Etiquette For Producers/Directors/Content Creators Feb 22, 2017 3:46:54 GMT -8 The Uncertain Man, Anairis Q, and 7 more like this
Post by LadyStardust on Feb 22, 2017 3:46:54 GMT -8
The following guide is meant to assist producers (particularly on volunteer projects) in managing and communicating properly with their voice actors. Sometimes, well-meaning producers just don't have experience in dealing with voice talent, so they may make unreasonable demands or hurt the feelings of the people trying to help them.
The blunt fact of the matter is, the more you're paying your actors, the more demands you're able to make in terms of short/firm deadlines, e-mail response time, pristine sound quality and editing, and availability for live direction...because it becomes a professional job. But when it's an unpaid project, as many projects in the online scene are, you have to remember that you're dealing with volunteers, and so you may need to adjust your expectations a bit. This guide will primarily focus on expectations for unpaid to low-paid small projects.
Of course, etiquette is a two way street, and voice actors are also expected to be professional in communicating with their directors---but we've discussed that side of things in other guides.
So with that said, here are some tips to help ensure that your actors will enjoy working with you!
- First, don't ask for volunteer work if you are planning to make any reasonable amount of revenue off your project.
A YouTube video that makes a grand total of $3.80 from monetization probably isn't a big deal, but if you're asking for voice actors for a project you plan to sell, such as a game or app, or an animation that will result in significant ad revenue from views, you should be compensating your entire creative team appropriately---and this includes your voice talent. While there are plenty of beginner/aspiring voice actors willing to work on unpaid projects to get practice and some form of acting experience, "exposure"-based offers should be reserved for hobby/passion projects or fun collaborative efforts that aren't meant to make money. (If you aren't sure what type of compensation to offer for indie projects, or fear you can't afford industry rates, check out our Indie Rate Guide for ideas.)
- Try to be reasonable and understanding when it comes to deadlines. Quick deadlines are common for paid work, but when you're dealing with volunteers on hobby projects, other things may have to be higher on their priority list. Remember that everyone has commitments outside of your project, whether it's work, school, family, etc. Allow a reasonable amount of time for delivery based on the workload, and try to be open to allowing extensions if you're able to do so.
- Recasting should be a last resort...but if you need to recast, be sure to communicate. Unfortunately, recasts happen sometimes. Maybe the actor doesn't turn in lines or respond to e-mails for a long time after the deadline has passed, or they're sick for two weeks and you can't delay any longer, or a big event happens in their personal life that leaves them unable to record. If the problem is that the deadline passes and they haven't turned in lines, they may have just forgotten, so it's worth sending a reminder email with something like "Hey, yesterday was the deadline for the project, but I still haven't received lines from you. Can I expect them soon, or do you need an extension?" If they don't respond to the followup email, you can try sending a message with something like "It's been a few days since the deadline passed and I still haven't heard from you regarding your status. Please let me know by the end of the week if you need an extension. If I don't hear anything from you by that time, I regret to inform you that I will need to recast your part." Also, remember that not all actors regularly check messenger services, so if you're only trying to contact them via Twitter or Facebook message or Discord DM, try sending an e-mail instead---it's what people tend to check for business. And whatever you do, don't recast just because you "found someone better" - that is incredibly hurtful and an almost surefire way to burn bridges. For more on this, check out our post on recasting etiquette.
- Don't constantly hound actors about turning in lines. Set a specific deadline so your actors know when they're responsible for turning in their work. Sending out a reminder one or two days before the deadline is perfectly acceptable...in fact, many actors prefer it, as it can be easy to forget when you've got something due. But don't send something out without a deadline and then message your actors multiple times a day asking when they're going to turn it in...that will just make them resentful. Let them know upfront when you need it by, send one optional reminder right before, and then you can send a followup after if you don't receive your lines on time.
- If you require certain labeling and formatting, please specify so. You will likely get files delivered in either wav or mp3, but if you need only one or the other (or something more unusual like .ogg), be sure to state so when you send out the script. Is one big file okay, or do you need them to be split up individually? Can actors send only their best take, or do you want to hear two or three takes per line? Would you prefer recordings completely raw, or with basic editing (such as noise reduction) applied, or fully edited/broadcast-ready? Do you need them labeled a certain way? You don't HAVE to specify all those things, but if you need them, it's best to say so upfront to avoid the hassle of everyone having to go through and convert or relabel all their files after sending.
- Remember that most of your voice actors are not sound engineers, and that editing and labeling files can take a long time. It's understandable to want each file split up individually and labeled a certain way...in fact, it can be integral to project organization. But the more lines the character has, the more tedious this becomes. The same goes for editing out every breath or small noise, making all the files a certain volume, mastering, etc...it's generally expected for voice actors to turn in reasonably "clean" files, but if you do have a sound engineer or editor on the project, or are willing to do some of this yourself, it will help save a lot of time and trouble. Editing work can easily double or triple the work time on a project. Again, just be up front with what you want in terms of formatting and labeling...but know that actors do groan a little inside when we see we need to turn in 150 individual, fully edited wav files. (And if you require this of your actors, you should probably be paying them extra for it.)
- Don't force your actor to join a Skype/Facebook group, Discord server, separate forum, or attend project meetings, unless absolutely necessary. Most of your communication can and should be done by email, with possible live direction via Skype or Discord. Most people don't have time, especially for a volunteer project, to participate in group meetings or sign up for separate websites. Coordinating "table reads" is probably doable if your cast is really into it, but is generally not necessary and can be a nightmare to schedule and coordinate a time when everyone can be online at once. Furthermore, your voice actors generally don't need to attend "production meetings"---those are for your team, such as animators, artists, programmers, etc---as long as the voice actors have the material needed to do their jobs, they're good. And some group chats turn into spammy social chats rather than project discussion for important updates. Now, sometimes group chats can be fun and allow the cast and team to get to know each other---so there's no HARM in creating one, but it should be optional, not a requirement, for someone voice acting for your project to be active in such groups.
- "Line reads" are generally not preferred---let your actors act, and then redirect them if needed. It's pretty off-putting to receive an mp3 file of the director reading all the lines in their own voice and asking you to copy their inflection and delivery, because it basically takes all the creativity out and makes the actor a parrot/puppet. A lot of redirects can be communicated without the use of line reads---you can ask for it faster or slower, with more emphasis on a certain word, louder or softer, bigger or smaller in emotion/energy, rising or falling inflection at the end, etc. That being said, there are times when line reads are acceptable, such as abridged series or other parody projects where comedic timing is essential.
- Live direction is okay if you think it's important, but you can still achieve good results by allowing the actor to record on their own time. For certain projects, especially more prestigious ones or ones where you have specific deliveries in mind, you may wish to schedule a session over Skype or Discord to direct the actor. But do keep in mind, especially if you don't really know how to direct or have experience doing so, many actors can self-direct pretty well for their first takes as long as they have the proper materials (full script for context, any video or picture references, character descriptions, etc.) If they send over their first takes and there are some lines that need changes, you can ask for a round of retakes and point out what you'd like to hear differently in those lines. If you are not paying your actors an hourly rate, live direction should be optional. For more tips on directed sessions, check out our guide here.
- Be reasonable (and specific) with retake requests. Retakes are perfectly normal and even expected most of the time---after all, you want to be happy with the finished product, and it's quite rare that an actor will nail every line exactly the way you wanted it on the first take. So if you want to hear something different, ask---maybe you want a different speed or emotion or emphasis, or you just want to hear a few more takes. That's fine! The more specific you can be with the changes you're looking to hear, the better the chances are that they'll "get it" on the second try. When it becomes an issue is if it turns into something like "I'm not sure I liked it, can you redo all the lines in the script and give me 5 takes of each?" Retakes for tech issues are understandable too (pops, huffs, clipping, etc) but if it's, say, the tiniest amount of background echo that you can only hear with your headphones turned all the way up, it's better just to let it go---after all, you heard the actor's recording quality when you cast them, and assuming it's consistent with their auditions, you knew what to expect.
- Professional communication and writing style will not only make your messages easier to understand, but they will help you be taken more seriously. Let's be honest. If you receive a message from someone that goes "hayyy sup i was hoping u would Voice ACt for my project?? pls respond"...it doesn't exactly inspire confidence. But if you receive a polite and properly worded message, it sends the message "this person knows what they are doing". You don't need to be overtly formal, but spell-check and proper capitalization go a long way. (If English is not your first language, people will be forgiving of grammar mistakes, especially if you let them know. I'm talking more about avoiding about text speak, Capitalizing Every Word, ALL CAPS, etc.)
- Any issues with your actors should be handled directly and confidentially. Once in a while, a conflict happens, things go sour, and maybe there are some hard feelings. But if you're having an issue with someone, please talk to them directly about it, or if that's not an option, unfriend/block and remove them from the project. Don't take to social media to vent about them or try to smear their name---it makes you look petty and unprofessional. If a team member asks what happened or another director asks for a referral, stick to the facts and keep it businesslike. Burning bridges and stirring up nasty drama can cause issues with other relationships in the future.
- Don't expect your cast members to be your BFFs. Many times bonds do happen naturally, especially on long-term projects. But just because you have cast someone for a role in a project you're making does not mean you suddenly have free reign to hit them up 24/7 for a chat, blow up their inboxes with promotions for other projects you're working on, or vent to them about problems in your personal life (...yes, unfortunately all these things happen.)
- Keep updates/announcements to the important stuff. I know it's tempting to e-mail your cast every time you've made a slight bit of progress, but remember that actors are working on plenty of projects besides yours at any given time, and this stuff can easily clog up their inbox. It's okay to update your cast on certain milestones such as project release or demo out, but otherwise, a better option is to create a Twitter or Facebook page where you post updates and the cast members can follow this if they are interested.
- Credit your cast, unless they request otherwise! Generally, voice actors love being credited for their work, and it means other people may potentially see them and scout them for projects. But it's a good idea to ask your cast how they want to be credited, especially if the project is of an adult nature or contains other sensitive material---some people may choose to use an alias, or not be credited at all. Although plenty of people are fine with using their real, full names, just because that name is on their e-mail or Facebook account doesn't necessarily mean they want to use it for a project. Aside from that, crediting your cast will also help them out in terms of having a verified, completed project for their resume.
- Respect people's decisions in regards to sharing on social media. We get it---you're doing a Kickstarter for your game, and you want the voice actors to post about it so you can hopefully receive some more publicity and funding. It's fine to make a request, like "if you get a chance, I'd be appreciative if you could retweet/share the post!" But if they don't feel comfortable doing it for whatever reason, please respect their decision. Some people don't want their pages to be seen as "advertising" too much, especially on say, a personal Facebook account. Continually pressuring people into posting about your project or crowdfunding page puts them in an awkward situation and makes them feel as if maybe they were only cast because of their social media reach. You can increase the chances of authentic shares if, say, you put out a great trailer or some awesome artwork, and tag the person who voiced the character. If they like it, it's easy for them to retweet. Check out this thread for more on marketing expectations.
- Let your cast know when the project is out! This sounds like a no-brainer, but people like to see their performances in action, and may even want to show their friends or family or put it on their website. Finishing what you start also adds to your credibility as a producer, because people know you get things done.
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