As a preview of my upcoming series of panels at VO Atlanta 2017, I will be profiling each panelist in the coming days, getting to know who they are and what they bring to the table as leaders in our industry. We begin with Cliff Zellman, king of Automotive VO, and a legendary demo producer.
JMC: You have built a niche in the Automotive voiceover space. How did that come about, and what makes Automotive different from other voiceover genres?
CLIFF: I started off as a rock & roll / R&B audio engineer in L.A. After 20 years of 18 hour days, (and a new baby girl,) it was time to shift lifestyles. I was offered a position in Dallas with a young and aggressive ad agency specializing in Automotive. Wow! I loved it.
I love the idea of working on multiple projects a day, rather than 10 hours on the perfect snare drum reverb. I love cars, I love directing VO’s talking about cars, and I love the incredible technology I use everyday. After 21 years and over 20,000 broadcast TV & Radio spots, I STILL love it! It’s like the best of video games. Maybe I’ll create one called Auto Sales Hero!
Retail automotive brings a different twist to the “typical” retail read, (if that even exists.) Success in VO for Automotive requires understanding the 14 essential points of an automotive script, what they mean and how to deliver them. Wanna know more about it? Drop me a line.
JMC: What advice would you have for talent just getting started?
CLIFF: First and foremost, learn your craft. Take acting & improv classes.
Take music lessons, (piano for 6 months,) and don’t jump in too quick. That is a surefire way to fail. Learn audio! It can be done. Start slowly and read, read, read. Get a Sweetwater catalog and start to familiarize yourself with the tools of the industry. Seek out the best VO coaches and strategists. Learn where the VO events are happening and consider attending. Think about what genre you’d like to specialize in, (or at least start out,) and focus on that. Don’t ask silly questions on social media when the answers can easily be found through Google. Be sure you are fully prepared before accepting ANY jobs.
JMC: You are one of the leaders of the Team Challenge at VO Atlanta. What’s that all about?
CLIFF: Up to 9 teams, each creating a :60 radio spot for a client to be announced. All
members must participate. Only music and effects from a supplied production library will be allowed. BIG prizes and MAJOR bragging rights, plus a whole lot of fun, new relationships built and an experience never forgotten! Every team is a winner, for sure.
JMC: One of your many hats is as a highly regarded demo producer. What goes into a great demo, and how does your process differ from other producers?
CLIFF: What makes a great demo? I’ll go into that more during our panel session, but
my process is quite different than most. Each session, we record a full spot, (up to 8 sessions.) Within each recording session there is direction, coaching, audio tips, funny stories etc. No time limit per session. I pull the ‘golden’ from each full spot to create the segments for the demo. We have a lot to chose from! I write scripts throughout the process as I better learn the artists strengths. Music and effects are carefully chosen and edited to best highlight the copy & overall performance. All sessions are performed at the talent’s home studio as we connect via ipDTL or SourceConnect. I also record on my end for safety. This insures the talent can deliver the same audio quality as in their demo. If the talent’s studio isn’t up to par, we work on that before beginning production. My demo process can take up to a month and a half! Oh my! It’s ZERO pressure and totally fun! The talent is 100% involved. I also give you the full spots! It’s ALIVE!
JMC: You are a panelist on the Ethics in Voiceover panel at VO Atlanta. What does Ethics in Voiceover mean to you?
CLIFF: Again more on that during our panel, but in a nutshell,
2) A true understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
5) A transparent business plan.
7) Under promise and over deliver.
8) Being a point of inspiration.
9) Union compliance (If applicable).