My SAG-AFTRA Presentation On VO Demos (Part 2)

Hey there!

SAG-AFTRA asked me to come in and talk to members about the strategies and tactics performers need to know about to be competitive in today’s marketplace.

This is Part 2 of 2, recorded in front of a live audience of 300 in the Cagney Room at the union’s Los Angeles headquarters.

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Hope this helps!


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hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and this will be part 2 of a
presentation I gave recently at the
headquarters here in Los Angeles on
voiceover demos I talked about
strategies in the first part let’s talk
about some tactics take a look at part 2
what about the actual production itself
once you determine who you’re gonna go
see because you’ve listened you like
what you hear listen for the things that
I’m gonna talk about here listen for
those things in their portfolio of demos
every demo that you create should be to
the person listening to it the target
audience a series of outstanding
examples of what you would sound like to
their audience so snippets from radio
and television even though they’re
completely manufactured they have to
sound like they came right off the air
and if they all sound the same which a
lot of demo producers do they’ll have
you spend all your time on the same
microphone with the same words with the
same music packages with the same sound
effects when they actually go to produce
them they sound manufactured and what do
you think that does to a casting
director who’s listened to demo after
demo after demo shut some down and you
know what point they shut down right
between the first and second clip on
your demo because if those two sound
alike if they sound like they were done
on the same mic if they sound they were
like they were done with similar energy
even if the music changes and I’ve heard
demos where there’s one piece of music
under five different $99 demo guy if the
music sounds similar if the density of
the production is the same there’s this
immediate shutdown it’s like you could
be great but it’s like another
manufactured demo
right who needs that so even though
that’s exactly what you would do if you
came to me or someone like me we would
manufacture your demo once we do your
drive voice tracks I pull you in and I
apply different EQ curves to every
single piece you do so that it sounds
like you’re either coming off of FM
radio or television or you’ve been
outdoors or you’re on a different mic
and every single piece sounds different
and the first two that break sound
drastically different because what I
want to have happen is I want it to
sound like instead of you arriving at my
studio at 2:17 on a Tuesday afternoon to
do your demo you actually brought me a
box with cassette tapes and CDs and DVDs
and a VHS of your Wendy’s spot from 1994
and I had to grab a VHS deck from a
rental shop because I didn’t have one
anymore right and that’s the only way I
could get all of these clips that we
then curated we went through to find the
very best from your vast and illustrious
career that’s what I want the casting
person to think production density is
something that I mentioned as well
here’s another point for you over half
the spots that you hear on radio
depending upon what format you’re
listening to over half the spots have
absolutely no production whatsoever no
music no effects no jingles no
explosions no car crashes no fireworks
nothing just a person standing selling
you something now how often have you
heard demos where that is reflected
everybody has to put music and effects
and the fireworks and the car crashes
and the jingles and all that they have
to do it they have to because otherwise
they don’t feel like they’re doing their
job but if in the real world you took
and you had say a 10 20 30 year career
and you took all of the commercials that
you’d done and you lined up the best
ones perhaps some of them wouldn’t have
any production whatsoever and the
variance in production levels is again
that oral cue to the casting person ok
maybe this isn’t
manufactured demo even though it is your
producer should be pulling copy that
does nothing but show the gloriousness
of your the glory I guess is the right
word the glory of your voice your demo
should be anywhere between four five six
seven eight clips of your work the idea
is to get the casting director to listen
to the first five seconds and be happy
please don’t bury your leads as some
sort of a dramatic flourish at the end
of your drama if you have a great piece
put it up front and you will if you go
to the right producers remember that
when you’re doing voice work you’re
acting so don’t start acting after you
start talking start before you start
talking don’t stop acting until after
you’ve finished speaking
don’t just coast across the finish line
and let your energy drain as you say the
product name the way I do it is I lay
down dry voice tracks I direct you as we
lay down dry voice tracks and I urge you
to remember the nomenclature and
remember the process and remember those
things that are challenges to you I
don’t think there’s anybody in this room
to whom this applies but this is how I
run my business if you show up at my
studio and you can’t take direction and
you can’t create a character and you
can’t alter things so that I get what I
need I stop the demo and I say you know
what we’re not gonna do your demo today
I’m not gonna take your money here are
some things that I’ve identified that
you need to get better at and I want you
to go do them you don’t take classes
from me go to Cal Munson or go to voice
caster’s or go to whoever you want to go
to to work on this but don’t come back
in and do this again until we’re ready
to do that last thing in the world I
want to do is Frankenstein together a
demo from syllables and phonemes and
plosives and you know to do something
fantastic that the person then then
cannot accurately reproduce falling out
of bed at an audition or when they just
get cast for work that would be doing no
one a favor I don’t think that applies
to anybody in here but it’s it goes to
the sort of morality of the people that
are just waiting out there
to separate you from your money in an
effort to solve this problem that you
have about getting a demo done once the
demo is pulled in various things are
done to the voice tracks to make them
sound different they’re all they’re all
sweetened in a particular way to create
and then they’re arranged in a way to
create and I mean arranged physically
not arranged like music but arranged in
order so that the very first clip shows
the straight arrow strike zone of your
natural voice so that the moment your
voice is heard the casting director has
a great idea of what you naturally sound
like then the second clip is the one
that changes up changes the performance
level energy level changes the
production values and does everything
that I can do to put that casting
director at ease that yeah this isn’t
really a manufactured demo even though
it is there are the voice 1 2 3 said
don’t use slates don’t use slates on
your auditions either are you kidding me
are you kidding me are you that arrogant
about you being the game changers in the
world of voice-over that you’re taking
away the ability for us to identify
ourselves and give the casting person
one more reason to book us this isn’t
giving them a reason to say no which we
try to minimize my mantra is do more of
what works and less of what doesn’t and
you can’t go far wrong so don’t give
them ideas about how to say no to things
give them ideas about why to say yes
when you’re done with your demo you
should be able to leave with it there
are plenty of places in town that you
come in you do Drive voice tracks and
then you won’t hear from them for weeks
months it took me seven weeks to get my
promo and trailer demo from the place
that I did it at and when I got it back
the bill $1,600 the bill had seven hours
of editing on it and I’m like dude you
got to get better editors as you move
forward in your career and you decide
you’re going to try other categories
like IVR and animation & narration and
all that everyone in this room should do
a narration demo but once you have that
home equipment I think I talked about it
in home equipment
the home equipment thing you can start
to do some demos that don’t require
production like fiction audiobook
nonfiction audiobook children’s audio
book specialty narration like science
technology medicine legal anybody in
here want to do a demo describing what a
tort is you can do all of those things
without any music or effects that’s what
I mean by production you’re just
basically doing a minute minute and a
half’s worth of stuff and that’s it and
it’s a clip and take that person on a
journey just like you would with an
audiobook demo I teach classes on both
voice categories work in categories and
also voice management practices I do
workshops all over town as ellen said i
do home equipment and i do demos and I’m
an actor and I so value you guys giving
me your attention thank you so much so
there you go part two and that kind of
wraps that up for sag they asked me to
come in the cagney room was lots of fun
to talk to my peers about what can
really help them move forward did you
have any questions about that if so put
them in the comments below anything that
you learned that you thought was really
cool anything that was surprising to you
anything that you disagree with I’m
happy to discuss it I love talking about
voiceover and demos if you want to
subscribe to the channel so you know
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it’ll play I’m David H Lawrence 217th
thank you so much for watching and I’ll
talk to you tomorrow



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  1. Great video! This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone say the demo should sound like it comes from different mics and locations, showing our best examples and not manufactured. Wow! That’s a game changer.

  2. Great job teaching and picking out concise gems for us who were not able to attend. For your readers, yes, I hired David to make my demo and it came out great and I left with it in hand.

  3. Some great info David H. I’ll be putting it to use. Thanks. I’ve avoided going down the pro demo producer road because of the $2,500 cost. I think mine hold up well, but you may be hearing from me in the future.

  4. Loved your point of having the first 2 clips drastically different, creating a hook for the listening ear. So, so happy my demo has that!
    I learn every time I listen to you David, thanks for the videos!