You can tell a lot about something based on what it leaves behind. Entire ancient civilizations have been mapped out in modern times simply because archaeologists and other researchers spent time sifting through mounds of refuse. It’s not just humans, though. Animals, too. They leave tracks, mark up the natural environment, and influence the behavior of other species, all of which reveal information about them if you know what to look for. One of the more interesting and humorous—if you’re inwardly a pre-teen boy—methods of learning about animal behavior is through their waste. No, I’m not talking about digging through an elephant’s trash cans or studying a rhino’s compost bucket. I’m talking about poop. Dung. Feces. Crap! If you’ve got the stomach to examine a creature’s excrement, you can learn so much about how it lives its life. When it comes to searching for voiceover auditions or prospecting clients, it doesn’t take long to realize that there is a lot of crap to wade through on that front, too. Whether they be scams or clients who simply value price over quality, it’s imperative for VO talents to learn how to spot the signs and recognize the trends that reveal those steaming loads better left alone. Take heart, though! Just like in the animal kingdom, the crap that is so freely spewed is often full of valuable information to help you develop your senses and keen intellect, making you a more astute voice talent and giving you the ability to discern which gigs rock and which are rank. So, let’s go into researcher mode and take a look at some of the crap floating around out there. Just make sure you watch your step; I’d hate for you to ruin your nice shoes. Did you know that a black rhino’s teeth cut the foliage it eats at a 45-degree angle? It’s true. And one of the clearest ways we know this to be true is from black rhino scat. Just a little bit of digging—and yes, I’ve witnessed safari guides doing this with their bare hands—will reveal small twigs and branches cut at a consistently clear 45-degree angle on the end. Fascinating! Did you also know there are telltale signs that a narration project posted on ACX is a scam? This is also true. Now, these things tend to shift and change as scammers get found out and become more savvy, but some of the red flags in the recent past include projects that have a combination of the following specs: long (15+ hours) estimated length, royalty share project budget, very popular book (lots of favorable ratings), been published for several years, lacking any notes from the rights holder, etc. As you take time to examine the options, you begin to see the patterns that signify whether a book is worth auditioning for or whether it’s crap.
Black Rhino scat. And yes, I did feel like a weirdo taking pictures of poop on safari.
The hippopotamus is an intriguing creature. Weighing up to 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg), the hippo spends the majority of its time in the water, which both alleviates some of the weight from its monstrous frame and protects its skin from harsh sunlight. It has powerful jaws and sharp teeth, capable of crushing a crocodile or cleaving a small boat in two. And the male hippo marks its territory with feces. Of course. But a simple dump on the side of a watering hole isn’t good enough for Mr. Hippo, oh no. Instead, this creature spins its tail like a fan, spraying excrement far and wide, making a thorough statement that this space belongs to him. You know what else is sprayed far and wide amidst the VO world of late? Underpaying gigs, that’s what. Whether you use the pay-to-plays, direct marketing, or—heaven forbid—those bargain basement sites to search for VO projects, you will undoubtedly find countless “opportunities” that have a suspiciously low compensation attached. This is where resources like the GVAA rate guide and a comprehensive understanding of how project specs (e.g., genre, usage, duration, recording length, etc.) ought to impact the budget come in handy. We are unique and lucky in the VO industry to have clearly laid out rates based on project type. Use them to your benefit or ignore them to your peril. If you choose the latter, however, don’t say I didn’t warn you if you stumble into some messy territory.
"Everything the poo touches is my kingdom."
It probably goes without saying that when tracking an animal, coming across a dried-out pile of dung isn’t the most helpful sign. These droppings are old, and it’s unlikely the animal is still in the area. Sure, it was here at one point, but it has certainly moved on by now. When conversing with a prospective VO client, another unhelpful sign is when s/he comes out of the gate requesting your rates. As my colleague Paul Schmidt teaches, these kinds of individuals are generally lowballers (though not always) and are concerned more with money than a project’s overall quality. They often tend to be some of the highest maintenance clients, too, demanding an inordinate amount of your time and attention. More often than not, when a prospect is rate-driven, you know you’re not in the right area to find quality work.
An elephant was here, just not anytime recently...
This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of all the crap voiceover artists need to be on the lookout for—though it is a particularly stinky one. At any rate, it’s good to be reminded now and then of some of the signs that indicate a project probably belongs in the toilet and isn’t worth pursuing. It’s important that we can take pride in the work we do and that we maintain reputations of participating in fresh projects that benefit the wider VO industry. We definitely don’t want to be branded as the one who tracks in poo from outside. Hopefully, you’ve taken away a tip or two that will help you keep your shoes clean.
No blog about poop would be complete without this gem.
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories. __________________________________________________________________________________ Are you in need of a quality voiceover for your next project? I'd love to help tell your story! Request a quote or check out my Demos. I look forward to working with you! Tyler Robbert Voiceover Artist | Storyteller email@example.com www.tylerrobbertvo.com Like what you read here? Looking for more ways to sate that hunger for VO-related content? Try checking out some of these other awesome blogs from within the VO community!