Explaining why voice actors have control over their industry and how to take control of it
There was a time when voice actors had to watch what they said in front of other people because “they did not want word to get around they are difficult to work with and lose jobs because of it”. This applied at a time when voice actors truly had little to no control over the voice over industry. Then casting sites changed things like a big reset button leaving many to wonder if the industry was starting to dissolve.
Why did voice actors lose control so fast?
1. Imbalance of power: Too many were starting out feeling like they never had a chance in the world, as they were expected to follow some preconceived dogma of the 20th century. The Internet was already dismantling other industries, and those who made websites looked like “champions of good against evil”.
2. Forgotten definition of purpose: Those who believed they were held back by traditions in an industry, even if they did get into voice overs because of the “movie trailer guy”, never knew why they had to work to get things like agents and union memberships. All they saw were people saying, “No”, or people who could not get along for reasons that extended years back. Voice actors wondered why they should work so hard to get an agent or be in a union. They had forgotten their definition of purpose, even if now a decade after some trusted casting sites aim to lower prices, they are realizing, “Wait, maybe it is better to have union benefits and better paying work through agents”. Things would never have gotten to this point, if their purposes had never been forgotten.
3. Dysfunctional teams are easier to defeat: It is easy to say that something is “dysfunctional” in a world (no pun intended) driven by data. You can see numbers on what is working and that can be deflating. The data also allows for persuasive arguments, which often involves “counting all the hits and not the misses”. What must never be forgotten is that people are not born to always get along; especially competitive voice actors. What must never be forgotten is what happens when someone takes advantage of their divided unity. It is incredibly easy to stay in charge of people who are always fighting in-house. (Need I post a link to Lincoln’s “House divided” speech?) The same still holds true today.
The unions that survive the longest are those who have weathered change with compromise, while still teaching the world, “You need this union to do the job more than anyone else.” When a team is fighting within itself and that dysfunctional behavior becomes common knowledge, it quickly becomes something that can be used to explain “why they should not exist”. There is no doubt that in 2004, casting sites took off like they did because a large group of people felt like they were playing for a dysfunctional team. Even if they still stayed loyal to the team in private, they could not help but notice what others were doing and try it themselves. It is very sad when people feel so unwilling to work with others that choose to trust computer software services created by less than 10 people.
How voice actors can take control of their voice over industry again
1. Sticking together through difficult times: This one takes a bit of courage, understanding, and filtering out of nonsensical arguments. The voice actor who hates what you say on Facebook, finds you to be rude, or even competes with your voice so heavily that no one can tell you apart; this voice actor may still have the same vested interests in the voice over industry as you, and therefore you should be on the same team. Surely you cannot stand the sight of him/her, but you need that person anyway because him/her works hard towards:
a. Better pay rates
b. Benefits for house and home
c. Financial security
Accept that people will have different opinions than you and focus on what is best for the needs of the team. There is beauty in diversity, if you give it a chance, and that patience for diversity is a requirement for working online.
2. Ignoring those who do not look out for your best interests: Are you using a casting website? Do you know what the owners of the business believe in? Do they put forth policies that help you or hurt you? If you are into voice overs to scratch something off your bucket list, do you know how much you could be getting paid? If you are a career voice actor, do you want to be paid the equivalent of doing rock band gigs at the local bar? Working hard takes energy. Do not put your energy into a casting website that does not look out for you. Do not put yourself in harm’s way with a high-risk/low-reward relationship with a website that never listens to what you really want: More better paying work with less competition. If the website does not have your best interests at heart, why patronize them as an individual, then give them web exposure by complaining about them?
3. Courage to do what you know is right: There is not much to say on this one. If I came up to you on a street and said, “Hi, would you like to do voice overs, and be paid so little for it that you had to work 70-80 hours a week with no guarantee of benefits as you get older?”, what would you say to me? Chances are you would either think I am insane. If you are just starting, with no ties to family or friends, you may take me up on the offer just long enough to eventually resent me. Deep down, you always knew what was “right”, and my offer was “just wrong”.
The courage to do what is right is a collection of everything in this blog: Stick together, work with those who look out for you, ignore those who do not, and remember that despite all differences, we are still in a voice over industry together. Do not let anyone make you forget that with promises of perceived value or perceived illusions of volume of work.
The most dangerous thing about data is that it can be used to both tell the truth and lie at the exact same time. The courage to do what is right means knowing the difference and acting on it.
4. Penetrate the .edu level. Be a mentor! : Yes, if you are one of the best in the industry, you need to start sharing how you got there and what you did in the process. Unfortunately, there are lots of young talent getting into voice acting who believe they deserve to be paid less, now and in the future, because recording from home can be considered “easy”. Those who are in school, and learning how to be an actor, need advice on how to guide their career on a healthy path. They will find out quickly no one pays back student loans on $10 gigs. It is physically impossible.
They also need to know the pitfalls of working with casting websites who do not look out for their well-being. For them…these may be great places to start, but if they want to be paid for the work that attracted them to voice overs to begin with, they need to be guided by a helping, successful hand.
5. Do not be critical of change or what others want changed: The best way to influence positive changes is to be involved with people who roll with changes. Standing your ground is not the same thing as progressive thinking. The best way to influence positive change is to apply those positive aspects of the industry, today, in methods of casting to be used in the future.
Any thoughts on this? Please comment and let us know!