Thursday, January 28, 2010

Social vs. in person

Practically every day you hear or read something about the importance of social networking (SN).  Since many opportunities for the GU come via connections and who you know, effective use of SN is essential.  And supposedly online is now the way to go.

But the proliferation of outlets, each with different (and often, to me, confusing) features...which keep changing, makes it a challenge to learn about and do it.  Follow me here, message me could spend hours each day just maintaining your profiles and statuses, updating contacts and commenting on comments.  Reconnecting and keeping touch with friends via sites like Facebook has been great, but so far I haven't made any new industry connections or booked any jobs.  Maybe I don't spend enough time, as Tim Gunn would say, making it work.

I've checked out Twitter, but haven't yet seen the light about why it's so popular.  So I'm glad that a religous satire show I do some writing and miscellaneous projects for (and wrote a Tweet or two for) with over 3,500 followers and counting has asked me to take charge of responding to its Twitter commenters.  I met with the director to discuss how this might work and took several pages of notes about direct messages, retweets, etc.  Whew.  Next I have to figure out the various apps for monitoring/tracking...and determine how much time this will take.

I've seen greater benefit through traditional, in person networking.  The woman I sit next to in choir knows someone I used to work with who now has his own business needing freelance writers.  Thanks to him, I'm meeting with a potential client next week.  Ages ago a writer friend referred me to a consulting company where her brother works that uses actors for role playing/simulation.  I recently booked a week (to portray a major corporation executive) with another penciled in, plus my contact offered to recommend me for freelance writing/editing opportunites in other departments.  I've booked several VO jobs thanks to friends' referrals.  I connected an author friend who wanted to make a rap video for her book Perfect Chemistry (it's gotten more than 34,000 hits) with a director I'd met on a short film, Stealing Kisses ...a part I got in part because a friend cast in one of the main roles recommended me.  She just did her second rap video with him.

How have you made online social networking work for you?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Opportunity or Time Suck?

The Gainfully Unemployed (aka self-employed/freelancer) is often a plate spinner, scurrying about to keep multiple projects aloft.  Sometimes knowing which projects to accept or stick with can be a challenge...will the time and effort invested pay off in sufficient cash or other compensation such as networking value, personal satisfaction, beneficial knowledge or useful experience?  If I pass on a project, will I be glad or feel like I missed out?  If I've worked with an organization for years, should I continue or move on?

Acting, for example, is one field where many projects don't pay in money.  The rewards of exposure, experience and working with fabulous people can be worth the time.  On the one hand, I'm rehearsing weekly with a newly formed improv team.  Benefits include working with a coach (with whom, coincidentally, I was on a team at iO many years ago) as opposed to being self-directed.  I'm continuing to learn about and practice the art of improv, laughing a lot, and gaining performance opportunities---our first is already scheduled.  The goal is to get paid down the road. 

On the other, I recently declined to perform in a sketch show.  Though there would have been four performances to invite agents and others to attend and another credit for my resume, the director wanted to hold more than 20 rehearsals in 6 weeks....IMO too much of a time commitment for perceived benefits.  Yet if the show goes well, more performances could be scheduled...should I have stuck with it?

I do some writing and miscellaneous projects for another show.  Most of these can be done on my own time.  Recently I was asked to take on an ongoing social media project.  I'll be meeting with the director next week to discuss in detail.  Do I spend enough time on this show already, or should I take the opportunity to gain experience in the burgeoning online community which many freelance/part-time jobs I come across now expect applicants to have? 

I performed in an annual musical revue for 20 years.  I looked forward to the two-week daily rehearsal period and hanging out with the cast.  But there came a point when I needed to take paying gigs instead of devoting so many hours to a free production.  A tough choice, but ultimately the right one. 

I'm involved with two associations that require many devoted volunteers to produce programs, activities, publications, etc.  I want to help because they need it and the tasks are usually interesting or fun.  But when I agreed to judge three writing contests recently, I made the mistake of not checking the deadlines...and wound up with 14 entries at once.  Enjoyable, yes.  Helpful to the organizations, yes.  But also a current time suck. 

How do you know when, as they sing about Kansas City in the musical Oklahoma, things have "gone about as fur as they can go?" 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Are you real?

Often when asked to do a voiceover or on camera audition, I get "specs," or an idea of what the client is looking for.  Obviously the character, the product and the copy itself also influence the read; a Mom in a grocery store, for example, would sound different than a corporate spokesperson. 

Many specs ask that voices be real and you're talking to your best friend.  A recent request was a challenging "approachable and authoritative." Another wanted a voice that was unpolished and wouldn't be described as professional. 

Sometimes they name a celebrity that has the tone they're looking for, other times they send an MP3 sample of a voice they like (which makes me wonder why they don't just book that person.  Maybe they used her before and want someone new, maybe she's not available...)  Each VO talent has to decide how much of the referenced name's or sample's sound to incorporate into her voice, while also keeping in mind the specific words detailing the nuances of the specs. 

VO teachers and other industry professionals say my natural sound can be too articulate, too professional, too announcery. This can be great for narration, especially when the copy is very technical.  A client said they booked me for a medical narration because I was the only person they heard who could make boring stuff sound interesting.  But sometimes I have to work to sound real.

How do I know if I'm achieving the requested sound, if I'm meeting the client's needs?  More and more we're asked to audition from home, without any direction.  So if the job is big enough, I go to a very experienced audio engineer.  He coaches me and offers feedback on various takes until he's impressed.  Because it's not what I hear that matters, it's what the talent buyer hears.

The upsides: I receive direction and production--he has a lot more experience and equipment than I do and also edits the takes--yielding confidence that I'm submitting an amazing audition.  The downsides: travel time to and from his studio, adjusting my schedule to fit his, paying for help when there's no guarantee of booking the job. 

It's very interesting to see or hear a commercial I auditioned for but didn't get.  I try to analyze what they liked about the voice they chose, but I'm not sure I extract any information I can use in the future.

Will two coaching sessions in the past week pay off?  Time will tell...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Technology: Now or Later?

When I worked in corporate America, I had access to assistance with IT department and other co-workers to help me figure things out.  Now I'm on my own whenever I get new software or hardware.  Yes, there are plenty of online sites offering video tutorials or FAQs, but they can be frustrating because you can't ask questions or have someone show you the specific things you want to know.  I guess I'm old school in that I prefer a printed manual to scrolling back and forth onscreen, but at the same time am not willing to use up my toner and paper to print them out.

 I have two graduate and two undergraduate degrees but still find aspects of Facebook, Twitter and iTunes confusing.  Windows 7 is upon us.  Do I really need the upgrade or will I regret the money and time spent?  I've used Broderbund Print Shop, which now offers a new version.  I went for the prerelease sale price.  Soon I 'll know if it lives up to the hype.  Recently I was prompted to download Internet Explorer 8.  I did, much to my dismay. 

For one thing, to me it's not intuitive.  What's all this InPrivate stuff?  Compatibility view?  For another, why do I get a pop up security box when I go to many sites, and why isn't there an easy option to turn it off? 

Some tout other browsers, such as Safari or Mozilla Firefox.  A friend helped me download that, but I find the interface too busy and don't see why it's supposedly better than IE.  Early adapters get excited by each piece of new software/hardware. When the benefits are easy to see and use, I do, too.  I got a new BlackBerry last year.  After investing the time to travel the learning curve, I like many of the new features.  I still prefer the old scroll wheel on the side to the new track ball in the middle.  Is there an easier way to learn more about all of the neat things our technology can do?  Fellow BBers, did you know pressing B takes you to the bottom of whatever you're viewing and T takes you to the top?

Unfortunately the new thing is not always better than the old...Windows Vista, anyone?  And often it's better not to run out and buy, say, the first e-book reader on the market...because improvements will soon make that hot off the press thing out of date.  A friend bought me a Nook, which won't even ship until Februrary because of the demand.  Barnes & Noble has already announced enhancements which better work with the Nook I haven't even received.  I'm not the only one concerned about new technology being replaced by even newer technology in a heartbeat; yesterday's The Huffington Post discusses this topic.

I guess I'll have to make the time to learn about these new IE8 "features."  Off to find some tutorials.  Sigh.