Getting Paid

Posted on October 1, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments

Paid StThis week I received a delightful and unexpected gift. I got paid for a job I thought I’d gotten burned on. Let me backtrack. My business is divided into two parts. There’s the agented side of things: I audition for jobs with my agent (s) either at home, in their office or at casting places and when I book a job they send me to the studio. These are the “Cadillac Jobs”. Kushy and smooth. I am just a voice for hire. I go into an awesome studio, record for a half hour and then get a check sent to me a while later. No engineering, no invoicing, no call for pickups, (unless there’s another paycheck attached!); it’s pretty sweet.

But to make it as a VO in this day and age, you pretty much also have to have a home-based business, as well. On this side of things, I am not only the “talent”, but also the engineer, as well as the accountant and office manager. Most times, I am also the director and sometimes the producer. Jobs come to me through referrals from past clients, online sites, or by people finding my website.  Someone contacts me about a project, I provide a quote and tell them my policies, they send me a finalized script and I record it, either with them on the line or on my own depending on their preference. Then they may come back to me with one round of pickups. After that the job is usually (hopefully) just another good memory. Next. I fondly refer to these jobs (privately!) as “turn and burn”. No disrespect, they’re great. I get paid, complete the job quickly and it’s wrapped up nice and tidy with no unnecessary time and energy lingering. Everyone’s happy.

To this end, I always ask for payment up front, especially the first time I work with a client. I didn’t always do that, but I learned the hard way. Many times, clients seem to magically disappear after they get what they need, and understandably so; they are typically on tight deadlines and still have post production ahead of them. A few times I was stiffed completely. More often, I would eventually get paid, but it might take months and months…and that meant months and months of me following up with them, sending gentle reminders, more terse reminders…you get the idea. The whole process was a hassle, uncomfortable for me, a time suck and just plain not fun. So, I decided to adopt a policy that was in place at a corporate job I had years ago.

Before starting in voiceover I worked for a short time as a customer service rep at a business that sold news clips to PR companies. At that job, it was the company policy to ALWAYS get the first payment up front with a credit card. After that, we would give the option of “establishing terms”, which involved checking at least three references, to make sure that they paid their bills and did so on time. Only then would we set up a payment arrangement of either NET 14 (they pay within 14 days of receiving the bill) or NET 30 (they pay within thirty days of receiving the bill). There were no exceptions, not even if they insisted on “speaking with a manager”. If they wanted the clip, they paid in advance.

Taking a page out of that playbook, I started requiring payment up front, unless it’s a client I know and have worked with before. I send the file within 24 hours of receipt of payment, usually less. Most of the time people don’t have a problem with it. If they want to work with me, that’s my policy. Occasionally, someone does have a problem with it. They plead their case and there are extenuating circumstances. And sometimes, being an understanding and flexible person, on a case-by-case basis, I decide to take them at face value and go ahead and do the job first, without being paid. Usually this works out just fine.

But sometimes, it doesn’t. And then I ask myself why did I just do that again?? What is it that makes me cave? Why and when do I do this? Well, sometimes…I just…I dunno, trust them… It’s more of a sixth sense, really, than anything else…This person seems honest or seems legit…But sometimes, they’re not!

I guess that’s why I am a voiceover person and not a psychic! Every time this happens to me, I learn the lesson over again. YOU CANNOT TELL IF SOMEONE IS HONEST, HONORABLE OR IF THEIR BUSINESS IS SOLVENT BY TALKING TO THEM OR EMAILING WITH THEM. You just can’t.

So, back to this week. In May, a client I had worked for last year contacted me with a new job. I had done a similar project with him a year before and had gotten paid, no problem…Although I realized (later) that I had worked with him through Voices.com, not one-on-one, whoops! I should have checked on that. Of course I got paid, no problem. Voices.com requires payment up front!

Anyway, he calls me and says he needs the voiceover for this awards ceremony and he needs it right away (a red flag, by the way – the times I’ve gotten burned, it’s usually from a client who is “on fire” about getting the VO right NOW!). So I say sure, and give him a quote. He says great. I say I require payment up front. He says, Oh…I can’t do that, blah blah, I don’t get paid right away from the company, etcetera…I stand firm. He persists and asks, can we just do NET 14? I can pay you within two weeks, not a problem. I cave and say ok, figuring what the heck- I’ve worked with him before, we’ve been talking for twenty minutes and he seems so nice. Ha. My country girl naivety still sometimes shocks me in retrospect.

So I agree to NET 14, executing the job quickly and professionally, and deliver, as promised, right away. I send over an invoice. I never hear from him again.

I will save you the prosaic details of how I followed up numerous times, first by email and then by phone.  I end up talking to a colleague whom I happen to know provided the male portion of the VO for the same job; he too confirms he was never paid. We both did some digging and came to the same conclusion: the company he worked for is now closed. The website is down and it looks like the company is defunct.

Months go by. I could really use that money. In a last ditch effort, I decide to contact the head of PR and Marketing for the company I actually did the video for. A long shot, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I write a short, congenial and professional email to this person, explaining who I am and that I have never been paid. I cc the guy who hired me and state he has been unresponsive. I’m hoping she can be of some assistance in settling this matter. I throw in that the use of my voice without being paid is illegal. I never hear anything back.

Oh well. In the meantime, I notice this guy who stiffed me is now on Linked In with a brand new job – Director of Marketing at Progressive in the Cleveland/Acron, Ohio area…! How bold to be out there, with your swanky new position, potentially hiring and screwing over more VO’s! I am livid…but don’t really know what to do, so I do nothing.

Then this past Monday morning, about a month after writing the email to the PR person, I wake up to an email out of the blue from the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, who apologizes profusely. She states they had paid this guy right after the job was completed and had of course assumed we had been paid. The next email is a payment confirmation from Paypal…she paid the invoice in full! Yipee. Vindication! There is justice in the world! I, of course, write her back to immediately thank her and I tell her that she should be aware that he did the same thing to my colleague. I ask if I can pass along her contact info to him and she says yes, of course.

SO, why am I going through this whole big huge long scenario? Well, to share the happy ending, yes. But more importantly, to share what I’ve learned.

1. Business is business and policies are policies. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be flexible, of course it is, and everyone needs to make that call for themselves…but know your policies and stick to them! And be willing to accept the consequences if you get burned.

2. There are red flags that show up over and over again in these situations: the “barn burning” urgency to get the voiceover RIGHT NOW. The fast talking-ness. You know what? If someone needs the voiceover immediately, then they can pay immediately. They wouldn’t walk into Costco saying they needed an air conditioner immediately and then ask if they can pay for it in two weeks. If they can’t do it because they haven’t been paid yet, I understand, it’s a common problem for producers, but it’s not my problem, it’s theirs. When I’m firm, they can usually figure it out.

3.The no mailing address/no phone number situation is also a red flag. Ask for these things when you are first opening up the job. Many times I’m busy, things are moving fast and I’m so eager to get down to the task at hand, that I forget to even ask for this information. Then when and if I need to follow up later, I realize I don’t have any information besides an email address and maybe a website. What was I thinking?? If I was at that job I used to work at, that would never happen. I would not be able to fulfill a customer order without basic information – so why would I allow that to occur in my own business? The time to get the client’s information is right at the beginning, before you do the job.

4. If you do get into a situation with an overdue invoice long after you’ve completed the job, try contacting the company that the job was for (if different than the producer of the job). Start with the PR/Marketing department, if there is one. Keep your communication brief, unemotional, polite and professional. Ask if they can please be of any assistance in the matter. (Throwing in the line about using your voice without being paid is illegal is always good too – thank you Golden Nugget of Faffcon 2012, Ventura!)

5. If you’re unsure about someone, look them up online and check in with your online communities, the Better Business Bureau and other consumer advocacy groups to see if there are complaints about the person or the business in question.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it – thanks… and good luck out there, fellow travelers! 

Preparing for an audiobook

Posted on August 27, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments

AreuPrepared

Recording an audiobook at home is quite a project. The scope is much bigger than anything else you will do as a voice actor. I remember when I first started, I would become a slave to my internal anxiety. I didn’t even realize how secretly freaked out I was under the surface; it was this low-grade anxiety that would follow me around and be under my skin for days. Recording an entire book by myself felt like such a huge responsibility: I want it to be great and there’s no director or anyone giving feedback and it’s taking so long and I have to juggle all my other work and…it’s TAKING SO LONG and…ai yai yai…a recipe for a not so fun time. I would end up working every waking hour, pulling all-nighters, eating junk food and getting no sleep or exercise. My mindset was kind of like: Let’s just hunker down and get through this!

Thankfully, after two years I’ve figured out some coping strategies to quell that anxiety and make the entire experience more sane and enjoyable! There’s lots of great articles on how to actually prep an audiobook for record, but lately I’ve been thinking about how I’ve learned to prep myself for the task at hand. Here are five things I do to set the stage for success.

Give myself time.  I used to think I had to rush into the actual recording almost as soon as I got the book. I would race through reading it so that I could start recording – potentially missing things and making myself crazy in the process. Now I always check in with the publisher to find out how much time I actually have. Is there a hard deadline? Maybe I have more time than I think! Based on the word count of the book and how difficult is it (how many accents/dialects, for example), I estimate how long both the reading and recording will take. Then I try to give myself a few days wiggle room just in case something comes up to throw off my schedule or slow me down. I try for at least 3 days to prep a book. The more time and focus I put into prepping the book, the easier recording is. It also makes the work deeper and more resonant…and you don’t miss those pesky details, like finding out the main character has a Southern twang- which is mentioned only once- in Chapter 11!

Stock up. The day before I start recording, I go to the store and buy healthy prepared foods for the week. I need nutritious grab and go food available for my breaks…and for anytime the hunger monster strikes. It’s too much to have to think about meal prep while I’m recording an audiobook and I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t have good food ready, I eat crappy. And that makes me feel crappy. I also make sure I have plenty of beverages on hand. Coffee is a no-brainer, but I also like Kombucha, ginger tea and/or Kefir, to help keep my energy up. One well placed Ginger Kombucha can keep me going for the rest of a session without having to eat again and again!  And my secret weapon is to have some type of raw vegan cacao energy treats in the freezer. I keep them in the freezer so I won’t eat too many at once! They can really help me push through if I start fading, providing hours of sustained energy…and they just make me happy!

Clear the decks. I tell my family and friends I’ll be working on a book and therefore somewhat MIA, so they know if I don’t pick up the phone not to worry or be offended. It’s not the week for doing extra things, like lunch with a friend or coffee with an aspiring VO. I need to focus my time and attention on getting the job done well and efficiently. I’m also sure to stock the kitchen with easy meals and snacks for my family so I know they won’t suffer while I’m working…and I don’t have to feel guilty!

Plan my schedule. As someone who juggles voice over and audiobook narration, this is crucial. Ditto that for someone who works from home. I schedule myself in 6 hour increments and make a commitment to those times. Inevitably, things come up – an audition or a booking – and I might need to make changes, but at least I have a plan that I can try to stick to. This frees me up to know that for that block of time, I’m working and after that, I’m done – so my whole life doesn’t become about the book. I’m also careful to choose my yoga classes and dog walk breaks for the week, so I know I’ll be getting exercise. There are few things worse for my body than sitting in a chair for days on end with no movement!

Be good. I try to get lots of sleep and to stay hydrated for a few nights before recording. No tequila benders for me, and no loud bars or clubs where I have to shout to be heard. Recording an audiobook is a marathon. I need to be energetic, healthy and at the top of my game from the start.

If you’re new to narrating audiobooks, trying some of these tips might help the entire process become a bit more manageable. Good luck and as always, I’m curious to hear what works for you!

Staying Alive

Posted on August 13, 2014 by rfulginiti 9 Comments

John Travolta

If you’ve been in the VO industry for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years, you will have noticed massive changes.  I’ve noticed changes just in the past five years!  Jobs used to pay more. There were more campaigns and long-term contracts. There were less voice actors and hardly anyone had a home studio. If you did have one, you had a serious advantage. And if it sounded good, even doubly or triply so!

It’s not dissimilar to the music industry, which went through huge shifts (and bottomed out) about ten years ago. Budgets are shrinking and clients are expecting much more, for far less. With the prevalence of home studios, the playing field has vastly expanded and while there are many more opportunities for voice actors, there is much more competition than ever before. Couple this with the fact that stars now think it’s cool to do voiceover and the reality of a union that hasn’t been willing or able to adapt quickly enough with the times, and the future can seem a little bleak, for those of us who make our living in this way. Don’t get me wrong. I think talented voice actors with a great work ethic and a savvy business sense will always have work, I truly do. I believe if you market yourself, cultivate your clients and keep them around, you’re probably fine. But I still think it’s important to have your eyes open. And I’m interested in doing much more than just surviving.

The more I ponder this situation, the more I am convinced that the answer, or at least a “safety valve”, if you will, for those of us who are still interested in maintaining an awesome living doing this thing we love, boils down to two things:

Alternate streams of income (diversifying) and content creation.

Diversifying: I remember first hearing about this concept with regards to investing. The philosophy was: you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket – what if that basket drops? And it makes sense because I am actually talking about investing…in yourself. I believe it’s more important than ever these days to have multiple streams of income, not just one. This means diversifying yourself within genres of performance. I have a lot of friends, for instance, who only do one type of VO. I’m encouraging them to expand their skill sets and explore other potential income streams. The more streams you have flowing, the less you feel it when one or two of them dry up. I’m actually toying with the idea of dipping my toe back in the on-camera world for this very reason, if not theatrically, at least commercially. More coals in the fire, so to speak.

This not only goes for diversifying within genres in performance, but also expanding my earning potential outside of that realm entirely. I just might finally be doing that yoga teacher training that I’ve always been interested in! Not that I’m not doing great in the industry; my business is actually thriving! My income has continued to climb over the past four years and I’m doing better than ever. But it’s good to be prepared and to be (at least!) one step ahead; it’s good to be AWAKE. There will always be lean times and the beauty about our profession is that there really is time to do other things*. (*Unless you’re you make your living solely as an audiobook narrator, in which case, no, you do not have time to do other things….but you need to make time, friends!). Pick your own brain. What other things have you been wanting to do but haven’t pulled the trigger on yet?  Take stock of all the things you love doing and find a way to monetize them if possible!

Content Creation:  With the birth of new media, there are tons of opportunities springing up every day: new channels, new networks, new shows, new opportunities…One major thing we artists have to our advantage is our creativity. They need content. We need jobs. There are a million actors out there who want jobs. They don’t need more actors, they need content.  I believe if we have something more to offer and build it ourselves, “they” will come knocking. Self-promotion has never been easier; it’s one of the truly empowering things for an artist about social media. The name of the game, however, is discipline; are you willing to contribute regularly to something you can grow?  Whatever it may be.  A blog, a podcast, an animated series…what makes your heart sing?

There’s no longer one path, or a set of prescribed set of steps you can take to become successful (Well, I’m not sure there ever was one, but…) The people I see really breaking out of the pack and flourishing are “doing” themselves. They’re not doing what everyone else is doing. They are taking a passion or something they’re knowledgeable about (hopefully it’s both) and using that as a vehicle to catapult themselves. Consider my friend Tess Masters.  A fellow actor and VO, she also had an incredible love and expertise in the field of vegan food. She started with a website and was diligent, building it steadily over three or four years, and now she’s touring the world with her new best selling cookbook. It’s one of the best selling cookbooks on Amazon! My friend Liz Loza, another talented VO, has a passion for fantasy football. Three or four years ago she christened herself  “Fantasy Football Girl”, and now she’s successfully leveraging what she created and her career is blossoming in a totally unique way, that is perfect for her…because it is her!

I’m enthusiastically trying to think out of the box here. I believe in leading with equal parts passion and intelligence. Prepare and make way for the magic. Because I’m interested in being a thriving artist, not a starving one. I gave that up in my twenties. Over rated.

What to do when there’s nothing to do

Posted on July 14, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments

TodaySummer can be a little slow for voiceover. Particularly the month of July! Like all good over-achievers, I start to feel a bit lost if I’m not generally accomplishing things or doing something constructive. To that end, I offer up a list of 10 things you can do while it’s “dead”:

1. Organize your computer. Look at your systems! Is everything filed properly? How’s your inbox? Probably lots of emails to delete, right? It seems like usually I never have time to do things like this – but it makes such a difference! Organizing now, when you have the time, pays dividends later! It expedites your workflow and helps you feel in control when things are moving quickly.

2. Reach out to your clients.  I use Mailchimp, which is free (yay!) and relatively straight-forward (although in my opinion a little less than intuitive sometimes…!) I am always kind of astounded at how time consuming the process (still) is for me, but it’s always worth the time and effort. I usually see direct results right away, getting at least a couple of emails back saying “Oh, Rachel! I was just thinking of you…” or “I have a project coming up for you soon!

3. Connect with a VO pal. There’s nothing like connecting with someone in your industry. It can be inspiring, revitalizing and reassuring. Be sure to choose someone who makes you feel good! Grab coffee or lunch or even meet up for a walk or a movie. Try branching out and taking a chance on someone you don’t know very well but always thought you’d like to get to know better.

4. Practice. Just because you’re not working, it doesn’t mean you can’t work! Practice your craft. Is there an area of VO that you’d like to explore more but haven’t had the opportunity to work in yet? If you’re interested in animation, for example, play around with developing some new characters. If you want to break into audiobooks, work on a new five minute demo.  Record yourself and listen back. Ask a trusted colleague for feedback. Really dig in and commit to doing the work. Sometimes it’s hard to commit to it when it’s “just practice” as opposed to paying work…but I always feel so good once I do it! Every ounce of work you put in will most certainly come back to you. Practice really does make “perfect“.

5. Give back. What comes around goes around! Consider “giving back” by writing a blog post or article, contributing to a podcast or even just offering to help a newbie. Volunteer to read for Book Pals or a similar organization. Donate your voice for a PSA. Record some stories for your friend’s kid. You get what you give – give big!

6. Read, watch or listen. There are so many wonderful blogs, podcasts and video shows dedicated to the craft. I sometimes get overwhelmed because I feel like I can’t keep up! When things are slow, it’s the perfect time to catch up on old favorites and discover new ones. A quick internet search will reveal many. You could also engage people on social media with a question like “What VO blogs should I be reading?” or “What’s your favorite source for VO news and inspiration?

7. Clean and clear your space! Here’s another thing I rarely feel like I have time to do, and it makes such an impact. Cleaning and organizing not only your studio, but your home, is a wonderful, spiritual thing to do. For me, it really helps to rejuvenate things. When we hold on to the old, we’re creating stagnant energy, and that’s not good for anything. Let it flow! Give things away that you don’t use. Make room for new things to come in.

8. Update your marketing materials. This includes your website, your Youtube and/or Soundcloud pages, your twitter, all online profiles, etc. Make sure your demos and work samples are up to date and that all the links are working and that your collateral supports your brand. Refresh and revive your online presence!

9. Take a look at your stats! When I have time, I love to look at stats. I’m not a mathematician by any means but I find it interesting and enlightening to take notice. How many outstanding invoices do I have? What was July like for me last year? The year before? What’s been my best month so far this year? Who are my top five clients? Where am I this year compared to last year in terms of total revenue earned? (Sidebar: I’m actually up 11k- woohoo!) Every successful business looks at stats. Knowledge is power. With specificity, you can set goals, measure progress, formulate predictions and make informed decisions. Don’t have easy access to stats like this? Consider using an invoicing system like Freshbooks. It was a total game changer for me!

10. Do something else…or do nothing at all!  Often times we’re so busy, either running around or stuck in the booth for hours on end, that we miss out on opportunities to just chill and enjoy our lives. Appreciate that down time is a natural part of this awesome career you’ve chosen. See: “The Ballad of the Self-Employed“. If you find it difficult to “do nothing”, then as Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) says: “Fill up the well!” Take yourself for an Artist Date or do something with family or friends, completely unrelated to the industry. I guarantee you that it will do much more for you than sitting around wishing you were busy… And as the rule goes, as soon as you get out there to do something (especially if you plan a trip!), the phone will ring!

This isn’t about VO

Posted on July 2, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments

This post isn’t about VO. It isn’t about freelancing or artistry or anything like that. This post is about love and the absolute need to defend it, in all it’s forms.

For the last ten days I’ve been travelling. I went back East yet again (2 trips in 2 months!) for the wedding of my best friend from home. My husband and I were able to sneak in 5 days at Martha’s Vineyard, as our trip coincided with my brother and sister-in-law’s annual week on the Vineyard. It was so wonderful to spend time with my family in such a relaxed atmosphere, something we haven’t done in such a long time. Lots of beach time, reading (oh, reading…how I’ve missed you!), long walks, fresh seafood, shopping, and ice cream. And laughter. Always lots of laughter when I’m with the family and for that I’m grateful.

Beautiful day at Gayhead with the family

Beautiful day at Gayhead with the family

The second half of the trip found me back in my hometown. I had a surprise session from a regular client who needed ISDN and after putting it out there on a VO group I belong to on FB, I was supremely hooked up by delightful VO Liz de Nesnera who welcomed me into her lovely country home in the middle of nowhere, unreservedly, for a quick ISDN session. (Proving once again that voiceover folks are the kindest and coolest folks in the world)! A big shout out to Melissa Exelberth, too, for connecting us!

With Liz de Nesnera at her gorgeous home studio

With Liz de Nesnera at her gorgeous home studio

Soon it was time for the wedding. The rehearsal was held the night before at my friend’s mom’s house in her backyard, where the wedding would be. The wedding itself was the next day. The weather couldn’t have been better: sunny skies, not too hot, not too cold, a perfect early summer day in New York. The ceremony was heartfelt and touching; the reception was all about delicious food, beautiful speeches and lots and lots of getting down on the dance floor. A wedding just like any other. Hearts were full, both families in so much joy to see these two people join each others families and become one.

 There was just one tiny difference between this and every other wedding I’ve been to. It was a same sex wedding. Julie and Eva were the lovely bride and bride. Everything else was exactly the same. Happy families, beautiful people, joy and love.

The Newlyweds

The Newlyweds

 

It got me thinking and I haven’t been able to put it from my mind (hence this post!). How can anyone be against this?? I just don’t get it. Of all the things in this world to be against – how could anyone be against this? AGAINST LOVE? Against joy and happiness and delight? Against families? I kept thinking if all those who are against “gay marriage” could be here at this celebration right now, they would change their minds – they would have to. They would see that love is love is love and there is absolutely nothing wrong with love in any of it’s myriad forms. It’s the very thing that heals the world.

It is maddening to think that if Eva and Julie lived in one of the 31 states where same sex marriage is illegal, this day would not have been allowed to happen. It wouldn’t be recognized or honored under the law. What?  What about all the other people in those states? It is cruel, it is unfair, it is DISCRIMINATION and that’s what needs to be illegal. Isn’t it supposed to be?

It’s the civil rights issue of our time. I’m probably preaching to the choir; chances are most of my readers agree with me whole heartedly. Most people in the country do, I suspect. In fact, I firmly believe that soon it will be legal across all states. But that tiny minority is so loud. We need to be, too. We must demand it. All our brothers and sisters deserve basic human rights and those rights include equality and the pursuit of happiness.

Eva and Julie, I was so honored to be a part of your celebration and I don’t mean to turn it political! But unfortunately we know it is still political. EVERYONE deserves to love and be loved out loud. And everyone deserves the same protection, rights and privileges under the law.

Deyan Institute

Posted on June 19, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments

JMoretellaro_class

Many of you know that over the past few months I’ve been honored to be involved with the launch of Deyan Institute. For those unfamiliar, the Deyan Institute is a brand new School for Voice Artistry and Technology in Northridge, CA – teaching audiobook narration and voice over, as well as production classes and classes for authors looking to publish and/or read their work. To read more about the Institute, it’s mission and and how it came about, there are tons of great articles out there! Try this one written up by Publishers Weekly or this one from Audiofile Magazine.

My involvement in the Institute grows out of my love for it’s founders Bob and Debra Deyan. I first met Bob and Deb through audiobooks several years ago. They cast me in my first commercial title. They were so kind to me and my newbie friends, welcoming us into the audiobook community with open arms.  Our professional relationship quickly blossomed into a beautiful friendship.

Last year, tragically, Bob was diagnosed with ALS. He had always had a dream of creating a school, so Debra set out to fulfill that dream for him in his lifetime. This Spring the Institute was launched. Contributing in some way was so important to me. They have given so much to others; I wanted to give back in any way that I could. After some serious brainstorming, we came up with the idea for the VO Pro Series, a professional development series for working voice actors.

It’s pretty awesome; we’ve been having a lot of fun! This picture is from our first class, with Video Game Director and Casting Director Jamie Mortellaro. You can read more about the VO Pro Series and my “take” on it here.

A word about the requirements: The qualifications for participation state that you must be a working voice actor for at least two years, and have agent representation. This is for everyone’s protection. You don’t want to see these high profile decision makers unless you’re ready! We also want to keep the level of the class advanced, so everyone’s on the same page and things run smoothly.  On the other other hand, I’ve realized that you might actually be ready, but don’t happen to have an agent at the moment, or perhaps you’ve been an on-camera actor or audiobook narrator for years, but haven’t been working in voiceover  for two years. If you’re interested in attending one or some of the sessions, please feel free to contact me and we’ll talk it through. Exceptions can (and have) been made on a case by case basis!

I’m also happy to announce I’ll be a guest contributor to the brand new Deyan Institute blog on a monthly basis. You can read my latest post for them here: employing strategy in your career. I might re-post it later on my blog, but why not visit the Deyan site and check it out? There’s also some other great posts on there, and it will be building steadily in the coming months.

Thanks guys and hope to see you all at the Institute, online or on the circuit!

PS…Don’t forget to check out ALL the wonderful classes at Deyan Institute!

Summer Shorts ’14

Posted on June 8, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments
Artwork designed by my husband! http://fpowerink.com/

Artwork designed by my husband! http://fpowerink.com/

June is “Audiobook Month” (#audiomonth), a month to celebrate the art form and for those of us in the industry, an opportunity to give back. To that end, I’m happy to be involved again this year with the Spoken Freely Summer Shorts project to benefit Pro Literacy, a natonal outreach and literacy organization! Over 40 top notch narrators have joined in and donated their voices to the cause.

Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and/or essays will be released online each day  via Going Public and on other author/blogger sites. As a “thank you” to all listeners, the pieces are available to listen to for free on the day of release, and subsequently available for purchase as a donation to benefit ProLiteracy.  As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Audio,  20 additional tracks are included. You can find the full release schedule on Going Public Blog

My piece, released today, along with an interview, is hosted by author M.V. Freeman. We  had a blast talking getting to know each other, discussing audiobooks, Rumi, yoga and lots other things we have in common. Click here to check it out! And consider buying the full collection from Tantor Media here. It’s only $9.99 and it’s for a great cause! You will be amazed at the quality of the work contributed!

APAC 2014

Posted on June 5, 2014 by rfulginiti 4 Comments

I think I’m finally coming down from the hyper-stimulation of APAC 2014. So much activity and output packed into just a few short days!

For those who are unfamiliar, APAC (Audio Publishers Association Conference) is an annual event held in NYC. Basically everyone in the audiobook industry (producers, directors, publishers and narrators) attends at least some portion of the events, which are spread out over a few days in late May. The conference itself is only one day, but there’s also a mixer the evening before and the Audies Gala (the Oscars of audiobooks) is held the day after. This all happens in conjunction with BEA (Book Expo of America), so many people attend that as well.

If you’re serious about a career in audiobooks, joining the APA (Audio Publishers Association) is important.  It provides legitimacy and keeps you in the loop. Membership entitles you to a discount for attending APAC as well as an opportunity to participate in special bonuses, like “Director Diagnostics”, a unique opportunity to meet and read with a producer or veteran narrator, offered to people who sign up first for the conference.  The APA also sponsors events throughout the year such as mixers and webinars. For information on joining go to http://audiopub.org/

I thought it might be helpful for those of you considering attending next year (or those who are just curious!) to relay my experience of APAC 2014.

Here’s a breakdown of my four madcap days.

Tuesday May 27th: Arrived in the city in the late afternoon. I actually flew out on a red eye on Saturday night and went upstate to see my family for a few days before coming to the Big Apple. Once I checked into my hotel I grabbed a bite and then realized I was already running late for the mixer (whoops!). For some reason it seems to start very early every year (5:30pm) so be ready for that and plan accordingly. Many people I know from the West Coast miss it because they’re only just getting in at that time. This year I thought I had it down, but I still only caught the last hour… maybe next year I’ll get it right! After the mixer I went out to Queens to see a childhood friend. Lovely to see her but another mistake! I didn’t get back into Manhattan until 2 am…I won’t do that again! APAC is a very LONG and fun but exhausting day; you need to be fresh. Word to the Wise: lay low the night before!

Back on the streets of NY...on my way to the pre-APAC mixer.

Back on the streets of NY…on my way to the pre-APAC mixer.

Wednesday May 28th: Woke up feeling refreshed after 3 hours of sleep (ha) and headed to the Javitz Center. My Director Diagnostic appointment was at 8:30am. I arrived fifteen minutes early, checked in and put my game face on. Had a lovely session with Steve Smith from Oasis Publishing.  Ten minutes later the conference started with an interesting presentation on the state of the industry, followed by a motivational keynote address from Alan Iny.

The day continued with panels on topics such as using social media for promotion, home studio setup and workflow, and publishing opportunities for narrators. Built in throughout the day are networking breaks. These little breaks between sessions are invaluable for connecting with the people you came to see!

The day ends with a cocktail hour, this year sponsored by my good friends Deyan Audio.  The cocktail hour is another great opportunity to find the people you might have missed throughout the day and talk to them!

After the conference I met up with my cousin and my niece to catch a Broadway play, always a priority for me when I’m in NYC. This year we saw Bullets over Broadway.  I enjoyed it but it didn’t knock my socks off…I wish we had gone to see All the Way with Bryan Cranston! After the play we ended up at Café Un Deux Trois, home of my very first waitressing job. The place was exactly the same! It brought me right back to being a brand new actress in New York City.

Me and my niece Christine at Cafe Un Deux Trois, NYC.

Me and my niece Christine at Cafe Un Deux Trois, NYC.

Thursday May 29th:  I happened to book a job while I was away, so the morning was spent scrambling to find an ISDN studio that we could book on the fly.  Thank goodness for social media! I put a request on Facebook and a bunch of people made recommendations. Two different friends suggested Lotas Productions, which is where I ended up. They were absolutely great; I now have my go-to studio when I’m in NY!

After lunch with a friend, I attended a SAG-AFTRA audiobook meeting. The union has been very active in reforming the audiobook industry over the past several years. I attend meetings regularly in LA, but it was so cool to be with narrators from all over the country for this one!

That night I made a game-time decision to attend the Audies (yes, I just happened to have an evening gown in my suitcase!). I’m so happy I went! Although it’s an expensive evening (tickets are $400!), it was worth every penny. The Audies are a lavish affair and it’s wonderful to be in such a relaxed and celebratory non-work environment with the most talented people in the business. Each year it’s hosted by someone fabulous and this year was no exception, with Libba Bray at the helm, who was just fantastic.

At the Audies...with colleagues Amy Rubinate, Coleen Marlow, Dion Graham, Xe Sands and Robin Eller.

At the Audies…with colleagues Amy Rubinate, Coleen Marlow, Dion Graham, Xe Sands and Robin Eller.

Friday May 30th: Checked out of my hotel and had coffee with a girlfriend, then went to a Narrator/Blogger Lunch. This was a private event, not an official APA activity. I’m so grateful to have been invited. Connecting with bloggers is invaluable. They are such supporters of the industry, really helping to promote books and the people who read them! I only wish I had more time to connect with and get to know all of the interesting people who were there!

After lunch I went back to my hotel, picked up my bags and cabbed it to JFK, another APAC notch on my belt. This was my third time attending and I have to say it was my best year yet. If you’re considering it for 2015…do it! You will learn a lot, expand your network, meet tons of new friends…and be exhausted when you return!

Celebrating with Robin Eller and Audie Winner Robin Miles

Celebrating with Robin Eller and Audie Winner Robin Miles

Listen to my scratch

Posted on May 14, 2014 by rfulginiti

trendIt’s happening more and more all the time. I book a job from my home studio. They forward me a script with an mp3 and a short note: “Use this to capture the tone”. Rather than getting actual direction on a piece, I get a scratch track of the director, writer or producer doing the voiceover.

I think this stems from a combination of inexperienced folks with no real acting or directing history finding themselves in an unfamiliar position and the ease of self recording these days. They don’t really know how to talk to actors and it’s so simple for people to record themselves these days, that they just do that. Sometimes this can be helpful, for instance to get an idea of the pacing, or if the subject matter is something highly specialized or technical that I know nothing about. But most of the time, at least as far as tone or attitude is concerned, it’s pretty unhelpful. Not to mention a tiny bit insulting, although I know they don’t mean it to be. They really don’t know that I’m probably not going to be able to glean what they’re going for by listening to them do it, as they’re not professional VO’s. For a trained actor, it’s much more helpful to receive actual direction.

So how do you handle this? Well, you can either: A) Get mad and do it your own way. B) Try to be a mind reader. I used to try this a lot and sometimes it works…but other times, not at all! I would try a take based on what I thought they wanted and then wait for feedback…and then do it again. But that wastes everyone’s time and energy. So I’ve learned it’s actually helpful to choose C) Ask/clarify!

A way I like to do this is to say something like “Ok, what I’m hearing is that you’re looking for …” and try to put into words what I think I’m hearing. This isn’t always easy, but it’s more polite than saying flat out: I have no idea what you’re talking about… Of course sometimes, this is the case and there’s really nothing to grab onto at all…but I can still put it delicately: “I’m not sure I’m understanding what you want me to go for here? Can you try to use some descriptive words? Do you want it sound upbeat and friendly? Serious and authoritative?  I also try to ask questions like: Who are you trying to reach with this piece? What are you trying to communicate/get across in this video? What is the attitude you’re looking for?

Sometimes, they still can’t really put it into words, but at least by clarifying up front, you have a place to start and something specific to refer back to…

I’m so curious, fellow voice actors: has this been coming up for you more and more? How do you handle these situations?

Slating

Posted on April 4, 2014 by rfulginiti

hi-my-name-is

Ahhh, the slate. It’s a part of every VO’s daily world. For most auditions, they’re required. For those unfamiliar with the term, a slate is when you say your name at the beginning of the audition to identify yourself.

People slate in different ways. Some just say their name: “Rachel Fuginiti”. This is what I do, as I’ve heard from most casting directors and producers that it’s their preference. Some will say “Hi, my name is…” or  “This is…” If I’m in a group audition situation, I usually take my cue from the other actor, if they slate first. I match the format of however they did it, which I think lends a sense of cohesiveness and unity. It also ensures I’m listening!

There’s nothing wrong with a short introduction as long as it doesn’t go overboard. “Hi there, this is Rachel Fulginiti, reading for the part of x and I’m very happy to be doing this audition… My dog’s name is…”

I’m being funny but seriously sometimes an actor can go overboard. Some people feel absolutely compelled to add something unique to their slate, believing that it will grab the listener’s attention or make them stand out. This might be true but it can also backfire. It’s important to remember that they will be listening to dozens (or more likely, 100’s!) of auditions. You don’t want to waste their time by adding ten seconds of intro. They just might skip over your audition altogether and move on to the next one. Keep it short and to the point. Get to the audition, which is what they really want to hear.

Some people slate full out in character and I think that can be useful sometimes, especially for video games and animation. Of course others will disagree, saying that it’s good for them to hear a contrast between you and the character, to see what else you’re capable of and to make your acting stand out. I’ve thought about it a lot and I honestly go back and forth on this one. In the end, I think a friendly, approachable, natural sounding slate works every time, regardless of genre or project.

One thing that used to really throw me was transitioning from the slate into the actual audition. I felt like I had to launch right into the copy after saying my name, and often times that didn’t give me a chance to get where I “needed to be” for the audition. I started allowing myself a small pause after slating, to collect myself and drop in. It’s a really small space, a “beat” if you will, but it allows me to remember my intention and what I’m wanting to do.

Another way to approach this, or a good adjunct, is to be prepared before you even say your name, so when you slate, it’s as if it’s already a piece of the copy. I like this and for that reason I always make sure to slate in the general tone, mood or flavor of the piece. Firstly, it puts me where I need to be and secondly, it sets up the audition for the listener. If I have a disconnected, lackluster or unfriendly slate, it can turn people off right away, before you’ve even gone into the copy. Remember, the slate is the first thing they hear, so it’s either an opportunity to start winning them over, or a chance to turn them off.

When doing auditions from home, I will often slate three times in a row to give myself a choice. It’s interesting to listen back. For some reason, I notice time and time again that the first one almost always comes off as disconnected or even slightly tentative, held back or guarded – it’s really subtle but I can hear it. It seems like I warm up or come alive in the second and third take. More often than not the second one is the winner, as it still has freshness and spontaneity, but sounds more focused, present and friendly – without being overdone or sounding rehearsed.

It’s always weird to hear that first one – why does it sound like that? Why am I doing that? But it’s not really a matter of why, it’s a matter of knowing that’s what I do and working with it.

If  I remember to consciously connect before opening my mouth, I can usually get a good slate the first time around – which is important when auditioning at outside studios or in my agents office. I’m not going to ask them to choose the best of three slates. They just don’t have that kind of time, and would probably think I’m crazy (or a neurotic actor) anyway. But to me there is a subtle difference that does matter in such an incredibly competitive field.

While seemingly innocuous, the slate is a crucial part of your audition. How do you approach slating? Have you thought about this subject as much as I have?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you liked this post or found it helpful, please share it…and if you haven’t, be sure to sign up for my blog at the top of this page.