Documentary narration work is great if you can get it.
For my voice and my newsy delivery, documentary work is high on the wish-list.
The History Channel and National Geographic are two of the top prospects…but navigating their complicated screening and autioning process is daunting at best. A National Geographic employee once had the hardest time explaining it to me (i.e. even THEY didn’t know).
For years, though, I’ve been narrating some documentary videos for a friend of mine who also had a previous career in TV News. When he retired, he turned his formidable skills to shooting, writing, editing and producing documentaries. The topics were engaging. I was grateful for the work. He’d send the script…I’d narrate…later I’d see his edited/finished product, and I’d send an invoice.
Since he was an old friend, I almost felt guilty billing him for what I saw as a personal passion of his…but he was prompt with payment, and we forged a new relationship outside of TV news.
My friend — Brent — had trouble getting traction for a regular audience of his docs, though. They were designed to be a half-hour long, and the initial hope was that PBS stations would pick them up. While that was not winning the lottery in terms of profit…it was vindication of his excellent work.
Monetizing frustrations continued, but Brent’s work did not. It was prodigious. He was willing to personally finance his passion and he did.
The work became focused on history…specifically preserving history…and the PEOPLE who preserved history. Brent has a unique capability to sniff out great stories by word-of-mouth, and the videos kept piling up. He had a website, and a YouTube channel, but very little was funneling back to his bank account.
Watching from a bit of a distance, I began to get more involved in the stories. I would go with him on his jaunts to shoot people and places, and I started appearing on camera as host as well as narrator. The work was familiar to me, and fulfilling.
In the meantime, post-TV-News-Anchoring, my VO business was not exactly flourishing. If you’re reading this, and you call yourself a voice-actor…you know the drill: lots of hats to wear, marketing challenges, AI incursion, cost-of-doing-business piling up…all that (and more….I’ll spare you more details).
But documentary work with Brent was progressing nicely while we continued to mull the challenges of monetizing.
I stopped invoicing Brent for the narrations, and started participating more in his process at all levels.
I grew to realize that I was doing what Doug Turkel and others had often preached: I was creating my own opportunities instead of fighting others for cattle calls.
I was all in.
I was having fun. I was challenged. The needs of this job fit my skill set perfectly, and I was working with a friend. The only thing that was missing was some compensation for our work.
…AND ON IT GOES
That’s when we decided to set up a website with a paywall for all our best videos. Brent had already gone through the involved process of securing a copyright, and we settled on the title SAVING AMERICANA.
Bringing a 3rd freelancer (web developer) into the project, we began constructing a website, and populating it with what (by now) was an incredible cache of content.
The work continues. A website is never done. Our paywall is in development. Our social media campaign is underway. The shoots and production of videos continues unabated, and I am sated in my VO career like never before.
Follow us? You’ll find us on Instagram, FaceBook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Threads. ‘Working on YouTube, and trying to decide on Twitter. But everywhere we’re listed as either:
- Saving Americana (with the space in between)
Am I still working at other VO projects? You bet! I’ll never quit. I’m too immersed in the business and culture of voice acting, and many of my best friends are there. But forgive me if I seem distracted. I’m busy Saving Americana.