Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memories of a Disney Legend

Currently, I'm about 41,000 feet in the air flying to Raleigh, NC for an anime convention. The past couple of days have been quite hectic as I've wrapped up a few jobs, packed, and rushed around doing this and that. You know, just going about life. Yesterday, I was on the phone when I glanced at my computer screen and saw the news.

Wayne Allwine had passed away. For a moment, everything just stopped.

For a few of you, this name will seem unfamiliar. I promise you his voice is not. Wayne provided the voice of Mickey Mouse for the past 30 years or so, along side his wonderful wife Russi Taylor, the current voice of Minnie Mouse.

Yes, Mickey and Minnie were married in real life.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Wayne and Russi on two occasions while working at Radio Disney and later, for WSSS radio in NC. To say they impacted my life would be an understatement. They are two of the biggest reasons I knew I wanted to be a voice actor.

The first time I met them was in 1998 at the grand opening of The New TomorrowLand at Disneyland. I was working with my partner, Kyle Hebert (AKA: Squeege) doing a live broadcast. I've always considered myself fairly quick at coming up with questions on the fly- so I wasn't particularly nervous when Wayne and Russi came walking toward us. As soon as they both began to speak, my heart began to pound. I was instantly and completely star struck.

Kyle and I began the live air break introducing our special guests, Mickey and Minnie. I vaguely remember stammering out a few comments and questions before Wayne and Russi (thankfully) took over. Wayne strummed his little guitar singing songs while Russi giggled and sang along. It was perfect. It was magical. They were Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

I'm embarrassed to say I still get tears in my eyes to this day when I think back to the impact those two had on me. I knew right then and there that creating characters would be my own life long passion. I've often thought about what it must feel like to provide the voices for such well known and well loved characters. Perhaps it was easy for Wayne and Russi, as they are such well loved characters themselves.

The second time I met Wayne and Russi was no different. I was producing a morning show in Charlotte, NC and had been sent to Walt Disney World by myself for a live remote. When they finally made their way over to my broadcast booth, I shook their hands and announced, "You won't remember this, but we met once several years back." Russi smiled and said she did remember that, which honestly made my day. I recall the on-air DJ at the time saying I only had a couple of minutes to do the break. I knew he would change his mind when he heard them on the air, which he did. I don't remember how long that 'interview' was, but it was much longer than 2 minutes. That's what Wayne and Russi did- they captured your imagination and made you smile.

A couple of months ago, I went online to try and find an e-mail address for Wayne or Russi. I had an overwhelming desire to tell them how much they had inspired me all those years ago, and how much they inspired me still. Of course, I wasn't able to find an e-mail address, and now I wish I had tried a little harder. Someday, I hope to find a way to let Russi know.

I've been surprised at the effect Wayne's passing has had on me. The reality is that I met him twice, and for only a few minutes each time. He wouldn't have known me from any other stranger on the street. I guess it shows the impact that one person can have in a very short time. I'm not, however, surprised by the stories I've been reading online. So many were touched by Wayne. The joy just radiated from him.

My thoughts and prayers are with, and will continue to be with, Russi, their family, and their friends. Death comes to us all, it just seems that it shouldn't come to our heroes.

Wayne, thank you for the inspiration and for the memories.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How Not To Succeed in VO

Rarely will I ever start a blog with a negative this case, 'not'. I believe in striving to always stay positive, avoiding words like, 'not, can't, won't'. However, 'not' became a very valuable word to one talent agent who wrote an article on Voice Over Xtra called, "How Not to Get an Agent". OK, it's not so much an article as a transcript- but it's lesson is very valuable!

I am often approached by people wanting to get into the voice over business. Because of this, I wrote up a little thing I like to pass along with a few helpful tips to help them get started. Hey, I've had a lot of help along the way and I try to pay it forward as much as possible!

Occasionally I am approached by someone not just wanting a few tips, or a few questions answered- they are wanting me to put their entire career in motion! Trust me, if I had the power to make everyone with a voice into a successful voice actor, I would! But, unfortunately it just isn't possible. The best recommendation I can give is to research, ask questions...and be prepared to do LOT of leg work!

Most importantly, don't e-mail an agent asking for representation until you are truly ready! If you haven't had proper training, or recorded a professional demo- you aren't ready. Also, make sure to approach everyone in this business (or in any business for that matter) with a 'Here's what I can do for you' frame of mind, NOT a 'What can you do for me?' attitude. You'll find more doors are opened by being kind, humble, and prepared.

Kara Edwards Voice Over

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Zap Cap

I knew that moving to the lightning capital of the country, FL, would be interesting on many levels. First, I am very afraid of lightning. Having grown up in West Texas, where the storms can be pretty bad, left me with a great respect for Mother Nature. Second, I was very worried about my expensive studio equipment. Should we be hit by lightning, or affected by a bad power surge- I could lose a lot!

We initially invested in very good surge protectors for my studio. This made me feel a little better. Then, my neighbor told me about something interesting. It turns out our local electric company offers a contraption known as a Zap Cap. I had never heard of such a thing, so I looked it up.

It's a meter based system that offers protection from high-voltage surges. Is it foolproof? No. But I figure it's better than nothing! For about $7 a month we rent the unit that attaches to our meter. For about $12-$50 per strip we buy the plug in protectors that we plug all our electronics and appliances into.

Our Zap Cap was installed yesterday, and I am in the process of converting all of my electronics to the approved power strips. It will be interesting to see how it works, but hopefully we'll never have to!

Every section of the country has their own 'natural disasters' to consider, and as voice actors and producers we have to take every step we can to protect our equipment and file archives. If you have a special system you use, I'd love to hear about it!

Kara Edwards Voice Over

Monday, May 4, 2009

Taking Your Surroundings Into Account

In 2001 I moved to North Carolina to take a job as a morning show producer for a local radio station. Part of my job was to do 'live' announcements from various locations (for example, car dealers, malls, etc). These 'live' breaks were always pre-recorded- and for the first year, I would write out my entire script and read enthusiastically for 60 seconds or so.

However, one awful day I was at a remote (and getting paid to be there) and was delayed from writing out my little script. As I was trying to gather my thoughts to jot something down, a call came. It was the on-air guy telling me there had been a mix- up and I needed to go 'for real' live in 10 seconds. "NO!" I screamed, but he was gone...and I heard the commercial currently airing come to an end as my time began. I sputtered and stammered...holding my mic as I flailed around in circles trying to remember where I was, why I was there, and what I was supposed to say. Yup, it was a disaster...and one of my more embarrassing moments on-air.

So, what did I do wrong? I was relying so heavily on the written word that I hadn't taken the time to absorb my surroundings. If I had been less concerned about having a script, and more concerned with knowing my purpose, I would have been able to work my way through the break. Instead of being in panic mode, I would have been just fine.

After that day I always made sure to answer the important questions (who, what, when, why, where) prior to worrying about copy points and scripts.

Now, as a full-time voice actor, I often think back to that day. Especially when a challenging script lands in my lap with no obvious plot or direction. I like to take the time to answer those important questions and center myself. Once I know the writer's intention, it becomes easier to 'perform' the script instead of just 'reading' it. Who am I, where am I, what is my intention, etc.

Knowing where you are headed as you navigate through the words will raise your confidence, which also leads to a better performance. I am also never afraid to ask the client or producer if there is something I am unsure about. It's our job, as actors, to bring the words to life and make them believable. Knowing your path will allow you to follow your instincts.