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Step Up to the Mic

By: Rodney Saulsberry

Read Rodney's interview here...

Date Created: December 13th 2006
Last Updated: December 13th 2006

This book extract from Step Up To The Mic is an Indezine exclusive with permission from Rodney Saulsberry / Tomdor Publishing.

Step Up To The Mic

In a series of no-brainer inspirational chapters, Rodney explains the voice-over sphere in a simple, uncomplicated manner that will be useful to both beginners and professionals.

This excerpt is part of Chapter 7 from the book. Thank you Rdoney, for providing permission for these excerpts.

Teamwork in Voice- Over Sessions
That Wasn’t My Best Take!
Contributing Ideas
Giving One Hundred and Ten Percent
The Extra Effort Gets The Job

Teamwork in Voice- Over Sessions

The first step to sharing your positive attitude is to be professional: arrive on time, know what’s expected of you, listen to direction, make every take a great take, and don’t complain or make excuses.

The second step is to be a team player. Treat the participants in a session like a baseball team, with each individual having a specific responsibility. The actor, engineer, and director have an area that they are in charge of. Problems occur when an individual steps outside of his or her area. Let’s explore a common situation where voice-over artists get frustrated—even though they shouldn’t.


That Wasn’t My Best Take!

How do you deal with hearing the final product of a voice-over session and realizing that—in your opinion—the client didn’t use your best work? The answer is simple.

Yes, you have power. You are important. You are the talent. You have a lot of knowledge. You are creative. You are unique because no one does it quite like you. But remember, you were hired for a job. You work for hire. The client thought the take he chose was the best one—so you have to let it go. That was the best take.

Your opinion doesn’t matter or count—unless the client asks for it.

Actually, I’m happiest when they don’t ask for my opinion—because it means the clients know what they want. My job is to give them what they want, and let them give the final answer as to whether or not it’s good. So, it all goes back to “if they like it, leave.” When the client decides you’re done, you’re done.


Contributing Ideas

Sometimes a director or client will indicate that he or she wants you to contribute your ideas and comments. It feels like a loose and collaborative project. However, if the session is tense, if there is a tight dead-line, or if the director is telling you exactly what to do on every take, chances are you should save your input for another day.

Loose and collaborative clients like creative people. That’s why they have you there. They like improvisation. They expect you to be improvisational, they expect you to be creative, and they expect you to be knowledgeable about what you’ve been hired for.

Working within the framework of team concept makes the collaborative process much easier. You don’t have to step out of your area unless you are asked to.


Giving One Hundred and Ten Percent

Some voice-over actors worry about being exploited if they offer to do extra work, like suggesting new copy or giving ideas for different ways to play characters. It’s true, some people in the business will take every thing you offer without so much as a thank you.

I don’t offer anything I don’t want to provide. If I have an idea and I’m willing to do the work that goes with it, I’ll offer the idea. The other aspect of my positive approach is that I keep in mind the final product is me. In other words, the better the session goes, the better I sound in the final product.

When you’re in a situation where extra work is called for, remember that it’s you who is shining, it’s you who is putting good karma in the universe, and it’s you who is going to get another job from the employer because they know your work ethic. They know the extent of your contributions and how much you enhanced the final product. Or, perhaps, some other employer will hear your voice on that spot, and hire you because they thought it was great.

Make the extra work okay by remembering the final product is you.

Your positive attitude is : “They’ve asked me to do a little more than I’m being paid for, but I’m interested in the overall outcome of the project. I will make this contribution. I can do this out of the goodness of my heart and because of a positive attitude I have. In the end, I’m going to benefit from these gifts that I’ve laid on them. People are going to give gifts to me.”

When you give, it comes back.

If you shine in a session by going above and beyond what’s expected of you, you make yourself more desirable in the future. The word’s out—you’re a team player!


I received a call from my agent one day requesting a CD of my promo demo reel. He also asked me to send a lot of extra copies to the agency, because they were out of them. It wasn’t normal for him to personally call me with a demo request, so I asked him what he needed it for. He informed me that one of the major networks was considering hiring me to do promos for one of their hit summer programs.

Now, one would think that since I had worked for this network many times over the years, the people there would be familiar with my work. And, if the situation was so urgent, couldn’t I just send them an audio file over the Internet in the form of an MP3 or WAVE file? Plus, I have my own website, so couldn’t they go there and listen to my work?

This request is ridiculous, I thought. I’m not traveling all the way over to Beverly Hills to drop off a CD that my agent can deliver to the network.

Well, thank God that bit of nonsensical thinking was brief. I jumped in my car and took the last five CDs I had to my agent. He had a messenger take the demo to the network—and I got the job.

It turns out the producer who hired me had been a fan of my work for years. He was trying to convince his bosses to use me. They did, in fact, visit my website to listen to my promo work. They also listened to past work that I had done for their network. But, there was one person there who still believed in the formal CD demo. Not only did he want to physically hold the demo in his hand, he wanted to add it to the networks files for future reference.

There was a great lesson learned here. Technology has made us take the shortest route—the easy way out of everything. Need me to record a session? Hey, dial me up on my ISDN line. Want to hear a sample of my work? Give me your e-mail address, I’ll send you an MP3. You need it quicker than that? Go to my website.

I’m not saying these methods are wrong, but don’t neglect the CD demo. It is still an industry standard that is utilized, expected, and accepted in many powerful circles today.

The personal touch is still required in some circles, so provide it whenever it is requested. Go to your auditions. Go to your sessions. Don’t always “phone it in.” You have to be willing to go that extra mile if you want to get the job.


© Rodney Saulsberry / Tomdor Publishing. All rights reserved.

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