starwarsIt’s taken more than thirty years, but I’ve had it.

 

While I’ve never dressed up as a Wookie or gone to a movie theatre toting a Light Saber, I’ve considered myself one of the original “Star Wars” fans ever since that first frame of film hit the screen in 1977. I was in my 20s, and even arranged the first preview showing in the area through my radio station job before that Time Magazine article came out and everyone else started jumping on the bandwagon.

It was more fun than I’d ever had at the movies. Yeah. I knew it was a only a movie. And I knew it had its flaws. But I bought in and cheered it on.

I grudgingly accepted the stupid mid-filming script change that killed off Obi-Wan in the original.

I went along with the cheesy “Luke…I am your father!” in “Empire Strikes Back”.

I put up with Ewoks, a Death Star re-run, and the Humpty-Dumpty Darth Vader reveal in “Return of the Jedi”.

When the bloated “Special Editions” came out, I tried to overlook the wretched excess.

I put up (barely) with Jar Jar Binks, midi-chlorians, insipid disc-jockey pod race announcers, and “Yippee” in “Phantom Menace”. (I also remember feeling like I’d been punched in the gut and given a wedgie after going to the midnight preview showing.)

I got through “Attack of the Clones” by reminding myself how good Ewan McGregor and Christopher Lee were at handling awful material when teen-angst Anakin wasn’t taking up screen time, whining.

I even held down my dinner as “I-wanna-be-a-badass” Annie killed a trusting group of children, amid total green-screen/CGI overload, culminating in being expected to accept the instant transformation of said whiny teenage brat into the galactic terror of Darth Vader (now with improved James Earl Jones voice) in “Revenge of the Sith”.

Through it all, I refused to join the enraged online fanboy screams of “George Lucas raped my childhood!!!”

But even semi-blind fanaticism has its limits. And I’ve reached mine.

For all the fun and all the joy the original brought into my life in 1977, imperfect though it may have been…I can’t take another betrayal.

I waited cautiously all year for December 2015, remembering how good the theatrical previews for “Phantom Menace” looked at the time. As the release date approached, I carefully avoided spoilers, and even admired the new bosses’ ability to keep media leaks to almost zero. What showed up in the previews and online features looked like it might just be a return to form.

And now? I’m not even going to see the damned thing.

Yeah…I gave in. I turned to the Dark Side…I finally looked at the spoilers and confirmed the rumours.

Ya know what?

I’m tired of my heroes being trashed. I’m tired of seeing Zorro unmasked and dragged through the street. I’m tired of the Lone Ranger being made a bumbling second-banana to a deranged Tonto. I’m tired of the Green Hornet being re-booted as a n’er-do-well slacker. I’m tired of The Shadow turning into a smirking Alec Baldwin. I’m tired of Starship Enterprises repeatedly getting blown up. I’m tired of the Mission: Impossible team being killed off and demonized just so Tom Cruise can take over. I’m tired of James Bond being mired in murky personal problems instead of saving the world from over-the-top villains. I’m tired of Superman being anything but a hero. And I’m REALLY tired of Batman being dark and gothic and depressing.

I’m tired of people somehow being ashamed of wanting to see a fun, escapist adventure without a lot of dark and “meaningful” overtones once in awhile.

So, forgive me 1977 Star Wars (no bloody “Episode 4, 5, or 6”), if I don’t plunk down more good money to have the props knocked out from under me again for no good reason, other than the new director needed some shock value.

I don’t care how good the first three quarters of the new movie may be…and I’m told it is truly great, as are the new actors.

I’ve had enough. I’ll take my old toys and go home

No, I won’t be burning them in some kind of adolescent tantrum. But if anyone asks, I don’t want a BB-8 or Kylo Ren doll for Christmas.

If you like “The Force Awakens”…good for you. Take over.

For me…even George Lucas never stooped so low.

 

— over and out —

“Clients From Hell” are well documented. There’s even a website devoted to them. I am compelled to declare equal time for one from the Other Camp.

I met him last week through a friend’s recommendation and yes, he is an agency guy.

It was a quick turnaround VO, statewide use. I quoted what I thought was a decent rate and was gratified to be given the nod.

Even with the tight deadline, the guy warned me his end-client was known for changing things a couple of times and this would be covered in fees. He was also honest enough to tell me the piece would be used online and told me to figure that in as well.

True to form, the script went through two more last-second re-writes, each (of course) was an “emergency.” I delivered to my new patron’s complete satisfaction and … in effect … made him look good to his client.

Then he sent me a link to the finished spot. It’s a TV spot – and I had quoted him a Radio rate!

After a few choice words to myself, I communicated my mistake (ONLY to avoid having him think any future work would be priced so low, and that I WANTED to work with him again).

A quick check of emails showed it was completely my own goof, and I said I would honor the quoted price now that the work was done.

To my surprise, there was an immediate response – asking me to submit a new invoice. I replied I didn’t think it would be ethical for me to do that, especially after the spot was done and sent out to stations for air.

This new client of mine … who had assured me the voice work I did was just what everyone wanted (and that I didn’t get the gig just because my price was so low) … replied that while he appreciated my attitude, he himself did not feel it was ethical to let things stay at the original price.

Being completely flummoxed at this point, I used a friend’s fall-back line:

“Well, what would you think I could charge and still have you feel you got a good deal?”

He came back with an itemization that totaled a whole lot more than I would have asked, saying it was in line with what his agency is accustomed to paying for this type of project.

Oh, and he assures me that we WILL be working together again in the future. You can believe next time I’ll be paying more attention.

Even without a “Client From Hell”, the Devil truly is in the details!

— over and out —

…no, I don’t mean “Hire Me” or “Pay Me”.

They’re simple words, easy to use, often neglected or thrown about as an afterthought.  But I’ve come to think they’re two words that don’t get used enough:

“Thank You.”

I’m not sure when I started including a “thank you” in nearly all my emails, but during the past year it’s been one of my more commendable habits.

No matter what I’m writing about, there’s almost always a way to work in a “thank you”.  And really, who doesn’t want to be thanked?

Of course it’s easy to use those two magic words when you’re sending out a request for information, or acknowledgement of winning a job…or sending an invoice.

I think I started noticing it had crept into my “stylebook” as I shot out more mundane things, like auditions.  Granted, you never know whether a person or a piece of software is handling your latest vocal gem, but what’s the harm of saying “thank you” for even the chance to participate?  …of being invited to the call, cattle or otherwise?

A “thank you” always looks good when acknowledging receipt of a script, or even requests for advice from someone who’s been told he/she “has a great voice”.

And while it’s merely my own choice, I opt for the full two words, rather than a quick “thanks”, which is a little less personal but probably just as effective.

If nothing else, you can use it to reward someone for taking time to read your whole message and not just deleting it after the first few words.

Kind of like this blog post.

So…”Thank You!”

 

 

 

— over and out —

I’m a contrarian.  I try to learn something OLD everyday.

Today I hit the jackpot with this story from the website www.curioushistory.com about a mechanical talking device that pre-dates the telephone, recording machine and talking pictures.  It’s one of those things that looks like a hoax, but is evidently true…and cool!

talking machine

 

http://curioushistory.com/post/55136778566/euphonia-the-marvelous-talking-machine#.UeG72PrD-cx

There’s no known recording of the device, but conspiracy theorists are already buzzing that “she” is still in use, saying things like “Your call is very important to us.  Please hold for the next available customer service representative.”

–over and out —

Sample Image of the  ZamPlayer, used elsewhere on this site.

Sample Image of the
ZamPlayer, used elsewhere on this site.

What if the voice style a producer is listening for is actually Segment Number Five in my sixty-second Demo? What if the producer stops listening after Segment Number Three? Is a problem. …for BOTH of us!

Not anymore.

Enter VoiceZam, a new type of audio player created by my friend, Bob Merkel, and now in use on www.voices2go.com. It allows listeners to zero in on just the part of any demo they want, without having to play the demos in their original order. Like iTunes, it can start at Segment One and play through, or start anywhere else and skip around and/or repeat or go back, INSTANTLY. Short Segments or the whole demo can be downloaded just as easily.

The player is set at one default (changeable by you)…in my case: Commercial. But the drop-down menu reveals all the other demos on offer, from Narration to Character to Audiobooks and E-Learning. VoiceZam’s player lets me upload as many different categories as I want to show off, but lets the listener pick and choose ONLY what he/or/she is listening for.

Added bonus: I can label each Segment in each demo just the way I want, so as to better match the type of voice being searched for. And updating & swapping out segments is so easy, even I can do it.

Once you get the hang of the player, it’s tempting to click around and see what other “buried treasure” you might have missed listening the old fashioned way. That’s just what I’m hoping my potential clients will do.

Best of all, the player is built to play instantly on any device….well…any desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, dumbphone, or Dick Tracy Wrist Radio. Bob still isn’t sure it’ll show up on your old-style digital watch, though. There’s more to say about the player, but it’s being said much better on the VoiceZam.com website. Don’t even get me started on the feature that lets you track who’s listening in, and for which segments, and for how long!!!

On a personal note: Bob is a delight to work with, taking hands-on ownership of any question, any potential problem. In my own case, he even went into his software “baby” and created a player skin color to match my website theme…and later created a catagory in the drop-down so I could also show off my Audio Production skills to potential clients. Not only that, but recently, he took note of numerous complaints about the cost of the service. Did he do a Steve Jobs and say “take it or leave it”? No. He did a “Bob Merkel”, and cut the cost in half.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of customer response a “warm & friendly voice” talent appreciates.

— over and out —

The Curse of the Creative Mind

brokenZs
…the Sleep Gremlins have finally found a crazy dream I cannot will myself awake from.
“Actor’s Nightmare”? Pish…I laugh in its face.
“Airshift Where the Studio is Suddenly My Grandma’s Living Room and All the Records Are Wrong”? I can dream I say, “Oh, come on. Wake up.”
But they got me last night with a simple dream of having a creative assignment where the script would alllllllmost come together, but not quite…but I could fix it if…no, but what if….well, nearly there, but…what about if we…. 
Even after waking up from it twice, I went right back to sleep to “fix” the problem. ….oh dear.
“Exhausted” is not the word. (…wait. what is the word? maybe if I…dang, it’s back again, and I’m awake this time!)

 

— over and out —

I understand.  People say you have a great voice.  They’re probably right.  You’ve practiced and practiced until you’re able to sound like all those great DJs you hear on the radio.  Or you’ve finally perfected your “Homer Simpson”.  Or maybe you’ve looked at all those quickie voiceover audition posts and can now sound like Morgan Freeman.  Time to make a demo and cash in, right?  Well…maybe.

Or – second scenario – you’ve been at this for years.  You know the ropes.  You’re a voiceover veteran and you know your own “cast of characters” inside out.  You’ll be able to wow ’em with that classic demo of yours until your voice changes with age.  Uhm…possibly.

 

Inigo_VO3

Finding and booking voice work is hard enough.  Even so, I marvel at my ability to make something hard…even harder.  Too often, I keep putting out what I know I’ve done well in the past…or a laboured imitation of what I think sells today…instead of focusing on something that’s actually in demand at the moment!  …and in a way that’s totally mine, something unavailable from anyone else (even Morgan Freeman, if it comes to that).

More often than not, I’m trying to sell refrigerators to Eskimos, or worse yet, trying to sell fake snow to someone who already has loads of the real thing available.

That embarassing point becomes even more ludicrous as I now notice I’ve had the benefit of plain advice practically handed to me, gift-wrapped!  More than once!  Just this week, a studio I’ve been happily associated with for years sent out a request for examples of specific types of voices, styles, and characters they’d been asked for by their clients.  I compared what they wanted to what I had on my on Commercial Demo.  By their list, I didn’t flunk out…but I was a lot further off than I want to be.  And I remember another studio asking for the same type of specific stuff a few years ago.  I didn’t follow up.  I guess I figured my “vintage ice cubes” would still sell well enough.

Maybe you’re smart enough to have figured this out on your own.  Good on ya.  If not, maybe it’s time to start thinking more about what the buyers are interested in buying…instead of what you’re interested in selling.

Guess what I’m going to be working on in the next few weeks.

— over and out —

 

People who know me are in general agreement that a Big Ego isn’t one of my worst problems.

Still, every so often I catch my overly-humble self missing a real treat because I think “Oh, I already know all about that.”  This turned out to be one of those treats. And if you think you already know all about “Old Radio”, or voice acting, or creating worlds with words and sounds and music, you need to re-think…and enjoy this book.

raisedonradio_bookcover2What I thought was just another book on Nostalgia turned out to have new insights and details on the era of network Radio which I had never encountered…and I’ve been collecting recordings and books on the subject for 40 years.  If you have any interest at all in knowing how people discovered and developed the art of entertaining (and selling) through sound alone…in effect, how the business you as a voice talent proport to be part of came about, “Raised on Radio” should be on your reading list.  This is the origin of your voiceover career, whether you acknowledge it or not!

Author Gerald Nachman goes far beyond the “gee whiz” nostalgic whitewash or dry academic catalogue of so many radio histories.  His is a “warts and all” description of this Theatre of the Mind which still lets all the “beauty marks” show.

Newscasts, Sponsorships, Production and Sound Effects, Soaps, Dramas, Kiddie Shows, Quiz Programs, the relation to Vaudeville and later to TV, tie-ins to movies, music, and the history of the moment, even the development of what’s now known as the situation comedy – it’s all laid out here, in a personal, conversational tone still laced with authority.  And while not a textbook on performance, I noted several sections that would serve as guidance on things like mic technique and character development.  You may even take a fiendish glee in the section about the big movie stars who were absolutely no good in front of a microphone!

It’s a big story, in a big book.  But if you enjoy it as much as I did, you’ll wonder at how fast it goes by.

I think I’ll have to keep it around for a re-run…just to remind myself every once in awhile how much fun it is not to “know it all”.

— over and out —

“Forward Into The Past!”

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image_rectangularThere are plenty of websites out there for wasting time.  Then there are some which take a lot of your time, but give a lot of enjoyment in return.

Such a website is Pulp-O-Mizer,  where you can customize your own thrilling adventures as they might have appeared on those great old Science Fiction/Fantasy pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s.

It’s free to play around on.  Alas, it’s only for personal use…okay to show on blogs and facebook, but not licensed for commercial use.  However, they do offer to print your design on cards and other items for a fee.  That just might show up in my promotional Future.

Meanwhile, here’s what I have to show for about an hour of fun playing around with the various templates at  http://thrilling-tales.webomator.com/derange-o-lab/pulp-o-mizer/pulp-o-mizer.html

If you end up spending a lot of time playing…don’t say I didn’t warn you!

— over and out —

 

…a Ghost of Christmas Past.

I didn’t send out cards this year.  It reduced holiday stress, but still…I felt a little guilty.

So, as I’ve met and made so many new friends since this little audio skit was created five years ago, I figured I’d take advantage of technological advances and share with you a film noir version of the muchly over-done “Christmas Carol”…this time, starring Sam Scrooge.

My thanks to Wendy Zier for joining the voice cast.   And, as Scrooge would say, “A Happy Humbug to you all!”  (…seriously, the only way I’ve made it through this year is with the help of friends such as you.  And for that, I am truly grateful.)

— over and out —