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It Ain’t About Me…(Well, Maybe a Little…)

10 Apr

     No, I don’t think anyone’s ever accused me of having Adonis DNA, and I can’t even handle Dr. Pepper, let alone TigerBlood.  But I knew early on that the relative anonymity of being a Voice Talent and Actor could still have its rewards.

Cast, It's A Mystery

Fighting Crime and Craziness with "It's A Mystery"

     Sometimes there’s a tangible, immediate benefit:  like the talent fee and the wonderful dinner our It’s A Mystery group received from the Fayetteville Shriners after a recent performance.  But the good feeling that has lasted even longer was the news that we had a small part in helping them raise around $8,000  for a kids’ burn center.

RG with son Ricky (when he was a LITTLE boy)

Reading with my young son, Ricky, back when he was a LITTLE boy.

 More of my time has been devoted to volunteer reading lately for an outfit called Gatewave, which provides free audio content for the blind and visually impaired.  I’ve always loved to read, and used to get scolded by my kids when I didn’t “do the voices” as we went through the stories.  I agreed to do regular reads for Gatewave  at the behest of friend Melissa Exelberth, and the group’s director asked if I’d like to read old Science Fiction short stories from the pulps instead of news stories from current publications.

     I jumped at the chance for the more creative outlet, and of course immediately found out I’d been away from long-form reading longer than I’d realized.  Also, of course, I picked a story with lots of characters and a long runtime.  Still, thanks to my editing skills it all worked out fine.  And each successive story block I’ve read for them has become a little easier.

     The payoff…other than feeling good about doing something good for someone I’ll probably never meet?  I’ve noticed in the last few e-learning narrations I’ve been paid to do, that I’m doing them better.  I can handle the long-form without getting tired so soon.  And, I’m a better “teller of the corporate story”.  My friend Bob Souer is even encouraging me to add audiobooks to my demo list, based on what he’s enjoyed of my Sci-Fi tales.

     In some ways, things like these are instances where it appears you really CAN have it both ways.  So don’t diminish things you’re tempted to try just because of the pricetag or the amount of work for the fee.

     While I know a guy’s gotta make a living, and I fully subscribe to my radio friend Bob Inskeep’s motto “Ya can’t eat ‘Famous’…”, there sometimes CAN be something in it for you.   …even if it isn’t all about you.

— over and out —


Dress (down) For Success

8 Sep

     Friend Caryn Clark (the hip chick) commented on Facebook about leaving her usual home-studio setting for a session at another recording facility.  Her note of joy about the fact she wouldn’t have to “dress corporate” for the appointment reminded me of some early advice I got from an old agency pro.

     Mike Silver was one of the founders of McKinney Silver (and at that time, Rockett), a major ad agency with headquarters in my town.  I knew him through my friend Paul Montgomery (see previous posts about “Uncle Paul”).  Mike was nearing the end of his career, and a life hit by cancer, but met with me to share what advice he could with a new freelance voice guy.

     While we never worked together, he immediately put my mind at ease on  one point, which Caryn made me think of in her post today.

     “Am I going to be expected to show up in jacket-and-tie, toting a briefcase?”, I remember asking him.

     “Oh, no,” he chuckled.  “In fact, as a voice talent, you’d probably be viewed with suspicion if you did!  A certain ‘bohemian element’ is almost expected.”

     I’ve taken full advantage of that every day since, and loved it.

— over and out —

Why You Don’t Want To Break Into VoiceOvers

4 Sep

     If you’ve been at this sort of work any time at all, you’ve probably heard  those dreaded words: “How Can I Break Into Voiceovers?

     First, let me post a disclaimer.  I’m probably not qualified to answer this question anyway.  I didn’t really Break Into Voiceovers. I sort of sneaked in the side entrance. (*see previous post about my transition from radio, and years in a basement playing with tape recorders. rg)

     But think about it.  Isn’t that what you’d rather do anyway? 

     I mean, consider the  burglar. 

     He (or she), by “breaking in”, is obviously in a place he doesn’t belong.  He really won’t benefit from any sort of attention…nor, if he’s a smart burglar, will he want to keep coming back to the same place to do his thing.  There’ll be too great a risk of being “found out”!

     Mind you, I’m not trying to paint new talent as interlopers, looking to “steal” work that was meant only for established Voice Actors.  That’s another rant for another writer.

      No, my point is simply this.  In my experience, it’s been better not to “Break In”…but to “BE”…to just sort of “Appear”.  We show up in the places a VoiceOver Artist is expected to be.  We already know enough to blend in…we appear to be just what we’re supposed to be.  In fact, we give every impression we’ve always been there.  We’ve learned how to interact…gain confidence…make contacts.  And if we do our job right, eventually, we can return again and again to the “scene of the crime”.   …by invitation!

      Besides, which is better: being noticed as a “Burglar”- found out in a place you don’t belong? …or being noticed as someone who’s precisely where he/she should be, and able to “Deliver The Goods”?  (Burglars, by their very nature, never Deliver.)

     So while I appreciate the enthusiasm, directness, and thirst for learning which many new or aspiring Voice Talent display…I think the question might need to be re-thought.

      “Breaking In” is probably the least helpful thing you can do.

— over and out —

Movable Wisdom

31 Aug

     A lot of times, the stuff people forward to you in an email is hardly worth the time it takes to delete.  But once in awhile a gem comes along that you’d never seen before.  I got one of those today from friend and fellow voice actor, Tom Jones.  You may already know it, but it was brand new to me:

     “Be Yourself.  Everyone Else Is Already Taken.”

     Man,  my teacher Nancy Wolfson would love it.

— over and out —

The Most Precious Gems Aren’t Always the BIGGEST.

21 Aug

…just stumbled upon a quote I wish I’d had all these years to fire back at those who thought I should be doing “something more important”:

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell

— over and out —

Questions and Answers

17 Jul


Gracie Allen was the wife and comic partner of comedian George Burns.  Hiding behind a  “ditzy” character, she often got in some really wonderful zingers during their routines (Gracie was a very intelligent woman, by the way).

     In one great bit from a Radio show in my collection, George feeds her the straight line for a joke.  She comes back with something totally unrelated.

     “Gracie,” he scolds gently, “that’s the wrong answer.”

     “No, that’s the right answer,” Gracie replies blithely, “you asked the wrong question.”

     I’ve been blessed during my career with trusted friends who’ve given me the right answer, regardless of how I worded the question.  And fortunately over time, I’ve become better able to understand, accept, and utilize the words I’ve received.

     I can count among my friends in the voiceover business a number of people whose approval I covet…but whose honest answers I respect.  That’s come into play a lot this year as I’ve gone through the long and sometimes frustrating process of re-tooling my online image, my demos, and even my business card (you all know who you are). 

     I don’t always get the answer I wanted or expected.  But more often than not it’s the response I need.

— over and out —

If There WAS a “Magic Bullet”, I’d Be Wearing Kevlar

30 Jun

     [Originally posted as a comment on my friend Pam Tierney’s excellent and introspective blog.  My comment went on so long, it turned into a post of its own…which wasn’t the intent.  So I’ll put it here too, even though Pam has first claim.]

     She was writing about the disappointment of realizing there wasn’t going to be any “magic bullet”, no “secret code” to instant and consistent voiceover bookings, fame, and big sacks of money.  Pam’s no slouch.  She’s a great talent (whether she know it or not), and has done marvelous work, while actively pursuing ways to improve what she already knows how to do.

     But she’s right.  Although there are plenty of people out there willing to sell you a book or a study course or a wonderful weekend master class complete with whiz-bang demo…all telling you otherwise…the simple fact is, there is no “magic bullet”.  What most of us think of as success develops over time, and quite often we don’t recognize even a tiny form of it in our own careers until someone else re-directs our attention.

[Here begineth the stuff of my comment.]

     Two of the first…and best…pieces of professional advice I ever got went completely over my head when I first heard them. Only in the past few years have they even started to sink in.

     The first was from a guy named Jack Shaw, who hired me for my first real radio job, and taught me how to adapt my talents to radio copywriting / commercial production.  I remember complaining to him that I didn’t have that great DJ voice the other guys on staff did. His reply was something like: “Don’t worry about that. Lots of people can do that. How many people can do what YOU do? How many people would love to do the voices you can do?”

The second was L.A. Lentz, who owned a studio in town and whom I’d become friends with during my radio days. When I finally committed to go freelance I asked him for the “Rules”. “The first Rule,” he told me, “is ‘There Are No Rules’.” I thought he was pulling one of his trademark wisecracks, and it wasn’t until he repeated it that I knew he was serious. I’m STILL trying to get my mind wrapped around that one, and it’ll be a glorious day when I finally succeed. 

     Obviously, my friend L.A.  didn’t mean to just go out and wing it…rather, that outside of a few basics, I would discover along the way what worked for me, and what didn’t.  And that trying to follow another person’s career path point-by-point would most likely provide more frustration on my part.

     And I’m pretty sure Jack didn’t mean I shouldn’t notice, study and adapt what I could from other voices I heard in the business.  He just wanted me to stop and listen to and appreciate my own.

     I’ll add another item here that wasn’t on the comment at Pam’s site, although she was present at the workshop where the “advice” was offered. 

     In my first learning experience with noted coach Marice Tobias, she practically pounced on some self-deprecating remark I uttered while agreeing with a point she had just made.   Without a trace of malice, she stopped and called me out on it, saying it was b.s. – along with another observation as to what I might rightfully be accused of being full of when assuming such an attitude toward myself (she used fewer and more precise wording, if you must know).  I don’t remember ever thanking someone for telling me something like that before, but I thanked Marice.  Hers is yet more advice I’m working to adapt and use.  Sometime I’ll have to tell you about the only “character voice” of mine Nancy Woflson hates…the little one in the back of my own head that keeps telling me I’m not good enough.  Oh…I just did.

     Anyway, my friend Pam is discovering now what it’s taken me wayyyy too long to even start “getting”.

     And if you’re looking for your career’s “magic bullet”, good luck.  Just make sure you don’t end up with a hole in your head!

— over and out —