Phil Sutfin (co-founder of ACM Talent Management), Erik Sanchez (Casting/Track Director at Sticky Audio Labs), and Jim Kennelly (producer at Lotas Productions) speak about “The 3 Dont’s of Voiceover Demos”
Three established professionals in voiceovers talked to Realtime Casting about those things in voiceover demos that often work against a voice talent.
Phil Sutfin – Co-founder at ACM Talent Management
1. Don’t cheap out. Your demo is a calling card. Don’t cut corners on quality. Your demos should have all the bells and whistles to show your best. How much it costs may depend on where you live, but make sure if you are seeking to find an agent, make sure the quality of the demo echoes the market you are trying to work in. If you cannot afford to make a demo, wait until you can afford it. You will save money that way.
2. Don’t try to throw everything and the kitchen sink into a demo. Agents are looking for a signature sound. If you think you do everything, you had better know that everything you do is undeniably great. If not, it will only be a distraction. a former colleague once added, “Every one wants to think they can be every color of the rainbow, when they may do just as well serving one color of the spectrum.”
3. Don’t let your demo go stale. Keep your demo updated every year, if you can. If you have aged out of your demo, it is time to make a new one. That one demo you find perfect will not be the one you use forever. Make sure you update your demo as much as you can with new work, even if that means once a year. Fresher is always better. Why? Clients want to catch you in the moment when others are hiring you as well.
Erik Sanchez – Casting/Track Director at Sticky Audio Labs
1. Don’t try and do too much. Allow the listener to hear the focus on your strengths as a talent, and not the weaknesses. If you can do one thing REALLY well, there is a possibility of having a career based around that one thing.
2. Somewhat related: Don’t save the good stuff for the end. Put your strongest work first. You stand a chance of keeping a person listening.
3. Subjectively speaking: The feeling I personally have is that if you are making a demo, choose well-known brands and concentrate on making the listener feel good about listening to you. Of course, there are exceptions, but the majority of the time (a voiceover demo) with depressing, serious, or sad spots just takes away from the “excitement of the ride of listening to a voiceover demo”. You want your voiceover demo to take the listener for a fun ride.
Jim Kennelly – Producer at Lotas Productions/ GM Realtime Casting.
1. Don’t make the demo too long. The shorter and more specific a demo the better. I need a demo that loads quickly and demonstrates exactly what style of voice I’m listening for, or my client is trying to find. Short and to the point. A :30 or :45 second sample is plenty. I make decisions on who to audition very quickly. I won’t listen to 2:00 minutes to find a little sample.
2. Don’t create a voiceover demo that cannot be sold to others. When I listen to a demo I’m thinking about one thing, “Can I sell this voice?” That’s it. And that’s exactly what you want me to be thinking. Voiceover is a business and we’re all trying to be successful.
3. Don’t leave your best work for last. Put your best voice up front. Put your “real” spots up front. Don’t make a producer search for a good voice and don’t waste anyone’s time. “First Impressions” are everything with your voiceover demo. Your voice demo is made for me to like your voice. You want your demo to make me send you a script and invite you to audition. Once you start to audition for me, I’ll quickly know if your demo accurately represents you. And hopefully, I’ll better understand your talent, your voice and how we can start working together.
About the blog contributors:
Prior to co-founding ACM, Phil has been at the vanguard for the voice-over industry as both a talent manager and agent at International Creative Management. At ICM, Phil stood at the helm of one of the largest voice-over commercial departments in the country offering complete services in commercials, promos, narration, animation and celebrity endorsements. Most recently, Phil founded Flatirons Creative Management; a specialized voice-over management firm emphasizing innovations, personal attention and collaborative relationships between voice-over clients and industry creatives. As a talent agent, Phil founded the renowned on-air promotions department at SEM & M before directing the New York commercial division at ICM.
Erik is a thirteen-year casting veteran and former talent agent whose stops have included Sound Lounge, and International Creative Management in Los Angeles and New York. Erik’s focus at Sticky is voice casting & directing for commercials, radio, promos, digital shorts and narrations. Erik enjoys rare expertise on both coasts including Toronto as well as extensive knowledge of new media and celebrity talent and negotiations.
Erik’s past clients include such brands as AT&T, Geico, Ford, Chrysler, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, UPS, Dominos, AOL, Claritin and Kraft. His work also spans dozens of advertising agencies including BBDO, Leo Burnett, Y&R, Ogilvy & Mather, The Martin Agency, J. Walter Thompson, Droga, Digitas & MTV. Currently, he is working on a Celebrity Cruise Campaign and just finished casting the new Charter Communications TV campaign.
For 30 years, Jim has been the director, producer and owner of Lotas Productions. He specializes in finding the right voice for commercial voice-overs, creative radio spots, documentary and corporate narrations and global communications. Jim didn’t always enjoy the safety of the studio. After graduating Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications, he traveled microphone in-hand on a documentary crew to the world’s hot spots. Jim traveled the world three times to cover political, social and humanitarian aid subjects. From Southeast Asia, to the Middle East and Central America, he was an eyewitness to society’s challenges.
In 1985, Jim returned to New York to cast, record, direct and produce at Lotas Productions. He is known for his thorough and inventive casting based on his clients’ needs. Jim enjoys a national reputation in the voice industry for his honest insight and positive attitude. Jim is an experienced professional with global credentials and has established himself as a trusted expert in the voice-over industry.