I have been traveling recently and have been unable to update my blog for several weeks. One of my trips was to New York to attend the Audio Publishers Association conference and BookExpo. Since audiobooks and narrations are the main focus of my voice-over work, going to New York was mission-critical! I really enjoyed seeing many colleagues again, as well as meeting new audio and print publishers with whom I might develop a working relationship. I already am planning to attend the same events next year in Los Angeles.
It’s a law of nature that things happen in threes. That law was proven again on
Wednesday 30 May as I prepared to leave for New York.
Drew and I have decided to switch our Internet service provider. We had been customers of Earthlink for over a decade, but we have become dis-satisfied with their service. We agreed that we would keep some existing e-mail addresses, especially since one of them is my primary address. As I was packing to leave, Drew sent an e-mail to Earthlink outlining the addresses to be deleted and retained.
The person at Earthlink didn’t follow the instructions and deleted my primary address. Drew had to make a second call to Earthlink in order to get my address restored, along with all of my associated mail still on the server.
Meanwhile, I received a call on our home phone from Taylor Construction. When we replaced most of the windows in our house 2 years ago with triple-pane windows, Taylor Construction performed the work. We were told at the time we purchased the windows that a triple-pane window wouldn’t shatter if a baseball hit it. We therefore were shocked a few months ago to notice that one of the small bathroom windows had cracked.
I won’t bore you with the tedious details of our many efforts to get the broken window replaced. The important element from this part of the story is that, in the last 4 months, we have given explicit instructions to a half dozen people at Taylor on at least a dozen occasions that they should never call our home phone. They should always call Drew’s cell phone. We don’t have an answering machine on the home number.
Has Taylor followed our directions about communicating with us? Much to my annoyance, they continue to call us on our home phone. I have found their name on the caller ID log numerous times when Drew never received the first phone call. The person who called on 30 May thought that he would come out to our house that day to finish the window repair.
Wrong. I was about to leave for the airport, and Drew wasn’t home. Repair work should have been scheduled in advance, and they should have called Drew on his cell number. I also told him, as we have told so many before him, STOP CALLING MY HOME PHONE!
I went back to packing and realized that I didn’t have a spare set of contact lenses to take on the trip. I had recently ordered a supply from my eye doctor. Since I knew I would be traveling, I had asked the office manager to mail the lenses to me.
Unfortunately, I received a voice mail message from the doctor’s office on Friday 25 May. The person stated my lenses were there, and I could go to the office and get them. If I had time to go to the office and get them, I wouldn’t have asked and paid for them to be mailed!
Are voice-over artists the only people who are taught the necessity of taking direction in their business?
If you read any book on voice-over or take a class, you learn that a voice talent’s success is directly contingent upon that talent’s ability to take direction. In an excellent newspaper article last week profiling fellow Atlanta voice talent Robin Bittman, my former agent Richard Hutchison was quoted, saying
that you need to be able to take direction well.
“Producers don’t have the time to dillydally,” he said.
Voice actors are taught in our training to give our best interpretation of the copy of the first take. When working in studio environment, the director will tell you some things to change. The voice talent must listen intently to the instructions given and incorporate the nuances in the second read.
Sometimes the directions following the second read seem in direct conflict with those in the first read. Perhaps the director wants to have several variations from which the client makes a selection. Maybe your read gave her an idea of another way to do it. Possibly the director wants to combine different elements from different takes into the final product.
It’s not my job to question the reason behind the directions. It IS my job to follow the directions given to me and perform them to the best of my ability. In fact, I always endeavor to exceed expectations, not just meet them.
This process continues until the director has the recording she wants. At that point, I always want to try one more read if I can think of something different to do. Much of my work is self-directed, and I follow the same high standard in my own recordings.
Understanding and implementing directions is certainly a critical skill in the voice-over industry. A talent who does not take direction well may find himself without clients. Agents, directors and producers may become frustrated and/or irritated if a talent cannot assimilate instructions and integrate them into the read. Those involved in the recording process may talk with each other about the talent’s lack of preparation to work in the industry.
I think anyone in business should consider it part of their job to take direction from their client. Obviously, I know of 3 companies in Atlanta which have annoyed me because they chose to do just the opposite.
By the way, as further evidence of the inability or refusal to follow instructions, someone from Taylor Construction called us last night, 14 June, on you guessed it — our home phone. If Taylor Construction was providing voice-over services, that company would be out of business.