7 ?s With Christian Rosselli
From Fisher Price toy tape players and micro-cassette recorders in his early years to the latest technology, Christian Rosselli has been speaking and recording his entire life. Now, Christian lends his voice to a number of projects ranging from Commercials, Documentaries, Corporate Narration, TV Promo, Explainer/Tutorial Videos, eLearning and IVR. His credits include work with a handful of companies such as AT&T, Buffalo Wild Wings, Geico, United Healthcare, Purina, Spotify, USA Today and more!
1) How did you get your start in voiceover?
I went to school for drama/acting but didn’t originally want to be an actor. Instead, I had my sights set on becoming a casting director for theater, film and TV when I first arrived in NYC. I had good instincts when it came to placing performers into their respective roles, and loved casting. I have always been into plays and film and had a grasp of characterization – who would be right for which roles.
At the time I first became interested in VO in 2007, I was working in the casting and production departments of a well-known independent movie studio on the East Coast, run by two brothers from Queens (hint). I worked next door to the marketing department and heard movie trailers blasting from inside offices almost every day. Pretty soon I got used to the sound of “Voice Of God” types like Don La Fontaine, Ashton Smith, Rino Romano, Hal Douglas, Howard Parker, Rick Wasserman – all the industry heavyweights. At first I didn’t think anything of it except that it sounded vaguely interesting. It wasn’t until industry people I spoke to over the phone started telling me I had “a great voice and shouldn’t be working at a desk”, that I decided to at least research the field. I felt that in some way I needed to rekindle my childhood love of acting and speaking and ultimately put those talents to some sort of test.
A friend of mine was working for a well-known talent agency at the time and suggested a few voiceover coaches in the city. I started working with one of them and after about a year of private lessons, had my first demo produced. The rest, as they say, is history…
2) What’s your favorite thing about working in the voiceover industry?
I can’t say that I have a favorite thing, but I do certainly like being my own boss and not having to answer to anyone else. I pave the way, set goals. Navigating through the the clutter to land opportunities to voice projects is also a challenge that I enjoy. Also I enjoy being a spokesperson for a particular brand and tell its story as faithfully and truthfully as I can. I find it both thrilling and liberating that a brand trusts me enough to bring such a story to life. And my story-telling (voice) is helping market products to the right audiences. If in some way I contribute to their marketing efforts, that’s powerful stuff!
3.) What is your least favorite thing?
Honestly? Everyone thinking they can do this. A couple of years ago I would have said it’s the online casting sites, the P2Ps that are setting the bar low, causing rates to sink and thus making it harder for pro voice talents to find high-quality and rewarding work. But more than anything, it’s voice talents who don’t know any better and are contributing to the problem. The more uninformed talents just trying to make an extra buck start accepting those $200 National TV spots, the worse everything is. It’s not so much shrinking budgets or low-ball producers as it is voice talents themselves accepting these low-paying jobs, driving down the value of a business I truly love. I hate to say it as it sounds so simple, but the more people are aware of their own worth, and the more educated people are about rates, the better this industry will be.
4) How can aspiring voiceover artists stand out amongst the field?
By not doing what everyone else is doing. It’s vital to have a niche or specific area of specialty in order to stand out. This business is already over-saturated and highly competitive so it’s good to know what your personal brand represents and what your strengths are. Focus on one or two very specific areas of voiceover first and test what works or doesn’t—whether it’s Commercial and Narration, Promo and Narration, or Animation and Commercial, or Imaging and Promo…Whatever the case may be, get there and know who you are. Too often I see many new or aspiring talents trying to do too much early on, as though this will help achieve success. You have to be honest with yourself. Think about it: how can you be good at every single genre of voiceover with only a few months of actual experience on the ground? You certainly want to wow people, but you can’t possibly be amazing at everything. If you focus on everything at once, you may lose sight of your true goals. And this can steer people off course.
5) Why is it so important to create a focused website?
In today’s voiceover market, having a good website is an integral part of one’s overall marketing efforts. But it shouldn’t be the only tool. Having a mobile-responsive, well-optimized website is key to being visible to potential buyers online. While I don’t get a lot of work through my website, I do actively manage its content via my blog. It creates an extra layer of professional credibility. I like creating original material and that is good for two reasons. One, you want to be able to target your content to a specific audience or audiences and drive traffic. Get people talking regardless of direct feedback. Two, from a developer’s standpoint, your site’s indexing with Google and its constantly-shifting algorithm requires constantly-changing content.
In today’s voiceover climate, most voice seekers, casting directors, agents and other industry professionals may not have the time to read our blogs or follow our ever-changing content. They are under the gun 24/7. Their main priority is whether or not our voice is right for a particular project. Where can they go to hear our demos? Our website. That’s it. That’s not to say that no one gets work online. I have landed a few solid clients from my website however, most people who read blogs are, the majority of the time, other voice talents. I find that this isn’t something voiceover professionals care to admit. But the truth is, I’ve never gotten a job from content creation alone (blogging, self-produced videos on YouTube, etc). That’s just straight-up honesty.
6) What strategies do you use when it comes to branding yourself?
It’s really a matter of consistency whether via my website, social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest. My specific brand is The Everyman Voice. What many clients want is voiceover that goes beyond your average 20-something conversational voice, they want someone that also has range. “Conversational” is ubiquitous term, and you have to stand out beyond mere search terms. Someone can be a Guy-Next-Door or a Snarky older brother the next or trusting Dad the next. And I try to maintain that consistency throughout social media and beyond while showcasing all that I can offer and am capable of.
To be completely honest, it’s having an agent. I can’t stress that enough. And I think this is the loaded question for many voiceover artists out there. We want to think that in this day and age of online marketing, social media, having a good website and killer SEO, niche-demo targeted branding, and other non-conventional methods of marketing including video marketing and blogging—that’s where most of the buyers are. While that may be true in some instances, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of more traditional avenues like having good representation. Many of us don’t give credit to the agents out there who are really pitching us to buyers, ad agencies, production companies, etc. Most of the high profile work I have is through my agents, with whom I have very solid relationships. Knowing how to maintain these over time is also key. In the beginning of my voiceover career I got lots of work through a myriad of resources including agencies, casting sites, self-marketing (postcards, newsletters, emails, cold-calling) and referrals from other talents and producers. This has certainly evolved over time. But then again, different strokes for different folks, as they say. There are plenty of talents that get ALL of their work through self-marketing efforts and not having a single rep. Kudos to them.
Another effort that pays off well is maintaining strong relationships with existing and repeat clients, keeping people posted on my activities/updates and also reaching out to let them know that I’m still around. But certainly not in an annoying way. Keep it relevant. Keep it honest. Keep it real…
BONUS) How does your acting background help you with your voiceover work?
It’s a lot more important than people may think. Voiceover is a style of acting that many of us don’t treat it as “acting” in the traditional sense. A lot more than having a “nice voice” and sounding “good” go into the work and I think many of us take that part for granted. To stand behind a brand, be their spokesperson for any campaign requires us to have more than an informed opinion. For me it’s not like “method acting” or Stanislavsky but more or less about forming a genuine connection with a product or service. We’re still having a conversation with a person and/or audience and there are vital questions that we have to ask ourselves when approaching the work. It’s best to make it as realistic and believable as possible. Otherwise, who are we fooling?
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