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


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!