I wrote this past weekend about a note I had sent to Bonnie Gillespie, responding to her column about how sometimes bad news is really good news on hold. Bonnie writes a weekly column for Showfax.com called The Actors Voice. Bonnie is a casting director in Southern California and much of the time what she writes is specifically for actors living and working there in the film and television industry that’s centered in that part of the country. But, a great many of her comments apply to us in the voiceover world too.
Now, candidly, this post was sparked in large part because Bonnie provided a very nice comment and link pointing to this blog in the comments section (called Your Turn) at the bottom of today’s post. But, even if she hadn’t done so, I was going to write again about her column because as I’ve read through a good bit of her column archives, I’ve been hit between the eyes again and again. These are really valuable, and more importantly actionionable, suggestions and insights.
I’d like to offer you just one example, also linked from her comments section today. Read this column from earlier this year. When you’re done, come back here, OK?
Back? Good. Now, did you see how Bonnie drove her point home with the anecdotes about the two letters? One actor isn’t experiencing much success and the other is. The key difference? They both think they’re open to learn, but in truth, only one is. The secondary point? When we invest ourselves in others, we inevitably enrich ourselves in the process…and I don’t mean financially, or at least not just financially.
As I’ve written multiple times, and to further illustrate this second point, this is why there are links to other male voice-over artists here. In fact, if you count, there are more links to men than to women. And some of those links go to guys with voices that are pretty similar to mine. Guys who might be taking work away from me. Except, you see, they’re not. Everyone’s voice is distinct. When mine is exactly the right voice for the job, and I’m known to the people doing the casting, I get the job. Regardless of how many links I provide to other guys. And of course, if my voice isn’t right, I don’t. (And of course, if I’m not known to the people doing the casting, that’s my fault, not theirs.)
But, back to the primary point, about truly being open to learn. This means more than giving lip-service to learning. It means more than spending time and money taking classes, reading books, working on demos, etc. It means actually listening. It means living the conviction that there’s always something valuable to learn from any and every circumstance.
To further illustrate, I’ve attended The International Radio Creative and Production Summit every year since 1997. I vividly remember only two sessions that were not well liked by my fellow attendees.
One was a session on creating promos by Bobby Ocean, a session called Advanced Cat-Skinning. Bobby revealed some very specific techniques and ideas that he uses when he’s working on a station promo in this session. He did so while building a promo before our very ears (and eyes, since we were all in the conference room with him) and I think a lot of folks didn’t understand that he was showing us how he goes about solving challenges. It wasn’t about that specific promo, it was about the principles he was teaching us.
The second session was by Joe Sugarman, one of the most successful direct marketers in history. How successful? He lives in a custom home on Maui. During his session, he spoke about many of the techniques he had learned in 30 years of direct marketing about adapting and focusing the copy in his ads to make them more and more successful. Then, in the middle of his session, he demonstrated the very process about which he was talking, by selling us some of his products. That is, he refined his pitch, his offer, and his language as he was offering to us a chance to buy some of his books. As I watched this unfold, I could hear a kind of angry murmur start up among some of those around me, people taking offense at being pitched to buy some books in the middle of this guy’s presentation. What did I think? I thought, here’s a guy willing to sell me a significant part of his hard earned knowledge about how to write advertising copy more effectively, and he’s come down to $100.00. Are you kidding? I got out my checkbook and paid for the books on the spot. It was the cheapest price I’ve ever paid for such valuable information. (And, by the way, much of Joe’s wisdom is distilled in his book Triggers, available for much less than $100.00.)
Look, I’m not perfect at this either; but if we’re paying attention, the opportunities to learn, to grown, to become much more successful than we are, they’re all around us. They’re happening every day. And one of those opportunities is sitting right here on the Internet in the archives of The Actors Voice. Happy reading. (updated to correct verb/subject mismatch)
And Bonnie, thank you again for your kindness.