Voice over Coaching with
mary lynn wissner
With Mary Lynn Wissner, you’ll learn how to adapt, apply and succeed with the ever-changing trends in advertising and production. You’ll gain the skill set and techniques tailored to your abilities, talent and range. Each talent is different and comes with a different set of skills, abilities and goals. We will analyze those skills, refine those abilities and work hard to reach those goals.
17:01 So I wanted to ask you a few questions about what it's like to work with you, and your background. And just what either new voice talent or voice talent who are looking for a new coach would expect when working with you.
“Sure. Well, I've been a bit of voiceover casting director for 30 years, and a voice over coach for about that long as well. And I love doing both. They're just passions of mine. And I think what's kind of unique about my coaching and what I bring to the coaching process is that I come from the casting director perspective. So I like to teach what I kind of call, are the foundation of voiceovers, and I'm talking about commercials right now. I like to teach that, but I also like to teach the little tricks and tips and techniques and hats and whatever you want to call them, that make you stand out on a voiceover audition. Because as a casting director, I'm listening to auditions almost every single day, so there are certain things that actors do, that make them stand out, and make me pay attention to their audition that other actors don't do. And the goal, of course, obviously, is to stand out in your audition and get that booking. So that's what I teach. And I think that provides a very unique place to be, for not only the talent, but for me. Because from a casting side, I get to hear new talent when I work with them, but also from the talent side. They get to kind of know what goes on behind the scenes after they submit their audition and so on.”
Carrie: I think that's really huge to know because so much of it for voice talent is, it can feel like a guessing game.
“Totally. I always tell talent it's such a crapshoot because sometimes, you get these specs, and they could be listening back to all the auditions, and then they change their mind midway. Sometimes, it's not even so much the sound of your voice, it's about the way you're acting that voice. So it's not even, sometimes I should say all the, so there's a lot of like intricacies that go into voiceover performance. And I think it's really important as a voice talent to train and learn those things about yourself.”
14:33 Do you coach beginners?
“No. I used to, but now, I just, my time is a little more limited. And I'll touch somebody that's maybe on the high beginner side. But for somebody that's completely starting, has never done a voiceover class, who has not even really been in a booth or anything, I don't. I don't. I just don't have the patience for it. So, it's because there's a lot of rudimentary stuff, and I don't mean that to sound snobby or anything. It's just that, you really should get the fundamentals down, and very practical information, and time in the booth before you go on to, say, private coaching with me. Because it's kind of too competitive for you not to do that, anyway. And if you've never done it, and then you're going to try, and get an agent or meet with a casting director, that's the first thing they're going to tell you is, hey, go take a workshop, You've never done a workshop. You need to know the lingo, the different ways of placing your mic, different types of copy, and so on. So, I kind of expect talent to have a little bit of those fundamentals under their belt.”
13:16 You mentioned that a lot of what you were talking about was commercial. Are there other genres that you coach in?
“Commercial's my specialty. I do coach narration. And I do coach e-learning or corporate narration. But I have approached a little bit of promo, but I think there's other people that are better at that, for those specific genres. I just love commercials. And you know, commercials are the bread and butter of the voiceover industry. So you really have to have that niche down before you really try to do anything else. Because that's the first demo that an agent is going to ask of you. And commercials are cast every day, where the other ones are not cast as frequently.”
Carrie: I've even heard animation coaches say, go get your commercial stuff done first, learn commercial even before you come and try to do character work.
“Absolutely. Because even if that's all you ever want to do is character work, no agent is going to take you unless you can also do commercial work.”
12:10 When should a voice talent seek a coach?
“I think after they've done some workshops. Definitely after they've done a beginning workshop, and maybe even like an intermediate level workshop, then get down to working with a personal coach. You know, some people do it that way. I mean do go backwards a little bit, and maybe take one class and then get a personal coach. It kind of depends on your talent level too. Some people need a lot more acting experience because again, it's not just having this great voice, you have to be able to act. So I always say, while you're taking your voiceover class, go take an improv class or get involved in sort of a basic acting class, or my big thing is, I love when voice actors go take and on-camera commercial acting class. Because even though you might never want to do on-camera commercials, that acting that you do for on-camera commercial is completely applicable to the voiceover booth for voiceover commercials. So I'm a big fan of that.”
Carrie: That's so good to know. It gives a lot of other things for people to be doing too, in that time before they come and reach out to you.
“Absolutely, there's so much you can do. And even now, even though we're not meeting in person a lot right now with this pandemic thing, there's a lot of online classes going on. So there's definitely opportunities. And I find like, you don't have to be in L. A. to do those. You can be anywhere and get on board with those classes.”
10:29 You said you want to help people learn how they can stand out in an audition. Are there other things that encapsulate what you teach?
“Yeah, because what I noticed years and years ago I was coaching, and I always sort of coached, those people that have coached with me know I do this thing called the five popular directions. Because that is the foundation for all commercials. You know, these five directions always come up. And I teach how to do them. And every actor is different. So I say, we kind of create your own formula. So if you have that as your foundation, but the bonus, on top of that, is the stuff that I know that, because actors always come to me and say, "Gosh, I know I have a good voice. I have a great agent. I'm getting great copy. But I'm just not booking what's going on?" And then, when I can hear their reads, and what they're doing or not doing. I can say, I can tell you exactly what's going on, because I know what happens after you submit, upload your audition, and that's what a lot of coaches who aren't casting directors don't know. Because they don't listen to those auditions. They don't know the process. So that's what I teach my students. These little tricks and things that help you stand out, and kind of also help you understand the casting process.”
09:04 How long do you typically work with students?
“It just depends. I've had some students that just take a one-hour session, and that's fine. I've had some students that sign up where I have a four-pack of, 4 one-hour sessions. And they either do them once a week or every other week. And then, I have some students that can just continue to do the four packs, like every few months and buy another set of four packs. So it really depends on the talent. What they need, maybe they just want to work on something that they just, you know, I get a lot of emails and something's wrong, I need to kind of up my commercial game again like a tune up. So some of those are just one-offs, and that's great. You know, either, whatever is fine for me.”
08:16 And what is your take on demos? When should students make them? Do you make them? What's your involvement in that?
“So demos, you should never, never, never make a demo until you're 100% ready. And I am not a fan of those organizations out there that say, well, you do these workshops and you get a demo at the end of it. Because pretty much, consistently through the years, every one of those demos I've ever heard from, one of those types of workshop type things is never any good. Or the talent wasn't ready to make a demo. Your demos are your calling card. That's all you have, just like a non-camera actor has their head shots, so you don't want to blow it. And there's nothing worse than a bad demo, really.”
“So, I always say like, you know you're ready to make a demo, kind of like the same way, you know when you're ready to get married. You just know it's like, you just, there's something you just know, you know that, okay, I studied for, you know, months and months and months and months and months, and years and years or whatever it's been, I'm ready to make that demo now. That's not to say if you're sort of a beginner, you can't make a demo to get yourself maybe on a pay to play site or something.”
“But know that, maybe, be honest with yourself, and know that might be all it suited for. But if you want to play in the big game with big kids, the national L.A. New York market, you've got to have a really good demo. You've got to be able to replicate all those reads that are on your demo. And yeah, you've got to be able to bring it when that agent calls you in for an interview.”
“So I don't, I do demos. I'm not like, that's not like our main thing here, but I usually do, but the student asks me to do it because I know them so well, we worked together. But it's funny like this year, I started to do a lot more. I think more people have kind of like my style and wanted to change that up.”
“I do them with Tim Friedlander and Carson Beck at West Coast demos. But again, just, I don't advertise it because casting's number one thing here. And I want to make sure if I do say yes to your demo, I've got a lot of time to devote to it, because I write the copy for you. I get to know you. We have a workout session before the demo recording and stuff like that.”
Carrie: So it's full service when you do it.
05:44 And it sounds like the people that you work with, because they already have experience, there's probably not a whole lot of career coaching that you have to do. Most of them are probably already on a trajectory. Would you say?
“Yeah, a little bit of both. Some already have an agent. They already have a thing. Maybe they just want to update their demo. Freshen up their coaching, whatever. Some people are, okay, I've studied, I've had regional agents, and now I want to play in the big pool. I try to really get to know the person too before I even say yes, I would do a demo because I won't do a demo for a beginner. My name goes out there with them, so I want to make sure that I'm putting something out that I believe in, or that I believe this person can work. And they've got some training and good experience under their belt.”
04:49 Okay, so this is your opportunity to brag on yourself, and or your students, What is your greatest accomplishment, would you say, as a voice over coach?
“Oh my gosh, I can't think of like one particular one because whenever I do that, I'll be all the other ones screaming at me. I just, I think generally what always just like thrills me. I'm such a mom. I have two daughters. But all the voice talent are also my children because I'm very nurturing that way. So when I have a talent that I've worked with for a really long time, or even somebody I get many emails back. Like somebody just worked with me once and they'll say, "Oh my God, I took that coaching session with you, and then right away, I got an audition for my agent, and I booked it because I did that those things you told me to do," that just makes my day. It makes me so happy. Because not only do I know like, they listened, and they apply those things, but they took them to heart. I mean, I don't make that stuff up. It's what I know and it works.”
“So I'd say, like when I see the success and growth of students of mine, or they land that agent that they really wanted. Or they, like I said, they book a great gig or something. Finally, like we might have been working on a particular, like, say the real person read forever and it's just not sinking in. And then one day I'm like, why don't you try this trick? And it just, boom, it works. So pretty much any accomplishment the student has makes me really, really happy.”
03:05 Well, is there anything else you'd like to add, any advice you would have for voice over talent?
“Not really. I think, for any voiceover talent, the most important thing is, don't just rest on your laurels. If you get a couple of bookings, that's great. But always stay on top of the trends. You know, listen to audit to talent agencies house reels so you can see, and hear what some other talent are doing. Do your homework, you know. Pay attention to radio commercials, you know. Everything's streaming now. So we kind of got out of the habit of watching commercials.”
“So I tell voice actors, you know what, spend half an hour or an hour on daytime tv, on a national network, not a streaming channel and watch daytime commercials. Listen to them, and then do the same thing in the evening.”
“They're very different types of commercials and different types of voices, but just pay attention to that. And as a casting director, I really appreciate that. I like to know when somebody does their homework, stay on top of pop culture because a lot of times, certain celebrities from that really popular sitcom are the prototype for commercial and so on. So if you want to play in the game, you kind of have to stay in the game, and be knowledgeable about what's trending, who's who, maybe certain campaigns, what kind of voice they're using and so on.”
“I think it's all kind of, I think it's what you would do naturally. I mean, I do that naturally because it's part of my job, and I love it. Drives my kids crazy. But I'm like, no, keep the commercial on. But that's, I think that should be just second nature for any voice talent. And then training and, make sure everything is professional for sure, checking up on your booth, all that.”
Carrie: I think especially right now when commercials, the tone has changed so much in recent months. So staying up on things even on a moment by moment basis.
“Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I'm starting to see a little bit of a shift from the covid read, which is good because we're all tired of the "we're in this together" thing. But yeah, we don't know what's going to happen. So I just say always be prepared, because that's true, like you just don't know.”
Carrie: Awesome, thank you so much. This is really helpful. So I think it'll be a good peek into what it's like to work with you and kind of what newer voice talent can aspire to when they get to that level and what people who are ready to work with you can expect. So thank you.
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