by Johnny Heller 6/9/14


You came to New York City. You saw the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and paid $15 for eggs and toast. You watched people jostle each other for the privilege of standing in the front of the queue waiting to cross a street. You noted that one Irish bar looks exactly like every other Irish bar right down to the staff. You went to exotic shopping stores and bought things you don’t need that were on sale so they only cost $80 more than they would’ve cost had you bought them online and when you get home you’ll find that you don’t really like them. You visited museums where the suggested donation is $25 and even though it’s a suggestion and a donation, you can’t get in if you don’t pay it.
So you’re thinking – that was New York, huh?
You came here to attend a one-day convention that you stretched into 3 or 4 days so you could mingle with friends old and new and see sights and go to parties.
Let’s dish shall we?

APA MIXER – what a sweaty bit of fun! And conveniently located on the east side where none of you were staying. Still Prana is a very nice place and the room and the food are great. It was too crowded too fast but there was a great deal of effective schmoozing going on.

APAC – Did you enjoy yourself? Did you learn anything? I found some of the breakout sessions to be quite useful and some not so much. Then again, this was true for me in picking my college classes as well. I learned a great deal about Philosophy in my philosophy classes but precious little philosophy in my computer science course.
For me the best bit of advice came from Nicola Barber. She listed, quickly, a lot of things she wished she had known when she started. She gave out a host of useful websites and some wonderful information. I thought her information was nearly worth the price of admission. And her voice! Woo hoo! I am no expert but if I was a betting man, I’d guess British. Could be Latvian – a lot of these European lingos sound the same you know….could be Spanish, Italian, Latin…but I’m sticking with British or whatever it is they speak on Dr. Who.

I’m not at all certain that we need to go over each session or over each event except to say that I thought everyone was very well behaved…except for me maybe. I had a hard time staying in any breakout session room because the rooms were way too hot and crowded for me. Seriously, it’s not the APA. It’s not Tavia Gilbert who did a great job putting the day together – it’s the Javits Center yahoos. I can imagine the discussion between the engineers.

Engineer One: “We got a lotta actors comin and they need to meet in these rooms for an hour, then a break, then anudder hour and so on and so forth”
Engineer Two: “How many in each room at a time?”
Engineer One: ” I dunno….a hunnerd?”
Engineer Two: ” So we gotta set the temperature in the rooms to somethin’ reasonable for a hunnerd people sittin real close for an hour at a time?”
Engineer One: ” Yeah. I’m thinkin…”
Engineer Two: ” A degree a guy?”
Engineer One: “You’re sayin a hunnerd degrees?”
Engineer Two: “I guess. I’m an engineer not a math guy.”
Engineer One: “That may be a bit too hot. How bout we compromise at 80 or 90?”
Engineer Two: “sounds good. People pay for hot rooms like that at gyms and spas and such.”
Engineer One: “Oh and let’s make sure that we aren’t anywhere near so they can’t ask for changes – we don’t wanna have to go through all the trouble of turnin a nob when they’re here.”
Engineer Two: “Done.”
So there was that.

The important thing, I think, is now that you’ve collected a mess of business cards and met a mess of people, what do you do?


Divide your collection of business cards: one section for new narrator friends; one section for talent buyers that can hire you and give you money for acting. (this will be the smaller pile – there are far more of us than of them.)
If you didn’t get all the cards you wanted, you need to find the handy dandy APAC Attendee List. Interestingly, it lists the people who attended APAC. It’s one of the best things the APA has ever done for you. Use it.

Let’s say you have 10 producers cards/names. I recommend that you send a note to each one with a simple “Hello” message. Tell them you enjoyed meeting them and appreciated their insights. What? You didn’t actually meet them? You got their name from the Attendee List? They shared no insights at all and actually looked only at your cleavage – even though you had no name tag there so why were they looking at your …hey! They were…! Holy cow! What the hell!
Still, you think they will remember if they actually met you or shared insights or looked at your bazoombas? No way. Paul Gagne never once took his eyes off my chest but I bet he still doesn’t remember my shirt color. It’s just what happens.
Just say “Nice to meet you…etc.”
I suggest you say something at the end of your note asking if it’s okay to send them your demo.

Pick 3 or so producers (get this part done in 3 weeks max so the meetings are fresh) and send them your demo. It’s alright – you’ve asked them if it’s okay and they are used to getting demos in their email. Remind them in this, your second note to them, who you are; that you met at APAC and are following up with your demo and that you are looking forward to working with them.
Keep a record of who you sent what. Don’t send your demo twice in a row to the same producer with the same note. They’ll think you’re a dolt. And they will be right.
Don’t send erotica to Scholastic or Weston Woods. The fine folks there may appreciate a well told dirty joke but they produce childrens’ audio. Your ability to talk the pants off a Mennonite is of no use to them. If you want to work for a producer who only does YA, don’t send them your dirty bits. If you only have YA, don’t send them to a producer who only produces Lesbian Vampire Dinoporn. Just don’t.

After you’ve sent your Hello notes and then your demos, in week four send a follow up to the first producers you sent your demos to. Tell them you’re checking in and just hoping to keep your name in their minds. Don’t annoy them after that. If you’ve just completed a project, tell them. You might ask them if they’ve heard your demo. Tell them you are available to audition for them at their convenience. Tell them if you have a home studio. If you are very new, perhaps you can ask them for some specific advice. Do this for each producer you contacted and then hold off a bit. Now they know you. Don’t be an irritant. These people meet actors all the time. Don’t be the one they remember as “the dipstick”. Remember that if you happen to be an ass, that’s not what you want to let them know about. They will discover it soon enough – don’t lead with it!


Our first question comes from little Tavia Gilbert from Portland ME.
Tavia: Have you always been such a wacky nut job?
Mr. Answerman: It’s hard, and perhaps a little unwise, to classify any one individual as a “whacky nut job.” Are we saying there are nut jobs who are not wacky? Are there levels of nut jobbery? Indeed, were I to respond at all to a question regarding so lurid a moniker would likely give the name something of an element of truth. For is not the question not quite how long nut jobbery has been my mien but if I am indeed a nut job? I would be a monstrously huge wacky nutjob indeed were I foolish enough to respond to such a cleverly worded query.
….but to get to a point so we may move gracefully onward — Yes. Pretty much all my life.

Elizabeth Wiley: Is It okay to wear Chuck Taylors with my sequined glamour gown?
Mr. Answerman: Thank you Ms. Wiley for recognizing me as the fashion maven I truly am. The answer depends on the event one is attending. If it’s donkey basketball at the local high school or bingo night at St. Stan the Frightened, then of course.
If however, it’s the Audie Awards, your Chuck Taylors need to be laced and the sequins in the gown should by all means match those in the laces. If that can’t be done, use your Chuck Taylors to walk really fast so no one will be able to see your fashion gaffe.

Robert Fass: Why do I need to send a question to get mentioned when you already mentioned me?
Mr. Answerman: Until now, I hadn’t. That’s why. And I find your attitude Berkrotian in the extreme!

Anonymous: Just as in film and acting I was dismayed about hearing “branding” mentioned at APAC – what’s your strength? What’s your brand as a narrator? I know I can’t do it all by any means but I’m an actor and just like in that biz, do we have to relegate ourselves to “types”? Is it wise to do this? If so, I’ll always have to be the Romance girl and I can do so much more (but that’s just an example).

Mr. Answerman: This is a very serious question and deserves a serious answer.
I have always been against branding. I say if the cow is yours, why must you burn your initials on it? Just put a little tag around it’s neck. Branding hurts and if you see your agent heating up a piece of iron and giving you sly looks and then saying with a smile – ‘this will only hurt badly for about 15 minutes and then turn into a searing awful pain for a couple of weeks!’ – you want to get yourself a new agent …or at least an agent with a shorter name.
Alright. Alright. I copped out. I am not completely on board on this voice over branding idea. I seem to be in the minority however. I agree that an actor must not allow herself to get pigeon-holed. However, if, as you say, you do romances – you should consider “branding” yourself as such while you are new and are seeking work. It makes a casting director’s task easier if they know that you are good at romance.
However, and I absolutely agree here, how do we take that “she’s good at romance” and get it to – “she’s good at romance but she can also do YA, History, Biography…etc”? That’s where you – the branded actor must communicate with the talent buyer and let them know that you are more than just a romance narrator. Send them your demo that features other genres and be certain that you do indeed do them well.
I think there is a movement afoot to brand actors and I am not at all certain that it’s a good thing. I hereby ask all readers to chime in on this issue. Therefore, the lovely Jo Anna Perrin – Editor in Chief and Executive In Charge of My Sammiches – will post this as a discussion thread on Abbreviated Audio’s Facebook Page when this issue is released.
Hopefully we will get a lively discussion going – featuring name -calling (branding) and rude remarks (Berkrot and Dick Hill). Look for it!

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