Producer’s Chair with Jim Kennelly – VO Atlanta

VOA-LogoThis past weekend, I attended VO Atlanta to join an ongoing dialogue regarding online casting sites. J Michael Collins did a masterful job hosting a top flight panel of online experts from Voice 123, Voices, Bodalgo and Realtime Casting.

If you are in the voiceover industry as a voice actor, a talent agent or manager, casting director, studio owner, union rep or a producer, I strongly suggest you take the time to watch and join in this discussion.

Why? At Realtime, we believe sharing information with businesses in your same industry ensures that everyone is working toward similar business goals. If your industry as a whole looks good, so will your individual business.

Since attending VO Atlanta, I have reached out to a number of voice actors. We’re doing auditions with English and Spanish voices who attended the conference and took the time to say hello. I told everyone, “this industry moves fast!” VO Atlanta was time well spent and a special thank you to J Michael Collins for hosting our discussion and Gerald Griffith and his executive team for putting VO Atlanta together.

VOA panelHere are my thoughts and takeaways from the weekend. My belief is advertising is ever flowing, it is not fixed. The voiceover business is changing and we need to invent something new. Invention and innovation has to be the biggest part of our next business model. We’ll make mistakes, but that’s what makes it exciting.

If you want to succeed in this industry, you must have the courage to function without conclusions. Many of us are under the assumption that conclusions protect us. SAG AFTRA, an agent or a casting website…but we do not need protection. Courage is knowing you won’t know what will come next; and having the faith to keep auditioning. That’s being in the business.

Advertising is the business of solving problems with creativity. Things change in the business, but this will never change. We need to always speak the truth.IMG_4505

No single point of view has the truth in the industry. We need a multiplicity of viewpoints. Everything is entangled. We are all connected and composed of the same ‘stuff’. We need to realize that hurting others only hurts ourselves.

If you enjoy this business, you are exactly in the right moment at the right time. The voiceover business is growing in strength. 2016 will be an exciting year in terms of products and services built to cater to the voiceover artist, studios and producers. We need to listen and pull together to create an environment conductive to creating success. It will take hard work, but will be worth it in the end for all.

There’s an old saying, the harder you work the luckier you get.

I met a couple of people this week that made me realize that nothing of any value comes easy.
They both came from different areas and eras but there is the common link of working hard and seeing opportunity.
One is an ex gymnast/aerial skier who after too many injuries took a dramatic turn and ended up in media and is about to release her first feature documentary ‘The Will to Fly’.
The other, a musician who started playing at 15 in London clubs and in a just a few years was writing and producing international hit records for Roger Daltrey (The Who) and discovered Leo Sayer.
If you had asked either of them at 15 what their careers would be it most likely would’ve been quite different to what eventually happened.
Most of us are probably the same, a career mapped out then a chance meeting or an opportunity changed everything, certainly the case of my career.
One thing I realized quite early was in life we have to be ready to act quickly and accept change if we wish to succeed.
In our industry the tools we have now were unheard of back 15 years ago and if anyone decided not to change with the times I can guarantee their career would be pretty well over.
The ones who succeed are the ones who are ready to see an opportunity and work hard to learn new skills to make it happen.
It’s the same today, we sit in our home studios recoding on our computers, emailing sound files around the world and think nothing of it. But imagine if someone 15 years ago had said this would be the business.
Technology will continue to evolve bringing new ideas and we need to be ready to take advantage of it.
The art of listening is part of the process, talk to your peers, look at the things that may seem crazy and most importantly do it with an open mind.
Everyone I’ve talked to recently has said the same thing, change is inevitable so work hard to understand it, embrace it and prosper.
david courtney
You can hear the interviews with Katie Bender who talks about leaving her career as an aerial skier to work producing movie trailers in LA and now set to release her debut feature documtary ‘The Will to Fly’. And David Courtney who decided playing drums was his dream to becoming an extremely successful composer and producer and has just released his anthology album celebrating 50 years of hit records.
Be inspired on the VO Radio Show.
Will to fly

Ideas open minds, create change and deliver opportunity.

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Ideas don’t have to be grand concepts that re-invent the wheel. They could be simple things that help you see differently, or bring things into focus and allow you to move forward.

Sometimes it feels like you’re dragging an anchor and to move forward you need to make changes, and that’s not always easy when parts of our industry appear stuck in the ‘50s.

This is where discussing ideas can free things up and make changes that will help us all.

I interviewed Marc Graue for the VO Radio Show and discussed the dramatic changes to the business over the last 30 to 40 years.
Technology is at the forefront of change, and has had the biggest impact on the way we do business. But there are still some areas that are slow to embrace this change.

Like it or not, our industry is heading online at a fast pace so let’s discuss the ideas and work together to make sure the online business is the best it can be.

Seven years ago we could see that working online was inevitable and could also see the structure back then was not suited to the professional industry. So we set about building a site that was.

We continue to have discussions with all quarters of the industry to find out what they want and how to improve the online experience, and one thing is clear, now more than ever speed is fundamental.

Another interesting fact has emerged, many producers are not concerned about the fee for a professional voice as long as they know the cost and the process of paying is simple and quick.

To me Eleanor Roosevelt meant small minds will always find an excuse, but great minds will find a solution.

So join us and be part of the discussion to help create the future of our wonderful industry.

The interview with Marc Graue can be heard on the VO Radio Show.
M Graue

The Producer’s Chair – with Jim Kennelly


So voiceover friends, summer is coming to a close. But it still looks like rough seas for both SAG-AFTRA members and the freelance world. Well, here’s what I will advise and will continue to do to help all my voiceover clients and talent friends be as successful as possible online and in our studio.

It’s true; I’ve been in some unpleasant situations in my life. Who hasn’t though, right? That’s life. Live and learn, it’s the best medicine. Some situations were of my own creation and others were nearly impossible to prepare for. I wanted to share actions that have helped me be patient and loving and find release between bad takes.

Be nice to people

Yes, kindness is underrated. When was the last time you asked a professional friend if they are OK? Just starting a conversation and being kind is all they may need to lift them up for one take or one session. I’m not saying it will create new accounts or get you more bookings, but it will give personal satisfaction and gratification. As they say, what goes around comes around.

Accomplish something

When I feel as though whatever I do to push my business is pointless or goes unnoticed, when I am struggling between reaching out to old contacts, new ones, checking social media and online casting sites, even small accomplishments are worthy to note. Get up and stretch, update your online profile, clean up a take you’ve recently laid down, finish that demo that’s been sitting around for months! I get involved with helping someone because it makes me happy. So do the same, whatever you will feel good about and will make you smile.


Honestly, the only things you can actually control are what you do, say, and think. The voice game is a pick and choose business, it always has been. We all could seriously reduce the stress that comes with business events by allowing ourselves to let go of that which you can’t control. It is what it is.

Treat yourself

I’m not saying go spend a ton on a Neumann microphone, but just a little something, it has always helped me. For me it is a new headset or something fun to place in my studio. The addition empowers me.

Do something for someone elsePope and JHK

Go out of your way to do for others, realize that you are not the only person in the industry who is struggling, that there tons of people in the biz who are having a tougher time than you are.

Reach out to someone

And I don’t mean reach out to someone and unload. I mean reach out to someone in the biz in friendship, rekindle a professional relationship, join a committee or attend a convention, force yourself to be around other industry professionals.

Do something new and exciting

The best voice talents share a wide field of experiences. Maybe you’ve been thinking about expanding, why not try? You will learn something new and meet new people. Don’t settle into misery. I made myself do things I had never done before and it brought me so much perspective and gratitude, not to mention fun!


Importantly, to me, do whatever it takes to make yourself laugh. Share a funny awkward story with your voice friends or clients, listen to your old voice demos. I’ve been trying to learn how to direct in Spanish…it’s comical… ay, que bueno! Why? Because, happiness is fleeting. It’s rarely, a constant state of being for anyone, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue it even when there seems to be nothing worthy of that happiness. You can either let struggle swallow you or fight your way to a silver lining.

Remember, your happiness is your responsibility. I say FIGHT!

What is the best microphone?

How many forums have you read that ask the same question, ‘what is the best microphone?’ The most common response is whatever works for your voice, so can you imagine having to make the microphone selection for the Beatles?

Abbey Road in the 60’s is a far cry from today’s digital studios and was a time where preparation and knowledge was the key to a good recording.

Abbey Road Lush at the desk

Recently I spoke with one time Beatles engineer Richard Lush on the VO Radio Show about the techniques used to set up and record, and why your ears played a much bigger role back then.

Today we edit to a waveform, we see breaths, pops and mouth clicks, but back then the only visual cue was from the VU, it was all up to your ears.

The tape operator had to be on the ball, dropping in and out of record, keeping perfect time, and in some cases dropping in and out to the syllable!

When it comes to microphone selection, it hasn’t really changed that much, it’s a case of finding one that brings out the quality of the voice.

When you look at photos of the Beatles sessions, you see they mainly used U47’s and U67’s.

Sinatra in his heyday had his Telefunken U47 and the Beach Boys also used U47’s on Pet Sounds.

So if the question is ‘what’s the best microphone?’ the answer is, ask your ears.

Here is a list of some great combinations.

Richard today

You can hear the interview with Richard Lush on The VO Radio Show.

Want to be an overnight success?

Most overnight success stories don’t include the 20 years spent leading up to it.

Recently I spent an hour talking with Nick Tate, one of the ‘5 Guys in a Limo’, and one of the biggest voice over names in movie trailers.

How he got there is a classic dream come true, when a chance meeting at a party in LA changed his career forever.

I’ve been aware of Nick since I was a teenager, watching him on TV back in the mid 70’s as one of the stars of the UK science fiction hit ‘Space 1999’. Ironically, it was made by the producers of the Thunderbirds, which his father John had been involved in.

Nick Tate

Nick also worked in the UK doing radio spots in London, then returned to Australia in the late 70’s working in feature films, picking up a best actor award along the way.

In the late 80’s Paramount decided to do a remake of the TV series ‘Mission Impossible’ filmed in Australia. During down time on the shoot, the producers wanted to keep their crew busy, so they shot a pilot off the Queensland coast featuring Nick in the lead role. The pilot was picked up and ran for one season in the US.

Paramount then asked Nick to come to LA, which led to more work including a leading role with Ellen DeGeneres in Open House. When the series finished Nick faced a tough decision… go back to Australia or stay on in LA. He decided to stay, and that’s how Nick ended up at a party in LA that changed his life forever.

You can hear part one of Nicks interview on the VO Radio Show.


Advertising future

VO Radio Show Blog Ep 1

Advertising, where is it going and how will the voice fit the future?

Back in the 1950s advertising and radio became a match made in heaven and the voice was king, telling stories and taking the listener on a journey.

Ask any older advertising creative, audio engineer and voice actor and they will probably agree on the love of radio.

Where else could you have a Cecil B DeMille production for $100?

The listener could be taken on a journey to places only dreamed of and advertising saw the perfect opportunity to take the listener on a journey…. to the shops.

In 2015 we now have so many platforms that the creative is less able to be specialized.

Once it was TV, radio, print and outdoor, now we have content on the wrist, phone and tablet, in fact we are probably exposed to more advertising than ever before.

So what is the future? We can only guess but one thing is for sure humans connect best with other humans and the voice can add the human touch to any machine or device.

So what do the experts think? Check out the VO Radio Show, this week featuring two advertising creatives Iain Lanivich and Mike Beach.

Resilience and Persistence in the Voiceover Game

Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s the day to day living that wears you out – Anton Chekhov

The life of a voice actor has long presented unique challenges. Successful talents are usually people who show exceptional resilience. They have the strength and the passion to go on even in the face of adversity.


Peter Thomas – America’s top announcer always says “You never really “make it” in this business. You have to do your best everyday.”

One of America’s top announcers from the heyday of voiceovers is Peter Thomas. Peter tells the story of a booking he had in New York City the day of a blizzard. Every commuter train from Greenwich was cancelled. Peter rushed down to the station and hopped aboard an early milk train bound for the city and made his session to everyone’s astonishment!

What Peter showed was great resilience. He was caught in a tough place that forced him to take action—and he bounced back and carried on with his career.

If you are a young voiceover talent or a vet looking to keep up the good fight…start with one and continue to add on as you go. Resilient people lead successful and happier lives.

Below are eight habits of successful voice actors:

1. Get the Support You Need

Talents with exceptional resilience typically have a big safety net—many professional friends to turn to when times get tough. Studio owners, editors, voice coaches, etc…Pros who are there for you during good and bad times strengthen your resilience. Don’t have too many professional friends? Get out there and join an online group or attend a voice conference—start connecting and making friends.

2. Realize it’s Just Part of Life

Resilience comes with knowing that life isn’t perfect and that, yes, there will be drama and trauma in your voiceover career at one time or another. Your ability to view lousy copy, poor direction and an intermittent internet connection as isolated events instead of what your future has in store for you is what will set you up for success and greater resilience in the future.

 3. Make Healthy Choices

Talents who are extremely resilient typically take care of themselves. They exercise, get the rest they need before a gig and make an effort to eat healthy. If you take care of yourself—you will be less likely to fall apart during those long challenging sessions that are filled with stress.

4. Remember to Laugh

Even during the worst times, exceptionally resilient voice talents still laugh and find joy.Radio-Announcer-Stock-Vector Laughter can reduce any tension which you, the producer or client feels and helps to minimize the issue at hand. Yes, the bad things will still happen, but you can lighten that load by keeping or offering your sense of humor.

 5. Be Nice to Others

Exceptionally resilient actors enjoy helping others. They find great joy in random acts of kindness. On the flip side, it is equally important to appreciate kindness from other professionals who are trying to help you during a tough session—showing gratitude is also a big part of resiliency.

 6. Get the Ball Rolling

Resilient voice talents face career obstacles head-on. When confronted by a crisis, they immediately ask themselves, “What are my choices and solutions for this?” They collect all the information they can, come up with a plan, and then face the situation directly with action. Even when faced with finding better paying work, searching for a new agent or upgrading a home studio, resilient people collect information, plan, and act until things are on track.

 7. Look at the Bright Side

Resilient people have a knack for always finding the silver lining. They are able to see the good even during the slowest voiceover times. Resilient talents literally see each career moment or audition as another opportunity and another chance. Their glass is definitely half full.

8. Don’t Make the Same Mistake Again

Resilient voices learn from their mistakes instead of making the same ones over and over. They ask themselves what went wrong and come up with a strategy to prevent the mistake from happening again. They get excited about doing things in a new way or approaching things differently, and this is what helps them endure unhappy times.


“My favorite example is something he [Lloyd} tossed off one day after a cheese commercial. The spot ended, and Lloyd opened the mic and said, ‘What a friend we have in cheeses.’ And then he simply gave the weather forecast and introduced whatever piece of music came next, never even winking an eye to the audience.”

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance – Proverbs 15:13

The Producer’s Chair – with Jim Kennelly

ProducersChair 07.02.2015Here are some Independence Day voice-over tips for the July 4th Weekend. In the ever-changing voiceover industry successful talents are taking on new responsibilities. Let’s link career profitability with being a finisher, learning to specialize and delivering on time.

1. Finish 100% of the job.

Proactive voice talents start and finish. They acknowledge that often the last 5% of a project is the hardest — and then finish every last task. Start strong and end strong.

Try not to be the talent who is enthusiastic in the beginning – sharing your credits, describing your versatility, negotiating your fees – and then lose energy and enthusiasm later on when the going gets tough.

Tip for a proactive voice: Be generous with your reads and don’t be afraid to over-deliver. If a client asks you for some wild lines…offer another full take. Read the whole graph, not just a few lines.

One more tip: Finish your session on a high note, send an edited select version along with the full session, get a client testimonial, and always say “thank you.”

 2. Know your niche.

Successful voice actors specialize. Sure, an experienced voice might be qualified to microphonesaudition for many projects, but talents should look for specific categories where they are most successful, such as narrations or E-learning.

Tip for a proactive voice: The benefit of specializing is that it frees you. The tremendous amount of effort it takes to be an expert in every voiceover style is a poor use of your best resource – yourself! Narrowing your focus and aspiring to be a specialist might just be your ticket to a financially rewarding career.

One more tip: Specialists always earn more money than generalists. It’s true in the medical profession, financial services industry and every other business. Specialists earn more. You need to choose a specialty or a niche.

 3. They are on time.

Successful voiceover talents are on time. Every time. End of story.

Some actors show up late to sessions. They miss audition and production deadlines. Do they have reasons? You bet, tons. Some are valid, but most are weak excuses. Remember: Time is money. This is especially true for voice talents.

Tip for a proactive voice: To maintain a profitable voice over business or career, it’s essential that you value timelines and that you are consistently punctual.

4. Become the best production partner!

I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you have budgeted enough recording and production time to ensure the delivery of your work. And, if you’re going to be late, warn you client in advance. Never wait for the deadline to pass and then ask for more time.

Tip for a proactive voice: If you find that you’re missing deadlines, consider avoiding work with short deadlines or lightening your session workload. You might even, consider updating your availability so that clients won’t invite you to audition for jobs you can’t finish on time.

We wish everyone a safe and fun Independence Day celebration. We look forward to working together all summer long.

Remember, for every audition and at every session…you’re there to work!


A Day in the Life of a Voice Actor in 2015

If someone had said 20 years ago what a day in the life of a voice actor would look like we would have said “No way!”

The fact is technology has reshaped not just the hardware but also the way we do things and the expectations put upon us.

1995 phone

In 1995 you may have had a mobile phone but most likely a pager, your demo was probably on a cassette and your agent would have given you a days notice to be at a studio somewhere.

If you were lucky enough to have a home studio you most likely connected via ISDN and delivered a DAT or CD via overnight courier.

Fast forward to 2015.

6.30am. Check emails to see what has come in overnight.

7.00am. Record scripts that came in overnight, edit and send.

9.00am. Clients will start sending scripts.

There could be radio spots, TV promos, Radio promos, narrations, eLearning, on hold, in fact you will likely jump from one to another.

This is the new world of voice over.

Some of us have overseas clients working from different time zones, this means you may work into the evening or very early in the morning and some of these clients you may never meet and in some cases never talk to!

This is voice over in 2015 and it will only get faster as young producers take over and expectations for speed become the norm.

What’s more important, a car or home studio?

The days of sitting in a car for hours driving from one studio to another are almost gone. Now clients want to dial in via phone patch, Skype, ISDN, Source Connect and ipDTL. Some will just send the script and ask for a few variations on the read.

Now we can also work to pictures remotely which basically closes the circle as far as home studios are concerned.

Don LaFontaine once said, “Never take a holiday”.

Once upon a time the only thing you wouldn’t leave home without was your American Express Card, now it’s your road case.

You can guarantee that the moment you leave the house an urgent script will come through and if you can’t turn it around you can kiss that job or audition goodbye.

Questions and requests you would never have been asked 20 years ago.

Imagine transporting a voice actor from 1995 and putting them in a home studio, would they have any idea what is expected of them? I doubt it.

Everything is different even the language we now use.

Here are some things that are common to our ears now but were alien to voice actors then.

  • Can you Drop box or Hightail?
  • Can you send a WAV at 48k 24b
  • Have you a pro studio?
  • Do you have Source Connect or ipDTL?
  • Just record the audition on your phone.
  • Can I direct you on Skype?
  • Whisper Room
  • Porta Booth
  • Mic Port
  • USB mic
  • WIFI
  • iPad

Recently when talking to an advertising creative he talked about the role drones will play in advertising and the platforms that will be used to deliver messages.

It was agreed that the voice will continue to be a major part of communicating but where the voice will be used in the future, how it will be delivered and how it will be cast is still a question we can’t answer.

mics 2015

Will it be a brave new world or will it be a world for the brave?

There are many things that will change, technology will continue to evolve and the people in positions of power and influence will leave their mark.

There may be a time when agents work from home and producers, audio engineers and creatives also work remotely.

What are the positives and negatives and what role will the union play in this evolution?

There are many things to be considered and plans to be made because without future thinking we could make simple errors that will have a major impact on our futures.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this so we can all be involved in the decisions that will affect us all.