Monday, October 29, 2007

A Long Time Away

Phew! It feels like ages since I've written a new post for this blog! When I first made the commitment to a voice over blog, I promised myself I would post at least once a week. Well, sometimes life makes decisions for you. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of family, friends, and vacations.

A couple of weeks ago, we were visited by some of our family from up north. It was a great visit, filled with a trip to our favorite vineyard, and some dancing to Blue Grass for the Harvest Festival.

For the last week, my husband and I have enjoyed an incredibly relaxing vacation in Burnsville, NC. We hiked, fished, shopped, slept, and did a lot of breathing in of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. As you may or may not know, I am never more than a few steps away from my beloved there were over 2 GB of photos and videos from the trip! I picked out a few of my favorites and turned them into a slide show on my MacBook. The site can be found by clicking here.

During our vacation, we were Blessed with some much needed rain. The Carolinas have been in an exceptional drought, and we received about 3 inches while we were in the mountains. It's the only time that I will be thankful my vacation was rained out! Since there were plenty of days filled with blue skies, we decided to spend our rain day driving down to Fletcher, NC for a tour of ProComm Studios.

Many of you are familiar with this incredible studio, and some of you may even be on the talent roster. I had submitted my demos a few months ago, so I was already familiar with a few of the kind folks there. Dan Friedman was generous enough to offer to take us on a tour of the studio. Plus, he even let me bring my dog Macy so I wouldn't have to leave her alone in the cabin!

We arrived at 4:30 on Wednesday for our tour. Dan was as nice in person as he was over the phone. It's always a pleasure to meet people who share your passion for voice over, production, and technology. Dan has many years of experience with all 3- and he really knows his stuff.

Our first impression of the ProComm Studios was how big it was!! I've never been to a production facility that was actually built from the ground up to accommodate studios and equipment. Most studios are adapted to a building that was already in existence. ProComm has numerous recording spaces to accommodate multiple projects. They have some of the best mics and recording equipment around. It was really incredible!

The best part was meeting all the staff. Everyone was so laid back and professional, they instantly made us feel welcome. I finally met Bob Peck, who did my line test with me a few weeks ago. He was as nice in person as he had been over ISDN, which was no surprise!

We had a funny moment when Dan pointed out I had been introducing my dog to everyone as though she were my child. Yeah, I'm one of those creepy dog husband is still teasing me over that one!

Overall, it was a great week, made greater by a visit to a studio most will never see (as the majority of their talent work over ISDN). A gigantic thank you to Dan and the entire staff for taking 2 hours out of your day to spend with me and my family! We are hoping to return the favor someday by taking Dan's family on a tour of Chris's TV station (I hear one of Dan's sons may be an aspiring weatherman!).

The good news is that I've stored up 3 weeks worth of blog posts in the back of my brain- so I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. Thank you for sticking with me, and taking time out of your day to be here. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Praying For Rain

Here in Charlotte, NC we are now in what is known as an 'exceptional drought'. It is the worst drought anyone I know has ever been through in Charlotte, and 'exceptional' is the highest label any drought can achieve. We are on a major water restriction, meaning absolutely no sprinklers allowed lest you want a ticket and a fine. You can water your potted plants from the hose, but that is it.

I am an avid gardener. Having my hands in the dirt for 9 months is what gets me through the 3 months of hard winter. This has been a heartbreaking fall for me. No cabbage, onion, or peas in the veggie garden; no violas or pansies at the front door, no mums near the window. To make matters worse, we are having record breaking high temps this week. A sad fall indeed.

Today I was at our neighborhood nursery looking at a corn plant for the corner of my living room. I've wanted one for some time, and figured this would lift my spirits of not being able to enjoy the outdoors. As I wondered throughout the store, I noticed the vegetable plants were on sale for 69 cents each. I can't remember ever seeing vegetables that cheap! Even the decorative kale and cabbage were on sale for $2 a pot! Goodness!

Of course, the reason for these prices is obvious, no one wants to buy plants they can't water! This started me thinking...

I've spoken with several of my fellow voice actors and many of us experienced our own drought this summer. There were considerably less VO opportunities and jobs than in other months. In fact, I know several whose work drought has continued into the month of October.

I began to wonder if any of my fellow actors had considered their own version of a vegetable sale. Is it reasonable in the midst of a drought to offer your services at a lower price?

There are many positives and negatives to this solution. The positives include having an excuse to e-mail your regular clients, offer a 'special', and remind them you are available. The negatives include possibly locking yourself into a lower rate for good.

In business, each of us make decisions as to what works best during a drought. Do you conserve your voice and wait for the rains to come?

Unlike the vegetables, voice overs are not perishable. I did not lower my prices during my VO drought, I waited for the work to return. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.

All I know is when it comes to work and flowers, I'll just keep praying for rain...

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Different Type of Acting

On Saturday, I attended an all-day workshop taught by famed casting director Jackie Burch. I've linked to Jackie's IMDb page so you can see her massive amount of movie credits.

Jackie is moving to Wilmington, NC and wanted to see an array of talents that she may one day cast in TV, film, etc. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea this was what would take place! I honestly thought this was just an acting class that would contain a few students and we would learn some beginning techniques. Imagine my surprise when I arrived and about 100 were in attendance! Oh, and did I mention they were obviously experienced? [Que nerves please]

While I've been in a couple of small budget movies, acted in a few school plays, and host infomercials...I really do not know a ton about acting. (Voice acting, sure, just not much about acting in film.) Jackie answered many questions and then explained we would be broken into pairs and given a scene to go over. We would then act out the scene for Jackie to review. What was fantastic about this, is that we would be able to see every critique and learn from them as well!

My partner's name was Brian and we were given a cute scene in which I was a waitress and he had to awkwardly hit on me. When it was our turn, Jackie began by critiquing our headshots and resumes. She said she liked my headshot a lot, but was disappointed I hadn't attached a resume to the back. Duh! What was I thinking? I know better than that. Oh well, she asked me about my acting experience, and I told her I was a full-time voice actor. She then had me do the voice of a 5 year old girl in front of the class. If I wasn't nervous by then, I was petrified after that display! When you spend all of your time in small, sound proof booths...performing character voices in front of a room-full is quite an experience!

We made it through our scene despite my shaking hands and pounding heart. Jackie was incredibly kind. She told me I had good comedic timing, a fun and quirky vibe, and if I could learn not to bug out my eyes while acting I would be set!

After everyone finished their scene, Jackie had us come up one by one and act out a script with a line reader. At the end of the scene, she would give a few critiques and then say whether that particular actor would have received a call back or not. Fortunately, I had worn out my nerves with my first scene, so I was good to go. I gave it my all...and Jackie said I would have received a call back!

All in all, I had a glorious time. I learned a ton and made some new friends. After class, I performed a few voices for Jackie and even sang part of a song from the Little Mermaid (by request)! Jackie encouraged me to give acting a go, take a few more lessons, and start going out on auditions. It's advice I will take to heart!

Now, I don't want this post to only be about me, especially considering how much I learned! Here are a few things Jackie taught that are relevant to any business...

1. Never lie on a resume. If it says you know sign language, you better know sign language. It can cost many people time and money if you aren't truthful on your resume. There were several people who weren't able to do what their resumes said they could. Don't put 'good at impressions' if you can only do one impression! When you are able to back up your claims, it instills trust in those who hire you.

2. Find what makes you interesting and showcase it. Whether with your headshot or on your voice demo, find a way to stand out and be intriguing. Jackie's favorite headshots were not the ones with big happy smiles, they were the ones that told a story. The pictures that made you want to learn more stood out from the rest. It's the same with your demo...what can you do that no one else can? Why are you interesting? Showcase it!

3. Don't be afraid to be different. When watching the same scene performed over 100 times, there were only about 5 that really stood out. Those were the ones that brought something different to the table. When auditioning, do what feels natural, but bring something special to the table. In this day and age with voice over, we are taught there is a right way and a wrong way to read copy. Dare to be different, it just might get you the job!

I truly enjoyed my day with Jackie. It was refreshing to see someone so successful be so encouraging. There are many lessons from this weekend that will stay with me for quite some time!