Mike Shepherd, a talented voiceover guy with years of experience, sent me a very kind note yesterday. Since he had some questions about updating his demo that I thought might be useful to you, I asked his permission to quote him here and he has kindly granted it. These were the thoughts and questions…
I have procrastinated on a new demo for far too long…. call it complacency or just sheer laziness, but the time is far overdue for updating and I’m just wondering if you any recommendation on a good candidate to consider as a Director to help me do some serious re-construction/rebuild of my existing demos. I tend to be partial to someone who is a working performer who’s accustomed to advising experienced/established talents such as myself (vs., say, the studios on the Coasts that tend to cater to the newbie VOs). If you have any people who’ve served you well in the role of demo producer…I’d welcome your thoughts.
One of my biggest hangups in approaching this, is that I have archived virtually everything I’ve produced out of my own studio and when I look at the prospect of demo updates, a “daunting feeling” overtakes me! There’s a part of me that wants to consider “actual production” that I’ve done — as potential demo material… in addition to any new material I might cut specifically for a New Demo….
The amount of stuff I have is huge…and unfortunately I was never as disciplined as others insofar as trying to keep a sort of ‘catalog’ of particular work that may at the time have struck me as especially good and worthy of future demo consideration.
I learned long ago that I’m far too close to my own stuff to be objective about picking and choosing the “right” cuts for my own demos… That said, I really value being able to work with someone who has the the directing ability to truly bring out the very best in a talent…and a track record of building proven successful demos that reflect it.
Mike’s situation is similar to lots of folks currently working in the voiceover world. It’s very easy to let a couple, even several, years go by without re-working our demos. And like a lot of us, he’s archived a bunch of work without setting aside material that might work well for future demo updates. (I’ve actually only started doing some flagging and collecting of potential demo update material in the last year.)
So, here were my suggestions for Mike. Hopefully they’ll be of some value for you as well.
Regardless of how poorly organized your archives are, spend some time listening back to several spots and pieces of narrations every day for the next few weeks. As you do set aside or copy all of the tasty pieces you find (not the edited bits, the whole piece) as you find them. At the end of a month you’ll have a big pile of good to great material in probably several categories. Commercials. Promos. Narrations. And at least a few others, depending on how specific you want to get.
More than likely you’ll have enough real material that you won’t have to make up anything, or if you do, it will be minimal. To cover that option, as you get toward the end of that month, start looking for copy you can use to cover those holes in your material. Magazines. Current TV or Radio ads. You’ll know what you need so you’ll recognize it when you see or hear it. The point here isn’t to try to listen to everything, just some of what you have. And you won’t start until and unless you do.
Then, talk with one or both of these two friends of mine, both working professionals and both of whom have been working with demos for a while: Ben Wilson and Dan Nachtrab. I’ve listened to the demo work both of them have done and I think it’s really good stuff.
The reason I’m recommending that you use only or almost only real stuff that you’ve done is because I think it makes a difference that’s subtle, but genuine. As you no doubt remember, years ago a demo was essentially an audio resume. Using real stuff is going to raise your credibility for those who can tell. And it won’t matter for those who can’t. Either way, assuming that you’ve done good work over the years, you’ll have a ton of usable material.
Thanks for reading. If you find any of these thoughts or ideas useful, leave a comment. I’d love to read your thoughts on the subject.