Nethervoice Blog

Paul’s Personally Curated Holiday Shopping List

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Career, Gear, Internet, Personal Leave a comment

The older I get, the harder it is to give me something for the holidays. 

For one, I have pretty much everything my heart desires and I don’t need to accumulate more stuff. Instead, I’d like to invest in memories, in people, and in experiences that enrich my life and the lives of others. 

Those are the things that cannot be bought on Amazon or sold on eBay.

Yet, I don’t blame you if you keep a secret wish list under your pillow as you dream of new microphones, preamplifiers, and the latest and greatest headphones. At the same time, your friends and family members may be looking for some smaller ticket items to put under the Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush.

That’s where I come in!

GIFT IDEAS

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been collecting some voice-over gift ideas for people like me, who aren’t so easy to shop for. 

Before I show you my list, you should know that by clicking on the images you will be transported to the virtual warehouse that is Amazon. This means a small portion of your purchase will go towards supporting this blog, since I am an Amazon affiliate.

I also encourage you to shop locally as much as you can, but you won’t find many of the items below on the shelves of your downtown retailers.

Let’s start by finding something for our noses!

I have mixed feelings about fragrances. On one hand, I’m no fan of natural body odor. On the other, an increasing number of people are allergic to perfumes and after-shaves. At my doctor’s office, there’s a sign asking patients not to wear any perfume when they come in for a visit.

I clearly remember a nauseating recording session in a booth that appeared to be sprayed with Old Spice from the previous VO. Please do your colleagues a favor and use an odorless deodorant before you come in to record.

If, in your private life, you’d like to be a bit more fragrant, here are two options to consider. I haven’t tested them, but I think the bottles look pretty cool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next package is more impressive and expensive. There’s even an unboxing video if you’re really interested. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following fragrance is not for your body. This microphone-shaped contraption is meant to freshen up your car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming back to personal hygiene, how about some soap on a rope? You can warm up your pipes as you take a long, hot shower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s one thing I’ve never understood. When you buy a nice microphone, it usually comes in a fancy box or case you’ll rarely use. However, there’s nothing to protect your mic once it’s in your studio. Dust and humidity are major enemies, so my $1750 microphone is hanging in an old sunglasses bag filled with Silica gel packets. There’s a more high-end solution, though. 

My next item is a universal microphone protector and dust cover. It’s made from double-sided quilted nylon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another company offers a two-pack with custom embroidery included.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My recording studio is in the basement, and my wife’s office is on the first floor. She always knows when I’m in session because of my Harlan Hogan remote controlled recording sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s another light for you. An “On The Air” night light. The plug can be rotated to accommodate outlets in any direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s fun voice-over attire. Here are a few examples of what you can find on Amazon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most VO’s are avid readers, and some of us -me included- also take up the pen. If you’d like to add to your collection of voice over books, I recommend you send your friends and family to my Concise (and Incomplete) Voice Over Book List on this blog. 

If you’re a Manga fan, you’ll be delighted to know that Maki Minami has written a whole series about young voice-over artists. Here’s the cover of volume 1. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your vocal folds are in need of some TLC, these Voice Lessons To Go by Ariella Vaccarino might be the thing you need. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GIFTS TO YOURSELF

Then there are gifts that aren’t really physical. They tend to be a bit more expensive, but they will definitely help you move your business forward.

For $120 per year you can upgrade your WeTransfer account to a Pro version. This gets you your own WeTransfer URL and artwork, email transfers to up to 50 people, and you’ll receive 1TB of storage. This allows you to keep your transfers available for as long as you want. In the free version they get deleted after 7 days.

Why not make this the year year you finally become a member of the World Voices Organization? The new member application fee is $99 USD. You’ll get access to educational materials, WoVO mentors, and VoiceOver.biz, a site where you can post your profile and voice seekers can hire you. Those seekers are serious clients looking for vetted professionals. When you land a job, there’s no commission or agent fee.

Besides, you’ll be a member of an organization that develops and promotes best practices, as well as standards for ethical conduct and professional expertise as it relates to the voiceover industry, run by voice over talent for voice over talent.

VO CONFERENCE

Have you thought of giving yourself a ticket to VO Atlanta (March 26 – 29, 2020)? Join colleagues from over 44 states and 20 countries, and enjoy a selection of 200 scheduled session hours by the best in the business. Plus, you get to meet me! 

For those who are wondering if VO Atlanta is worth attending, here’s a quick recap of this year’s conference. 

 

Well, there you have it! My list of voice over inspired holiday gifts. There’s one thing you should know, though. 

Nothing on this list comes even close to the gift you have given me throughout the years: your continued support for this blog and for me.

I am beyond grateful for your kindness and your willingness to spend some time with me, week after week.

It is truly something I am immensely thankful for.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Has VDC Gone Too Far?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Freelancing, Money Matters, Pay-to-Play Leave a comment

Before I come back to Monday’s story about voices dot com’s changed Terms of Service, I have a word for my many subscribers.

Until now, I’ve used a service called Feedburner to enable people to subscribe to this blog. Google stopped supporting this service quite some time ago, but it was still operational.

As of today I have retired Feedburner, and replaced it with a simple subscription system provided by Jetpack.

What I did not do is automatically transfer thousands of Feedburner subscribers to the new system. That may not seem such a smart move, because I’d stand to lose many subscribers. However, I feel I cannot just move your private information over from one system to another without your permission. That choice has to be yours, not mine.

If you feel this blog offers enough value, I ask you to please go to the top right-hand part of this page and resubscribe using the new system. You will receive a short email asking you to confirm your choice. Mind you: you can always unsubscribe if my musings are no longer relevant or interesting to you.

I will weep in silence, but eventually I’ll get over it.

LOSING YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

With that said, let’s move on to my friends at voices dot com (VDC). Every member past and present has received an email notification saying:

“As part of our regular updates, we’re making a few changes to our Terms of Service to reflect new features, clarify our policies related to file ownership and improve your experience on Voices.com.”

As I reported on Monday (a day before VDC made the announcement) CEO David Ciccarelli had decided that, in order to “improve your experiences on Voices.com,” it would be best to hand complete ownership of your finished work over to VDC.

As soon as your audio has been uploaded, VDC can do with it whatever it wants. Once the client has paid in full, that ownership is transferred to the client.

The following is from the new VDC Terms of Service (TOS):

6. Non-Union Work Product: With respect to non-union voice work produced by Talent for a Client in connection with a Services Agreement or an accepted Job Posting (“Non-Union Work Product”), immediately upon the transfer, transmission, submission or upload of Non-Union Work Product through the Site, or otherwise through a Service, Talent: (i) transfers, assigns and conveys to Voices.com, all right, title and interest (including without limitation copyright) in and to such Non-Union Work Product (including without limitation sound recordings, performances, compositions, musical works and other copyrighted content included therein) that Talent has agreed to provide the Client (via Voices.com) in the applicable Job Posting, Services Agreement or other agreement between Talent and Client; (ii) waives all moral rights (and all other rights of a like nature) that Talent may have in such Non-Union Work Product in favour of the applicable Client (and any third party authorized by the Client to use such Non-Union Work Product); and (iii) agrees to execute any and all such further documents as Voices.com may request to confirm and/or give full effect to Voices.com and/or the applicable Client’s rights hereunder.

Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, Voices.com (including its assignees or licensees) may use Non-Union Work Product in accordance with the applicable Job Posting, Services Agreement or other agreement between Talent and Client without restriction and without any rights of approval by Talent. Upon payment in full by the Client, Voices.com grants to Client all right, title and interest (including without limitation copyright) that Talent has agreed to provide the Client (via Voices.com) in and to the applicable Non-Union Work in the applicable Job Posting, Services Agreement or other agreement between Talent and Client, which for greater certainty will be limited and subject to any purposes, intent, scope and restrictions (including, if applicable, category of use, market size and time period) set out in the applicable Job Posting, Services Agreement or other agreement between Talent and Client. In the event the applicable Services or Job Posting does not specify such limits nor usage restrictions, a full buy-out of the Non-Union Work Product is assigned.

A BIG DEAL

Why is this even an issue? Our colleague Chris Thorn comments:

“If Burt’s Bagel Shop (of course I am making this up) wishes to pay me X number of dollars to voice an advertisement for them, frankly, I’m all for it. I’ve done him a service, he has compensated me, and we both live happily ever after. That I do or do not own the intellectual property rights to that 30 seconds of Emmy quality audio troubles me not. What on earth am I going to do with the property other than sell it to Burt who has already purchased it.

Most of us don’t play with the “big boys”. Here is where we carve out our niche and put food in our belly’s, that I don’t have the intellectual property rights to Burt’s Bagels ad, Sally’s Fine Nails Internet Explainer Video voice over, or Junk City’s benefits presentation audio troubles me very, very little. Signed, An Unconcerned Voice Actor”

First of all, the right to ownership of your intellectual property is in the US Constitution. Apparently, you need a Dutch voice talent to point that out. Just because a third party is paying for your voice over recording, doesn’t mean they own those rights, UNLESS you agree to signing those rights over in a work for hire agreement made prior to you starting the job. That’s how it’s done.

It’s not for a company like VDC to automatically give that right away using a Terms of Service Agreement most members won’t even read.

Secondly, if a company wants exclusivity, THEY PAY FOR IT.

UK Colleague Marcus Hutton explains:

“The level of exposure matters. And in your fee there should always be an exclusivity element built in. Heavy association with one product will naturally take similar products off the table (who wants to use the same voice that a rival uses?). If you go and work for Betty’s Bagel shop then Bert won’t be using you again and bang goes you client relationship.

Even if your job is is officially non exclusively licensed, a rival client would be very peed off if they made the connection. Unofficially, radio stations ( as an example) who do not pay exclusivity fees just won’t use you for a competing product. And how on earth can you negotiate a fee with Bert’s Bagel Shop in the first place if you don’t know what the usage will be ? In Europe that’s now illegal under the new copyright directive. Clients can be fined for providing insufficient information.”

He continues:

“A study by the IP department of a major UK university on voice overs licensing, and unfair practises by P2P platforms is underway, and the first part of their research was published earlier in the year. There is more to come specifically on the legality of P2P licensing and how it varies between the US and Europe and what part the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)can play in making things fairer. Jurisdiction will be a hot topic.”

Click here to access this study. Here’s one of the conclusions:

“In a two-part analysis, this study demonstrates that online peer-to-peer recruitment platforms defeat the framework of intellectual property (copyright and performers’ rights) on a global scale.

The results of the survey show that: online peer-to-peer recruitment platforms are perceived very negatively by voice-over performers; the use of written contracts, summarizing the key aspects of a transaction is extremely rare; and, there is a critical lack of awareness of intellectual property rights within voice-over performers paired with a perceived lack of representation by unions or organizations to defend and advance their rights.”

The author (R) and Rob Sciglimpaglia

LEGAL OPINION

As (voice) actor, attorney and the author of Voice Over Legal, Robert Sciglimpaglia said on Monday:

Talent should think long and hard about waiving their intellectual property rights through a buried term in a terms of service agreement on a website. The end client may ask the talent to sign a work for hire, but it’s an open question for me whether TOS is an enforceable work for hire.”

And by the way, what would you, Chris Thorn, do when VDC uses the explainer video for Sally’s Fine Nails as a national commercial, or uses it for years past what you contracted for? How are you going to stop them from doing that if you have no more ownership of your work?

Unlike you, I did not make these examples up. These are actual cases that were litigated and reported by VDC members. Or how about when they use your work to create an AI database to do who knows how many jobs that you could have done to put food in your belly? It’s no secret that VDC has a partnership with AI company VocaliD.

YOUR INPUT

Ciccarelli explains how this change in TOS came about:

“We listened to your feedback via online forums and our customer advisory group. We consulted industry experts, our board of directors and finally, our legal counsel.”

If you’re a VDC member, were you asked to weigh in on this decision that impacts your livelihood? Did you give VDC feedback, begging them to please take away your intellectual property rights to make the poor clients happy?

Only a fool or an extremely naive beginner would do that.

I have many connections in the voice over world, and as far as I can tell, no voice talent was ever consulted.

Once again, VDC is pulling a fast one, screwing the talent it depends on to make millions.

What else is new?

Voiceoverist extraordinaire Philip Banks has this to say to VDC:

“Dear Dave, Steph and all you lovely Voice Devils Canada. A client, not you, will pay me for the reasonable use of my work. My performance was, is and will remain my property. YOU, dearest Dave, Steph and the lovely Voice Devils Canada take an annual fee from me and an undetermined percentage of my income, MY INCOME, derived from your site. That’s it.

 “In order to improve service” as used in your T&Cs is like greasing my wallet in order to improve the service I get from Quentin the local pickpocket.”

 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Voices Dot Com is Giving Your Rights Away

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Freelancing, Internet, Money Matters, Pay-to-Play 4 Comments

I just received an email from Michelle Melski, the new communications manager at Voices Dot Com (VDC).

She writes:

“After conversations with customers and industry stakeholders it became obvious that we needed to clarify our Terms of Service, particularly around the ownership of files. 

Our terms of service will be updated tomorrow (11/12/’19 PS) to reflect that voice talent own the demos they are uploading to the website and that the clients own the finished work. Our CEO will blog about it in more detail on our website tomorrow, but I wanted to give you a heads up because I know that it matters to you.”

In his blog, VDC CEO David Ciccarelli writes:

“As always, voice talent are the owners of their demo materials. Voices.com holds ‘non-exclusive’ rights to host and promote these files through our website and mobile applications.

Additionally, clients own the final files for the work that they have paid to have completed on Voices.com. Ownership and usage of final files is determined by what’s written in the job posting, service agreement or other agreement between the talent and the clients.”

(…)

“I trust that you’ll see our commitment to providing a valuable service that is governed by policies designed to protect our community.”

To some this may not seem like a big deal, but in my understanding an independent contractor owns the intellectual property (IP) rights to his or her creation, in this case an audio recording.

Unless the talent explicitly waives those rights, the client does not own the finished voice recording. The client only pays for limited usage of the work. It’s very much like a professional photographer keeping ownership of the negatives while the client pays for limited use of those negatives.

Only if you have a written contract in place (a so-called work for hire agreement) that was agreed upon before the job began, stating that the intellectual property belongs to the client, the freelancer loses his or her rights. If there’s no written agreement, the IP remains with the voice talent.

Mind you: just because the client paid you for your work does not mean he or she automatically owns the intellectual property rights.

The big question is: are the VDC Terms of Service (TOS) the same as a work for hire agreement

I checked in with screen actor and voice talent Robert Sciglimpaglia. Rob’s also an attorney and the author of Voice Over Legal. He said:

“This issue will need to be tested by the Courts, and talent should think long and hard about waiving their intellectual property rights through a buried term in a terms of service agreement on a website.” Rob continues:

“The talent owns the recording unless they sign a work for hire agreement. Does the TOS meet the terms for a valid work for hire agreement? In order for it to be challenged properly I would recommend talent register the work as a sound recording with the US Copyright office just prior to submitting to VDC. The end client may ask the talent to sign a work for hire, but it’s an open question for me whether TOS is an enforceable work for hire.”

Rob writes in his book:

“Voice talent are most certainly hired to do most voice over jobs as “work for hire,” meaning that whoever hires the voice talent is retaining the right to copyright the finished product with the talent’s voice on it. This is normal and customary in the business.”

Here’s my take on it. 

As freelancer, I am free to set my own terms and conditions when working with my clients. I can negotiate my rate, in part based on intended usage of the audio, precisely because I own the intellectual property rights to my recordings. Why would I want to give those rights away?

Has VDC asked any of their talents if they agree that content created by the talent for a third party belongs to that party, simply because VDC claims their Terms of Service trump intellectual property laws?

And if you’re giving something away, shouldn’t you get something in return?

I asked VDC’s Michelle Melski:

“Does this mean that all VDC members effectively agree to a full buyout in perpetuity? If so, how will this be reflected in the rates?”

Her response:

“As always, clients are only able to use the files for the specifications laid out in the Job Posting, Services Agreement, or other agreement between Talent and Client. Our CEO will outline this in more detail on our blog tomorrow (11/12/’19 PS).”

What guarantees does the talent have that clients owning the finished work will stick to those agreements? How is VDC going to monitor and enforce that? And will VDC rates go up in exchange for talent giving up up their intellectual property rights? And should you really have to register your work with the US copyrights office at $35 a pop, every time you land a job on VDC? Is the client really willing to wait until your voice over is officially registered?

As Rob Sciglimpaglia notes in Voice Over Legal:

“The copyright is effective on receipt by the Copyright Office, and you will receive your registration certificate in four to five months. Because of this time delay, it’s advisable to send the material by either certified mail (return receipt requested), or courier (such as FedEx or UPS).”

The following screenshot provided by VDC outlines the specifications a client must list when posting a job for a voice talent at VDC. Michelle Melski says the rate is adjusted based on the parameters of the job. 

Just remember that transparency has always been lacking at VDC, and since I’m no longer a member I cannot tell you if rates have actually gone up.

This whole relinquishing your rights thing is clearly a move that benefits clients and not the talent VDC says it represents. What community is VDC actually protecting?

It’s no wonder why so many smart voice actors have left this company, and why VDC is no longer welcome at conferences like VO Atlanta.

So, will this be the final straw for you, or are you okay with VDC giving away your rights to please their cheap clients?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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I’m Looking For Voice Talent!

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Promotion 4 Comments

museum audio tourDo you want to hear my formula for voice over success?

Number one: There is no formula. Just talent and hard work.

Number two: It’s getting the basics right. Consistently.

Number three: Learn from the best and distinguish yourself from the rest.

Number four: Make it easy to hire you and easy to work with you.

I was reminded of those last points as I got involved in the casting of a project for a Spanish client. He asked if I could help him find a few Dutch female voices for an hour-long museum tour

Easy, right?

But where to start?

With so much talent, I had to find a way to separate the wheat from the chaff, knowing that my recommendations would also reflect on me. In my role as voice seeker I came up with a couple of principles that are so obvious that they’re often overlooked. Here’s number one:

People are more likely to suggest and hire people they know and can relate to

The longer I am in this business, the more I’m reminded that connections are the key to a sustainable career. If you don’t have a long-term strategy to cultivate these connections, you’re going to have a hard time.

Why are connections so important? It comes down to the most valuable commodity in our volatile line of work: trust

“But I don’t know anyone in the business,” said a newcomer. “I’ll never be able to break in.”

“Then make some friends!” I said. “With social media it’s never been easier. Don’t wait for others to take the initiative. Start reaching out!”

A year or so ago, I became more active in a Facebook group for Dutch talent. I rekindled old connections, and began making new ones. I received friend requests, and asked people to befriend me.

Some colleagues were predominantly interested in how I could help them land big American clients, and I understand that. Others were also interested in me as a person, and they offered their help. 

From the moment I started my life as a freelancer, I’ve learned to pick out the ME-people from the WE-people.

The ME-people ask: What can you do for ME?” They are mainly interested in getting

The WE- people ask: “What can I do for YOU?” They are mainly interested in giving

You’ll notice the same thing when people discuss the merits of going to voice over conferences. Some want to know: “What’s in it for me? Will I get my money’s worth?” Others ask: “How can I contribute? What can I do to help?” 

I’m very much drawn to the WE-crowd. The ones who want to cooperate. Those are the people I am likely to recommend. 

So, if you want me to put in a good word for you, become a go-giver instead of a go-getter!

Here’s the second thing I value when recommending fellow voice talent:

Make it easy to find you, and to get relevant information about you

When I started searching among the members of the Dutch voice over group, I noticed that many still use a personal profile instead of a professional Facebook page to highlight their voice over work.

If you do this too, this means that I, as a voice seeker am looking at your family photos where you pose in a tiny bikini holding a beer stein looking tipsy. I see your political postings, and the slightly weird way you interact with your friends.

Like it or not, I form an opinion which may or may not be favorable. If it comes down to you and another talent, and I don’t happen to like your political affiliation or your love of lager, you’re out. 

What also surprised me was that a good number of talents didn’t have any contact info in the About-section. Not even a link to their website! You want me to recommend you for a job, but you won’t tell me how to reach you or check out your demos? I’m a busy guy and I don’t have time to track you down. 

Your most critical information has to be one click away.

Number three:

Your demos need to reflect the totality of your talent

You can have the most amazing art work on your website and a wonderful bio, but if you post three demos and they all sound the same, you are selling yourself short. Very few voice overs can make a living being a one-trick pony. No one wants to come to a restaurant where the cook can only make three dishes.

So, if you wish to be a working voice talent, I want to hear you narrate some audio books, teach me a lesson through eLearning, sell me a product or a service, give me a guided tour of a museum, and act out a few video game characters. Show me your range.

Don’t only post your overproduced, expensive demos with all the bells and whistles. Clients want to know how you sound in your home studio with your own equipment. Unsweetened. In heavenly mono.

Eighty percent of the website demos I listened to for my Spanish client could not be downloaded. That’s another stumbling block. First I had to find the website. Then I couldn’t find a demo that didn’t sound salesy. On top of that there was nothing to download and send to the client.

Who is playing hard to get?

Eventually, I did get my demos, but most of them didn’t have the talent name in the audio file. They just said something like “Audio tour 2019.” Why is that a problem?

Imagine having to cast this job, and out of twenty to thirty samples you find your top three. The problem is, you don’t know which talent recorded which demo because it’s not listed in the title. Now you have to spend more time finding the name that goes with the voice. 

Let’s move on to number four:

Be responsive, ask the right questions, and follow the instructions

If you’ve ever had to hire voices, you know that you can weed out seventy percent of talent because:

  • the audio quality is terrible
  • deadlines are ignored
  • talent makes the wrong assumptions
  • talent can’t follow simple directions, and is
  • unable to interpret the script

 

So, which talent gets hired? The talent that’s capable, available, and affordable. If you can’t deliver on all three fronts, you’re gone.

At the beginning of my day I approached ten voice talents. By the end of the afternoon seven got back to me. Out of those seven, five asked questions about the job. Three offered to record a custom demo.

In order to put in an educated quote for this audio guide, you need to know:

  • the length of the script
  • does the client want finished, fully edited audio that is separated, or is it okay to send in one file
  • what’s the budget
  • does that include retakes

 

Since the script was still being translated, I couldn’t give the talent a text, but at the end of the day, four sent me a sample of audio tours they had recorded in the past. The remaining three had found a few paragraphs of a real audio tour and sent that in.

Full marks for everyone!

The quotes I received for an hour of finished audio were between €850 and €2500. The cheaper talent sounded just as professional as the more expensive talent.

Now, it took me a few hours of communicating with my colleagues and my client to get the right information to the right people. I was only helping out, remember? 

Do I have any idea who will get hired?

Call me cynical, but based on my experience, here’s what I predict.

The client will thank me for my efforts and post the job on Voice123 or on that other online casting auction house, the one in Canada…

…where they will find some sucker who is willing to do the job for $250 or less, claiming he has to “feed his family.”

No questions asked.

And thus, our business will slowly go to pieces. One lousy job at a time.

The end.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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PPS One of my Dutch students just got signed by a major US agent!

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Have I Got News For You!

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Career, Dutch, Freelancing, International, Personal, Promotion, VO Atlanta 30 Comments

Paul Strikwerda

If you’re a follower of this blog you’re probably wondering why you keep seeing stories in some strange European language. Frankly, it started as a one-off thing for my Dutch friends and colleagues.

Because I’ve been away from home for twenty years, most people had no idea what had happened to me. I literally disappeared off the map when I left the Netherlands with my entire life packed up in two suitcases and a plastic bag.

Yes, people… I am one of those immigrants who came to your country in search of a better life, ready to steal your jobs and marry your women. You better watch out!

A DUTCH TREAT

Anyway, I wanted to let my fellow-Netherlanders know what I’d been up to since I left my motherland, and that’s why I started writing in Dutch. I had to talk myself into it though, because I wasn’t sure if I still had it in me. Most of my thoughts are in English, I speak English all day long, and ninety percent of what I read and write is in English. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself penning pieces in Denglish.

After my first Dutch article was published, it became clear I had no reason to be worried. Over three hundred people read the story of my exodus and liked it. I didn’t think there were even three hundred voice actors in Holland. Better still, people wanted me to keep on writing, and that’s what I did. So far, there are six chapters and there’s more to come. 

Now, here’s the thing. I have no way to ensure that my Dutch stories will only go to my Dutch subscribers. So, if English is your preferred language I hope you will do me a favor. Just ignore the blog posts in Dutch and wait for a new English story on Thursday. If you’re Dutch, you are in luck because you get two articles for the price of one!

CHANGING COURSE

With that out of the way I’d like to share some news with you. I am in the process of realigning my business with new and exciting plans that are in part based on what I am physically and mentally able to accomplish. You probably remember that the stroke I had in March of last year has forced me to seriously slow down and rethink my priorities.

My mind would love to continue as if nothing has happened, but my body disagrees. A permanent tremor in one of my vocal folds limits the time I am able to record voice-overs. My voice tires much faster, and no amount of vocal exercises has changed that. Mind you: this does not mean I can’t do any recordings.

As I speak, I am learning to do more with less. Fortunately, my clients and my agents completely understand, so they’re not sending me 600-page novels, or auditions for video games that require dying a thousand agonizing deaths.

KEEPING MY PRESENCE

Just because my vocal folds are taking a bit of a back seat doesn’t mean I have lost my voice completely. In Holland we say: “Onkruid vergaat niet,” meaning “Weeds don’t die.” I can assure you that I will continue to have a voice in our community.

At VO Atlanta (March 26 – 29, 2020), I’ll be leading a 3-hour workshop called Boosting Your Business with a Blog, and I’ll do a presentation on The Incredible Power of Language.

I am working on a second book, and I will continue to write this blog with a double dose of truthiness and snarcasm. If things go according to plan, 50% of my business is going to be devoted to content creation, 20% to speaking, and 30% to helping others succeed.

Here’s an example of that last category. Some of my Dutch colleagues want to spread their professional wings, and try their luck abroad. These folks need a tour guide who’s been there and done that.

In the coming months I’ll be coaching some of Holland’s top-tier talent and taking them to VO Atlanta. I’d like you to get to know them, and that’s why I’ll be interviewing each one of them for this blog. Stay tuned, these folks will knock your socks off!

ONLINE ACTIVITIES

All of the above means that I have to have a website that reflects this shift in focus. That’s why I am working with the splendid team at voiceactorwebsites on a complete overhaul of the Nethervoice site. According to Joe Davis who heads voiceactorwebsites, Nethervoice.com is already the number one individual voice-over site on the interweb, and I am going to strengthen that position even more.

Expect a site that truly showcases my writings, featuring a clean, sophisticated design, and a new, simpler way to subscribe. Of course it is going to load super fast and it’s 100% mobile-friendly. Because I’m pretty picky, all of this is going to take a while to accomplish, but it will be worth waiting for!

Thanks for your continued support and patience during this time of transition.

It means the world to me!

Tot de volgende keer.

Till next time!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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In voor- en tegenspoed

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Dutch, Personal 2 Comments

onze bruiloft

This is the continuation of my American adventures, written for my friends and colleagues in the Netherlands. It is in Dutch, and if you’re looking for a new story in English, please come back on Thursday!

Paul

Wat doe je als de zaken in je leven niet gaan zoals je zou willen?

Ga je bij de pakken neerzitten en jezelf ontzettend zielig vinden, of sla je het stof van je af en kijk je omhoog naar de hemelsblauwe lucht?

Het is uiteindelijk een kwestie van focus.

Als je je concentreert op alles wat er mis is, dan voel je je binnen de korte keren depressief en lusteloos. Als je focust op al het goede en mooie in de wereld, dan ga je je gelijk een stuk vrolijker en energieker voelen.

Het is dezelfde wereld. Alleen de manier waarop je kiest te kijken is radicaal anders.

Op basis van mijn ervaring geloof ik innig dat de dingen waar wij ons dagelijks het meeste op focussen ons het meest beïnvloedden en sturen. “What you think, you become,” zei Boeddha al (hij was onwijs wijs).

Vergelijk het met voedsel. Als jij je elke dag volpropt met junk food, dan is dat aan je lijf te zien. Eet je gezond, dan reageert je lichaam daar ook op. Hetzelfde geldt voor een mentaal dieet.

Na mijn scheiding zette ik mezelf op dat mentale dieet, daarbij geholpen door een geheim wapen: mijn beltoon. Elke keer als iemand me telefoneerde klonk het begin van de Shaffy Cantate, een aanstekelijke melodie die me onmiddellijk in een goede stemming bracht. In NLP noemen ze dat een positief anker. Vergelijk het met de bel van Pavlov’s hond.

Op sommig dagen had ik die beltoon meer nodig dan op andere. De moeder van mijn dochter maakte me het leven zuur, mijn baan in het callcentrum was geestdodend, en ik miste mijn Hollandse vrienden en familie. Dankzij m’n werkschema voelde ik me altijd uitgeblust, maar ik wilde niet dat de zorg voor mijn dochter daar onder zou lijden.

NIET MEER ALLEEN

Na een jaar op mezelf te zijn geweest groeide langzaam de behoefte aan een goede vriend of vriendin. Maar als je elke dag om twee uur ’s ochtends naast je bed staat, ’s middags voor je kind zorgt en ’s avonds vroeg gaat slapen, dan is er weinig gelegenheid voor sociale contacten.

Dan maar het internet op.

Dankzij Match.com en eHarmony.com merkte ik tot m’n verbazing dat ik nogal goed in de markt lag. Ik had een baan, een interessante internationale achtergrond, en…. een kleine dochter. Voor veel al wat minder jonge vouwen bleek ik een uitgelezen kans om hun kinderwens in vervulling te laten gaan. Ikzelf had zoiets van: laten we eerst maar eens kijken of we het samen leuk kunnen hebben voordat ik je aan Skyler voorstel. Na twee stukgelopen relaties was ik voorzichtig geworden.

Ik zou boeken kunnen volschrijven over de klungelige manier waarop ik mijn eerste afspraakjes inging, maar je bent natuurlijk het meest geïnteresseerd in mijn voice-over verhaal. Die draad pak ik iets later weer op, dat beloof ik. Na een aantal maanden van dates met dames die meer in mijn dochter geïnteresseerd waren dan in mij, vond ik nog steeds geen Match en zeker geen eHarmony.

Opgeven deed ik niet zo makkelijk, dus besloot ik het nog maar eens via Yahoo Personals te proberen. En tijdens een driedaags proeflidmaatschap gebeurde het. Pamela, die via een profiel van een vriendin naar iemand op zoek was om mee te skiën, stuurde me een berichtje. Hoe was ze nou bij mij terechtgekomen?

Heel simpel. Om haar zoektocht wat gerichter te maken toetste ze de trefwoorden “ski” en “skiing” in. Eén van de dingen die ik in mijn profiel has geschreven was dit:

“I’m originally from the Netherlands. The country is as flat as a pancake, so I do not ski.”

Dat ene zinnetje zou ons hele leven op slag veranderen. Onderschat dus nooit hoe kleine dingen grote invloed kunnen hebben!

EEN NIEUWE RELATIE

Pam was uitvoerend musicus, en ze gaf fluit- en pianoles. Dat sprak mij met m’n musicologie achtergrond meteen aan. Ook bleken we alle twee sinds onze tienerjaren vegetariër te zijn. Ze was redelijk bereisd en sprak verschillende talen, en dat is niet iets wat de meeste Amerikanen kunnen zeggen. Verder had ze een helder hoofd en hield ze enorm van de natuur.

Na een paar afspraakjes wisten we dat we verder met elkaar wilden, en nam Pam me mee naar een skigebied in de Pocono bergen. “If this is going to be serieus,” zei ze, “You’ll have to learn how to ski. Otherwise you won’t see much of me in the winter.”

Een uur later stond ik op de lange latten naar een instructeur te luisteren, en even later ging ik met angst en beven de helling af. Het was niet bepaald elegant maar het ging wel snel, een stijl waar ik tot op de dag van vandaag om bekend sta.

new familyIk had zo m’n eigen voorwaarden voor onze relatie. Als het tussen Pam en Skyler niet zou klikken, dan zouden we alleen vrienden blijven. Toen Pam uiteindelijk bij mij over de vloer kwam was Skyler één jaar oud en kon ze al aardig op haar beentjes staan. Pam ging op de grond zitten en Skyler kwam gelijk lachend naar haar toe dribbelen. Ze plofte vervolgens in Pam’s schoot neer en bleef daar een uur lang zitten.

Ik wist genoeg!

VERHUIZING

Een jaar later verhuisde ik naar Easton waar Pam woonde, en in oktober 2004 zijn we in onze woonkamer door de burgemeester getrouwd. Skyler was ons bloemenmeisje. Ik bleef gewoon in het callcentrum werken maar moest nóg vroeger m’n bed uit omdat Easton een uur verder weg lag. Op een natte herfstochtend ben ik achter het stuur in slaap gevallen en heb ik mijn auto tegen een rotsblok total loss gereden. Ikzelf kwam er wonderbaarlijk genoeg zonder kleerscheuren van af.

Het was daarom letterlijk een geluk bij een ongeluk dat het internationale enquêtebureau waar ik werkte er achter kwam dat ze de interviews die we deden makkelijk konden vervangen door online vragenlijsten. Computers vonden het geen probleem om constant uitgescholden te worden, en leverden betrouwbare antwoorden op.

Na onze wittebroodsweken zat ik dus vrij snel zonder werk, en diende ook een ander probleem zich aan. Pam leed al sinds haar kinderjaren aan multiple sclerose maar dat kon je bijna nergens aan merken. Het vroegtijdig overlijden van haar moeder raakte haar diep, en zorgde ervoor dat allerlei symptomen de kop op staken. Ze verloor haar balans, haar spieren verstijfden en verzwakten, en op sommige dagen kwam ze moeilijk uit haar woorden. Onze buren dachten dat ze soms dronken thuiskwam.

Na lang tegensputteren kocht ze uiteindelijk een wandelstok, een looprek en later ook een elektrische scooter.

Was dit het begin van het einde, of was er nog hoop op herstel?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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You’re NOT a Professional Voice Over if…

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Pay-to-Play, Personal 6 Comments
headshot Paul Strikwerda

the author

You’re selling yourself short on Fiverr.

You don’t go to at least one VO conference a year.

You can’t fill in the blanc when asked: “Mel who?”

Your website isn’t made by Joe Davis and his team.

You haven’t watched at least five episodes of VOBS.

Your marketing doesn’t include a picture of you with a microphone.

You don’t suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

You’ve never tasted Sweetwater candy.

You’re not afraid of Nancy Wolfsons critique.

You haven’t taken a selfie with J. Michael Collins.

You don’t own an unopened copy of James Alburger’s “The Art of Voice Acting.”

You think recording audio books is a piece of cake.

You’re not showing signs of a sedentary life.

You think you can win auditions by lowering your rate.

You’re tricked into believing that exposure is fair compensation.

You’re an extrovert who doesn’t want to go back to his booth.

You think a Snowball is professional grade gear.

Bob Bergen hasn’t told you to join the union.

You think that Roy’s not your uncle.

You’ve never heard of VoiceOverXtra.

You don’t belong to at least ten VO Facebook groups.

You think celebrity impersonations will make you rich and famous.

You’re convinced a few Pay to Play memberships are all you need to succeed.

You believe having an agent will solve all your problems.

Your life partner has never asked you to “stop doing silly voices.”

You haven’t heard Armin Hierstetter drop the F-bomb.

You believe Don LaFontaine is that man from the old GEICO commercial.

You’re not a WoVO member.

You don’t subscribe to the Nethervoice blog.

You have trouble understanding double negatives.

You don’t take everything I’ve listed with a grain of salt.

 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Trouble in Paradise

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Dutch, Personal 2 Comments

I was in heaven.

The Jamaican sun was shining bright and beautiful. The azure waters were calm and picture perfect.

En ik merkte dat ik al helemaal in het Engels zat te denken en te dromen. Dat krijg je als je de taal dag en nacht om je heen hoort. Immersion is the best teacher.

Mijn trouwdag was begonnen met een massage in de buitenlucht en een champagne ontbijt onder de palmbomen van ons vijf sterren resort.

Een week geleden zat ik nog voor de grap op een tropische vakantie te bieden die online werd geveild, en met het grootste geluk van de wereld won ik een week voor twee personen in een all-inclusive.

Nu stond ik onder een romantisch prieeltje dat op steigers midden in de blauwe oceaan was gebouwd. Een plaatselijke predikant met een zwaar Bob Marley accent keek me vragend aan.

Ik kon hem nauwelijks verstaan omdat de drilboren op de kust weer luidkeels aan hun werk waren begonnen. Ons paradijselijk verblijf werd namelijk onder onze ogen verbouwd. Dat verklaarde meteen waarom we voor een dubbeltje op de eerste rang zaten.

“…from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…” herhaalde ik luidkeels.

Even later was ik voor de tweede keer getrouwd. Lang zou het niet duren.

Het goede nieuws was dat ik binnen de kortste keren legaal in de VS kon werken. Als voice-over én als NLP trainer. We hadden het geluk dat een Outward-Bound organisatie voor randjongeren hun teams bij ons op training stuurde. Mijn vrouw en ik vertrokken daarom naar North-Carolina en Idaho om een aantal cursussen te geven.

Intussen speelde Joanne van Mike Lemon Casting me regelmatig opdrachten toe, maar daar was niet van rond te komen. Niemand had in die tijd een thuisstudio, en ik was dus afhankelijk van wat ik bij m’n agent kon boeken.

GEZINSUITBREIDING

Negen maanden later veranderde ons leven voorgoed toen Skyler werd geboren. Dat betekende dat we niet meer konden reizen, en dat onze uitgaven flink omhoog gingen. Ik vond het daarom verstandig om een meer permanente baan te zoeken, en zo kwam ik bij een internationaal enquête bureau terecht waar ze op zoek waren naar mensen met een talenknobbel.

Het blokkendozerige call center zag er precies zo grauw uit als duizenden andere call centers. Mensen zaten als melkvee tussen grijze afscheidingswandjes gepropt, futloos starend naar het beeldscherm dat hun leven dicteerde. Koptelefoon op het hoofd, en een script voor de neus. Een script waar je niet van af mocht wijken.

Ik had het twijfelachtige voorrecht om namens Dell dagelijks IT managers te bevragen over hun bevindingen met de hardware die ze gebruikten “op een schaal van nul tot tien waarbij nul zeer ontevreden betekent en tien zeer tevreden. U kunt elk nummer kiezen.”

Het “aardige” was dat die tevredenheidsonderzoeken zeker een half uur tot een uur in beslag namen. Niemand had daar zin in, omdat zo’n beetje elke computer maker op aarde de IT managers van hun werk hield met de meest onnozele vragen. Het was dan ook een sport om die mensen over te halen om toch mee te doen zonder door hen te worden uitgescholden. Dat lukte meestal niet. Maar zoals mijn supervisor zei:

“Every NO is one step closer to a YES.”

VOOR DAG EN DAUW

Omdat ik drie talen goed beheerste belde ik vanuit Pennsylvania met Oostenrijk, Zwitserland, Duitsland, Nederland en het Verenigd Koninkrijk. Mijn werkdag begon om negen uur ’s ochtends Europese tijd. Ik stond dus om twee uur in de ochtend op, om om drie uur half slapend aan het werk te gaan.

Om twaalf uur ’s middags zat mijn werkdag er op, en ging ik naar huis om voor Skyler te zorgen. Het was een gruwelijk schema, maar het gaf me wel de gelegenheid om samen met mijn dochter te zijn.

Sinds haar geboorte was de relatie met haar moeder allesbehalve geweldig. Ze gaf me het gevoel dat ik gedaan had waar ze me voor aan de haak had geslagen. Nu het kind eenmaal was geboren, was ik in haar ogen niet veel meer dan een handige oppasvader.

Het is onmogelijk om een goede relatie te hebben als de liefde van één kant komt. Het brokkelt snel af en gaat van tweezaam naar eenzaam. Het voelde ook heel dubbel aan. Ik was zielsgelukkig met mijn dochter, en diep bedroefd over mijn huwelijk. Hoe langer de situatie duurde, hoe ongezonder het voor mij werd. Waar had ik dit toch aan verdiend?

KROMME LIJNEN

Als journalist had ik ooit een diepgaand gesprek met kardinaal Simonis over het onrecht in de wereld. Ik vroeg hem naar de zin van het lijden. Als God liefde is, waarom gaan fijne mensen vóór hun tijd dood, en waarom genieten kampbeulen lekker van hun oude dag? Waarom treft het kwaad goede mensen? 

“Meneer Strikwerda,” zei de kardinaal terwijl hij een sigaartje opstak, “God schrijft recht met kromme lijnen.”

Op dat moment vond ik het een nogal makkelijk antwoord, maar kijkend in de ogen van mijn dochter begon ik het te begrijpen. Zij was het levende bewijs van dat uit iets slechts toch iets goeds en moois kan voortkomen. Dat praat het lijden niet goed, maar plaatst het wel in een ander perspectief. 

ECHTSCHEIDING

Omdat alle betrokkenen zich nog in mijn naaste omgeving bevinden wil ik niet in details treden over het drama dat zich voor mijn ogen ontvouwde. Ik realiseerde me toen nog niet dat de Amerikaans rechtspraak is gebaseerd op keiharde confrontatie waarbij de rechter onaantastbaar is en moeders automatisch het voordeel van de twijfel krijgen. De enigen die er rijk van worden zijn de advocaten. 

Ik wilde graag een belangrijke rol in het leven van mijn dochter blijven spelen in een land waar dat nog steeds ongebruikelijk is. In de rechtszaal werd ik als een vreemdeling behandeld die zijn dochter waarschijnlijk naar Nederland zou ontvoeren en nooit meer terug zou keren. Dat was nooit in me opgekomen, maar ik werd wel als een potentiële kidnapper gezien.

Verder vond de rechter dat ik met mijn Britse accent nogal arrogant overkwam. In Amerikaanse films hebben veel criminele masterminds een Engels accent. De connectie tussen Brit en slechterik is daarom al gauw gemaakt, maar probeer maar eens te bewijzen dat je vanwege je komaf, je accent en je geslacht gediscrimineerd wordt. 

Enfin, het zal je niet verbazen dat ik aan het kortste end trok, en dat was iets dat zich in jaren van juridische strijd steeds weer zou herhalen. Gedurende de echtscheidingsprocedure was me al duidelijk geworden dat de moeder van mijn dochter niet zou rusten totdat ik mijn baan zou verliezen, bankroet zou gaan, en voorgoed naar Nederland zou vertrekken.

Waar die drang vandaan kwam, daar kwam ik later pas achter.

Gelukkig braken er na mijn scheiding betere tijden aan, en begon de zon langzaam weer te schijnen!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Are You Pimping Your Voice?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Money Matters, Social Media 6 Comments

I apologize in advance for what you’re about to read. I’m a bit fired up today.

What’s going on?

Well, I made the mistake of once again visiting the Voice Acting Alliance (Unofficial Group) Facebook Group. That’s the 9,300 member strong group where pretend voice actors will do pretty much anything for nothing.

If you’re serious about voice acting and you’re looking for solid advice, do yourself a favor and find another online community. Please.

You’ll avoid encountering people tackling pressing issues such as:

“Who will critique my shitty demo recorded in the closet with $70 worth of equipment. Kindly ignore the neighbor’s rottweiler.”

“I been having a hard time finding acting classes so if anyone could give me some references or pointers. I be very grateful.”

“I haven’t done any voice acting in this group yet. If any of you need a voice just let me know. I’m currently learning myself.”

I thought I’d give a test with the Kaotica Eyeball in case anyone would like to give this ball a try. Enjoy.”

I just learned what “slating” means… 10 auditions later…”

and the ultimate question:

“What food do voice actor eat?” (seriously!)

If I may, I’d like to add the following query:

“What diaper do voice actor wear?”

SPOON FEEDERS UNITE

The most surprising thing is that some colleagues with too much time on their hands take these questions seriously, and they start helping the ignorant members of this group under the guise of “giving back to the community.”

Excuse me, but that’s not giving back. This is spoon feeding toddlers and teens who are too lazy to do their homework. If you want to stand any chance as a future voice actor, you have to be self-sufficient instead of becoming dependent on people you don’t even know.

Now, the exchange that raised my heart rate today started with this question:

I got asked by a new author to narrate their novel. They had heard my voice and asked, and after some negotiation we agreed on a rather ludicrous price, in my favor.

Then I read the first chapter.

Bad grammar and amateur structure are but a few of the problems.

I’m not an editor, so I’m not even going to suggest that the errors be fixed. There are just too many I found in the first chapter of what is ultimately a 100,000 plus word book.

So, two questions.

1. Do I do it for the money and risk having my name attached to a trainwreck, or
2. Politely opt out and if so, what reason would I give.

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.”

Notwithstanding the bad grammar and structure of this request for help, please take a deep breath and ask yourself what you would do, if you were the narrator. Would you take the money and suffer for the sake of gaining experience, or would you pass on this golden opportunity?

Here are some of the responses that came from the group:

I would do it for the experience as well as the pay. If you want to do audio books in the future, this is a great way to start.”

The performance can be good, regardless of the writing. If the writing sucks, that’s the author’s fault. If you can’t make the performance good, that’s on you.

Do it. Make it the best you can. Have confidence not many will hear it if it isn’t written well.… I voice poorly written spots all the time. I do everything I can to make them sound good. I get paid.”

“If f the price is right I would still do it.”

PROBLEM NUMBER ONE

As with most Facebook exchanges, people start answering questions without knowing enough about the issue. It’s like a doctor diagnosing his patient without a proper examination. How on earth can you prescribe a cure if you don’t really know what the illness is?

All we know is that we’re talking about a lengthy novel that will result in some eleven hours of finished audio if you average 2.5 words per second. According to the Audiobook Creation Exchange, ACX:

    • It takes about two hours to narrate what will become one finished hour.
    • After the narration is recorded, it then takes an editor (who might be the same person as the narrator) about three hours to edit each finished hour of recording.
    • At this point, it is strongly recommended that you run a quality control (QC) pass over the finished project. This means spending time re-listening and suggesting words, sentences, or sections to re-record. And that takes about 1.2 hours for every finished hour.

 

So, if we go by ACX, it takes about 6.2 hours to produce one hour of finished audio. That makes this novel a seventy-hour job. Probably more, because the person asking the question doesn’t seem to have a lot of experience.

PROBLEM NUMBER TWO

How much will the narrator be making? In his words he negotiated “a rather ludicrous price, in my favor.”

That doesn’t tell us anything, does it? I’ve seen people in this group thinking that $50 or less per finished hour is perfectly acceptable. Others are offering their services for free in exchange for exposure. If you don’t believe me, visit the group and start counting the “passion projects” on the page.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

If exposure is what you’re after, join Exhibitionists Anonymous.

Don’t stink up our joint with your rotten amateur attitude.

Lastly, the narrator doesn’t tell us if he negotiated a flat fee or a royalty share. That could make a huge difference in his paycheck.

PROBLEM NUMBER THREE

The narrator has read the first chapter and concludes: “Bad grammar and amateur structure are but a few of the problems.”

To me that’s a sign that this new author is peddling a self-published novel. Novels released by established publishers are heavily edited and wouldn’t have an amateur structure.

Royalty shares work out great for bestsellers, but not for most self-published books (Fifty Shades of Grey being the exception).

The real question is: how bad does bad have to be, before you bail?

Lastly, why did the narrator agree on a “rather ludicrous price” before having read the book? Don’t you want to know ahead of time what you’re getting yourself into?

Now to some of the answers that made me quite upset. They all come down to one thing:

DO IT FOR THE MONEY

Seriously, what kind of lousy response is that? Are you pimping yourself out to the highest bidder? Is that it? In that case, I’m afraid you’ve chosen the wrong line of work. 

Let’s say you’re an independent contractor bidding on a construction job. The architect is an amateur, the floor plan is flawed, and the materials you’re required to use are inferior. In short, you’ll be building a dangerous structure and it will take forever to finish the project as you’re learning on the job.

Nevertheless, you would still do it because you’re making good money?

Don’t you have any professional or ethical standards? Are you simply that desperate?

Don’t you realize that even though you didn’t write the damn book, you will forever be associated with this piece of pulp fiction? Even if you were to use a pseudonym, it’s still your voice whispering in people’s ear. 

At this point I can hear you say:

“Now, wait a minute. Who are you to judge me? It’s just someone else’s book. It’s no big deal.  Life is about compromises, and I’ve got to pay the bills.” 

WHAT ABOUT INTEGRITY

Here’s what I would say:

I can fully understand that as a narrator you’d record books you would never take out of the library yourself. I’ve narrated the biography of Ludwig von Mises, a libertarian economist who was vehemently against socialist government intervention. I see myself as being on the opposite side of the political spectrum, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed learning about laissez-fair economics as I was recording the book.

The biography was well-written, well-structured, and well-edited. To this day, I am very proud of my contribution.

Contrast that with a lengthy, poorly structured, self-published novel filled with errors and bad grammar. Out of all the voice-over projects you could be taking on, is that the one you wish to record? And why? For the money? For the experience? 

I can guarantee you that this will become one of your most painful and frustrating experiences as an aspiring audio book narrator. You will curse the day you said YES to this project, and you will resent the overly demanding author who will bombard you with changes he expects you to record for free.

How do I know that? Because as a rule of thumb, the cheapest clients are the biggest pain in the butt. Once they hear you reading their work, they realize what’s wrong with it, and they’ll start rewriting entire passages.

The only experience you’ll get will teach you how not to approach audio book narration. If you ask me, no money in the world is worth the stress and aggravation.

If you want to learn how to properly cook a meal, start with the right ingredients. You’ll never make an amazing dish using inferior produce and rotten fish. 

MAKING THE BEST OF IT

But what about this comment:

The performance can be good, regardless of the writing. If the writing sucks, that’s the author’s fault. If you can’t make the performance good, that’s on you.

Have you ever seen the buddy movie 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, and Anjelica Huston? It’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen in years. It is utterly predictable, and even actors I normally admire cannot save a terrible script and poor direction. The Guardian critic wrote:

“I can only say I found it charmless, shallow, smug and unlikable: a bromance weepie about cancer with a very serious “bros before hos” attitude.”

A good performance cannot save a bad script, and a good script cannot make up for bad acting. The end result is still forgettable.

Do you really want to associate yourself with garbage, simply because you’re motivated by money?

Don’t you have any professional pride?

Take it from me: you will never do your best work for the love of the pretty penny.

If money is what you’re after, you should probably pick a different profession.

I rest my case.

Rant over.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Een Rampjaar

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Dutch, Personal Leave a comment

I’m in a bit of a pickle, and I only have myself to blame.

A few weeks ago I started blogging in Dutch, and some of my English speaking friends have been wondering why they’re receiving articles they can’t read.

Let me assure you: it’s only temporary. I just don’t have a way to send my Dutch contributions to my Dutch speaking subscribers only. There will be a new story in English each week. Just skip this post and read my article about a lucrative side hustle: emceeing live events!

ELF SEPTEMBER

Het was najaar 2001. Amerika was net opgeschrikt door de brute terroristische aanslagen op het World Trade Center en het Pentagon. Passagiers van vlucht 93 wisten nipt een aanslag op Washington, D.C. te voorkomen. Familie en vrienden uit Nederland belden me paniekerig op omdat ze gehoord hadden dat er een gekaapt vliegtuig in Pennsylvania was neergestort.

In de dagen na nine-eleven liepen opeens overal geüniformeerde mannetjes met machinegeweren rond. Ouders knuffelden elkaar en hun kinderen bij elk afscheid met hernieuwde intensiteit. De restaurants waren leeg want het voelde ongepast om lekker uit eten te gaan.

Terwijl de natie in nationale rouw was gedompeld begon ik aan een nieuw hoofdstuk in mijn carrière. Een hoofdstuk dat begon in een oud verbouwd pakhuis, vlakbij de haven van Amerika’s eerste hoofdstad, Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love.

Het was de eerste woensdag van de maand. Geen gehaktdag, maar de maandelijkse open casting call bij Mike Lemon. Ze noemen het terecht een Cattle Call, omdat de gangen van het castingbureau zwart zagen van de mensen die allemaal hun kunstjes kwamen tonen. Jongleurs, buiksprekers, hip hop dansers, coloratuur sopranen, fotomodellen…. en een verdwaalde Nederlander met een omroepverleden.

Iedereen die zich inschreef kreeg een nummer en daarna begon het lange wachten. Opgefokte ouders met jengelende kinderen gingen aan mij voorbij. Puisterige pubers warmden zich ongegeneerd op. En ik vroeg me af wat ik daar in hemelsnaam deed, zonder goocheltrucs of danspasjes.

MIJN SCREENTEST

“Mister Strick-Word-Aah?” klonk het uit een hoek. Ik werd in een donkere kamer geleid met een camera en een fel licht.

“Strick-Word-Aah, what kind of name is that?” vroeg iemand in het duister.

“It’s Dutch. I’m from Holland.”

“Poland? I though you were Dutch?” zei de stem.

“Holland as in the Netherlands,” antwoordde ik.

“Ah, the Netherlands. Why didn’t you say so? I know the Netherlands. Clogs. Tulips. Windmills. The people are very tall and everybody speaks English. I like the Netherlands!”

Hij ging verder:

“So, let’s see what you got for us today. Stand in front of the camera, state your name, and tell us about yourself.”

Na amper twee zinnen onderbrak hij me.

“You don’t sound like you’re from the Netherlands. You sound like you’re from England, but not quite… Interesting. Give me two seconds.”

Hij draaide zich om en riep “Get me Joanne.”

Twee minuten later kwam er een struise vrouw binnenlopen.

“Joanne, I want you to meet Paul. He’s from Holland. Paul, meet Joanne, our voice-over director. The two of you should talk.”

“Mike, Manoj is on the phone,” fluisterde Joanne. “He says it’s urgent.”

Manoj is de “M” in M. Night Shyamalan, de maker van The Sixth Sense (“I see dead people!”) voor wie Mike Lemon alle casting deed.

Joanne wandelde me van het donker in het licht naar een kamer die van de vloer tot aan het plafond gevuld was met cassettebandjes.

“That’s all my talent,” zei Joanne met een brede lach. “I represent over a thousand voices but I’ve never had someone from the Netherlands. What’s your story?”

Een paar koppen koffie later had ik het gevoel dat ik met een oude vriendin aan tafel zat. Joanne Joella had net als ik een radio achtergrond. Ze was adjunct professor in het theater department van een locale universiteit. Bekende en onbekende acteurs huurden haar in als stemmen- en dialect coach. Haar persoonlijkheid was wat ze hier “larger than life” noemen. Joviaal, aanstekelijk uitbundig, en lekker luidruchtig.

Die middag gingen we aan het werk met allerlei scripts. “I want to know how well you can take direction,” zei ze. “You can have the best voice in the world, but if you can’t follow instructions you’re never going to make it.”

De paar uur die ik met haar spendeerde was een masterclass in stem acteren, en pas later besefte ik dat ik ook auditie aan het doen was. De middag vloog om, en toen het tijd was om te vertrekken zei Joanne: “I think I might have something for you. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Toen ik Mike Lemon Casting verliet besefte ik dat ik opeens een echte Amerikaanse agent had.

Wow!

My first headshot

UIT DE ILLEGALITEIT

Een week later ging ik terug naar Philadelphia voor de opname van mijn eerste commercial, een radioreclame voor Hersheypark, het pretpark van een bekende chocoladefabriek. Een maand later lag er een vette cheque bij mij in de brievenbus, dik verdiend door een Hollandse kaaskop zonder werkvergunning.

Houston, we’ve got a problem. 

De snelste manier om legaal in de Verenigde Staten te kunnen werken, was om Amerikaans staatsburger te worden. Dat was alleen na 9/11 een stuk moeilijker geworden. De procedure kon jaren duren, zelfs voor iemand uit een neutraal land als Nederland.

“I see only one solution,” zei mijn partner.

“What might that be?” wilde ik weten. 

“We’ve got to get married. They can’t deny you citizenship once we’ve tied the knot.”

Eerlijk gezegd was ik nog helemaal niet aan trouwen toe. Aan de andere kant wilde ik graag voice-overs blijven opnemen. Ik was het oberen zat, en de kans die me bij Mike Lemon geboden werd was een dream come true.

“Ik wil er eerst een nachtje over slapen,” zei ik. “This is too important.”

Het werd een slapeloze nacht van wikken en wegen, van voors en van tegens. Hoe meer ik er over nadacht, hoe minder zeker ik van mijn zaak was. 

Maar toen de zon eindelijk opkwam, wist ik wat ik wilde.

En zo nam ik de beste en slechtste beslissing van m’n leven.

wordt vervolgd

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

 

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