Recently, I was reminded of something that, with apologies to Peter Griffin, really grinds my gears.
I love hearing about the successes of my friends and colleagues in the industry. Keep ‘em coming, guys and gals! The power of positive sharing is infectious.
Unfortunately, so is the power of negative sharing…and I’m talking about the kind bile-spewing that takes the form of something I call the “This Job Is So Beneath Me That I Just Had To Share It With You All” post.
Now, before anyone starts mumbling to themselves or posting complaints, and thus, proving my point entirely, I ask that you kindly take a breath. These are things that you notice when you sit back and listen. Or watch. It gives you the kind of perception that’s possible when you aren’t jumping headlong into discussions willy-nilly, playing “Dueling Banjos” with the others trying to be the quickest one to post a snarky comment. And mind you, I’ve been caught in that situation, too. But not as much lately, and I’d like to think that I have grown up a bit. And that brings me to now.
Why do we feel the parade the latest flavor-of-the-week to post a VO job asking for little-to-no pay? I just don’t get it. Sure, I have a bad day and want to take the Clerks approach and tear into the occasional customer, but what do we get out of it? (Lord, please let people get that I don’t mean the Clerks joke in the literal sense.)
From the looks of it in the public sphere (like on here), not a lot. Maybe a fleeting moment of satisfaction, but not much more. It’s like back in high school when the popular kids laughed at a joke you cracked. And then it’s over. Nothing gained at all, only time wasted posting and waiting to see if anyone responds. Time that could be spent knocking out one more audition. One phone call. Anything that is of value to your voiceover practice. And if it’s valuable to post a terrible job, be my guest. When you do, however, just remember where you post, and how potent your vitriol.
One thing that I learned long ago, is that there is no such thing as “the right way” to travel the journey from the blinding flash of realization of getting paid to talk, to the promised land of national gigs, repeat clients, and residuals. Sure, there are plenty of ways to travel the path, and people have discussed the topic to death, and others are even self-described ‘experts’ at telling you how to succeed in this industry. I say great. Incredible. Some of the best and most talented people I know were saying the same thing at Faffcon back in February (and I’ll bet that will be said in September as well).
So assuming the fact that there’s no ‘right’ way to succeed, the question that I beg to have answered is, why do people in the industry feel the need to denigrate any method if there’s no ‘right’ way? That just blows my mind. I know for a fact that there are ways that people in this industry have succeeded that are frowned upon now. Even poo-pooed. It simply flabbergasts me. Why would anyone reject a possible road to success?
I have a theory. I call it the “Watching Jerry Springer Career Validation.” Yeah, I saw that smile. But it’s true. I held a belief long ago that people outside the target audience would watch Springer to reaffirm the normality of their own lives. Oh, sure…go ahead and laugh, sneer, or otherwise harumph. We constantly do things simply to make ourselves feel superior, justifying it with the thought, “at least I’m not like…” We all do it. The evidence is all over the place. Try ‘reality’ TV, or your local Facebook VO group.
When we post criticisms of jobs with terrible rates and complaints of people lowballing the industry, we are validating ourselves. We are saying, with as derisive a tone as can be mustered in the typed word, “that’s so beneath me. I would never do that. How could *anyone* do that?” Good for you. Career validated. Doesn’t that make you feel better? That’s not you scrambling for jobs and fighting against a guy who bought a USB mic last night who’s now a “voice professional,” is it?
By default, no. The fact is, you are only affected if you allow it. Stop fearing the bottom tier of talent and clientele in this industry. If a job doesn’t fit your standards, pass. (Almost) nothing to see here. Move on. If you see a talent lowballing a client you’re auditioning for, do you really want to work for a client that doesn’t value the creative in the first place? They are only taking work from you if you think they are. And here’s the thing: They aren’t! So pass and let it go. There are no shortage of auditions. The problem only exists in your head. Just like in the matrix, there is no spoon.
OK, granted, jobs with terrible rates exist, and are always going to exist. They existed before. It’s just easier to be aware of them now that we have the internet, pay-to-play sites and Craigslist. Just like cat videos. It used to be a staple of America’s Funniest Home Videos…but now we have the internet and YouTube.
And what about those pesky ‘talent’ that set $10 rates and work for free? Here’s the plot twist: I used to be one of them. Oh horrors! Say it ain’t so!!
Sorry, folks. I cannot lie. I was one of them. It was over ten years ago, but I was one of those talent that now get lambasted on public forums on a daily basis. The reason? Well, I missed getting into radio. The corporate radio folks saw to that. Looking on the web was almost useless. Back then, when you looked up voiceover on the internet, there wasn’t much there, and the hundreds to thousands of dollars for the best of the best in the industry to coach me just wasn’t in the cards. My VO education is from the school of hard knocks. That was doing a commercial in trade for lunch or dinner, showing up to high school basketball tournaments and promising to elevate the event to something better by announcing their games, and doing voices in mods for PC games for character work.
Nowadays, there’s no problem finding information about VO. The problem today is, much like in the studio, filtering out all of the noise. That’s the biggest problem now: figuring out what is valuable information and what is not. You know, noise filtering.
You want to improve the industry and take care of the ‘bottom-feeders?’ Be a mentor. Stop ridiculing people who probably know less about VO than I did in 1995, and give them a nugget. And yes, I said, “give.” This industry needs professionals that help others become professionals, and I don’t mean a single public outreach like Ted Williams got in January. I’m talking about each one of you reaching out to one person. Let them lean on you. Teach them the value of time and talent. You’ll be better for it. And so will the industry.
The next time you want to post some no-pay job, or poke fun at the amateurs trying to claw and scratch for crumbs for the pie, take a breath. You were that way once, weren’t you? At least in some way? Think back to what made the difference in your career. Or who. Reach out. Give them a sliver of yours. Remember, in our industry, there’s always going to be more pie.