JV: Tell us about your first book? What made you decide to do that?
Terri: This was back in 1996 or ’97. I think the book came out in ‘98 or ‘99. I was in Europe, and I said to my friend, “I think I’ll do a voiceover book because I get so many phone calls about how to break into this business.” The only book at the time had been Sue Blu’s Word of Mouth, which is an excellent book. I found it in Kansas City when I was maybe eighteen or nineteen, and found it extremely helpful. There hadn’t been anything like it — “Wow. Okay, I get it now. A lot of celebrities do these, and this is an actor’s medium, and here’s how they actually go in and do the job.” I really found it helpful.

But it was missing a lot of the nuances of how to market yourself in commercials and that kind of world, because Sue still does animation. She’s director on Stuart Little, and she’s done five million things. At any rate, her book had been quite old at that point and I said, “Somebody needs to write a book,” and I said to my friend, “I think I’ll go back to LA and write a book.” I have a writing background, so that’s what I did. I got so many phone calls a day, I said, “Oh my God, I can just refer people to my book and say, ‘That’s why I wrote the book!’” That’s the simple story. So I basically got back home, wrote the book and put everything in there that I would want to know if I was starting out in this business. I packed it with everything you’d want to know.

JV: And you’re about to release the second edition of this book. Tell us about this new one?
Terri: The second edition is going to be awesome. I am very proud of this one. Lone Eagle, which was the publishing house in LA, got purchased by VNU, which is a very large house in New York City — we already had national distribution; the book already apparently was number one in its field and was also the number one book for Lone Eagle. It is about to be released, and it comes with an audio tutorial. It’s not an audio book. I’m working on that separately, which I’ll finish and sell on my website. The audio tutorial includes these 101’s of voiceover, these little exercises that I do that I’ve created over my career. Basically, in this business, I think a lot of people just try to wing it. Most people that have been in the business for the number of years that I have, or even longer, basically look at this business the same way. Even if they’re doing their own thing, they’re still coming from a POV (point of view) or a mood, which is the most important aspect.

It not only has everything from the first edition, but it’s more current. I have a lot of interviews in there. I interview Stuart from Voicebank. I do an interview with Jeff Danis, who is really the biggest agent in Los Angeles, Erik Seastrand, who’s an agent at William Morris in LA.

I also wanted to make the book something not only enjoyable as you read — so it isn’t a heavy tech book — but also give you the guidelines. I’m very straightforward with things, and I really wanted to make it something comfortable to read.

And nowadays you certainly can be living in Michigan and have a career. You can be in Texas with Voicebank and all the new technology. People have agents all over the country. I have a friend that has twenty agents. I said to her, “You’ve got to be kidding.” She has twenty agents across the country. She has her own little recording studio in the back, where I teach out of sometimes. And it’s not just a little ISDN hookup; she’s got that in her house. She has a full recording studio in the back, which is called The Garage 247.

JV: Twenty agents! Sounds like the business of getting an agent has changed considerably over the years as well.
Terri: I think it used to be that everybody’s goal was to get with the hottest agent in town, and you have to realize that’s really not the way to do it. People will say, “Oh, I just want to do a hot demo.” I’ll say, “So once you spend $1,500 or $2,000 on a hot demo before you can even act or before you know how to recreate that mood, what are you going to do when they say, ‘Hey, Steve, I love what you did on Toyota,’ and you can’t go back and recreate it because you don’t know the mood?” You’re stuck with a product. And the chances of them taking you on are highly unlikely unless they know you or have heard your spots on the air. We’re talking about the big agencies. Your chances are slim to none. And I’m not negative; I’m very realistic. I mean, more power to a new talent. Advertising agencies are always looking for new people. It’s the reason why I am very encouraging to people in the business, because it is that type of business. But the goal should not be to get with the hottest agencies in town, because they’re just sitting there, never getting called in to read. They have to understand that this agent isn’t going to send you in on every single voiceover audition. They’re mixing it up a little with two or three other voiceover actors. The goal shouldn’t be to just put that awesome demo together, and sit around and try to get in with an agent. The goal should be to learn how to read, understand, and create the jobs for yourself, and then get with a great little agent that has Voicebank in your particular town, or even if it’s New York or LA, there’s still twenty or so awesome agencies out here that aren’t just the top agencies in town.

And now what has happened with the agencies is there are agencies all over the country taking on talent regardless whether you live in that particular state. Another thing to realize is that nowadays, with Voicebank, agents have gotten lazy. They don’t pick up the phone and make a phone call anymore. Nobody talks directly with the agents. They basically just go to Voicebank, and all the castings come through Voicebank now. So if you’re with a little piddly agency in Omaha, as long as they’re on Voicebank, you’re getting most of the same auditions as the other guy, if you get invited onto this stuff, if you’re a signator and you’re union.

JV: What’s the story with union versus nonunion these days?
Terri: Well let me tell you something interesting. I started this management company about nine months ago because I thought that I would give actors an opportunity that they were not getting with the big agencies or the big houses. I really wasn’t starting it for people across the country. It was more for local, LA talent, but I have branched out to some other people. What I have found is that usually they’re filled with union jobs just like everybody else across the country. But I have found in the last couple of days that things are changing. Like Petco has now gone nonunion, which I had no idea of. I knew Six Flags was, but Petco…. Let me tell you what’s happened. I cannot believe this. I can’t even send this out to my talent to audition for. Petco is casting three national commercials. I thought I read it wrong. The pay is $400 buyout for three national commercials, length of run, undetermined. I am so insulted. I wrote back to the producer and said, “I just want to make sure I’m reading this right….” I didn’t want to be rude; I just said, “It’s gotta be a misprint!” I booked a gal on some Six Flags stuff, and every single time she works and goes in and does a session, it’s $400. I guess what’s happening is some of these larger companies don’t want to spend the money, and they’re realizing they can get some awesome talent that’s nonunion for much cheaper because that same union job would cost a lot more. If I had that Petco running, I could make $50,000 off that, or more. And it’s insulting to me, not only as a union talent but as a respected talent, to think that they think they’re going to get some actor to go in there and knock it out for them in an hour and pay $400, and play it ten times a day. I won’t even let my people audition for that. I think it’s crazy.

So most of the stuff that does come through via Voicebank or whatever, is a lot of what we call special projects — that could be an industrial, that could be for a lot of web work now. There’s even affiliate work across the country. For example, a guy or gal wants to get into the affiliate market, which is channel seven in your market — NBC, or whatever it is — they gotta know how to chase that work, and I know how to go do that. Long story short, they can sit in their own little home studio with a microphone and that little Zephyr they can put on their computer, or not even the whole ISDN hookup, and they can do daily affiliate work and get a couple of these radio station and TV stations and make $100, $200 a day, but you got to know how to chase it, and you got to know how to get it.

I’m not an advocate of going out and taking these cheap jobs – especially like this Petco job for a hundred dollars. I don’t care what it leads to, you still have to have some self respect, and you’ve gotta move up into the business. It doesn’t mean don’t take a nonunion job here or there if you’re not union.