How Mandy.com Can Help Your Podcast Production
Steve Lack, East Coast Business Development Manager of Mandy.com, discusses how Mandy can help podcasters (and other media professionals) facilitate relationships with audio professionals to provide the highest-level podcast interview quality. Discussion also includes the state of the DC voiceover industry and a little audio post production history sprinkled in for flavor.
This episode was recorded with both Charles and Steve in our studio.
Podcast Transcript: How Mandy.com Can Help Your Podcast Production
Charles: Welcome to Open to Influence. I'm your host, Charles Lipper, founder and CEO of Volubility Podcasting LLC. Today we are joined by Steve Lack, East Coast Business Development Manager of Mandy.com. Mandy is the world's largest creative online community for cast, crew, and creatives, focusing on the film and television production community. Mandy.com also sports a substantial casting component for television, film, and theater. Mandy makes things happen. Steve, welcome to the show.
Steve: Hey, thanks. Thanks for having me.
Charles: Absolutely. OK, so Mandy.com. Basically it's a connecting community for... I have a film I'm producing. I've got some holes in my crew that I need to fill. I go to Mandy and I find...
Steve: Yeah, the way Mandy works is we exist to help film and television producers fill their open positions in a really easily accessible way. We have over 2,000,000 members worldwide over all our sites, which are actors, crew, casting. We have editors, DPs, cinematographers, audio, video, everything you can need. We have above the line and below the line talent, so we exist to help film producers easily find the people that they're looking for to fill holes in their production schedule.
Charles: Cool. And just for people who might not know, above the line, below the line, what do you mean by that?
Steve: Above the line is the creative staff.
Steve: Generally producers, directors, actors, anyone who is involved in the creative process of the show. Not that editors aren't creative.
Steve: But below the line is generally your technical staff, the editors, audio people, lighting, grips, things like that.
Charles: Cool, awesome. So you and I met maybe 10 years ago or so when we were both working for Discovery Communications.
Charles: We were both freelancing in their audio post production department. Both of us have moved on since then, and you're with Mandy now. Do you miss the chair?
Steve: I do miss the chair a little bit. It's interesting the way I ended up with Mandy, I was at Discovery for 10 years and before that I'd been in audio post production for 25 years, but I've always been interested in the convergence of the web and how the business is changing. So I actually started an online ordering company in 2003 for restaurants, and that was my first exposure to internet business and the web. So, when this position at Mandy became available, it seemed like a great convergence into what I had been doing and what I see the future of this business as.
Charles: Sure. And also just, you know, collaborating with other people in general has always been my favorite part of it. I mean it's one thing to be mixing in a dark room for hours on end, but just working with other people and really realizing creative vision is also... it's gratifying for me. I don't know about you, but it sounds like you're connecting people.
Steve: Yeah, exactly. What I love about this position is I'm able now to go out. I'm traveling all over the country, connecting with former colleagues and producers and television productions, connecting all these people together to help them create their creative vision. So I'm really enjoying that a lot.
Charles: Awesome. And take us back. So you said 25 years in the industry before Discovery. What all have you been through?
Steve: Well, I started out doing music for television. My first job in TV was doing sound alikes for Who's the Boss. I was working for the composer, Jonathan Wolff, and every week they would have a sound alike on the show, somebody would turn on the TV and The Tonight Show would be on or they'd get in the car and turn the radio on and one of Tony's favorite songs would come on, things like that. So I was hired to do those sound alikes.
Charles: So instead of having the actual song come on, it was a song that was closely related.
Steve: Yeah, they would buy a sync license. So it was the actual song, it was a copy of the song,
Steve: But they would not buy the actual master license where they could use the real song.
Charles: Right, got It.
Steve: So they would buy the rights to the material without...
Charles: But not the performance.
Steve: So we'd recreate the performance, and that led me to doing mixing. I was MIDI tech and...
Charles: MIDI tech. Is that still a thing?
Steve: Yeah, I don't think so.
Charles: It's just composer at this point, right?
Steve: Yeah, they don't have din connectors anymore. So I was working for the composer Jonathan Wolff and we did Who's the Boss, Seinfeld, and we did some work with Married with Children. So that's sort of how I started my career in this business. Then when I had a family, I had to leave LA for family reasons.
Charles: It's always the killer, right? Kills you every... it'll suck you dry. No, go ahead.
Steve: So I had to leave LA for family reasons, I moved into the post production side of things, and that's when I started mixing and doing post production. I worked in post houses in south Florida. That led me to working at Discovery Latin America, which is based in Miami, and that led to the position in the Silver Spring office where we met.
Charles: Gotcha. It's almost the opposite for me where as I started in post production, then found myself doing more voiceover work and acting work and then the family is really what sucks me back to post production.
Steve: The money gigs.
Charles: Yeah. So Mandy, so tell us how this works. You've obviously got employers and people looking for jobs. So where is the subscriber base built around?
Steve: So, our subscribers are generally professionals in the industry. They run the gamut from people who just graduated from school or even in the process of graduating from school all the way up to professionals like you or I who have 25, 30 years in the business. There's a lot of people on there who get one freelance job after another, all strictly through Mandy. They run their business through Mandy. Those were our subscribers and they're the professionals in every aspect of the business.
Steve: What we provide to our subscribers is access to employers. Employers are independent film makers, television networks, people producing web video, any kind of content who are looking for crew. Kind of as an aside, I had a meeting when I was at the American Film Market in LA last week with a producer who I worked with here in DC, and she had a shoot in New York the next week. All the people she works with, all the crews she works with are all LA based, so she was able to go on Mandy, put a call up and hire her crew strictly through that.
Charles: Okay. At least here in DC, there are, and I'm sure everywhere, there are various listservs and tight-knit communities of... I generally work in post production so I know a number of post production people to recommend, and then when I need crew people, I have a select few producers and production managers in the area that I trust to be like, hey, we need a DP. Who do you recommend, who's got gear? So obviously for filling in any holes, Mandy is great, but also like you said, for the traveling producer who's maybe shooting elsewhere, Mandy's basically your fixer, right?
Steve: Yeah, exactly. If you're out of town and also you'll get situations where you're doing a shoot in three days ahead of the shoot your location sound guy will call up and say, "I'm really sorry", you know...
Charles: "My wife's having a baby".
Steve: Yeah, exactly.
Charles: There's that damn family again.
Steve: And my usual sub guy is out of town, and I don't know where to turn but I can't make it. And so you call your list of people and they're all like, sorry, sorry, sorry. You can turn to Mandy, and then you make new relationships.
Charles: Absolutely, yeah.
Steve: And once you have, once you've worked with those people on Mandy, you can go back and continue to hire them and manage the whole process through Mandy.
Charles: Go on about that then, how is project management incorporated?
Steve: Well, it's application management basically and relationship management, so as an employer, you'll have your account. Everybody who's ever applied to any of your jobs will be attached to your account along with their reel, their resume, any information about them. You can take notes on them and you can shortlist people. So let's say you are looking for a video editor who knows Avid and has five years broadcast experience, and you get 200 applications, and out of those 200 applications, maybe only 30 percent of them really hit every mark that you're looking for. So, you can move those people over to the short list. Then you can also mark several people as maybe. Okay, they only have a few years experience, but they've got a great reel, so put them on the maybe list. So that helps you manage the application process. But the nice thing about that is you can also send a link to those lists out to your colleagues so that they can share in the process of hiring people as well.
Steve: So it gives you tools to help manage the application process.
Charles: Cool. And this is worldwide, right?
Charles: Or how many countries are you guys involved in?
Steve: Yeah, well there's the UK and Europe, US, and North America. Then there's a site that's called International, and I've seen more jobs posted there for African production companies, production companies in Spain, in the Caribbean. So we do cover the world.
Charles: So that's a separate site, though, were you saying?
Steve: The way it works is that Mandy.com..
Steve: All our disciplines and all our sites are under the Mandy.com banner. So when you go onto the site, there's a menu and it says, "I'm an actor in the UK looking for work" or "I'm a producer in LA looking for crew".
Steve: Since the site's so big, it's kind of segmented into actors, crew, stage, voiceovers, dancers, singers, musicians.
Charles: It's a wide gamut.
Steve: Yeah, exactly.
Charles: I guess ultimately what anyone who goes to a new website wants to know, who's paying for it? So is it free for an employer to post a job and then basically applicants are required to have a subscription in order to use the site?
Steve: Uh-huh. It's always free for employers to post jobs.
Steve: There is also a free production services listing that production companies can list their services and what they have available. So for people who are looking for a full project or something like that, they can be found that way.
Steve: Then for membership, there's two levels of membership. There's a free membership and a premium membership. You can see all the jobs and opportunities on the site under the free membership. However, you can only apply for low or no pay jobs, which are like student films, internships, things to build your reel and build your experience. The premium membership allows you to apply for all the professional jobs on the site. Upload your reel. You can have a personal website with your own url where we'll host up to 20 videos and headshots, your resume, all that right on our servers.
Charles: And is that a monthly, an annual, what kind of subscription?
Steve: It's a $15 a month fee
Steve: And there's an annual subscription that's $129 a month.
Charles: Gotcha. So you save a little bit if you do the annual.
Charles: Ok, good to know. Particularly in Los Angeles, and I can't speak for every region in the world, there are union jobs and non-union jobs, like you've got IATSE and SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild. Do jobs generally stipulate if they are a union gig or a non-union gig?
Steve: Exactly, yeah. When the employer posts the job, there's a form they fill out, and one of the boxes is union or non-union and the rate of pay, the thing that determines whether the job is considered a full-paying job or a low/no-pay job is you have to meet at least your state's minimum wage requirements to be considered a paying job.
Steve: So you list the salary that you're willing to pay, or if it's to be determined or based on experience, then you stipulate that you're at least paying the minimum wage.
Charles: Gotcha, working in the voiceover world, there are all of these pop-up websites now that are, you know, voiceover communities and various things. Um, and in some SAG-AFTRA experiences we'll find that an employer will go on and say, yeah, we're willing to cast SAG-AFTRA and then you book the job. Great! And then they say, but you need to do it non-union, which is always kind of a downer. It sounds like your employers probably know the drill. Whereas if you say you're going to hire union, you probably know what that means and you're gonna have to go through the usual hoops in order to do that as opposed to just saying, "hey, I'll hire union, but really I needed to do it non-union".
Steve: Well, the thing that sets Mandy apart that I found from our competitors and that I find really effective is we have... every job is vetted.
Charles: That's awesome.
Steve: Yeah. We have a team of 30 administrators in our London office. Every time a job is posted, they'll look at the job, make sure it's paying the accepted standard. They may even push back, you know, if you say, "hey, I'm paying $125 a day for a DP with a Red camera with his own equipment in New York City". And that's... you're losing money if you take that job.
Steve: So they'll reach out to the employer and say, "this is kind of low for what you're asking for. You'll get better response..." They won't tell them they can't.
Steve: But they'll say, "you'll get a better response if you can pay $250 a day, you'll get a better response from the type of professionals you're looking to meet". So the jobs are vetted, they make sure that they're legit, they make sure that the pay is what they say the pay is, that the person posted the job is a known entity. They'll check with them and make sure it's all legit. So that helps with that, saying it's a union job and it's not really a union job and things like that.
Charles: It sounds like from the consumer standpoint, you look at some of these sites and you say, "cool, it's an online marketplace and it's basically on autopilot". Clearly Mandy is not. You've got a team working behind the scenes all the time. I mean vetting every single job. I'm assuming there are hundreds if not thousands of jobs all the time on Mandy.com, so that sounds like a large amount of work. So your job at Mandy is to what?
Steve: My job is basically to go out and meet employers, bring the jobs onto the site, make sure employers know about what it is we offer the services we offer, the quality of our membership, how easy it is to use the site, and to support the employers in posting their jobs, following up on their jobs, navigating the site. That's my primary purpose.
Charles: And you are the... is it East Coast, is that correct?
Steve: I'm the East Coast Business Development Manager, and we have Gina Hall who is the West Coast in the US Business Development Manager.
Charles: Gotcha. And do you split it by the Mississippi River or something?
Steve: She sort of handles LA which is half the business in the world.
Charles: Yeah, so that's an undertaking. Sure. So, I-5 is the dividing line, not so much the Mississippi River.
Steve: We also have a team in the UK that handles the whole UK market.
Steve: So, there's a lot of times producers in the US may be doing a shoot in the UK, and that comes in handy, and if they contact me I'll put them in touch with our team over in the UK.
Charles: Gotcha. And I think you mentioned you are targeting a lot of work for organizations and educational institutions. What type of work are you looking at with those kinds of clients?
Steve: Yeah, another part of my job is to reach out to organizations that represent people in the business, like The Society of Broadcast Engineers, SMPTE, Writers Guild, SAG-AFTRA, and let them know that our services are a benefit to their membership, so I can offer discounts and things like that to organizations to introduce the site to their membership.
Charles: Great. As far as actors go, do you work with talent agencies directly at all?
Steve: We do. Again, my background is in film and television production and post production. The casting component of the site is very robust. We have a lot of casting agencies and casting directors that use the site, so there's a lot of opportunity for that as well.
Charles: Absolutely, and there was the recent merger of Voices.com purchased Voice Bank, which was classically in recent years the place where clients could find voiceover talent represented by agents, and so since it's been absorbed, maybe Mandy might be able to get in on that action.
Steve: Yeah, we have a voiceover site, Voiceovers Pro. I mean, it used to be called Voiceovers Pro. Now it's Mandy Voiceovers.
Steve: And another interesting aspect of Mandy that I think sets us apart from the competition is, say you're an agent, you can set up as an agency on Mandy, invite your people to register under your agency, and then you can peruse the jobs and submit them as their agent through the site.
Charles: Great. And that's pretty much what Voice Bank was, and so no one's really sure what Voices.com is going to do with Voice Bank, but it sounds like Mandy's kind of ready to catch that work now that it's up in the air.
Steve: Yeah, and that's a good tip. Thank you.
Charles: Absolutely. Get on top of that.
Steve: Yeah. Why don't you tell me about what pain points do you have in finding work as a voiceover talent?
Charles: Ah, well, I can speak on what it's like to be a voiceover talent in DC. New York, LA, very different animals. I'm sure Chicago, Atlanta, also different animals. Every region is going to have their own growing pains. I am a SAG-AFTRA voiceover talent here in Washington. We have a great local with a great support staff at the SAG-AFTRA local office. And generally speaking we have marketing options of A) self promotion. So, I've got my website, charleslipper.com, I've gotten my email newsletter that goes out to existing clients, various social media outlets. That personal touch. Then, beyond that locally, we have what is called the Producers Handy-Dandy, which is a website that's been around, or it used to be on CD for many years. Before that it was on cassette. I think it may have even been on reel-to-reel at one point.
Steve: It has been around.
Charles: It is now currently on the web. We just printed our last CDs I think in 2012, 2013, something like that, but it's now strictly a website community for producers locally who want to work with local talent, and there is an audition component within the site, but most people reach out directly and request an audition that way or just book a job. So there's personal marketing. We've got our local Producers Handy-Dandy, and then obviously there's agents. So here in DC we don't have a lot of agents. We are pretty much relying on going to New York and LA for outside representation, so I have my manager, ACM Talent, in New York City. That way I'm getting auditions locally, I'm getting auditions from my New York office, and all that turns into a career. Now, that's a lot of legwork. Obviously, if there was a central hub like Mandy that could catch all the work into one central place, that's great. Obviously that's not the world we live in. It would be one more avenue for us to use. And like I said, so there are other sites Voices.com, Voice123.com that are kind of doing that, but in the union world they're not generally conducive to what we do. They're more set up to be, hey, post a job, you do the job, they cut you a check and that's the end of it. Union work is not quite that cut and dry. There are things like residuals and you know, 13 weeks cycles, and we need to be paid through a payroll service because it involves our pension and health contributions, which are illegal for me to personally touch. You can't cut me a check and then I put that check into my pension. That's just, it's federally illegal. So, there are certain hoops that need to be jumped through. But it sounds like Mandy is there to, even if an employer comes on, posts a job, and doesn't really know all these things, it sounds like there's someone there to guide them through that process. Is that right?
Steve: Well, we're not really union experts.
Steve: If it's a union job and we can make sure that it is. I am actually reaching out to the people that SAG Indie and some of the other unions to get educational materials to help kind of guide producers into becoming signatory and things like that.
Charles: Sure. And I know within the union, they're always putting out new communications, working the contracts, trying to make things more easy for everybody, so I know at least in the DC local they are more than happy to talk to you to make it easier for employers to hire union talent.
Steve: Well, you mentioned like going to New York and stuff. The thing I've really found that's really interesting, coming from LA originally, is that the amount and quality of work that's being done in Baltimore, DC...
Charles: Why, thank you.
Steve: Atlanta, Miami, as well as of course New York, like I said, I drive up and down 95 all the time now, and it's... there's a lot going on all up and down the coast of high quality, national work.
Charles: Absolutely, and since the advent of ISDN, which allowed people to record high quality voiceover over a couple of telephone lines muxed together basically, my manager says, you can, I've asked, you know, do you want me to move to New York? Do you want me to move to LA? And he says, "you move where you're going to be happy. I'll send you work wherever you are. It doesn't matter where you're physically standing." Occasionally the big cities like to say, "yeah, you know, the best talent in the world's in New York, so we're not going to hire someone who doesn't live in New York". That happens, but I know plenty of on-camera folk that live in Baltimore and drive to New York on a regular basis. They go up there for auditions, they go up there for jobs. That's just kinda the world we're living in. Not everyone wants to live in the city, but sometimes you've got to work there.
Steve: Yeah, well that's the beauty of living in this time, in the 21st Century. When I was in LA, it was like, I gotta live in LA. That's where all the work...
Charles: In the 20th Century?
Steve: Yeah, in the 20th Century. Back in the 20th Century... I'm dating myself.
Charles: We're all there. We're not that far off.
Steve: But uh, you had to be there or in New York if you wanted to be in the television business. Those were your options. Now, and this is where Mandy really comes in, why I'm so excited about working with Mandy, is you can live where you want to live and do the work. You can, especially as an editor, sound designer, composer, audio mixer, voiceover talent. The work comes to you.
Steve: And for the employers, instead of going, who do I have? Who can make it into the office? You can go, who do I have in the world who's the best editor I can get? So, it's a really exciting time. I mean, it's really a paradigm shift in the way the business works.
Steve: I mean, and everybody basically becomes an independent businessman at that point. There are pros and cons to that as well.
Charles: Yeah, there are pros and cons to all of it. Whereas, you know, when ISDN came out, a few people got together and said, "this is great. We can work anywhere now. We can work in New York, we can work in LA." And then someone stands up and says "yes, and then they can work here. So all your local clients are now anyone's fair game." So it does go both ways. And so we here at Volubility Podcasting are in the business of podcasting, which, I'm not a fan of the expression, but the wild west. It's a new frontier of what can be accomplished. And so as far as things like ISDN, it's expensive technology. It's even dated. Verizon will no longer give you an ISDN account. They have just discontinued it. They've grandfathered in all their old accounts, but no one can get it new. So, in this world where, you know, right now you and I are sitting in the same room, that's a luxury. Other times when we're doing these interviews, we either have the phone, which you know, few people even have a hard line phone anymore. We have internet connectivity to some degree and then you're kind of relying on the quality of someone's laptop microphone, or people are shipping USB microphones around the country and such. So, we're going through this growing pain of podcasting. And so some solutions are hiring people, potentially on Mandy.com, to go out and say, "hey, just take a Zoom recorder and go record this end of the interview. I'll be connected on the phone so we have a guide track, but then I need you there to record the quality audio and then just send me the files afterward. I lock it up and...
Steve: That's a great idea. I love it.
Charles: There's certainly that potential, especially for people, and it goes both ways. Obviously in New York, there's a ton of talent, but they cost a lot of money. And then in rural areas, there aren't a lot of talent but they're cheap. So, any help Mandy can do navigating the podcast universe right now, I'm sure would be greatly appreciated, because there's just 400,000 podcasts out there right now. We're just one of them getting started, and there's no set of rules. Like ISDN was very clear. Everyone got on the same page and said, this is the technology we're going to use. Now, there are three different boxes you can buy that'll all do the same thing, but generally speaking it'll all communicate well. There are so many different web services coming up, different connectivity options, and then various microphones. All the gear manufacturers are constantly coming out with new microphones, new interfaces, making things smaller, cheaper, more effective... of varying degrees of quality. But, so I'm wondering how Mandy can help us navigate that.
Steve: That's one way we can definitely help is by connecting you and podcasters with ways to record talent remotely, and also the production services listing for people who are looking to do what your business does, which is, "gee, I really want to do a podcast for my business, but I'm not sure where to turn".
Charles: And we here at Volubility Podcasting provide a fully turnkey solution, go to volubilitypodcasting.com.
Charles: Shameless self promotion.
Steve: As it should be.
Charles: And so, you know, as such, the purpose of this particular podcast, Open to Influence, is to interview potential vendors, which Mandy obviously is one. A service that we at Volubility could certainly use, but then also potential clients. People can come on our show and say, "hey, we're thinking about doing a podcast. Let's come on, talk with you and maybe figure out how we can have a podcast." So, does Mandy have a podcast? And if not, where do you see maybe a podcast could be useful for you guys?
Steve: At this point Mandy does not have a podcast. We did just launch Mandy News, which is a content part of the Mandy.com site that features interviews with actors, interviews with some of our members, industry tips and advice, things like that. And I think a podcast for Mandy, if I were to envision how we were going to structure it, would basically be the business is a business of relationships. Mandy helps facilitate those relationships. It connects the employers up with the talent, but your career is based on unfortunately the old is who you know.
Steve: And so I envision a podcast as how do you meet people, how do you get referrals, interviewing people in the business and how they came up, who's working now and where is there work coming from? That type of a podcast focus.
Charles: From a listener perspective too. I mean obviously like if I'm new to the industry and wanting to navigate the waters, listening to a podcast like that would be awesome. But then also for seasoned pros, to hear... I mean we're, we're storytellers, right? So, to hear stories from, like you said, African production companies, Middle Eastern production companies, Asian, European, everywhere, to hear those kinds of stories. Even if they're only like five minutes segments, I'd find that fascinating to hear film and crew war stories that are happening in other parts of the world.
Charles: So, I think it could be good professionally, but then also highly entertaining for even someone who may not be in the industry to hear behind the stories. So yeah, I think there's a lot of potential there.
Steve: Yeah, I really want to pursue and explore that.
Charles: Awesome. All right, well thanks for coming on the show, Steve. For our listeners, if you are interested in learning more, you can go to Mandy.com. If you liked what you heard today and think Mandy.com should have their own podcast, please let us know at facebook.com/volubilitypodcasting, on Twitter @VolubilityPod, or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoy Open to Influence and would like us to create a similar podcast for your organization, you can email us at email@example.com. Thanks for listening.
Steve: You're really good at this.
Charles: I got that on tape.
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