Sunday, 31 March 2013

It's time for a makeover

Well, my short time in the USA was a real education, and I have many stories to tell. Given that I want to keep you coming back for more I won't blow them all in this one blog.

I can tell you that I got to walk the halls of greatness that are Disney Animation Studios, where one of my favourite shows - Phineas and Ferb is created. I'll tell you all about that soon, but first, a news update.

It's time for this voice over artist to get a makeover. Having come back with a brand new demo we all agreed that it was time for a new look, so I'm delighted to say that I have recruited the skills of a graphics designer, web builder and brand new SEO specialist to really bolster my presence on line.

Work is already underway, but for now we'll keep the site just as it is, but do please keep popping back because new content is being added all of the time.

Short and sweet, because it's Easter and we've just had a special tea for Felix to celebrate his fifth birthday, hence the house was filled to breaking point and I am still picking up bits of party popper from the carpet. Fun, but I am exhausted!

OK, so the Disney story later this week - stay tuned, or whatever it is in blog land.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Auditions are Everywhere

I recently visited Los Angeles to spend some time with my favourite voice over coach, Nancy Wolfson, and to record a brand new commercial demo which will feature on this site just as soon as production is complete.

It was a short trip, but so much fun. I flew in on Thursday, had a frantic day of activity on Friday and then returned home on Saturday. Granted, demos can be recorded remotely, and I did have the means, but I was in the mood for an adventure, so I had one.

Now I’ll be talking more about some of the fun that I had in future blogs, but for now I want to talk about the one thing that struck me immediately upon arrival, and that is American customer service.
Now I could talk about the welcome I received from the car rental place and the hotel receptionist, but what I want to focus on here are the waiters – particularly those in the trendier restaurants.

From start to finish, the entire experience of visiting their restaurant is a show. They’re brimming with enthusiasm. They want to tell you all about the specials of the day, even new cocktails that they’re offering for the first time, and they’ll check that you’re enjoying your experience on a regular basis.

It might all sound a bit much – like a bad visit to a UK TGI Fridays (I don’t suspect there’s a good visit), but I actually really liked it. I felt appreciated as a customer and what’s more, I was genuinely entertained by it.

It’s important to point out of course, that this is Hollywood, which means that a lot of waiters are hopeful actors – they don’t know who they are serving and just in case that person happens to be casting the next major blockbuster, it is in their interests to be at their best.

It got me thinking though, that this really should not be thought of as a bad thing. See, it really doesn’t matter who you are serving – they are all customers, and as such, deserve your best attention just as long as they are in your place of business. Maintain that mentality, and everyone will talk about your business and what a pleasure it is to work with you, and then we all know what happens don’t we? That’s right – even more customers.

Simple really, but every once in a while it deserves repeating.

Join me next time when I’ll tell you all about hanging out with the creators of my favourite cartoon – it’s a great story, I promise!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Voiceover Artists Like Twitter

If you’ve started following this blog and have wondered where I’ve been for the last week or two, thanks. No seriously, thanks very much for following me – it certainly doesn’t hurt my ego to know that the story of my life and the swirly mist of thoughts in my brain are of interest to people in the big wide world.

I’d love to write something for you every day, but with so many projects happening at once, it can often be difficult to find the time. More importantly, sometimes I just don’t feel that I’ve anything to offer you. I’m not one of those people that post every thought and feeling on Facebook or Twitter. Whenever I feel the urge to write something, I ask myself one very simple question – “Why would any sane person care?” Funny thing…. nine times out of ten they wouldn’t, so I step away from the keyboard and turn my attention elsewhere.

Today though, I do want to talk about social networking and how powerful it really is. In this story, the service in question was Twitter. I love Twitter. When it first came out, I, like many people, simply didn’t get it. Telling people what I was doing in 140 characters or less seemed pointless. I mean I didn’t use Facebook, so why what felt like a cut down version of it? How wrong I was….

Someone I follow posted a video of a great voice over coach by the name of Nancy Wolfson. I checked her out and decided that this was someone that could really help my career, so I contacted her and in no time signed up to a series of classes and seminars. In a very short space of time she has helped me hone my skills, altered my entire approach to voice over and even helped me secure the services of an agent in the US.

I am a good client for Nancy too, and I didn’t come by way of an advert, it was a recommendation from someone that I don’t even know. The voice over community thrives on Twitter and I love being a part of that, so please come and follow me @pauljrose

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The world of novelty ringtones

And so the website was born and, quite frankly, it was rubbish. To the web designers of old, I salute you. I am not a designer or a coder, my skills lie elsewhere, and if you're reading this blog then there's a pretty good chance that you know what they are.

But I was on line for the world to see, and then I decided it was a good idea to list myself on some directory sites. They were free so I figured why not? As it turns out, they turned out to be pretty useful.

A company that developed mobile phone ringtones were looking for someone to recreate dialogue from films and TV shows. Copyright rules meant that they could not use the originals, so they needed someone who could do as many impressions as possible.

The work was fun and fairly simple. I would listen to a clip and try my best to reproduce it, and I came up with a policy that I use in my business still today - if you don't feel the is good enough, you simply don't pay me for it.

Well many of them were good enough and there's a good chance that some of you reading this may well have downloaded me into your phones at some point. But there was more that we could do. We decided to think about what the characters would say if they were telling you to answer your phone or read your texts and this became a whole lot of fun. I was writing scripts, and my clients were always pleased that I had really captured the essence of what those famous characters might say if they were telling you to answer your phone.

Now I admit that my phone has no novelty tones in it, but it's always nice to hear a stranger's phone ring with one my tones, see a smile come to their face of people who hear the tone and know that I had a hand in that.

Eventually, these tones lead to the creation of The Voicemonkey and we will talk  about that in a future blog, although the link is there if you're the sort of person who reads the last page of a book way before you reach the end. I know I am.

Until next time.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Payment Terms and Why They're Wrong

And so for a brief interlude from the story of my life to share some thoughts with you. Have you noticed how a good number of blogs out there are nothing more than rants in written form? There’s nothing wrong with that – I mean you only have to look at some of my older posts to see that I use writing as a means to vent my frustrations without resorting to alcohol, violence or listening to anything by Morrissey. 

None the less, this week I feel like challenging the status quo, and I would love to get your thoughts on the subject. Why is it, in the corporate world, that the buyer gets to dictate the payment terms? 

Just so you understand what I mean, I have people who will ask me to do a job for them and then tell me that their terms are to pay in 60 days. Well how exactly is that fair? I’m the one who provided the service and my terms are substantially less than that!

It doesn’t work that way in other walks of life does it? I mean it’s not like you go into McDonalds and point out to the person behind the counter that you usually pay in restaurants after you’ve eaten the meal! They have a system in place and we – the customer  - need to work within that system.

So how have we let this happen? We’ve considered ourselves as smaller than the customer. If some mighty organization wants to pay us within 60 days then we should be grateful for their business and just accept it, right? WRONG! They have come to you because they want to use the service that you provide. They could probably find someone cheaper, faster, more local or with better terms but no, they’ve come to YOU – you and you alone have exactly what they are looking for. 

Now don’t get me wrong, as a small business I am genuinely thrilled at every enquiry I receive, so please keep them coming, and I am sure that we can agree on some payment terms that work for both of us.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Chapter One - Eric Cartman

The story begins in the small offices of a recruitment company in Harrow in the late 1990s. I received an unsolicited email, and back then receiving any email meant that you had truly arrived - in fact Spam was still thought of as a canned meat and the inspiration for a Monty Python song. If you don't know it, it goes "Spam spam spam spam..and so on". Actually, it might not be so SEO friendly to keep writing that word, so I'll stop. Back to the story and naturally, I opened the mail.

What was presented was a flash animation that someone had created. the whole thing must have been around 100k in memory, so I set it to download and went to put the kettle on. When I returned, there was an image of a fat little boy in a red top and a blue bobble hat who then broke into a very unflattering song about someone called Kyle's Mom. 

I thought it was quite funny, but also thought little more of it. I chuckled inwardly - it was an open plan office - and went on about my day. Months later and Channel 4 ran a trailer for a new cartoon series coming to Friday nights called  South Park and naturally, I recognised one of the characters straight away.

Friday nights were a gathering at my place back then. Good TV, mind altering cigarettes and Doritos were the order of the day. And so South Park began and the little fat boy in the blue hat started talking to his friends and without even blinking, I copied him, much to the delight and amazement of my friends.

Well this continued for a little while until someone asked me the question that was to change everything. "Who else can you do?" he asked. Well I had always played around with voices, in fact in my college play I portrayed 14 different characters, all with different regional accents, but I had never really thought about it. Voices were just something I had always done.

Turned out that I 'did' a lot of people, mostly cartoon characters, and it was suggested to me that I might be able to do something with that skill. So I recorded some voices and built a rather crude website. All graphics, little text, it's little wonder that no search engine ever found it, but back then the shed that housed Google had not yet even been built!

Well I put myself out there and waited. And waited. And waited some more. As for what happened next, well in the interests of turning this into a series, I'll leave that for next time.

Cartman continues to be one of my favourite voices to do. I don't remember who sent me that mail or why, but if you're reading this then I would like to thank you. That one, seemingly insignificant act changed the course of my life forever.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Let's start at the beginning

Several  months ago I decided to hire a group of SEO experts to help me get my site onto Page 1 of Google, along with all the other search engines which make up the remaining 4% global market share.

As they worked tirelessly to see just how many times I could use the term ‘voice over’ without looking like I was trying too hard (that word again was ‘voice over’, just in case you missed it), they noticed that I had not posted a blog in nearly a whole year.

This of course, was bad. At one point I was keen to share my thoughts on anything and everything that came my way. Soon enough however, I realized that these thoughts could be condensed into 140 characters and posted on Twitter, and when you’re raising two children, time does become somewhat of a luxury.

But blog I must, and so it is that I find myself rummaging around the deepest corners of my mind to see exactly what it is that I could share with you, all the while asking the most important question – why on earth should you care?

Well that’s up to you, but if it helps, I promise to keep these short, mildly informative and perhaps even less mildly entertaining. 

One question I get asked a lot (aside from ‘did you pick up the milk’) is how I got started as a voice artist. I’m usually asked this by people looking to enter the industry themselves, and I am happy to tell them, because I know that when I was first looking, I would ask experienced people how they got their start, and I’m forever grateful to those people for the time that they gave me.

So if you’re looking for inspiration, stay tuned – or subscribe to an RSS feed or however these things work. Go easy on me – if I understood all the technical ins and outs, I wouldn’t need to pay someone to do my SEO for me.

My story begins… the next blog.