DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
VO is a tough job. A rewarding one in many ways, certainly, but it’s still a very tough job. Fortunately, as voice-over artists we are blessed to be in a community that has some of the most giving, informed, expressive, and honest people in any profession. If you were to ask me to list the pros and cons of VO, one of the items in the “pro” list would be the community of people that are within it. It’s a business that is rather unregulated, though…which occasionally leads to people doing some things that I would consider questionable. So with that in mind, I ask, at what point is something…”wrong”?
What “wrong” things am I referring to? Well, here we come to the main dilemma I had in writing this blog entry. Publicly calling people out is generally not a nice thing to do–even if you only refer to them vaguely. So I’m not going to publicly call people out, but to give some general examples of things that I would consider “wrong”…
-Selling info that could be easily learned by just reading VO forums.
-Telling people that VO is an easy industry, when in fact it’s a very difficult one.
-Selling services that you are incapable of providing.
The list goes on to 11,389 items, but I’ll stop there. These are examples of things that I’d consider “wrong.”
I keep putting “wrong” in quotation marks for a reason, though (and if you’re listening to this, I’m doin’ the whole, ‘ya know…quotation mark gesture, like the thing that Dr. Evil did–never mind, you get the point). I can’t write the word “wrong” without quotation marks here. That’s because, even though I would consider these things to be “wrong,” they’re often not breaking any rules, violating any laws, or going against any official codes of conduct. I’m tempted to say that nobody could sued for these things either, but then again we live in the country where you can sue McDonald’s for not warning you that your coffee’s hot. Very often as professionals, the only standard we’re held up to is an invisible and unspoken code of conduct that not everyone necessarily agrees with. So how “wrong” is it when somebody does things like these?
That’s not a rhetorical question by the way, that’s an actual question. One of my earlier mentors in acting back when I was a freshman in college told me something that I will be haunted by for the rest of my life. When I asked, “So really, what does it take to succeed in the business of acting?”, they responded, without a second of hesitation, “Sell your soul and do away with the illusion of integrity.” I was blown away that they said that so blatantly, but it made me think…is integrity real, or an illusion meant to keep people under control while those without integrity break all of the “rules” of show biz so that they can have success? Our integrity may make us proud of ourselves…but is it also holding us back?
I’ve often heard the phrase, “you can’t put a price on integrity”…to which I’ve always replied, “I dunno, offer me ten million and I’ll at least hear you out.” I’m only half-joking, though. Given how rough this business is, I believe that anybody can be bought if the price is high enough. Unless that price is astronomically high, though, I’m going to hold on to my integrity, and not just for personal reasons, but for business reasons as well.
Here’s an example of what I mean. I don’t mean to hold myself up as Mr. High and Mighty, or turn this into an arrogant proclamation of, “People are dishonest, but look how wonderful I am!” However, I’m gonna bring up a personal example seeing as it’s what most immediately occurs to me. Recently, I was approached by another voice actor who requested my help as a consultant with their home studio, and they offered to pay me. I told them that, while I was flattered by the request, I couldn’t accept that. I explained that I have zero experience in consulting for home studios, and there are other people who are way more qualified than me who would give this voice actor much more bang for their buck. That was partially because…well, it was the truth, and I would feel uncomfortable taking money for a service that I could not properly provide. It was also for business reasons, though; when I couldn’t properly help this voice actor, the word would get out, and I would quickly be labeled as a fraud. Not to mention that I would become the laughing stock of actual home studio consultants who would, in some cases, go out of their way to advise people from doing any sort of business with me.
So as far as I’m concerned…remember your integrity. You’ll feel pride in yourself, and your business will not be bombarded with accusations of deceit. You truly cannot put a price on integrity…
…unless it’s ten million dollars.
PS: I almost didn’t write this blog entry because it’s not my intention to turn this entry into a name-bashing event where I’m calling specific people out. I just wanted to talk about integrity in general. So no, I will not publicly or privately reveal the names of people I feel did these “wrong” things, and I will not pull a Dan Brown and say their name in this blog entry through hidden codes………………..offer me ten million dollars and I will hear you out, sure, but I still won’t reveal specifics.