Bryant Falk is a producer/engineer/VO talent who has been working in the voice over industry since he graduated from Hofstra University in 1990.
After Hofstra he got his “Certificate of Audio,” (at least that’s what he calls it) from the Institute of Audio Research, (IAR). With his business partner Bruce Kronenberg, Falk has a studio on the West Side of Manhattan in Hell’s Kitchen called Abacus Entertainment. In this facility he has produced, recorded, edited, and engineered more projects than he can remember.
Now, Falk has published a book called The Producers Guide to Voice Overs, and I asked him about it. By the way, bold, blue text indicates a hyperlink, always leading you to additional content.
Why does a voice over need to hear from a producer? Isn’t it better to get tips from an acting coach, a director, or an agent? What perspective do you bring to the job, and what kind of tips are VO’s missing that a producer can give them?
A producer has a unique perspective on your sound. A producer is all about how to use what you have to make it effective and profitable. I am kind of a triple threat, Producer, Engineer, and Writer. Having worked in the Ad Agency business has given me an especially unique perspective on copy and following trends in the advertising world. I use all these tools to build your sales tools (demos). I feel even just a producer can really help create better tools for you.
What do you want talent to understand about the role of a producer that people usually don’t know?
When it comes to helping VO talent, the role of a producer is to really try and figure out how the talent can fit into today’s market and be successful. Then create a demo or demos to get that ability out for everyone to hear. Also, a producer should be aware of what the demos are for. Is this first-time talent just getting started, or is this a seasoned VO talent looking to break into new markets, or activate work they have done in the past to help them move forward?
Who should read your guide?
My VO book is for those who want a very creative approach to techniques for voice over. People who are just starting out will find this book a welcome approach to the art of voice over. The fun nature also make it very accessible for younger VO talent.
Is it possible to learn how to do VO from a book? After all, one can’t learn how to drive a car simply by reading about it.
A voice over book is only the first step to working on your technique. My book is also good for those already familiar with the techniques but who need a different perspective. There is much to gain from a talented coach.
You write: “No one is “working” when they do voice over.” They’re having fun. Isn’t this exactly why people don’t take voice overs seriously? They think it’s a hobby that should be paid accordingly.
I find that many people take voice over too seriously! They feel they should be booking every audition and it just does not work that way, (same with all entertainment style auditions). So many factors can affect a booking. For example, they change from wanting a male voice to a female voice. Another could be the timeline is pushed back, and they don’t need a voice yet. As for pay I feel voice over talent do a lot of work that is not “viewable on the surface”. The nuance of sounding conversational while reading copy is a practiced art, and needs to be compensated accordingly.
You also state at the beginning of your guide that there are no CONS to being a voice over. Is that you trying to be funny, or do you really mean that? If so, what about being locked up in a small box for most of the day, talking to ourselves? What about the lack of social contact and the never-ending uncertainty, the ongoing race to the bottom, and the ever-increasing competition (especially since COVID)?
Yes, I was a bit tongue-in-cheek in my statement about no “Cons” in voice over, but they are the same issues you have in all performance work. All the same uncertainties and issues. But there are fewer issues in VO! Just the speed at which you can complete a voice over audition makes it a far better experience than almost all other performance auditions. I use to spend an entire day waiting to sing 8 bars for a musical! (Yes I was a singer in another life… long ago… and far away).
As for being in the studio all day, we call that… Golden Handcuffs. You wanted to be a full-time voice over talent. Well, congratulations you made it! Now you have to be in the studio and do the work. This “Being stuck in the studio” thing has changed so much from years past. One big plus is that you can work remotely! I have voice talent with many different studio locations and they cycle between them. You could never do this in the old days. You were actually stuck at a specific studio contractually obligated to be there. Now me being a cave dweller, (Dude who loves being in a studio) I don’t find it a problem at all!
In your guide you give your readers examples of different reads. Each of them has a funny name, for example:
“The Tennis Serve,” “Be a kite in the air,” and “Go Left! Go Left!”
Here’s another example from the book:
Do you believe VO’s can pick up what you mean, just by reading about it? Don’t people need in-person coaching or a booth director to get the best results?
If you want to improve to a competitive level you will need some real person instruction at some point. Voice Over is a communications art. You need to communicate with a live person to get the proper feedback. My take on voice over in this book is to give a different perspective. I find that people retain knowledge in different ways. So many of us are working from home and don’t have an option to have a booth coach. My partner Bruce and I have a monthly membership for voice talent where they can send us auditions for review. This helps keep them on point with what they need to bring to their reads. Ideally, I’d like them to come in, but this has definitely helped.
On the book side I find that most books are not written for my way of learning, so I wrote one for those creatives like me, who need physicality to learn. Whether it’s descriptions or actual images. I feel I captured some of that in this book.
All these acting tips can be useful to broaden someone’s range, but as VO’s we rarely know what the client expects of us. The descriptions that come with the job are mostly minimal, and we have to guess. That makes it almost impossible to nail it. What can we do to overcome this problem?
This question is exactly why it’s important to work with someone who is active in the business and who can help get you answers to those types of questions. This is also why I wrote this book! I am that dude on the other side of the glass. I am trying to share with you what we expect from talent, what we need, how to be effective in getting what we need quickly. As for a specific trick here is something I hope will help.
First you have to know who you are. This needs to be at the center of your read. Next you have to make sure your opinions are authentic. I tell talent: “I never know where you get an opinion from, but I always know if they are fake!”
“As a voice over talent you are an Opinion Expert. This means you can generate any opinion needed for the Persona you are doing. A persona can be you as a shy person, a nervous person, or someone who is pondering a situation.”
As for analyzing copy, it’s important to know “The Forest of Persona before you walk through the trees of opinions”. Simply put, read the copy, then turn over the page and say the product or service out loud. Try to figure out who they are looking for. Example “Mucho Muncho Cheese Crisps” will probably want a different persona than, “The MRI Group of Long Island”.
Once you have that persona, then turn the copy back over and start figuring out those opinions. I probably just confused most of you more and apologize, but it makes perfect sense to me, and once you get to know me it will make perfect sense to you as well.
When a talent is in a session and they make a mistake, you say that they should never apologize. Isn’t that the polite thing to do?
In my book I explain why apologizing is a big time and emotion suck, (literally, think of a vacuum sucking out time so it’s gone). The better thing to do is to take a slight pause, back up, and re-hit an obvious mistake. Takes much less time and more importantly, (I go into this in much more detail in the book), let’s everyone stay in the emotional frame you have been giving them during the read. This “emotional frame” thing I mentioned is actually the more important part of not apologizing.
You use a lot of illustrations by a visual artist to get your points across. Wouldn’t it have been more effective to produce an audio version of your guide where you vocally illustrate the points you are making, instead of visually?
I am currently in the process of creating the audio section of the book that will be demonstrating all these techniques. But being a visual person as well, I find pictures to be a great help in remembering things. Like the Tennis serve for example. I find it so easy to pull that technique from my mind having a visual reference!
Thank you, Bryant!
“The Producers Guide to Voice Over: A creative and practical guide to voice over concepts and lots of other V.O. stuff” is available on Amazon.
Click here if you’d like to get a copy.