement.


The Voice Arts Awards™ were announced months and months ago. I’m sure the major networks were notified, and all the papers got the press releases. In order to raise the stature of the gala, a Hollywood celebrity (James Earl Jones) was brought in to receive a special award, and even the late Robin Williams was mentioned on the podium. Yet, did this…

“provide international acknowledgement of the extraordinary skill and artistry that goes into the voiceover acting and the associated roles”?

After all, that’s one of SOVAS™ goals.

I’m not so sure.

I haven’t seen Joan Baker and company make the rounds on the morning chat shows. I didn’t read any headlines or interviews in leading newspapers. Yes, I’ve seen a few reprints of press releases here and there, but that’s not enough. Just Google Voice Arts™ Awards, and see for yourself how little comes up. 

What I did see on social media was a number of award-winning colleagues, proudly holding a shiny statuette, as well as photos of members of the VO-establishment sporting bow-ties, pony tails, and evening dresses.

And speaking of that statuette… After paying a hefty non-refundable entry fee plus the cost of travel, meals, accommodations (and of work lost because they’re attending the event), winners have to pay three hundred and fifty-some dollars to take it home. Or in Jay Britton’s case: $700. That’s an expensive dust receptacle!

I bet you Voice Icon Award winner James Earl Jones didn’t have to pay for his prize.

For every other winner, it’s a cigar from their own box.

How can a non-profit organization dedicated to adding value to our industry, be so cheap?

If you give me the right answer, please mail me $40, and I’ll send you a trophy!

Shipping, handling, and engraving will have to come out of your pocket, though.

How’s that for a Dutch treat?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS I’ve responded to some of the commentators, and you can read my response if you click on this link.

photo credit: Elvert Barnes via photopin cc

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Journalism & Media, Promotion, Social Media

44 Responses to Paying For Your Prize

  1. William Williams

    I think all awards shows have evolved into a mix of promotion, entertainment and legitimate recognition of the talent in a certain genre of the industry. So anything that promotes awareness of the voice over business and talent is a positive step. By the way, you have to pay for your own star on Hollywood Bl. Ha ha! Dutch Treat! That’s how I had many a date when I was young and poor. The dates were just as fun… maybe more relaxed and honest.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    William, I am not against recognition of excellence, but my criticism revolves around how this is done.

    Quite a few folks have pointed out that people pay for their own star on the Walk of Fame. Let’s remember that those folks are mostly millionaires for whom this is pocket change. Voice actors -especially those at the beginning of their career- are certainly no millionaires. On top of that, they have to pay for their trip to the award show, food, lodging and other expenses. And for what?

    The question still remains: Do the benefits outweigh the costs?


  2. steve hammill

    As anyone with ears knows, once you throwaway the chaff, the difference between one VO and the next is very small unless you are considering the very few geniuses. We know that the successful are not all geniuses; most practiced, paid dues, and got lucky.

    Showbiz always has been and always will be an incestuous business. Find yourself in the “in-crowd” and work begets fame; fame begets fortune; fortune begets more work. Getting into the “in-crowd” is impossible without some sort of magic incantation.

    Chris said:

    >>>Seems that WHO is throwing the party is more important than…and those with the glitz and big names are somehow more important and worthy…

    That’s true even in many technical disciplines. It is even true in volunteering circles!

    Accept this behavior as a disheartening part of human nature or embrace it as “survival of the fittest.”

    There are plenty of distasteful things in this business, but on balance, it is a lot of fun.


  3. Chris Mezzolesta

    Interesting Paul…seems to me there’s still quite a bit of us/them at play – so it’s great for SOVAS to throw a party to celebrate VO, but CourVO tries to get ‘VOAT’ off the ground (or we tried to get acceptance for SaVoa) and get laughed at & derided by the ‘obvious pros’ out there, from talent to agents? Seems that who is throwing the party is more important than what is being celebrated, and those with the glitz and big names are somehow more important and worthy of the effort than those working the trenches making this industry chug along and survive day to day. That is at least my takeaway from a lot of these comments. Certainly any celebration of what we do is welcome, but shouldn’t there be room for all of us?


  4. Steven Lowell

    I want to share some candid comments on this post: Back in college, after every set of theatre auditions there was a traditional backlash and celebration between those who were cast and who were not. It would always take place at the callboard for announcements and it was ugly.

    I thought that behavior would or could one day die online, but I guess it never will.

    The fact is, I see voice talent attacking this event for being hypocritical and calling BS on it.
    Anyone in this business who believes they are free from hypocrisy…raise your hand…so I can call BS on you. If anything, I can call BS on this blog because it’s first large exposure came when blogging on a P2P that many now curse.

    Keep it real.

    The fact is, awards like this are not “awards”. They are organized celebrations and marketing opportunities. I even saw a casting director attended that I had not seen since the mid-90’s. Don’t you think he would now benefit from what I now know?

    As much as people would like it to be a “contest”, it is more a night where people celebrate their inner circle for the purposes of generating interest and “inventing want”; the very definition of marketing….or have we forgotten that the Oscars shunned Martin Scorcese for years, and good luck convincing someone his films don’t deserve recognition. It just means he did not roll with the inner circle making the awards shows.

    Who cares? He still got paid well enough to create his art.

    My point is this: If a bunch of people want to hold a party, and take pics like they are on a real red carpet, let them do it because it is good marketing and like it or not it helps your cause. Relax.

    People need to feel important because the Internet is cruel and opinionated and sadly, people spend a great amount of energy telling people why they should quit. (which never worked did it?)

    Therefore, I also disagree with the opinion that “Awards must have value”.
    Value is created by people. Trophies don’t pay bills. They serve as symbols of accomplishment.
    Millions of people tune into the Oscars every year and only a handful of actors win.
    But these actors do get paid more, and how many of you complain that they steal your jobs?
    And they have a greater following than anyone on this blog.
    And they do not blog about rates or getting paid well.

    To be honest…
    Such awards ceremonies (outside of sports awards) do not interest me. I can never realistically put my energy or myself into such an effort because I do not think “art” should ever feel like a “contest”.

    I also know that alienates me from such events. But I won’t crap on anyone for finding a way to make themselves and others smile, especially if 13000-16000 people online see it as “positive”. The opinions of the Internet are bigger than all of us. I know/knew many of the people involved in Voice Arts Awards because of my time at a casting website and the industry is VERY small. (Note: VERY small ie. There should be no in-fighting)

    It was genuinely nice to see people who wrote me years ago asking for advice, now feel celebrated by a large group in a classy fashion.

    Like it or not, that event resonated loudly online for the industry, more than anyone’s individual marketing. If you disagree with me as a voice actor, I challenge you to think like a marketer who focuses on growth and reputation. What Joan and Rudy did was positive and ambitious as all hell, and so did the people who sponsored them.

    I also know things take money, and cannot operate on “happy thoughts” alone.

    And please…No offense to voiceover talent in other countries:
    But you just don’t get the North American market. By comparison, the North American market carries 78% of the world’s voice actors. You don’t get why we do things because your local industry is not as competitive. North America is the only continent with more than 3 localized, very saturated markets, supported by the country-wide belief that “fame = money”. Many have the strange belief that working in entertainment is the best way to get rich.

    This should be a fun industry. It’s bigger than everyone on here.

    Don’t take it so seriously. Those who are having a good time with it, or the perception of a good time, will beat you every time.

    – Peace


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Dear friends, it’s amazing how quickly stories get old! I can assure you though, aside from a comment here or there, I am done with these awards. I have a feeling this may be mutual: they are done with me! Never in my entire life have been the target of so much nasty name-calling by people presenting themselves as “positive.” It’s sad, really. Dr. Wayne Dyer once said:

    “What is inside comes out – squeeze a lemon, and you get lemon juice.”

    Well, I guess I squeezed a little bit in the past week, and look what happened…

    I must admit that I didn’t quite get all of Steven’s post. It’s clear that he doesn’t believe that awards must have value. Awards are marketing and networking opportunities, he says. A good excuse to have a party. I have been attacked by those who say I shouldn’t have minimized the inherent value of these awards. It wasn’t nice to the organization, the jurors, the nominees and the winners. On the other hand he says that trophies “serve as symbols of accomplishment.”

    Steven also wrote: “But I won’t crap on anyone for finding a way to make themselves and others smile, especially if 13000-16000 people online see it as “positive”.”

    I don’t know if he’s directing his arrows at me and/or at other commentators. Anyhow, I am offended by the notion that asking questions about these awards, and pointing out procedures that are in need of improvement, equals crapping on people. Let’s keep it professional. I believe a very public event can stand up to public scrutiny, and I am not alone in thinking that.

    While I realize that it is expensive to organize a competition, I also think it is irrelevant how much time and money the organizers spent on these awards. It was their show, and they are known to be very business-savvy. No one questions the amount of money spent on the Oscars or the Emmys. It’s not the intention that is evaluated, but the end result.

    Steven wrote: “This should be a fun industry. It’s bigger than anyone here. Don’t take it so seriously.”

    I can honestly say that I love being a voice-over, but to me this isn’t always a fun industry. So many dear and talented colleagues are struggling. Some of them wish they had the money to enter a competition like the Voice Arts Awards, but they can’t afford it.

    While the cost of living goes up every year, I see rates go down. Clients reap the rewards of a dog-eat-dog culture where survival of the cheapest is hailed as the marvelous result of a free market. This is not only a symptom of the American scene. This is a global phenomenon.

    Throwing ourselves a big party may be smart marketing, but it’s not going to fix anything. Once the buzz wears off and the limelight had dimmed, most of us will realize that talk is getting cheaper and cheaper by the day. But hey, these are just the thoughts of a

    “parasite who, lacking the erudition to create anything truly inspired, seek their sustenance from sucking the life blood of others” with a “most vicious, volatile and relentless mindset that knows no bounds.”


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  7. Beau Weaver

    Some thoughts RE: The Voice Arts Awards. This all may smell rotten to a european sensibility, but may we just stipulate that the Voice Arts Awards are not the Pulitzer Prize.

    It’s a promotional campaign made up of, by and for voice talents to promote and raise awareness of the many facets of this field, and of individuals who excel in it. “Stoking the Star Maker Machinery” as Joni Mitchell put it. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    We pay for our websites; it is appropriate for us to come together to fund this industrywide promotional platform. I have won a Promax award for VO twice; the entry fee was paid in each case by the network. They even graciously paid for the stauette, but if they did not, I would have to pony up. But, of course someone pays!

    By the way, most of my career has been in Hollywood, and just so you know….those stars on the Walk of Fame are all bought and paid for!

    As far as the long standing inter relationships between heavy hitters in our field, I don’t see a suggestion of foul play. In the Motion Picture and Television Academies, you will likewise find that everyone from Best Actor nominees to the lowliest PA is related to Kevin Bacon! It’s a small world! The entries were limited not because it was rigged, but because it is new. Give the VAA community time to grow and it will.


  8. Sarianna Gregg

    Had to weigh in for several reasons, not the least of which is Jackie’s inappropriate (and inaccurate, clearly racist rant against Paul’s Dutch origins. I would have thought we had moved beyond this kind of ugliness long ago; clearly not. What would Jackie have said if Paul was African-American? Would that have been acceptable? Why could she not have used intelligent, thoughtful words to disagree with Paul’s position? One thing I have loved about being a part of the voice artist family is something I never felt with the acting family: a friendly, artist helping artist vibe that feels incredibly authentic, and encourages all levels to reach higher. This is the very first experience I’ve had of a darker side of the industry, and I’m disturbed by it. The first thing I learned in Acting 101 was “never pay any agent or manager money up front for any reason.” This advice served me well over the years as I was offered all kinds of tempting goodies – representation, portfolios, classes, etc.- for all kinds of fees, all of which I refused. I honestly feel that the integrity and decency Paul consistently displays would lead him to refuse to pay for a nomination/award, should one be offered. We are, many of us, struggling professionals living job to job. I can only imagine my family’s response if I announced: “I’ve been nominated for two awards. And it will only cost $700.00!” This is not to negate Jay’s success; he seems an incredible talent, and lovely guy. But the fact remains that most of us could not afford to be part of the Voice Arts Awards, just as most of us cannot afford to attend the Audies. This is the reality we live, and Paul nailed it, and did express what many feel. He has never pandered or prevaricated in his writing which is the reason for his success as a blogger. I would be disappointed if he changed who he is. This is actually a healthy dialogue that can lead to positive thought and change. I’m so saddened to have been exposed to another side of the world I adore being part of. We can do better, Jackie, right?


  9. Chris Mezzolesta

    The stated goal of SaVoa was to help the industry by identifying gathering and presenting voice talents who showed that they possessed plenty of pro skills in order to make all talent look better to producers, and to make producers’ jobs easier by weeding out the obviously unqualified. Our reward for that was derision by talent and producers and agents who labeled the whole thing as an embarrassment and “second-rate talent slapping each other on the backs” and “don’t touch SaVoa talent with a ten foot pole”. So let’s talk about integrity. With all respect, not the best way to respond to a challenge when so many in that echelon of talent are just as guilty of pre-judging. Just sayin’.


  10. Bob Bergen

    Short and sweet: SCOTT BRICK ROCKS!


  11. Scott Brick

    Like many others I was disappointed to read this piece, for a variety of reasons. The first of these isn’t the fact that it questions my integrity; while that makes my blood boil it doesn’t make me sad. What saddens me is that the main thrust of the piece, that people are paying for their hardware, is so obviously stated without a modicum of research. The Audie Awards have been celebrating the audiobook industry for decades now, and when I was first nominated for one fifteen years ago I was told that the cost of the statue might be covered by the publisher, but that if they decided not to purchase one on my behalf that I could cover the costs myself. Yet Paul doesn’t descry their awards show. In fact having people pay for the hardware is fairly standard practice in any awards ceremony that doesn’t have major sponsorship. (And for those upset with the gala spectacle of the SOVAS evening, that’s how you secure sponsors, people.) But in looking over the comments I see I’m not the first to point out Paul’s lack of research, so I’ll move on to my other reasons.

    What also saddens me is that someone who’s done so much good for the industry has held up for ridicule an awards ceremony that seeks to do the same. I personally am a believer that a rising tide floats all boats, so if something helps our industry as a whole then it helps all of us, myself included, even if I can’t see it directly. The stated purpose of the Voice Arts Awards is to do that very thing. Sure, in future years I’m sure it’ll be able to do so even more effectively, so why don’t we simply wait for that to happen, rather than denigrating the event or its organizers? So many of the comments here, as well as in the FB Voice Artists United forum where I saw the link to this piece, feature someone saying, “Well, we’ll have to wait and see.” Paul himself has said this more than once. If so, then why question the integrity of the event in the first place? That’s not a ‘wait and see’ posture, that’s merely backtracking and washing your hands of an argument you started. And to answer the question stated in the piece, “Was the goal accomplished?” my answer would be yes, though perhaps it’s a qualified success; we clearly have further to go. I was backstage when photos were requested for pieces appearing in Huffpost and on PBS, as well as half a dozen more outlets. That’s more press than we were getting before, so absolutely, well done Joan and Rudy.

    Finally I’ll address the way Paul calls into question not only my integrity but those of my fellow judges, and most importantly of Joan and Rudy, the event’s founders and driving forces. Yes, I was asked to judge the audiobook submissions, but the very first thing I was told upon accepting was that if I were to be submitted for consideration in any of the categories that I would need to abstain. Which, frankly, was the only way I would have agreed to participate, so, great, issue resolved. As it turns out I was indeed nominated, which I learned about three seconds before I clicked the ABSTAIN button on the judges’ website. Questioning Rudy and Joan’s integrity is bad enough, but to question Nancy Wolfson, Greg Russell, Jay Britton, Denise Woods and myself without doing a bare minimum of research is reprehensible. Question our work, but never our integrity. Each of those people recused themselves before participating. And at least have the decency to inquire about a perceived conflict of interest before you publish, especially under an all caps banner of “CONFLICTING INTERESTS” and printing our names in bold. A very simple email would have sufficed. I realize that perhaps I shouldn’t hold Paul to the high standards of a journalist, but because this piece holds the event to a standard that doesn’t exist in any other awards ceremony, I figure I’m justified.

    And yes, a number of presenters and winners spoke at That’s Voiceover, that’s why they scheduled the awards to take place at a time when everybody’s in town. That’s not incestuous, that’s just good sense. Who wants to hand out awards when nobody shows up?

    Lastly, the reason there were so few submissions is because of the simple fact that it’s new. I spoke with two publishers backstage who told me very frankly that they only dipped their toe in the waters because of its very newness, but given how successful the evening was, they were planning a larger participation next year. I’d wager most companies adopted a similar posture. Still, none of those publishers denigrated the event, ridiculed its goals and accomplishments, or questioned the integrity of its founders and participants. Neither will I attack you, Paul, or deny you the right to your opinions. But you don’t have the right to question anybody’s integrity the way you have. If you have a problem, talk to me about it. Discussing an issue in the appropriate manner is a fine start.


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  13. Bob Stephenson

    Jackie – called and they would like you to do their marketing…and any award where you pay for your nomination, then pay for your award trophy, after being judged against only one or two other people, BY a small group of good friends, one of whom produced your entry, is NOT a good representation of the hard-working people in the voice over industry – people attempting to put out quality products every day and carve out a living constantly being lowered in quality by anybody who can plug in a USB mic. While I wish these types of award show success, as they DO put at least a small spotlight on our industry, to think they are truly representative of all of the hard working people would be a mistake…BTW – thank you, Paul, for making all of us think.


  14. Bob Bergen

    This discussion is great! Dave Fennoy, you rock!!!

    Look, I’m on the board of governors at The Television Academy. I know backwards and forwards award shows. The expressions shared here, as well as the experience leading up to this year’s vo awards, the awards themselves, etc., well, it’s all valuable!

    As I said before, like all award shows since movies had no sound, they change, grow, and evolve year after year. This one will as well. You all have given the producers a lot to consider and take in for the future. Just like the successes of this year’s awards which they will take with them next year.


  15. J S Gilbert

    I think the saddest part of reading the comments is that most of the criticism being lobbed at Paul revolves around a small portion of the content, “paying for the prize”.

    I wasn’t around back in 1927 or 1949 when the Academy Awards or the Emmy’s were started, and to bring those events up without a true understanding and citation of the issues that might have taken place, but I can tell you that the relevance to an event in 2014 that is trying to “clone” either of those events and present itself as having the same import in its inaugural year is pretty egotistical by any scale of measurement.

    And by laser focusing on the single point of “paying for an award”, you fail to address any of the other more salient issues that have been brought up in this article, let alone seem to wish to admit they exist.

    Many of us who are detractors of this event aren’t “haters”, but true philanthropists in many of the root definitions of the word.

    If anybody wants to move on beyond ad hominem arguments, sleight-of-hand, etc. and speak to the other aspects of this, it might help all parties.

    I was involved with AAF’s, ADDY awards program which was extremely hurt in the marketplace and is still suffering and trying to bounce back.

    As an awards program that has been around since 1960, it had difficulties listening to its critics and as a result lost millions of dollars of revenue and has now had to change its name to the American Advertising Awards.



    I completely disagree with almost everything Paul has to say in this article. First of all, somebody pays for every submission for nomination to every award given in any award show. It may be a production company, or it may be an artists wishing to gain recognition for his or her work. But for the award shows to happen, money is paid. Basically you are suggesting that the winner of best picture won because they paid for their oscar. Also the suggestion that Push Creative, Rudy and Joan made any money on the awards show is ridiculous. Anyone who believes that has no idea what it cost to put on such an event and how much work it is to do. I know because I was there as the booth announcer. Our industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years and it make sense to have a platform for recognition of excellence. As for conflict of interest, no one could vote in a category in which they submitted. Emmy’s and Oscars are voted on by people who may also have an interest in the projects they vote on. As this is was the very 1st VAA, participation was less than it will be in subsequent years. As with anything new, a certain number of people will have a hard time reconciling themselves to the new reality. This too shall pass and one day in the not to distant future Paul, or someone who hired him for an audio book or some other project will be submitting his name for VAA consideration and if he is fortunate enough to win. He will gladly accept his award and display it proudly.


  17. Kitzie Stern

    Wow — ‘Jackie’. Honey, you need to cut back on the caffeine. What a screech.


  18. Mike Shepherd

    Thank you Paul! Well reasoned and right on target. I will simply echo JS’ (Gilbert’s) sentiments in his response.

    All the best!



  19. Joe Nagle

    To me, the thing that is most amazing and endearing about the voice-over community is the spirit of comraderie. I believe this is due in large to the fact that, unlike the rest of the entertainment industry, we don’t mind working in anonymity, so egoes for the most part don’t come into play. I fear that an awards program such as this could serve to undermine that spirit, as it is little more than a chest thumping “Look at me! Look at meee!”. And the fact that one of the categories is Best Demo is ludicrous. Could you imagine if the steel industry, for example, gave an award for the Best Business Card Design?
    Never mind that personally I think some years the Best Picture Oscar should be renamed the “Sorry, But This Was The Best We Could Do This Year” Oscar – that’s for another discussion.

    I am reminded of another old adage: “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back”.


  20. Dustin Ebaugh

    Hey Paul: Thanks for writing this. I have had many of the same thoughts, but I’m not a world-famous Norwegian VO artist and blogger. Well done. You certainly make us think.


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  22. steve hammill

    The incestuous outcomes aside, it simply demonstrates that these associations or academies provide only lip service to the craft and care not a damn about anything but profit for the principles and disciples.

    OBTW – incest ain’t legal in these here Untied States


  23. Bob Bergen

    JS makes some interesting points. Especially this one:

    “Comparing this program in any way to the Oscars or Emmy’s represents a level of ego and ignorance unparalleled.”

    It’s almost verbatim what many in the motion picture industry said in print numerous times in the late 40s when comparing the Oscars to the brand new Emmys.

    Personally, I love award shows. I love the red carpet, the back slapping, the ego boost, the celebrating, all of it. It’s a blast!


  24. J S gilbert

    I would like to give Mr. Strikwerda the first of what I hope will be many, “J S Gilbert Awards” for excellence.

    Similar in nature to the VAA one might receive, it has virtually no value and I’m afraid that bragging rights would just make you seem like a braggart.

    I do think however that you could slate your auditions as “Paul Strikwerda, recipient of the first J S Gilbert Award for excellence” and see how that works for you.

    I am embarrassed by all of these self-appointed, back slapping, self-congratulatory snake-oil salesmen and saleswomen.

    While voice over in general is being democratized, marginalized and commoditized, a real opportunity exists to strip away the myths and lies of voice over.

    Comparing this program in any way to the Oscars or Emmy’s represents a level of ego and ignorance unparalleled.

    And given the current thirst for content exhibited by all manner of online and offline reporting sources, magazines and programming, the amount of attention paid to this event has been minuscule.

    Of course, thousands of individuals who don’t understand the average income of SAG/AFTRA members is under $10,000 no doubt will find it all very exciting and will scramble to purchase the many courses, workshops, books, training programs, etc. that the individuals behind this are promoting.

    It’s just one reason why so many working voice talent prefer to tell their families that they work playing piano in a brothel. It just appears a little less seemly than saying “I’m a voice over”.


  25. Mike Broderick

    Hi Paul. Thanks for this. The personal attack on you aside, this is a good discussion which I think will help improve these awards in the future.

    I think they could be a very good thing for the VO industry going forward, but two things need to be sorted out:

    The jurors must be completely impartial (perhaps drawn from other creative industries?) and award winners should get one trophy at no cost. Multi – award winners could purchase additional trophies.

    These 2 steps would bolster the credibility of the awards and give a better benefit to the winners.


  26. Lee Pinney

    There is only one point that Jackie made which is spot on. Damn those Norwegians, and their wooden shoes, windmills, and stuffs!

    Ok, now back to reality…..

    Thank you for being you Paul, and allowing free discussion even if it’s an anonymous rant that further justifies your questions the motives of an event or organization.

    I like many others have remained at an arms length from other discussions about this event. If it weren’t for the post from Jackie, I might have continued forth remaining neutral on this issue.

    As per the norm, your thoughts were well received. I will forever look to your insights as a genuinely upright citizen of these United States, even though you’re one of those sneaky Norwegians…..crap, I did it again.

    Thank you Paul, once again for adding a value to my Thursday morning coffee.

    All my best.


  27. Tony Pasquale

    I’m going to piggy back (see what I did there) off of Bob Bergen’s comments. I’ve spent the last 15 years in live event and show production which has taken me to 5 countries, and 47 states. I have developed and produced more of these types of award shows then I care to remember. This is a classic business strategy where “award shows” are developed to raise awareness, revenues and the well-known “butts-in-seats”. Shows I’ve produced awarded “the best” administrative assistants, CEOs, philanthropies, ad agencies, animators, innovators, or people under 40, etc…same idea as recognizing VO.

    The business model of paying for these awards is a standard practice. It just is. Look around the creative space especially and you’ll see it. This award show is no different in design, execution, revenue model, or exposure than your local chamber developing a recognition lunch for “the best small businesses”. The one thing you’re not privy to is the sheer cost to put something like this on. It’s expensive and the money has to come from somewhere. I’d be hard pressed to believe the people putting this award show on made any money. Most small event/award shows do not. Again, that’s the business model, and The Voice Arts Awards are not an anomaly.

    It’s another marketing avenue that you can choose to invest in or not. Like buying ad space. They don’t give me the impression they are doing something malicious or deceitful. Give it a few years and we’ll see if it is worth it or not. If it lasts more than 5 years, in my experience, then it will be.


  28. George Whittam

    I have a sad feeling I know who “Jackie” is and it makes my heart sink… I sure hope I’m wrong. I’ve read rants written in this similar style elsewhere…

    Nonetheless, the VAA’s have every right to exist, and, if the community supports it, thrive. And certainly the VO actor deserves recognition after many years of working in the shadows, almost always uncredited. Who’s ready to be the American Music Awards to their Grammys? Anyone?
    Wish I had the resources and the drive…


  29. Bob Hurley

    I sit corrected, Mike. I was basing that on show entry fees made in the 90s by network news organizations. I think what you said right on point. However, I hope this grows and changes to what it should be, as you said. Only time, and new management, will tell.


  30. Mike Madden

    DEAD ON. Thank you Paul. Been railing about this fake award show for awhile.

    For the Record folks: The Oscars do NOT charge for Nominations. Neither do the Golden Globes (another FAKE award show). Regional Emmy Awards do because there are no TV revenues. The National Emmy Awards allow 1 free Submission in 2 categories for members. Most who are nominated are members, it’s 1/4 the cost of paying for a single nod, most nominated have been members for years.

    NO award show should charge for nominations, and NO award show should allow such blatant nepotism and chicanery. Just the fact that judges were allowed input into votes involving former students, people the did domes for invalidates all of the awards given.

    Great points Paul. Jackie is mad because the holes are too big to patch and now everyone is seeing them thanks to your great post.


  31. David Brower

    Jackie….seriously? As a nominee myself I was fully aware of the investment to all of this. There were no surprises at all and if you would have attended you would have discovered what most of us…for their first VAA it was really well done and sold out.

    The networking opportunities to help my own business were great. The highlight was the Speed Dating event where 20 of us were chosen at random to sit one on one with top producers in NYC. They would listen to our demo and give us their thoughts. We then had 8 minutes to pitch ourselves in the hopes of getting on their shortlist for new VO opportunities. I’m on the shortlist with NBC Sports and two major ad agencies. You can’t add a price tag to that kind of exposure and result.

    When new restaurant opens, I give a shot and then give them plenty of time to adjust their menu, grow their customer service, among other things. Sometimes they grow into a huge success and sometimes they shoot themselves in the foot.

    The VAA’s need the same respect. Give them a chance to succeed or fail


  32. Bob Hurley

    OH, please, please, PLEASE publish “Jackie’s” email address! (I think we can kinda narrow down the real identity of “Jackie”, anyway.)

    Each point Paul makes is valid and has been a concern of MOST of the VO community since this thing was announced. The execution of this first version was rife with “you just don’t do that” moments. The awards are a great idea. The entry fees are not any different from the Emmys or Oscars. Everybody pays for these things. The difference is that Show Budgets and Motion Picture budgets pay for the entry fees for those awards. VOs don’t have that luxury.

    The thing is, the awards have to last beyond the participation of this first group by several years. It will need to be “cleansed” by the next generation of organizers, judges and participants who will most certainly be more objective and perhaps recuse themselves when necessary.

    It’s a good idea but, like any infant, the diapers need to be changed and what’s inside them needs to be firmed up before they can walk proudly on their own.


  33. jennifer m dixon

    Thanks Paul for your objective and well thought out articles. The angry and disturbing diatribe is an example of ignorance and inbalance and definitely deserves to be ignored. So sad.
    Yes it is lovely to get awards especially from one’s peers however rather difficult to understand why one should pay for it oneself. The honor of being acknowledged is in and of itself a huge reward … oh well ……. Be well. Jenny


  34. Bob Bergen

    Yup, I hear ya, Paul! 😉

    But here’s the thing. This ain’t a new thing! Between Oscars, Golden Globes, etc., you will see oodles of “for your consideration” ads all over the place: from billboards, to newspapers, to radio/TV. These ain’t free! And, the strategy is far from new.

    Not every award show gets national exposure. Everyone knows the media biggies. But almost every discipline in Hollywood has an awards presentation. You probably won’t know about them unless you work in that area. Will they lead to anything if won? No way of knowing. There are many an actor whose career died after nabbing an Oscar. Often it’s hard to live up to that moment. And usually, by the time you accept an Oscar, it’s been a good 1-2 years since that film was completed. And it’s very common that said actor has 1-2 crapola films ready for release after the Oscar ceremony.

    As for paying to submit for these VO awards, this is how NATAS does The Daytime Emmys. Now, for The Primetime Emmys, The Television Academy (completely different organization from NATAS) allows members one free submission. If you are not a member, then you have to pay to submit.

    Personally, I am all for recognizing excellence in the world of VO. This is the first year for this VO award. And I am curious and happy to allow the powers that be iron out the kinks. The Annie Awards have grown from a tiny, casual gathering in June Foray’s backyard to a major, Hollywood event. It took a lot of years to build up to what it is today. But it had to start somewhere.

    Again, I see and appreciate your points. But I also respect that this first time award show deserves to evolve and grow.


  35. Gary Terzza

    An article that took me by surprise Paul – you have made some thought provoking points. I had no idea recipients paid for their own awards. Perhaps this will change if the organisers gain more publicity/sponsorship in the future.

    At the moment my own jury is still out on the issue, but I just want to add something from a personal perspective. I have worked with Jay Britton (he was one of my VO students a few years ago) and he’s a highly talented voice actor who has achieved considerable success here in the UK.

    He certainly deserves to be rewarded.

    That said, keep up the provocative posts; they raise important issues that need to be discussed.


  36. Dave Clark

    I, for one, am giving Paul a standing ovation. Jackie’s screed actually diminishes herself and her own argument. Painfully obvious is how self-indulgent these ‘awards’ have all become. It’s actually quite nauseating. Paul need not prove himself or his bonafides against her ‘standard.’ To anyone who has followed Paul for any period of time, his viewpoints are illuminating and refreshing. Unless, of course, one feels threatened by self-examination. Primma donnas often do. Temperamental people with an inflated view of their own talent or importance cannot abide the thought they may not be universally adored. The incestuous nature of the enterprise is apparent for those who are not blinkered. I, for one, am glad to see an outside perspective unbowed to the ‘establishment.’


  37. Chris Mezzolesta

    Hey ‘Jackie’, why don’t you really join the discussion and join World Voices if you are so passionate about the voiceover community. It’s kinda like ‘put up or shut up’.

    Nobody ran to SaVoa’s defense when it was railed against by a lot of the very same people hailing SOVAS…why is it that there is only one group that is allowed to care about VO? What’s good for the goose…if these people were so vehemently against the idea of SaVoa being a “club” atmosphere, why is it suddenly OK for SOVAS and the VAAs to do the exact same thing, and with much larger monetary requirements? Sorry but the whole thing stinks. I won a Logan Whitehurst Memorial Award for Excellence in Comedy Music this year. I did not have to pay to enter and did not have to pay for the statue (which I know cost $400 to make). Sorry but Paul is spot on. Your comments are irrelevant until you show yourself. And perhaps thereafter.


  38. Joe J Thomas


    Thanks for exposing the elephant in the booth.

    You’ve highlighted much more than I was aware of about these “awards”.

    Sad and shocking. I couldn’t agree more with your post.

    The “buying a cigar from your own box” phrase is apropos.

    Keep posting, good sir.


  39. Terry Daniel

    Well said, Paul! I think it was a brilliant concept and one would argue that winning the award would be an excellent addition to your next marketing push via newsletters or whatever. The issue I have is having to pay for the nomination and the trophy itself. The Voice Arts Awards event seems more like a club to me than anything else but we’ll see how it evolves in the coming years.

    On a different note, I find Jackie’s remarks offensive and insulting. There is no need to attack someone personally. Paul was not attacking the organizers of the event. He was opening it up for debate and conversation. And “this ain’t Norway and we don’t go by Dutch sayings?” What kind of bullshit thing is that to say to someone? Shameful.


  40. Karol Walkowski

    Paul, I hope you’ll ignore this anonymous, and monumentally arrogant comment. Jackie must have been involved in VO industry so early in life, that she skipped her geography classes 😉

    Jackie is also surprisingly well informed about SOVAS/VVA’s affairs, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out who this person is working for. And this actually proves that it stinks by a mile. Only MLM, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” kind of scammers would react in such an aggressive and abusive way as this “Jackie” person.

    Keep up the good work Paul. You may not qualify to one of them VVA awards, but your Dutch, no-nonsense and pragmatic input is highly appreciated.


  41. Ed (Ed-VO) Waldorph

    Poking the hornet’s nest again, eh, Paul. You ask some important questions and make some salient observations. I find it interesting that the event was somewhat more inbred than I thought.

    I think I’ll sleep on it before commenting further. I need to meditate after reading the first response. I hate anonymous diatribes.


  42. Jackie

    How many morning talk shows have you been on, Paul? Isn’t your “pajama” psychology worthy of a national nod by God Day New York? By the way, the VAAs made Good Morning America. Why is it that you don’t know that? They also made papers in the US, Korea, and Germany. Who knows, maybe even Norway? Again, why don’t you know these details? Then there’s Voiceover Herald, Voiceover Times, Huffington Post, Voice-over Xtra and others. Do you not deem these thoughtful sources worthy of a mention by your self-professed authority? Are morning talk shows your idea of reaching the top? Every publication I’ve ready has had nothing but good things to say about the VAAs, but none mention you. In fact, I’ve never known anyone to mention you except you. You seem to be unusually fixated on trying to destroy something simply because it’s not our idea — because it outshines your banal rhetoric. Well, guess what? You’re maniacal envy is obvious to all, even the few pathetic cynics who might seem to come to your defense. Truth be told, you’re full of spite and envy. You’re blinded by ego and self-delusion. You are a sad man, full of rage and jealousy, and YOU KNOW IT. Honestly, you are completely irrelevant to the voiceover community and the only card you have left to play is to rail against that which is relevant. Without attacking something good and inspired, you would have nothing of any relevance to share. The best thing you could do is submit your work and try to win an award. See if you can do that. Of course, that would mean actually doing something worth entering, wouldn’t it? have you done that? Of course yo have,but you’re holding back until someone will evaluate your work for free or until the government will pay for you to enter, right? Well, this ain’t Norway. And we don’t go by Dutch sayings. This is America. Get with the program or go back to Norway. Or have you been banned from entering that delightful little country? Puh-leeze!


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