I mean... it's just talking isn't it? ... and mine's a Guinness.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Stop! Thief!

OK, here’s an admission, a little insight into my world. I occasionally do Facebook. It’s OK, I’ve got it under control and I’m not there that often, in fact I took a couple of months off because my newsfeed was flooded with all the political crap (seriously, do you think any of that stuff changes anyone’s mind?). I was settling in for a quiet drink at home on Sunday, and thought, “What the hell… I’ll log-on to Facebook”. Hours later, I was still in the recliner, iPad in one hand, drink in the other… jaw hanging loosely in disbelief!

Disbelief Cat In The Process of Disbelieving
It seems that the on-line voiceover community is thrashing around desperately trying to solve the issue of a rogue elephant rampaging through its usually quite civilized goings-on. I’ve seen panties bunched on a few occasions recently… more often than not, it’s in response to either a money-grubbing corporate entity that’s screwing everyone (Yay, Voices!) or a group of "talents" who have no idea how the business works (Yay, Fiverr!). Tub-thumping about these transgressors (and sure, I’ve done my bit as well) is, for the most part, impersonal and deals with a concept or a corporation. All pretty anonymous. This time it’s different. This time it’s personal.

It seems we have a sociopath in our midst. I was trying to think of a better word, but it really does seem to be the most fitting. OK, I shall prove to you all that I have no formal psychological training (OK, apart from that massive elearning piece I did about five years ago) and say that he’s a narcissistic sociopath. Well, slap my ass and call me Susan… Google is your friend… and I shall now freely quote from Wisegeek.

Even Charlie Can't Believe It!
Profile of a Narcissistic Sociopath – Charming, Manipulative, Grandiose, Lying, Authoritarian, Secretive, Divisive…

What is a narcissistic sociopath?
  1. A narcissistic sociopath is someone with a combination of narcissistic personality disorder and definitive behavioral signs of sociopathy.
  2. People with narcissism are characterized by their excessive and persistent need for others’ admiration and positive reinforcement. They generally have grandiose opinions of themselves and believe they are superior to other people. Narcissists are also frequently convinced that they are above the normal responsibilities and obligations of everyday life, so they usually have significant difficulties maintaining employment or relationships as a result.
  3. The narcissistic sociopath has this type of personality along with a noticeable lack of regard for the rights of others and a tendency to regularly violate those rights.
  4. One noted difference between a narcissistic sociopath and people with narcissism alone is that the narcissist with the sociopathy reacts strongly and sometimes even violently to negative feedback.

See what I did there? I quoted my source and gave full attribution. This is the very heart of the matter. Our VO rogue elephant has repeatedly stolen content from other VOs and passed it off as his own. If I’m reading the Facebook threads correctly, this has happened at least four times with blog content, a couple of times with logos and artwork, once with a cartoon strip, and on top of that, he has claimed (at least a couple of times) to work with notable producers who deny that he has ever done so.

His MO seems to be to post the purloined content claiming authorship (and in the case of the recent logo theft, a quick minute with photoshop to change the embedded owner's name to his own), and wait to be challenged. When the challenge comes, the offending content is removed and he merrily selects his next “contributor”. We’re running into double-digits here… these are no small, “Oops! Mea Culpa” incidents, he is a serial offender with scant regard for the property of others. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), the latest incident, one of artwork/logo theft, was perpetrated against someone who wasn’t going to let it go of the incident easily. He was well aware of this guy’s track record and decided to push-back, to make it public. The community is outraged. More incidents are reported. Our rogue elephant decides to… wail, and cry, “Poor me!” and act like a persecuted victim. W.T. actual F! 

Internet Memes - Always So Poignant!
Oh. Hang on. See bullet point four above... it all becomes clear, eh?

So? What to do? There has been talk of legal action, but that’s a long furrow to plow with no guaranteed results (except legal fees). There's been talk of pitchforks and torches… nah, I don’t advise that, law enforcement takes a dim view of vigilantism (even if you’re a Marvel Superhero). There's been talk of calling him out to his agents where an aggrieved VO shares a roster (the line being that this guy is so blatantly dishonest, can you actually trust him to represent your agency... will he be a liability?). I'm happy to say that I share no agents with him.

Now, I know there are a bunch of Kumbaya types out there that will tell us all that this guy doesn’t need chastising or calling-out… that what he really needs is help. That’s as maybe, but he needs to be called-out to start the process. If there's no down-side to his actions, then there's no problem... and he’ll just carry on leaving a trail of victims in his path because I seriously doubt he thinks he's doing anything wrong!

By the way, I certainly acknowledge that while I'm all for "naming and shaming" as part of the community's retaliation against this ass, I do not do so myself here. I'm afraid that actually naming him while still maintaining my own cloak of anonymity will put me into a near fatal irony overload. Don't worry, a quick double Jack'n'Coke set me on the road to recovery... it was a close call though! (if you don't already know who it is, it will only require minimal research by yourself, dear reader, to reveal his identity)

Oh well, sorry there haven’t been too many laughs in this one… even Shit-For-Brains didn’t get a mention. I’ll try and put that right next time… because he’s been up to some weird shit recently!

Unamused Cat is Unamused
So, until then my little bar-flies, keep well!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What Keeps you Busy?

Most of the voice people I know tend to specialize in certain areas of the business. They've built up a clientele in that genre, and working in it provides the best return for the effort expended. Let's be honest, who wants to spend ninety percent of their effort chasing down ten percent of their income? Personally, I've come to the conclusion that I will never get a good game gig. I will never be the voice of Tumulus MegaFart in the latest epic fantasy game, and, to be honest, this gives me great consternation at family gatherings (yes, I have a family!). The kids will all be playing something with dwarves and demons and I'll drop in a casual, "Hey, I know that guy!" when some rampaging ogre yells, "For truth, honor, and The Clan!" while he pummels some innocent villagers into sausage patties. The kids are impressed... these guys are rock stars to game players. So, yeah, I want them to ask me for my autograph, not get some other guy's!

Hey, I know that guy!

Oh well, back to reality I guess. What do I do most of the time? Well, for the most part, I usually sell overpriced crap that nobody needs to people who can't afford it. I get a few major campaigns, but for the most part it's just churning out the same old shit for ad agencies with good budgets. Couple that with a steady stream of corporate stuff, my expenses are covered and the barman knows my name. (Life hack: Make friends with your barman and tip well when you can afford to... a good barman will help sustain you through the lean times!)

Anyone working in the commercial world knows it's a roller-coaster with market and seasonal changes... and there are months when you can't even get arrested. That's why you need at least one solid fallback. As I said before, for me it's the unglamorous but reasonably well-paying corporate work. Much to the annoyance of Shit-For-Brains (he who calls himself my agent) I had most of these clients before we climbed into bed together (it's a metaphor!) and he gets zippo from it. When we first met he gave me a contract to sign. I pointed out that he's made a mistake and given me a dummy contract... because only an effin' dummy would sign it! Bastard tried to claim commission on all my voiceover income... even the shit he wasn't the agent for! This practice, in my opinion, is akin to robbing trains at gunpoint in the Old West. He shrugged and said something like, "You can't blame a guy for trying." Yes I can, Dickhead!

Anyway, I'm rambling (a good Sour Mash Bourbon will do that to me). The point is that most voices have their prime, well-paying work, and a solid base of everyday stuff that keeps them going through the lean times. Sure, there are some annoying bastards out there that seem to be good at everything, but for the most part I tend to think of them as genetic aberrations... great pipes, talented, versatile, and killer businessmen. These are not normal people!

But there's one other type of work that needs mentioning. Seasonal, and I don't mean that in-store Santa gig you do at Christmas! I mean politicals. If you follow the general rule of getting the money up-front (what, you trust politicians?) then you're golden.

Our choices. The machine marches on.

OK, let's make one thing clear. I don't give a rat's-ass whether you support The Wicked Witch or The Tangerine Tyrant... because with a broken system, these are the choices we get. Live with it. Personally, I'm a flag-waving conservative Democratic Republican capitalist with Liberal tendencies... the only party I support is one where there's an open bar. Both of the established parties pay pretty well for campaign ads and while I tend to ignore the real hate-mongering, fear-generating excesses, red or blue, the money is green! SFB wants me to do them all, but I'm the one who has to live with me!

Politicals are the gift that keeps giving... you keep making your campaign donations, and I'll keep talking!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How Do You Position Yourself?

OK, it's a rates thing again. Not all that cheap Fiverr crap... I think enough has been said about that for the moment. If that's what you want to do, then there's nothing I can say that will change your opinion... and by that I mean the extremely low opinion you have of yourself and your ability. Oh, except in those cases where you are truly worth only five bucks... in that case, knock yourself out.
Worth $5?

Today, Shit-For-Brains (he who prefers to be called "my agent") called me and asked if I wanted a quick $200. At first I thought he wanted me to run him out to his cabin in the woods. I'm not proud, and since he lost his license he's got that Mercedes sitting in his garage doing nothing. I run him around occasionally... it's a symbiotic relationship (I have the license and no car, he has the car and no license). He's pissed that I refuse to wear the chauffeur's hat... but there are limits. Anyway, I digress. It was for a VO job. I think I mentioned before that SFB has been looking at the cheaper jobs and started pushing them out to his roster. I've told him that I'm not interested, but he keeps trying. He tells me it'll only take five minutes, and the client really likes my reel... no audition, just knock it out.

I've tried to explain it to him, but he just doesn't get it. Usually, I can walk into a group of peers... that bunch of barflies who consist of other VOs and a good smattering of studio engineers, producers, and casting directors and someone will chime in with something like, "Loved that deodorant spot you did, darling!" "Why thank you... and that restless-leg pharma thing of yours was absolutely divine... mine's a Guinness!" You see how that works? No one tells everyone what they're doing (we're not on bloody Facebook), but believe me, your voice is your trademark. You may think you are anonymous, but if you've been in the business a while, you are recognizable by other VOs, and more importantly, the people who sign the checks!

The aim is to get big numbers here!

So, you do a spot for a quick under-the-table $200 and the chances are someone will end up recognizing you... and if they're on the production side, they'll probably know the ad agency, the producer, and more importantly, the budget. The next time your name comes up in connection with a prime job, it will be almost impossible for them not to remember that you sold your soul for half a case of domestic Merlot. They'll either try and get you cheap (remember, you just reset the bar to a lower level) or they'll discount you altogether because you do cheap shit. Of course, SFB doesn't see it that way as all those commissions add up and he's got a cash-flow issue (multiple alimony payments I think... I don't ask... we have boundaries).

My aim in life is to spend as little time in the booth as possible for the maximum return. I do what I do. I do it well... why the hell should I cheapen my brand?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

What is a VO worth?

As I've mentioned before, I do this stuff full time, and I make a reasonable living from it. Well, reasonable enough that I can cover my bills and the occasional bout in rehab (which, on an annual basis, actually costs more than the booze that causes these little "sabbaticals in the first place"). The business has its ups and downs of course... sometime it delivers a nice little five-figure campaign, and another time it leaves you scrabbling around for a $500 corporate gig. Oh well... c'est la vie... or more accurately, c'est la guerre! OK... no more French, I promise.

OK, back on the horse that is social media, and I'm absolutely dumbstruck by the amount of idiots out there selling themselves on Fiverr. A two-hundred word VO job, recorded, edited and delivered for $5? Sorry... that's probably $3.92 by the time you've coughed-up for the Fiverr and Paypal fees. That's not even going to buy half a pint of beer. HALF an elfin' pint!

Seriously... not even this much!
So, who are these people? It's OK, you don't have to tell me because I think I've worked it out for myself. First of all, let's make the assumption that they have a modicum of talent and a halfway reasonable mic and recording space (because the guy with zero skill and a $50 USB mic in his bathroom ain't getting the gig... even for $5).

The dilettante & the dabbler. I guess these are the same, but using "dilettante" makes me sound so much more intelligent. They somehow think that recording someone's voicemail greeting in a silly voice for $5 puts them in show business. They are an ac-tor and can hold court at the bar, surrounded by their burger-flipping friends. Bragging rights!

The serial entrepreneur. This one is dangerous because he just doesn't know how bad he is. He's been told since pre-school that he could be anything he wanted. He has a fine collection of trophies for "attendance" & "participation". Look closely, and you'll find that he also does graphic design, copywriting, car maintenance, and dog-walking. One day something will work for him. Or not.

The marketing whiz-kid. This one is usually more honest with themselves... they know they're crap, but believe that they can market the hell out of anything and be successful. This one has drank the Kool-Aid... he's just paid his $299 for a training course on "How To Succeed in Voiceovers" ... and he's armed with his VO marketing strategy bible and will now use saturation bombing techniques worthy of a night-run on Hanoi as he blankets Twitter with his self-promotional bullshit. He doesn't have the sense to realize that he's the patsy here. It wasn't the gold miners that made the money, it was the smart guy that sold them the tools.

Actually, the list goes on, but you can be sure that any voice worth listening to is not going to sell himself for less than the price of half a pint of beer. These guys don't have any effect on my business, but they as annoying as mosquitos as they buzz around the industry cross-promoting each other like they're the new Messiahs indulging in one massive circle-jerk.

Hey you kids! Get off my Twitter feed!!!