Do one thing every day that scares you.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
I was having a late breakfast with my friend April earlier today, and we were talking about how things have been somewhat slow in our respective lines of work. She is a very talented graphic designer, and on top of my fulltime gig as a traffic reporter, I am a voiceover actor.
Between bites of my Mission Café Chilaquiles, I discussed with April about how, back in the day when I was doing freelance graphics, I would respond to numerous ads for part-time and fulltime Graphic/Production artist jobs. During the interviews it was sometimes established that, although I might not be right for the position I was applying for at the time, the agency just so happened to have a side project they needed help with. “Oh, you do cartooning,” more than one interviewer mused enthusiastically. “Hmmm, I have a project I need help with…” I wound up with a handful of freelance clients this way, and even if I only worked with the client once, it was still revenue, and definitely a nice consolation prize for not getting the actual job I went in for.
I encouraged April to take the same approach. “Just take your book in like you’re going for the fulltime job, then show them what you are able to offer them on a freelance basis; that is, providing you are only interested in freelance. If the fulltime gig looks enticing, then by all means, go for it.”
April seemed receptive to the idea, and I felt great sharing what bit of expertise I had about my past career. We then parted ways, for her to head home to work, and for me to head home and write.
On my way to the car I noticed a small house across the street that had been converted into an actual business office for a talent agency; one that I had sent my voiceover demo to in the past, yet with no luck in getting them to sign me. This was back in the mid-late 90’s, before I got into Broadcasting. I’m not sure exactly what the reasoning was for their deciding to pass, but from rejections that I have received from other agencies, it is very possible that they were already representing someone with my sound.
Even when living in L.A. I never had much luck with getting a voiceover agent. I did have an agent for actual TV commercials, but nothing really ever came of that; auditions were few and far between, and none ever resulted in an actual job. Besides, my true passion was, and has always been voiceovers.
Trying to get a VO agent was very time-consuming and expensive. I grew into the mindset that agencies were evil, as well as dismissive. What went on in these places, anyway? I really only knew them through the mail, rarely ever speaking with anyone, let alone visiting an actual agency.
I would complain to other aspiring VO actors, “I even included a self-addressed, stamped envelope with every submission, and they would never return my demo. Why?” One young woman named Vivian, who did do a lot of VO work, flippantly replied, “Because they don’t have to.” I wanted to slap her cocky, smug face.
Fast forward to now. Being pretty established in my radio career for the past 13 years, I sort of put the whole voiceover agent prospect on the back burner. On top of my fulltime traffic reporter job I have had plenty of VO work – most of which I got on my own – to placate me, so who needs an agent? Sure a little more VO work would be great, but I still consider myself fortunate to be working at what I enjoy.
Besides, as much as it is supposed to be more about “selection,” and not “rejection,” so much rejection in the past got me feeling that perhaps some things just aren’t meant to be.
But there I stood this morning, staring at the little house from afar, with mixed emotions about what to do next. “How will I feel if I simply drive away without at least going in and speaking with someone?” I asked myself. “How can I sit and give April all kinds of encouragement and advice in her field, and then let my own opportunities pass me by?”
I stared for a few moments at the small house before crossing the street toward it. Once across, I stared for a few moments more, and decided that I had either better move forward or go back to my car, get in and drive away. Someone could be looking out the window and, thinking I’m some sort of middle-aged stalker and/or a dejected homicidal talent, call the police. Considering the agency “jerks” I had dealt with in the past, I could totally envision that happening.
I walked toward the house, and up the few steps leading to the door. I figured it might be locked, in “appointment only” fashion, but it was not. I walked into a small entry where there was a woman sitting at a desk in a small room to the right. A large friendly Black Labrador-type of dog greeted me.
The woman rose from the desk and said, “Hello, may I help you?”
“Hi, my name is Kelly Danek, and I am in Broadcasting and Voiceovers,” I greeted her cheerfully. “Are you accepting any voiceover submissions right now?” (“Breathe…breathe…”)
“Yes,” the woman responded, businesslike, yet warmly, “we do handle some. Just mail us your demo; it may take a few weeks to get back to you, but we will let you know (if we wish to represent you).”
“Oh, okay…so an actual CD, and not electronically, in mp3 or WAV form, right?” I verified with her.
“Yes, our computers get too clogged with submissions, so we prefer hard copies of the demos,” she politely explained.
I chatted with her a bit more, about my main job as a traffic reporter on numerous San Diego stations, and how I do a variety of freelance voiceovers.
“I thought I recognized your name!” she beamed.
Feeling encouraged by that news, I then shook her hand, told her to please keep an eye out for my packet in the mail, and then I bid her and the dog goodbye.
I felt a sense of exuberance and accomplishment as I walked to my car.
I also felt somewhat silly. “Really, Kelly? What were you afraid of… someone throwing you out?” Yeah, actually, considering my experience with agencies in the past, I did indeed expect them to immediately show me the door. How great it felt to be wrong.
I will send my VO packet to the agency this week. They may or may not decide they want to represent me; I am ready for either. What matters most is that I swallowed my fear, geared up on gumption and took a chance.
“Do one thing every day that scares you,” Eleanor Roosevelt advised, and sorry, getting on the freeway every day doesn’t qualify. It should be something out of the ordinary, something that has been an obstacle, something that will free you and perhaps help you see things in a whole different light; something that will fill you with the same exuberance that I experienced this morning.