January 5, 2014

by Johnny Heller


ON THE YEAR 2014         

Many important things happened during the year.  Sadly, I can’t remember a single thing without going to the internet and looking stuff up.  A whole year and I’m not certain what happened without Google.  Is that just me or are we all so used to learning about the world around us in social media sound bites that we’ve lost the facility of recall?

I dunno.  I do know that I can – and will – look up a few “news highlights of 2014” and then I will  go “Oh Yeah! I remember that!”  and then I will come back to the blog and write about some of it.  Interestingly, I could write about the causes and events of every war we’ve ever been in without looking up a thing but I can’t remember who won the Heisman a couple weeks ago.

But first, the subject of this For the Hell Of It – HOW CAN YOU HAVE A BETTER CAREER IN 2015 THAN YOU DID IN 2014?

This is probably what you would actually like to know.  In fact, if you follow the simple advice I am about to impart — really truly follow it — you will see significant positive changes in your work, your income, your relationships…in every aspect of your life.

Too often, we seek to “improve” ourselves or our lot in life by doing the same thing we’ve always done but harder or more.  That only results in more effort with the same scant return.  We try to emulate the efforts of those who seem to be doing well in the area we want to do well in but we forget an important point — we are still us.  And us sucks.  Not all the time. But lots of the time.

So my advice for a better 2015 and a better forever? Suck less.  Suck much less.

Easy to say. Hard to hear.  And it raises questions I bet.  Questions like:

  1. “Do I really suck?”

Yes. Probably.

  1. “How long have I been sucking?”

How old are you?

  1. 3. “How do I know I suck?”

Are you auditioning and not getting gigs? Are you doing one job and not getting rehired by the same producer? Are you following a plan in your auditioning/success methods — or just winging it?  Are you taking jobs that pay only $50 pfh or less?

There are lots of clues to you sucking.  You just don’t want to heed them.  But if you want to succeed, want to stop this vicious cycle of suckiness, you have to take the first step.  You have to admit you suck.

Admitting you suck is not the same as saying you lack talent.  There are many ways we suck as performers.  You may have a wonderful storytelling talent but you may be a jerk that no one wants to work with.  You may have a great studio and technical skills out the wazzoo but no narrative skills. You may not be following a plan to reach out to talent buyers but just winging it here and there.


First, identify the area(s) that you suck in.  Do you attend mixers and events where you have the chance to meet or audition for talent buyers?

  1. Yes – good! Way to not suck!
  2. No – you suck.

Do you send “thank you/nice to meet you” notes to the people you met?

  1. Yes – good! Way to not suck!
  2. No – you suck.

Do you, when reaching out to a talent buyer, think about how you would like to be approached if the situation was reversed?

1.Yes — you get the idea…

  1. No — again, you get the idea…

Do you research what type of books/jobs a talent buyer produces when you send your demo? Do you look at their company website and see how they would like to be approached and follow that protocol or do you just send what you want when you want to?  Do you have a demo that includes steamy erotica like “Pippy Longstockings Rumspringa Lesbian Adventures” and do you send it to producers who do mostly Christian or YA titles?  Your answers to questions like these indicate whether or not you suck and to what degree.

Notice that in all of these examples, you don’t suck as a person. You suck in your methods.  You can’t change you.  That’s first and foremost. If you are a jerk, you are a jerk and nothing can change that.  Jerkdom, like sexual orientation, is in your genes…or your jeans.  The same is true if you aren’t a jerk.  The thing is – you know if you are a jerk or not.  You’ve always known it.  So, if you are – don’t advertise it.  People will discover what a louse you are in due time, don’t lead with it.  If you are a great human bean, lead with that. If you aren’t – hide the fact.

Let’s break this down a little more.


If you have the talent to succeed  as a VO actor, that’s great.  But lots of actors have talent. You need to focus on what you want to do with your talent. Remember that voice over acting IS acting. Maybe you have a wonderful sound but no acting chops. Nothing is easier or more important than getting some acting training in your career.  NOTHING.

If you don’t have the talent, why are you doing this to yourself?  If it’s your dream to be a “star” without having any talent, get on a reality TV show or become a Kardashian or grow an immense ass and twerk on YouTube.   Leave the acting gigs to the actors and stop mucking about in this business. The actors life can be wonderful and deeply rewarding but it is challenging and difficult and sometimes unbearably heartrending — it is for those who can be happy in no other calling.


If you have never done an audiobook, a commercial, an e-learning gig, an industrial…etc — check out some training.  There are great teachers and courses available in person in many fine cities or on-line via Skype sessions.  Even if you’ve done a gig or two, more coaching can be invaluable to a more successful career.

I recommend a scene study class to get into some good acting habits and learn something about the craft. I suggest specific areas of study based on your goals.  I teach audiobook and commercial VO workshops.  Peter Berkrot teaches. Scott Brick and Pat Fraley teach. Robin Miles teaches. Carol Monda teaches.  Paul Ruben teaches. There’s the Deyan Institute in Los Angeles. Edge Studios, where I also coach, are global and David Goldberg is a brilliant leader and teacher.  Backstage Magazine sponsors acting workshops. Weist Barron is a fun place to learn more. There are many more teachers of merit than I can mention here.  There are conventions and meetings like APAC and like FAFFCON and VO Atlanta.

If you wanted to be a plumber, you’d take some plumbing courses. If you wanted to be a pilot, you’d need to take flying lessons.  If you want to act, take some acting classes.  If you don’t, you’re making a conscious choice to suck.  Really.

I’m saying: “You have a wonderful sound and a great engaging personality, I think you could really get some work in the audiobook industry! You just need to learn about storytelling, pacing, character, choices and so much more! Would you like to spend some time developing your craft?”  And if you are saying: “Nah. I’d rather just wing it cause I like things to be easy,” then you suck.  And you might get a gig here and there but you still suck.  And you don’t have to.

  1. A PLAN

I think this is a must for the actor on the move.  If it’s your goal to get an agent or to get cast in a show or to get into a given market, make a plan.   Figure out a simple game plan – an actual set of moves that will bring you to your goal.  You may need to seek a mentor or mentors to aid you here. You may need to hire a pro.  Guys like Tom Dhere can help you here. You can get some help on FaceBook by asking questions. Join a FB group that deals with the area you seek to be in and read what people are saying. Post some questions and be gracious.

Set up a calendar and a game plan and execute it.  For example, if you meet 10 producers or agents at some sort of casting thingamajig, get a list of the names and emails of the people in attendance.  Plan to reach out to 3-5 in the first few days after the event and note who you reached out to.  Reach out to the remainder on some set schedule and note that as well.  Don’t expect immediate responses. Don’t ask for work right away — they know why you met them and wrote them.  Just thank them for their time and ask if it’s okay to keep them in your “loop”.  Send a follow up note or two within the first month or two of meeting them.  If you have some industry news to share, share it. If you want to send them a demo that they might wish to hear, send it.  And note that you did it.

Most casting directors I know actually listen to demos and actually remember people they meet and if they are interested in them, keep them in mind.  Sometimes they won’t/can’t reach out to the actor until a project comes along that they think the actor might be good for.  Then they call.  If you’ve been in touch without being a pain in the butt, you stand a reasonable chance of being remembered fondly and might get that call.

Try to do something positive for your career every day.  That could mean sending materials out, reading the trades, taking class, listening to audiobooks….etc.  Know the business you want to be in.  Learn what you don’t know.


While acting is an art, making a living at it is a business.  This has proven to be the hardest thing for me to come to grips with.  I suck at it.  And I am trying to suck less.

You need a social media presence – a website; a voice on FaceBook; a recognizable brand.  You need to keep receipts and a budget.  You may need to invest in some equipment – don’t just buy a home studio and a bunch of stuff. You may need to find some engineers or proofers or researchers or editors…

I suggest you investigate all of this and then make a game plan and like a real game plan, be ready and willing to change it when it falls short in some areas.  Maybe your plan was too grandiose and you simply can’t follow it — change it!  A plan must be facile enough to allow for changes.  If your running game isn’t working, you gotta switch to a passing attack.   (that was a football reference — I’m watching some college bowl game as I write this.   Which reminds me — who’s naming these bowls these days?  The Rose Bowl is nice and easy.    This bowl is called the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.  That’s absurd.)


You may have talent. You may get training. You may have some business savvy and develop a plan. You may get a fine website and you may be a swell person. And you may not get the jobs or the career you want.  This happens. It’s life and life is not always fair.  All you can do is do all you can do.  Once you have given it your all, you can decide that it just wasn’t for you after all and if that happens, I truly hope that you find the thing that is for you and brings you joy and helps you bring others joy.

You have to be honest about your talent, your skill, your commitment and your success …or lack thereof.

Sometimes, let’s be honest – luck plays a role.  But I think you can put luck on your side if you take the steps I have outlined.

I wish you all a very unsucky New Year!




If I’ve learned anything from this year it’s that my butt is not big enough.  If I want to move forward in my career as a rapper/singer who gets boodles of loot while singing about having sex with various hotties and grabbing my crotch for no discernible  reason, I am gonna need butt cheek implants.

Right now I cannot hope to compete with the Iggies, the J-Lo’s and the Minaj’s .  Every new hit comes from a “talent” with an ass bigger than my apartment.  I’m gonna have to aim lower (if I can think of a lower) or change my get rich quick plans to something less butt-dependent.



  1. This year my kids will learn some manners and maybe I will too.
  2. This year I will actually read about the candidates’ positions before I blindly support someone because they “seem” nice.
  3. This year I will cease watching TMZ, any shows about redneck idiots or any show that features the word “stars” yet provide none.
  4. This year I will read a book or two or listen to some audiobooks and engage my mind.

This year I will stop posting “reviews” of my audiobook work IF the reviewer is just some ferndock with an Audible Membership.  I may as well post Yelp restaurant reviews.

This year I will stop posting asinine comments on every thread so every thread will be about me.

This year I will consider very carefully any political opinion I may wish to post -BEFORE I post it.


  1. This year I will try harder to exercise patience when I am dealing with morons. They outnumber me by a staggering margin and I am going to have to find a way to accept that.
  2. This year I will not make fun of parents who are excited when their children get awards for “Participation” or “Attendance” or “Being On the Team” even though it’s just an awful thing.
  3. This year I will try to be a better actor, a better teacher, a better speaker and a better friend.
  4. This year I will actually try to understand what the hell “gluten” is and maybe even try a bowl of it to see if I’m allergic to it.
  5. This year I will continue my nutritious morning shake so I don’t feel badly later when I eat red meat and drink beer.
  6. This year I am going to be more vocal in rooting for the White Sox.
  7. This year I am going to try to do what Jo Anna tells me instead of fighting it and then realizing that she was right all along.
  8. This year I am gonna try to write more blog posts.
  9. This year my first reaction to asshats will not be to punch them in the nose — instead I will try to remember to kick them in the shin instead — I really don’t have a long reach and so many people are so tall…
  10. And, to resurrect an old stand up routine of mine — this year, when I am being mugged, I will not say: “Put up my hands!??? How do I even know if that gun is loaded?”


Have a great 2015!!






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