Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Top 20 things I Learned About voice Over in 2008

A few weeks ago I started making a list. I wanted to write down 10 things I learned this year about voice over. I quickly realized 10 just wouldn't cut it. If I was to be honest with myself, the list would likely be closer to 1000 things I've learned this year!

I decided to stick with the number 20.

While I actually learned a few of these items prior to 2008, they were at the very least reinforced in 2008- and therefore worthy of my top 20 list.

So, in no particular order...here are the Top 20 Things I Learned About Voice Over in 2008...

1. Trusting your own instincts with voice over work is always the way to go.

2. Social networking (VOICE, VO-BB, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc) is vital- you never know where your next job may come from, and you never know when you may have a job to offer!

3. If you want to install ISDN at home, it helps tremendously if you are incorporated. They will want your tax ID#, incorporation date, state, etc. Otherwise, expect to wait at least 6 weeks for instillation.

4. It is possible to keep deadlines regardless of what happens behind the scenes.

5. Relocating is no fun, but building a new studio is!

6. Creating a budget and sticking to it will help you be successful.

7. To have a home studio- you need an engineering degree. If you don’t have an engineering degree, it is important to have smart friends.

8. Receiving feedback from clients on your work really helps you improve!

9. It’s not how many clients you have; it’s how many relationships you develop that counts.

10. Saying no to work is OK.

11. Saying yes to fun or meaningful work at slightly lower rates is also OK.

12. Regular, monthly work rocks!

13. Unexpected, last minute work rocks!

14. I don’t do hard labor for a living; therefore it isn’t the end of the world when a client asks for major revisions. I can do them, and I can find a way to not be insulted by them.

15. Pilates helps with a stiff “I’ve been producing for 8 hours straight” neck.

16. When you are up against a deadline, and the creative juices just aren’t flowing…take a walk and have a conversation with your dog. Both will clear your head and inspire you.

17. When a project feels overwhelming, focus on recording the first line…the rest will then flow right out of you. Just getting started can be the hardest part.

18. You have a thousand chances to win over a client, but only one chance to lose them. Once they are gone, they aren’t coming back (said as a customer who will no longer give my business to a certain company- that blog will come later).

19. It is always best to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and under-deliver.

20. The greatest people in the world are in our line of work. Those who may be your competitors will likely also be your best friends. Pick up the phone at any time and call tech support for any of the audio equipment suppliers, they will be the most helpful folks around.

So, there you have it...the top 20 things I learned about voice over in 2008! One thing I've always known is how truly blessed I am to have a job I completely love. Waking up each morning, walking into my studio, recording the best audition I can, and solving my client's problems make each day unique and special.

This New Year's Eve I will be looking forward to a 2009 that is even better than 2008, though I'm not sure how that could be possible! I'll also be wishing the same for you.

Feel free to leave a comment telling us the top things you learned in 2008! And, for a look ahead at 2009- be sure to check out "The Report On The Voice Over Industry in 2009" by Voices.com!

Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Few Places to Find My Voice Before The New Year...

I've just returned from a fantastic vacation in VA for the Holidays, and discovered a package had been delivered while we were gone. In it was a videogame I voiced earlier this year for a great company called Kutoka.

The videogame is called "Didi & Ditto: Mother Nature's Visit, Preschool Edition". I had the honor of voicing Didi for the game. Now, as I understand it- the Didi & Ditto videogame series has been around for a while, but this was my first time voicing this character. I originally auditioned to voice another character when I received an e-mail asking me to give Didi a try. I instantly loved the character, and hope I am able to voice more in the future!

My husband and I broke out the game and installed it on my MacBook. I must say- it really is a great game...and I promise I would not say that if it wasn't! The graphics are gorgeous, and I can only imagine how a preschooler could spend hours clicking on all the different trees, flowers, and animals while playing all the games. Kutoka really did an outstanding job!

Another fun project I voiced just before the holidays was for an up and coming web design company. It's called Involution Media and I was instantly impressed with their work. They specialize in web animation, and I had the opportunity to give voice to the company's mascot, Madeline. The video is still being animated (and you'll see that parts of the site are still under construction), but you can see a small sample by clicking here...http://www.involutionmedia.com/. It is my understanding that there will be many Madeline videos to come, so stay tuned!

Finally, my husband and I received a Wii from Santa this year. We've become more than a little addicted to the game system over the past few days, and went on a game shopping spree this weekend. While it's been out for some time now, I finally had a chance to play "DragonBall Z: Budokai Tenchaichi 3" on Wii. I voiced 5 characters on the game, and it was really cool to see it all come to life!

One of the first things I did with both of the videogames I mentioned was to check the voice actor list to see if any of my friends were also on the game. I always love hearing what my fellow voice actors are up to! So, if you have a new project that is just being released before the New Year- please feel free to leave a comment and let us know where to find you!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Second Blog-o-versary Post with Studio Pictures!

Today is the second anniversary of this blog. It began with a post titled "Why Not Blog??" on December 21st, 2006. What an amazing 2 years it has been!

First, I want to thank each and every one of you who read this blog. Whether you are a subscriber, or you just stop by from time to time- you are the reason I keep this little hobby going. I've done my best over the past 2 years to give an honest portrayal of my life as a full-time voice actor. The good, the bad, and every little thing I've learned along the way.

The last several months have been a true learning experience as I packed up one studio in NC and moved to Tampa, FL to build a new studio. The move gave me an opportunity to build a studio the way I've always wanted to. I've added an ISDN line (just installed this past Friday!), a new Mackie mixer, a Telos Zephyr, Samson Resolv studio monitors, a studio rack, a laptop shelf, and more!

My actual recording space is larger than my previous one, and now that I can read scripts from my laptop I'm no longer going through 2 ink cartridges a month!

The most clever idea came when I discovered a metal shelf used by club DJs to hold their computers and drum machines over their turn tables. While I would love to claim the idea as my own, I owe the credit to a very nice man at Sam Ash. He suggested I anchor the shelf into my studio wall to hold my laptop. The best part is that it is designed to keep the laptop cool so the fan never comes on! It also has a cool little shelf that holds my bottle of Entertainer's Secret.

OK- on to the pictures I promised I would post...(Keep in mind there are still a few tweaks happening here and there- but for the most part, this is my new FL studio.)

My computer sits next to my recording area (behind the white door there)...

I love color- so I went with a blue/ green shade with one wall slightly darker than the rest. It was based off the painting I bought in Costa Rica this year (I'm planning to have it framed soon)...

All the Florida homes we looked at had these 'ledges' near the ceiling- perfect for action figures and stuffed animals of characters I've voiced!

Marvin the Martian is my favorite character of all time- I bought this statue 13 years ago in Mexico. He's my studio protector...


A friend drew this picture of the Lion King and the globe is a Disney Villains Globe I bought when I worked for Radio Disney.


The large frame is an uncut sheet of season 3 DragonBall Z cards. This was given as a gift to the main voice actors for DragonBall Z. Next to it are a pair of actual cells from the show, and to the left are 2 certificates of appreciation from our troops in Iraq. (One for the voice work I did for Freedom Radio, another for a 4th of July party I helped throw in Iraq when I was on the radio in NC.) Below it are my collections of Highlights Magazines I have recorded for the Highlightskids.com website.


On to my recording space...Here is a close up of the laptop shelf I mentioned earlier:



Where I spend much of my time...


My constant companion, Macy. She likes to curl up on the studio floor rug (Yes, my floor is polka dotted- I love color!!).



Above my computer is a digital frame (currently on a photo of myself with Randy Thomas and Caryn Clark). On either side are my 2 Voicey Awards. One for Best New Voice- 2007 and one for Best Voice Team along with Adam Fox- 2008.

A close up up that fabulous painting I found in Costa Rica...
Finally, a shot of the entrance to my studio...


Since I took these photos at night, I was not able to capture my view from the window. It's of a pond surrounded by a small conservation. I love that view!
So- that is it! My new studio!! I still have to hang the studio monitors, and there are a couple of pictures that haven't made it to the walls just yet. However, the studio sounds fantastic- and I'll be testing my new ISDN lines tomorrow.
Again, thank you for reading my blog- here's to many more years of blogging!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Our Past Lives

I've been a voice actor for 12 years now and each morning I wake up and walk into my studio, I know this is where I am meant to be. However, like most of today's voice actors this was not my first job.

In fact, if you've been a voice actor longer than say, 10 years, chances are you had never even heard of voice over until you were already doing it! It's become so much more main stream recently (thanks to amazing voices like Don LaFontaine, Joe Cipriano, Melissa Disney, Beau Weaver, and so many more!) that I often receive e-mails from children who one day hope to grow up and be a voice actor!

Last week, my dog became very ill with an unusual infection. Over the weekend, we had to make two separate trips to the emergency vet to get her some relief from the pain and put her on the road to healing. I'm thankful to say she has improved drastically, and we are nearly out of the woods. Since I'm a firm believer that the power of prayer and positive thoughts can work wonders, I turned to my friends and fellow voice actors to send healing thoughts for my little girl. (I don't have kids yet, so I'm guilty of treating my dog as if she was my baby!)

I was not one bit surprised by the kind e-mails and messages I received wishing Macy a speedy recovery (the voice acting community is incredibly generous). However, I was surprised by an e-mail I received from my friend, September Day Leach. As it turns out, September was a vet tech before she was a voice actor- and she offered to answer any questions I might have! Well, I sent her Macy's lab results- and she offered not only her thoughts- but some very practical things I could do to make Macy more comfortable (For instance- did you know that keeping the food bowl elevated helps prevent stomach pain?? It really does!)

I can't thank September enough for offering to help- she was (and is) an enormous comfort!

So, all of this got me thinking about 'past lives', A.K.A.: the things we did before we became voice actors. For me, my career began in radio. I spent 11 years co-hosting a variety of shows before moving to full-time VO. Prior to that, I leased apartments, worked as a waitress (boy was I terrible at that one!), taught TaeKwon-Do to children, and was a Sonic Carhop. Oh- I also taught an in-line skating class once, and dappled in ESL.

If you have a moment, I would love to hear what you did in your 'past life'! Maybe it's a job you still do in addition to voice over- or maybe it's something you still can't believe you ever did.

Feel free to leave a comment!

And again, thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. Yeah, she's just a dog- but she's the best little dog I've ever known!

Oh- and as a quick side note...I promised recently that I would post pictures of my new studio soon. I still plan to- but I'm waiting on my ISDN line to be installed and my new studio rack. Then- there will be many photos :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Anthony Mendez Talks "Noise Floor"

My pal Anthony Mendez wrote a brilliant blog about lowering your 'noise floor'. Only this time he isn't referring to the noise in your audio chain, he's referring to the noise in our lives.

I'm as guilty as anyone of spending way too much time in front of a computer. I love what I do- and it's hard to break away at the end of the day! With social networking on the rise, there are an endless string of websites to hit, articles to read, things to learn...there just aren't enough hours in the day.

I try my best to make time each day to take a walk, sit and stare at the pond, or just read a good book. It can be difficult- but I manage to make it happen (note: I don't have kids yet...I expect this will change once I do- hah!).

While Anthony's blog is very relevant, especially during the holiday season- I've found this week that I'm more interested in raising my noise floor (to borrow Anthony's phrase)!

After a three month long relocation to Florida, nearly two months with no home studio, and more time spent watching TV than I care to admit...I'm bursting at the seams to be in my studio every second of the day!

Thankfully, there has been no shortage of things for me to record this week. :)

So, while Anthony is spot on with his thoughts today, for me- the noise is just right!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Studio Superstitions

In the past two weeks, I've spent the majority of my time building and creating my new studio and office space. It started with the actual recording space, and has moved into the area where I edit, produce, and spend most of my day.

I like to keep the area where I record separate from my computer and production space to cut down on any potential electronic humm. It's just a personal preference as I've been in many studios where the mic and computer are together and they sound great!

First and foremost for me- it was all about function. I wanted to make sure I could move in the space and get to the things I needed easily and efficiently. When I couldn't find a desk that fit the space in the way I wanted, I opted to keep my old corner desk and add a second desk to my left to hold my printer/fax, etc.

Since I'm not completely finished with my office, I'm reserving posting pictures and detailed descriptions until later this week. Therefore, today I'd like to focus on studio superstitions. I figure I can't be the only one who has them!

Many years ago I became fascinated with Feng Shui. I've probably read a couple dozen books about the topic and believe that the spaces we spend our time in can have a major impact on our lives. So, the first thing I did was create a bagua map of my office. (The one I linked to is not the one I use, but it's the closest I could find) I also studied colors to find out which would be the most inspiring for me. I ultimately went with a beautiful green/blue shade, painting one wall slightly darker than the rest. I know, I know- I can hear you saying to yourself, "Studios are for recording- not meditating! Sheesh!" (or something to that effect)

There is so much that goes into the art of Feng Shui that I don't want to bore you with the nitty gritty details. Plus, I'm sure someone would e-mail me explaining that I've done it all wrong and that would just make me sad. So, I'll just say that I am THRILLED with the way things are coming together! My studio is the space where I spend the most time, and it was very important to me that every object be inspiring creatively, emotionally, and spiritually.

As for superstitions- I have a few. Part of me likes being surrounded by my accomplishments (awards, action figures of characters I've voiced, etc) but I'm cautious not to go overboard. I wanted to make sure to leave room for future success, both in my life and on my walls! I also have several pictures and figures of birds and items that represent rising up. In my career I hope to reach for the stars every day and I enjoy being surrounded by symbols of my goals.

Something else kinda corny that I did was upload some of my favorite pictures to a digital frame. It's one that shows a continuous picture slide show. I added a wide variety of pictures from voice actors I know and admire, to photos of my family, to my favorite nature photography. That way I have all the things that matter right in front of me every day.

All that's missing is my new studio rack and my ISDN line...but hopefully those will be here soon!

So, now it's your turn- what superstitious object(s) do you keep, or actions do you take in your studio every day to keep you inspired?

Please feel free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top 10 List For Relocating a VO Business

I feel beyond guilty about my lengthy absence from this blog, but I am thrilled to announce I finally made it into our new house in Tampa, FL! My studio is up and running, and my ISDN line should be connected in 2-3 weeks. All is finally good at home and at work.

Monday was my first day back after a near 2-month absence from full time VO during our relocation. I completed two voice/production projects, and an audition for a national spot. A good day back I believe. Today was busy as well! Between unpacking boxes and asking my husband, "Do you know where...", I managed to finish a lengthy project for a client.

Since this was my first relocation in which my belongings didn't fit in one car, there were a lot of lessons learned along the way! Many things I did right, many things I did very wrong (but learned something in the process!).

Since this is a VO blog, I thought I would post the top 10 things I now know to do when relocating a voice over business long distance. Some of these I did do, some I plan to do next time :)

1. Communicate with your clients. Don't be afraid to send e-mails explaining that you will be away for 'x' amount of weeks. Let them know how things are progressing so they don't forget about you during your absence.

2. Keep e-mails as brief as possible. I have a bad habit of wanting to explain everything going on in my life in a single e-mail. I have to remind myself that no one cares. Just the facts are needed, no embellishments.

3. Research local studios in the area you are moving to. I had 3 big projects I had to complete in the middle of my move in addition to needing to record 13 episodes of Raggs via ISDN. Since I had called ahead of time, I already had a studio lined up that I could call in a moment's notice. It was a win-win for me- I had a studio to use, and they have since called me in for work here locally!

4. Check the location of your temporary and permanent housing closely on a map. How far away is the airport? What direction do the planes fly? Is there a train that runs by the house, a major highway? Boy, if only I had done this- those 6 weeks in temporary housing would have been much less stressful!

5. When tearing down your studio, take lots of pictures of how the wires were connected. Document the levels on your mic-pre, etc. Doing this made re-connecting everything so much easier for me. It also ensured I had the same consistent sound as my previous studio for projects I had to do pick-ups on.

6. If possible, move your studio equipment yourself. After seeing how many boxes arrived upside down and slightly jostled, I am very thankful I drove my equipment down myself. As I always say, should something happen to my studio, I really need it to be my fault (everyone around me always agrees- hah!). Seriously, I had fantastic movers but it just wasn't worth the risk.

7. One thing I'm thankful I did when I originally purchased my studio equipment is keep all the original boxes and packaging. It made it super easy to pack things up- and I didn't have to worry about anything moving around in transit.

8. If you need ISDN in your studio, start the process well in advance of your move. It is much harder to get ISDN than ever before, so you'll need to find out what the policies are in your new city and state. Who is the carrier, do you need to be incorporated to get it? Ask lots of questions, and make sure you explain exactly what it is you need (Most people will not understand what you are asking for- find someone who does!)

9. Speaking of ISDN, once you know who your carrier is ask if there is someone you can send potential new home addresses to in order to make sure ISDN is available. ISDN is run on copper wires, and many carriers are making Fios the new standard. Fios is run on optical strands, and won't work with our ISDN codecs. I am thankful I double checked each potential home we looked at, as a few were instantly ruled out for this very reason.

10. One thing I wasn't entirely successful at was staying calm. When our temporary housing ended up being next to Tampa International Airport, I freaked. As it turns out- everything was fine. I still got my work done (thanks to that local studio) and it was only 6 weeks out of my life. Moving is stressful, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to take it one day at a time. Make lists, keep things organized, and it will all be just fine.

Of course, if you do find yourself relocating sometime in the future, don't hesitate to shoot me an e-mail! Having chosen to marry someone in television, I have a feeling I may one day be able to right a book about how to move your voice over business anywhere in the world- hah!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Big Day

I remember so well anxiously awaiting the day I turned 18 so I would be able to vote for the first time. It's an amazing right we have as Americans to choose our leaders, and I always feel that flutter of excitement on Election Day!

So, imagine my horror when my absentee ballot didn't arrive last week! Because my husband and I are in the middle of a relocation, absentee voting was our only option.

A month ago, I proudly sent off our ballot requests, then waited...and waited...and waited. When I knew something was definitely wrong, I called our county office. Sure enough, there was a mix up with our new PO Box, and my ballot had been sent back!

The good news was that my husband's ballot was on the way, but mine would have to be re-sent and there was no guarantee it would arrive in time for me to send it in!

So, every day last week we checked the box with our fingers crossed. Friday morning it arrived! I was able to cast my vote and send it in overnight express!

Sure, it cost me $17 for the postage- but I can think of no better use of $17 than to exercise my right as an American.

This Election Day, I hope you will take the time to exercise your own rights. Judging by the early numbers, it seems many already have- which makes me even more proud to live in this great country!

Happy Election Day to you!

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Update: Homes, Studios, and Home Studios

The world of voice over has changed dramatically in the last 5-10 years. Once upon a time, we would go to our agent's office to record auditions and to a local studio to record the final audio. 12 years ago I didn't know a single person who had a home studio- it was something we would always talk about doing 'someday'. Fast forward a few years and home studios are the norm. We can now audition, get the gig, record the audio, send it via ftp, and be paid through PayPal in record time! It's fast, it's convenient, and a little bizarre in my opinion.

I'm someone who loves to meet people. Whether it's a short chat on the phone, or a lengthy conversation in person- I enjoy that moment when my clients actually become my friends.

I also enjoy driving to a local studio and recording with a producer and other actors from time to time. I believe filling a room with creative minds always leads to great things! It's another reason I love ISDN sessions. Playing off another actor sounds more natural than reading alone (for scripts that have more than one voice, of course!)

This is why I always encourage people who e-mail me wanting to get into VO to contact their local studios. Not only can it open the door to new work, studios are a great place to learn from people who make their living in voice over and production. Even as a professional voice actor, I'm always pleasantly surprised when I pick up a new production trick just by 'hanging out' for a couple of minutes after a voice session.

The week prior to moving to Tampa, I made sure to contact as many local studios as I could. It was a precautionary measure for me, just in case I ran into any problems setting up my own home studio. As it turns out, I did. Not with the studio itself, but with the location of our temporary housing. We are in the direct flight path of Tampa International, making it almost impossible to record anything longer than 1-2 minutes all in one session!

Instead of stressing myself out, and taking the risk of submitting any work that wasn't the quality I am accustomed to, I opted to use a local studio to record in. Ron Rose of Tampa came to the rescue! In the past week, I've recorded 5 episodes of Raggs over ISDN, a variety of projects for Highlights Magazine, and there are still several sessions on the books for the week ahead. I decided it was worth it to me to keep up my normal recording standards, even if it did mean a little less profit for the month.

However, it turned out to be a win for me all the way around! I've met some great people at the studio, and know when it comes time to re-set up my own studio (which will hopefully be soon!), I have new friends to call in case of emergency!

Now, (to quote Monty Python) on to something completely different:

It's not exactly news that we are in the middle of an economic crisis brought on (in part) by the housing boom over the past several years and the eventual burst of the housing bubble. Florida is one of the markets experiencing a major housing depression, meaning many people owe more on their homes than the houses are now worth. It's very sad, and there has been a huge rise in short sales and foreclosures because of it.

Again and again my husband and I have been told how lucky we are to be moving to Florida right now, just imagine the deals we can get! Sadly, this is not the case. Inventory is low, despite the fact that homes are indeed selling in this market! Twice in the past 2 months, we've decided to possibly put an offer on a house, only to see it disappear to someone who beat us to the punch! Yes, contrary to popular belief, there are buyers out there! But also contrary to popular belief, there just aren't many houses.

After putting an offer on a house 2 weeks ago and going under contract, we received the news last week that the house didn't appraise for the agreed upon price. Now we are in a holding pattern trying to figure out where to go from here. We spent this past weekend driving around looking at more houses. It's remarkable how many homes you can find to rent, but there are just so few to buy!

With this election right around the corner, I urge everyone to weigh their options carefully. Please take the time to read up on what each candidate plans to do with their time in office. It's a sad day when a married couple, with good credit and the ability to get a loan, cannot get into a house. It's time to look forward and ask, what can we do now? How can we make this better?

Since I would rather not end on a negative note, let me add this:

Despite a few set backs in getting settled I've discovered that Florida is beautiful in the fall! The temperature has been dropping at night, making the mornings slightly cool. Then, it's breezy and warm during the day- perfect for being outdoors! I've also learned that the people in Tampa are some of the nicest around.

All in all, I do think we will really like it here!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Change

I've never been very good at dealing with change, and it's never been more evident than in the last ten days. Thankfully my move to Tampa went as smoothly as possible, all the way down to the animals behaving themselves quite nicely during the nine hour drive south.

I arrived in Tampa on Tuesday, Sept. 30th to a mild tropical downpour. My husband helped me unload the critters and my studio equipment during breaks in the rain. He honestly couldn't believe how much stuff I was able to cram into my little Honda!

My first full day in our rent house was spent watching painters paint the outside of the house mint green. Not a color I would have chosen, but it's not my house. On day two we began searching for our new home.

We've been told again and again that now was the perfect time to buy a house in Florida because their housing market is so depressed, just imagine the deals! Well, we've learned first hand that while the houses might not be as expensive as they were two years ago, they aren't exactly 'cheap'. And finding a house that is in good condition and won't take six months to get into because it's a short sale is next to impossible! Inventory is incredibly low because in this economy, people don't want to put their homes on the market unless they have to. We did find a couple of great homes in New Tampa (East of Tampa) and put an offer on one yesterday. We are waiting to see what happens.

As for the rental, despite being small- it is kinda cute. I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to live in this area, because I really thought this was where we would want to live permanently. Sadly, that is no longer the case. As I've learned in the last week, airplanes arrive and depart Tampa International from the North and the South. Therefore, any homes built North or South of the airport experience near constant flight traffic. Not so good when you make your living as a voice actor! So, I voice for a bit...wait for a plane...voice for a bit...plane...etc. This is the reason we've decided our next house will either be East or West of Tampa!!

On my 4th day in Tampa, I began putting my studio together. It's amazing how boxes can really dampen the sound in a room! Since we had many, many packed boxes to store, I decided to use them to 'pad' the walls in the spare room. While it isn't very pretty, it is quite effective! I was also thankful for the many diagrams and pictures I had taken when tearing down my studio in NC. Several knobs and buttons had been shifted in the move, and it only took a few minutes to get everything back to normal. In fact, I had to do a few pick up lines on a project I had voiced in NC- and you could barely tell a difference! I don't always come up with great ideas- so that one will most certainly be added to my list of good ones!

We haven't had much time yet to really explore Tampa, or Florida for that matter, so I'm very excited about a little trip I am taking tomorrow! Randy Thomas is having a book signing tomorrow in Ft Meyers for her new book "Voice For Hire". My good friend Caryn Clark offered to have me stay at her house if I decided to drive down, and I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to take a break from the boxes! Caryn was even kind enough to offer her studio so I could record a podcast I need to finish this weekend. I love that girl!

As I alluded to in the beginning of this blog- it hasn't been an easy week. I've discovered that I'm more of a cry baby than I ever knew I was (yes, I've cried every day since I arrived). I didn't know how attached I was to Charlotte, NC until I wasn't living there anymore. I've also learned I'm absolutely terrified of alligators, and lizards kinda creep me out too. However, there is nothing more beautiful than a Florida sky, and the folks down here are some of the nicest around. Plus- it's very funny to be driving around and see a peacock just walking down the street!

While I still have a few months before I'll be able to fully settle in (and finally figure out which box contains our drinking glasses!) I am glad we made the move to Tampa. Now I just have to convince my cat that the birds down here can eat him, not the other way around!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Packing Day

Today was officially 'packing day'. Of course, I've been packing boxes for a month and a half, but today was the day the movers arrived to get everything ready to load on the truck tomorrow morning for our big move to Florida!

It's been a crazy week for sure! Monday I was up until almost 2am finishing a couple of voice over projects. On Tuesday I sent an e-mail informing everyone I would be tearing down my NC studio and heading south. I decided to call a couple of Tampa studios to set up my back up plan in case I have any problems during the move. I also wanted to find out ISDN rates since we'll be renting for a couple of months while we look for a house. My plan has been to set up ISDN in my studio as soon as possible, so I knew I needed a place to go in the meantime. During one of these calls, I was blindsided by some surprising news!

Apparently, Verizon- the main carrier in Tampa- has stopped setting up ISDN. Period. In a panic I posted some questions on one of the voice over boards, and made a few calls. As it turns out, I think I will be able to get ISDN- it will just require some leg work. It was very difficult to get anyone to understand why I would want ISDN- since most people think it's related to internet. With the creation of fios, or optical strands, which work much faster than the old copper wires, why would anyone want 'old' technology? My friend Bob Souer called to let me know that ISDN must run on copper wires, which I relayed to Verizon.

I must say, Verizon was fantastic with their customer service. Someone got back to me quickly, and gave me an e-mail address to send potential home addresses to. They will look up the homes we are considering for purchase and let me know if they can support ISDN. While it's a little weird that my next home will depend on whether there are copper wires nearby, I'm thankful to have a glimmer of hope that this problem may be solved!!

Wednesday my mother arrived to help pack, which has been wonderful! It took 6 hours to tear down my studio and pack everything into their original boxes. I was meticulous about documenting exactly how my mic-pre and Mbox were set. I drew diagrams and took photos of every button and knob so I could reset everything in my new studio just as it was. Despite taking forever, it wasn't as hard as I thought it might be to pack an entire studio.

Then, we were thrown another curve ball. Yesterday we received word that there is a major gas shortage in Charlotte (where I live currently). My mom took the car to see if she could find anywhere to fill up (I had about half a tank) and came back frustrated, and with the gas tank a little more empty, after hitting 8 stations and finding nothing.

Today, when the packers had finished, I set out for South Carolina with the hopes of finding someplace...anyplace, that might have gas. As I was driving down the road I noticed a long line of cars pulled over. Figuring this was more than likely my best shot, I got in line. 45 minutes later I pulled into a Citgo and was directed by one of several attendants to pump 1. Ahhh...gas!!! I filled up the car and just before pulling out I look back to see what I guess to be around 50 cars in line behind me. Then I heard one of the attendants say they were about to run out. Yikes.

So, as I prepare to watch my belongings loaded into a truck, in the back of my mind I'm hoping everything can just make it to Florida! I hear that once you get past the middle of South Carolina, things go back to normal. Thank goodness!

Tomorrow I head to a hotel to wait for the closing on Monday, then I'll be loading 2 cats, a dog, a trunk full of hard drives, a mic-pre, an Mbox, a couple of mics, a library of music and SFX, oh- and some clothes- and heading to my next home where my husband awaits!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Latest...

I've just returned from a fantastic weekend in Denver, CO at the Nan Desu Kan anime convention. For quite some time I've wanted to host a panel and discuss the steps one needs to take to begin a career in voice over. NDK gave me the opportunity, and the panel was a blast!

I tried to give real-world, practical advice and even had 4 people come up and voice auditions from real anime sides. They blew me away with how great each of them was! It occurred to me that the reason they were so good is because they are fans of anime. It's like DB Cooper always says, "If you want to voice videogames, play videogames"! I took several questions, and was surprised by how thorough the fans were. They asked about everything from demos, to agents, to unions! I did my best to give completely honest answers, and I hope everyone was able to walk away with a little insight into the voice over industry.

While I was in Denver, my husband sent me a link to an an article written about him in the Tampa Tribune. Chris recently became the new morning and noon meteorologist for Tampa Bay's 10 (WTSP) and the article announced his arrival. I was flattered that the reporter even included a small mention of me and my voice over business!

Speaking of Tampa, our relocation is still underway. While I was in Denver, we put an offer on a house north of Tampa, but were beat out by another offer that came in a few hours before ours. Since I am headed to Tampa on September 30th, we've decided that renting a house is going to be best temporarily. I think we've found a great rental that will allow our pets, and has plenty of space for me to set up my studio (and it's in a quiet neighborhood!). Once we're settled, we will resume our search for our next home.

Fortunately, I've been able to keep up with my voice over work between packing and talking to Realtors. I've even had the opportunity to work ahead on a few projects, to allow for the time necessary to make the transition. Unfortunately, I've fallen behind on answering e-mails from people asking questions about how to get into the business. If you are reading this, and are wondering why I haven't answered your questions...I promise I will once things settle back down! Feel free to re-send your e-mail if you like, but please understand if it takes a few weeks to receive a response. For now, I want to make sure my focus remains with my fantastic clients, and having a successful move.

On that note, my last day in my NC studio will be September 24th. On the 25th, I will begin packing my equipment to get it out of the way of the movers (all of my equipment will come to Tampa with me- I'm too paranoid to let anyone else touch it- heh). I will be sure to let everyone know when I am back up and running. I'm in the process of contacting studios nearby I can use for ISDN until we are settled in our permanent FL home. I don't expect more than 7-10 days of downtime.

Of course, I'll be posting updates as often as possible here on my blog :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Two Years Today!

September 7th, 2006 was the day I made the decision to go full-time with voice over. It was something I had considered for years, but never felt brave enough to take the plunge. I remember so well the weight that was instantly lifted off my shoulders when my decision was final. I knew I had a ton of work ahead of me, but I looked forward to each and every adventure!

It's hard to believe it has already been two years since that day- it feels like yesterday! Two whole years later, and I still wake up every morning thrilled to walk the 50 feet to work.

I like to keep very detailed records of my business, and every few months I do a year to year comparison. My first year full-time was better than I could have ever expected. I was lucky- I went into the year with my plate already pretty full. In the first few months of that first year I recorded a new anime, a couple of videogames, and began recording Raggs for PBS. My business continued to grow as my different marketing efforts took effect.

This year has been no different. I'm fortunate to have seen significant growth in the amount of clients and the quality of jobs I get to do! It is such a joy to do this work that I love so much, and I can't begin to express my gratitude to my fantastic clients and colleagues!

I spent a portion of the day today working on a project for a client that has joined me in the past year, Highlights. It is truly a pleasure to work with such a large company...and one I grew up with no less! In the past few months alone, I've had the opportunity to voice several videogames, a few animation projects, dozens of radio and TV commercials, e-learning projects, and a few narrations. What an awesome opportunity each has been! I've also picked up a new agent that I'm very excited about, and have had the chance to audition for some incredible projects in the past couple of weeks.

As I enter my third year full-time there are many changes on the horizon. At this moment, as I sit here typing, I am surrounded by boxes and bubble wrap. I'm getting things packed up to head to my new home in Tampa, FL. Where that new home will be exactly remains to be seen (we are still in the looking process) but I will soon be a Floridian regardless of the exact location!

I am sad to leave dear VO friends here in NC I've met over the past 2 years such as Bob Souer, Brian Haymond, Rowell Gorman, Donovan Corneetz, and so so many others! The fantastic studios I've worked at like The GroundCrew, Concentrix, and CHP. I will miss my amazing local agent, LuAnne, who is the sole reason I still do on-camera work!

Of course, the best part about being a full-time voice actor is that they are all one ISDN line away! I will continue to work with each and every one of them through the magic of technology, and for this I am beyond thankful!

Speaking of new technology, this move to Florida will also allow me to set up a new studio- which is always exciting! My third year full-time is sure to bring about many new adventures, and many pieces of new equipment- oh yeah!

As of now, I am planning to head south the first week of October, and I can't wait to meet my new Tampa VO friends I've met online!

It's been a fantastic, wild, emotional, incredible voice over journey thus far...and I love that it's really only just begun!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Don LaFontaine


I received an e-mail yesterday with the sad news of Don LaFontaine's passing.

We are in the business of words, yet the right words seem hard to come by today.

Don had a way of touching lives. I had the great fortune of meeting Don last year in Las Vegas at the VOICE conference. My mother attended Don's panel with me, and took the photo above.

My mom, with no knowledge or real interest in voice over, left that panel saying she had an enormous respect for Mr. LaFontaine. He made us laugh, he made us want to know him better, he made us want to be a little more like him. Whether you loved him for his talent, or his ability to tell a great story...you loved him. Instantly.

After the panel, Don stayed long enough to take photos with every person in that room. He certainly didn't have to do this, and we would not have thought less of him for leaving. Yet, he stayed and shook every hand.

I am deeply saddened by Don's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with, and will continue to be with, Don's family and friends.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Burning The Midnight Oil

Last night I did something I've never done...I shot a TV commercial in the middle of the night! My co-stars? A lovely lady named Greer and some animatronic swine.

I can't give too many details about the project just yet, but I thought I'd at least tell the story of my late night adventure.

It started at 8:45pm. That's when I got in my car to make the 30 minute drive to a town west of Charlotte. Remnants of Fay are providing some much needed rain to our area, and my rain gauge says my backyard alone has seen around 5 inches in the last few days. I drove slowly to my destination through tropical-like downpours.

I arrived just before 9:30pm, my call time. The reason for the overnight shoot was because we were filming in a restaurant during their off hours. One of the assistants helped me with my bags of clothes as we dodged giant rain puddles and a nice breeze that blew the water right into my face (despite an umbrella).

At 10pm, the make-up artist began trying to undo what Fay had done...and he had his work cut out for him! Once my co-star was made-up and ready (Greer, not the animatronic little beast), we began shooting. Since Greer and I are in every scene, we spent the next several hours repeating our lines as the camera caught us from every possible angle.

Now, I've shot more than a few commercials in my time, and this was the first time something horrible happened to me...the later it got- I simply could not remember my lines!! After the 2am hour struck, my brain shut off. Fortunately, I wasn't alone- the late night sleepies got Greer as well. I would mess up, and we'd start over...she'd mess up, and we'd start over. This happened for about 8 takes. Finally, we stood up- shook it off- and nailed the take they needed.

At about 3am, we broke for 'lunch'. Because the commercial takes place during the day, large spotlights had been set up outside to create the illusion of a sunny day. Sheets of paper were added to the windows to hide the massive amounts of rain falling outside. My body was completely confused. I'd been awake for 19 hours, yet it was sunny!

The shoot wrapped earlier than expected, and we were all on our way at about 4am. I called my husband as I drove home, knowing he would just have arrived at work. He kept me alert long enough to get me home safely, and I was sound asleep by 5am.

I've filmed desert scenes in 31 degree temps, I've stood in a huddle for 4 hours straight...but this was a shoot I will never forget! Despite extreme fatigue, we pulled it together and made it work (to quote Tim Gunn). The client was very happy, and we all can't wait to see the finished product!

As a funny side note...I'll let you in on a little secret about me. I am terrified of puppets, people in costumes, and things that move when they shouldn't. It's not something I'm proud of...but the Hamburgler at McDonald's seriously freaks me out! All that to say, this was my first experience acting with animatronics. I have no idea what my expressions will look like in the finished spot, but I sincerely hope my terror doesn't show! Keeping a smile on my face as a pile of silicone blinked, shed, and wrinkled it's nose may go down as one of my hardest assignments yet! I never told a soul on set about my little fear, lest it cause any unnecessary stress, but I guess it's ok to admit it now that we're done :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Adventure Continues

It's been 12 days since I returned home from LA, and I can only think of 2 words to describe those days...

Whirl. Wind.

OK, technically that would be one word, but it feels more appropriate to give each syllable it's due attention.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, my husband and I have made the decision to relocate from Charlotte, NC to Tampa, FL. Things have moved at a lightning fast pace, and we are well on our way to making the transition!

After having our house repainted, and making a few upgrades here and there- we put the house on the market this past Tuesday. It had its first showing Wednesday, and its first offer Wednesday night. Seriously. We always knew it was a great house, and had a feeling it might go quickly- but...WOW! Of course, we've heard all the warnings and horror stories of 'today's market' so we are prepared for whatever may happen next. We are hopeful everything goes smoothly, and we will be able to take the next step- looking for our new home in Tampa!

Since this is a blog about all things voice over, I want to be sure I write about my experiences of trying to relocate a home studio while maintaining the same quality of service I've always provided.

Let me tell ya, it ain't easy. (Sorry, but this was a moment for a little west Texas lingo)

Throughout the past week, I have tried to call as many of my regular clients as possible to let them know about the move and what they can expect from me in the coming months. The wonderful thing about having a home studio, is that my work can truly go anywhere- so none of my clients had any concerns.

I did discover that it is impossible to work with a house full of painters, so that did put me 2 days behind. Not only are they noisy, but the paint fumes get into your throat and literally make it impossible to properly use your voice. Once the fumes cleared out, it was back to work. Only, the next step was staging and getting the house ready to go on the market. I managed to complete a couple of smaller jobs between packing keepsakes and pictures and moving furniture around- but it would be a lie to say I wasn't relieved that a larger project had been put on hold because the client took a vacation! I don't know how I would have completed it otherwise.

On Thursday I received a big audition from one of my agents, and was thankful for a few quiet hours that morning to record it. Now, keep in mind...I pride myself on always giving 100% to everything I do...but this time I really fell flat. After sending in the audition, I received an e-mail from the agent. The e-mail asked me if I could record it again, because I sounded sleepy! Oh no! That has never happened to me before, and after listening back to my audition- I completely agreed. Embarrassed, I re-did the audition and sent a thank you note for allowing me a second shot. It was a wake-up call that I can't let what is happening around me affect my work. Period.

On Friday, between taking calls from my realtor and waiting for an estimate from a moving company- I received a call asking if I could record some tags for a TV spot. Fortunately, I had a quiet house at that moment, and just enough time to make it happen. The client was happy with the finished product, which let me know I had officially beaten the 'sleepies'!

Now that the initial craziness of putting the house on the market is behind us, I finally have a week ahead of me devoted completely to getting lots of work done. I plan to spend today catching up on paperwork and uploading files to my ftp, and getting a solid night's rest tonight.

I'm also in the process of memorizing a script for an on-camera job I have Tuesday night (my call time is 9:30pm and we plan to finish around 6am- yikes!). It should be a blast to film. The next 2 weeks will be interesting as things progress with the move, as we are hoping to make the big transition sometime in the first week of October. I guess we'll see!

I'll be sure to keep you posted as things progress :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Next Adventure...

Before heading to LA and VOICE, I alluded in my blog to something 'big' going on at my house...

While many of you already know the 'news', I wanted to make it official on my blog as well. In the next month or two, my husband and I will be leaving our beloved state of North Carolina and heading south to Tampa, FL!

My husband, Chris Suchan, will be the new morning and noon meteorologist for Tampa Bay's 10 (CBS)! We are very excited about the move, and I know Chris is looking forward to his new role in Tampa. He will be heading down soon, and will likely have his first live show in early September. I will stay behind to fulfill a few work commitments and oversee the sale of our home (please send good thoughts for a fast sale!).

This will be the first time that I have had to pack up and move an entire studio, and I am hoping to make it as seamless as possible! Of course, I will blog about my experiences along the way, should they help someone else in their own move someday.

We are very sad to be leaving our dear friends in Charlotte, but are looking forward to making new friends and embarking on many new adventures!

Since returning from VOICE at 2am Wednesday morning, I have been doing my best to get back into the swing of things. I've hit a bump or two...actually six...painters that is! I was awaken Wednesday morning at 8am by six painters coming in to get the house ready to be put on the market. Trying to work through the commotion and paint fumes proved impossible, so I am glad that they were finished in a record 2 days! Tomorrow will be a catch up day for me, so I can free up the weekend for packing and cleaning out closets.

OK- onto other things!

I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to the Charlotte Observer and Vanessa Willis for an incredible article written about me and my VO business in Sunday's paper. Because I was in LA, I didn't get to see the article until I finally had a moment to sit down and read it while waiting for my plane at LAX. It is such a well-written piece, and is incredibly flattering. They even included a few photos of my home studio while I recorded! The timing is ironic with the new knowledge that I will be leaving Charlotte, but it just shows how great the VO business is...I can take it with me! Thank you once again to Vanessa, Robert, and everyone at the Charlotte Observer. You have been very good to me over the last 7 years.

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/276/story/114530.html

On another note, if you are looking to buy a home in the Carolinas, I can help! No, not by selling you my own house (though- let me know if you are interested- hah!), but by guiding you through the Prudential Carolinas Realty website! Just go to www.prucarolinas.com and click on 'Tour Our Site' in the 'One Search' navigation bar. I will then pop up and explain the site! There are a total of 10 videos, and my feelings will be forever hurt if you don't sit through all 10. OK, not really :)

Finally, I wanted to take a moment and say thank you to James and Penny, the creators of VOICE. It was an incredible week filled with incredible connections, and new life-long friends. Thank you for keeping us inspired!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

VOICE 2008- Day Five

Currently, I am sitting at LAX waiting for my flight to take me back to North Carolina. I will spend most of the day on a plane, and won't arrive home until close to midnight my time. In the past hour, I've had to avoid the paparazzi as they chased some gorgeous blonde through the airport. She's now sitting a few feet from me in an airport coffee shop. Part of me wants to ask who she is, but most of me guesses she would prefer to just be left alone. A few minutes ago, I was approached by a woman wanting to know why young people wear high heels on airplanes. Sadly, since I'm a die-hard flip flop girl, I couldn't help her. Another young girl just sat down next to me and asked where I was headed. We talked a moment, she has been in LA for 6 months studying English and is headed back to her home in Mexico City. It occurs to me that the last hour pretty much sums up my time in LA...amazing people, amazing stories, a few strange and random moments...and lots of pictures!

Looking back over the past week, I am so thankful I made the decision to come to LA. I've been here many times before, but there was something special about this trip- something almost...magical.

I decided to sleep in a bit yesterday, as sleep is the one thing that has been missing this week! In the afternoon I headed to Studio City for a private class with Cynthia Songe. Cynthia's name jumped out at me about a month ago as I was looking online for coaches in the area. I'm someone who believes nothing is an accident, and I must always go with my gut. So, I contacted Cynthia who listened to my demos and agreed to drive down from her beach house for an hour session. Well, the hour was actually two hours (Cynthia was so kind to extend our session!), and we had a blast! Since she had already listened to my demos, she decided we should stay away from characters I'm used to voicing, and go for the characters no one would ever picture me voicing. It was wonderful practice, and reminded me to never shy away from a role- I'm more versatile that I give myself credit for!

As I was leaving the studio, Cynthia asked if I wanted to use the restroom before departing. I did, so we said our goodbyes and I went into a different section of the building. As I was leaving, the studio engineer Alex asked how my session went. I told him all about it, and he asked if I knew 'Chuck'? I didn't- so 'Chuck' and I spent a few minutes chatting. He was one of the most fun and completely cool people I've run across in a long time. He asked for my card so he could check out my demos online. Of course, I gave him one! As I was walking to my car, I looked down at the card he had handed me...the name? Chuck Doran!! That's when it hit me who Chuck was- he's a fantastic demo producer Nancy Wolfson had mentioned to me as someone to possibly produce my promo demo. Like I said, there are no accidents in this world, and it was a pleasure to meet Chuck face to face.

After that, I drove a few miles to Wally Wingert's house to tag along with him to his Bleach session. It was a pleasure to see the studio and meet Wendee Lee, the director of Bleach. We had several friends in common, and spent a few minutes chatting before Wally got down to business. Well, it is no doubt why Wally has the reputation as one of the best in the biz- it was incredibe how believable and in the moment his characters are. Plus, he's a total blast in the studio- so I can see why he's cast again and again!

Following that session, we drove to another Studio in Burbank so Wally could preview the trailer to a DVD project he's been working on. When I get home, I will be sure to post links to some of his work on YouTube...Wally is a genius!!

Afterward, we had dinner and I can say that Wally has forever changed the way I look at voice over. We discussed VO, unions, and voice matching. I'm keeping our conversation just between us- but Wally truly inspired me...I can't wait to get home and get to work! I still can't believe Wally took so much time out of his day to hang with me...he really has a heart of gold.

Before heading back to the hotel, I joined my dear friend Kyle Hebert for dessert...that ended up lasting over 2 hours! I caught Kyle up on the week, and took the time to congratulate him on all his success since moving to LA. I'm so proud of my Kyle!!!

I finally made it to bed about 1am, and got up this morning bright and early to get packed and head to the airport. I was shocked when I went to check my e-mail and had very kind notes from Joe Cipriano and Beau Weaver...have I mentioned how much I love this business? Well, I do.

Like I already said, this was a perfect week. I networked, I made new friends...and I find myself renewed in my own passions for voice over. What stuck out to me the most is how wonderful the people are in this business. Joe, Beau, Wally, etc, etc, do not need to take time out of their very successful careers to help others, yet they do. They give back, and I believe that's what makes them truly great.

My thanks to James, Penny, John Florian, Bobbin Beam, and a hundred others for your hard work...but especially for your friendship. Here's to VOICE 2009!

On a different note, while I was away in LA- my local paper, the Charlotte Observer wrote a feature on me in Sunday's paper. It can be found online at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/276/story/114530.html (I'll link to it when I get home) My HUGE thanks to the Observer and Vanessa Willis for such a wonderful article!!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

VOICE 2008- Day Four

I made a goal this week to blog every night before bed. I almost made it! Unfortunately, I was just too tired to even see the keyboard last night!

Yesterday began for me when I attended a session with Joyce Castellanos. Joyce is a promo and trailer VO expert, and I was really interested in hearing more about voicing promos. Joyce is one of the sweetest, most wonderful people I've ever met. You would never guess her incredible knowledge of the industry until she starts to speak! Joyce defined the main differences between voicing promos and voicing trailers (promos are more personal, the VO must have an emotional connection to the story and speak with a broader band of inflection, while trailers are more objective with less inflection). She spoke on the differences between comedy, dramady, and dramas. She also said that if you want to get into promo VO, research is your best friend. The more you can research the different types of shows, the better the chance of understanding the script when it is handed to you. Some of my favorite advice Joyce gave was that all scripts are stories, with a beginning, middle, and end. When doing voice over, you must commit completely to your decisions, but be willing to change with direction.

Sadly, since no time had been given for lunch, I had to miss Larry Maizlish's session. Instead, I ran to the food court for a wonderful lunch with Bob and Eric Souer, Bobbin Beam, Chris Rollins, and several other VO's.

When we returned, we met up with Caryn Clark to stake our claim for a front table during Joe Cipriano's promo panel...and what a panel it was!! Joining Joe was Paul Pape, Kat Cressida, Melissa Disney, Beau Weaver, Stew Herrera, and Townsend Coleman. A funny moment happened when Don LaFontaine tried to call in, and no one had a phone with good enough reception to talk to him! The panel was fun and informative to say the least! At the end, I got up to ask a question...I was curious about the one job they each had wanted but it got away. Beau answered, saying if he thought too much about it- he would go crazy. So, he always just let's it go once the audition is sent.

After the panel, I ran back to the hotel for a quick change and headed back for the celebrity banquet. Caryn Clark and I were joined by our dates for the evening, Bob and Eric Souer. Dinner was great, though we had a good laugh when my vegetarian meal looked like a pie crust, fortunately, it was a veggie pot pie and quite delicious! A magician warmed up the crowd, and then Dick Orkin and Christine Coyle took the stage along with James and Penny for an interview. It was a lot of fun, but did run a little long. Afterward, Caryn and I headed upstairs for a cocktail before calling it a night.

Since I have a session today with Cynthia Songe, and am tagging along with Wally Wingert to a VO session, followed by dinner with my dear friend Kyle Hebert- I opted to sleep in and call this a great ending to a successful conference!

Hopefully Pat Fraley will understand :) Something tells me his session this morning was packed and full of fun! I will be sure to blog about today's happenings before heading back to North Carolina. In fact, I've already booked up the rest of the week with work when I return...hope I'm able to catch up on sleep while flying home tomorrow!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

VOICE 2008- Day Three...and a Half

As I sit down to write out my thoughts and experiences of the day...it's dawned on me that I actually have to flip back through my program to remember where I've been today! Sad. But- it was another incredible day at VOICE!

My first session today was with my voice coach, and branding extraordinaire- Nancy Wolfson! Nancy can explain branding, and the importance of good branding like no one else. It was fun to watch the faces of the folks around me as they 'got it' (Nancy is responsible for my branding, FYI). Nancy talked about the importance of having a strong commercial VO core before plopping down tons of money on branding. Find out who you are as a voice artist and as a person, then hire a professional to guide you through the branding process. By targeting exactly what your sound is, and what you offer- you avoid confusing the consumer by being too broad and all-inclusive. She used cereal boxes to help demonstrate the point. You wouldn't want to open a box of Cocoa Puffs only to find it packed with wheat bran, would you? Same with voice over. Don't put up pictures of rainbows and unicorns on your website if you have a deep, rock and roll sound. Just because you like it, doesn't mean it's 'you'. She also had a variety of t-shirts and we went around the room finding the perfect voices that matched the shirts. I was matched to an adorable pink and purple girly t-shirt with sparkly stars. Not only did it match my voice- it's pretty cute!

After lunch with 'the girls', I attended the session with Randy Thomas. She spoke about the imprtance of dreams, and how being willing to let life guide you can take you to new heights. She was joined by Ariel Ford who taught us how to meditate in such a way as to bring about positive thoughts and feelings, which can help jump start positive changes in your life. Martha Quinn (original MTV VJ) was also there and spoke of her journey through the business. It was a wonderful session, and truly inspiring!

Following Randy's session was a panel with Bob Bergen, several LA agents, and casting directors. They spoke about their perspectives on the VO biz and took several questions from the audience- great stuff!

The last session of the day was one I had really been looking forward to. It was the profesisonal's panel with Peter Rofe. Also on the panel was Terri Apple, Rob Sciglimpaglia, David Guzzone, Keith Arem, and more! But- the man I had really been looking forward to meeting was VO talent, producer, writer, etc, etc- Wally Wingert! Wally does voices on Family Guy, Garfield, and many many more. (www.wallyontheweb.com) The panel took lots of questions from the audience, and gave out great advice. Following the panel, I hung around with my friends September Day Leach and Caryn Clark, waiting for a chance to speak to Wally. He couldn't have been a more humble, wonderful human being!! No one would ever guess the amount of credits on this guy's resume by the way he instantly draws everyone to him. No ego at all!! He even went so far as to invite a few of us at the panel over to his house to have some pizza! So, we drove to Studio City (thank goodness for the rental car) and got to tour Wally's museum...ahem, house. He has autographed and collectibly EVERYTHING! He has letters written to him by Andy Kaufman, Adam West (a good friend of his) and just about every celebrity you can imagine. He also collects movie memorabilia, his place is just too incredible to describe! When Wally found out I had done anime, he invited me to sit in on his next Bleach session this Monday- you better believe I'm gonna be there!!

So, it was another successful, exhausting, overwhelming, fabulous day!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

VOICE 2008- Day Two

Between you and me, I considered putting this post off until tomorrow, as I'm just plain beat from another amazing day! But, I figured it best to put pen to paper..ahem, fingers to keys while the memories were still somewhat fresh in my brain!

The day began at 8am. I received a phone call from my local newspaper with some follow-up questions to an article being written (details to come on Sunday!). Then, I had some other work to take care of...so sadly, I missed both morning sessions at VOICE. Dagummit!

I arrived at the Hyatt at noon, and joined Bobbin Beam, Rick Reid, and a few other voice actors for a quick lunch. After some chit-chat, I went to my first session with Gabrielle Nistico from Voice Hunter. She spoke about the ins and outs of radio imaging. It was truly fascinating, and incredibly informative! Sitting next to me was Rick Party from the VO Universe, an imaging VO extraordinaire! I kept looking over to him for his reaction to Gabby's presentation. It was awesome to see him mouth, 'she's REALLY good' over and over :) I wish I could write out everything she taught, but honestly- there was so much info, it would take me the rest of my time in LA! One of the points she did discuss is the time frame to use when marketing to radio stations. She said most imaging contracts are up in the 4th and 1st quarter of the year, therefore- target most of your marketing in the 3rd and 2nd quarters, just before they are looking for voices. She also showed us how ad-libbing in radio imaging can really raise your value with a station. Great stuff all around!!

After an intermission, I attended the session with Richard Horvitz. My friend and voice coach, Nancy Wolfson had mentioned that Richard's session would be right up my alley, and she was correct!! Richard is so full of life, and really had everyone waiting on the edge of their seats to see what he would say next! It was such a fun session! Richard discussed his daily mantra, "I am enough because I am a human being". I think I will be borrowing that from him! My other favorite thing he mentioned is that there is no right or wrong way to do voice over...only a healthy and un-healthy way. Meaning, if we spend our time second guessing ourselves, or talking ourselves down...we will never be as great as we could be. He was such an inspiration!! After the session, I took a quick photo with Richard and spent some time chatting- what a great guy! I plan to make it back to LA at some point to study with him further.

After the final session of the day, I ran upstairs to check e-mail. While trying to figure out why the wireless internet wasn't working, I ran into Bob Bergen and Deb Munro who were headed to dinner with Marc Cashman, John Taylor, Stefan Chinell, Steven from Audio Technica, and a few others. They were kind enough to invite me along, so I decided it was a great time for some food and great company! Bob had to leave during the meal to attend the AFTRA evening panel. The rest of us chatted, ate, and had a wonderful time. Following dinner, I snuck into the AFTRA panel, where the voice cast from the long-time series "Land Before Time" were speaking. It was wonderful!

At the panel, I ran into Caryn Clark, who was coming back from dinner with Randy Thomas and Peter Rofe. We all hopped over to the bar for a drink and a chat before calling it a night. Peter is a hoot! I can't wait for his panel on Sunday! I've already let him know that he simply must introduce me to Wally Wingert :)

Needless to say, it was another fantastic day here in LA! I'm exhausted (again) but looking forward to tomorrow!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

VOICE- Day One

Well, it's finally here- the VOICE conference is officially in full swing- and what an event this is shaping up to be!

Let me start from the beginning of this amazing day...Since I was still on east coast time, I woke up around 5am and struggled to lay in bed until 7am. Just before 8am, my phone rang and it was my friend and fellow voice actor Caryn Clark. Since she is very close friends with Randy Thomas (voice of the Oscars, Emmys, Hooked on Phonics, The Insider, ET- and everything else you can think of!), she had been invited by Randy to visit the LA set of The Insider and ET. Caryn and I had made plans to tour LA today, so Caryn asked Randy if I could come along. She said yes!!

So, we arrived at Paramount Studios around 10am and went to the set to watch Randy record the voice over for that day's shows. It was an incredible process to watch. I learned a ton, and developed even more respect for Randy than I already had, which I didn't think possible! We had lunch on the lot, and then Randy took us to the new set of The Insider and ET over at the Studio City lot. While there, we met Kevin Frazier who couldn't have been nicer. It was a great day!

Once we got back to the Hyatt, we registered for VOICE. In the lobby we ran into September Day Leach, Terry Daniel, and Erik Shepard. I ran back to my hotel for a quick shower before the red carpet event.

The red carpet event began at 6pm. The first person I recognized was Beau Weaver as we arrived at about the same time. We chatted a bit, and then went downstairs to where the event was held. I saw Pat Fraley, Bob Bergen, Melissa Disney, Joe Cipriano, and old pals like Bobbin Beam, Julie Williams, Larry Wayne, Bob Souer (and his son Eric), Nina Baeza, Dave Courvosier, Gabby from Voice Hunter...honestly- this list can go on and on and on...it was nearly 3 hours of meeting, greeting, chatting, laughing, networking...and lots of other 'ings'. Really, it was so wonderful to see old friends, new friends, and soon to be friends!

When my feet could take no more, my long-time friend Kyle Hebert, Caryn, fellow anime voice actor John, and I went down to the XBar for some food (since they only serve apetizers, we ordered about 6-7 different ones to make a meal). Kyle and I told lots of stories from our days working together at Radio Disney, probably boring Caryn and John to pieces! It was a great cap off to a great evening.

However, even having met tons of people, I know there were many I missed- so I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend and the chance to meet even more people!

As I stood outside waiting for my car at the end of the night, a guy asked me what I was in LA for. I told him a conference for voice actors. He asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was...a voice actor. He asked if he had heard my voice and I rattled off a small bit of my VO resume. He stood shaking his head, and finally said, "I really like the Simpsons". I told him I had recently won a contest for the best Lisa Simpson sound-a-like. As my rental Kia pulled up and stopped, I had to admit, "and yet clearly...that's nothing compared to being the real thing..."

So here's to a great weekend and making that one connection that earns me at least a rental Honda by VOICE 2009!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

VOICE 2008- Day Zero

Since VOICE doesn't officially begin until tomorrow, I decided to label this 'Day Zero' as it is my first day of this trip.

It began at 5:45am EDT when I woke up and finished packing for my 8:40am flight out of Charlotte. The flight was delayed, making my connection in Atlanta a rather tight one! Fortunately, I made the plane, and despite the passenger seated near me smelling like cat urine- it was a rather harmless flight. I must say, I am oh-so impressed with the cool new touch screens in the seats! I killed the four hour trip by watching re-runs of Curb Your Enthusiasm and some awful movie starring Ashton Kutcher.

I arrived in LA around 1pm, and grabbed a rental car to head to my hotel. I am not staying at the Hyatt where VOICE is being held- I'm just down the road at the Marriott. It's quite nice!

After a quick bite to eat and check of e-mail, I headed over to Nancy Wolfson's house for a private session. I've been studying with Nancy over the phone for about a year now, and this was my first time meeting her face to face. My first impression was that she is really beautiful! I would kill for that bone structure...but I digress. She is as dynamic, informative, and fun in person as she is over the phone. We worked on mic technique- and I really learned a lot! In fact, I'm anxious to put my new 'stance' into practice when I return!

When I got back to the hotel, I gave my friend and fellow voice actor, Caryn Clark, a call. She also arrived in LA today, and we agreed to meet for dinner. It's always fun to see the 'face behind the voice' and we had a great evening!! In fact, we've already made plans to hit Rodeo Drive and the pool tomorrow :). Since the Marriott is only about a half mile from the Hyatt, I decided to walk. I don't think I'll do that again. The distance is fine, but these are big streets and the cars everywhere scared me! Plus, it's never wise to walk alone at night...so I'll just have to pay the extra parking fees at both hotels. Oh well.

All in all it was a great first...ahem, zero-eth day! Since it is now around 9pm on the Pacific coast- that means my body thinks it is just after midnight. I am exhausted! I am so tired in fact, that I don't even plan to double check this post for mis-spellings and gramatical errors...my appologies!

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's red carpet event, and I'm really wishing I had had the time to get that pedicure I so desperately need. Oh well, hopefully no one will look at my feet.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Headed to VOICE

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks for me to say the least...the details of which I will delve into in blogs to come.

However, in my immediate future I will be heading to LA for my second VOICE conference. 2007 was a huge success, and I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones again this year.

I fly out this Wednesday, and am really excited to finally meet my long-time voice coach and friend, Nancy Wolfson, in person. I've scheduled a private lesson with Nancy just hours after my plane arrives in LA. Then, it's off to the hotel for a bit of rest before the festivities begin on Thursday evening with the red carpet party.

I'm planning to attend sessions with Nancy, Gabriele Nistico from Voice Hunter (you can check out my new Voice Hunter page here!), Chris M. Allport, Julie Williams, Randy Thomas, Joyce Castellanos, Larry Maizlish, and of course all of the keynote speakers and panel guests! I'm also very excited about meeting some of the people I've previously only known online.

Here's the best part, John Florian from Voice Over Xtra has assembled what he calls his 'Dream Team' of bloggers to fill everyone in on the week's festivities. You will be able to read about VOICE from 5 different perspectives (including John's). I am very honored that I have been asked to be one of the contributors, along with Bob Souer, Dave Courvoisier, and Bobbin Beam.

You can read more about it here...and be sure to check the front page of Voice Over Xtra starting this Wednesday and going through Monday. Whether you are at the conference, or you are unable to attend, I hope you'll take a few moments to read the blogs and tell us about your experiences as well!

On a side note, I alluded at the beginning of this post to having a hectic week outside of heading to VOICE. I'll be going into details when I get back from LA, but thought I would share an amusing story in the meantime...

As I was sitting at my computer this evening printing out scripts and checking e-mail, I heard a scratching sound behind my desk. Looking around, I noticed that my dog and two cats were all accounted for, so no- it wasn't coming from them. I heard it again, and immediately ripped everything out from under the table to get a good look and saw...nothing. Then it happened again, so I grabbed a flashlight and alerted my husband that there was clearly a rat under my desk and it was probably going to eat through all the cables of my recording gear. He reminded me that we have two cats, and it was unlikely that a mouse was living in my studio. Then, I heard it again- and with my nerves rocked to the core, I began to pull the desk (computer, mic-pre, MBox and all) away from the wall. That's when I saw movement...

No, it wasn't a mouse or a rat or a vermin of any type...it was a piece of paper in the printer that had come out slightly crooked and was scratching against another paper each time the air conditioner hit it.

The moral of the story? In between sessions at VOICE, you most likely will find me relaxing by the pool with a lovely umbrella drink...it is time for a vacation!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Thoughts From the Week

I've always been a big believer in Karma and the Golden Rule (do unto others...). Therefore I made my own rule when I first went full-time with voice over: I would always be willing to help out my friends should they need a voice for a project, period. I don't believe money should always be the motivation for doing something I love. Sure, we should be fairly compensated for our talents, but sometimes it's ok to do this job just because we love it, and because we are needed.

Case in point...a couple of weeks ago I got a call from an old friend. He needed a short voice over for a government project he was working on for a local college. They didn't have much of a budget for voice over, and he was looking for someone willing to work pro bono. Since we've known each other for quite some time, I jumped at the chance to see an old pal.

I drove uptown to record the piece, and worked with them on a few script changes during the session. A few days later, I received a call that some of the dates had been incorrect and could I return to record a short pick-up? Of course!

Here's where I believe Karma kicked in...when I was finished with the project, they took me on a walk around the studio. It turns out this studio was getting ready to hold a casting for an animation they were doing. Since I was already in the building, they threw a script my way and invited me to audition!

Perhaps I would have received a call to come in and audition anyway, but perhaps not. I was in the right place at the right time on this particular day. Since I was the only one auditioning, I was able to provide multiple takes, really having fun with the characters. I'm not sure if in the end I will be cast in a part or not, but I'm a believer that just being given the opportunity is 95% of the battle!

Of course, I would have been more than happy helping out regardless of any 'payback' that came my way, but it is always nice when there are unexpected rewards!

On a different note, I've been thinking quite a bit about this blog lately. I do my best to write something every week, while not always succeeding with the frequency. Lately I've noticed less and less visits to the blog, and much fewer comments. I'm fine with this, as the blog is really just an outlet for my thoughts. However, I am curious...are more readers subscribing to the RSS feed, having blog posts delivered to their e-mail, thereby making it so they don't have to visit individual blogs? Could this be why fewer comments are made on this and many other blogs? Or, is it possible that with so many voice actors creating new blogs, that there are simply too many to check on a weekly basis?

An advantage I find to having readers subscribe to the RSS feed is that there is less pressure on me to deliver something new on a daily/weekly basis. I feel like I can post a new blog when I have time, and when I have something relevant to share. The drawback is that I miss the conversation that happens when people leave comments on blogs. I'm curious how others in the blog-o-sphere feel about it?

Finally, one last thought from this past week. As a voice actor, I often find it hard to tear myself away from my studio. I always have a script waiting to be recorded, an e-mail needing to be addressed, or a client needing to be called. It's difficult in this business of last minute jobs to walk away and leave the mic behind. Fortunately, I made the decision last week to do just that. After a job I did in Texas, my sister, nephew, and I took a few days to drive to west Texas to visit my grandpa (I wrote about it in a previous blog). Yes, I'm paying for it this week with a pile of work...but it was worth every minute to spend time with my family. I find it is important to remember to always be there for my clients...but to also be there for myself.

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Avoid The Distractions

As you can tell, I've gotten a bit behind on my blogging as of late. I made the attempt at writing a new blog last week and it went something like this:

It's funny to me that several people recently have commented that my new camera (a Nikon D60) takes great pictures...but really, isn't the photographer the one taking the pictures? Much like in voice over, when so much discussion is had over microphones, when acting lessons should really come first. Great equipment is essential, but solid training should always come first.

Unfortunately, that was all I could come up with at the time, so I never posted that blog. Plus, since I am not a photographer and have never taken a photography class...I really wasn't in the position to rant! However, I am a voice actor...and this is a blog about all things voice over related...so I thought I'd share a story from this past week that I hope might inspire you in your daily voice acting life.

My grandfather, Herman, will be 93 this year. Now, I'm fortunate to be married to a wonderful man, and to have an incredible father-in-law...but I often say my grandfather is the greatest man alive. He still spends his days on the cotton farm out in West Texas, and never misses a Sunday at church. I've been trying to plan a trip out to see him, because it's been too long since my last visit, but work and life just keep getting in the way.

Since I am planning to spend a week in LA in August to attend VOICE 2008 and receive some private coaching, I have been doing my best to work ahead and complete as many projects as possible over the next couple of weeks. (I have projects every month that I just can't get behind on) I'm a planner, and I had mapped out my July perfectly...or so I thought!

This past Saturday I received a call, I was needed in Texas to record a project. They would need me there the week of July 21st. I immediately thought of my grandfather- wouldn't it be wonderful to also take the 5 hour drive West to see him, since I'll be in Texas anyway? Looking back at the calendar, I realized there was just no way.

Sunday morning we went to church. Now, regardless of what your beliefs are- we can all admit that the simple answers are often right in front of us if we'll just take the time to look. At the end of the service our Pastor offered a prayer. He prayed that as we went on with our week, we wouldn't let the little distractions of the days keep us from realizing the gifts we are given.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been so caught up in busy, busy, busy that I hadn't realized how amazing it was that I had just been given a free trip to Texas in which I could do some work, and then go see my grandfather like I had been wanting to for so long.

I came home, looked closely at my calendar and realized it would be no problem at all to make this happen. Sure, I'll have to work a little harder this week (and believe me- I have been!), and it will have to be a shorter trip than I would have liked...but I get to see my grandpa and that is the greatest gift of all.

I hope that as you struggle through the week, whether it's trying to fit all the work in, or trying to bring the work to you, that you'll take a minute to appreciate the gifts in your own life. I've been reminded that when you do, the rest just falls into place.

As a side note: anyone wanting to see the photos my new camera takes can check out my Flickr page. I'm sure you'll see why I plan to stick to voice acting :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Membership Level at Voices.com

Stephanie from Voices.com sent me an e-mail today with information about their new platinum membership service on the site...

The Platinum Membership includes your very own Voices.com website as well as listings on 10 niche voice over websites, a public relations campaign, ad placement on the Voices.com advertising network, 100 MB of storage for your MP3 voice-over demos, videos, priority ranking in the search results and unlimited Featured Talent Directory listings, and access to the industry's hottest freelance voice-over jobs.

You can read more about it at VOX Daily or on the Voices.com site.

I can see where this would be a great investment in one's voice over career, but I've always been known to take my time in making business decisions. Only the first 100 people will be allowed to sign on, so if this is something you are interested in, you'll want to jump on it. The price of an annual membership is $1,995.

I'm curious what folks think of this new step from Voices, and if you think the other sites will follow suit. Feel free to leave a comment, as I'm interested to hear opinions!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Getting Through the Week...

As a full-time voice actor, we often encounter weeks where several large projects need to be recorded in a short amount of time. For me, last week was one of those weeks.

In one short week I needed to record and produce a multitude of projects, any one of which would have taken several days by themselves. I hadn't planned for all of these projects to coincide, but they did! As voice actors, we need to always be prepared to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. These are a few of the things I did last week that I believe made it possible to complete all of my work on time:

1. Make a schedule. First thing Sunday evening, I sat down and mapped out how long I believed each project would take and the order I felt was best to record them in. I decided to leave the projects that would strain my vocals the most for the end of the week, knocking out the 'straight stuff' first.

2. Get ready to throw out the schedule! First thing Monday morning, a project came up that needed to be recorded right away. Then, a call came that a studio uptown needed me to record a project the following afternoon. Finally, I was asked to record another project outside of my studio later in the week. As new projects presented themselves, I was constantly modifying my plan of attack. Needless to say, I quickly figured out that I needed to...

3. Ignore the phone. Don't get me wrong here, don't ignore your studio phone- always be there when your clients need you! The calls to ignore are the ones from your friends and family that want to chit chat. I sent an e-mail on Monday to my family letting them know I was on a self-imposed phone ban for the week. I remember reading once that you strain your voice more on the phone than in person because you need to project more, therefore the phone was off limits unless absolutely necessary! I also kept conversation in the house to a minimum. Of course, I talked with my husband...but the lengthy conversations with my pets (yes, I'm one of those people) came to a halt.

4. Watch the diet. I was extra careful all week not to eat too much dairy, no coffee, and no wine. I didn't want anything that might get in the way of being able to voice projects for hours at a time. I drank a ton of water (ok, it was more like 'gallons', not 'tons') to stay hydrated, and had a bunch of apples on hand to help kill mouth noise from using my voice so much.

5. Take a break. One of the projects I was voicing really took a lot out of me. It had about 3,000 lines all of which were read with extremely high energy in a challenging voice. About half way through, I was feeling worn down and decided to take a short nap. It was a good decision! Once I woke up, I had renewed energy and knocked out the rest of the project, actually finishing it a day ahead of schedule! Everyone takes breaks, regardless of their profession, and we need to remember to do the same. Get outside, watch a little TV, just let your voice and your mind rest from time to time and you will do better in the long run!

I remember making the comment on Sunday evening that it would be a miracle if I still had my voice come Friday. Well, miracles happen- and I still had my full voice Friday night! I do think that not overdoing it, pacing myself, and taking each project one at a time really helped. I was able to schedule everything so that each project received my full focus and attention, and my work never suffered. Not allowing myself to be distracted by the phone, or by e-mails also helped. Of course, the fact that I adore what I do for a living didn't hurt! :)