Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Benefits Children

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a very cool project alongside 30 of the top voice actors in the country. Together, we recorded an audio version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to raise money for the Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA. We decided to call ourselves "Primetime Voices for Children". Led by the amazing Joe Cipriano, we each recorded 2-4 lines of the audio, some of us in our own voices- some of us in character voices.

(Can you guess which two lines are mine?)

Joe has worked tirelessly trying get the word out about our charity, and we've been overwhelmed by all of the positive feedback! The audio has been played on 94.7 the Wave, it's appeared on Rick Dee's website, and even showed up in an article published on Entertainment Tonight's website! Click here for that link.

You'll notice a short video at the top of ET's website...yes, it's video of a few of us recording our lines. Now you can see what I look when I'm in studio recording your projects! :) Click here to see a slightly longer version of that same video on YouTube.

I am so honored to be a part of such a special and important project, and ask that you consider donating to the Children's Hospital. There are several ways this can be done. You can purchase the audio on iTunes for .99, donate directly at, or follow the fan page on Facebook and donate are some links:

Every single day I am reminded how fortunate I am to be living out my dreams of being a full-time actor/voice actor. None of this would be possible without readers, my clients, my colleagues, my friends. As we enter into 2012, I want to say thank you...from the bottom of my heart. Yes, thank YOU! I look forward to working with you more in the New Year!



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thank you Steve Jobs

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on." - Steve Jobs, 1955-2011.

I am an actor.

There are a million jobs I could do that would likely pay me way more than I make now. A thousand places I could work that would let me clock out at 5pm, or take lunch hours during an actual lunch time, or leave me alone on the weekend, or provide me with full benefits.

Yet...I choose to be an actor.


Because Steve Jobs let me know that it's ok to make a living doing what I love. Steve showed us all that you can have an idea, an idea that maybe no one else understands. You can start a company in your garage, work hard, use your knowledge and your talent...and change the world.

As I type this blog on my iMac, with my iPad, my iPhone, and my Macbook nearby, I can honestly say that Steve Jobs changed my life.

But it isn't his inventions or his ideas or these gadgets that have touched me most. It's his words.

His inspiration is his true legacy.

Thank you Steve Jobs. Thank you for being you, so that it would be ok for me to be me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes it's the Busiest Months that can be the Scariest

In voice over, there are traditionally a few months each year that are expected to be slow. January-February, June-July, and sometimes December. However, this isn't the rule, and 2011 has proven to me that anything is possible!

So far this year, my January and February were fantastic! April, normally a great month, was awful for me. June and July were two of the best months of my career, while September fell quite flat.

You just never know! A few weeks ago, I was having a discussion with a producer friend of mine, and he mentioned something that really hit home with me. He said that when he has a really busy, high earning month- that's when he's the most nervous!


During a really busy month (like my July for example), you are so focused on getting all of the work done, meeting every deadline, making your clients happy, getting those invoices sent, etc- that you stop doing all of those proactive things for your business (like marketing, auditioning, answering e-mails, etc). You simply don't have the time! And while you won't feel the effects of that immediately, you will feel those effects a month or two later.

The same thing happens when something in life takes your focus away from your work for a period of time. It's a month or two later when you really feel the pinch.

Seeing for myself how a crazy busy summer led into a slower start to fall, I've decided to set a new goal. The busier I am, the more effort I will make to set aside a period of time every day to do something proactive for my business. It's easy to do when things are slow, but it's even more vital when things are hopping! Even if it's just an hour or two on the weekend, it's imperative I don't ever become over-confident when the work pours in and neglect marketing my services to future clients.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Anniversary...and a Thank You

Five years ago today I made the decision to leave my job in morning radio and pursue a full-time career as a voice actor. I'll never forget those first few months, I was so full of confidence and determination. I had been acting my entire adult life and I believed this new chapter would be as simple as 'tell them I'm full-time and watch them flock to hire me!'

Oh...those first few months. Those eye-opening, life-changing first few months...

Nothing has been as simple as I originally predicted. But in those first few months I could have never imagined how I would grow, learn, transform, and ultimately find in myself a business savvy and strength I never knew existed.

Year one I stumbled. I had so much to learn about marketing, finances, networking, promoting, technology, vocal trends, etc, etc. Year two I was a bit wiser but still had a long way to go. Year three found me moving to a new city (and a new studio) as did years four and five. I've been through great personal change that has given me a new found confidence in myself and my abilities as an actor. And one of the greatest things I've learned is that with each year that passes, I will continue to grow in ways I can only imagine.

What I know today that I did not know in those first few months, is that this career is a's a lifestyle. It isn't just a job. Five years later and my eyes still light up every time I talk about the work I'm so fortunate to do. Which is especially cool when I realize I did my first paid voice over 15 years ago!! This is my calling and I realize how lucky I am to be able to share this with anyone that listens to the radio, surfs the web, watches TV, sits through a business presentation, or gets put on hold. Perhaps it's my voice you hear...or one of my many voice actor friends.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: Thank you. Thank you to each and every coach, colleague, client, editor, engineer, director, casting person, scheduler, accountant, manager, owner, ad exec, web designer, and creator that I have had the great fortune to work with and get to know these past years. I've made friendships that will last my lifetime and learned more from each of you than I can express.

This has been the most rewarding journey of my life...and I can't wait to see what the next five years have in store!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A year of "Sound Advice"

A little over a year and a half ago I was contacted by my friend Dan Friedman, asking if he could use a blog I wrote in his new book. I've known Dan for a few years and he has always been my 'go to' person for studio advice (With every new studio, Dan is the first person to sign off on my 'sound'.) I was, of course, most honored for Dan to use my blog on setting up ISDN! But I was even more curious about this book he was writing.

Dan explained that while there are a plethora of books on doing voice over, there is not a single book on how to set up a home studio, how to engineer your own sessions, how to trouble shoot technical issues, how to choose the right microphone for your voice, etc, etc. So Dan set out to write one.

And boy did he! I could not wait to get my copy of Sound Advice- Voiceover From an Audio Engineer's Perspective. Dan did not disappoint. This is a book that I continue to refer back to again and again- it sits on my closet shelf, just to my right.

I've just learned that today marks the one year anniversary of Dan's book. This blog is a big congratulations to my friend Dan, and also a plug for a really great book. If you haven't had the chance to purchase your own copy- I recommend that you do!!! Also, make sure you check out Dan's blog regularly- as an actor and an engineer, Dan has a lot to teach us all!

Way to go Dan!!

(A small disclaimer- while I do have a blog printed in Dan's book, I do not make any money off the sale of it...therefore this is an actual, honest endorsement of something I am very proud to be a very small part of.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You Are the World's Leading Expert

The number one question I receive on an almost daily basis is, "What is the first step to becoming a voice actor?" Since my own journey to becoming a voice actor was a bit unconventional, (I was literally hired off the street for my first radio gig, my first agent heard me on the air and called the station to sign me, and I booked my first paying VO- Dragonball Z- after attending an open audition on a dare) I at first found it hard to give advice.

I began telling people that the first step was to take an improv class. I had taken an improv class when I was younger and have continued to use so much of what I learned throughout my career. Improv teaches you to be in the moment, to create a 'character' and stick with it, to think fast on your feet, and as my friend Peter O'Connell recently pointed out on my Google+ page- it teaches you to listen.

So...I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and sign up for an improv class. I strongly believe that the learning should never stop and that one can't take too many classes. Especially when those classes help break up your routine, and get those creative juices flowing.

We had our first class this past Monday. What a fun and talented group! I had a basic idea of what to expect- each improv class is different, but many of the 'games' are the same. I don't want to give too much away because I think it's better to experience something than to read about it. However, there was one 'game' we played that is so very relevant to what I do as a voice actor.

The game was called 'You are the world's leading expert...' Our teacher gave each of us a topic- and with no prep time whatsoever we had to spend the next 5 minutes convincing the class we were the leading expert on that topic. It didn't matter what we said or how wrong we were- we had to convince everyone we were right. My topic was ice cream. I do love to eat ice cream, but I've never made it and really know nothing about it. Yet I found myself going on and on about the proper order to put the ingredients in the machine, how a flat wooden spoon is better to scoop with than a rounded metal scooper because it creates a more organic shape in the bowl...on and on. What was interesting was that the more I talked, the more I believed in what I was saying. And the more I believed it, the more convincing I was. When I was finished one classmate commented that they wanted to go to my ice cream shop!

This happened with every single student. They started off a little unsure- but then once their attitude shifted and they really believed what they were did we! People were coming up with some really ridiculous facts about drilling for oil, or creating a shoe, or wrestling an alligator. But the ones that allowed themselves to believe they truly were the experts were by far the most convincing. As voice actors (ahem...ACTORS), we have to be convincing every single day.

Someone in my class asked how improv could help my job...I mean, all I did was read a script, right? I explained that it takes more skill than anyone can imagine to convince an audience that this restaurant really is the best, that a brand of shoe really is the most comfortable and stylish, that this truck is really safer than that one. It isn't's explaining. And the more we believe in what we say, the more convincing we will be.

From now on when I am sent a script, I will be telling myself that I am the world's leading expert on this topic. I'm accepting what the writer says as my reality and believing in that reality so I can really deliver the message. Listen to your radio and TV- I promise you will be able to tell which voice actors are truly believing what they are saying and which are not.

Finally, whether you are thinking about getting into the business- or you've been doing this your entire life- I can't recommend improv enough. Just one class already has me thinking and reflecting. Thankfully, I have 7 more classes to go...and then 5 more levels. Because, after all...I am the world's leading expert.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quality Matters

Over the weekend, my friend Dan Friedman wrote a fantastic blog about the correlation between studio quality and voice over rates. I highly suggest you check this blog out if you haven't already (and all of Dan's blogs...he really knows his stuff!)

This blog struck a bit of a chord with me. Throughout my career, I have regularly been approached by people wanting to break into the industry. I can usually tell within a few minutes (or a few lines of an email) if someone will succeed it or not. Like all industries, you can't just wake up one day and be a success. Otherwise I would have been a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist! No, you have to study, train, practice, take a few hard knocks and make the decision to move forward no matter how many times you feel rejected.

I've spent 15 years learning how to be a voice actor (obviously, I started at the age of 6). Yes, I've been working while I've been learning- but each time I turn on the mic it's a new chapter in the lesson plan. Every session is different and I've had to learn to be as good with my people skills as I am with my acting skills. And that is just the beginning! A voice actor must also learn how to run a business, how to market themselves, how to invoice and collect on debts, how to budget...and oh to build a studio from the ground up, edit, produce, render, ftp...this could go on and on. As with any job, one must be dedicated and educated to pay the bills.

Which brings me back to Dan's blog. A professional studio is not cheap. And while cool gadgets have made it possible to record on the road, there is no substitute for the quality of an actual studio. Case in point- last month I took off to the mountains of North Carolina for a week. I decided to only take my iphone and my Macbook. No mics, no audio interfaces, no ability to record quality audio. Why? Because I knew that where I would be staying would not be conducive to recording quality audio. I was, however, a mere 2-3 hours from a professional studio that I knew I could rent at the drop of a hat. Now, for auditions I did have my iphone and the ability to send samples if I needed to.

During this trip a job came up. A really cool job. One worth driving down the mountain for. We scheduled the day and time and then I discovered this would be a 2 part gig. Half of the script would be recorded while on vacation, half when I returned. I immediately let the client know that while I was more than happy to make this happen, I was concerned that the audio would not match when the entire thing came together. In the end, they decided to wait until I returned home from vacation. (a couple of days later, and they were my first session when I got back)

Quality matters. It really matters. If you are putting time and money into something, don't you want it to be the best it can be? Our clients feel the same way. And it's my job to offer the best I can...with my talents, my equipment, and my business. And yes, quality does cost money. But as we've all learned at some point in our lives, some things are worth the little extra expense.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Practicing What I Preach

In my last blog I wrote about the need to stay current with technology and keeping all the 'tools' you might need as a voice actor close at hand.

Well, I've decided this week to practice what I preach. Remember the e-learning project I mentioned in a previous post? The one that was around 40,000 words? This past week it expanded to 60,000 words. With a project that size, there is no way I'm going to print my scripts. It would take a ton of paper and ink to do so. My Macbook came in quite handy at first- I loaded up the scripts, placed my laptop on my copy stand, and off I went!

Unfortunately, as we are all aware- there is scorching heat around the country. I'm in Dallas where we've spent the last several days hovering around 110 degrees. Ouch. I don't care how good your air conditioner is, there is no way it's keeping up with temps like that. When I'm in my Whisper Room, I can't have ventilation running while I record because the fan is too loud. It's rare that the heat really gets to me (I open the door or run a fan between takes and drink plenty of water) so I wasn't overly concerned. However, as this e-learning project went on I noticed the heat was bothering me more and more.

Then, it hit me. My laptop was acting more like a heater than a computer and was increasing the temperature inside of the booth...a lot! As if to confirm my theory, during one of our sessions my laptop fan kicked on twice- delaying things by several minutes.

So, I took off to the Apple store for an iPad 2. No fan noise, no heat. I can read my scripts easily, and thanks to Pages and Numbers- I can even edit them on the fly! I posted something on Facebook about how great my iPad was and a fellow voice actor said that he would love to read more about how I'm using it on the job. I figured others might be curious as well, and a blog idea was born!

Here are a few ways that in only 3 days of owning my iPad 2 I've used it for VO:

1. Numbers and Pages. These were 2 of the first apps I installed on the iPad. Numbers opens xls files, and Pages handles docs. You can edit on the fly if a client needs you to do so, and can expand the screen to enlarge the copy. I'm saving ink and paper, and the lit screen means I don't have to strain my eyes (I currently use LED lights in the booth- but the iPad is much brighter)

2. Splashtop. What a cool app this is! Thanks to a couple of recommendations on my Facebook page- I decided to give this a shot. This app allows me to link up to my iMac giving me full control of my desktop in the booth. Now I can start and stop ProTools without leaving my Whisper Room! The only negative is that it 'squishes' your desktop. Or at least, it squished mine. Then again, I am using a 27" iMac!! All of the icons on my desktop began overlapping each other making it hard to find the sessions I needed. Hopefully once I take the time to clean up my desktop this issue will be remedied.

3. Email. Previously, if I was in a session and a client needed to email me an updated script, I would have to step out of the booth- go over to my iMac- open email and print. Now I have instant access to my email, and with the preview function on the iPad I can open scripts instantly.

4. Recording. I'm adding this not because of my own personal experience, but because of others I know that have used their iPad to record files. In fact, one of my dearest friends- Kyle Hebert- recently texted me that he is using an AT2020 mic with the camera kit to do high quality recording when he is traveling. I didn't believe it could sound that good- so he sent me a recorded sample. Well, wow. I was impressed. It sounded as good as my mobile set up- but it takes up much less space than my laptop, audio interface, etc. And less is certainly more when you don't want to check your luggage at the gate!

5. Twisted Wave. Again, this is not from my own experience but my friend Beau Weaver mentioned this on my Facebook. Apparently Twisted Wave not only created a recording app for the iPad- they also created a remote app that allows you to directly control Twisted Wave on your main computer from inside the booth. Much like Splashtop it sounds like- but I'm guessing less buggy and squishy.

6. Words With Friends. OK- this does nothing to help my business. But it sure is fun! :)

I'm sure there are a million other functions and apps I have yet to discover. As I learn more, I'll be sure to update this blog. In the meantime, feel free to comment and share your favorite apps and uses- both for VO and for fun!

**As a small side note- I want to make sure I'm not coming across as someone telling you that a gazillion dollars must be spent making sure you have the latest technology. Quite the contrary. When I realized my laptop was on the fritz I chose to buy an iPad instead of another laptop. It was about half the price, and did everything I needed my laptop to do. Plus- I'll save a ton of money on ink and paper. Win win!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Tools in Your VO Tool Belt

Long gone are the days when very few actors had studios in their homes. Nowadays, if you don't have some way to record and send high-quality files with minimal notice, you are most likely fighting an uphill battle with your voice over career.

Each time I build a new studio, I'm careful to reassess- insuring I have the latest and greatest technology. Things are changing so quickly, and the possibilities for home studios seem endless!

I remember the first time I heard about something called 'Source Connect'. It was in 2007, and I was given a demo of SC at the VOICE conference in Vegas. I never did pop in that DVD to see what it was all about, but it wasn't long before SC was part of everyone's vocabulary. I believe it was 2008 or 2009 when I decided to purchase the SC plug-in. I hadn't had a single client ask for it, and honestly wasn't sure if it was something I would ever need. However, I've kept one rule throughout my full-time VO career: If I have all the tools I could possibly need hanging from my tool belt, then I'll be ready for any imaginable situation.

(For anyone unaware of what Source Connect is, I borrowed this description directly from their website: Source-Connect enables audio connections between digital audio systems anywhere in the world, allowing direct-to-the-timeline recording with real-time, broadcast-quality audio)

For the first year, I never used it. Not once. Then I moved to Texas unexpectedly and spent a year without ISDN (the horror!). Thankfully, many of the studios I had previously connected to with ISDN were all too happy to switch my sessions over to Source Connect. So there was very little work lost.

Several months ago, I reconnected my ISDN lines and figured SC would once again be put on the back burner. Boy was I wrong! A month or so ago I was contacted by a company in Ireland to record a very long script. During the first hour we connected over ISDN, then they asked if I had Source Connect. Yes, I do! In the end, it saved them a ton of money on international line charges...which obviously made for one happy client.

Then this morning as I was waiting for the 'chirp chirp' of my ISDN line, I received a call on my cell. It was the studio- calling in a panic. Their ISDN lines had just gone down and we were 4 minutes out from the client calling in. The other talent was within driving distance of the studio, so she went in to record her section of the script. However, I was half a country away. Was there any chance I had Source Connect? As a matter of fact...yes! We connected with no issues, and 30 minutes later everyone was happy.

I remember several years ago having to visit my dentist after I broke a tooth eating (of all things) popcorn. An onlay, a root canal, and a full crown later- I was as good as new. Despite being one of the lesser enjoyable experiences of my life- there was one thing that really stuck out during the process. My dentist had just purchased this cool machine that made the crown right in his office using high pressure water to create the tooth shape. It was the latest and greatest, and made my life much easier since I didn't have to wait forever for the crown to be created in another location. Yes, he had spent a small fortune on the machine, but he believed that if he could make his patient's lives easier, then hopefully they would continue to use him- and recommend their friends as well.

The same principal applies to voice over. If your clients know they can rely on you (and your studio) to solve any imaginable issue they could encounter...well, you know the rest of the story.

All of the cool gizmos and gadgets we keep in our studio are there to make our lives, and our clients lives, easier. So staying on top of the technology curve is vital. I honestly look forward to seeing how my studio will look 5, 10, or 50 years from now...and how much easier and more enjoyable my job can become! (Though it is hard to imagine it being any more fun!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back to Blogging!

I've been absent from my blog for some time now (scroll down and you will see my last blog was posted over a year ago). However, I've recently felt inspired to pick it back up again. The main reason? I love my job. I love talking about it, writing about it, and sharing my joy with others. I realize how blessed I am to make a living as a voice actor, and keeping this blog updated is one small way I can hopefully help others reach their voice over goals.

In the past year, I've received hundreds of e-mails from people wanting to get into voice over. Unfortunately, I just haven't had the time to answer all of them. And that really bothers me. I hate leaving questions unanswered, especially when I know I can help! So I've been thinking that this blog might be a way for me to answer many of those questions, in a larger forum, and hopefully reach more people.

My original goal for this blog was to give an honest picture of what it is like to be a full-time voice actor. Hopefully you've learned from my successes and failures, and will continue to do so.

This past year has been quite an adventure! I moved back to Texas and settled into a great new place that I plan to call home for a little while. I knew when I moved that I really wanted to find a good deal on a vocal booth to make setting up my new studio a breeze. I put word out with several of my producer friends, and one of them let me know about a booth that was for sale here in Dallas. After several e-mails and a few months going back and forth on the price, I became the owner of a pristine 3.5 x 5 x 8' double walled Whisper Room! Turns out, finding it was the easy part...moving it was a whole different story!

I wanted to be present when the booth was taken apart so I could see how to put it back together. I went to the studio and spent 3 hours tearing it down. Then, (with the help of some very nice and very strong men) I loaded it into a 10' moving truck and drove it to it's new home. 2 friends helped me lug the heavy pieces up a flight of stairs...and a dear engineer friend helped me put it together. I'd love to say it went off without a hitch, but I'd be lying. My friend Kevin and I were 4 hours in (and almost finished) when the last few pieces would not fit in properly. It turns out we had put the floor in upside down, which meant a complete tear-down and rebuild. 8 hours...and a few swear words later...I had a gorgeous vocal booth :)

The room that I am using is about 12 x 12, so I knew I wanted a large wrap-around desk for my computer, printer, and speakers. I found the perfect desk at Office Depot (I believe it is part of the Christopher Lowell collection). Once the desks were in place, I brought in my file cabinet- a few special pictures...and the studio was basically complete! Since I've moved studios many times in the past, setting up my equipment was no problem at all. For anyone wondering, I use a Neumann TLM103 mic (I have a LAwson L47FET I use at times too), a Focusrite pre, Mackie mixer, Telos Zephyr (ISDN), Samson studio monitors, and Pro Tools 9 on my 27" iMac.

As for ISDN, if you've followed my blog in the past- you know all about my trials and tribulations in previous studios. I'm happy to report that this time there were no issues at all! A local producer friend set me up with all of the people I needed to contact to install my lines, and in under 2 weeks everything was working great!

While moving is never fun, I will say that setting up a new studio always renews my energy for my business. This is, by far, my favorite studio yet...and something must be working right because business has never been better!

So if you are looking at a big move, or a major life change...hang in there. It may take a lot of work, and you may feel discouraged from time to time- but there will be light at the end of that tunnel!!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Look for more regular updates in the future. I plan to tackle some of the many questions I've received recently about breaking into voice over, and establishing a successful business. Not everyone's path will be the same, but hopefully we can learn a lot from each other.