Monday, November 16, 2009

Do you know how your clients feel?

A fascinating article touching on how humans make decisions came across my desk this morning. Research by Princeton psychology professor Danny Oppenheimer shows that decisions can be based on the ease of processing information – for example stock prices are higher shortly after the initial public offering when the ticker symbol is pronounceable (RAD for Rite-Aid compared with RDA for Reader’s Digest). In other work, Oppenheimer found that charitable giving rates varied according to what information was available about the charity’s efficiency rate (the percentage of donations that go to the actual cause versus what percentage goes to overhead). When people have a choice of giving to a charity with a lower efficiency rate, a higher efficiency rate, or no published rate, they will give to the charity with no published rate! Another of Oppenheimer’s studies shows that writing that uses a lot of big words detracts from the message. People will rate such writing as intelligent, but writing that uses simpler language is rated as more intelligent. You can read the article about Oppenheimer here.

These studies show that the decisions people make are based not simply on what they think, but also on how they feel while they’re thinking. It’s an important message for those of us who must market our business and we obviously need to design our marketing materials with this in mind. In fact with every appearance of our name/brand we should be thinking about how it might make our clients or potential clients feel. We want them to feel a certain way when they see us or hear us or think of us. How well are we succeeding in this? Can you examine your own materials and business practices and make an objective evaluation? Did you design your website with this in mind or did it just grow as your business grew? Did you hire someone to create a marketing campaign for you or did it just happen? In voice-over, probably most of us start out thinking we’re going to offer everything: audiobooks, e-learning, corporate narration, medical narration, message on hold, character voices, promo, radio imaging, the works. After a few years we find both that we excel in a certain genre and that specialisation is a key to success (at least in the U.S.). At that point we need to re-examine the way we’re presenting ourselves. Has this happened for you?

In today’s Actor’s Voice, Bonnie Gillespie writes about networking, and in conclusion she quotes from one of her own articles: People don’t remember you. They remember how they feel when they're around you. Think about it.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

MCM Goes to Hollywood for the Day

I’m a voice actor. I “don’t do” on-camera work and I don’t have a head shot so when I have the opportunity to submit for on-camera stuff I’m not prepared to do it. But I received an email this morning from Boston Casting with the subject: Rush Call Northampton Today. The location was a mile and a half from my house, so it doesn’t get much more convenient than that and I thought, why not? I indicated my availability and got a phone call from BC with the directive to report to Northampton Athletic Club for extra work on Mel Gibson’s Edge of Darkness, directed by Martin Campbell. I fully expected to spend the day sitting around, so I was not disappointed that my posterior was in fact parked for a good long while. Plenty of interesting people there, many of whom have worked on many movies, and it was great fun to get to know some of them – and to absorb as much information as I could about the mysterious and glamorous world of film making. After a few hours an Assistant Director came through to choose people for a scene in a locker room. I looked him in the eye and tried to appear friendly, calm, knowledgeable, competent – any and all traits that he might possibly need, and it seemed to work and he chose me and 5 others to follow him. In another room in a different building he lined us up to be looked over by another crew member, who again pointed at me and I was handed off to a lady who got me outfitted for the scene. Then it was back to “holding” in a building behind the athletic center for another few hours, during which time I fretted periodically about whether I was in the right place – would I miss my scene due to ignorance? But as in the voice-over business, I had to assume that if they needed me, they knew where to find me and I should just relax and resume my life, which in this case meant to meet a few more people, find the people I’d already met, do some more talking about the acting business, and just enjoy the moment as much as I possibly could. Finally around 5 pm those of us who had not shot any scenes yet were called to go over to the athletic center. Our standard of living went up instantly, since there was a big table laden with fresh coffee, tea, and food, and there was much more hustle and bustle as filming was ongoing and there were production assistants dotting the landscape and shouting “rolling”, “cut” and other fascinating directives. Finally our own A.D. appeared to ask the locker room ladies to assemble, and after a short one-hour wait we were called in. Most of the locker room ladies were led one way, I was led another and in very short order I was face-to-face with Mel Gibson himself. In this scene Gibson’s character, Detective Craven, has been shown to the athletic club locker room by the custodian (yours truly) to remove the contents of his deceased daughter’s locker.

Although I didn’t speak in my scene, I enjoyed it tremendously. I loved watching the camera men do their work, and was fascinated by all the details of lighting and scene blocking and the snappy thingy with the take number written on it, and being fussed over by make-up and wardrobe. Voice actors are not accustomed to such treatment. And who would not be thrilled to be directed and addressed by first name by Martin Campbell?

It seems extraordinary to me that so much goes into each little scene. We did at least 7 takes, and only once was a take stopped due to something that wasn't working to Mr. Campbell's liking, and after each take, out would come the measuring tape and the masking tape and the light meters and the crew would speak to each other in Gibberish of the highest caliber. Also, despite the many many hours each crew member had undoubtedly been at work that day, every one seemed calm and professional. I was especially impressed with "my" Assistant Director, Tico, who was dealing with casting all day long and managed to seem bright and interested and above all, relaxed, and to make even lowly people like me feel valued. I would do this again in a minute – although preferably not in the next few minutes because being away from the studio for a day puts one rather behind in one’s work. But I can see why people like the film business. The hours are invariably long and can be very tedious, but the denouement – at least for this happy camper – made it worth the wait.

More local news about this film here, here, here and (with an interview with me) here.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Not getting that voice-over gig: You probably didn’t blow it.

You hear it all the time – do the audition and move on. If you keep track of all your auditions and how many days it has been since you did them and think necrotic thoughts like, “if I don’t hear by tomorrow then I’ll know I blew it” – you might find yourself with an ulcer.

Bonnie Gillespie wrote this week in both Actor’s Voice and Your Turn about the importance of not obsessing and about how you can be perfect for the role and still not get cast. And how it’s important to be process-oriented rather than results-oriented in this business in order to enjoy your life to the fullest and minimise stress. She tells the story of how she was hired to cast a film because of her relationship with her then-boyfriend, now husband, for whom the screenwriter had written a role in the film. After reading the script, Bonnie and her boyfriend agreed that he was not the best actor for that role! Examples like this are abundant in show business. It is even possible to get cast and end up not playing the role. Last weekend Bob Bergen told us the story of how Lily Tomlin was cast in the role of Edna Mode, the diminutive costume designer in The Incredibles. Brad Bird had a certain attitude in mind for that role and after attempting to get the read from Tomlin that he envisioned, Tomlin told Bird that he really should read the part himself, because he was perfect for it. And we all know how that turned out.





I’m waiting to hear the outcome of a number of recent auditions and submissions. Except that I’m not “waiting”. I’m working on the jobs I have right now, and continuing to work on my skills so that I’m prepared for whatever opportunities present themselves next. Not knowing what might come along is one of the most exciting things about my job as a voice actor. As Bonnie said in her column this week: “Staying prepared, focused, and available is all you really control.”

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

I’ve been Bob Bergened.

A tornado hit my world last weekend and I hope that world will never be the same. After a weekend with Bob Bergen at his voice-over animation workshop, I feel like I want to live my life IN CAPITAL LETTERS!!! The energy and generosity of this gifted teacher are beyond words.

I was sorry to miss Bob’s earlier appearance in Boston last month, especially because several of my good friends were in the class. One of the good things about the Hartford experience, however, was that I had never met any of the participants so I now have a whole new circle of very talented voice-over friends, and several of them live close enough that we can have periodic workout groups to keep the energy going from this extraordinary weekend.

The thought of going back to business as usual Monday morning was not appealing. I have to say, the dry narration scripts that were waiting for me when I switched on the computer just didn’t know what hit them! I had to tone it down a little so my clients wouldn’t say, “Whoa!! What are you ON?” but I was glad to find that indeed, life is not the same! My profound thanks to Anthony Piselli for bringing it all together, to Planet of Sound for their hospitality, and to Bob Bergen, for being his amazing self. Bob, you rock.

Life on speed

Mike Hand with Bob Bergen at Planet of Sound, May 2008


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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dialects for Voice Actors.

Yesterday I received an entertaining email from one of my favorite clients, Richard, for whom I’ve done several large jobs requiring accents. His company produces educational software and he hired me to provide an Australian voice for “Miss Melberry” in a maps and graphs project, and a Georgia accent for a lizard (“Miss Lizzy”) in a reading skills module. I’ve also done Teacher’s Voices on several occasions.

Richard’s email included an exchange he’d had with a 4th grade teacher in Lowell, Massachusetts who has just started using the maps and graphs software with Miss Melberry. She wrote that the kids “really enjoyed it” but that one of the children said of Miss Melberry, “She’s not from around here, is she?”

Richard’s response included the following:

“Actually, Miss Melberry is from western Massachusetts; or, at least, her voice is. If you'd like to learn more about the excellent voiceover artist who voiced Miss Melberry (and loves to do accents), check out http://www.mcmvoices.com/. She is very good.”

Well, you can see why Richard is one of my favorite clients.

Australian accents are not easy. One of the sounds that is exceptionally difficult for non-natives to produce is the long “o”. When I was working on this accent intensively I studied that “o” a lot, and took a couple of snippets from Gillian Lane-Plescia’s Australian and New Zealand Accents for Actors CD and listened to them over and over again. The first one, which you can listen to here, is the phrase “in a moment”. I pulled that off the CD and multiplied it so that it is 25 seconds of just that. The sound is almost like mye-oo-munt. Hard to transcribe, hard to say.

Building on that we come to the second snippet, which is, “I know that bloke’s going to roll over in his boat in a moment”. You can listen to that one here. Lots of long o’s to practise!! If you want to try it, break it up into shorter bits and practise each bit until it sounds good. Practise them all separately and then start to piece them together. If you can master that incredibly difficult phrase, you’ll be ready to take on Australia!

I recommend the Lane-Plescia CDs above all others I've used as the ultimate dialect resource for actors. The sound quality varies because many field interviews with native speakers are included. And of course, it’s those field interviews, as well as Ms. Lane-Plescia’s discussion of the sounds that make these dialects what they are, that are so valuable. You can order them directly from The Dialect Resource or, if you live in or are visiting certain major cities you can buy them in the stores listed.

Other dialect resources:

International Dialects of English Archives

The Speech Accent Archive

American Dialect Links

Say it Like a Texan

More on dialects in future posts. Feel free to add to the list above, which is rudimentary!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Voice actors and the Edge Effect.

Last week during a vigorous house-cleaning event I unearthed a book I had read so long ago I didn’t even recognise it. Or at least, so much has happened since then that it seemed like a long time ago. The book is The Edge Effect by Eric Braverman, and it is about the influence of brain chemistry on personality, memory, attention and overall health.

The Edge Effect by Eric Braverman, M.D.


Braverman asserts that there are four basic natures among humans, each one dominated by a different neurotransmitter (dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin or GABA). The extensive Nature Assessment questionnaire in the book allows you to determine your nature, and with this information you can learn how to restore your system to balance (since we all seem to be out of whack in this mentally and physically stressful world).

There are many books on the market that claim to hold the key to restoring us to health, and after a while one becomes rather numb to these claims. But I have long felt that brain chemistry is the “final frontier” of medicine, that it truly does hold the key to so much of what can ail the body as well as the mind. I was interested to review my scores on the Nature Assessment and to remember that according to those scores I have an acetylcholine nature, which includes 17% of the population. This is what Dr. Braverman has to say about me and my kind:

A balanced acetylcholine nature is intuitive and innovative. You take pleasure in anything involving words, ideas, and communication, and are able to share your enthusiasm with others. This nature makes for ideal counselors, mediators, think tank members, yoga and meditation instructors, religious leaders, and members of public service organizations. Brain speed impacts the creative function, so artists, writers, advertising professionals and actors are all likely to be acetylcholine dominant. An educator with an acetylcholine nature would gravitate toward teaching art or literature; an accountant would gravitate toward specializing in forecasting and projects, and a plumber might find himself teaching in a trade school.

Well, I didn’t teach art or literature, I taught biology, although I always had the feeling I should have been in the humanities. That may be what made me good at teaching biology though – it was hard for me to understand it, so after I had finally wrestled the subject to the ground, I was able to explain it in a way that a non-scientist could comprehend.

We are in the very early stages of understanding the brain, and I imagine that the information in Braverman's book is going to seem simplistic in a few years, but I find it very intriguing. Fellow voice talent, if you happen upon a copy of Braverman’s book and take the time to answer the questions on the Nature Assessment test, stop back and let me know how it turned out. I’m curious to know if we’re all in that 17% together!

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Success in Voice-over: What are you afraid of?

This week my friend and colleague Liz Solar and I each drove to the center of the state to meet for lunch (she from eastern Massachusetts and I from the west). I met Liz two years ago at the amazing Women in Animation workshop run by Pat Fraley and Hillary Huber, with guest Candi Milo, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

Liz and I talked over our lunch about everything under the sun, but heavy on the voice-over of course. She mentioned she had read an article in that day’s Boston Globe about Scott Chapin, who voices promos from his New Mexico studio 10 hours a day. We talked about what kinds of sacrifices a voice talent might have to make in order to sustain that kind of schedule, and it made me wonder, how many of us in this business are ready for that level of success?

Many of us believe we would like to be so successful as voice talent that the jobs are coming in all day, every day. Or that we would like to have a regular role on an animated series, or land roles in feature films. Are you one of those people? If you aren’t there yet, are you actively engaged in bringing your dreams to reality? If not, what is holding you back? Children at home? Caring for a relative? Civic duties? Are you waiting until you “get organised”? Or until you get a killer character demo made or until you save up enough to build a better studio? If you achieve this success, what impact will it have on life as you know it?

Do you know where you want to be? Have you sat down to think seriously about how to get from where you are now, to that place? What will it take?

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Forgotten Ellis Island Picked Up by PBS

I just got word from Lorie Conway this morning that her film Forgotten Ellis Island has been selected by PBS "as a prime-time national special for late spring or early summer broadcast". Elliott Gould narrated this documentary, and Bruce Miles, Drew Hadwal and I provided historical voices. You can read more about the film and its grand premiere in my blog post of October 2007.

In addition to this good news, Lorie reported that "the Smithsonian Institution is planning on creating a traveling exhibit using clips from the film and images from the book and film--it will be a free exhibit and be placed in museums, libraries, schools, all sorts of public spaces across the country...they need to find a corporate sponsor to underwrite [it] but are confident it will happen."

This is very exciting news for many reasons, but the most important reason of all is that the film tells a story that needs to be told, and Lorie Conway tells it well. Congratulations to her not only for her artistry, but for her skill and savvy in the pursuit of distribution. That it took such a short time for her to get it says volumes about the film's merits.

Cover of Lorie Conway's book, Forgotten Ellis Island

Technorati Profile

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Announcer read versus natural read in voice-over.

I’ve been noticing as never before that television and radio newscasters have an unnatural vocal delivery, and I wrote a short article about it last month for the monthly newsletter I send to all my clients and contacts. The topic resonated with many readers and I got a number of emails in response from people with whom I shared a virtual chuckle about the antics of “announcers” on radio programs and the television news.

Voice talent will be told, if they aren’t already giving this sort of delivery, to avoid the “announcer” sound and go for a natural vocal style – to speak as if they’re talking to a friend or neighbor. The script will frequently include an announcer role, e.g., “man”, “woman” and “announcer” might be the parts required for a commercial; nevertheless, we’re asked to avoid the artificial sound that the term “announcer” connotes. From the sound of it, newscasters are being given the opposite instructions these days – to the point where I, for one, can hardly stand to listen to them.

In the days of the Big Three newscasters – Peter Jennings on ABC, Dan Rather on CBS and Tom Brokaw on NBC, Peter Jennings consistently received the highest ratings. He was known for his natural style of delivery and none of us who were glued to the television in the days following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 will forget the way Jennings helped us through that terrible time. It’s surprising to me that so many emcees and newscasters - at least the local ones - are adopting an artificial style, although I admit that even after all the excitement over at Peter O'Connell's blog, I still haven't heard NBC nightly news with Brian Williams.


Here’s an example of what I'm referring to, followed by a more natural delivery of the same line.



What do you think? Have you noticed this? Does it bug ya? Can you give me an example that’s even more annoying than what I’ve recorded, whether by posting a link to an online example on youtube or recording one of your own? Or, better yet, a clip of a really good newscaster (and yes, it can be you!).

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Meet and Eat.

My Chamber of Commerce hosts four breakfasts each year. I enjoy these events tremendously as they give me a chance for relaxed conversation with people I’ve never met and in greater depth than is usually possible at the monthly Arrive @ 5 events. The December breakfast took place last week at the Delaney House, a local restaurant and meeting center with a very pleasant ambience. The guest speaker was Jud Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Mr. Hale is only the second editor Yankee Magazine has had since its inception in the 1930’s and the 12th editor of the Almanac since 1792!! I was quite impressed to learn this. Mr. Hale gave a delightful talk full of stories and impressions about New England life, and he mentioned that New Hampshire is the only state he knows that has a road-kill auction. I spoke with him afterwards and told him how much I enjoyed his talk, and I also told him that road-kill used to be quite an important part of my life in my days as a museum curator.

People were always bringing dead birds to me that they had found on the road or elsewhere, and if the specimens were usable, I prepared them as study skins or skeletons – or if they were fresh and in very good condition I “pickled” them for use in dissections (sometimes in my own research on the evolution of limb musculature).

One time, in my early days as a graduate student at the University of Arizona, I needed to revive a defunct colony of dermestid beetles. These are flesh-eating insects that do a wonderful job of cleaning skeletons, and many museums use them as unpaid laborers for just that purpose. A thriving colony at the optimal temperature and humidity can clean a songbird skeleton overnight. The Arizona colony had been wiped out by spiders and I was hoping to get it going again, so I drove out toward Phoenix and stopped when I found a coyote carcass. Crouched over roadkill with a jar and forceps, I attracted the attention of a state trooper who stopped to question my intentions. My story seemed to satisfy him and he left me to continue picking dermestid larvae from the dead canid.

Well, I didn’t bore Mr. Hale with this story, but I did tell him that I had carried the experiences of my past life into my new career as a voice artist – to some extent – and when I needed material to create a “commercial” as part of a homework assignment for Charles Michel, I drew upon my days mucking about with road kill. You can hear that commercial for Buzz’s Pemmican here. Mr. Hale reported to me later that he enjoyed listening to it.

I may have mentioned that since joining the Chamber of Commerce and the Ad Club of Western Mass, my luck has turned. I've gone from being one of those people who "never wins anything" to one who carries many door prizes home. This time I got a gift certificate to the Delaney House, courtesy of H. L. Dempsey Co., and am looking forward to taking my family there for brunch - possibly next month when I am no longer tired of eating!

Jud Hale of Yankee Magazine
Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce
photo by Cat McGaffigan

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Monday, December 24, 2007

This is NBC nightly news with Brian Williams....

NBC News has a new voice, which is being criticised as "lacking in gravitas". You can read the opinions of viewers here.

My friend and colleague Peter O'Connell doesn't like to complain without offering solutions. He suggests that other voice talent could do the job better than Michael Douglas, who made his NBC voice-over debut last week. Voice talent from around the globe have offered their takes over at Peter's blog. Check them out!

Here's mine.

NBC logo

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Western Voiceover.

This morning I drove west to the Berkshires for a recording session. For some reason, when I worked in the academic world, I always lived west of my university or college so I was always blindly driving or bicycling east into the rising sun and west into the sunset. I thought of that this morning and was very glad to be going in the sensible direction. And of course, any opportunity to visit the Berkshires is cause for great happiness as it is so beautiful there.

My destination this morning was a studio whose owner I had first contacted in January 2005 – just two days before my first email to Lorie Conway with whom I eventually worked on Forgotten Ellis Island – way back then I was following my voice-over coach (Charles Michel)’s advice and starting my marketing efforts in my own backyard, namely Massachusetts, and I branched out from there. Steve was conferring with his colleague Darrell last week, whose agency needed a commercial voice-over for a hospital in New Jersey. Steve suggested me, and Darrell called me. As it turned out I had worked with Darrell before, but never with Steve, and I didn’t know they knew each other. And I had never met either of them! So this was a very pleasant occasion for me. Steve has a beautiful studio in the mountains – it looks like a lovely vacation lodge and indeed I came away from there feeling as if I had been on holiday. The session lasted about an hour – nobody seemed to be in a big hurry – they got the script’s writer on the phone and we discovered that the spot was too long. The writer said in bewilderment “but I read it myself and it was 57 seconds” and Steve snorted, “you probably read it to yourself!” I was reading at a pretty good clip but it was still overstuffed with words, so the writer started slashing them away and by the end my script was quite a mess, and I played a game with myself to see how many edits I could read correctly –fortunately it was all of them. I must say I got huge (but unspoken) satisfaction from witnessing a writer realising that a) his script was too long 2) it wasn’t my fault and c) “I read it myself and it was just the right timing” does not necessarily mean that the script is the correct length – you won’t know until the professional voice talent steps in!! They also needed me to do a “humming track” which would be underneath part of the VO. It was quite funny to hum and then have the writer ask for various kinds of takes on the humming – a new experience for me.

Another new experience today was one that I know many of my colleagues are familiar with – “since you’re here would you mind doing another commercial for us”. Why no, I wouldn’t mind at all. So out came the script for the New York State Cerebral Palsy Association. A challenge – they pronounce it “sara-brul” which I had never said in my life before today.

Such a pleasant morning. I love to leave my studio coccoon and meet people in this business, and being directed live is so educational. And it doesn’t hurt to visit a recording studio with a view like this one!


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Friday, November 02, 2007

Hitting the Ground Running.

Those of you who read my blog already know that I have a hard time with routine as I’ve always felt it boxed me in. I’ve changed my thinking and now see routine as liberating, because it can give me a framework for accomplishing everything I need to do and more. So, I’ve been taking steps towards establishing a routine and it hasn’t been working that well for me – about a month ago I started running a couple of miles a day with my dog. This has brought obvious health benefits for both me and Major including more energy to get things done, but what hasn’t worked so well is that we do this after the kids have left for school so we can help them get out the door (Major helps by announcing that their ride has arrived). So then we go out for our run around 7:30, get back around 8, get cleaned up, eat, and start the day. So, the official starting time of the day ends up being around 9 am, which is a bit on the late side.

This morning I woke up shortly before 6. I had a lot of stuff that needed to get done so I sprang from my bed with a glad cry (well, that’s a slight exaggeration but I’ve always loved that expression from P. G. Wodehouse) and hit the streets running. It was still dark and we encountered no cars for most of the duration of the run, so we didn’t have to breathe in exhaust fumes. There were no other people or dogs about, so Major was not obliged to try to pull my arms out of their sockets to express his disdain for his compatriots. I was showered and dressed by the time the kids got up, and had breakfast after they left. I then had time to do a 3-minute real estate narration for a client and take my car to be inspected – I was the second customer to arrive and the short wait gave me time to finish reading the story that had been assigned for Spanish class (since I had spent several hours yesterday writing the essay due in that class today and working on my report on the geography, climate and natural history of the Southern Cone region of South America that’s due next week – tried to read the story last night and ended up asleep). At least 4 other customers were awaiting auto inspections behind me, so I got there in the nick of time. That errand was complete by 9:40, which gave me enough time to return a call from a client to set up a voiceover recording session for Monday (for which I get to go to a new studio, in the Berkshires – hooray!) and get to Spanish class by 10 am.

When I get an early start to my day and get a significant amount accomplished before the sun is high in the sky, I feel exuberant – there is nothing like it! So this will be my new routine (I hope! and I need to work on that important voice-over exercise - the glad cry - as well). And now if you will excuse me – the rest of the day awaits!


My running partner

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Do No Harm.

This is a credo that people entrusted with our health and well-being are taught from the moment they set foot in medical school, and of course for most of us (I hope), it’s how we live our lives. Shouldn’t this apply also to the products and services we buy?

My friend and fellow voice over talent Kara Edwards wrote recently of her experience buying a telephone for her studio. The phone was hermetically sealed in the thick plastic packaging that we all know and hate, and thus took an inordinately long time to open. When it was finally in place she discovered it was of such poor quality as to be unusable. Kara drew compelling analogies between this type of customer service and voice over services, and how quickly we would lose business if we made our offerings as difficult to get to (cluttered websites, poor quality audio) as did the company that made her telephone.

I thought of Kara’s essay this morning while I was wrestling with the packaging around a Gillette “Venus” razor. It didn’t take terribly long to open it with the help of a pair of scissors, and the gash to my finger from the sharp edge of the cut plastic was the work of an instant. Stopping the blood and mopping it up took longer. My motivation for buying this product was somewhat different from Kara’s. I needed the item AND I had already tried it and knew I liked it. So even though I saw it was in the hated plastic bubble, I was willing to put up with it in order to get at the item I wanted. Thing is, I actually bought this item about 3 years ago to put in my travel bag, since I already had one of these razors at home and this would be one less thing to remember to pack. Somehow I hadn’t gotten around to putting it in the travel bag and the reason I finally opened it was that I had gone to the store to buy blade replacements and was so appalled at the price (well over $8 for 4 of them) that I decided to use what I had in that unopened package. O innocence! Thou art vanished on a summer breeze! Vanished actually with the cries of pain and oaths uttered in this unnatural struggle with modern packaging.

Procter & Gamble is committing a variety of sins with this product:

Inaccessibility. They are, as Kara pointed out in the case of her phone, making it difficult for the customer to access the product, just as if I told a voiceover client, I can’t email this file to you but I’ll put it on a CD and mail it and you’ll have it in 4 days.

Hazardousness. The product packaging had the potential to harm the customer, which it fulfilled in this case, leaving me with a cut that continues to inconvenience as I now can’t type with that finger (warning: graphic images ahead).



Environmental irresponsibility. The packaging is made of plastic, which doesn’t decompose, and is furthermore a petroleum product made from foreign oil - I don’t think I need to rehearse the arguments against that here.

Mind games. Inside the packaging the razor is lying in state in a hard plastic coffin-like object, which has no discernible purpose, except perhaps to create the illusion of enhanced value. Funeral directors would like us to believe that our love for the deceased is measured by the amount of money we spend on a coffin, and a simple pine box reflects less love than a polished, satin-lined mahogany number. P&G may be trying to play a similar mind game here. I for one would be delighted to pay for a cellophane sleeve for my razor, with a notch in one side so I could easily tear it open (a real notch, not just a black line that says “tear here” when in fact you will need scissors to get it open).

Good and accessible products, service and packaging are what every customer wants and deserves. Every salesperson and company executive and marketing director is also somebody’s customer. Why are there so many disconnects out there? Why are people like Kara and me and so many of my voice over colleagues so aware of the basic rules of customer service while retail stores are so full of products that scream, “we don’t care about you”? Most likely it’s this: there is nobody between us voice talent and our customers (except possibly a talent agent, but there frequently isn’t these days). If we provide poor service, there is very little reason for the customer to avoid telling us about it. They will request or demand a replacement (a better recording), and if we can’t deliver a satisfactory product the client can withhold payment and they certainly won’t engage us again. Our poor service would immediately translate into loss of income. Not so with a large company like Procter & Gamble, with so many levels of administration; there are just too many potential ears that will be turned deafly from customer complaints. And how many customers take the time to make the complaints? From a very early age I’ve been writing letters to companies and politicians when I’m concerned or displeased (and also when pleased), but how many people do it?

So, gentle reader, if you are a business owner such as a professional voice talent, you know what customer service means. You are probably also rightly outraged when you don’t get the kind of customer service and product quality that you are accustomed to providing. Do something about it. Write a letter. Vote with your wallet. It’s easier for us now than ever before because most companies have a web presence and a "Contact Us" link with a form for communicating with customer service. I’m not quite sure how you approach the Chinese companies who are putting melamine in pet food or antifreeze in cough syrup as a cheap substitute for sweetener, but I think that's one for our legislators. Write to them. Make it a habit. Oh, and don’t forget to write when you’re satisfied too. Everybody likes that.

Make the world a better place. You have the power.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Voice-over demo scripts.

I’ve written on this subject before, and it’s a popular topic of discussion. My comments here deal primarily with commercial and narration demos.

Selecting the right pieces for your voice-over demos is of critical importance, because these are the words that will showcase your voice. Producers will use the demos to help them find the right voice for their project, and the more the words reflect you, the better you will be able to make them sound wonderful.

What does it mean to "reflect you"? What interests you? What are you particularly good at? What kind of voice-over work do you most enjoy, or would most like to be doing? What is your "money voice"? Like it or not, certain kinds of voices evoke imagery in the mind of the listener. This is cultural conditioning, of course, and maybe you don’t want to buy into it in every spot you record. For a first voice-over demo, however, I would advise the beginner to go with the flow unless he or she has a very good idea about how to swim upstream. If you’re a woman and your voice is low and smooth, with a cultured and classy sound, you might include a spot on diamond jewelry or a high end cruise line. That same voice might not be as convincing in a piece on fast food or baby products, but if you can pull it off, go for it! The more versatility you can show in your demos, the more work opportunities those demos can bring you. I hate rules, but I would offer two to keep in mind in creating your demos: don’t hold back vocally, and don’t offend anyone.

Things to think about:

• As well as showing vocal versatility, you should also try to display product versatility. Don’t put 3 car commercials in your demo. Some combination of cars, food, travel, the arts, electronics, family-oriented products, cosmetics, tools, or finance would be good. Only one of each. You don’t want to bore the listener, nor do you want to suggest that you would voice for competing products (it’s fine to do that, just not in the same market).

• The question of whether to include nationally known brands in your demos - brands you were not actually hired to represent - is controversial. My first demo was entirely national brands (what is sometimes ignominiously called “fakes”). One voice-over instructor in a Continuing Ed class I attended 2 years ago commented on it. I don’t see a problem with it, myself, provided you don’t simply use the same words that are airing or have aired in a broadcast ad (show some imagination!). I adapted magazine ads for use in my demo, re-writing to make them work for voice-over. A year later I made a new demo and used primarily work I had done, except in one case where a national product offered a better avenue for displaying a certain style of delivery than anything I had done up to that point.

• If you have specialties, make sure your demo(s) reflect them. If you do or want to do medical narration, use medical scripts. If you’ve never done a medical narration, you’ll have to find your own copy which you can easily do via the internet by looking up abstracts from medical journals or descriptions of medicines from pharmaceutical company websites, and adapting them to your use. If you want to narrate nature documentaries, adapt some copy about a unique animal or plant or natural phenomenon. If you don’t like to write, get help. Don’t let your words fall into the hands of amateurs!

Dos and Don’ts for voice-over demos:


Don’t use scripts from other voice-over demos (especially famous VO demos)
Do use “script vault” copy for practise, but don’t use it on your demo
Don’t copy a broadcast ad unless it's yours. Rewrite the copy!
Do get help with writing if it isn't your strong suit

Do choose interesting subjects and interesting copy (your listeners will thank you)
Do include a (short) dry and dull piece in your narration demo but make it fascinating!
Do represent a variety of vocal styles
Do represent a variety of consumer products on your commercial demo
Don’t use offensive language or ideas and if you’re in doubt, leave it out
Do enjoy yourself
Don’t stop having fun!!


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Going the extra 104.7 miles for a fellow voice artist…

Last week I exchanged some email with my colleague Peter O’Connell of Buffalo, NY, who had posted a request for foreign language voice-over for a piece he was producing as a gift for Freedom Radio in Baghdad (I sent him some German). Peter mentioned that he would be in Boston at the end of the week and wondered if there was a chance that I might meet him and D.B. Cooper for dinner. It sounded grand but I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the 2-hour drive there and then back again late at night, and I had just been out that way to see my brother a few days before so the trek seemed unusually onerous in the contemplation.

So, I was IM-ing with D.B. the afternoon of the dinner, and told her, well, I don’t seem to be going. I was about to head out to an early karate class and she said, “Please try to come”. At that, something snapped, and the lameness of all my excuses struck me in vivid technicolor. The kids were at a friend’s house for the evening, so they were all set, and my husband was planning to be at the karate class following the one I attended so I was able to discuss my plans with him briefly and he said, “Go! Live it up!” So off I went. It was close to 8:30 when I reached Boston, and later still when I got to the rendezvous point thanks to Boston’s egregious lack of useful signage. I dove into an underground parking garage that I hoped was somewhat nearby and had a rather longish walk in the rain to try to find where the Marriott was hiding, but I finally arrived.

As is almost always the case, I would not have wanted to miss this occasion. It was an absolute pleasure to meet Peter, a generous and very talented man, and a joy to see the incomparable Deirdre again. We talked non-stop for at least two hours and DB and Peter had had an hour before my arrival in which they also talked non-stop. The two of them got into an Irish riff together at the dinner table and I just settled back in my chair and let it wash over me like a gentle ocean wave, too tired to participate but so thankful to be with people who, like me, just can’t help “talking funny”. They get it. They get me. We get each other.

I love this crazy business. And I’m so glad not to have passed up the opportunity to turn an internet voice-over colleague into a real-life friend.

MCM, DBC & PKO

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Customer service – ever hear of it?

In any business that is service oriented, the customer is the most important commodity. Without customers, there is no business. If an existing customer is treated poorly, they won’t be a customer for long. To a voice-over professional, treating customers well is something one hardly thinks about, it is just so obvious a part of the success of the business, that we give our best and go the extra five miles as a matter of course. Similarly I feel it’s in my best interest as a customer to treat service providers well, to give what I would like to get back. It continually amazes me in my life as a customer to see just how blatantly this basic tenet of business is being ignored by the people providing services to me, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the car repair sector.

I don’t have any particular allegiance to any car repair service in my area. I’ve been to nine that I can think of in the last 10 years, not including the specialty shops that just sell and maintain tires, align front ends, fix exhaust systems or lubricate the stuff that needs it. Several factors come up when I consider where to take the car for repairs: the cost of the repair, the make of the car (we have several makes represented), the place where we bought it, the quality of customer service and the location of the shop. My residential street actually has a repair shop at each end. I gave up on one of those when I had to keep taking the Volvo back for the same repair (the parts kept failing – after years of keeping that car on the road I suspect it was nobody’s fault). The other shop, I discovered, is simply too expensive. One car needed a speed sensor last year and that shop diagnosed the problem and wanted $1200 to fix it, but the dealership in town fixed it for $748. It’s really a pity, because the owner always treats me with respect and explains the repairs without either dumbing it down or talking over my head and I appreciate that so much. Plus, he sends out occasional newsletters that are full of interesting articles, not just about cars, and he has literature in the waiting room about cars that has obviously been written locally and with considerable thought and care – I have a few of their flyers just in case I need something for a voice-over demo that has to do with car repair! And of course, the shop is very convenient – I can drop the car off and walk home.

Both of our cars were purchased at the same used car dealership in the next town over (I don’t even know where our truck came from – it’s 40 years old this year and is usually repaired by family members since it’s old and simple enough that mere mortals are able to do that). A decent warranty period was offered with our cars and one of them is still under warranty. This dealership has the lowest used car prices around, the mechanics are really nice, and the business is extremely well run, except for one thing. One MAJOR thing. The two ladies who do most of the dealings with customers are very brusque and are quite skilled at making customers feel like they’re intruding. I dropped off my car this week for some repairs that were estimated to take 2 days. I asked, “shall I just pick it up tomorrow afternoon or will you call me?” “Call us” I was told. Excuse me? You want me to call you to ask if it’s done, and if it isn’t, I should just keep calling? Picking up vehicles from this business is always awkward, since I have to arrange my own ride, they don’t give rides or offer loaner cars. So, I called, the car wasn’t ready. Should be ready Thursday morning. I thought, okay, I’ll schedule an oil change for the other car for Thursday morning so when we go to pick up the first car, we can take care of the oil change at the same time. Well, guess what, I call Thursday morning and the car still isn’t ready. Would it kill them to pick up the phone and let me know? And guess what else? They tell me they’re filming a commercial so I’ll have to drive around to the oil change bay and wait there. As I’m sitting there waiting for the oil change – sitting right down on the pavement outside since there is no place there for customers – I am absolutely fuming. Did they not know about this commercial when I scheduled the oil change? Why are they trying to serve customers that morning when their attention is elsewhere? And while I’m waiting, the repairs on the other car are completed. I’ve somehow never been able to manage driving two cars at once, so I’ll have to get a ride back over there to pick up that car.

One last story of vehicular woe – the old Chevy pickup needed some body work some years ago. We did some research and got suggestions and took the truck to a specialty shop for the work. They did not do a very good job when you looked closely. After a few requests to fix the problems, we were told to take a hike. And as it turned out, they had left the engine block outside and it got water in it and froze and cracked. So it cost us another $2000 to fix that. Elsewhere, of course – we did not let those crooks touch our truck again.

I truly do not get why there are so many lousy car repair establishments. I’m sure my voice-over business would die a quick and spectacular death if I treated people the way I’ve been treated by some of these places. How do they get away with it? And what can I do about it? I think my first step is going to be to write a letter to the place up the street and tell them how much I like them and why I don’t go there. Maybe I will write a letter to our current shop and tell them what I like and what I don’t like and why I won’t be going there anymore. Beyond that, I think I’ll ride my bicycle more and hope the cars keep running with as few visits to the shop as possible. But I do think there’s a niche out there for somebody who knows cars, charges a fair price, and likes people. In my town, that niche is empty.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wait for the count.

Not Dracula. Not Godot. I’ve got more karate/voice-over parallels on my mind, so please indulge me. I’ll get right to the point and put the karate origins of this thought at the end, so you voice-over types can skip that part if you want to.

When you go to a studio for an audition or recording session with a new client, or if you do one live, from your own studio by phone patch or ISDN, do you immediately start chattering your head off about things of interest to you? Like what a bear it was getting to the studio because you didn’t sleep well and the kids overslept and missed the school bus and there wasn’t any bread so there was nothing for lunch and….? Of course not. You’re ready to work, aren’t you? You go in, exchange a few pleasantries perhaps to remind each other of your mutual humanity, and get down to business. Perhaps the engineer or director has something on his or her mind and feels like chatting with you about it, but your assumption should be that they too are there to work and would like to get at it expeditiously. So you get to the script and wait for direction. Keep your mouth shut except when it’s clear that it’s time to open it.

If you make a mistake in your read, you can either keep going or stop and ask, “where shall I pick up?” Skip the self deprecating comments, resist the temptation to joke about it, just pick up as directed and go on. Wait for instruction about the next take, ask questions if you need to, and stick to business. Make your thank-yous and skedaddle. Obviously, as you get to know a client you will judge for yourself what is an appropriate level of familiarity and talkativeness. But at first, assume that it’s your job to “shut up and talk”.

Out there in the world, this is also a good rule to live by. You encounter many people in the course of the day – bosses, co-workers, teachers, friends, maybe even law enforcement agents (e.g. if you get pulled over – oh dear). Maybe you didn’t complete an assignment on time or you forgot about a meeting or lunch date. Don’t make excuses. Maybe a close friend wants to hear just how bad your weekend was (although don’t make a habit of running on about such things), but you gotta assume that the average acquaintance or encounter does not want to hear your stuff. Apologise, explain briefly, if an explanation is appropriate, and move on. Really. You will get far more respect if you keep the excuses to yourself. When you hear the echoes of those excuses reverberating in the air, I think you’ll know what I mean. You’ll also respect yourself more if you just don’t say them.

So where does the karate connection come in? (oh, right - bye kids - see you later - thanks for stopping by the blog!)

In karate, we all take turns counting for kata or individual techniques performed as an exercise. In between counts, we wait. Breathe. We know what move comes next, but we don’t anticipate it, because In karate there is no first strike (Karate ni sente nashi). You don’t start a fight, you only use your art to defend yourself if someone attacks you. In class, performing kata, we are moving through a choreographed series of offensive and defensive moves against an imaginary opponent, and even though we know ahead of time what the moves are, we wait for the count. The count represents the opponent. The discipline we develop by waiting for the count prepares us for the discipline of a fight in which we wait for the opponent to strike first. There is no sense in blocking a punch that has not been thrown (just like there is no sense in making an excuse when nobody asked you why you were late or why the roast is overcooked or why you made that mistake in your read).

I wrote the following “Thought of the Week” 3 years ago for the Shorin Ryu Karate USA website :

In an orchestra the musicians are obliged to await their cues before playing their parts. Independence is counterproductive in such a setting, as it distracts the other performers, it is disrespectful to the conductor, and it causes the symphony to fall apart. When one is performing kata, independence is similarly pernicious. It may cause other karateka to lose focus, and it is discourteous to the person responsible for the count (the “conductor”). Each movement in a kata or kihon technique should be the only one that exists at that moment, and in between, no skeletal muscles should move except for those associated with respiration. The count represents the opponent’s move, and only when it comes can we know what move is required of us. To move too soon could be fatal. Wait for the count.

Wait for your cue.

Shut up and talk.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Taking Direction.

Karate thoughts again. It’s just so woven into my life. I went down to New York last weekend for an outdoor “system-wide” workout in Central Park. Hanshi Scaglione was up from Florida, and one of our Kyoshi and 6 Sensei were present. We could not have asked for a more perfect day to be out of doors, and I got a GREAT parking spot on 69th just off Madison Avenue (yeah, I grew up in New York. A good parking spot can make the difference between leaving Sunday night or going back home sometime on Monday or Tuesday). The workout lasted 4 ½ hours, which was enough time for a LOT of corrections to be suggested – in technique, stance, all kindsa stuff. And quite a few of the corrections went against what I had been taught, so there was a fair bit of discussion about that at the next class I attended back home, among those of us from our dojo who had attended this event in New York.

Basically, one needs to be able to take direction. On the deck or in the booth. If Hanshi or the client wants you to do it THIS way, then that’s what you do. Later, when you’ve sorted through it all and decide what advice you want to keep and what you don’t, you’ll arrive at your own style – well, not exactly style, but maybe your karate “happy place”, and hope that it doesn’t get you into trouble when you’re testing for black belt (for example). Maybe you can look like you’re doing it one way and actually do it another – like when they say, “speed up your read, but make it sound slower”. LOL.

Yeah. Anyway, it was a glorious, tiring day. Nice people, lots of exercise, no traffic on the trip down or back. And Kyoshi runs a production company in New York, so it was great to make that connection too :)


Central Park Workout September 2006 (photo courtesy of Sensei Michael Mackay)

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Energy.

I’ve written here before about karate and voice-over. Both are physical and anyone who does physical activity and voice work on a regular basis can tell you that the parallels are numerous. But use of the voice in karate is what got me thinking about the relationship most recently. The subject of psychological and kinetic energy came up in Pat Fraley’s voice-over master class last weekend. One of our exercises was to read a number of lines using one or the other of these two energy types, and to mix up the two types within one line. One common choice for kinetic energy is volume – make it LOUDER. There are other ways of expressing kinetic energy and I was experimenting last night in karate class when my turn came around to count for whatever exercise it was that we were doing. The count is tremendously important in karate – it can motivate or it can depress one’s fellow students, and it is “spirit” – more precisely ENERGY - that makes the difference. I wanted to motivate with kinetic energy but not at great volume - to minimize the risk of hurting my voice (volume doesn't hurt if produced correctly, but I don't always multi-task well and wanted to focus on one thing), and without showing expression – because in karate you don’t want to your face to give away your emotional state.

In the booth, smiling is a huge help in adding energy to a read. It may be the single easiest way to change the feeling of your words. So trying to convey energy while counting for karate, without smiling or showing other expression, is a very challenging, interesting and fun exercise. The way I approached it was to “show” expression in my mind. To think it and try to get it into my voice but without showing the expression on my face. I believe that it worked pretty well. I don’t think it would work if one’s physical carriage were also removed from the equation – energy also serves as a sort of skeleton, a vertebral column of sorts, or maybe it’s the other way around – that one’s body provides the scaffolding for energy. Without good posture and a proud carriage, I don’t think the “show kinetic energy without showing facial expression at all” would work.

So how can this help in the booth? Maybe this is just a long-winded, B.S. Zen way of saying, watch yer posture and if you have to do a narration on a subject for which a smile is not appropriate, there are other ways to put energy into your read. You can be sure I’ll be experimenting with it further.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Discipline

Since beginning my study of karate over 5 years ago, I have had occasion to think about discipline in new ways. I’ve always chafed under authority, and here I am practising an art that requires something along the lines of obedience. Respect and courtesy are hugely important in Japanese culture, whereas Americans are known for being free spirited, possibly even rude and boorish. I have found that, just as I benefit physically from the exercise karate offers, my mind has benefited in many ways, not the least of which is that I can go onto the deck and try to turn off the part of my mind that questions authority- ideally, performing the choreographed series of offensive and defensive moves that make up the kata of karate is a form of “moving meditation”, and we can focus on it so completely that kata takes over and we in essence “become” the kata..

It isn’t that I accept everything I’m taught in karate without questioning it – it’s important to know what the moves are for and sometimes one is told to do things a certain way for a certain reason, but the moves and the reasoning are sometimes open to interpretation. But one of the challenges in karate, as well as in life, is to know when to let go and focus on one’s own training, not on what other people might be doing on the deck, how other people might be choosing to interpret kata, or courtesy, or focus, or any of the other components of the art or of life. Who is being asked to test for their next rank? Does that person deserve it? Have they been training as often as the rest of us? Is their technique good enough?

Whenever my mind starts going in that direction, I have to pull it back and remind myself that I really don’t “get it” when I allow myself those thoughts, and that part of the discipline and focus of this art is to turn inward and do the best I can to improve my practise of it, to help other people when it’s appropriate (e.g., if I’m conducting the class), and to otherwise ignore what other people are doing. A friend of mine who is now a second-degree black belt told me that although she used to get worked up about some of these things, she now tries not even to have the negative thoughts. That made a big impression on me. It’s a good aspiration for karate and for what happens to you every day on the street. It’s also helpful for voice-over and any kind of art or life work that requires you to offer your work up for criticism and rejection. Every day you send out emails or make telephone calls and attend auditions or record auditions at your own studio. All too often you get no response at all, and if your mind is overly active and you have a tendency to analyse everything to the hilt, you can overindulge in speculating about why. Why did that producer contact me personally for a custom read ASAP and then never even acknowledge my response, let alone hire me? Would I get more answers to my marketing queries if I timed them differently? Maybe I should have interpreted the copy differently. Maybe I was slightly too emotional when I should have gone for calm authority. Maybe I would have gotten the gig if I hadn’t had that cup of cocoa for breakfast. Maybe...

Enough already. Let it go. No, it isn’t easy, but it’s essential if one is to keep one’s balance and achieve a life of serenity and happiness. Clear negative thoughts from one’s mind so that the good thoughts have more room to grow. Keep them out of conversations with other people. Okay, maybe I’ll have to rush into a closet and shriek for a minute every so often to get it out of my system, but maybe after a while I won’t even need that. I want to be happy and I want the people around me to be happy too. Negative thoughts bring civilisation down. Can’t have that. I would like to have the discipline to do my life’s work to the best of my ability, to take direction where appropriate, and to move on when my goals don’t match those of the people on intersecting paths.

I'll report back in a few months, if I'm not too embarrassed about it.



Artwork by Christine O'Hara


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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Scripts for the Voice-over Demo

The Art of Voice Acting Newsletter notification arrived in my email box last night. I always enjoy reading it and hearing about what other voice actors have been up to in the last month, and I especially enjoy reading Penny Abshire’s advice column. Her suggestions are always wise and her perspective is always one of “you can do it”, which is what everyone needs to hear. I have no use for those who say deflating things to people with dreams (although if the dreamer does nothing but dream, a well-placed kick in the trousers may be salutary), and it’s refreshing to hear Penny’s old-fashioned and much-appreciated optimism. She’s absolutely right – you CAN do it if you put your mind to it.

This month’s column was about the assembly of the demo – all really important stuff and right on the mark – except I must disagree with one part of it – the advice about where to get scripts for the demo. Penny suggested the script vault at Edge Studio.

The Edge scripts are great for those starting out who don’t have material at hand or who aren’t sure what to do with the material they do have at hand. I don’t think the folk at Edge intend for these scripts to be used for demos. I feel VERY strongly that demo copy should be as unique as you can muster – it could be something from the media edited by you or someone else expressly for your demo, passages from books, magazines or newspapers, from placards at museums, anyplace you can find words, there you can find material for your demo. I have heard people say, “I can’t be bothered finding magazine ads and editing them; where can I get scripts?” You had jolly well better be bothered – this is your career we’re talking about. Nobody is asking you to write a dissertation, but you should care passionately about the words you choose to showcase your voice and talents. You’re competing against 40,000 other voice artists in the U.S. alone, and this is now a global marketplace. Your interpretation of copy and the way you use your voice need to stand out. Give yourself the advantage and give producers and casting directors a break – choose copy that is interesting to listen to! When I hear demos that have old worn-out copy I think, there is a VO with no imagination. I ask you, would you hire an actor with no imagination?

I rest my case.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Business Expos and Voice-over

Today I went to a Business-to-Business Expo in a nearby city, sponsored by the chambers of commerce. That was some kind of fun! In two hours I made more contacts than I would have done in several days from my office, and this was face to face. I met people from ad agencies, marketing companies, a message-on-hold business, several TV and radio stations – all consumers of voice talent - Toastmasters, representatives of several area hospitals that actually have their own audio-visual departments (got some phone calls to make tomorrow!!) not to mention a company that rents out cappucino machines and a company that rents out all kinds of other stuff including a chocolate fountain, with samples…. I don’t know why it took me over a year in business to realise that I’m a business person and should be taking advantage of what local organizations of business people have to offer. It was great to get out of my solitary studio where I talk to myself all day, and make contact with 3D people. Business cards were flying as thick as the swirling snowflakes outside (really!), many hearty handshakes exchanged – just a very nice change of pace. My community is now a little bigger and my life a little richer as a result.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Karate and Voice-over

No, I’m not talking about voicing an episode of Jackie Chan. I’m talking about using the voice in karate. I was thinking about that during class this evening, as my mind sometimes wanders (telling me I am ipso facto insufficiently focussed on the art which is like OMG so totally not karatedo). That one needs to use the voice in karate to motivate the listener. We all get our turn to count for the class – counting kata, counting kihon techniques, and we carry a lot of responsibility when we do. An unconvincing count can suck the spirit out of the whole place – just as an unconvincing VO in a commercial fails to sell the product. I sometimes train with people who count as if they were singing a lullaby and I just want to lie down and take a nap. Or like – you know how newscasters talk, ending every sentence with a peculiar emphasis and on a minor key or something? It’s particularly weird-sounding when the newscaster is British, because the fashion in Britain seems to be to sort of slide down the scale on the last word. I dare say American newscasters drive the Brits nuts. So back to karate – my studied opinion is that the count should be strong and clear and energetic enough to lift people up, but not so in-your-face that one’s fellow karateka are distracted by it. Been there, seen that. Annoying. Who woulda thought a count could be annoying? Maybe I’m just a grump.

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