Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My Organic Studio

Yesterday evening I posted a question at www.VO-BB.com. It was about my home recording studio and what type of phone patch and mic-pre set up I should look into purchasing. The folks over there have been more than helpful so far, and I look forward to learning more!

Today, I noticed an interesting parallel between my home studio and a large ant pile that has appeared in my cool-season vegetable garden. Allow me to explain…

The ant pile appeared in my garden one week ago. If my husband had his way, we would pour some sort of chemical, granular, acidic sort of thing over the mound and be done with it! However, I pride myself on having a totally organic, chemical free garden. So- we have been going through an assortment of humane and environmentally safe procedures to rid us of the ants…namely, boiling water down the hole! So far, it isn’t working…so an hour ago- I went online and looked up “ways to get rid of ants without chemicals” on Google. My, oh my, do people have some crazy ideas! So I tried them all.

Right now, there is a layer of corn starch all over my garden, followed by a layer of cinnamon, topped off with black ground pepper. The water is boiling on the stove.

If it rains…I will have a cake instead of onions and peas!

It occurred to me that this is much like my studio. I keep trying new things, asking more questions and hoping to rid it of all the ‘bugs’!! If a dash of cinnamon (a mic-pre), pepper (phone patch), and corn starch (whatever else I end up buying) make the difference- then my ‘organic’ recording studio will be my pride and joy!

Now, if only the equipment would cost the same as the spices!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Be Willing to Play in the Game

I've talked in the past about my mother's theories on life in relation to pig shows. You may just be the best pig- but for whatever reason the judge chooses another pig...it's all a matter of perception and opinion. This weekend, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about life and the ability to be a positive influence on other's lives. My conclusion? It isn't about 'being chosen' or 'winning'- it's about being willing to play IN the game. It's about stepping up to the plate- going after what you want- taking the next step not only to help yourself but help those around you.

A very tragic thing happened last week. My husband's 18 year old cousin was in a very bad car accident and did not survive. I cannot imagine at this stage in my own life what his mother is feeling. We spent the weekend in Eastern North Carolina with our family, and I can say that I have never seen such an outpouring of support. There were well over 500 teenagers, parents, friends, and family that showed up to pay their respects. That young man touched a lot of lives in a short amount of time. What floored me was watching this child's parents reach out to others and comfort them- when clearly they were the ones needing comfort. They were concerned about their son's friends and wanted to help them cope with this tragic loss. They wanted everyone to know that their son had been a donor- that lives will be saved because of him. This weekend, I saw a mother going through unspeakable pain...but not giving up. She is a nurse, and she will continue to touch people's lives as her son so obviously did.

There are moments when we are reminded just how fortunate we are...this was one of my moments. Each day that is spent with people we love, doing work we love, and reaching out to others is a day in a life well spent. That which makes your heart soar might help another...be willing to give of your gifts freely. It is your passion- not the money you earn or the length of your time- it is the way you spend your moments that matter.

There was a contest recently that I was a part of. It was meant as a fun event, a way to 'honor' a few people in our industry. Lives were not changed- it was just meant to be positive and light. I was surprised, however, when a comment was made by someone about not having enough time to participate in such things. Shouldn't we all want to participate in things that are positive? Shouldn't we also encourage other's to step up to the plate- take a swing- and try to win? Heck- just being a player is fun! I'm not very wise, but I want to always take the time to play- to be a part of things- to learn- and give back.

So-metaphorically speaking- I plan to buy pigs...raise pigs...know they are the best in town...then buy a pig for someone else...and teach them all I know :) I don't want to just play the game...I want to play IN the game...live IN each moment...and be a real winner at the end.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What Don't You Love?

First off, I'd like to say an enormous 'thank you' to my friends at Voices.com. It seems I am a finalist for a Voicey Award in the Best New Voice category. To say I am honored and humbled is an understatement. The competition is stiff- the talent pool is endless over there, but I am so grateful to be a finalist. A very sincere 'thank you' to the judges as well...

As it turns out, the nomination is a great introduction into a thought that has been banging around in my head today.

I am an avid reader, never without a book. My latest series I've been mildly obsessed with is The Mitford Series by Jan Karon. It is a story about Father Tim who lives in the fictional town of Mitford (based on the town of Blowing Rock, NC where the author lives). Father Tim is one of the most likable characters I've ever come to know in a book and his friends are just as vivid and great! Father Tim is courting a lovable woman named Cynthia that has a quick wit and a warmer heart.

In the book, Cynthia is known for always saying 'I love that'! No matter what it is- she loves it. Father Time always follows up with, "What don't you love?". Cynthia always has a great response such as, "Crow's feet, age spots, and goodbyes." Her answers always make me laugh out loud.

So, as I head to the mountains of North Carolina this weekend to ring in my 30th year on earth, I leave you with a foot note I wrote in the margin of this book...

Always remember to keep the greatest negativity in the smallest of things to make room for the positive waiting to fill your life and your heart.


To see the other finalists for the Voicey Awards, go to http://www.voiceyawards.com/
Be sure to check out my dear friend, Brian Haymond, who is nominated for Best Male Voice!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Need Directions?

A good director is the most important part of a great voice over project- often more important than the actor themselves in my opinion. No, I am not trying to butter anyone up, nor am I trying to get a job (unless you're hiring!).

A good director works with the voice talent to bring out the best possible read. They are patient and encouraging. They have tons of energy and constantly push you to do better.

I say this, because I have had 2 experiences in my career that quite frankly baffled me.

The first was a commercial I recorded a few years back (which is why I now feel comfortable writing about it) with a brilliant male voice actor I had always looked up to. It was a radio commercial in which he played Santa and I played an elf...fun, right? However, he clearly was not in the "Holiday Spirit"! Not only was he very late to the session, he actually complained and cursed through most of it. The poor director tried to keep things light by laughing as if it was all a joke, when it obviously was not. This man went on and on about how much he hated the business, wanted out, was bored...etc...all while recording a paid gig for a client!

It was almost like watching the real Santa curse- a disturbing thought, huh?

My second experience came with a director that honestly made me question my own career choice as a voice actor. I won't give any specific details- I will only say this director has had complaints in the past from other voice actors. During the session (which was about 20 hours over 3 days) the director would make comments like, "Do you know how to read?", "Are you not able to act?", "Are you sure this is the right job for you?". On day 2 I asked the director if they would be more comfortable finding another voice actor for the part- I explained that my feelings would not be hurt. The answer? I was exactly what they were looking for.

It was the longest 3 days of my career.

There is a valuable relationship between a director and a voice talent. In my opinion, we need them more than they need us. A good director can bring things out in you that you never knew were there. A bad director can make a great voice sound like a croaking toad!

We all have bad days. We just have to leave it at the front door- don't let your negativity ever penetrate a studio's walls. I realize I am fortunate to work from home, even if most of my days are spent in a padded walk-in closet!

Even during the worst recording session of my life I somehow managed to keep my enthusiasm high. It turns out the engineer of that session enjoyed my acting and passed my name on to another director...you never know who is listening!!

The client is always right, and it's our job to deliver the read they love...with a smile before, during, and after :)

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Wanna Race??

Growing up, my mother always had this great saying, "life ain't nothin' but a pig show." Of course, it wasn't until I was older that I realized just how insightful she was (and still is!). If you've ever spent time in the country, or were raised on a farm...then you've been to a pig show. Maybe you were someone that actually raised and showed pigs? When a pig is being judged, there is no 'real' clear-cut way to decide which pig is the best pig. It's all in the eye of the beholder. Just because your pig won first prize doesn't make it the greatest of all pigs, and if you lost- it doesn't mean you raised a loser pig. After all, pork is pork- right?

Thinking of life in these terms has helped me overcome many moments of rejection. Beauty? Talent? It's all in the eye of the beholder. If I didn't get the job, it doesn't mean I'm not great! I just wasn't what the judge wanted...but I will be next time.

With this way of thinking, there is no 'best' or 'greatest' at anything. There is always someone better, and it's important for us to remember that.

--On a different (and yet still somewhat similar) note--

When I decided to take my 'hobby' of voice acting and turn it into a full-time career, my sister made the comment, "the two most competitive industries in the world are voice over and run-way modeling...that's why I wouldn't want to be a part of it." Recently, I was reading the blog of a nice man that decided to give up his six-figure salary in pursuit of his voice acting passion (Bravo!). What made me sad was his comment of, 'I know it's a competitive industry' (or something similar).

My understanding of competition is much like a race...there is a clear-cut winner and a clear-cut loser. Then there are those that fall in-between.

I disagree that voice over is a competition. If it was, then who would be the winner? Me? You? I know I'm not the loser!! Plus, in a competition- you aren't going to aid your competitor along the way if you want to win. I've discovered quite the opposite in voice over. I've never seen so many people willing to offer (free!) advice on demos, auditions, etc. Just look at all the blogs out there with thoughts on how to quote for work, how to market yourself, how to improve your craft...and it's FREE! All it takes a bit of time surfing the net and you can learn more about voice acting than you ever wanted to know!

When I say 'actors helping actors', I'm not referring to those who help someone who isn't their 'competition' (a special thanks here to Bob Souer and Brian Haymond for all of your help!). I'm referring to those women who have given me advice and encouragement...the ones going for the same jobs I am. How wonderful! Any chance I get, I always offer advice, websites, thoughts...it doesn't matter if the person sounds just like me or not! In my opinion, this isn't a competition...we are ALL making a living, and there is enough work for us ALL to do so!

Please, don't let the thousands of new (and veteran!) voice actors scare you. We are all in this together, helping, advising...

Welcome to a non-competitive industry...I promise I won't stick my foot out as you journey down your voice-over runway.