How To Survive Voiceover Directed Sessions. Hint: Crows, Fire Ants & Ice Cream.

DISCLAIMER: This is a satirical blog.  As such, fun is often poked, and exaggerations are often employed.  Please note that I would never publicly disparage or identify a client on my website with whom I had an unpleasant dealing, unless of course I was paid quadrillions of dollars and entered into witness relocation.  Then I would.  My blogs are to provoke thought, to bring an application lesson, and most importantly, to help us all laugh through it.  If a joke comes at someone's expense, so be it.  I think we can all unclench a little - and learn to laugh our way through it.  After all, laughter is still the best medicine. So enjoy the following article as you unclench with me.

Ever feel like detonating?



Dear Jon Gardner: Love You With My Life

Jon Gardner | Voice over actor | Voice123

Perhaps you know Jon Gardner.  Surely you have heard of him.  If not, this is the man singing Love You With My Life on his way home, while you stare, point fingers, and scrunch up your face while you cry from laughter and pee yourself in your car.

But Jon Gardner needs to perform: unmonitored, undirected, freely, and with abandon.

We all do.

It is this message on freedom that I bring to you today, inspired by Mr. Gardner himself.  Oh, and subscribe to his blog by the way – you will be glad you did.  Also he talks about me frequently on there, which I find acceptable.

However, my message about freedom today does not come in the context of singing.  It comes, appropriately, in the context of voiceovers: specifically, in the context of directed sessions.  We can truly experience freedom and peace even after a directed session goes bad, and clients decide to beat the hell out of a script as our will to live slowly ebbs away and we start to frantically pull on that hangnail until our skin stretches across the room like Saran Wrap and we pray no one around us has a salt shaker because my goodness this sentence has grown tiresome.

You see, I recently experienced what is commonly referred to as Pain.  I do not mean the kind where one mistakenly selects a Sinead O'Conner song from a playlist.  No: I am talking about Directed Sessions From Hell.

I was recently in a Directed Session From Hell wherein I began to despair even of life.  I desperately wanted to flee, but I stuck it out, and even learned a few things.  Namely, that following such sessions, it is critical to decompress, or I will in fact detonate.  Indeed, the healthiest post-session decompression method involves a pint of ice cream (after all "stressed" IS "desserts" spelled backwards), a massage chair, and a murder of crows.  Why a murder of crows?  Well.  If I have a murder of crows, I have:

  1. Loud noises to drown out the pounding in my head,
  2. Something to swing beach towels at, and
  3. Murder, sans consequence



Mephistopheles at the helm

Mr. Satan

"Mr. Satan" by David Gemignani is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


I do not personally know Mephistopheles, aka, Satan, aka, The Prince of Darkness, aka, The Client Who Just Directed Me In That Session.  But I do know this: I have zero desire to return to said fiery nether regions any time soon.  It was too hot, I am currently slathered in Aloe Vera, and my swim trunks no longer fit because of the ice cream.

In my most recent visit to the Underworld, it started well, as they all do.  I went in, as is my wont, assuming that I was about to work with decent human beings, as opposed to Unfeeling Cybernetic Organisms hellbent on my utter pain and eradication, such as my dentist.  In fact, the only thing worse would have been being in that session while having a root canal performed.  I am confident that it would have been difficult to recite wilds of “Is It Safe?” whilst wearing a rubber dam with half of my face as numb as the heart of something cold and unfeeling.  Here I refer to the IRS.

My dentist is actually not hellbent on pain.  He is a rather nice man; he does however send paperwork and annual payments to the IRS, so it is apparent he is connected to them in some shadowy way.

The truth is, when a client books a directed session, you are truly at their mercy.  In this most recent case, they actually had no mercy.  They called the shots, they pulled the strings, they held all the cards: they were door-wardens guarding all the doors, they were holding all the keys.  Much like a person who is a door-warden who is calling all the shots, pulling all the strings, holding all the cards, and guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.

I am highly skilled at similes.  Also my vocabulary is as bad as, like, whatever.

Nonetheless, I was mercilessly forced to deliver SEVENTEEN lines EIGHTEEN different ways each in some cases, which made me employ the use of ITALICIZED ALL CAPS JUST TO CONVEY HOW UTTERLY AWFUL IT WAS.  It was THREE HUNDRED AND SIX reads for a 30-second script.  Overkill?  You bet.  Beating a script to death?  100%.  Making me pray the following prayer?


O Lord.  Ease my suffering in this my moment of great despair.

Lord, my enemies hath encamped around me.  They do direct me mercilessly.

Rain down hot fire upon them, O Lord, in thy just mercy.

Send spiders into their camp, O God.  Send spiders.

May the plague of a thousand fire ants crawl up their pantlegs, and

May they be wearing pants that are hard to take off to mitigate thy fire ant plague, O My Just and Avenging Lord Who Created Nature Including Fire Ants And Can Do This.




They micromanaged and nitpicked.  My heart was pounding and I was sweating.  They beat the script to death and overdirected.  49 minutes for a 30 second script.  My only regret was not bringing in something that I could squeeze until it popped.

I left shaking, wondering if there were some sins I had failed to renounce that have been piling up as debits against my go-easy-on-me pile.

Be all that as it may, there is one thing that I learned after this recent session.  I am sorely lacking in patience.  Oh!  Also that I can hate people and repent right after.


Jesus take the wheel

This is what happens when Jesus takes the wheel.

"Jesus take the wheel." by Whitney GH is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


As a Voiceover Artist, and a Christian who is talented at muttering swear words under my breath at people who bug me because the love of Christ runneth over in me, I would much prefer Jesus Himself was directing me in my sessions rather than them.  The session would be holier, I would have a chance to repent, and we could go for a nice stroll across the lake afterwards to that nice place on the other side that serves bread and wine.

However, after Googling, I discovered that Jesus is not in the business of producing videos that require voiceovers.  I must therefore settle for a mortal.  And as such, I must be patient.

Realizing that absolutely no one is perfect except Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, I must relegate myself to better preparing for such things.  On more than a few occasions in that session, I wanted to pretend there was technical interference so that I could gracefully bow out, and communicate incessant and comical apologies about the unpredictability of the internet, and we would all have a mutual sitcom laugh together as I intentionally stalled the rescheduling of the session until the year of our Lord 5142.  I would lose out on the payment, but I would regain my peace and sanity, and be able to have ice cream earlier.

A saint I am not.  My wife can confirm this.  So can my children.  And my dog.  And waiters.

I am full of imperfections, impatience, and a desire to strangle difficult people.  But I guess in the end, it was a victory.  I took deep breaths.  I asked for needed breaks in the middle of the session in order to regain composure.  I did not run screaming from my studio.  I did not mail them harassing letters made of construction paper and human hair.  No one was called a dumb doodyhead. I delivered, though I did not want to.  That is truly something.  I employed the minimal patience within me, because, truly, the only way out is through.  They got what they needed, and we can all look back on this crazy event, laugh heartily, and smile at the craziness that was The Directed Session from Hell, celebrating freedom from one another.

In the future, it would be advantageous to know in advance how long they have me for.  I need to know in advance how many reads they are wanting of each line.  I need to go in knowing.

Now if you will excuse me - Love You With My Life is about to come on the radio, and I need to finish wrapping this human hair around this construction paper harassment letter so I can sing along with Jon.  How do you spell Doodyhead?



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Joshua Alexander
Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Artist for hire

23 thoughts on “How To Survive Voiceover Directed Sessions. Hint: Crows, Fire Ants & Ice Cream.”

    1. Some can be wonderful! Thiiiiiiiiiiis was not. Case in point, I once was awarded a project from Night School Studios for “Next Stop Nowhere”, the video game, in which I play the main protagonist, Beckett. It was 24 hours of directed sessions, in 2-3 hour chunks, with 3 variations of every single line. That paid handsomely, so that made it worth it, but it truly was a memorable and enjoyable experience working with Adam, the producer! Such a time commitment…such a blast.

  1. I’m soooooo glad you didn’t post this blog LAST Monday, before my directed session that day – I might have taken ill and had to reschedule indefinitely due to uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. Thanks Josh…for waiting to post it until this week, because my session ended up being so encouraging and fun!!! But I’m sure there will be those at some point. I hate that people can be so difficult at times – including me.

    “desserts = stressed backwards” has rocked my world!!!!! A heteropalindrome/semordnilap unfamiliar to me. 🙂 🙂

  2. Yes, those sessions can be frustrating. I just remind myself that at LEAST I’m getting immediate feedback instead of sending my voice into the ether to never hear anything back!

    1. I hear you, Gary! I much prefer the alternative: just recording a few versions, depending on length of course, and sending them off. And then if anything needs to be picked up, I can obviously rerecord those sections and send them back. I’ve never experienced such extreme difficulty in a directed session before…glad I was able to deliver, yes, but gladder that it’s over!

  3. Hahahaha! Thats good stuff !!! I REALLY REEEE-EEE-EEAALLLY hate the micromanagers. Thanks 4 some good laughs on this one, i have one coming up later today and this will help bring some levity in advance. 😛

  4. Glad you got that out of your system. Marc Graue did a video where he spoke about such sessions where not even the client is safe! Hahahaha! That was so funny!

    Sorry they were so awful though! You being as cool as you are, they’d probably not even notice they were being… unreasonable or overbearing… Well, at least you can take away one thing, and that is that they certainly have the takes they need, lol. Your work in the underbelly of live sessions is done!

    Never had a live session before, but just like you went in, I would REALLY like it to be with nice people. That way, they communicate clearly what they want, I can deliver a take or two of each section and we’re done! Oh, I’m sorry, that’s Narnia, this is the real world!!

    Oh well, again, just glad you vented – this is a safe space! 😀

    PS, will check out Jon’s blog. He’s always sitting so cool and collected in his profile pic, hehe.

    Have a super day!!

    1. Haha! That Narnia line! I was not expecting that. Gold. Thanks for throwing that in and giving me a belly laugh! Haha! 🙂 Yes, they all vary, and none of them have been as bad as that one in retrospect, but it is an opportunity to grow, and I do realize that I need more patience to accommodate the difficult ones.

      1. Hahaha, coming from you, that’s awesome! I’m glad!
        Achievement Unlocked!! lol

        Seriously though, yeah, patience is hard when dealing with tough customers. I had done a realtime level model for a company, but their HQ wanted things much fancier (I worked with this branch’s limitations mind you) and I simply had to redo the whole bloody model, but I’m fine… I’m working on being fine, LOL. Anyway, the latter was MILES better than the former, so that’s my consolation.

        I managed to bite my tongue and if I was a programmer too, I would’ve gotten more work out of them, and knowing them so much better, it would’ve gone better too.

        I’m sure you passed your test with flying colors! The great thing is, it shows you that humanity has great capacity for working together, because these ‘special’ kinda folk seem to be in the minority. 😉

        PS, feel free to use the Narnia line. I don’t recall hearing it elsewhere, so have at it, hehe. My gift to you! hehe.

        1. Haha thanks Marius. I will! And thanks for the story as well. I have been there as well with video production customers too who have done the exact same thing, so believe me: I have been there. Good riddance, wedding videography!

  5. I’ve done a bunch of sessions and I always find that the cheaper the project is the more they want. I’ve done some where the pay was extremely good, and we did two or three takes they’re like OK, we got it. But my favorite line is “let’s do one more for safety.” So the next time that happens I’m prepared with the line so you know that that line dates back to when we used to record on tape and there was the off chance that we might run across a wrinkle in the tape and we had to have another take for safety. This is digital I’ve got it recorded and it’s on auto save, so we’re good. The late great Don La Fontaine said it best when he was asked to do one more for safety and he said did you get the last one, and they said yes he says OK then we’re done.

    1. Perfectly worded, and you are absolutely right! Yet they still use it. “For safety.” Hmmm. “Yes, I think I understand you. What you are wanting is even more of my time just in case you get bored with all the sitting around you plan to do once the session is over, so best to keep me in here just a wee bit longer to see if you can hear me aging, yes?”


  6. Thanks for the mention Josh. I sent payment to your email address. It is “, correct?

    I am encouraged that you are using this trying event to recognize your own faults and work toward higher, healthier goals. I also think it is a good thing that you have not yet mastered the remote strangling skill from the class on Voiceover Sith Skills. Now on Masterclass.

  7. I’m so glad I have never had a session like that. Yet. Although, I shouldn’t be glad, because that means I probably have one waiting for me soon enough… Oh no.

    I’m also glad that your will to live returned! You bounce back like a bouncy ball! I can do similes too!

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