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VO Marketing 101, Part 4: Losing
Auditions? What Are You Gonna Do?
By Alan Sklar
Voice Actor
Click below to hear the inspiring audio version of this article, read by the author ...

When I told a young colleague that I worked every Thursday morning for an hour with a voice over coach at a studio on West 14th Street in Manhattan, she looked puzzled and said:

“But, Alan, why do you need a coach when you’ve had over 20 years of experience and success in voice overs?”
I told her that altho’ she thought I was successful ... I felt very differently about my career.
I know how many (expletive deleted) auditions I do not book! And not booking them makes me angry and makes me determined to do something about it.
Slipping the Casting Director five bucks won’t solve the problem.
I’ve gotta do something about my auditioning skills.
That’s why I’ve been working every week for over a year with my coach.
The guy has such a finely tuned ear; he hears things that I don’t. And he knows the industry inner workings well, so he’s also an effective career coach.
I love NBA basketball. When I watch these guys play, I think: “What does it take to get to be one of the best in the world?”
I’m in awe of their skills and their commitment. These guys are inspiring.
What does it take to get to be the best? I’ll tell you.
You’ve got to take your work seriously. Let me say that again:
You’ve got to take your work seriously.
It takes a commitment bordering on lunacy. That means you don’t go to the movies on weekday afternoons, as I’ve heard some unemployed actors in NYC do.
I’m often moved emotionally when I hear NBA players speaking about getting to the next level.
They say: “Coach is pushing us to the next level.”
I too, yearn to get to the next level in my skills. It takes a fire in the belly - and without that driving fire, you won’t get there.
Several years ago I read an article in The New York Times about a summer camp for NBA centers.
For a few weeks each August, both Shaquille O’Neal and Hakim Elijawon spent time with a coach who specialized in the art and craft of being a basketball center.
The two “campers” learned subtleties galore, especially footwork.
I don’t recall the coach’s name. I know that Shaquille also works with another coach to improve his dreadful free throw shooting. And this is a guy with a contract for $120 million bucks.
Recently an article appeared in The Times entitled; The Trainer Behind Those Improbable Plays.
The hero of the article was 39-year old Idan Ravin (known as The Hoops Whisperer).
NBA players often employ personal trainers to enhance aspects of their game and maintain others.
Ravin’s clients include Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and others.
Michael Jordan employed trainer Tim Grover to sharpen his skills. Trainer Rob McClanaghan spends summers in LA working with Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and others.
I have read of stars in the opera world too, including Luciano Pavarotti who worked with a coach.
Werner Ehrhart, the founder of EST and the Forum, often said that a good coach will show you what’s missing!
What’s missing in your Life and your Work. That’s why you hire a coach. To confront you with what’s missing.
But, oh, those confrontations can be so scary and so upsetting.
A colleague of mine, a very successful voice actor who does promos and commercials primarily, laments that he’s not booking the national network promos where the truly big bucks are.
This is a guy who earns over $200K every year, without doing national network gigs.
He’d like to work with a coach to sharpen those national network reads, but he admits that he’s afraid the coach will take away his comfortable “default” read, which has earned him a very nice living for decades.
In the recent hit film, The King’s Speech, George 6th wishes to improve his speaking skills and minimize his cursed stuttering.
But when his coach relentlessly confronts him at every session, “Bertie” either gets angry, threatens to quit, or makes other futile resistance gestures.
The whole process is so upsetting to him. But he sticks with the training and emerges a more effective speaker.
David, my coach, is in my face, chronically confronting me with “what’s missing.”
I’ve told him stories about the paint business and about the KISS Principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid!)
I tell him I’m scared to keep it simple … to “do less.” If I do les, I’m afraid someone listening to me will think, “What’s this nincompoop doing, thinking he’s a voice actor!”
So I often ham it up, adding melodrama to my reads, adding pauses (as if it were a Pinter play and showing off my beautiful voice.
In his play King John, Shakespeare called it “gilding the lily.” (All counter-productive strategies.)
David claims that the producer who’s listening to the submitted auditions is really looking for a reason to delete auditions, and when he hears mine, he hits the DELETE key and moves on to the next one.
This makes me angry and determined to do something about it.
So I’m doing something about it!
I’m determined to get revenge on all those producers who did not book me. I’ll show the bastards!!!
Also see and hear:
Alan Sklar has been a freelance voice actor for more than 20 years, voicing radio/TV commercials and VNRs - and narrating everything from audiobooks and documentaries to thousands of corporate and medical video projects. An award-winning narrator of more than 150 audiobooks - including A Civil Action and Black Hawk Down, he is also an on-camera and in-person spokesperson for major corporations.
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Comments (3)
Paul Bellantoni
6/20/2011 at 11:22 PM
Great stuff Alan ... thanks!

Just "friended" you on FB ... would love to know the name of your coach!

Paul Bellantoni
Carl Bobb
6/13/2011 at 5:34 PM
Lieber Alan,

Ich bin der gleiche Meinung. Sehr gut geschrieben, bzw, gesprochen!
Liebe Grüsse auch an deine Frau!

Carl im Kolorado
Carl Seligson
6/12/2011 at 12:45 PM
Great piece, Alan, both to read and of course to listen to. Thanks for sending it!
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