Podcast Transcript – Episode One: Neil Conrich

The Squadcast Episode One is live!

Our podcast begins with an interview with Voice Squad founder and former actor, Neil Conrich. In this episode he discusses the inner workings of the agency, the future of the industry, and why a podcast was the next logical step.

In order to ensure accessibility for all, we have provided a transcript of the episode below. If you would prefer to listen to the episode, visit our podcast page here.

Episode One: Neil Conrich

David John: (00:00)
Hello from wherever you are listening. And welcome to the squad cast the podcast from London voice agent for squad. Whether you're a voice artist or audio artist, an industry professional, or you're just simply curious about the voice world, the audio world, the squad cast is here to give you an insight into the often mysterious world and the workings of a voice agency.

David John: (00:22)
I'm David John, professional, voiceover audio artist, dubbing director and equity audio counselor. And each week I'll be interviewing actors, producers, and various movers-and-shakers from within the voiceover industry. We begin this week, of course with the person most qualified to tell us about running a voice agency, voice squad founder, Mr. Neil Conrich. Welcome Mr. Conrich!

Neil Conrich: (00:46)
Hello there.

David John: (00:47)
So we just want to ask you a few questions about life as a voice agent. And obviously we will talk to people who are actors with your agency and producers after that. Give us a flavor, first of all, why you decided to start a podcast? The Squadcast?

Neil Conrich: (01:06)
Uh, good question. We decided, we've always done a blog with the website - that's been quite successful. We've had quite a lot of interaction with people commenting on it and you know, finding it interesting. We just felt it was the next logical thing to do. Podcasts are still quite new and because they deal with audio - which is what we do - it seemed a logical extension. Hopefully, these will provide a bit of fun and an interesting platform and also show what we do and how we do it.

David John:(01:37)
Mmm. So before you started Voice Squad, the Squad, which I think is nearly 20 years ago...

Neil Conrich: (01:44)
Yeah, it's going to be 20 years in January.

David John: (01:46)
Amazing, amazing. Yeah.

David John: (01:48)
You, you acted, you were an actor, you did theatre, film and telly?

Neil Conrich: (01:51)
Indeed, yeah. I left drama school 1983, uh, set up this business in 2000 so yeah, in that period I was just a working actor. And I got into voiceover quite early on in my career, which was great because I was a good sight reader and, I really enjoyed it and it was quick. And, again, me gave me a very good living. I decided to set up Voice Squad because I was looking for an additional thing. It's just that I found as an actor, I wasn't really in control over my life. I was always - people were always giving me work, but I had no control over that. I think it's only when you get to the top of the profession, as an actor - and very few are like that - that you can have some sort of control.

Neil Conrich: (02:37)
I also came from a business family and an opportunity came up with a friend who had a voiceover agency but for foreign artists.

David John:(02:46)
Yeah. Which you still do as part of Voice Squad. We've got a lot of foreign artists.

Neil Conrich: (02:49)
Indeed. Yeah. So we set up the business together. I brought in people I knew and it was very good. Unfortunately we've sort of, after a while we decided to part ways. I bought him out and I've been running it myself since 2001 onwards.

David John:: (03:07)
Wow. So how did you find the transition between leaving acting behind and becoming an agent?

Neil Conrich: (03:13)
Surprisingly it was kind of seamless. Because I come from a business family. I was used to sorta dealing with figures and everything else. And also because I'm still in the business - because I'm still in the same business I was in before - I kind of related to it and I found it very easy. And then I suddenly realized after a while - because I kept acting and voicing and the voiceover agency going at the same time, I suddenly realized that I was enjoying the agenting so much I didn't want to act anymore. And once you've done that, once you've lost the hunger, you can't do that.

David John: (03:47)
That's right. It's takes over.

Neil Conrich: (03:48)
Yeah, exactly. So, I've stuck to being an agent ever since.

David John: (03:50)
Yeah. So, for people who don't know - or are interested - a day in the life of a voice agent? Give us a kind of idea of how your days pan out.

Neil Conrich: (04:01)
It starts early!

David John: (04:02)
Yes, I'm sure, I'm sure!

Neil Conrich: (04:03)
So, we start at nine, and literally it's, it's a bombardment of phone calls or emails. From that time onwards right the way through the day.

David John: (04:15)
And that's inquiries for actors and different projects?

Neil Conrich: (04:18)
For voiceover artists. Yes. Uh, either in English language or foreign language.

David John: (04:22)

Neil Conrich: (04:22)
We have a hundred plus exclusive English language artists - within which you've got Americans, Australians as well as the British nationals. We also have 600 foreign artists providing a variety of languages.

David John: (04:39)
Wow. Yeah, that's a lot. So what do you think are the common misconceptions, for voice actors and agents as well? I mean in the community of the industry?

Neil Conrich: (04:53)
I'm not sure about misconceptions. I'm not sure if that's the right word. I think the difference between a voice agent and the theatrical agent is immense. We're quite niche. We only do the one thing. That's all we do. We do a huge, an enormous variety within voicing, but we don't have the range that the theatrical agents do, so we have completely different contacts. Apart from that it's quite similar. I mean, with the voices, it's quite personal management. You know, I sort out any problems. I sort of try and always do the best deal. I want it to be fair and also transparent and I think most agents are the same for all their clients.

David John: (05:32)
Yeah. I guess it's quicker isn't it? The voice world rather than a theatrical agent?

Neil Conrich: (05:35)
It's very quick. Yes, absolutely. Quite often a theatrical booking, say theatre booking will be advised for two months ahead. Depending on artist availability a voice over can be an hour ahead. We quite often get, can you get someone to the studio by ten?

David John: (05:52)
Yeah. So it's quick action -

Neil Conrich: (05:55)
But the jobs are much shorter, they are only for an hour or less.

David John: (05:58)
Sure, Sure. And actors have to be - I guess - you really want them to be answering their phone when you call to say, can you be there in two hours?

Neil Conrich: (06:05)
Absolutely! And not only that, the most important thing for us is diary. We have to know availability because if we suggest someone for a job, they have to be available and I get very, very upset.

David John: (06:18)
Yeah. It looks bad on the whole agency-

Neil Conrich: (06:20)
Exactly. Yes, yes. If I suggest an artist and they are suddenly unavailable, it makes me look a fool. And I really dislike that intensely!

David John: (06:27)
I'm quite sure! So with Voice Squad you kind of concentrate on taking on professional trained actors?

Neil Conrich: (06:32)
That's correct. We don't really have anything else. Possibly because of my background as an actor, I like taking on other actors - because I think they've earned the right for it. They've trained for three years. They've worked very, very hard -

David John: (06:48)
- worked in theatre and telly or whatever?

Neil Conrich: (06:50)
Exactly. And they're experienced and they know how it works. I don't tend to take on presenters because I think there are specific presenter agencies and they're very good for that. Also with an actor, they bring a sense of reality to a read. Um, which a lot of people that haven't been trained find difficult -

David John: (07:07)
And of course your voiceover tag covers a whole kind of range of work, which often requires acting as a skill.

Neil Conrich: (07:18)
Oh, absolutely. I mean, we do huge amounts of what we call ADR, which is film dubbing. Which is all improvised. So they have to be able to think on their feet very quickly and make a scene - which they've only just seen for that second - completely real. And that's a real skill. Same - we do an enormous amount of audiobooks. You have to be skilled to do an audiobook - to take on several different characters in different tones, styles and accents. And that's, uh, really, only actors are properly trained enough to do that.

David John: (07:50)
Yeah. So since you started Voice Squad - nearly 20 years - have you noticed a lot of changes in the industry?

Neil Conrich: (07:57)
Huge amounts of changes. When we first started, everything was kind of analog. I mean, people still had cassette tapes. And that's how we would send them out. And they got replaced with the CDs, which are great because they were much lighter and simpler. You could also have more on a CD. But now it's all digital, which means rather than biking a tape round urgently and costing us an absolute fortune, we can send stuff by email immediately. Even that's changed now. We always used to send people's reels by email, but now we actually just deliver them from our website. There's a digital print and we just send a link and that's it. It's all in seconds, it's so much quicker.

David John: (08:41)
And that, I guess that's the same for something like the audio book industry. Twenty years ago it was made for cassette and sold on cassette.

Neil Conrich: (08:48)
Indeed. Now it's all downloadable -

David John: (08:49)
It's a revolution for audiobooks -

Neil Conrich: (08:52)
Absolutely. Space has been created and a market is being created. People are really, really into audiobooks, which they can download.

David John: (08:59)
And audiodrama - we do a lot of audiodrama, multi-reads. Which is also downloadable. People listen on their phone.

David John: (09:05)
So how do you as an agent, balance the needs of the client and the needs of the voiceover artists?

Neil Conrich: (09:14)
Well, to get more work we have to be seen to meet the client's needs. So we provide the right voice for the right job, for the right fee. That works very well. But I've always got my artists first, I always try to get the best fee that I can for them. Some artists are better known, they come on to a slightly higher fee. Most artists are on a similar sort of fee, but if you've just started drama school you're not really going to earn the same as somebody who's been in the business 30 years and has a name. So it is a balance but most of the time it seems to work quite well.

David John: (09:56)
So, we talked about the changes since you started. What do you see coming down the line? I mean, are there any big changes that you think, I mean, how do you predict what's going to happen next?

Neil Conrich: (10:07)
Ah, I wish I had a crystal ball David! Yes, that's a good one. I don't know. I think 5G might change things 'cause that's gonna make some things massive. You'll be able to stream so much quicker. You can get online. We've gone from doing DVDs to just doing online stuff for corporate work. So I think that's, that's gonna go even further. The digital side is massive and it's only gonna get bigger.

David John: (10:36)
And, and now I think you do a lot of recordings where someone can be in one country, someone can be on an opposite continent while doing a voice over being listened to by someone.

Neil Conrich: (10:46)
That's correct. When we first started, the whole point was we could get an artist into studio in London. Everything else was very difficult. Now everything is in is global. So if we have an artist that's working in Sweden. we just get them into studio there. We've just been doing a job for Indonesia. It's not a problem. There's a studio in Jakarta.

David John: (11:06)
So they listened down the line and directed from wherever?

Neil Conrich: (11:09)
It used to be with ISDN but now you can just do it digitally.

David John: (11:13)
And you have to organise the kind of timing? So you've got exactly the client listening at the right time?

Neil Conrich: (11:18)
That's the hardest. That's the hardest thing - obviously in Europe is not really a problem because the time difference is at most an hour. But with West coast America you've got to get them in the studio first thing in the morning. Otherwise they're not gonna be able to listen.

David John: (11:29)
Yeah. Interesting! So... I've got a little list of questions here..

Neil Conrich: (11:34)
Oh dear. Yes, go ahead.

David John: (11:35)
Quick fire questions - these'll be a bit fun. So... cat, person or dog person?

Neil Conrich: (11:41)
Dog person, definitely. I've got a Bassett called Bob who's the office mascot and is very well known around here.

David John: (11:47)
Doesn't answer the phone yet?

Neil Conrich: (11:48)
Nope. A bit of barking at it.

David John: (11:52)
Favourite ice-cream flavor?

Neil Conrich: (11:54)
Oh pistachio, si, si!

David John: (11:58)
Favourite movie of all time?

Neil Conrich: (12:00)
That's a tough one. I'd probably The Godfather one and two. If I can have two. I mean one or the other...

David John: (12:07)
And if you had to choose, yeah, it's difficult.

Neil Conrich: (12:09)
Yeah. I think with those, it's just the acting is superb, the writing is superb, the directing is superb, everything is brilliant about it, you know? It's a joy to watch even though some of it is terrifying.

David John: (12:19)
Theatre! What's the last thing you saw in the theatre?

Neil Conrich: (12:24)
Last thing I saw, I think I went see Fiddler on the Roof in town, which had come from the Mernier Chocolate Factory, which was lovely. I don't really know why we picked it. We just thought we fancied something a bit of fun and it was tremendous. Absolutely tremendous. It was a joy. It was a great night out, great singing, great dancing. I remember when I was a kid, you know, seeing on TV. Topol played it and I sang, I knew all the tunes. I was singing to myself as the show was going on. As was most of the audience, I think.

David John: (12:55)
So. Last one, favourite place in London?

Neil Conrich: (12:57)
Favourite place in London. Uh, I spend a lot of time on Hampstead Heath because of the dog and I love it. I love it for the views and I love it because it's local to me and I love it because it's a beautiful, beautiful place, especially at this time of year in spring.

David John: (13:10)
Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that. So we'll leave it there. Thanks for talking to us.

Neil Conrich: (13:17)
It's a pleasure.

David John: (13:17)
Um, next week we'll be talking to Game of Thrones actor and, of course, esteemed Voice Squad artist, James Faulkner. Hopefully he'll be telling us about his career as an actor, and a voiceover, and audio artist. And we'll ask him about the skills it takes to be a successful voice artist.

David John: (13:34)
You can find out anything else you want to find out about Voice Squad. Listen to our artists by visiting the website, which is voicesquad.com. Of course, feel free to check us out on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and if you've enjoyed this podcast - The Squadcast - then do subscribe, rate us wherever you listen to your podcasts.

David John: (13:54)
The Squadcast is a Voice Squad Ltd production hosted by David John, devised by Mr. Neil Conrich. It was produced and edited by Emma Samuel. If you've got any questions about us, about the Squad, about Voice Squad, please visit our site or you can always email voices@voicesquad.com.