Let’s get ethical, ethical! I want to get ethical! Let’s get into ETHICAL! Sometimes there are just certain jobs that are out of your moral comfort zone. And that’s okay. Anne and Gabby share some of their experiences with questionable jobs, what their hard lines are and how they tell their clients/agents “no” when one of these jobs pops up.
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
Less is more in terms of a professional response
Political voiceovers would like you to pick a side
If you don’t agree with the copy, you may not be convincing in your delivery
From a legal standpoint – they can’t shoot the messenger
Don’t provide a quote or agree to terms without a script
Be careful what you put out on social media
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
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Gabby: And now, On with the show.
Anne: Welcome, everybody, to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my lovely, beautiful cohost Gabby Nistico. Hey, Gab.
Anne: [laughs] Gabby, today I have a very interesting question to ask you. How far will you go in regards to a voiceover job?
Gabby: What are we talking about, like first base, second base, third — no? That’s not what your asking.
Anne: No, no, no, no, no.
Anne: In regards to, let’s say, content.
Anne: Content of your voiceover job.
Anne: Do you have a limit? Do you have certain things that —
Anne: Will refuse?
Anne: Certain jobs that you just won’t take on or even entertain the thought, depending on content and/or money?
Gabby: Ye-yeah. I think, I think all voiceovers have their limit, but um we sometimes don’t, don’t talk about that enough to, to kind of share and help folks to understand. Plus when I was in the casting chair, man, I saw it all.
Gabby: I saw every refusal for work you can think of. Everyone has a different moral or ethical stance on their work, and there’s, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a matter of knowing, you know, where you stand. For me personally, anything that um is a very strong cultural and racial um bias, slander, just you know, nastiness, I won’t, I won’t engage in because that is just ick and no. [laughs] Anything that is too overtly sexual, um I’m like, no, hehehehe, because that’s just it. I can’t, I can’t do that kind of stuff with a straight face. It’s not even so much that I’m, I’m opposed to the material. I just know me. You and I know folks who do romance novels.
Anne: Sure. Absolutely.
Gabby: You know, erotica. Yeah. And I just, I can’t get through that with a straight face. I just will laugh and fall apart and like turn into a giggling 15-year-old, and I’m out, so you know.
Gabby: So that one, I mean, I guess it’s an ethics issue to the line where I just go, “yeah, I don’t feel good about this, you know. Doesn’t, doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies.” But you know, not, not too much else. I mean, I’ve done things for alcohol companies. I have no problem with that, and a lot of voice actors do. They won’t support alcohol, or tobacco, or firearms, or you know, anything of that nature. And, and then strong language is, is another big one. I couldn’t care less — say anything.
Gabby: I don’t care about the curse words. That doesn’t bother me.
Anne: Well you know, I think, I think for me it has, it has — it is all very similar to what I would entertain discussing in social media, which I always say to stay clear of religion and politics, especially umm things that you feel strongly about. I don’t know if, if, if controversial voiceover jobs — do you want them associated with your brand? And so if you stay away a certain — from certain jobs, how do you let that client know that you’re not willing to take that job on? Is there a, is there a graceful way to say no?
Gabby: Oh yeah. I’ve seen both. I’ve seen the right way and I’ve seen the wrong way. Usually, as with most casting, you know, that third party who is involved, the booking party, agents, casting company, production company, whatever, you know, they are putting out the audition, and in many cases, if they know it’s a potentially controversial subject matter, they might say, you know, “feel free to disregard,” or “don’t answer if — don’t respond to this audition if you’re not OK with this topic or with this subject,” whatever it is. Honestly, the politest, the easiest way is to just not answer it. It’s, it’s just that.
Anne: Or say no thanks. [laughs]
Gabby: Yeah. Hit delete or yeah, “no thanks. I’m not, I’m not — ”
Anne: “Thank you for the opportunity.”
Gabby: and then I’ve seen people go off with like diatribes. Like I’ve seen [laughs] like, you know, like the Dead Sea Scrolls are being unfurled for all the reasons why.
Anne: Here is all the reasons why.
Gabby: They will not — yeah, “why I won’t take the job, and why it’s immoral, and why it’s this, and why it’s this.” And I’m like, hoo boy.
Anne: I think in that regard, like that’s just — I think less is more in terms of a professional response.
Anne: I don’t think if you are going to, you know, say no to work, I don’t think that the casting director really needs to know all of the whys, because you just might be writing for the sake of writing. So once you say no, that’s really all of the information they really need.
Anne: And anything else that you add to it would simply be on your end, making you feel better. Perhaps not, you know, doing anything in regards to making the casting director feel guilty or, you know, horrible for asking such a thing of anybody. [laughs]
Gabby: Yeah, I think, I mean, gosh. I, I think honestly the biggest culprit, believe it or not, because it’s, it’s, you know, you said it at the top, religion and politics, right? They are. They’re, they’re the two biggest culprits where people jump on their political or religious bandwagon and feel the need to tell others what they think or what they feel.
Anne: And that serves them. [laughs]
Gabby: It does, it really does. I mean, the casting director like, we don’t care, ’cause we can’t play those games. It, it’s EEO, guys. We have to look at it from that standpoint. It’s equal opportunity for all, so mm whatever. The Christian community for some reason can get really intense about what religions they’ll support or whether they’ll do something for another religion, or even another denomination within their faith. That’s like kind of a biggie that folks don’t like to, to participate in.
Anne: Well, on the other side of the coin there is that you will have people who will strictly do Christian voiceover.
Gabby: Oh yeah.
Anne: And you know, and that’s great. I think that that’s, that’s almost like strategizing a market. I think that that’s great and it works.
Gabby: It totally is.
Anne: It works for the voice talent in that respect.
Gabby: Oh my gosh, yes. I’ve met a number of Jewish voice actors over the years who, many of them who had been bar or bat mitzvah’d, they go “yeah, I had to read the Torah. I got enough Hebrew down, I can manage through some text,” and there’s huge markets for that sort of thing. There’s an entire television network here locally called the Inspiration Network that’s a global television network, airs everywhere, that is just Christian programming all day, every day, 24-hour.
Anne: OK, there is your religion aspect. In regards to politics, if it’s something that you feel comfortable supporting, by all means, absolutely I would say, you know, go for it. And I believe for political voiceover, for the most part, they like you to make a choice —
Anne: In regards to, you know, what, what, who you are supporting and that is how you get hired.
Gabby: Yeah. Typically speaking, companies that cast for political season and that, that really push for political work, they will send a mass email to their talent pool well in advance and say, “OK, so we need to know where you stand and — ”
Gabby: “Do you care or do you not care? What will you and won’t you do,” and some folks will say, “I don’t want to do anything political of any kind,” and that’s fine. They get eliminated from that casting list. And others will say, “I’m a staunch Republican. I’m a diehard Democrat. I’m a liberal,” whatever it is, and then they only receive consideration for that party’s ads or content.
Anne: That makes the casting a whole lot more efficient too though in that regard.
Gabby: Yeah, totally.
Anne: Because when the season is upon [laughs] upon them, they have to cast usually quickly. That is something I know that when I was researching about political demos and in creating political demos, it was all about “what are your issues that you will speak about? What will you and what won’t you speak about?”
Gabby: Yeah, and then on the other hand, like things like strong language and, and vulgarity. Like I, you know, in radio imaging, there is a ton of that. So I have stations that are always pushing the envelope. Now whether the cuss word in question will actually be aired is another story. In most cases, it is not. It’s bleeped or it’s manipulated, but even still, I’ve had a lot of voice actors over the years say, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” If, if the copy comes in and it says [bleeped] they are like, “I am out. I don’t want to do that.”
Anne: And I hope you are bleeping that out. See, now, I am one of those people, Gabby that — part of it is my job for like close to 20 years was working with young children. And so I had to curtail that aspect of my language, and so it just became like habit that I would say words that were acceptable and not swear words. So for me —
Gabby: Wow, you are still my friend.
Anne: Right? Exactly.
Anne: And I still like you too. I love you.
Anne: But it’s, it’s all about I think what you are comfortable. I personally think that anybody that has copy that needs to include swear words, my personal feeling is that it’s not necessary. And so therefore, I may not feel comfortable — first of all, it wouldn’t, because it’s not really part of who I am. I wouldn’t — I don’t know how convincingly — all right, I know I can do it convincingly, but I don’t know how convincingly I would be able to get into that copy and issue those swearwords, because —
Anne: I don’t believe it’s necessary.
Gabby: Well —
Anne: You know? That’s me.
Gabby: There you go. But I think that’s, that’s a great perspective to have on this. We have to ask ourselves, I mean, that’s really what it comes down to. We have to go, look at your personal brand, look at who you are, look at your reputation, look at the types of clients you’re attracting. And you’ve got to go “is that something I want to be associated with?” We have a lot of mutual voice actor friends that work in the children’s markets primarily and do a lot of kid voices. They don’t necessarily want something like that associated with them. They have to be very careful.
Anne: Very careful. Mm-hmm.
Gabby: About those affiliations, so totally makes sense, and they may not even be opposed to it. They might just go, “man, this is so offbrand for me. This could get me in trouble.”
Anne: Or, or if you have a brand that is associated with one particular genre or, or I guess aspect of your beliefs, then if you’re going to do anything that is beyond that or polarized, then maybe you have a different brand. Because I, I know a lot of people who do audiobooks that maybe are in the erotica. They have either stage names or, or different names that they are voicing under. What are your thoughts about that, Gabby?
Gabby: Well, I think that honestly is a teaser for another episode, because I totally want to talk about aliases and the use of them and when and why, and, and I think, I think we should explore that in depth.
Anne: Yeah, yeah. I agree.
Gabby: But, but I get what you are saying. There is ways to do it, and there is ways to have it not affect a primary or a core brand within your business, and then, there’s other pieces to this equation too. Some of it sometimes is just about inquiry. So from the legal standpoint, right, I’ve had to ask on more than a couple of occasions, I’ve run into scripts and jobs where I’m like, “hmm, you know? I don’t know how above board this particular thing may or may not be,” and I’ll go back to the casting party and say, “just so we’re clear, um I, I can’t get into any trouble for this, right?”
Gabby: And the answer is always the same. They can’t shoot the messenger. You are just part of that, that vehicle, that message, but the message is not your own. And therefore it’s the representing party. Like I had something not that long ago that I voiced that I had to talk to my agent about it. And I had to go, you know, “where does this stand?”
He was like, “no, don’t — they can’t shoot the messenger. It’s their message. You’re just the actor at that point,” and, interestingly enough, if you are being hired by a middle party, um you are technically their employee, not —
Anne: Yes, exactly.
Gabby: Not the end client’s employee.
Anne: I’m glad that you brought that up because I too had something similar to that in a robocall that I was hired for.
Gabby: Oh, interesting.
Anne: Very interesting. And I, and of course it was, it was politically inspired, of course. I did not know — I was not — it was not local, so I was not familiar with the candidate. But I had to ask questions. So I think the fact that you brought that up to ask questions as to, “hey, where is this first of all being broadcast? Who is hearing this, and is there a chance that I could get into trouble, and to legal issue, for this?” is a great way to investigate things that you may or may not feel comfortable with.
Gabby: It is honestly one of the main reasons, and I don’t know about you, Anne, but I’m big on this. I won’t even entertain fully quoting a job or locking in the terms of a job until I’ve seen the script.
Anne: Oh yeah.
Gabby: I’m like — “I got to see it.”
Anne: Excellent point.
Gabby: I got to see what I am getting into, because you never know. Years and years and years ago, I had — I won’t even call him a client. A person who came to me and my production team at the time. They wrote this ad. It was, it was so terrible. It was — in essence it was making fun of 9/11. It was making fun of the Arabic people and faith. And it was like they had written an Osama bin Laden-like character in this thing. It was horrible. It was just so awful and just heinous that, you know, of course we all rejected it. We took one look at the script and we were like, absolutely not. We want nothing to do with this.
Anne: I have seen scripts that have come across the page to play sites that have questionable content in them.
Anne: As well as swear words, but even the questionable content, like, here, “you are going to be playing a customer service manager, and you are going to be on a phone conversation with, you know, so-and-so,” but yet the dialogue doesn’t quite somehow —
Anne: Doesn’t quite reflect that scene. So I was always like, looking at that, stepping back, stepping away and going, I don’t think — [laughs]
Anne: Or those auditions where they want you to sneeze, or, you know —
Anne: Act, act surprised or in a high-pitched female voice. You know, those —
Gabby: I love that you brought that up, because I think there is two things we should address there. One is might as well be a public service announcement to all voice actors, so.
Gabby: There are a handful of weirdos out there in our industry —
Anne: Sure, absolutely.
Gabby: Who pop up periodically and asked us to do ridiculous things as a standalone audition. There is no copy. There is no product.
Gabby: Can you sneeze? Can you burp? Can you make some other bodily noise?
Gabby: 99.9% of the time, what you are dealing with there is someone with a serious fetish issue.
Anne: Yes. And that would be a no.
Gabby: It’s gross, yeah.
Anne: [laughs] That would be a no from me. [laughs]
Gabby: Yeah. I love turning into Randy Jackson. “It’s a no from me, dawg. That’s just a no.”
Anne: That is a no from me as well. Keep that in mind. [laughs]
Gabby: So yeah, and then, there’s another piece to this that I think is also really important. People will sometimes ask, “well, if I signed an NDA and there was an ethics clause or a morality clause inside of the NDA, can that influence or affect what other types of work I can take on?” And the answer to that is yes and no. No in the sense that again, if you are voicing for another client, if you take on a character or role, they cannot hold you accountable for someone else’s words, someone else’s content. However, when they talk about that ethics and morality, they are saying you as a real person, as an individual, if you do something that puts you in the public spotlight that it could be damaging or could be character assassination for yourself —
Gabby: Then that company has the right to fire you or release you because by association, they look bad. And this is, you know, we have seen this with every celebrity under the sun.
Anne: Oh gosh, yeah. I think the last one I remember was, was it not Aflac?
Gabby: Yeah. Gilbert Gottfried. And then, you know, Jared the Subway guy.
Gabby: Bill Cosby, and the list goes on and on.
Anne: The list goes on.
Gabby: Celebrities lose endorsements and lose clients all the time because they put themselves in a morally compromising position, and that’s what happens.
Anne: Yeah, and Gabby, I want to make mention of the fact that a lot of times these people are putting themselves in that position on social media.
Anne: So that is something for our voice talent to remember, that again, anything that you’re putting out there on social media affects your brand and can also affect the brand that you could be voicing for. So you have to be really careful about what it is that you are taking issue with or taking a stand on because that may or may not affect your current work and/or future work.
Gabby: So true. So, so true. So you know, on one hand, don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe, to voice your opinion, but there’s a nice way, there’s an easy way of doing it. It is OK to turn down a job if you don’t agree with it for whatever reason. You just don’t necessarily need to get into all the whys.
Anne: Well, exactly. [laughs] And the casting director doesn’t need to know everything. Just be as simple, a simple professional. No thank you, especially if you want to do work with that person again. You don’t necessarily need to respond if it comes from somebody that you think could be asking a weird request. [laughs]
Gabby: Yeah, and I mean, and from the casting perspective, for as many people as say no, there’s 20 other people that are willing to do the jobs. So one way or another, it will get cast. They are not worried about it.
Anne: Exactly. I would like to give a big shout out to our amazing sponsor again and again and again. I can’t say how much I love ipDTL for our quality connection and recording. You too can record like a boss can find out more at ipdtl.com.
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Anne: For all things BOSS. Thanks, guys, so much. You guys have a great week, and we’ll see you next week.
VO: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.