“There are better ways to spend your money than on pay-to-play sites.”
This is one of the top pieces of advice I both heard and ignored as a voiceover newcomer. I think that all newbies to VO ignore good advice because, well, we’re dreamers. We all enter the VO world with dreams of seeing our name in lights, doing signings at conventions, and not caring that guac is extra. At some point things change, and we find ourselves going, “I sure wish I listened to that advice a long time ago!”
Don’t get me wrong- pay-to-play has its place in the VO world. For newcomers though, it can seem like pay-to-play is the only way to invest in our early careers. A ton of real auditions in your inbox on day one sounds great in theory, but pay-to-play is a real grind, and if it’s the only plan you’ve got, you’re gonna have a bad time.
With that said, what are some of these ‘better’ ways for newcomers to invest in their early careers? Could the World-Voices Organization be one of them?
When I first heard about WoVO (an organization for and run by voice actors), I didn’t pay it any mind, and I doubt that many newcomers do. While an organization promising to “inform and educate about best practices, standards for ethical conduct, and professional expertise” is music to a veteran’s ears, I’m not too sure it means much to a newbie.
So just why should a VO newcomer give WoVO a long, hard look?
In an effort to help crack this code, I sought out Dave Courvoisier, voice actor & WoVO President, to expand a bit on what World-Voices can mean to a newcomer.
Please note, I am not a member of WoVO (not yet at least)- I’m simply someone who believes that VO newcomers deserve to know what options are out there for them. Much love to Mr. Courvoisier, who was both candid and thorough with answering each question.07
This question comes up time and again in different contexts. Let me start at the top, and then I’ll tackle the question as to why the website seems insufficient in explaining the value of membership.
As founders, we were ill-equipped to answer the “value” question, because to us, the reason seemed obvious. The concerns of the voice-actors were not being heard in any organized way. The union hasn’t, doesn’t and likely won’t do that (even though they should). So, WoVO was formed to advocate and promote the needs of voice actors. This required an understanding of the abstract concepts of relationships, politics, altruism, service-to-others, and community. Some voice actors were eager for these concepts to find purchase in the real world (in the form of WoVO), and readily joined. But others needed something a little more concrete. We kept getting the question “What’s in it for me?”… and our initial reaction was that the person asking the question didn’t understand the concept. We thought they should be saying: “How can I help?”
But that wasn’t fair. Every person has a right to see some return-on-investment, even if the returns are elusive and long in coming. That brought us to one of our best ideas yet: Mentoring. It fit the need to help the community, and it was a tangible benefit to newbies. (see answer to #2)
We also made available a number of resources (documents) that clearly stated “best practices” for talent, coaches, and producers. We offered position papers on the pay-to-plays, and distributed a handy “elevator pitch”, as well as a helpful document for explaining to clients why it was important to hire professional talent.
We were on a roll. We added some discounts from certain equipment vendors, coaches, and companies who provide promotional materials.
The best tangible payoff to WoVO members, though, came in the form of our own online listing of professional talent. It was and is meant to be a different approach to online casting sites. You can find it at voiceover.biz. Professional WoVO members can list their profile and demos for nothing. We are mounting a heavy campaign to reach out to production companies, casting agents, audio engineers, and others who hire voice actors.
All of these benefits, though, were not clearly organized or stated on our website. We’re fixing that.
A complete facelift to the home page is in the works. It will clearly steer newcomers to a rationale we hope will be much more clear and compelling. If all that doesn’t seem worth the $49/yr membership fee, then you probably wouldn’t like WoVO.
Some professional WoVO members have indicated they are willing to be mentors. I think the number stands at about 70+, so a wide spectrum of helpers are available. Each mentor understands they are committing to a free half-hour consultation to their mentee every month. Beyond that, it’s up to the mentor and the mentee to agree on terms. I know that many mentors end up giving more than a half-hour of their time. On the World-Voices.org website, look for the “member area” menu heading, and when selected, click on the “find a mentor” drop-down menu item. This reveals a page that explains more about the mentoring program, and lets you select from several categories that will lead you to further contact.
Probably the best way to do that is on the World-Voices Members Only FaceBook Group. Anyone who is a member can be added to this group. There are helpful, active, and lively discussions on that site every day. A sure way to reach the people in the Board of Directors is at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We like to think we uphold excellence, honesty, and integrity as a standard in all we do…and that we take the high road in our collective decisions.
WoVO cannot act as the “VO Police”. However we can take strong and highly visible positions based on our stated “best practices” after careful consideration — instead of knee-jerk reactions. With every new member added (now at 523), we gain more prominence.
Maintaining this position of high ethics gives us a strength and respect that we earn by equitably handling tough issues.
Recent furor over perceived misdeeds by certain online casting sites tested our mettle. In the end, we realized we would gain nothing by getting in the trenches with accusations and recriminations. Instead, we seek hard evidence, and above all, we use education as our sharpest sword. P2P’s are not likely to go away in this digital world, but by educating our members to the advantages and disadvantages, they can make informed decisions.
We have also exposed several predatory online coaching and demo-mill sites.
Finally, on rare occasions, we have resorted to using legal resources to educate perpetrators of misdeeds that they are stepping into gray areas of the law.
In addition we are actively seeking beneficial liaisons with other organizations like SAG-AFTRA, MCA-I, and even some international associations.
Our all-volunteer Board is freaking awesome! I can’t believe how many man-hours they dedicate every day to WoVO. And they just keep giving. Passionate rank and file members, too, give of their time, talents, and ideas in liberal portions. We encourage that, because a member who contributes is vested in the mission of the organization, and feels their dedication is being rewarded.
One of our biggest challenges has been living up to our “world” moniker. Time and language differences must be overcome. Cultural norms, and compensation rates are not the same in other countries. We’ve struggled with whether to organize sub-chapters in other countries, or let them have their own identity, and just “affiliate” as a WoVO partner.
WoVO has worked hard to organize meet-up groups that transcend time and place. This concept is growing, and we find that these efforts may be our best solution to the international question.
World-Voices is union agnostic. We’re not even sure of what percentage of our members are union or non-union. We support all our members in their effort to receive fair compensation for professional work.
Finally, from the start, WoVO has strived to be transparent to our members in the inner-workings of our board of directors, and the finances of the organization. Members vote on board members, and can review committee reports, financial documents, and board proceedings. Just ask!