Archive for the ‘ On Camera Jobs ’ Category

Back on the Farm Team

If there is a downside to doing the voice for an animation project, it’s the seemingly interminable interval before you can actually see the final result. But more often than not…it’s worth the wait.
That’s been the experience with these terrific and funny TV spots for Taco John’s, created by Lawrence and Schiller (used by permission).
I’m the old coot who runs the farm where these very special flavors of chicken are raised (note the horns on the Buffalo Wings bird). This is the spot that ran during football playoffs…and it has one of my favorite lines ever.

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New Dog…Old Trick

Animating a moving mouth over live-action animal footage is nothing new. There was a popular series of theatrical shorts in the 30s based on the concept. It’s still fun, though!
My thanks to Rod and Nancy Rich at MonkeyBravo for thinking of me when it came time to record the voices (and for including my friend Wendy Zier as the other pooch).
After the “dog-eat-dog” drama of recent weeks, I thought it might be good to lighten the mood!

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Famous…for What?

Sometimes I enjoy and admire Ricky Gervais.  Sometmes I wonder how he got into the room…and how soon he’ll find the way back out. 

But what he wrote in the Huffington Post has put him back on the “plus” column for me just now.  It’s about the weird modern goal of being “Famous”.  …nothing else…just “Famous”, not famous for anything, except being “Famous”.  That’s the subject of his next video series.  I may actually have to watch this one, having been left un-involved by The Office and having only seen snippets of Extras (the Doctor Who parody was priceless, though).

His best quote from the whole article, for me, is this: 

“Born clever? So what? What are you going to do with it? Your best, I hope, and no less.”

Here’s the link to the full piece.

It’s worth your time…even if you can’t stand Ricky Gervais.

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     I’ve done it before, but never to this extent, or in this particular way.

     ‘Ready for your close-up?  I’m Mr. DeMille.  (If you’re too young to get the reference, watch “Sunset Boulevard”)

RG (in blue shirt) directs Paul Garrett. It's ironic that at one point I was directing Paul to use his hands less. Look whose hands are blurred in this shot!!!

     This weekend I worked with a group of very talented actors on the first in a series of web-training videos for Firehorse Films…as a Director!

Today’s lesson:  expanding your income by being able to offer new services to established clients!

     Mind you, the mastermind behind the whole project was Firehorse’s Jean-Paul Dame (pronounced dam-MAY…I don’t know how to use the accent key).  But Jean-Paul and I have worked on various audio and video projects over the years.  Sometimes I’ve been his on-camera talent.  Sometimes he’s recorded me or another VO talent at my studio.

     During one session a few years ago, JP was trying to get a particular read from one of my talented VO friends.  After several takes failed to bring the desired result, I suggested something-or-other to help the talent get the idea of what he was being asked to convey.  Next take:  nailed it.  From that time on, JP declared I had a new talent:  I speak Jean-Paul-ese!

     It’s come in handy several times since, with him specifically bringing recording work to me so he can fall back on my ability to know what he wants, and “translate” it into something the actor can then use.  May sound strange, but it works.

     When this current video project came along, naturally I auditioned.  But the age, gender, and ethnicity requirements of the final script meant I was just not right for any of the parts.  Jean-Paul brought me in to direct the actors, freeing him up to concentrate on technical issues, and keeping performances consistent for smoother editing later (saving him and his client time and money in both instances).  Even I was a little skeptical I was bringing much value to the project.  JP is no slouch director himself.  But not only did he declare my input of value, the sentiment was echoed by his clients more than a few times.  Bottom line:  they got what they wanted on-camera…faster and more efficiently…through my “adapted” talent behind the camera.

     So…looks like I’ll be directing talent in a lot more of these.  And it will actually be much more lucrative for me, since it would be unrealistic to expect I’d show up as a character in project after project.  But, as it appears now, my behind-the-scenes work will allow me to be a part of the rest of the series!   …keeping fingers crossed on that.

     Meanwhile, as you can see from the photo, I’ll be “acting” vicariously through the professionals who are in front of the camera.

     …and it still feels good, knowing I’m filling a creative need with some part of my imagination!

     What other part of your own creativity might you be using to the benefit of your current clients…and yourself?

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There And Back Again

…or maybe I should entitle this one:  Returning to the Scene of the Crime.

Our local MCA-i chapter met at WRAL-TV recently to learn how the forward-thinking station has developed its website presence over the years, and what it’s doing to anticipate the internet’s impact on local television.

We were hosted in Studio A, which has seen uncounted telethons, record-hop and gospel shows, political discussions, quiz programs, the early days of Rick Flair and Andre the Giant…and the tv debut of a cocky young would-be puppeteer.

It was kind of eerie, seeing the corner of the studio where I spent so many mornings chatting with long-time kiddie show fixture (and a great jazz man…plus one of the best friends I ever had in my life), “Uncle” Paul Montgomery.   Only later did I realize the place I chose to sit for the presentation by our generous TV5 hosts…was the very spot where Paul had me tape our very first “bit”.  It was in a free-standing puppet box used for their then-regular character, Crawford the Lion.  I showed up with about the only puppet I owned:  a little skunk named Stripes, who had a head cold and couldn’t smell anything.  We did a five minute ad-lib segment (something no modern audience would tolerate, I realize, but hey – this was over 40 years ago!), and everything just clicked.  Years later, that little effort would evolve into my entry-level ticket to working as a “hired hand” for Jim Henson’s Muppets in two motion pictures which used the Wilmington, NC studios in the late 90s.

Fascinating as it was to see what’s been done to the station in the years since I was there (the news department was just phasing out 16mm film when I came in), I felt a little something extra while sitting in the audience.  After all, none of the speakers had been in this market when the likes of Zoot, Stripes, Malcomb, Woody, Blorg, and J. Bennington Bunny were regular fixtures with Uncle Paul in Studio A.  Come to think of it…none of our gracious hosts had even been born!

…made me feel both ancient and forever young at the same time.

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I get lots of advice from voiceover friends.  Most of it is helpful, and all of it is meant in the finest spirit of encouragement.  When that encouragement is most desperately needed, many a friend will advise you not to spend time “looking back”…but to look ahead.

Call this the exception that proves the rule (and I wish I could remember and credit the person I first heard this from).  During an unwelcome “lull” in the career, usually an invitation to depressing thoughts, I recalled being told during the dry spells I should intentionally look back.  Right.  Look back and count all the great clients who’ve had me work with them over the years.  I decided to replace the plain text on my website’s Clients Page with a montage of company logos.  Here’s what I came up with:


Hmmm.  Maybe I’m not such a hopeless case after all.  These are just the nationally-recognized things I could think of.  And I had to leave some of them out at that.

Granted, this covers many years’ experience.  And granted, if you’re just starting out you may not have as many neat logos to look for as I did.  Or you might have more.  But should you ever find yourself in my familiar territory (“…oh man, I’m done, I’ll never work again…” etc), give this a try.

It really does keep the spirits lifted, even when there’s no wind beneath your wings.

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Movable Wisdom

     A lot of times, the stuff people forward to you in an email is hardly worth the time it takes to delete.  But once in awhile a gem comes along that you’d never seen before.  I got one of those today from friend and fellow voice actor, Tom Jones.  You may already know it, but it was brand new to me:

     “Be Yourself.  Everyone Else Is Already Taken.”

     Man,  my teacher Nancy Wolfson would love it.

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…just stumbled upon a quote I wish I’d had all these years to fire back at those who thought I should be doing “something more important”:

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell

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Up All Night With “Uncle Paul”

     Finally putting some videos on my refurbished website (see lengthy post below), I also wanted to include some of my old Betamax video from my three years with Paul Montgomery‘s tv show.  I started way too late at night, and had to settle for re-editing segments of some local tributes to Paul which borrowed from my original tapes, since almost none of Paul’s 20 year run was preserved by the station.

                                                          In what has to be proof-positive there is indeed a Grinch, Paul was taken from us on Christmas Eve 2002.  I’ve been denying he’s been gone ever since.  So going over those old video images and hearing that big laugh of his was like a long-overdue visit with a great friend.

     I’ve resolved to eventually replace the current video composite with something of my own,using the same clips and more, with a bit more personal narration.  But not tonight.  Why not?  Because it’s now morning, and I’ve got to resist the temptation to get out the audio recordings of Paul’s “Jazz Journeymen” trio I was also priviledged to preserve.  So for now, the hodgepodge will have to do.  (It’s on the Video page of the website.  Just scroll down till you see the link picturing Paul and Zoot.)

     Sometimes spending a night with “ghosts” (Paul and a 1977-version of me) can be downright comforting.

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Why Keep On? One answer of many…

This week has seen me working more for myself than anyone else.  In some ways it’s not as much fun:  the “boss” is a harder taskmaster, a perfectionist, can’t make up his mind, the hours are insane and the pay is lousy.

Working on updating your own promotional material does have its rewards, though.  For one thing, you discover things you hadn’t thought of in awhile (“Gosh, was I ever this good?”).  This usually offsets the discovery of things it turns out you remember being better than they actually were (“Gosh, how do I ever get hired?”).

Talking by phone with friend Bob Souer during this process, and getting some automatic encouragement by the mere fact of doing so, I wondered aloud about the reason for putting so much continuing effort into promotion this late in life.  Of course the obvious answer is twofold:  One – if I had known how to do this early in my career and had the tools we do now, I probably would be farther along.  Two  – the alternative now is to do nothing and quit (not an option).

Whenever I get a little envious of the younger, more energetic, more “with it” talent I see out there making the big splash, I temper my thoughts with the comfort that even one of my favorite character actors didn’t really hit it big until he was in his 60s.

That would be Sydney Greenstreet,who became a star with his portrayal of the aptly-named Mr. Gutman in the definitive film version of “The Maltese Falcon”.  He was 62.  I often wonder what he thought about his career choices during his younger years.

I know most people, if they have any knowledge of film and radio history, would rather think of themselves as another Orson Welles:  New York stage genius and network radio star in his early 20s, and creator of what many claim as the best motion picture of all time not long after that.

I can claim a small sliver of that Welles feeling with my own career highlights…on an admittedly much smaller scale.  Along the way, I’ve done regular on-air work in Radio, winning fans with what amounted to an unseen puppet character (Zoot) on a top-rated morning-show, collecting awards for creative writing/production in advertising, co-hosting a local kiddie show on TV doing the puppets and some on-camera cartooning (“Time for Uncle Paul“), enjoying favorable acclaim with local/regional onstage efforts (“Greater Tuna” and the It’s A Mystery troupe) and even snagging a slot somewhere between “extra” and “featured player” in two motion pictures with the Muppets.  If you’d asked me as a kid what I wanted to do with my life, these are the kinds of things you’d hear me mention.  They just didn’t take on quite the national prominence they might have done.

I’m cool with that.

Meanwhile, with that experience, and what I’m gaining through resources never before available, and encouragement from other friends in the business, I see no reason why I couldn’t at some point hit my “Sydney Greenstreet” stage.

I’ve still got a few years to get there.  Why stop now?

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