I said don’t read this!
Directed Sessions, uh, rock…
So, the title of this blog was primarily for clients. If you’re a voice talent, read on. If you’re a client, then I am sorry in advance.
Have you had a directed session yet? Or, rather, should I say, “Have you been subjected to a directed session yet?” If you have, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say that they can go either way, right?
Yesterday, I had two. One went well. And one just…went. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful for the job, and most directed sessions go really, really well! Some are so much fun I want to stay and chat for an hour! Some sessions go better than others. Some go quickly. Some take a lot of time. Some, uh, drain your very will to live.
Some you go into thinking that they’ll be a breeze because it’s a short script and how can you mess it up? - and then they become the bane of your existence. Others you go into thinking that they’re going to micromanage you and breathe down your neck, and you’re out of there in 5 minutes.
So what’s the happy medium? How do you approach directed sessions with sanity?
Prepare to be illuminated.
Directed Sessions are where I was nearly killed
I was nearly killed in two places in my life. One was when I was a teenager in Mazatlan, foolishly diving off an ocean rock on a dare worth 20,000 pesos (uh, 6 bucks), to swim out to an outcropping of rock fifty feet away. You know, where the sharks live. When I returned, the waves threw me through a rocky canal and scraped me up, and I stepped on a sea urchin and got spines in my foot on the way up. I made 6 bucks though.
The other place I was nearly killed was in two Directed Sessions.
Directed sessions are when the client is particular. In some cases, VERY particular. They want options. Ugh. Options, they call it. There are circumstances where a client really wants to call you out on every little utterance…or syllable…or pronunciation. And there are other directed sessions where the client thinks that they’re Steven Spielberg, but they’re not even Barry Manilow. (No offense, Barry – see you Friday for pizza?).
I will never forget the two most horrendous directed sessions I ever had. One, the client had no freaking clue what they wanted. I wanted to offer to take over direction for them, and I would fly to their office, get on the phone with myself from there, give myself directions, fly back, say “oh, ok, I get it now” (for good measure), record the new takes, fly back to them, and say “Good job, ol’ chap! Brilliant!” and then clap them on the shoulder and say “Good show” and send them a bill. That probably would have made the session feel like it went much quicker, even with the flight time.
Then…there was the other one. Eeek. Suffice it to say, again, that I was grateful for the job, very grateful. Nonetheless, there were a few names in there that were going to throw me for a loop, and the client was, hmm, shall we say, selective. (By the way, today is National “Minimize What You Really Want To Say” Day.)
Actually, I won’t mince words. They were awful. Just plain awful. Like, Comcast-level awful:
- Stopping me at every turn
- Cutting in, saying “Hmm, that’s not correct”
- Asking me to do it one way because that’s the way it should sound
- Then asking me to do it a different way
- Then saying “no, that’s no good, do it the first way”
- Taking a script that was under 30 seconds, and wanting five reads of each of 17 lines.
In short, the client didn’t know what they wanted. In short, the client needed to be branded with a hot iron that said “blacklisted by Joshua.”
Well. I needed to cross something off of my bucket list that day, so I said “Hi! OK wonderful. Let’s do this. I’m not sure I’m the right fit for you, so I invite you to select a new voice talent, sound good?”
The client agreed, letting me off the hook and ending the painful bloodlust. I removed their fangs from my shoulder and dusted myself off, looking for the nearest 7-11 to obtain a Slurpee, because gosh-darnit, I deserved it after that $250 melee. Because frankly, that project was low-paying already, and they balked at the directed session fee anyway, so it was bound to go south.
And south it went. But I fired a client, and I felt better.
Been in my painful shoes?
Now, I know that for any of you, including myself, who have gone into a directed session with a client, you go in plum full of optimism and you’re ready to take on the world. And then you feel that optimism slowly wane as you get tired…as your voice tires and your very will to live is extinguished. And the eye-rolling. OHHHH the eye rolling. You want me to read it through AGAIN? Isn’t this like the 27th time?
Then there’s the inevitable compliment-followed-by-yet-another-take-request. You get yourself primed for happiness by the compliment, only to feel the wind sucked out of your sails when they immediately follow that up with “Could you just do maybe one more read just for safety?” Safety. I’ll tell you who’s becoming less safe here by the minute, mister.
What you WANT to say is, “Ahem, no, good sir, I shall not read for thee again, nay – I do not want this job that much, good day to you sir” and then fling your headphones and hope there’s a huge feedback loop that scorches their ears as you thrash out of the studio and cancel the project.
Or…you can be a big boy and see it through.
Seeing it through
Directed sessions can go one of two ways. Very easy, or very hard. There is no in between. Clients either want to really make you earn your money, or they are just not willing to nitpick because they recognize your value and you sounded awesome to begin with. One has to do with your training, the other has to do with their lack thereof. They’re not professional directors after all. They just don’t know what they don’t know. And sometimes they feel they need 27 takes of a 5 word script because they just want plenty of options.
There’s that word again: options. Ugh. Roll your eyes with me.
But you have options too! So let’s talk about ‘em:
- Option One: Say “NO” loudly and hang up and run, throw a spectacular temper tantrum and then go watch Frozen again with your sippy cup
- Option Two: Grin and bear it and say everything with a meatheaded and robotically patronizing through-your-teeth smile that pretends that you’re actually into it
- Option Three: Press On. Realize that this too shall end, and you’re getting paid a handsome wage for your pain and suffering.
That is…if you’re charging for it. Remember, a directed session is a chargeable service. WOW! What?!?!? Chargeable?!?!? Your eyes opened wide! Didn’t you know that? The price you’re quoting is for the job only, and for the market reach, for its duration, whatever. If they want to add on perpetuity, that’s another charge. If they want pickups from changed scripts, that’s another charge. And if they want to add a directed session, you can bet *their* bottom dollar that’s another charge. It’s a service you’re providing, and for you to be told what to say and how to say it, when you are an experienced voice actor (or not?) is something that you have to put up with and do it their way. Therefore, to do so, is an extra charge. You’re allocating your time and resources to sit in a booth at their beckon call, and to do so, is an extra charge.
Awesome Voice Actress Natasha Marchewka also has a great article on preparing for directed sessions.
Stand your ground. Go with option 3. Roll your eyes. Exhale loudly. Stamp your feet. Tell them you need a break for a minute. Do whatever you need to to get through. Project yourself mentally 30 minutes into the future. You’ll probably be out of your booth and on your way to 7-11 for that Slurpee.
You can get through this.
Options, Options, So Many Options
Clients want options: that’s the nature of a directed session. Breathe through the session, and don’t go into it expecting to get out anytime soon: that way, if you do, it’s an unexpected blessing. It’s your job to give them those options, but make sure you’re charging for said options and having them recognize that your time is valuable.
I stood my ground recently with a client who balked at the “extra charge” (which I informed them about, as I always do, in my audition notes – it was right there from the start) and they were ready to just bail on me and go elsewhere.
But they came back, because they wanted me, and I’m good, and my time is valuable.
Either that or because their insatiable bloodlust to murder a struggling-to-be-patient voice talent overrode their budgetary constraints, and I smelled like fresh meat to them. I’ll never know.
In reality, most are just trying to get the job done just like you are, and you can both make it through. But if you get that ONE client, pass the salt with you? There’s some tasty voiceover artists they want a succulent bite of...
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Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Talent for hire
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