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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 —

My First YouTube Video…Is a Viral Audio.

25 Mar

     With all the buzz about Aflac throwing open auditions for anyone to become rich and famous replacing Gilbert Gottfried as the annoying voice of the TV Commercial Duck, I’m probably the only voice talent in America that isn’t submitting an audition.

     Why not?

     Because if I did, it would probably go something like this.

    (Don’t expect any flashy pictures…except whatever pops into your mind as you listen in.)

— over and out —

Coming Up For Air…Then Back On The Air

22 Oct

It’s been busy…for which I’m thankful. It’s been insane…for which I’m realistic.

There have been so many doors opening and closing around here lately I feel like I’m in one of those cartoon haunted house chase scenes.

But in a few weeks I’ll be making another transition which will have me evaluating how best to use my time. To that end, I’m going to attach this quote from the lovely and talented Claire Dodin on my computer monitor:

” That’s the problem with open auditions: they don’t want You; they want A voice, and usually the cheapest one.”

The comment was part of a fascinating interview Paul Strikwerda did with Claire Dodin, which you can read here in its entirety. But it ties in with what I had already planned to do in wrapping up my fourth-quarter goals: concentrating more on finding people who need what I sound like…rather than knock myself out trying to be the online audition equivalent of “Caller Number 10” on those radio station giveaways we used to have to do.

More on the transition later.  Too much work to do now (thank goodness).  I’ve got at least two sets of spots and another half-hour program to get ready for air tomorrow.

Meanwhile…grab onto Miss Claire’s quote and use it to boost your own confidence in your own future and in your own career.  …and start considering how much time would be better spent working for people who want YOU…not just another blind audition.

— 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 —

Detours, Detours. No Problem…sort of.

16 Aug

If there’s one good thing about being at this business for so many years, it’s the store of experience one can draw on in an emergency…which turns into another emergency…which deteriorates into another emergency!

If you can just avoid panic, chances are you can think of one more work-around. That was impressed upon me following a session that really happened…but almost didn’t…this past Friday the 13th.

Project: local radio spot…acting as producer for a first-time client a good friend/client had sent my way.

Problem (#1): voice talent client had chosen from my suggested list couldn’t make it to my studio. No Problem. We’d hook up via our ISDN, even though we’re both in the same town.

Problem (#2): ISDN boxes won’t connect, in either direction. Carrier error? Phase of the moon? Billing issue? No time to sort it out. No Problem: we’ll just do the session with my Talented Friend recording on her side, and my client and I listening/directing by regular telephone while I record the phone patch for any playbacks we need during the session. File can be sent to me for editing/mixing with only a short delay.

Problem (#3): Even though recording was successfully made on Talented Friend’s computer…no attempt to send it to me via email finds its way over the internet. No Problem: we use a third-party delivery service (in this case, yousendit).

Problem (#4): Yousendit…doesn’t. After long minutes of clicking the “get mail” button on my side, Talented Friend finally checks her account status, which tells her the service did not, indeed, receive or send the file she’d gotten confirmation of. No Problem (although, by now it’s becoming a problem but I’ve assured client the original cost estimate will be honored). If I need to, I’ll just drive across town, pickup a CD from Talented Friend with the recorded tracks and drive back home to finish the session, at no extra charge to client…whose deadline will still be easily met.

Problem (#5): Talented Friend can’t seem to get her computer to burn a CD. Even after we get a burning program she can use, one drive ignores the blank disc, the other won’t even open for her! No Problem. I’ll make the trip over with a flashdrive, retrieve the files, etc, etc, etc. 

Fortunately, my wonderful first-time client (who instantly felt at home in my ecclectic museum/studio and befriended its real owner – my cat, Dodger), knows she’s going to have her spot on time, and we set up means of finishing over the phone and having her spot delivered directly for final approval without costing her an extra trip to my place.

As she’s leaving her chair and I’m looking for my car keys…email #1 shows up with the first attached audio file from Talented Friend (only took 1/2 hour). Since we know what we wanted was on a second file, lost in yousendit-land, client and I start to head for the door, when…the yousendit file shows up, in perfect condition! Wonderful client has time to sit and have the spot edited, processed, mixed and approved. And a happy ending is enjoyed by all.

No Problem. And the spot sounds just the way she wanted it.

Now I’ve still got to figure out the ISDN glitch, and Talented Friend still needs to get a better ISP for email and figure out how to burn CDs on her computer. But the important part is: panic was avoided, alternatives were offered, solutions were found, and the client left the session happy.

I’m just glad to have clients who know “stuff happens”…and who trust me to figure work-arounds when it does. That ability is just as much a benefit of my years of experience as anything I draw from when I’m the one behind the mic. (And just for any potential “new clients” reading this…the main reason I’m telling this story is because it is very much out of the ordinary. Don’t be scared off!)

And even though I don’t think any of us involved in this story are particularly superstitious…I wonder if we’ll go out of our way to avoid scheduling future recording sessions on a Friday the 13th after this!

[Epilogue:  found out today the spot was approved by my client’s client…and Talented Friend’s computer crashed from a virus the day after our session!  Friday the 13th has a long, long reach!]

— over and out —

What a Great Feeling when your CUSTOMER says “Thank You!”

6 Aug

     We’re supposed to be the grateful ones, right?  In the best of situations, we’re paid to do what we love and have fun doing.  And if we’re smart, we always thank our clients and everyone (engineers, agents, etc) who made it possible for us to have that magic moment.

     But the best of times are made even better when those people turn around and express gratitude!  “Thanks for getting this done so quickly!”, or “You ‘got it’ almost immediately…made our job a lot easier.”  And one I don’t think I’ve heard till today from a happy client:  “Thanks for working us into your schedule on short notice!”   Wow…I thought that was just part of the job (see previous post about “sounding alike”).

     What’s even better about that even better than best of times?  Knowing that your demo got you the job before you even knew you had it.

     And you want to know what makes that “best of the best” even better?   …finding out that your 20 minutes in the studio is going into a national spot with a one-year buy at very generous rates!

     The only thing that could possibly add to the better best-ness of this scenario will be when the client calls me back for another gig.  And since this is the second job the studio has recommended me for in three weeks…I have a postive vibe about the possibilities!

     If I’m honest about it, maybe that whole “positive vibe” feeling has something to do with all the above-mentioned.  There had to be something there worth remarking on, didn’t there?

— over and out —

I Rate a “Five-NICE” from Nancy Wolfson!

5 Aug

     If you’ve even thought about getting some training in voiceovers, you’ve at least heard the name, Nancy Wolfson

     She’s been lauded as a woman with an expert ear for what top-level voice casting people expect.  She’s been touted as a “tough-love” voice teacher who tells you what you need to know, even if it isn’t what you want to hear.  

     She’s also been (unfairly) depicted as someone who loves doing to voice talent and their demos what your little cousins used to do to your favorite toys when they came to visit.

     I’m biased.  I love Nancy Wolfson.   And I’m one of the many people who, if you’re bad-mouthing her, will ask you to step outside.  (Of course, being the coward that I am, I’d let you go first and then lock the door behind you.)

     Anyone who’s bought into the myth that Nancy only lives to criticize should have been at the recent Dan O’Day International Radio Creative and Production Summit in Los Angeles.   There was plenty of fair criticism in evidence, but always preceded by something positive, and more importantly – specific suggestions on what could be changed.   …and why. 

     But even Nancy, in a moment of self-mocking humor, stopped and noted how little criticism this year’s crop of voiceover demos submited for the Critique-A-Thon came in for.  And she wasn’t just listening to work from her own students, in demos she’d produced herself.

     Of course the self-serving part of me is writing this because I was one of the people submitting a newly-edited Commercial Demo.  Last year, Nancy had commented on the progress I’d made since the first demo she’d gotten from me the year before.  And even then, I was amazed and grateful she only had a couple of minor suggestions.

     This year, I made some more changes, even though I had not been able to study with her.  What she’s taught me so far must have stuck, though.  Because as my new audio played out over the crowd, she kept nodding and saying, “Nice”, “Nice touch”, or “Very Nice” at the various clips.  After it finished she laughed at the realization she’d just given me five (5) “Nices” over the course of the piece.  And while there were still a couple of cosmetic tweaks suggested (two clips she thought sounded too much the same, “you’ve got other things you can use that real estate for”), it was another very gratifying moment for me.  Not just that she approved of what I’d put together…but that she was able to compare it from memory with demos she’d heard one time each over the past two years!  

     It also felt good when she used my new demo as an example to another fellow she felt was letting his talent for characters and archetypes smother his real, and marketable, “voice” (something she’s been after me about since the beginning).

     My friend Bob Souer completed Nancy’s tele-course some time ago.  But he told me this weekend he’s arranging to start over, saying he feels he can get so much more out of her teaching, now that he has some more experience of his own.  That’s inspiring me to pick up where I left off with this very, very talented lady.

     After all,  I’m not going to try and coast along on a “Five-Nice” rating the rest of my life.  And don’t think I was a Teacher’s Pet or anything.  She gave Rich Owen‘s Movie Trailer Demo an  A++++!    (I agree, for what that’s worth.)

     So…back to my opening line:  if you’ve even thought about getting some training in voiceovers…you know who you should be calling. 

     You can even tell her I sent you.  (….unless you’re still sore at me for locking you outside.)

— over and out —

Why Keep On? One answer of many…

26 Jun

     This week has seen me working more for myself than anyone else.  In some ways it’s not as much fun:  the “boss” is a harder taskmaster, a perfectionist, can’t make up his mind, the hours are insane and the pay is lousy.

     Working on updating your own promotional material does have its rewards, though.  For one thing, you discover things you hadn’t thought of in awhile (“Gosh, was I ever this good?”).  This usually offsets the discovery of things it turns out you remember being better than they actually were (“Gosh, how do I ever get hired?”).

     Talking by phone with friend Bob Souer during this process, and getting some automatic encouragement by the mere fact of doing so, I wondered aloud about the reason for putting so much continuing effort into promotion this late in life.  Of course the obvious answer is twofold:  One – if I had known how to do this early in my career and had the tools we do now, I probably would be farther along.  Two  – the alternative now is to do nothing and quit (not an option). 

     Whenever I get a little envious of the younger, more energetic, more “with it” talent I see out there making the big splash, I temper my thoughts with the comfort that even one of my favorite character actors didn’t really hit it big until he was in his 60s.

     That would be Sydney Greenstreet,who became a star with his portrayal of the aptly-named Mr. Gutman in the definitive film version of “The Maltese Falcon”.  He was 62.  I often wonder what he thought about his career choices during his younger years.

     I know most people, if they have any knowledge of film and radio history, would rather think of themselves as another Orson Welles:  New York stage genius and network radio star in his early 20s, and creator of what many claim as the best motion picture of all time not long after that. 

     I can claim a small sliver of that Welles feeling with my own career highlights…on an admittedly much smaller scale.  Along the way, I’ve done regular on-air work in Radio, winning fans with what amounted to an unseen puppet character (Zoot) on a top-rated morning-show, collecting awards for creative writing/production in advertising, co-hosting a local kiddie show on TV doing the puppets and some on-camera cartooning (“Time for Uncle Paul“), enjoying favorable acclaim with local/regional onstage efforts (“Greater Tuna” and the It’s A Mystery troupe) and even snagging a slot somewhere between “extra” and “featured player” in two motion pictures with the Muppets.  If you’d asked me as a kid what I wanted to do with my life, these are the kinds of things you’d hear me mention.  They just didn’t take on quite the national prominence they might have done. 

     I’m cool with that.

     Meanwhile, with that experience, and what I’m gaining through resources never before available, and encouragement from other friends in the business, I see no reason why I couldn’t at some point hit my “Sydney Greenstreet” stage.

     I’ve still got a few years to get there.  Why stop now?

— over and out —

The Clue That Gives You The Clue

18 Jun

…or perhaps that should be “The Clue That Gives You The CUE”.

     I was just at lunch at a local eatery (family-owned Ole Time Barbeque) where they treat you like family in all the best ways.  Along with a relaxing break from the studio and some great banana puddin’ I got a quick example of how to be a better voice talent/audio producer.

     Overheard at the table behind me was the friendly voice of the waitress:  “Need some more tea?  I heard that sound.”

     What she had heard…and I hadn’t even noticed…was the rattle the ice makes in a drained glass as it is lowered back to the table.  Maybe she couldn’t tell just by listening where the cue came from, but it put her other faculties automatically at work to locate the need and supply the solution.  She was probably there before the customer even finished thinking whether he even  wanted a refill or not.

     So now I’m thinking about things I do in my own job which pick up on these “clues to the cues”.  It might be sensing where a read could be sped up when I know we’re over time.  It might be knowing a friendly, deserving client could use a break with a last-second rewrite that makes no sense (they have to be friendly and deserving…I don’t just give out my copywriting “gems”, nor does everyone consider it a favor when I do!). 

     But what else could I be automatically on the lookout/listenout for?

     What clues could you better be atuned to in order to make a client’s time spent with you more of a pleasure?

     Me?  I’m thinking about learning to make good banana puddin’.

— over and out —

“cut me some slack, jack!”

23 Apr

I always associate the term “Cut me some slack” with  hipster dudes from the 80s, even though I knew I’d heard it earlier than that. 

(Favorite subtitled scene from “Airplane!” anyone?)

Turns out it goes wayyyyyyyy back.  According to the website,, it’s a nautical phrase:

“…‘give me some slack’ or ‘cut me some slack’ (meaning make allowances to complete something) is actually hundreds of years old. Tying a ship to a pier was no easy feat and took two teams of men armed with mooring lines. As one line was pulled to haul the ship closer the other line was released or ‘given slack’. The process would go on until the ship was properly aligned.”

Anyway, this week I ran afoul of being “cut some slack”, by not making full and proper use of it.  The result is, I’ll be working extra hard these next few days to “pick it up”! 

It shouldn’t be this way, but it does seem I’m too often tempted to reward someone who’s given me more time…by making them wait even longer.  Meanwhile, someone whose deadline is hard and fast gets the extra attention. 

Fortunately, this story will have a happy ending…thanks to a friendly reminder.  The rest of  you,  learn from my example. 

When someone “cuts you some slack”, they expect you to pick it up and start pulling your weight!

— over and out —