The how, why, what, and when of becoming a NUT
Email us your headshot and resume to our agent in charge of new talent acquisition, Reid Harmsen (firstname.lastname@example.org). If we’re interested in auditioning you for representation, we’ll contact you to schedule an interview/audition.
We apologize, but we do not call everyone who submits a headshot and resume. We are looking for a variety of people, and sometimes we have specific needs. What kinds of things catch our attention?
- A great headshot.
- A great “look.” (A look that’s good for a specific niche in the market.)
- A solid theatre background.
- Good improvisation training and/or experience.
- Good actor training.
- Extensive public speaking / performance experience.
- Any combination of the above.
I'm a union member – AFTRA and/or SAG. Will you represent me?
We are “NUTS”, the Non-Union Talent Service. We represent actors who are not current members of AFTRA or SAG. (For those who don't know, AFTRA is the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG is the Screen Actor's Guild. Information about these two unions can be found on their websites.)
If you are an active member of either of these two unions, we will not represent you – even if you choose to adopt a “financial core” status with the union. We have spoken with union representatives, and have decided to honor the interests of the union and not represent financial core members. We have always been strictly a non-union agency, and will remain so. If you choose to leave the union, we will be happy to consider you for representation.
I live out of town. Will you represent me?
We represent excellent non-union actors here in the Twin Cities area. We are very loyal to our local talent. The majority of our clients hire our actors for projects produced locally, and prefer to work face to face. We fully realize that technology now allows voice-over artists to easily work via long distance. While we have many out of town clients who hire our actors, we are not in the business of “importing” talent. We have a strong pool of local voice-over artists, and we are committed to representing them. If you live outside of this region (the Twin Cities metro area and surrounding counties), we apologize, but we will likely not offer you representation.
What do you look for on a resume?
We look for solid acting and performing experience. We like to see resumes that include training with reputable acting teachers in the Twin Cities or other markets, college and university training, and especially theatre experience. (We like any theatre experience – from school and community theatre to regional and professional theatre.)
In addition to theatre credentials, we take notice of resumes with professional broadcast experience, extensive public speaking experience, improvisation experience, as well as stand-up comedy performance background.
If you're a relative beginner, don't hesitate to send your headshot and resume to us. If we need someone with your “look”, we may call you for an interview despite your lack of experience. If you are a good communicator, you may be a natural! If we don't call you, just know that we may not be interested until you gain a little more training and experience. Periodically send us an updated resume that reflects this.
Should I take classes at a modeling school?
We love to see good training and experience on a resume. However, we generally don't consider classes at “modeling schools” to be excellent actor training. You may enjoy classes at the several “schools” in town; however, we prefer to see resumes that include training with independent acting teachers in the Twin Cities or other markets, college and university training, and especially theatre experience.
Should I call you after I send my headshot and resume?
No. Please don't just drop in to greet us, either. We constantly receive calls from new talent wishing to introduce themselves. Our apologies, but we're very busy trying to meet the needs of our clients, and usually don't have time to chat with new talent.
We interview new talent on a regular basis. If you've sent your headshot and resume, rest assured that we'll carefully review it, and we'll call if we want to see you for an interview.
If you don't hear from us after several months, feel free to send another headshot and updated resume. We may be more interested in you as you gain experience. Be sure to mention your additional experience in your cover letter.
How often do you interview new talent?
We conduct new talent interviews on a regular basis (typically every month). If we are interested in bringing you in to audition for representation, we will contact you to schedule an interview.
What should I expect at the interview?
First, we'll greet you and a few other new talent for a brief informational session. Please bring any and all questions to this session. We'd love to help you navigate the business, and we'll be happy to share any information that may be of assistance to you in your career.
After the 15 – 30 minute informational session, you'll audition on-camera in our studio. We'll provide you with “copy” (a script) for one commercial and one industrial. We'll call you one at a time to deliver the copy to camera.
Our goal is that the entire session will last less than one hour. We want to be respectful of your time.
Will you charge me a fee?
NUTS will never ask you for a fee to interview with us. Further, we won't try to sell you classes or photo packages.
Legitimate agencies make money when you make money. When you book a job through NUTS, we'll take a 15% commission when the client pays for your services. We don't get paid until you get paid. Period.
My child wants to act. How do I pursue opportunities?
Please read the advice for adult actors on this website – much of it applies to child actors, too.
In addition to that information, we'll add that you don't need to send an expensive, professional headshot to us. If you have a professional headshot, by all means send it. However, children change so quickly that we don't demand that you spend your hard-earned money on professional headshots every year. For our purposes, a good quality photo or school photo will do -- preferably a 5x7 or an 8x10. (Further, we have no need for a modeling “composite”.)
How can my child gain more experience? Should we sign up for classes?
We realize that many children will not have an extensive resume. That's fine. We particularly look for any acting or performing experience, even if your child has only one or two “credits” to list. School plays and community theatre are just great. Children who communicate well and have natural poise in front of an audience are the ones we want to see. We think theatre is the best training ground for kids. (Patience and good listening skills are important as well!)
Please see the note about modeling schools listed on this site. This note applies to both children and adults. There is no need to spend your hard-earned money on expensive classes in order to seek representation with NUTS. If you're looking for opportunities beyond school and community theatre, we're big fans of “Youth Performance Company” in Minneapolis , and “Stages Theatre” in Hopkins . The Children's Theatre, of course, has great programs for kids who are serious about acting and performing. Local theatres also occasionally offer programs for kids – in particular, the Guthrie Theatre and the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres have offered summer programs in the past. Investigate possible options at the nearest community theatre, college or university as well.
I'd like to do voice-over work with NUTS. How do I break in?
Voice work is a very competitive part of the business here in the Twin Cities. However, new voices occasionally break in. Of the 100 or more demos submitted for each year, only a handful of new people catch our attention and are invited to audition for a spot on the NUTS voice roster.
If you're interested in pursuing voice work with NUTS, submit a voice demo via email (email@example.com) or US Postal Mail along with a resume. (See below for suggestions about producing a demo.) We listen to all demos submitted; however, it's likely that only professionally engineered demos will receive serious consideration. We recommend that you send only a finished, professionally produced demo.
Please note that because of our schedule, we often don't listen to demos as soon as they arrive. We collect several and then listen. Don't be surprised if months go by before you hear anything. If we're interested in you, we'll call you for an interview / audition. If we aren't interested, we apologize that we will not contact you. Feel free to submit a revised demo as you gain experience.
Some voice-over teachers will advise you to send your demo to an agent and request feedback. We apologize that we do not have the time to give feedback to every actor who submits a demo.
Ask your coach or other actors for feedback. If you know an experienced voice talent, that person may be willing to share some insight. If you don't have success with your first demo, seek a different voice-over coach for an objective opinion.
Please note that all NUTS voice-over talent are exclusive. Any talent interested in joining the NUTS roster should take this into consideration before submitting their demo.
Do you have any advice about producing voice-over demos?
Producing a voice-demo: A crash course.
If you're serious about pursuing voice work, we recommend you get some training and learn what you're doing before you spend a lot of money on studio time. If you're determined to try it on your own, or if you're an experienced actor who may not need extra training, the following guidelines may be helpful.
Prepping for your studio session:
Listen to good demos. Go to agency websites to listen on-line. You need to know what a good demo sounds like before you can make one of your own. Be sure to listen for demos of your "type." For example, you don't want to try to emulate a demo with a lot of comedy and character voices if you are a straightforward corporate type.
Choose copy. Experienced voice talent often have a demo filled with industrial and commercial work they've done professionally. If you have no experience, you'll need to start from scratch. You may write your own copy, or a voice-over coach may be able to help. You may also want to search for magazine advertisements. Magazine ads often contain well-written copy that can be used or altered to make good voice copy. You'll only need a sentence or two from each "spot." Choose magazines that market to your type. Guys may want to look at sports magazines, Popular Mechanics or Family Handyman. Young moms and dads should look to parenting magazines. If you have a young sound, look at teen magazines. If you have a more mature sound, seek magazines that market to that demographic.
Don't over-rehearse! Rehearse and practice on other copy, but don't over-do the spots you might include on your demo. You might want to rehearse using a tape recorder at home. Play it back to be sure you like what your hear, but be sure not to read and listen so much that you have the sound of your read imprinted into your mind. You'll want to be spontaneous and fresh in the booth, not stuck in a rhythm or pattern that you've rehearsed.
Don't do a radio-style announcer voice . Yes, you hear lots of "announcers" on radio and television. If you have a great set of pipes (a deep, rich voice), you might want to include one or two announcer style spots -- but avoid using too much of this. Agents get lots of demo tapes from folks doing strictly announcer-style reads. These aren't going to catch an agent's attention. If you're reading for an announcer or narrator role, read it with some real communication happening, not just a canned announcer sound. If you don't know the difference, get some coaching.
Don't do a lot of crazy characters. If you do character voices REALLY well, then include what you do well. However, unless you're truly a master at character voices, keep it to a minimum. There are exceptions to every rule -- there are a few people in town who specialize in character voices.
Don't do a variety of all the dialects you can do. If your dialect isn't flawless, don't put it on the demo. You may include a short bit of dialect in a comic spot, but keep it to a minimum. Besides, there's rarely a need for dialect voice work in this market. If they need dialects, they'll call in the native speakers whenever possible. If you're not native to a particular region, think twice before putting it on your demo.
Include variety. Again, variety means neither goofy characters, nor every dialect you've ever done on stage. Variety in attitude is what you're going for: tongue in cheek, laid back and flip, seductive, intimate, teasing, high-energy and excited, sarcastic, etc. Look for copy that coaxes an attitude from you.
Get coaching. You may want to get a bit of coaching before you hit the studio. (If you're a non-actor, get coaching or take a class.) A coach can help you narrow down your copy choices. The more prepared you are before you get to the studio, the less you'll pay in hourly studio rates. Before going to a coach, you may even want to try doing a scratch demo on your own. Choose a variety of copy and record it on your home recording system. You can then play it for a coach or teacher to give you feedback.
Choose a studio and make an appointment. There are many audio studios and engineers in town that produce local and national commercials. These are your best bet, since they actually produce the kind of work you seek. They know what clients want, and can help produce a demo for this market. Your voice-over coach will be able to recommend studios, or you may check the Twin Cities Gold Book for studio ideas. Call the studio to inquire whether or not they produce voice demos for new voice talent. Or call us at NUTS for recommended studios.
You'll need to schedule about two to four hours: an hour or two to record your voice, and an hour or two for the engineer to produce the spots. A good engineer will help you edit your spots and add appropriate music to compliment your work. If you're organized, two to four hours should be enough. If you're really new to voice work, and your ducks aren't in a row before you go in, you'll need more time. (More time = more expense.)
Again, studio time can cost from $50 to 300 per hour (or more). That's why you need to be organized and prepared!
In the studio...
Relax. You're not performing for anyone. You're recording "takes" that you can always change and revise. Unless you're up against a tight deadline, you can always go back to the studio a week later and make revisions. It'll cost you, but it's often worth it. Just as in the writing process, you might want to do a rough draft and polish it later.
Bring water. Coffee and caffeine will dry you out – you want to keep your instrument hydrated.
Studio etiquette. Be on time or early. Your clock is running at the start of your appointment time, not the time you arrive.
Also, never touch the microphone or microphone stand. Your engineer will handle it. (You may adjust your copy stand.) NEVER blow into a microphone.
The microphone. Generally you'll want your mouth to be 5-8 inches from the microphone, closer if the copy is soft and intimate, a bit farther if you'll be loud. Be aware of "P - pops." If you read directly into the microphone, your plosives (p, b, t, etc.) might pop in the microphone. You'll usually hear it when it happens. It's solved by simply turning your head slightly "off axis" so that the airflow from your mouth is not flowing directly into the microphone. Your engineer will help you with this.
Be in the moment. If you're an actor, you know what this means. On stage, you don't want to be self-consciously listening and critiquing yourself as you work. You want to be free to communicate in the moment. The same concept applies when you're in front of the microphone. Bring your acting skills to the booth. Don't plan the read -- don't rehearse how you want it to sound. Don't mimic a certain style or sound. Communicate. Who are you talking to? How are you trying to affect them? What action are you playing? Every noun has an image – visualize what you're saying.
Be physical. When you see a good voice talent work, he or she is in motion – gesturing while communicating. Let your physical energy out while you're reading the copy. It doesn't matter how you move (as long as the microphone doesn't hear you moving). If you're stiff and tight physically, it'll be apparent in your voice.
Don't edit before you record. You don't need to know exactly what "chunk" of each spot will go on your demo. Record them all, then decide what to use in which order. Bring in a carefully selected variety of copy -– perhaps ten to twelve choices. Record them, then listen and make editing decisions with the studio engineer and your coach (if you choose to bring him/her to the session).
Editing the demo...
Some audio engineers will take what you've recorded, and they'll edit it on their own. If they've done lots of demos, you can often trust them. However, be sure to speak up if you don't like something in the finished product. With digital recording these days, changes are easy to make.
Other engineers will have you listen in while they edit the demo.
Trust your gut feeling. Your best stuff will strike you when you hear it. If something isn't good, it'll bother you. Re-record it, or throw it out.
Trust your audio engineer. Most audio engineers may not know much about acting. Their direction while you're reading is sometimes limited. However, a good engineer knows what he or she hears. They've recorded and edited hundreds of real TV and radio spots, and hundreds of demos. Trust their opinions when you're listening and choosing which cuts to use. They can be objective about what they hear from you.
Be assertive. If you really don't like something, don't let the engineer hurry you through it. Re-record or insist on different music. If something in the edited version really bothers you, then change it. You're paying for the studio time, so be sure that you're a satisfied customer. Yes, trust your engineer, but don't be afraid to voice your opinions. (However, if budget is a concern, be mindful of the clock!)
Choosing Music. A music bed helps some spots, and some are better without music. Other spots will call for sound effects. Your engineer will have a music library from which to choose. You can sit back and relax while they search for music for certain spots. Usually their feel for the style of the spot and music is great; but again, be sure to voice your opinions. (But don't be overly particular! It's your read that matters most. The music is simply the icing on the cake.)
Length. Your demo should be 60 – 90 seconds. Less is more.
Number of "cuts." There's no pre-defined number of spots. No one spot should be longer than 10 - 15 seconds. Fifteen is even too long most of the time. Some cuts will be only a few seconds. Good demos have a fun variety of rhythm. Your first demo might be pretty simple: five to nine cuts of 10 to 15 seconds each. That's fine. Each time you do a new demo (typically every couple of years) it will be better than the previous.
Previously recorded spots. Be sure to bring a CD or DAT (digital audio tape) copy of any real work you've done before. Some of it might fit nicely on your demo. Someday you'll hopefully have enough work that you'll only need to edit your real spots together to make your demos.
Lead with your best. Your first 2 or 3 "cuts" should be your most real, most marketable stuff. If you don't know what your most marketable voice is, be sure to get feedback. A studio engineer will have a pretty good idea once he or she hears you read several pieces of copy. A good coach will, too. You need to lead with your best because most clients will listen to the first 10 seconds of a demo, and if they don't hear what they're looking for, they turn you off and move on to the next actor.
Once your demo is done...
… mail it to us on a CD to the street address on this website. We listen to every demo submitted. We do not, however, offer feedback on demos submitted.
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