JV: It sounds like the laws of supply and demand at work.
Terri: Well, I guess so. Maybe that’s part of what’s happening. Back when we had the strike, I got very lucky and was doing tons of promos, and I’ve done promos for years. I was doing Fox Family during that time, so I didn’t really feel the hit. Even buddies of mine that were making a lot of money were like, “Oh my god,” and I was like, “I don’t get what you’re talking about. I’m doing great.” But it did hit you at different times, and I do think that maybe that is what’s occurring, because there’s all these small agents across the country now, and there’s all these smaller houses.
I wonder if we’re not in a way knocking out the union. I haven’t spoken to my agent about it, but I know there are three or four big companies that are going nonunion. But for the most part, there are still those big, national jobs. The money has always been in the national network marketplace. The money’s always been in networks, period, just doing the promos for networks.
I do a couple of shows for E!. They’re all buyout. When I was doing Fox Family, or Fox Sports, or ABC, when you do a show for the networks, you’re making money every time it goes.
JV: Your website also mentions a video you’re doing.
Terri: I do have a video. It’s in post right now: “How to Make Money in Voiceovers.” It’ll show you how to actually stand in front of the mike, and work with other actors, and be able to visually see all the concepts of the voiceover business, and how somebody breaks down a script, what they go through. So the video is probably an hour and a half, two hours of everything you want to know about breaking into the business as well. I play some demos and just give you a different option if you really just want to sit and watch it. And it’s not the same thing as the audio. They’re all different. I have so much information. I just thought I’d offer something entertaining, and very informative, and a different option for you to be able to use — “Oh, okay. I get it. Now I can actually see how somebody stands in front of the mike.” Not that somebody’s that naïve, but it shows different mike techniques, and tools, and the recording situation. I have quite a few interviews on there as well. I interview a very big sound guy at a studio in LA, and we talk a lot about sessions. I bring in some actors and show the auditioning process, the actual voiceover session, things like that. It’s going to be very cool. I guess no one’s ever done it before. I thought about that a year ago, and I just couldn’t get around to doing it, but it’s going to be available soon. We’re in the final cut with it, and I’ll probably have it up in about a month and a half.
JV: You have a chapter in the book titled, “Finding Your Technique.” Elaborate on this.
Terri: It’s about finding your signature sound, finding really what it is you do best. At the end of the day, you really are just selling you, and I hate to say that because that really is leaving out so many elements that I talk about in understanding the nuances of reads, and understanding how to audition. But really, we all have our signature sound. I do my thing. What’s my thing? Well, I don’t know. Even when it says, “Do your thing,” I go, “Which thing are you looking for? You want the no BS, matter of fact? You want the young mom? You want the energetic and fun?” So you have to understand what your signature sound is, what it is you do.
Now, I find it very interesting to get to that. Somebody says, “Well, I don’t know what the heck I sound like.” It’s not a matter of listening to yourself on an answering machine. Voiceovers are about mood, point of view mood. So as a person, if you want to know what you sound like, you have to understand which particular mood you are referring to. When you’re sitting in a bath enjoying a glass of wine, or lighting candles, or talking to somebody on the phone, aggravated, your vocal quality comes across differently. Some voiceover actors think that it’s about the voice only, when the voice is the last thing I’m thinking about when I’m doing a voiceover. The voice is the icing on the cake. It’s the mood that goes inside of it. So you have to understand which mood you’re referring to, and if you want to get to know your signature sound, well, lay down three adjectives that people use to describe you. Warm, authoritative, trusting – that’s what you represent to the world. Playful, fun, sardonic — that’s what you represent to the world.
Now within that, you have five million moods, depending on if you got a ticket on your car or you are feeling madly in love that particular day. You have to understand, when you’re in doing an audition, you have to make active choices. You have to really be in that character, especially in radio spots. TV’s a little bit different. TV is one mood. You carry it through. You’re hip, cool. You’re warm, authoritative. Now the reason why in the book I talk about creating your technique and your signature sound is that you want to get to know what you do really well, and you want to be able to recreate that for a lot of different spots, because maybe you’re going to sell Dove one day, and maybe you’re going to sell a Toyota truck the next.
Even if a guy’s got a really tough, hard sounding voice with a bit of an edge, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to want him to sell cancer treatment, or to talk about a hospital. And what you have to understand is that’s where the specs come in. It’s the nuance of, “Well, I just have this cool, hip voice,” but they’re asking for hip, cool, and understanding. So you’ve gotta understand the element as an actor — even if you have this really hip, cool, tough voice — where understanding comes into that. So you recreate it in your head, “Well, when I’m talking to my grandmother, I’m understanding,” and then you recreate that for the read. Otherwise, you’re missing that element of understanding, and I’ll tell you, with all the actors out there today, with all the auditioning going on, they’re in and out listening in the first three seconds if your energy is not at the top of the read. That doesn’t mean push the read. That means matching the specs and hitting what they’re looking for. The reason why you go beyond your signature sound and what your particular technique is, is so you can get handed all the other scripts by the agent. Otherwise you’re going to walk into your agency or whatever you get to audition with, and it’s always going to be the same script: hip, cool guy. You want to be able to open your range so you can hopefully book a lot more jobs than just that.