Luck and The Voice Actor

I’m reading James A. Michener’s autobiography The World Is My Home.  In it he offers tips to would be writers and speaks of how simple luck played a huge role in his success.  Just change a few of the skills mentioned and you’ve got great advice for the voice over performer:

The only generalization I can offer is that in an irrational world if a prudent course has been followed, you make yourself eligible to capitalize on luck if it happens to strike. If you have not made yourself eligible, you may never be aware that luck is at hand.  By this I mean: learn typing, master math, learn to draft a convincing letter, broaden the mind, and do not evade challenges.  Making oneself eligible to seize the breaks if and when they come is the only sensible strategy I know. Be prepared to make full use of any stroke of luck, and even if it never comes, the preparation in itself will be a worthy effort.

The Marice Tobias Fall Workshop Schedule

Stacey Stahl emailed yesterday the dates and cities of the remaining Marice Tobias workshops for voice over pros this year.  See them here.

Marice has a magical way of spotting things that are getting in the way of your most authentic performance as a voice actor. I highly recommend her workshops.

What is the Context?

Been thinking about the word “context” this morning. It’s one of the lenses through which we should see the script as we prepare for the job or an audition. It helps us determine choices.

I think language scholar Oscar E. Nybakken has a very useful take on the word “context” for the voice actor:

Context not only casts a play of light and shadow on a word but frequently  suggests its primary meaning.

Adding light and shadow to the read is a wonderful thing as long as it serves the story.  There’s that “context” thing again.

Great Weekend with the Voice Over Whisperer

The Marice Tobias commercial and narration workshop in Dallas wrapped up yesterday.  What a wonderful seminar. I learned some great techniques for self direction which is so important these days in that we work so much from our own spaces. Had fun with fellow voice actors. And it’s always amazing to watch a director like Marice pull reads out of actors that they didn’t know they had.

Also, thanks to audio engineer J.D. of Janimation for letting us kids play in his room.

Can a Sennheiser MKH 416 Bring Down a Plane?

Sennheiser 416That’s what the TSA at the little airport in Roswell, New Mexico wanted to know.  I guess it looked like a pipe bomb to them.

I was returning from few wonderful days in the nearby mountain village of Ruidoso, having met up with the wife’s family, and had brought along the traveling voice-over rig.  The Sennheiser 416 was in the carry-on bag.  It went through the X-ray machine and caused a bit of a stir.  I was pulled aside and asked to explain.  Fearing this might happen, I had it in the original case with the windscreen and paperwork which included a photo of it with cable attached.

“It’s a microphone,” I told Miss TSA lady. “See, there’s a picture of it.”

“Oh..it’s a microphone,” she shouted down the table to her fellow inspectors.

“Ahh, a microphone,” they grunted. “We didn’t know what it was…OK.”

Funny thing is when we flew out of DFW, the TSA didn’t bat an eye.  Either they had seen shotgun mics before, or they didn’t care.

And yes, it’s THAT Roswell. Alien crash landing  museums, Big Bob’s Flying Saucer Burgers and all that.  Maybe I should paint the 416 green. Nah.

Creative Slating

My agents have a rule about slating which is short and sweet.

Name only. Not even the role. Put that in the file name.

The intent is to curb the behavior of some actors who think that rude noises, mini-biographies, or lame attempts at being funny during the slate will make them more memorable when in fact producers and casting people find them annoying and a time suck.

So what’s a voiceover performer to do? Especially with a name like mine. Two syllables.

Well, more than you might think. Pat Fraley has some notions on creative slating in his audio seminar “Quick and Slick Voiceover Tricks available on Dan O’Day’s website. You also get tips on how to add layers to your “triplets” or those three-in-a-row readings and a discussion on whether or not you should add processing or production values to auditions once in a while, assuming you are auditioning out of your home studio.

Pat has a very entertaining way of teaching and has some nuggets in there for you.

Disclosure: For plugging the audio seminar I receive bupkis. I just think it’s good.

“Oh ISDN, You Left Me Just When I Needed You Most”

Since I don’t have promo or imaging clients the ISDN in the home studio gets sporadic use. Those ISDN sessions I do have usually come with a nice stack of US dollars which more than pays for having that tool in the studio. Sometimes much more. So it stays.

Big girls only cry when the ISDN goes down.

Big girls only cry when the ISDN goes down.

But I learned a lesson the hard way a couple of Mondays ago that like any other tool in the shed, you should crank it up once in awhile and drive it around the block to make sure it’s going to run when you need it.

I had an ISDN booking Monday July 6th, one P.M. Central. I went into the studio Sunday afternoon late to make sure everything was working. It wasn’t. The message from the codec was “ISDN Down.” Oh crap. Get on the phone to customer service.

The phone company had a guy out Monday morning at 9:00 with 20 pounds of tools and meters and testing thingys clinging and clanging off his giant leather belt all of which told him nothing we didn’t already know. The ISDN circuit was down. Swell.

The happy news is that I’m in a market with a lot of ISDN studios and I was able to book one for the right time, get myself over there and call the remote studio with the new dial-ups. The session went quickly and the client was happy. Yay.

By the time I got home  the phone guy, with help from his fellow telephony wizards, had found a bad network card on my circuit. They replaced it and my ISDN is yapping again.

So now I’m checking the ISDN circuit with greater regularity. I’ve set up a speed dial entry that uses one line to call the other and I can hear myself back on the loop. The codec manufacturer has music loops you can dial up to make sure the long distance service is good.

It’s like starting up that extra vehicle now and then to make sure it still runs.  Best to know in advance if there’s going to be a problem.