Poetry Friday: “Shadows”

Shadows - poem & pic

Amy at The Poem Farm has today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

The difference between high rates and low rates: it’s not money

My baby!Well, sure, a $500 commercial and a $50 commercial may have a difference of $450…but that’s only a small part of the story.

If you are a business that seeks professional creative talent (voiceovers, graphic art, anything) on a regular or even semi-regular basis, you should remember there is much more to a quoted rate than just dollars. In fact, dollars are merely a sign of underlying value – or lack thereof.

That’s not to say that the more expensive a service is, the better it is; we can certainly all point to circumstances that prove otherwise. There is something to be said, though, about what makes up a rate, what goes into it, and what needs to be removed in order to make that rate lower.

Behind the scenes of voiceovers

I’ve heard many folks claim – falsely – that voice work is easy because you just ‘speak into a mic.’ How hard can it be, they say, you’re just reading!  These people don’t understand the importance of tone, timing, inflection, energy, and dozens of other factors that go into voicing a script in order to make the most of that script.

They don’t realize the necessity of reading a script before recording and correcting typos, misspellings, and punctuation and grammar errors.  They don’t understand why a line might need to be recorded two or three times and then edited together to make it sound like one line. They certainly have no idea what ambience, mouth noise, plosives, sibilance, proximity effect, or a noise floor are.

And they probably don’t care.

But you know what? If you hire someone to voice a corporate video, on-hold messaging, or some other project, you don’t need to know these things, so you really don’t need to care.

That’s why professionals like me exist – because we DO know these things and we DO care!  More on this in just a minute…

Voiceovers and photography – the easiest jobs in the world

ID-100111925 (photographer)Last weekend, I was speaking to a professional photographer who has been working in the business for a couple years and is still trying to build up her portfolio. She told me what she normally charges for certain projects, which is slightly less than average, and then followed it up – almost sheepishly – with why she felt justified charging those rates.

“People just don’t know all the work that goes into it!” she said, exasperated.  Just one on-location event, she explained, requires time spent prepping the schedule, knowing who to take pictures of and when, who they want the pictures taken with, what activities during the course of this event need to be captured, and any other bits of pertinent information.

Then there’s culling the hundreds of photos taken to pull the best ones, editing and touching up those pictures, and making sure every photo she sends to her client looks as good as possible. And of course, the gas driving to and from events, the cost of her equipment and materials, and the fact that she actually needs to make a bit of a profit to keep doing it.

She said when she quotes a few hundred dollars per hour, some people will scoff at the cost.  Others who do hire her will often be calling her up the next day, wondering where their photos are.

“They think I’m just there, taking pictures – they don’t realize everything else that’s involved!”

I told her I knew exactly what she meant.

Lower rate = less services?

Getting back to why professionals like my photographer friend and me exist…it’s because we worry about the details that others don’t.  As I thought about all the things I provide under the umbrella of my rates, it occurred to me that if I was going to lower my rates considerably, I would need to forego some of the services I provide. Otherwise, I would be working, working, working non-stop for less and less money.

Personally, I didn’t like that option.

If I charge $300 for a 15-minute corporate video narration, I’m going to provide script prep (checking for errors, stressed lines, etc.); I’ll record the audio on professional equipment at the sample and bit rates requested; I’ll edit mistakes, clicks, and plosives (those annoying ‘pops’ when someone utters a word starting with “P”); I’ll sweeten the audio, if requested, with EQ, compression, or delay effects; I’ll mix it all down and send it to you in the audio file format of your choice (.wav, .mp3, .aiff, etc.); and with the exception of long-form narration, I can usually have it back to you in less than 36 hours.

All for $300.  I’d say that’s a pretty fair price.

ID-10067032 (dollar sign - broken)Due diligence and buyer’s remorse

So when I see another voice talent charging only $50 or so for the same thing, I have to wonder what it is that I’m providing that he or she is not. What part of the service is being dropped or diminished, so that the talent can make such a low rate profitable? Do they not have the time or experience to be able to prep a script? Are they not using professional equipment? Do they even know the difference between sample rates and bit rates?

Do they care??

More importantly, do you care whether or not they care?

If you do…research who you are hiring, and don’t hire on price alone. If you come across someone with a rate that seems high to you, spend some time thinking about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a rate like that, and then compare that to the super-low rate your found on one of those quick-and-easy freelance websites.

Perhaps you’ll find someone who does a great job and you’ll get a great deal. Perhaps, instead, you’ll wish someone else had done it.

Or worst of all…perhaps someone else will need to do it.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: A Two-Haiku Kind of Day

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI don’t often write haikus, as they are simultaneously the easiest and hardest poems to write.

On the surface, they appear very simple:  3 lines, nothing to it, right? But then once you start, you realize you need natural imagery, human emotion, a twist in the 3rd line…and suddenly you start disliking every word you write down.

The fact is, a haiku is the easiest poem in the world to screw up. Anyone write a bad one; it’s extremely difficult to write a good one.

So…are these any good?

Hard tellin’, not knowin’.  I like them – and have put more time into them than you might think at first blush.  So hopefully you’ll like them, too! The first is my newest poem, something I wrote for the autumn-themed children’s poetry collection I’m writing. The second one is geared to an older reader and was published last year by the online literary journal, YARN (Young Adult Review Network).  I’m sharing it today because…well, because I felt like it!

ID-100196945 (acorns)Acorns

Mother oak
kisses her babies goodbye,
their caps warm and snug.

– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

.

Abandonment

Sparrow sweetly sings
melancholy melody;
her mate, on the ground.

– © 2012, Matt Forrest Esenwine

For all of today’s Poetry Friday happenings, please visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

When a good story, well-told, doesn’t tell the right story

I wasn’t planning on posting another commercial critique today.  I had customer service, rate integrity, and children’s books on my mind.

But then I came across a new commercial for Chipotle Mexican Grill, and new I had to share it.

Before we get to it, however, I’d like you to check out the commercial I featured last week HERE.  In that blog post, I explained why good stories are important in commercials, and why telling them in a compelling manner is important, too.  I also noted why the closing lines, voiced by an off-screen announcer, were so effective.

So with that in mind, take a look at this brand-new commercial (which, at over 3 minutes long, is more of a game trailer/web video) and see what you think:

Attracts your attention and creates interest? Check.

Compelling story? Check.

Emotional connection to the viewer? Check, check.

Clear message and call to action?  Uhhhhh….

As good as this commercial is, I don’t like it.  Not because it’s not a good story, and not because it’s not well-told.  This commercial fails, in my opinion, because what it’s promoting is not what the viewer thinks it’s promoting.

Throughout the spot, we see the industrialization of agriculture destroying the American way of life – a common theme in many of Chipotle’s past spots.  So the message is: Locally-sourced, sustainable, non-GMO food is better for us, for the animals, for the world.  (Keep in mind, I’m not here to debate whether this is true or not; I’m just pointing out that that’s the message.

Then, after three minutes of them pulling me into their story, their call to action is…download our app???

Did I miss something? I was just having my emotions played with and my heartstrings tugged, and was all set for Chipotle to suggest I visit them – but instead of asking me to dine at one of their restaurants, they want me to download a game app!  Talk about missed opportunities.

Had the story encouraged me to feel compelled to download the app, I’d probably love the commercial. As it is, though, this story made me feel like supporting local agriculture, buying chemical-free meat, and going to Chipotle Mexican Grille for dinner…

…but, OOPS!  That’s not what the folks at Chipotle want me to do. They don’t want me to patronize their restaurant.

They want me to download an app.

Another fail – and a BIG Plus

ID-1009466 (veggies)
“Eat FRESH!” Oh, wait – that’s a different company, too.

One other thing that caught my attention – and not in a good way – comes at 2:17, when the scarecrow goes to the farm and picks a fresh vegetable from the vine. Now, he could have picked any veggie there – tomato, onion, corn, whatever – but the very first one he picks…is the Chili’s Grill & Bar logo.  I know, I know – Chipotle uses a chili pepper as their logo, too – but Chipotle’s is a black & white artistic rendering of a chili pepper, not a bright red, curvy chili pepper with a green top that looks like it was just pilfered from a Chili’s Bar & Grill sign.

Not a good idea, when you haven’t stated the name of your business in your commercial yet – or haven’t even hinted at a call to action yet.

Which brings me to the Big Plus. For years, I’ve been telling clients and sales reps that the business name does not need to be mentioned in the first 5 seconds of a commercial, nor does it need to be splattered throughout the body of the spot 20 times to make sure the listener remembered it. Heck, I’ve written and produced 60-second radio commercials that don’t give the client name until 45 seconds in!  If the story is compelling, the listener (or viewer) will wait for it – and remember it.

I also have to give a “little plus” to their choice of music:  the song, “Pure imagination” from the 1971 movie, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory fits the mood of the production perfectly.

This commercial will help Chipotle get people in the door only because the public has grown accustomed to their style of commercial and their message (even though it was quite muddled this time).  I’m sure it’ll become somewhat of a viral hit, too, which will be a positive.

So to say the video won’t be effective is doing it a disservice; a commercial is effective if it works.  In this case, if Chipotle gets more people through their doors – but very few download the app – can it be considered an effective commercial or not?  What do you think? I’d love to get your thoughts!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “First Day in the Cafeteria”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllOK, ok…so I’m a bit late. I know, school has already started and here I am without my late pass.

Students have been back to their classes for one or two weeks now and although I had wanted to post this earlier, I kept forgetting!  Between my wife’s and my lack of sleep with the arrival of our new daughter, Phoebe, 4 weeks ago and that 5-day-long weekend announcing gig at the local fair, my time – and my mind – have both taken some serious hits.

But, hey, today’s Friday the 13th! What better day to write about school?!?

And remember…there’s plenty more poetry out there. For the complete Poetry Friday roundup, be sure to visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts!

“First Day in the Cafeteria”        

They could have served us burgers.
They could have served us fries.
They could have served us mac ‘n cheese
or deep-fried chicken thighs.

They could have served cold pizza
or greasy beef pot pies,
so why oh why – our first day back –
do we get “Chef’s Surprise??”

– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

A good story, well-told, always trumps the gimmicks

This is going to be a short post; as you may know, my wife gave birth to her second child a mere 3 weeks ago, so neither of us have been getting much sleep lately! Granted, I get more than my wife since she’s nursing the baby, but all that means is that I get 4 hours of sleep compared to her 2…so neither of us is ‘winning’ in the REM-stage department.

Because of this, it’s all I can do to help keep the house maintained while trying to actually do work. So I was considering  posting a short blog entry today when I came across this commercial; as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to share it.

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I’ve written previous posts about the importance of storytelling in commercials, the necessity of keeping the story and your message straightforward, and of the value of using language everyone understands.  I’ve also given numerous examples of why a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is so important.  Even if it wasn’t an advertisement, the following commercial is a terrific example of storytelling.

It does not rely on sexy women, talking animals, precocious kids, fantasy dream-sequences, or multiple jump-cuts. It is not funny, stylish, artsy, outlandish,or hip.

Rather, it features a simple-to-understand and emotionally stirring plot, and because it is told more visually than verbally, anyone watching it can understand what’s going on. Although the USP may not be explicitly stated, this is a brand most folks recognize as being unique unto itself, and the ultimate message of the commercial – that it’s a special kind of person who uses this product – is unmistakable.

That message is driven home by the last sentence spoken at the end of the spot:

Move over, Budweiser Clydesdales…there are still more heartstrings yet to be tugged, and Guinness has a firm grasp on them.

What do you think of the commercial – as an ad, or simply as a story? I’d love to get your thoughts!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Pencils”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllAs I was looking over this year’s poems, wondering which I should share today, I happened upon this one.

I wondered if I should post it because it feels different from some of the other children’s poetry I’ve written, and I debated with myself if it was done, if it was good, if it was anything.  Being the type who can debate with himself at length, a draw was declared with no discernible winner.  So I did what any self-respecting writer would do.

I revised!

And truth be told, I still don’t know if it’s done, good, or anything. But I do know that I wrote it on 5-9-13 and revised it on 9-5-13…so I’ll take that as a little sign that I’m supposed to share this today. Plus, with the kids back in school now, it’s timely, at least.

Hope you like it! (And I hope it’s done) For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup – and one of my favourites from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – be sure to visit Laura at Author Amok!

shutterstock_96665545 (colored pencils)“Pencils”

That’s what we are,
you and I
and the lady at the store
and that short kid
with the glasses
we met
during lunch.
Different colors,
sizes,
lengths…yet
inside,
each one capable
of our own kind of
magic
and filled with stories
yet to be written.

– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!