Archive for January, 2008

(posted Jan. 28, 2008)

It was probably fortunate I hadn’t put too much time into this blog so far. [“Blog”….it still sounds like a cartoon sound effect for the squishy impact of something unpleasant to me.]

Nonetheless, it was a major inconvenience when what little I’d established went “poof” with the emergency transfer of my website to a more reliable host at the start of the new year.

Of the three lengthy posts I’d managed, I found a copy of the first one. The third had been copied (with permission) on Doc Phillips’ own blog site…I was flattered. So I was able to retrieve it from there. The second one, about the similarities between jazz music and voiceover demos…well, if I had a copy of it anywhere it was probably on one of the several hard drives that have failed on several different computers since last fall. Yeah. It was that kind of year.

It’s all Bob Souer’s fault that I even started a web log. He talked me into it. It was also Bob Souer’s fault that I had anyone at all reading it. He plugged it quite eloquently on his own well-read blogpages, directing traffic my way I would never have attacted so soon on my own.

And again, it is Bob Souer to blame that I am once again at liberty to unleash my mental overflow on an unsuspecting world via the world wide web. Unsure how to help me re-construct the pages by phone, he spent the better part of his Sunday (and if it wasn’t the “better” part, I hope it was at least a “good” part) driving almost three hours each way, puzzling over my particular set-up for two more hours along with my own web-guru, Lou Dalmaso, and finally…giving up on the way it was supposed to work, the way he had his own website set up on the same service…he ended up devising another means to the end which they used to call “jerry-rigged” in those old movies.

And behold…it lives again!

Aside from using the time for face-to-face visiting and dinner with some other area talent, I’m sure he could have had a much more comfortable Sunday afternoon at home.

What did it cost me? Some pleasant time talking with Bob’s talented son, Eric. Plus dinner for Bob (over his protests) before he headed back home.

As with Bob, as with Lou, as with so many other people I’ve come to know as true friends…I cannot for the life of me figure out anything I ever did to command so much attention and devotion. Of course, that’s assuming I had anything to do with it in the first place. Some people just enjoy helping others, asking nothing more than that the favor is passed along when the opportunity arises.

That crazy lady in the Tennessee Williams play blathered on about depending on “the kindness of strangers…”. That’s okay for you, ma’am. But me? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve gotten by on the kindness of friends.  I’ll take that any day.

And as to that…if you know anyone who might have squirreled away that second blog about the jazz angle (which, of course, was the one that generated the most number of positive comments!!!), I’d love to retrieve a copy. It’s not of earth-shattering importance. But it’d be just one more example to prove the point of this piece.

Meanwhile, the previous posts are replaced below.

And Eric, I will indeed finally get to that promised piece about meeting Mel Blanc…which, come to think of it, was only possible through the kindness of yet another set of friends.

But that’s another story.

— over and out —

 

( – originally posted November 24th, 2007)

Like it or not, we all know there are plenty of media projects out there that can get away with skimping on Talent. But once in awhile we witness something that would have been a disaster with just a “voice talker” behind the mic.
I can’t reveal names, lest I jeopardize any cherished Christmas traditions, but this really happened. I know because I was there in the studio.

A local radio station decided to whisk Santa Claus into town to take phone calls from area kids. Even recording off-air and editing before playback by a darned good editor (and luckily, Santa had one), it’s a situation just waiting for a misstep.
And sure enough, just fifteen minutes into the hour, it happened. Santa was cheerily chatting up a sister and little brother, with plans of innocent avarice dancing in their heads. At one point, Santa asked the boy if there was anything else he’d like. There was the briefest hesitation, and then the little guy continued…words carefully chosen, and voice starting to quaver a little.
“What I’d really like…would be…to be able to…talk to my Papa again.”

It was more a simple statement than a request. But I couldn’t imagine how the old guy was going to get through this one. Before I’d even finished the thought I heard Santa, in a very soft and sympathetic voice: “Ohhhh, I know what it’s like to miss a papa, especially around the holidays. It’s extra difficult, isn’t it.”
“Yeah,” the little voice replied.

“Well,” continued the gent at the microphone, “I’m not sure exactly how much I can fix, but…I’ve got an idea. You put your mom back on the phone, and meanwhile we’ll work on getting that game system you and I talked about to maybe lift your spirits a little, okay?”

“Okay.”

And darned if it didn’t sound like that was just enough for the young fellow. He handed the phone back to his mother and I heard Santa, in that same caring voice, ask if she had any old recordings of the dad she could lift a little something from, and wrap up a small tape or disc for the boy…with a note that it was the best Santa could do. Those of us in the studio half expected the lady to brush it off, but she immediately brightened to the idea, saying she’d never thought of that, and knew of something that might just fit the bill.

Sincere wishes for a season of comfort were exchanged and the call was ended. The editor went to work and condensed what actually went on the air, though I was surprised he left in the early conversation about “papa”. A brief adlib was attached alluding to the “talk to mom/got an idea/lift the spirits” ending and the call went out over the air.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the hour. But later I had to wonder how differently that could have gone (even if it had never made it on the air), if the station had just yanked in some guy with a funny voice who could go “Ho Ho Ho!” on cue and talk about toys.

I post this “long winter’s tale” not so much as a credit to quick thinking, but as an encouragement for all of us who are tasked with using our voice to connect with the person(s) we’re being paid to talk to.

Yeah, it helps if you can nail the sound and read the words without stumbling. But when the person at the microphone can let some part of what’s truly inside come out in what’s being voiced, whatever’s on the page…there’s potential to transform the everday into something a little more.

Note to clients: get a Good voice talent…not just something that will get by.

But who am I to say: maybe he WAS the genuine article!

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and a Season of Comfort to us all.

— over and out –

the “yoda” thing…(re-post)

( – originally posted October, 2007)

You know the moment. Impetuous young Luke Skywalker is frustrated with Master Yoda. He knows he’s ready. He doesn’t get why he has to go through all this uneccessary mumbo jumbo. He just wants to get-on-with-it and take on the Empire.

“You must un-learn…what you have learned,” comes the calm reply.

Now I’ve been in some form of audio production and voice work since high school. Before that I was enthralled with the work of Mel Blanc, Stan Freberg, Daws Butler, Don Messick, June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Scott, and others…and was probably the only kid in the state who knew those names. While my friends worshiped Elvis and the Beatles, I was digging Spike Jones and his City Slickers courtesy of the 78 rpm records rescued from grandma’s discard pile.

I discovered early in my Radio career that as a disc jockey, I made one heckuva production guy. But I kind of liked that part more anyway. Aside from not having the “pipes”, part of what made me such a bad DJ was my insistence on cluttering up the airshift with a lot of voices and little sound effects gags.

In college I discovered what was referred to as “Old Time Radio”, and got confirmation that I had indeed been born 20 years too late. Still, this turned out to be a good thing…because at this stage of life, I was able to enjoy hours and hours of the best of these old broadcasts preserved on tape by collectors such as I would soon become. I learned timing from Jack Benny, a show called “Fibber McGee and Molly”, and yes…”Amos n’ Andy” too. I learned about wit and satire from the likes of Fred Allen (look him up if you don’t know the name). The joys of creative schizophrenia and irreverant wise-cracking came courtesy of Edgar Bergen with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd (I later continued Bergen’s legacy by performing a puppet on the radio as a sidekick on my area’s top-rated morning show for several years).

I picked up on voice acting (and over-acting) from anthologies like “Suspense”. I absorbed sound effects techniques while listening to “The Lone Ranger”. And I discovered that a great character can overcome a bad script after listening to countless episodes of “The Shadow”.

I also learned the joy of carefully crafted audio anarchy with the BBC “Goon Show”.

Of course, most of the people I worked with, and our audiences, had no idea what any of those things were when they heard their influence in my Radio work. They thought I was a genius. I did little to dispel that notion.

So perhaps I could be forgiven, with all those “voices” in my head, for wanting to cover so many different styles once I finally got the chance to adapt my skills to commercial radio, learning copywriting along the way from the brilliant Jack Shaw. For a long time, especially at radio stations where a small staff had to give different sounds to so many spots, that worked out pretty well. It even worked out pretty well when a lot of us Radio people started finding ourselves being viewed as over-paid relics when more and more broadcasting outlets got bought up by people who knew nothing about broadcasting…and everything about the bottom line…and we became instant freelancers.

Not being in a major media market, I’ve evidently been slow to realize a lot of the changes required of what we call Voice Talent today. Some of the “Variety” so prized in the radio station environment is viewed almost as clutter by modern voice seekers. A lot of the “fun” things we were famous for are now the new “Old Time Radio”. Not that what we knew then was necessarily wrong, but it doesn’t apply in perpetuity.

Of course I did grasp some of that early on, quickly discovering “Announcers” were “out”, and Disc Jockeys were labled “Pukers” (insert a little chuckle of sweet revenge here)…styles only to be used now for comic effect.

But I’m still in a period of “un-learning”, adapting what I can of my talents to the needs of producers in the present tense: making things shorter, more streamlined, more focused. The whole “branding” thing. I see a lot of frustration in posts on message boards from younger talents than I who still don’t understand why the industry won’t just let them “get on with it”. Why should they surpress all these wonderful things they can do and only show producers a small segment of their talent. I can relate, because I’m still struggling with that myself. For a long time I’ve billed myself as “The Man of 999 1/2 Voices”…the “1/2″ being my straight voice, which I’ve never liked much, but which gets about 90% of the work these days.

Fortunately, the voiceover community allows us “Skywalkers” to encounter the occasional “Yoda”…someone who sees the potential, offers some guidance, and provides much needed perspective and focus. On Dierdre’s (DB Cooper’s) voiceover bulletin board, vo-bb.com, generous professionals such as DB, Connie Terwilliger, Bob Souer and others will often share what they’ve learned with those who are trying to develop their talents. And judging from their posted photos, they look a heckuva lot better than the little green guy from Dagobah (Their sentence construction is better too)!

If you’re a voice talent reading this and you don’t already know about the above-mentioned forum, or the one that’s part of the Yahoo! group for voiceovers…get thee hence. It costs nothing but your time and attention, and you can only benefit. You might also get an idea of what your “Yodas” have been learning from their own mentors lately!

And if you wander back this way in future, you’re likely to see structured ramblings that are still all over the place: some written from the side of the brain that’s sure of what he knows…some from the side doing the un-learning.

NEXT TIME: “All That Jazz…”

– over and out –