Never Lose Touch With Friends
May 13, 2014
Recently I was having one of my typical frantic but under control work days, when I got a call from a client I coach. He wanted to know if I knew anything about going into voiceover work -- or VO for those who love initials. Like I tell people, "What I don't know a lot about, I do know those who do."
It was a weekday and I began reaching out to my go-to people in all things production and voiceover. I reached out to Hollywood Robert Rhodes, Ron Chavis, Eric Hollywood Davis, Shay Moore, Pat Garrett and Angelique Moore. For those of you know me and otherwise, I will text and call dozens of times within an hour whenever I need to talk to someone. I was not on a timetable, but I wanted to get information and get back with the client ASAP. Unfortunately, this was one of those days when no one was answering phones or texting back. Usually, no response means they are making money for a client in need of their vocal services for a project.
Hmmm, what to do? I just sat back in my office chair and started to think, who else did I know to reach out to? Then it hit me ... Roberta Solomon! Have you ever know someone you loved talking to and for some reason always put it off and all of a sudden months and years go by? I know I am not the only one who does this, but anyway, I quickly checked my iPhone for her cell number and hoped she hadn't changed it. Sure enough, she answered and our conversation went way beyond getting information about breaking into doing voiceover work.
Roberta: So what do I owe this pleasure and how come I have not heard from you in a while?
Coach: No excuses, I brag about you and the work you do all the time! Look, I need some information on voiceover stuff.
Roberta: How so?
Coach: Like how does it work, I have a client I coach who wants to get into the business to make some extra money. How did you do it? I remember the first time we met. You were on-air and Public Service Director for a Lite FM station and KMBZ.
Roberta: Almost right, Public Service Director for both and on the air at the Lite station.
But to answer your question, it was a natural progression; I was never fearful of moving forward. When you met me I was already doing freelance work while working at the station. Then one day I decided it was time for me to pursue it full-time because I was already making more money with voiceover work than what I was making working at the station. This is probably more than you needed to know, ha ha!
Coach: No, don't stop, we never talked about this before, plus I am sure a lot of what you say will help my client.
Roberta: Okay, well, I left radio and I was working out of a rented studio in my agent's office for a year before I put a studio in at my home. I had always wanted to do this work. I'm kind of A.D.D. That's why I Iove working on all the various projects. I never know from one week to the next what I will be working on.
I've always been more comfortable telling someone else's story than about me to the audience when I was in radio. Whether it's voicing a commercial, movie trailer, or narrating how a dialysis machine works. It is the diversity of the projects that has always been very attractive and like I said, I have always wanted to do it.
Are you sure I am not boring you?
Coach: No, I love this. I can tell you truly love what you do.
Roberta: I can remember the first time I sat in front of a microphone; I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. For me, I was impassioned about the work. When you have a passion or a connection to the work you're doing, it pulls you in.
Coach: How did radio play a part with what you do now?
Roberta: Working in radio is where I learned everything, the mics, how to operate the equipment, and why PDs are crazy, ha ha.
Coach: Alright, I hope present company is excluded.
Roberta: Not really, you are a nice crazy.
Coach: Alright suck-up, continue.
Roberta: Every move I have ever made has been a natural growth from what I did before. Maybe I'm too stupid to know any better, but I never feared moving forward. However, I did pause on occasion and realize along every step of the way, there were very few women doing voiceovers -- and at the time only a few women personalities on-air. These days there are a lot more women in each of the fields.
It is always been exciting to me to know I'm among the first women to ever work in both areas. My attitude has always been to view obstacles as opportunities.
Coach: Tell me some of the stuff you've done.
Roberta: Oh my gosh, recently I voiced the movie trailer for Catherine Deneuve's new movie called "On My Way." I also just finished up doing a trailer for a new video game called "The Child Of Light." Gosh, I have done a ton of things. Oh, I did the movie trailer for a Sylvester Stallone movie, "The Expendables" a couple of years ago. I was the voice for a short time for "The View." Currently I am the voice for the syndicated TV show on the REELZ channel called "OK! TV." it's seen in 150 markets. Between radio imaging and TV affiliate work, I have worked with hundreds of stations, somewhere over 150 if I had to put a number to it. In 2012 I narrated an Emmy Award winning documentary for the Smithsonian channel, "Decoding Immortality;" it won for Best News and Documentaries. Like I said, there is always something different, a different script, a different audience target. Did I mention doing promos for HBO?
Roberta: You know I had not planned on doing "This is Your Life Today,"
Coach: Hey, you started and I am listening, so nice try, I will not let you out of it yet. I bet the technology thing has been a challenge;
Roberta: Not really; it's tools of the trade, it's an expectation. Tell your client if anyone is going to be a voice talent, they need to know how to use a mic. You have to stay on top of the technology of the moment. It allows you to reach the people who are going to hire you. All of us in this or any business are constantly updating.
The thing that continues to be a source of empowerment to me is the joy in the work, I know it sounds kind of corny, but it's all about the fascination of what's next. Learning new technology can cause some anxiety, but also excitement
There is never a morning I haven't gotten up and felt incredibly fortunate to make a living doing this. I look at everything I voice as a story, even when I voiced a training manual for the VA.
There is something else I wanted to say about technology.
Coach: Be my guest, you are on a roll.
Roberta: Technology has made it possible to be able to do stuff anywhere. Recently, I was at a family thing back in St. Louis and a client needed something at the last minute. I recorded the stuff in my car under the St. Louis Arch. We are all about communicating and now the equipment is such we have the equipment for anywhere to act as a facility to do work if necessary.
Coach: If I didn't mention it, my client is an on-air personality, what should I tell him?
Roberta: One of the most challenging things in our industry is the people who are on the radio or produce sound for a living. It astounds me how many phone calls I get from folks on the air that say to me, "I want to do what you do, work from home and do freelance. I just hate radio. I want to do imaging like you."
Sam, I ask you, how does anyone who says they hate the industry, how do they expect to walk out the door and expect to become the branding voice for an industry they hate? If you don't love radio, you are probably are not going to get hired to do voiceover. You can only fake sincerity to a point.
I love radio, voice work and telling stories. I just moved from radio telling stories into a different are for storytelling.
Coach: Anything else to pass on to my client?
Roberta: I recommend getting Randy Thomas's book "Voices for Hire." If you want, I would be happy to call and talk to your client. Oh and one other thing: you need a coach who specializes in voiceover. For many, the transition requires not doing many of the things you might have done as a personality. There really is a difference between being on the radio and voice acting. In VO they are looking for authenticity.
Coach: Well I guess I am caught up now and thank you for the offer to call my client. Roberta, you are so talented and full of great information, I promise to catch up with you at least once a month.
Roberta: It's a deal, we will start talking at least once a month from now on!
Friendships with real people are important in this business. By real, I mean those who are genuine and continue to learn and grow. You never know when you might need help with something, like the day I called Roberta. Another friend of mine used to say "Live, love, grow."