Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Creative Chaos

About 10 years ago, I began studying the art of Feng Shui. Translated to literally mean "Earth-wind", Feng Shui utilizes the art of placement to obtain harmony in our living spaces and in our lives. By now I'm sure you've heard of Feng Shui, and if you have not- there is a ton of information all over the Internet.

When I first began studying this art, I spent a lot of my time making sure my home and my office adhered to every 'rule'. All the elements were represented, furniture was placed just right, etc, etc. I remember being teased relentlessly by my old neighbors for burying crystals in the apartment courtyards just to keep the energy flowing in the right directions. Are you wondering how in the world I found a man to marry me? Yeah. Me too. The good news is I haven't buried crystals in years, and I have relaxed on a few of the Feng Shui 'rules'. However, I am always thinking about placement, and how different objects cause me to feel.

Recently, I was checking out pictures of home studios from some of my fellow voice actors at VoiceOver Xtra. Many of these home studios are simply gorgeous, while others are strictly about efficiency.

For me, it was more interesting to see the actual space that had been created than it was to see the equipment used. I wonder what each person is thinking when certain pictures are hung, or why objects are placed where they are. Then, I decided why not share my own space?

What is funny about my studio is that it does not match the rest of my house, at all! My taste is very understated, very 'Southern Living' meets a taste of Italy (if you can picture that). My studio? Not so much. I decided from day one that I wanted a space filled with creative chaos. I wanted bright colors (mainly shades of blue, for success, creativity, and career), and I wanted to be surrounded with encouragement. I knew my studio would be the one room in the house I spent the most time, and I wanted to be comfortable. I also knew there would be days of frustration, and I wanted to be able to look around and instantly be reminded of success.

With these things in mind, I decided to cover nearly every inch of the room with pictures. Favorite drawings in frames, photos, autographs, cartoon posters, and more! I added rugs , plants, and an overstuffed chair to give the room a lounge vibe. My actual recording room has a blue shag rug and a shelf covered in polka dotted fabric. I put beanie babies and action figures of characters I have voiced all around. Honestly? It's hideous! And I love it completely.

My favorite object in my studio is a wooden cross that hangs just to my left. On it is painted a quote from Emma Bombeck.

"When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'."

I'm curious, what were the motivations behind your space? Feel free to leave a comment!

As a side note, in the morning I will be flying to a new space for a few days. I'm headed with my mother for a girls trip to Costa Rica. If I get any good macaw, sloth, or monkey pictures- I'll be sure to post them here!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Will Work For Food

In my opinion, the most difficult part of being a non-union, full-time voice actor living in a right-to-work state is the setting of rates. I have lost work because I am 'too expensive' and I have slapped myself upside the head upon realizing I totally could have charged more. (Union rates, after all, are only a minimum)

That's why, when the occasion arises to simply 'work for food' it can be the most rewarding experience of all.

Let me explain...a few days ago I received a call from one of my favorite local studios, The Groundcrew. A mutual friend of ours at Hot Sake was putting together a series of animations for Charlotte's Addy Awards. He needed voices for the characters, and about 7 of us were asked to come to the studio to 'play'.

The pay would come in the form of food, and fun. Upon arriving at the studio, I found some of the best darn pizza money can buy along with some of my favorite voice actors in the area.

The sky was the limit when we began recording- we could create any silly characters we wanted. I don't want to spoil anything for those attending the awards, so I'll hold off on any specifics for now.

Money is a stress in any business. We all want to be fairly compensated for our unique talents. However, on occasion, it is nice to be reminded why I do this job. It isn't so I can get rich. It is because I love the job, the people, and the experiences it provides.

Given the choice between staying home on a Friday afternoon with my nose to the grindstone earning a few bucks; or spending a few hours laughing, bonding, and creating- in exchange for pizza...I'd just assume work for food.

A note to my wonderful clients: No, this does not mean you can pay me in mozzarella now :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Voicey Awards

The 2008 Voicey Awards finalists have been revealed, and this year, Voices.com is making it even more exciting with the addition of some cool new categories. I was very honored in 2007 to be named a Voicey Award winner for "Best New Voice", and was blown away when listening to this year's contenders. Voices.com does an incredible job promoting voice actors and the industry as a whole. I am thrilled to be nominated in two categories for the 2008 awards and want to thank everyone who voted for me!

The first category is "Best Voice Team" and I am proud to be nominated along with my friend and colleague, Adam Fox. Adam and I first met online early in 2007 through Voices.com, but became fast friends after we were hired to voice an engaged couple for Dunkins Diamonds last summer. We realized we liked working together, and clients seemed to naturally pair us together- so we made it official with a 'duo demo'. Adam has not only been a great go-to voice for my clients, but he has been a huge help to me in the production arena. When a recent client needed production elements I didn't have at the time (but do now!), Adam was all too happy to step up to the plate. If you haven't had a chance to hear Adam's demos- be sure to check out his website. You can also hear our voices together on my Voices.com site.

The second category I received a nod in is "Best Personal Branding". This is a nomination I am especially proud of because it was a long, long road to get where I am now with my branding! I could go through the lengthy details, but think it might be more helpful to share something I recently wrote to my voice coach and branding guru, Nancy Wolfson. Nancy sent me an e-mail asking what my thoughts were concerning my own branding...this is what I told her:

Branding is about the feeling you give your clients. It is all-inclusive between the way you work, the thoughts you inspire...and is backed up by colors and images that tie it together. Looking at some of the testimonials from my clients [sic: in response to my new 2008 artwork/branding] I found these key phrases:

"Not only did I get a timely professional result that was right on target but I met an amazing woman with many talents. The richest being her ability to handle her many gifts in a way that genuinely brightens your day, and makes you feel special."

"In addition, your genuinely charming personality and approachable demeanor had a noticeably calming effect on the Bobcats personalities appearing in the spot."

"Experienced, easy to work with, great sense of timing - and humor."

"Always professional, forever creative, and shockingly charming"

"she has been consistent, reliable, and an absolute joy to work with"

"She's a real pro who brings her energy and
unique character voices to every session"

"Plus...her easy going nature makes any type of project more relaxed and enjoyable"

"Listening to at least 25 professional female voices, I decided on a young lady by the name of Kara Edwards."

The words that pop out to me are...creative, bright, young, joy, charming, approachable, humor, energy, etc.

There are 3 words I put at the top of every audition proposal:
Fresh, Young, Vibrant.
A fellow VO, Peter O'Connell once used them to describe me, and they stuck in my head.

These are the things I try to keep in mind when marketing. It all came together the day you (Nancy) found the beautiful yellow background for my website. It encompasses all the things I believe I offer my clients. I offer them a bright, fresh voice (yellow) in an easy-going, stress-free manner (flowers) and on time (like a busy bee). My website is my brand. You know from one look that I will most likely be young, fun, and sound very real. Plus, since most folks know me as a character VO- the cartoon bee is perfect!

My holiday thank you gift to my regular clients and agents this year was a Hyacinth bulb in a small yellow vase. A few mentioned it was very 'me' and that they loved it. It reminded me that my clients don't use me because of my cool website, or a gift- it's because they feel they know me...and they trust my brand.

Branding is a broad term, but I feel I really have begun to understand what it means.

It is likely to take me many more years to fully grasp what branding is and can be...but I hope by sharing the above e-mail it will inspire you to look more closely at the message you are sending out to your clients. As of right now, my business cards, logo, writing pens, marketing materials, etc all match my website in color and concept. However, what really matters is that my voice work and overall client experience live up to the image.

Looking over the other nominees for Best Personal Branding, I am truly humbled to be among them. If you are looking for inspiration in your own branding, I highly recommend you check out the four other names in the finals!

The Voicey Awards will take place on February 21st. I want to thank Voices.com for all of their hard work and endless positive energy!

As a side note, if you are new to my blog and are wondering why I have a bee on my website, here is the story :)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Are You Willing to be Silly?

Like most of America, my husband and I first saw the Tide 'Talking Stain' commercial during the Superbowl. We loved it then, and it still makes us laugh everytime we see it. Each time it airs, I find myself wishing I could one day be called in for a job where I was asked to blab and blah and nanernaner through the entire session.

Seriously, the voice of the stain had to have a blast walking into a studio and making those noises! It's one of the silliest voice overs I have ever heard.

One never knows what type of job may pop up next, and a professional voice actor always has to be willing to leap out of their comfort zone at a moment's notice. Imagine if the talking stain guy had felt uncomfortable during his session, the spot wouldn't be nearly as funny.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to drive uptown for a short session. It was for a variety of animated characters with just a few lines each. In the span of about 30 minutes I went from a singing fish to a buffalo (with a few stops in between). When it came time for the fish to sing, I asked if they had a sample of the harmony. Surprisingly, it hadn't been written yet!

It was up to me to create a spur of the moment tune that would eventually be sung by an entire school of fish (since I was the first fish to record). So, I did.

Then I was asked to sing it again, only with a Carribean flair. Before my nerves could kick in, I broke down with the Reggae beat, baby! By then, we were all starting to get a case of the giggles. Finally, I was asked to do the song one last time...only this time as a rap song. [insert record scratch here] Yes...a rap song. And...I did it.

Keep in mind, this was not done in the privacy of my own studio, this was done in front of people. I am a voice actor that is very active when I record and I did not hesitate to 'rock to the beat' if you know what I'm saying! I had my hands in the air waving around like I just don't care! Believe it or not, it helped!

Being willing to be silly made the session more enjoyable for me, and a greater overall success for the director. Obviously, it is rare that a voice actor is asked to rap or sing Reggae...but you have to be fearless in the face of any request. Whether you are a natural narrator being asked to voice a movie trailer, a commercial voice being asked to voice animation, etc...you must strive to have enough confidence in your abilities as an actor that you don't even bat an eye regardless of the request.

Be silly, and be willing...it's fun, and it works!

On a different note completely, I was searching some of my favorite 'green' websites and found this little gem of information at arborday.org...

FACT:Over the course of 50 years, a single tree can generate $31,250 of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycle $37,500 worth of water, and control $31,500 worth of soil erosion.

As Spring (and planting season!) approaches, it is a wonderful fact to keep in mind :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ask Arizona

I've spent the last month or so working on an exciting new project for Highlights Magazine (yup, the one we all grew up reading!).

Highlights has a regular feature in their magazine called "Ask Arizona". Kids can write in with their questions, and Arizona helps them find the answers by providing stories from her own life. (written by Lissa Rovitch)

After an open-call audition for the magazine, I was approached about helping create an audio podcast for each month's story. I am very excited with how it turned out!

This is one of my favorite projects, not only because I get to create voices for all the different characters, but I provide the audio production as well.

Click here for February's premier episode!

Be sure to check back each month, as the episodes just get better and better!

A special thanks goes out to 3 very special kids: Bob Souer's son, David, and Brian Haymond's girls, Olivia and Samantha! They are the voices you hear in the podcast intro. Great job guys! I also want to thank my good pal, Adam Fox, for helping with the production for the podcast intro and outro. It's a wonderful reminder that voice actors have the best community around!