DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #31: Why I Can’t Think…no, I mean why I have to work to get over writer’s block sometimes. What did you think I meant?

Hey, it happens…well, actually, THIS doesn’t happen to me, because I don’t write music, but you get the idea.

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The first person to ever comment on my audioblog said something that became eerily prophetic. To be clear, I do mean the first *person*..technically, the first comment I ever received was an automated comment from WordPress welcoming me to the world of blogging. Don’t get me wrong, that was very nice of the automated comment, and I thanked it, but the first living, breathing human being to comment on my audioblog was European voice-over talent and blogging machine, Paul Strikwerda. Being the damn good blogger that he is, he said something that has haunted me more and more as time goes on (and NO, I will not attempt to read this with his Dutch accent):

“Having a blog can become a burden if you feel that it’s a must. Before you know it, it becomes one more thing on your to-do list and you start putting it off.”

I haven’t quite reached that point yet, but as time goes on, I occasionally get the feeling that it’s starting to feel like that. I’m not putting it off, nor do I consider it a burden, but this audioblog is occasionally feeling a bit more like a…chore, I suppose would be the proper word. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, that’s my favorite part! What I don’t enjoy is thinking of something to write about. Writer’s block has been most unkind to me on more than one occasion.

For that reason, I decided to reach out to my fellow bloggers this week, and to any potential bloggers worried about not getting anything started due to writer’s block. Here are some ideas that I have!

1) Talk about why your life sucks. Okay, not quite, but rather, talk about a problem you recently had in your VO career and see if you can’t write your thoughts about the best solution to it. Other people may appreciate your contributions! Not too long ago, my main email address crashed on me, and I think my story of how I solved the problem and remained in contact with my clients will probably end up becoming one of my next audioblog entries.

2) Talk about why other people’s lives suck. The VO industry only has so many subjects that haven’t been talked about. I won’t repeat them here, because I don’t need to…you’ve likely heard them over and over again. What’s the best editing program, is ISDN worth it, how do I market myse–NO, NO, I promised I wouldn’t repeat them here, sorry. Still, write about some questions that you see others asking, so that way, if somebody else ever asks you one of the many questions that gets asked for the eighteen quadrillionth time, you can just say, “Well, I actually wrote on this–here’s a link, have a look!”

3) Write about how you don’t have anything to talk about. Very lame if used repeatedly, but once in a while won’t hurt if it’s given some context. I did it once!

4) Strike up a conversation about VO…with someone who has nothing to do with VO. Why do we want to know what outsiders think? Because it gives us a very good idea of how our business is perceived and, by extension, the value of our business. I was depositing a check from one of my gigs not too long ago, and the guy behind the desk asked me, “Voice-overs sounds like a cool job…how does work find you?” Most working voice actors should know what’s wrong with the last five words of his question. Actually, hold on, I’ll give you a second to go back and count the words.

Okay.

Anyway, I responded, “Ho boy, if only it were that simple…work doesn’t usually find me, I have to find work.” That could be a blog entry in and of itself!

5) Set a deadline, but wait until the last minute to actually do anything. Some see this as irresponsible, and indeed, with certain things, it is. However, if used properly, procrastination can be a powerful creative tool. I once had an English teacher who assigned both in-class and take-home essays, and he always said, “Guys, the in-class ones are so much better. I think it’s ’cause you’re pressured to do well. When the pressure’s off, you guys suck!” And he’s right! When the pressure’s on, you think harder. For that reason, I write (and voice) an audioblog entry every Sunday, but about 90% of them are conceived and written Sunday morning. It’s not just me, either! Even Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys who make “South Park,” said that they only feel they’re at their creative best when an incomplete episode is due to go on the air in a few hours.

Writer’s block doesn’t have to cripple you, and I hope some of these suggestions will keep your creative juices flowing. On the other hand, sometimes writer’s block inevitably does cripple you…so take a week off! Y’know what’s going to happen? Nothing. Nobody’s internet presence is indispensable (and yes, I’m counting myself as well). The world will continue to go on it’s daily business. If you write, write for fun, and about something you enjoy!

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #30: Why I’m Not Myself…no, I mean why I do research for my VO roles and auditions. What did you think I meant?

A green apple. Surrounded by water. Is it *possible* to have a more fitting symbolic image for the preparation a voice actor must undergo for their auditions and roles? I think not.

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Daniel Day-Lewis, one of my favorite movie actors, is…a bit unusual. He’s unusual in that the degree to which he will prepare for a role is almost unrivaled. He will actually try to live the role if he can. When he was done training for his role in the movie, “The Boxer,” his trainer said that Day-Lewis probably could have gone pro if he wanted. His extreme efforts, and the efforts of actors who use similarly extreme methods, were parodied through Robert Downey Jr.’s character in the hilarious movie, “Tropic Thunder,” and rather ironically, Downey was nominated for an Oscar…for his portrayal of an actor who cared for nothing more than winning Oscars. Thankfully, as voice actors, we don’t quite have to do things like live in a replica 1692 village and build our own house without electricity or running water to prepare for our roles (something that Day-Lewis actually did for his role in “The Crucible”), but if you think for one moment that we can do this without preparation…think again. 

Granted, we don’t have all that much time. You’ve likely heard many experienced VO talent recommend improv classes for beginners, and that’s precisely why. We gotta make creative decisions with lightning-fast speed, not only because we’re not given much time to prepare, but also because in today’s “I need it yesterday” world, we’re not even given that much time to actually do our job, quite frankly. Still, this job is competitive, so if you’re smart, you’ll do a tiny bit of preparing to give yourself a slight edge. Here are a few suggestions that I’ve got:

1) LOOK UP words you’re not sure how to pronounce! Nothing says, “I’m lazy and doing this quickly” quite like mispronounced words. Heck, you can write, “How do you pronounce (insert word here)” into Google nowadays! If it’s a company name, scour YouTube for it. If you can get in touch with the client, ask them how to pronounce odd words! Otherwise you’ll end up sounding like that guy in the “Mr. Dumass” commercial (search YouTube for it when you’re done with this, it’s one of my favorites).

2) Determine the age group! Be as specific as you can possibly be. I remember when I was 6, I got very offended when somebody said I was 5. I mean, I was polite and said, “No, I’m 6,” but on the inside I was thinking, “No, I’m 6, and I will thank you not to lump me in with the other 5-year-old morons, thank you very much!” I once did an infomercial in which I spoke in my regular voice, but when the client called me back and said, “Great delivery, but this is a children’s toy, think 6 years old”…then I had to up the pitch and the enthusiasm little bit! It might have annoyed an older audience, but hey, this product wasn’t for them anyway.

3) If the thing you’re auditioning for has a length–30 seconds, a minute, whatever–make damn sure that your audition is that length as well. A mistake I made early on was that I didn’t pay too much attention to time in the interest of giving a relaxed performance where I wasn’t pressured. Looking back, I think that was a mistake. Why, pray tell, would the client choose your 50-second audition for a 30-second spot when they’ve got a gajillion other voice actors who actually took all those little details into account? Furthermore, while this isn’t exactly super-common, some clients are so rushed that they may just ask to use your audition as the final product. Like I said, we live in a “we need it yesterday” world!

4) …..Okay…….please don’t yell at me for stating a “no, duh” fact….but…..keep hydrated and eat green apples. I know, I know, a ton of my readers and listeners just said out loud, “Thank you, Colonel Obvious!” I don’t mention this in the context of vocal health, though, I actually mention this in the context of speed. If you sound too dehydrated, it may necessitate another take, and things like mouth noises and clicks…I mean…yeah, they can be edited out, but that takes more time than just making sure your mouth is click-free beforehand. For that reason, I consider green apples to be the symbol of preparation for a voice actor.

5) Think of something that generally evokes the emotion you’re trying to convey. I know many people advise thinking of the specifics of your target audience rather than going for a general feeling, and I’m not opposed to that. At all. However, I think that, before you get into specifics, it’s best to think of something that has the general, overall emotional feel that you’re going for. ‘Cause if you just go straight into specifics, then–in my humble opinion, of course–you’ll just end up carrying your every-day baggage into the recording session. If the spot you’re auditioning for calls for a humorous tone, and you’re in a bad mood, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the specific choices of your target audience down. You won’t sound funny, you’ll just sound like someone who’s in a bad mood and trying to be funny (who has their target audience figured out). So if it’s a funny spot, think of something funny before you start making specific choices. For me, that would be Ernie Anderson’s blooper reel.

As always, I never give advice, only opinions, but I hope my opinions might prove a little helpful to somebody out there. Anyway, now that that’s over with, search YouTube for “Mr. Dumass!”

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #26: Why I’m Not Adventurous…no, I mean why I stick to my specialties in VO. What did you think I meant?

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The guy featured in the opening clip is an enormously talented (as in he makes seven figures) VO talent by the name of Ben Patrick Johnson. He most certainly does have a great voice, and his talent is enough to justify the money he makes (and, by all accounts, he’s a really nice guy). Here’s the thing, though…this particular audioblog entry is about why I’m not really intimidated by him, nor am I worried about him–because we’re not competing for the same jobs.

The five words that are probably some of the most harmful words to people entering the VO business (or, at the very least, those who are thinkin’ about it) are, “You have a great voice.” I’ve said it many times, and people who have been doing it for much longer than I have said it even more times: it takes much more than a great voice to succeed in this business. So I was inspired to write this audioblog entry when someone was nice enough to give me that “great voice” compliment some time ago after visiting my website and looking at some of the projects I’ve done. My response? “Well, I’m glad you think so, but honestly, I only have a good voice–at best–for the things they use my voice for.”

What do I mean by that? I mean that I only get hired for jobs where my voice and acting ability can add something to a particular VO project–be it credibility, youth, reassurance, excitement, sincerity, what have you. Knowing what your vocal specialty is in this business is a necessity if you intend to compete. For me, that’s the “young, hip, cool” sound. Whenever I get an audition that requests a “deep, gritty, movie trailer voice”…than I won’t even audition for it. ‘Cause that just ain’t my voice (or, to use the metaphor recently employed by my online VO buddy Derek Chappell, it ain’t my make and model). Unless, of course, the client is intentionally looking for a humorously fakey-sounding parody of the typical movie trailer voice style perfected by the late Don LaFontaine, Hal Douglas, and Ben Patrick Johnson…but they usually aren’t.

Weird thing, though…in many ways, this goes against what I was taught in high school and in college, where I was educated in acting. There, they emphasized versatility above all else. They emphasized the ability to adapt to any character whatsoever…anything from a neurotic teenager to a grizzly old man. They wanted you to get inside the character’s head, no matter who the character was. Whether or not you’d realistically be cast in this role in a real-life situation was irrelevant.

As well-intentioned as that may have been (hey, education is about allowing someone to flex their creative muscles and think outside the box), there’s a bit of a disconnect between the art of acting and the business of acting. In the art of acting, we’re supposed to be as versatile an actor as possible so that we can take on as many roles as possible. In the business of acting, though, the most successful actors are the ones who can market themselves effectively by telling all potential clients, “Hey–here’s how you can use me.” Casting nowadays–not just in VO, but in all forms of acting–is typecasting. “Typecasting” used to be an evil word that meant the end of an actor’s career, but now it’s simply a wise business practice.

Discouraged that you can’t do whatever you want in VO? Don’t be. The good thing about this is that I don’t have to worry about the deep-voiced movie trailer guys. Why? Because, as enormously talented as these guys are, their voices sound nothing like mine, and are so far separated from mine that I don’t have to wonder if I’m losing jobs to them. I’m not. The jobs that they’re getting are jobs that I never had any chance of getting, because my specialty is different than theirs. Similarly, they’re not getting jobs that demand voices of the “young, hip, cool” variety. VO is competitive, sure, but you’re never competing against everyone.

VO is a tough job, but there’s one universal benefit–it requires a lot of introspection about what your talents are. Remember, you are enough! Don LaFontaine once said, “The best voice actors I know are the voice actors who understand their relationship with words.” So really, I know that few people talk this way, but if you really want to compliment a voice actor, the best thing you can possibly say is not, “You have a great voice”…but rather, “You really know how to use your voice.”

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #25: Why I’ll Look Stupid…no, I mean why I might look stupid for making a prediction about where VO is headed. What did you think I meant?

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I’m gonna make a prediction in this entry about where VO is headed…in the future! The thing is, I’m a tad scared to make it. I mean, aren’t some movies pretty laughable in how off they were in their predictions about what will happen in the future? Take “Back To The Future Part 2,” for example, in the clip that I opened my entry with. According to that movie, our cities will look like THAT in…2015. Three years. If they’re right, then DAMN is there going to be a rapid explosion of technology in three years! Or how about “Blade Runner,” which supposedly takes place in 2019, and shows a Los Angeles with a smog-covered sky, lots of buildings, and lots of crowds that make it difficult to see where you’re going……..actually, that is Los Angeles, never mind. What I’m trying to say is don’t laugh at me too much if, years later, my predictions of the future turn out to be wrong. However, I’m gonna use some actual examples to back up my prediction: namely, my prediction that VO will be completely replaced with on-camera and 3D motion-capture acting.

What I’m using as the basis for my prediction is…video games. Yeah, I know, “But Dave, those are video games, not your usual day-to-day VO jobs”…right? Well hey, that’s why I said this is a prediction of the future. Currently, only clients like video game and movie companies can afford this top-dollar technology, but every technology gets cheaper in time, and I can definitely see the average client using this technology when it gets cheaper.

Y’see, I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to video games in that a game’s story has always been the #1 factor for me, and few stories had more effective acting than a game called “Heavy Rain.” To give the plot an absurdly quick summary, the protagonist’s 10-year-old son is kidnapped by a serial killer who continually taunts the protagonist with clues as to where he’s keeping the boy. Needless to say, that’s a pretty dark and intense story, but creator David Cage was pretty vocal that he wanted to create a video game experience that was just as emotionally provocative as a movie. To do that, it goes without saying that the acting needed to be top-notch so that players could get emotionally invested. Rather than just doing voice-over, though…Cage went the extra mile.

All of the characters in the game were designed to look completely identical to the voice actors who played them. And they did a pretty good job with it, if I do say so myself. Check out how creepy the similarities are.

The characters in “Heavy Rain” were designed to resemble their voice actors.

Conceptually speaking, that’s not quite new. Back in the old days, Disney was filming live-action sequences on film to use as a reference for their animation, and often had the voice actors serve as the physical models for the characters they played. The point behind this, though, is so that no gamer could ever complain, “That voice doesn’t sound like it fits”…because the voice belongs to the person they’re portraying.

Then, however, comes the voice acting. After designing the characters based on the voice actors who played them, and having them act out their scenes using motion-capture technology, it was time to record the voices. That’s a process that, under normal circumstances, means just having the actors come in, record their lines, and having the animators make the facial reactions. With “Heavy Rain,” though, they literally put motion capture gear on the actors’ faces while they recorded their lines, so that both their vocal delivery and their facial expressions would be captured. So the acting in “Heavy Rain” can’t really even be called “voice acting,” because it was acting on all three fronts–body, face, AND voice. To date, not even a Pixar movie has done this.

The video below shows the entire process. I’ll also end this portion of my audio narration here so you can watch the video.

FAIR WARNING: The scenes in this video from the 0:51 mark to the 1:21 mark, while not inappropriate per say, might be a little too intense for people who are bothered by physical violence, and it’s beyond my ability to edit out since I’m embedding this video from another source. So please skip that section if you’re bothered by violence.

DONE VIEWING? THEN GET BACK ‘TA LISTENING!:

“Heavy Rain” may be revolutionary now but, honestly…I think that’s where all VO is headed. Who’s to say that, when the technology gets (MUCH) cheaper, that e-learning client of yours won’t be asking if you have face-capture gear to give their e-learning program more of a personal touch? What if a major Los Angeles-based advertising company wants you to film a few sequences in your home green screen studio for use in their new commercial for Dove soap? Absurd, right?

Yeah, absurd. Just like people said home VO studios would only be a thing for the rich…before they turned into a necessity to compete in this business. Or just like people said that you had to go to a major studio to record VO…before people started delivering audio over the internet. Let’s be honest, folks…soon, more and more clients are gonna be asking us for HD audio, before moving on to more intense demands as the technology gets cheaper. Granted, I could be totally off, and either way, motion-capture acting isn’t gonna become commonplace any time soon…but I firmly believe that’s where we’re headed. Makes me all the more glad that I trained in areas of acting beyond VO!

*sound of record scratching*

EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT…OR LISTEN ALL ABOUT IT, DEPENDING ON YOUR PREFERENCE AND INTERNET CONNECTION SPEED! This audioblog entry was originally published on June 3rd, but I’ve got an update as of June 15th that I’d like to share with you all. This entry of mine received a very polarized response, with some very worried about my prediction, and others saying, “Dave, calm the heck down!” Well, this audioblog entry was written with a slight tongue-in-cheek tone, but it lies somewhere between a joke and a prediction. Like I said, motion-capture technology isn’t going to become commonplace anytime soon…but one VO talent by the name of Peter Drew was nice enough to point me to an article he wrote–years ago, mind you–on a threat that is even more imminent…a computer program that can actually mimic convincing human speech. I do mean convincing, too, not that fake stuff that you’re hearing in this particular clip. Check out the article here!

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #23: Why Nobody Wants To Listen To Me…no, I mean why sometimes it’s important to keep our egos in check. What did you think I meant?

It’s great to have pride in your job…just remember what your job is.

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Times are tough in this economy. So, in an attempt to keep our business strong, I think many of us, as a natural reaction, have come to uphold VO as a sacred art. An irreplaceable one. One that only we can do! One in which we, as sacred keepers of our god-like voices, stand atop Mt. Olympus and declare to the heavens, “GOD, I ROCK!!!” So imagine how much of a reality check it was when a respected colleague of mine posted this in one of my favorite forums (voice-overs.com–I highly recommend it!). By all means, go check it out for yourself, but here’s the most important part of it: he quoted another (successful) voice actor who said, “I think some people are taking our jobs waaaay too seriously. We say words for money. That’s it. And we should be grateful we were given nice voices and the ability to learn how to act.”

Ho. Ly. CRAP. Considering all the talk about the “infestation of newbies,” the “rates crisis,” and the “devaluing of VO services” that takes place today, this was a very brave thing of them to say…and, in my opinion, so desperately needed!

I love what I do. At the same time, I feel like it’s important to be realistic about what my job is really worth. I think it’s important to take criticism, to laugh at myself, and to keep my real-life priorities in check. Heresy, I know, but it’s a heresy that we all need to take to heart a bit.

Think about it. Sure, as VO talent, for the sake of our business, we want as much exposure as we can get. We all want that national spot for McDonald’s. We all want to dethrone Robert Downey Jr. as the voice of Nissan. We all want to be recognized as serious, competent VO talent so that we can command a respectable business. Because if we command a respectable business, we command respect, right?

Nope. C’mon, guys. Most people don’t want to listen to us…and “us” includes Robert Downey Jr., for that matter–most of the people I talk to have no idea that he does the Nissan commercials! The average person doesn’t watch TV for advertisements, they watch it for their favorite TV shows. In fact, I don’t think it would be such a stretch for me to say that there are people out there who hate ads. Think of it this way. Y’know when you’re watching a YouTube video with a lot of hits, and an ad pops up, and the “Skip To Video” button becomes available after five seconds? How many of you just have your cursor hovering over that skip button, rapidly clicking, just begging to get to your video and not caring at all about whatever ad is being shoved in your face?

Yup. That’s what I thought!

For that matter, businesses are catching on to the fact that people don’t like ads…most notably, DVR makers. According to an article* in the Wall Street Journal by Shalini Ramachandran, Dish Network unveiled a new DVR feature back in March that’s slowly gaining more prominence called “Auto Hop” which allows watchers to automatically skip the ads of their recorded programs. Apparently, some networks aren’t too happy about this.

To be fair, clearly advertising on TV has some value, or else it wouldn’t cost anything. By “some,” I mean that the same article noted that CBS brings in $4.9 billion in advertising revenue from “Two and a Half Men”‘s time slot alone. NBC brings in $4.7 billion from ads that air during “Smash,” ABC brings in $3.9 billion from ads that air during “Modern Family,” and Fox gets a nice $3.1 billion from ads that air during “American Idol.” So, yeah, not exactly chump change. Still, the fact that there’s a demand for something like Auto-Hop is proof enough of what our job is in the grand scheme of things: we speak words for money.

Sure, there’s acting involved. Sure, it’s more difficult than it looks (well, sounds). Sure, one has to make sure they can do the best job they can do with their audio equipment and their recording environment. Sure, it takes a consistent marketing effort. Sure, not everyone can do this. Sure, being successful at this business–at any business–involves taking ourselves seriously to a degree. I won’t ever say, argue, or imply that this is a skill-less, thankless, meaningless job. It most certainly isn’t! My point, and the point of the person quoted above, is merely that there is such a thing as taking one’s job too seriously sometimes. Remember, we speak words for money. Words that, even when spoken by Iron Man, people generally aren’t interested in hearing.

PS: Sorry for plugging them again, but…well, actually, no, I’m not sorry. 😀 The voice-overs.com forum, which I linked to early in the entry, is a forum that everybody should sign up for and join. It was immensely helpful for me, and unlike other forums, egos are checked at the door there!

*Source: “Zap! New DVR Wipes Out Ads” by Shalini Ramachandran, Wall Street Journal, May 11.

Some great discussion about this topic took place at…

1. The “Voice-Over Professionals” Linkedin Group

2. The “Voice-Over Vision” Linkedin Group

3. The “Working Voice Actor” Linkedin Group

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #20: Why I’m Uneducated…no, I mean why I feel it was absurd that I was never taught voice-over in an academic setting. What did you think I meant?

Okay, not entirely accurate, but that’s how I envisioned myself when I found out that colleges don’t teach voice acting.

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As a relatively recent college graduate, I can tell you that there were certain things I wish I had learned in college that I never did. Not because I didn’t pursue them, but because the opportunity just wasn’t available. I have a degree in theater, and I concentrated on acting. I was taught stage acting, mask acting, and camera acting…but never, at any point, was I taught voice acting. Whatever I know now, I had to pick up on my own (well, and with some coaches). So imagine the reaction I had when I found out that, apparently, some obscure college that no one’s ever heard of called “Yale,” does indeed have a VO class!

Here’s how I found out. In surfin’ around a few Linkedin forums, Jake Foushee, the kid who I mentioned in Entry #19, was brought up. I screwed up the pronunciation of his last name in that entry, but I can no longer permit myself to do that ’cause…Jake now has agency representation through Abrams Creative Artists! So it sounds like we’re gonna be hearing this guy a lot more! Still, he’s been quite the talk of a few VO forums, and in one of those forums, one voice-over talent expressed some concern that he’ll be competing against other VO talent who have much more experience and training than he does. Then, one of the replies said…

“…As a professor who teaches voiceovers at Yale, I can assure you that Jake will have the proper training and mentoring.”

However, that’s how the rest of the world read that sentence. Here’s how I read that sentence:

“…As a professor who teaches voiceovers at Yale–”

*sound of record scratching*

“WHAT!? They TEACH voice-overs? AT FREAKIN’ YALE!? I CANNOT BELIEVE–”

I then proceeded to rant, but it lasted for three hours, twelve minutes, and forty-six seconds so I’ll stop there. To summarize the rant, I was just cursing the fact that a college actually teaches VO!

To me, it’s something that no longer has an excuse not to be taught in an academic setting! I knew I wanted to get into voice acting when I was 12, so I remember back when I was 17 and looking at colleges, their acting curriculum was top of mind for me. Most had a good theater acting program, some even had a TV/camera acting program, but VO? Whenever I said, “Well, I really wanna do voice acting, do you guys have anything like that here?” The only response I would ever get back was, “Um…I mean, like, we have a campus radio station. Is that…is that what you meant, or…?”

Fast-forward a few years, the situation evolved to the point where I ended up teaching a one-day VO class. I don’t exactly mean that in a good way, though. Y’see, back when I was in the OSU theater department, it was mentioned by somebody that I did voice-overs. I’m not one to gossip, but many actors generally are, so the word quickly spread. For the next year, whenever I introduced myself to a fellow student at the theater department as “Dave Wallace,” their next immediate response would be, “Oh wai–I’ve heard of you, you’re the, the voice-over guy, right?” To which I would always respond, “Well I wouldn’t exactly put that as my legal name on my tax returns, but I do voice-overs, yes.” So eventually, I get hit with this bombshell from one of my acting professors–

“Would you mind making a one-day presentation to the class on voice-overs?”

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice of my professor to ask me that, but I was very reluctant to do that. I said to her…

“Well, I mean…y’know, I’ll be happy to do that, but I don’t know that I’m the best guy for the job. I’m not a newbie by any means, but I’m not exactly a veteran, either. My experience just isn’t up to the level that I would consider ‘professor-like.’ We’ve got some acting professors here who have been doing acting for decades and hell, we’re OSU–we’re THE biggest college in the U.S.! Isn’t there somebody here who’s more knowledgeable than I am?”

Their immediate reply was, “Nope.” So I, a kid who, at the time, had only been doing VO for three years, gave as best a lecture I could about VO. I tried to cover all that I could–the importance of acting ability, having a brand, knowing how to run a small business, utilizing various marketing methods, where to go to get one’s demo done…I answered any questions I could.

As glad as I was to help out, though…the academic world deserves better than me.

The now-common nature of home studios, combined with the fact that I’m one of the closest things that a major university had to someone knowledgeable in VO, is all the evidence we need that VO has to have an academic presence. Why are there not more professors teaching VO? Why aren’t colleges setting up a cheap booth with a USB mic just to give students a feel for how their voice sounds on a microphone? Why aren’t field trips being arranged to VO recording studios? Why are colleges giving prospective students blank stares when they ask to learn about a rapidly-growing medium of acting? I can’t think of good answers to these questions, so the excuses are up as far as I’m concerned!

So congrats to that one professor I saw who’s teaching VO at Yale. He’s teaching something that, as a kid, I wanted to learn so, so, so badly!

Some great discussion took place on this topic at…

1) The “Voice-Over Professionals” Linkedin Group

2) The “Working Voice Actor” Linkedin Group

3) The “SaVoa” Linkedin Group

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #18: Why I Shu–actually, you know what, screw it, I’m just gonna get to the point

Seriously, get to the point!

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You only have so much time to read or listen to my audioblog. Especially if you have other emails to answer, other auditions to do, live in a busy market, have other projects to edit…you gut stuff to do. I get it. However, over the weekend, I was reminded of just how busy our world is, and I was grateful for the reminder.

Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of corresponding with a family friend, an actor who lives in Los Angeles and has lived there for quite some time. I’m moving there (late this year or early next year, there are a few x factors involved), and he was extremely kind and generous with all of the info that he provided. It started out with an in-person meeting, progressed to some back-and-forth emails, and culminated in a phone call. In my opinion, though, the most interesting part of the whole conversation I had with him on the phone was towards the end. He said…

“Also, Dave, just one last quick thing…the emails that you sent me…they were long. Really, REALLY long. I totally get it, ’cause I’m the same way, I love to include as many details as I can to give people a complete understanding of the situation, so I don’t mind it personally, but…send those emails to the average person in LA, and you will overwhelm them. The acting business in LA operates on a lightning-fast business model, so you need to get to the point and quick. I’m not saying you should change who you are, or anything like that, I’m just telling you that, in LA…you got to get to the point, and quick, because on their best days, the main bullet points are all the people in LA have time for. Often they don’t even have time for those. Less is more.”

Okay, sorry for puttin’ that cheesy reverb effect on the “less is more” bit, but I did that for the sake of emphasis. “Less is more,” in case you didn’t notice, has become the defacto principle of communication. I noticed it myself even before he pointed it out, but the fact that I went ahead with super-lengthy emails despite knowing how overwhelming they can be demonstrated that this principle can be easy to forget. I’ve mentioned before that, while I’m a humble person, if you ever see me boast about one thing, it’ll be my kung-fu typing speed. That, combined with the fact that I like to talk, usually results in really lengthy emails, audioblog entries, and forum posts.

Well, the forum posts aren’t going to be shortened. Or the audioblog entries (except for this one, for the sake of thematic consistency). Emails, though? Less is more. The very fact that a social network like Twitter exists proves that people are less and less interested in long details, they just want to get to the point. Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me if eventually they’re just gonna create a social network where all of your posts are limited to one letter, with every letter meant to be shorthand for something. Like…

O.

Which will eventually be short-hand for, “Of course, good sir, I will gladly attend your party this evening after making the proper transportation arrangements.”

All of that to say…be polite, tell people what they want to know…but get to the point. In fact, I apologize if you listened to this, considering how busy our schedules are. As an act of repentance, if you’re listening to the audio narration of this entry, I will now speed up the speed of the audioblog entry so that you can get it in a more time-appropriate format.

FOR THE PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE A TON OF TIME:

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #15: Blatant Cheating

What were you expecting?

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

Hey, I didn’t say this was gonna be detailed, I just said I was gonna make another audioblog entry. Here it is.

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #14: Why I Failed…no, I mean why I failed to keep my New Year’s Resolution along with other goals. What did you think I meant?

Papa John’s–AKA THE BEST PIZZA EVER, BAR NONE!!!!

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

I LOVE Papa John’s pizza, which is partially why I’m eating it while I record this audioblog entry. It’s been my favorite pizza chain ever since I was in the seventh grade. Back when I was a kid and talked about maybe doing voice acting one day, the first suggestion from my family was that I do a Pappa John’s commercial (which I totally would do if the opportunity presented itself). Having said that, one could say I love Papa John’s a bit too much. It got to the point where I was eating it about five times a week. For some reason, my metabolism is such that I never gain an ounce of weight no matter what I eat, but that’s besides the point. It’s still not the healthiest thing in the world, so I made a New Year’s Resolution to only eat three a week at most…already failed. Much like most of our New Year’s Resolutions.

Some of you may be thinking, “Dave, it’s late in March, shouldn’t New Year’s Resolutions be saved for December?” Well, lest my ears deceive me, the term “year” usually encompasses 365 days. Of those 365 days, December constitutes 31 of them. This mind-boggling phenomenon ultimately leads me to conclude that when someone makes a “New Year’s Resolution,” they intend to keep it for–ahem–an entire year. To that end, I’d like to ask all my readers and listeners…c’mon now…how many of your New Year’s Resolutions have you actually kept? Or did your New Year’s Resolutions turn into a, “Minimal Effort That Lasts For A Week Or Two Before Gradually Returning To The Normal Routine” Resolution?

Hey, I’m not judging. I can tell you without hesitation that I kept some and didn’t keep some. Because I want to end on a positive note, let’s talk about the ones I didn’t keep first.

New Year’s Resolution #1: Limit yourself to three Papa John’s pizzas a week. Failed. Right out the gate.

New Year’s Resolution #2: One new blog entry a week. Already failed. I certainly don’t believe I’m indispensable to the internet’s existence, and I’m sure the world continued to operate just fine when I didn’t post one last week, but I began writing (and voicing) my audioblog late last year with a mere three posts and, while I created it and continue to maintain it with the sole intention of public reflection and discussion, the response was nice enough to encourage me to write more. That, and I’ve always had something of a passion for writing. So I thought, ya know what–GOD, this is good pizza–I thought, ya know what, I’m gonna write one a week. Last Sunday ended up being too busy, sure, but I knew it was gonna be busy, and should have planned ahead of time, like we all should when we know a particular day will be busy. And I didn’t.

New Year’s Resolution #3: Revamp my website. Eh. Half-failed. I’m entering talks with a web-designer to organize my stuff a bit more by combining my audioblog with my main site, I’m workin’ on a long-overdue video reel, and re-designing my logo. So…half-failed in that I haven’t done it yet, but I’m in the process. Still, I’m weary of phrases like “in the process,” and “workin’ on it,”…because you know as well as I do, those usually get changed to “no longer in the process,” and “not workin’ on it,” soon enough.

Okay, that’s the failed stuff. I did manage to get some stuff done, though! Well, actually, first, let me grab a drink of water. Hold on.

(after getting a drink)

Okay. What, did you think I was gonna edit that out?

(belch)

‘Scuse me.

New Year’s Resolution #4: Find more efficient ways to keep in contact with my clients. Since I’m a VO talent, I think about my VO business 24/7. When we think like that, though, we have a tendency to forget that we’re but a cog in the machine that is someone else’s business. When we get hired to do a commercial or an internet video, the client is primarily concerned with selling the content on that commercial or video. They’re not launching a manhunt for A GLOWING, DEFINITIVE VOICE…rather, they’re just listening through auditions and going, “Um….yeah, that one guy sounds good.” We’re just one step in a bigger process, so it’s easy for us to not be “top of mind” when our clients launch a new project. So there has to be a good way of keeping in touch with them and politely reminding them that we exist, right?

Yup. Enter Happy Grasshopper.

I gotta say, I love this service. You load a contact list into it which you can update at will, and twice a month, it generates three different possible emails that you can send to your clients, usually containing fun little factoids. I’ve never cared for stock messages, though (as evidenced in “Dave’s Audioblog Entry #8” ), which is why I usually change the wording of the messages and add some more stuff to put my own spin on it–and yes, you can do that with Happy Grasshopper. So, mission accomplished there!

…And, um….that’s it.

That’s not to say that I don’t have other goals, but I didn’t have other goals in the context of New Year’s Resolutions. Let’s face it guys, almost nobody follows through on these things, because it–

(swallow)

–because it’s hard to keep stuff up for a year. For that reason, I normally don’t prefer to make New Year’s Resolutions. However, I do find it helpful in accomplishing goals if there is some sort of looming pressure to accomplish  them. So, take a moment to think about the goals you set out to do, whether or not you actually did them, and what you would need to change in order to correct that.

In fact, I know what I can do! I’ll do two audioblog entries in one day, that way I can make up for the one I missed! Here’s a link to it!

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #11: Why I Grew Tired…no, I mean why I grew tired of all of the rates-related discussions that I see in VO social media forums. What did you think I meant?

Pretty much how I’ve felt lately.

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

Do you want to see chaos easily unfold? Then here’s a fun little experiment you can do in your very own home. Go into a VO forum, and ask if a rate for a certain project is fair. In five minutes, you’ll get a response saying that it is. In ten minutes, you’ll get a response saying that it isn’t. In fifteen minutes, the person who first replied will defend their stance. In twenty minutes, the person who replied second will defend their counter-attack from the first person. In thirty minutes, a posse of people who believe in the stance of the first person will come to his aid. In forty-five minutes, a posse of people who believe in the stance of the second person will come to their aid. In three days, a holy war, fought only with words, of unprecedented proportions will have erupted. Many deaths.

Okay, I’m exaggerating…but only ever-so-slightly. From what I’ve seen, the most sensitive issue to ever arise in discussions about VO is the issue of rates. Friggin’ nobody can agree on what’s a fair rate anymore. A lot of this has to do with an issue that, to be fair, is very real. Forces are certainly at work to de-value the services of VO talent, either intentionally or unintentionally, and many VO talent–newbies and veterans, dudes and chicks, young and old, union and non-union–have rightfully taken offense to this. So it’s only logical that an issue like this would lead to very heated discussions and even debates.

And ya know what? I’m sorry–kinda–but I’ve had enough!

Seriously, it has gotten to a point where they’re unbelievably annoying for me. I’ve hit the “unfollow” button on so many rates-related discussions this week that I lost count of them. They’ve become annoying because of the chastising. They’ve become annoying because of the verbiage that people have used in their arguments.They’ve become annoying because of the opinions that people think should be universal. They’ve become annoying because of the complaining. They’ve become annoying because they’re…well, depressing, quite frankly.

So no one will mistake my intentions, I’m not suggesting that the rate discussions stop (which is convenient, ’cause they won’t). I think rates are a perfectly relevant and important thing to talk about. Yeah, I’ve turned down work with abysmally low rates. Yeah, rates are under pressure to go down, and…yeah, that kinda sucks! I simply think that if we embed ourselves in those discussions too deeply, rates become the center of our attention. They become all that we think about. I too have been guilty of this for a while now…

…Until recently.

About two weeks ago, I received an email that really made me reflect on my attitude about VO now in comparison to the attitude I had when I first started out. The email came from a 16-year-old kid, who was referred to me by a friend. This kid said that he really wanted to learn about VO, and asked if I could just give him a general overview….

Here’s the thing, though…I rarely write short responses. Almost never. I consider myself a humble person, but if you ever see me brag about one thing, it’s my kung-fu typing speed. Put any court reporter before me in a typing contest, and I will destroy them without mercy. So my kung-fu typing speed, combined with my eagerness to talk, almost always results in responses that are perhaps unnecessarily long. My response back to this kid was no exception. I wrote a very, very lengthy email, but it covered  pretty basic stuff. Stuff like…

-It’s a tough business no matter what people try to tell you otherwise.

-Your ability to act is the most important thing.

-Get your first demo produced by a coach and don’t try to make your own.

-Learn your strengths and weaknesses early so you can develop a brand.

Basic stuff. Things like that. What really struck me, though, was his response to me. He wrote a thank-you email back, but ended it with, “Thanks so much, this was such a wonderful experience!”

That really took me by surprise. Really? A wonderful experience? All I did was write him an email. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary. I was wondering if maybe he was exaggerating, but a few minutes later I got an email from the friend who referred that kid to me to begin with, who wrote back, “Thanks man, he’s overly happy right now!”

Then it hit me. In an instant, I was brought back to a mindset I had long ago. My mind went back in time, to when I was 12 years old, when it dawned on me that the voices that I heard in cartoons and video games came from actual people who did that for a job. My eyes lit up, and I wanted to absorb all the info I could about voice acting. Me and my friends began acting out the voices for video game characters with text-based dialogue, and we Googled everything we could. We wanted it, we were fascinated by the idea of voice acting.

Then I remembered the cartoon that truly awakened my voice acting ambitions: an anime by the name of “Dragon Ball Z.” I was enthralled by the performances in the English dub, and came to idolize the performances of those actors. Sure, I did the research and found out that their efforts were a non-union job that didn’t pay a ton in the grand scheme of things, but I didn’t care. I was amazed at how they were able to draw me into the story, and I was determined to hone my craft as an actor so I could one day give TV viewers the great experience that the performances of those actors had given me.

Then I remembered my first gig. I won’t point you to it because it’s a tad embarrassing, but it was a pretty cheap gig. I didn’t care. I was friggin’ elated when I got it, I emailed everyone in my family, and my friends and I went celebrating later that night. Was that naive of me? Yeah, sure it was. With naivete comes passion, though, and it’s a passion that I really miss sometimes. One that diminished by focusing too much on the money, and one that this kid’s response partially returned to me.

Here’s something that’s kind of embarrassing for me to admit. I’m a Motley Crue fan. I love ’em (and 80’s metal in general). In their latest album, they have a song called “Down At The Whisky,” which talks about their earliest gigs, including playing cheapo gigs at the Los Angeles nightclub, the Whisky-A-Go-Go. My favorite lyric in the whole song? That would be this one:

“We never made a dime, but God we had a good time!”

So please understand…I’m not saying that money ain’t important. It is, for so many different and obvious reasons. Furthermore, unlike many of my peers, I don’t have a family that I need to support (at least not yet), so my struggles will never be completely identical with the struggles of someone else. As such, I’m not one to issue “calls to action.” I’m only saying, for the sake of public reflection, that I think if we focus on rates so much, we’re never gonna be happy, and we’re never gonna find satisfaction in our work. So if you want a call to action–and I know you didn’t ask for one–here it is: take a moment to remember why you got into VO. ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I ain’t in it for the money.

Why did you get into it? Are you still having fun with it? Were you ever having fun with it?

Just some thoughts from a guy who recently remembered why he got into VO to begin with: because it’s a blast. Nothing more, nothing less.