So long, SaVoa. I’m sorry. Really truly sorry.
…and I’m angry. Really truly angry.
As a voice talent, being used sort of comes with the territory, right? I mean, you put yourself out there as spokesperson for whatever the script may call for (within reason). It’s understood up front. No harm, no foul.
But what happens when something you’ve put your voice to turns out not to be quite as advertised? And what if people are hurt after buying into it because you were such an effective “shill”?
Some years ago, a fellow got the really truly good idea for a group which would be called SaVoa: Society of Accredited Voiceover Artists. He, and some founding members, braved ridicule and derision for thinking there ought to be a non-profit group…or guild…or association…of professional, veteran voice talent who could establish a certain recognized level of talent and technical ability. This was not to be/or/compete with a union. As I later thought I understood the concept, it would be a sort of Underwriters Laboratory for voice talent: wherein a producer considering a voice might see the SaVoa shield and be assured a quality job from an experienced talent. …a Good Housekeeping Seal, of sorts. Not a guarantee of work for the member, but one more reason for a potential client to say, “yes”. This made sense to me because I regularly have clients of my own call and ask, “Who do you know that does…”. And I have regularly benefitted from being recommended by another talent, and having my abilities vouched for by a trusted pro.
SaVoa’s creator, who by his own admission can come across as confrontational, took a lot of guff from the skeptics as he slowly sought the support of like-minded individuals. Some reactions to his idea were downright hostile (“who do you think YOU are to judge ME???”) Others were not so much offended as bewildered (“okay, I’m not sure how this would really benefit me”). Originally, I counted myself among the latter, but saw no harm in the concept.
I’m still surprised when someone tells me they know my name, or my work, or my reputation. I’m even more surprised when they express admiration for my talents and character. I expressed that surprise a few years ago when I was approached to help with SaVoa’s advisory board by its then-President, the group’s creator. While expressing thanks for the kind words, I reminded the gent that I wasn’t even a member…had never applied, submitted voice and tech samples or membership fee, nor did I really have it on my priority list, though I wished the organization no ill will. I was told that wouldn’t be a problem. The proper committe members would “vet” me, and my help in evaluating talent and perfomances could prove really useful. I agreed, not feeling I had that much to offer, but willing to see if I could indeed help.
I sat through monthly conference calls, offered an opinion here and there, listened and offered opinions on some of the voice demos from potential members. And that was about it. I felt the others knew far more about how SaVoa was supposed to work, and so did not do much else in the way of “advising”. Imagine my further surprise when not much later I was asked to accept a position on the Executive Board. Again, I demurred, citing my lack of experience within the group and my status as a non-paying member. Again, I was assured it would be beneficial to SaVoa to have someone of my reputation and experience on board (sorry…you know it’s bad when the puns come out unintended). I accepted.
Surprise turned to outright disbelief when, not too much later, I was again approached by the group’s creator to see if I would consider accepting the presidency of SaVoa. As it was explained to me, the original non-profit charter required a certain number of officers to be residents of North Carolina where the application was filed and approved. There was to be a shuffling of duties and, as it was put to me by the group’s creator, he was aware that a lot of potential members might be put off by his somewhat abrasive public shows of personality…whereas I had a great reputation in both the talent and character departments, and could help SaVoa improve its image, while he stayed more in the background as Secretary/Treasurer. Again I protested my inexperience, and my total lack of interest in parliamentary procedure, debate, and organizational structure. Again I was assured there would be plenty of experienced hands to support me.
I knew I wasn’t the first person to be approached for this position. So I checked with a couple of the others who were friends of mine. Both explained their reasons for declining, and left the decision to me.
I wish I had listened to them.
— to be continued —