If you’re following me on social media such as Facebook and Instagram, what you’re about to read will be no news to you. But I know some people are just connected via this blog, and you need to hear this too. As you start reading, you’ll find out why.
Okay… so, today I’m going to try to explain something to you that I find hard to explain to myself. It’s about me and my connection to my voice over community which I feel has been shifting lately.
BEING A VOLUNTEER
It started a while ago, but it really hit me when I volunteered at a summer camp for kids down the street from where I live. It’s called the Old Stone House Time Travelers Camp. Kids from 6 to 12 spend a week playing, learning, and having fun together. I was mainly there to take pictures, but most of the kids interacted with me, and were actually interested in the person behind the camera.
And what’s more, they thanked me for volunteering and for taking pictures of their camp! After the first week, the leadership team at the Old Stone House sent me this card:
Although I always say: “I’m in it for the music, not for the applause,” I have to tell you: it’s nice to be appreciated. It makes me feel that what I do matters, and that it makes a difference; that it’s not a big waste of time.
I had the same feeling when I was emcee for the Easton Farmers’ market, the oldest outdoor farmers’ market in the United States that’s still going strong. For me it was a way to use my voice for my town, for my people, and help local farmers and merchants sell their produce and products. And every Saturday, people told me how much they enjoyed it, and they thanked me for doing it… and it felt good.
I have to tell you: it felt much better than receiving a nice cheque for doing any of my voice over work for clients I don’t even know.
Every year the farmers at the market threw an appreciation dinner for all the volunteers, and that was always a highlight of the season.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND APPRECIATION
There’s no such thing in the voice over community. Of course that has to do with the fact that we mainly interact via social media and not in person. But even on social media we can show our appreciation in many ways. But most of the time…. we don’t, and that’s why I started #goodmouthmondays.
The idea behind it is that every Monday you pick someone you’re grateful for, and you praise that person in public using social media.
The first couple of weeks I saw quite a few goodmouthmonday posts here and there, but I don’t think we’re keeping the momentum going. I can’t force anyone to say something nice about someone, and something will only be a success if people see the value. Nevertheless, I have to admit I expected a bit more. Of course everyone who’s been to the One Voice Conference is still overflowing with praise and gratitude , but once the exuberance of the experience dies down, we’ll get back to normal.
Another thing that has disappointed me has to do with how poorly the voice over community handles criticism. I have shared with you before that I think our community is pretty lame, and very few people dare to speak up against the powers that be. And those who do – people like me- are quickly labeled as being “negative” and “nasty.” I usually shrug that off, but you should see some of the messages I receive when people don’t like what I say.
Those are not the messages you see in the public comments, by the way.
Usually, they turn it into personal attacks instead of challenging the actual content. It’s part of the risk of being outspoken… but I’m happy to have a discussion about the subject matter with anyone, anytime… As long as people stay respectful and polite.
When I point certain things out, I do it in the hopes of making things better, not to tear anyone or anything down.
THE SILENT MAJORITY
And here’s one last thing that doesn’t sit well with me. When I go to conferences and meetups, so many people come up to me, thanking me for saying all the things they tell me that THEY are thinking but are too afraid to share. Of course I appreciate hearing that, but I’ve been hearing it for years and did it move the needle in any significant way?
Did those same nice people back me up when I advocated for fair fees and protested against predatory Pay to Plays? Did they weigh in about unfair Terms and Conditions? Did they speak up when colleagues dragged me through the mud?
Some did and I’m thankful for that. But a silent majority sits back and enjoys the spectacle while complaining about low rates and how hard it is to find any work as a voice over.
Let me ask you: how’s that working for you?
Have conditions for voice overs improved over the past ten years, or is it harder to make a decent living? And who’s fault is that? Who has been enabling that?
Silence implies consent. We get what we tolerate. Inaction has consequences. Hollywood actors have had it, but most VOICE actors rather hide in their studios feeling sorry for themselves.
TAKING A FEW STEPS BACK
Uncle Roy’s annual voice over BBQ is coming up. If you’re not familiar with that, Roy Yokelson’s party is one of THE voice over events of the year bringing many colleagues together for a potluck meal, bagels, and drinks. With a heavy heart I told Roy I’m not going this year ’cause… I’m not feeling it.
I’m kind of sick of people who tell me how much they appreciate me being so outspoken, but who don’t have the balls to back me up in fear of their reputation. I know voice overs are good at giving lip service, but actions speak louder than words.
Here’s what I’ve decided: for at least a year I’m staying away from in-person events such as meetups and conferences. I’m also not doing any interviews, podcasts, or speaking engagements. I just said no to an invite to appear on the Voice Over Body Shop.
STAYING ON SOCIAL MEDIA
I will keep on posting on social media (including this blog) because it keeps my brain active and it feeds my soul. It’s good for my SEO as well. I also don’t want to give my critics the pleasure of feeling they’ve gotten rid of me. Weeds don’t die easily, and I plan to stick around for a while. But my posts won’t all be about, or for the voice over community. I’m broadening my horizons.
Please understand that I’m not asking for sympathy or last-minute appreciation. I’m not Eeyore hoping to be noticed. If I haven’t heard from you for some time, don’t bother. It’s okay.
And if you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m probably busy in my local community here in Vermont. With a camera, not a microphone. And a big smile on my face!