Feel Like Doing Nothing?

August 18th, 2011

If you ever feel like doing nothing, then I’ve got the perfect book for you. It’s called How to Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself, by Robert Paul Smith. It’s a wonderfully insightful and delightfully whimsical book that’s designed to teach kids the vital skill of figuring out what to do when there’s nothing to do.

I had the pleasure of narrating this book for Iambik Audiobooks and Tin House Books, and it’s available now on the Iambik web site. Pop on over and take a listen to the sample chapter!  Along with the audio files, you’ll receive a PDF file containing all of the wonderful illustrations included in the original print version, and they’re referenced throughout the course of the narration. Even without the illustrations, though, you could probably figure out how to build the many things that Smith describes thanks to the great details that he included in the original text. I had a lot of fun reading this book, and hope that you enjoy listening to it.

Devils, Angels & Dating – Teaser Trailer

July 28th, 2011

Over a year ago, I made contact with the director of an online collaborative animated film, and was cast as the voice of the two male characters.  Later I was asked to record a Wonder Years-esque narration that would be woven throughout the film.  The project has been progressing nicely, and a teaser trailer was just released that shows off some of the stellar work that’s been done by the team, all of whom are volunteers.  Take a minute (literally) and check it out!

For those who like sound

July 14th, 2011

You just might like this Vimeo collection.

Notworking

March 9th, 2011

I went to a local business networking meeting the other day.  I hadn’t been to such an event before, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  One of the first things that happened after I entered the room instantly reminded me of this video by fellow voiceoverist Philip Banks:

While I wasn’t exactly pelted by business cards, my first few interactions with people at this event were fairly shallow.  Could I have done better from my end?  Sure.  However, it’s a little hard to keep a conversation going when the person who just handed me their card has walked away after discovering that I have no card to give them.

This happened several times within just a few minutes of entering the room, but then something happened that was even more memorable.  I noticed a lady who was walking around the room with a collection of personalized faux-cloth bags hanging on her arm by their carry-handles, each one folded up nice and flat.  She approached me and said something to the effect of, “Hi!  I’ve got a bag for you!”  After handing me the bag (which contained a collection of promotional trinkets for her business), she immediately moved on to find the next bagless person in the room.  No small-talk.  No mention of her name (that I can recall).  No effort to see if I even wanted a bag.

Want to leave a lasting impression?  Do something memorable.

Want to leave a lasting BAD impression?  Do something memorable that says (essentially) that you care more about spreading the word about your business than you do about developing a real relationship with someone.

Networking isn’t about tagging as many people as possible with something that has your business name on it.  It’s about building relationships of trust.  Do you really think that I’m going to trust you with my business — or the business of someone I know who is looking for your services — if all that you did in an attempt to earn my trust was hand me a card, a pen, a bag, or anything else?  That only says that you care about you.  As the saying goes, “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  To expand that in a business context, a potential customer won’t care how much you know (about insurance, real estate, auto repair, etc.) until I know how much you care about them.

Now, I don’t claim to be perfect.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and I’m not proud of any of them.  However, I know for a fact that I will never make certain mistakes again, especially after having seen them play out in a slightly different form at this recent meeting, and the careless “shotgun” approach is one of them.  Thankfully I haven’t sent many “Here’s my demo!  Give me a call if you need anything!”-emails, but sadly there have been a few.  Not any more, though.  I’ve got a bright pink promotional keychain to help me remember that lesson.

Like the name says…

December 2nd, 2010

…I’m still finding my voice…largely for this blog. I want to offer more here than just “Here’s what I’ve been doing lately,” but unfortunately that’s about all that it feels like I’ve got to offer at times.  Today, though, I’ve got a little story to share.  More on that later.

It’s been busy here. While most of that busy-ness isn’t on the voiceover front, there are definitely some fun things happening. Even doing scratch tracks for assorted projects at my day job is fun. I see it as additional free practice. Sometimes I just get to riff my way through the copy as I feel is most appropriate, while other times I get direction on how to approach it. I like it either way, and the variety is always interesting.  Then there’s the ever-present “you never know when the client may decide to hire you” side of it.  While I try not to get too caught-up in counting those pre-hatched chickens, it’s good to know that the possibility is there.

So what’s been happening on the VO front lately? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Narration for some software training projects (more to share on this soon, I hope)
  • Assorted tracks (some as just scratch) for work projects, including a pharmaceutical piece, a fast-talking dinosaur, and later today, a no-nonsense New York tour guide
  • Character work for an independently-produced animated feature

I’m also pleased to announce that I’ve been cast as Bob Cratchit in a local audio production of A Christmas Carol, which is being produced to benefit Reading and Radio Resource, a Dallas agency that’s dedicated to providing audio materials for the blind and visually impaired.

And now for today’s VO tip:

Be yourself

Recently a friend was helping me to practice a read for a type of project that I hadn’t done before.  At first glance it felt like it was significantly outside of my comfort zone, and my first several takes (spread over numerous weeks) didn’t hit the mark.  Thankfully my friend was very patient with my stumbles, and let me take things at my own pace, so I decided to let it percolate in the back of my mind for a while.

After several more weeks had passed, the solution hit me, and it was so deceptively simple that I don’t know why I hadn’t latched onto it sooner.  In all of my earlier attempts, I was trying too hard to get the read to sound like I thought it should sound.  In short, I was trying too hard to be a voiceover artist.  What I should have been doing was tapping into the right aspect of my own personality that matched the copy, and targeting my read to a specific person in my head to whom I would naturally talk that way.

The next morning I took another stab at it with those principles in mind, and felt really good about the result.

So did my friend.

Did I mention that he’s an audio producer for a busy company?  ;)

Discover your independence

July 24th, 2010

Have you ever seen the ads in the “Discover the Forest” campaign?  If not, take a look at this sample:

It’s a great campaign to encourage kids to get outside and enjoy the wonders of nature, and I applaud the Ad Council and Forest Service for getting the word out about…well…getting out!

The place that I keep running into this ad is at the gas station, where it’s in frequent rotation on the pump-top media system.  I swear that I hear it at least once every time I stop for gas, and it’s been running there for months.

What I find funny is that the voiceover in the pump-top version of the ad — which is a truncated version of the one above — still says, “Ask your parents to take you there,” even though it’s running at a gas station, where the vast majority of the people to hear it are adults who can drive themselves to the forest quite easily.

Methinks someone in marketing overlooked that detail.  Perhaps they need to get out more.

I hear the forest is nice.

Qhub

July 8th, 2010

Qhub allows anyone to set up a simple Q&A interface on their web site. Want to know more? Check out this quick introduction that I narrated.

The Actor’s Library

June 21st, 2010

Okay, I haven’t been this excited about a new web site in a long time. The site is The Actor’s Library, and it launches live tomorrow, June 22nd.  Kristine Oller, the talent behind this new resource, has some great intro videos that are well worth your time (in my opinion).  The only hitch is that these videos are only live until midnight tonight, so go check it out now if you haven’t done so already.

Why am I so excited about this?  Let’s just say that I find Kristine’s approach to be a breath of fresh air compared to some other resources I’ve seen online.  For one thing, she’s sharing what I feel are valuable insights in these intro videos, instead of just teasing viewers with “here’s what you could learn” and then withholding all real content for subscribers only.  After watching the intro videos, I have concepts to consider and techniques to apply that could make a real impact on my business.  All that it cost me was the time to watch them.

It also feels like Kristine genuinely cares about what she’s sharing, and that she wants as many people as possible to benefit from what she has to share.  While I gathered that the videos were teasers for this new service that she’s developed, they didn’t feel nearly as “markety” as what I’ve seen from some other people who market to voiceover artists.  While I’ve also learned things from some of these other folks, I’m SICK of the not-that-clever (or overly-important-sounding) catch phrases, the “you can’t afford not to” or “how much is your dream really worth” guilt tactics, the mile-long web page sales pitches, and especially the over-promised-but-under-delivered content.

Finally, I’m excited about what Kristine has to offer because there are several people who I admire in the voiceover industry who area already familiar with her work, and who are either contributing to this new endeavor, or have strongly endorsed her prior products.  I haven’t heard these folks endorse many other things when it comes to resources for voiceover artists.  The fact that so many are supportive of her and this new site she’s assembling has definitely got my attention.

Okay.  I’m done.  Go see what Kristine has in store at The Actor’s Library!

Parallels

June 8th, 2010

Having worked in the animation industry for nine years, and having been a fan of computer-generated (CG) imagery for many years before that, I’ve heard a lot of comments about how various CG animated projects look.  In fact, the whole purpose of using CG imagery is to achieve specific visual effects that would be more difficult — or perhaps impossible — to create using other techniques.  A human cannot really turn into liquid metal, dinosaurs don’t really roam the earth, and toys don’t really come to life when we’re not looking, so filmmakers chose to create those moments using CG animation.  In doing so, they worked with teams of artists and spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars to get the look just right.

However, despite the massive effort to perfect the look of these visual effects, their only purpose is to serve the story.  Without a solid and compelling story, the best CG imagery in the world is just eye candy, and one doesn’t have to look very hard to find examples of high-quality CG animation and effects that were created to accompany lackluster stories.  In some of these cases, the filmmakers might have felt that the audience would be drawn in by the visual elements, and that the story didn’t have to be that great.  In fact, it wasn’t long after Pixar released Toy Story that aspiring filmmakers began talking about — and trying to achieve — “the Pixar look”, as if the specific look that Pixar created for their film was the reason for the film’s success.  They completely missed the point: Pixar had created a compelling story.  The computer-rendered visuals were simply one of many components that they used to help tell that story.

In the field of voiceover, one of the most troubling examples of this “looking beyond the mark” behavior that crops up on a regular basis is when a hopeful voiceover-artist-to-be utters the phrase, “A lot of people have told me that I have a good voice, and that I should consider getting into voiceover.”  What they fail to realize is that the specific sound of a person’s voice is one of the least important ingredients behind an effective, engaging voiceover performance.  They don’t realize that the key to effective voiceover is the same as the key to effective animated filmmaking: story.

The voiceover artist’s job is to tell a story.  That story could be about a little boy walking through the dark woods, a sale on watermelons, or the proper procedure for treating an asthma patient, but it’s still a story.  The trick lies in knowing how to best present the story using the human voice so that the listener is engaged.  Without a sense of story, the most appealing voice in the world couldn’t keep the listener from disengaging and moving on to something that does capture their attention.  While filmmakers have generally figured out that it’s the story, not the look, that makes a great animated film, fledgling voiceover talent are still getting caught in the same “I’ve been told I have a good voice” trap that snared many of their predecessors.

Before spending any money on pursuing a voiceover career — even on training — voiceover hopefuls should have a firm grasp on this fundamental truth of the industry: If you want to make it in the world of voiceover, don’t get too caught up in the sound of your voice.  Learn how to tell a good story.  Similarly, if you’re looking to hire voiceover talent, don’t get too distracted by the specific sound of the artists’ voices you’re hearing.  Look for those who are effective story tellers first and foremost, and then narrow the field to the folks who you feel would do well at telling your story.

What?  You don’t know what story you’re telling?  No problem.  Drop me a line and we’ll figure it out together!

New business card

January 23rd, 2010

Partly because it just needed to be done, and partly in preparation for the Voices.com mixer in Dallas tonight, I finally buckled down and designed my first set of business cards.  Similar to the web site design, simple and clean was my goal, and I think it works well.  Thanks to Avery’s clean-edge cards and printing template system, the whole process was a piece of cake.

VO_BusinessCard