Archive for April, 2010

I just read about the comedy-of-painful errors an online friend went through, trying to do some repair job which could have gone so much simpler and faster if he’d just paid a professional to do it.

More than a couple of us, in response, drew the parallel to people we Voice Talent complain about who figure they don’t need us in order to do something they know they can do just as well themselves.

A few years ago I decided to be a responsible adult (big mistake) and stop being the only person in my family who couldn’t make basic household repairs.

I even bought a book on plumbing so I’d know exactly how to replace the valve in a toilet tank.

First thing that happened as soon as my screwdriver TOUCHED the bolt head was that it snapped off from unseen rust, and what water was left in the tank after I’d drained it came pouring out all over the floor.

Several hours later I had the place dry enough to start again, got to step three in the book, only to find out that the parts and the tank I owned had not read the same book. Whatever it said to do in Step Three had no basis in reality.

I called a real plumber (who, thankfully, didn’t tell me what a hash I’d made of things), and had the job done right in less than an hour.

That’s just one of the things I’d rather pay someone to do, the right way. My time is more valuable to me than the satisfaction of knowing I did it myself. And I don’t have any self-inflicted injuries to seek medical help for, either.

It’s a life-choice I draw upon when I’m tempted to let someone tell me my own professional services are something they can do themselves.

I also remember my very polite plumber when someone brings me a completely hashed-up job to fix.

— over and out —

When I went full-time freelance, it wasn’t long before the idea of having a mic booth equipped with ISDN began to appeal to me.  Aside from the intial start up cost, it was a no-brainer.  I’d already burned out an engine in my treasured Camaro just driving to and from busy studios an hour-and-a-half away.  And there were possibilties I’d never be able to drive to.

Now I’ve finally burned out that original Musicam Roadrunner (may it rest in peace) and am learning the new buttons on its replacement.  But I still don’t regret the cash outlay.  Aside from helping me make money with my voice, it occasionally helps me meet the most interesting people…both inside and outside the booth!

Just this week I got a call from actor David deVries, who’s touring in a road version of “Wicked” and needed a quick place to phone in some voicework for one of his clients.  Since he wasn’t allergic either to clutter or cats, my studio was a great match.  And I met a new friend.  Things went well enough, he’s coming back for another session later in the week and I hope to be able to do some networking with him.  (I also hope to visit him at work and see the show before the run ends in Durham.)

But so far my favorite ISDN story was the morning I stumbled down to the studio from my sickbed for a scheduled audition.  Fortunately, the flu I had didn’t effect my vocal powers, but I was sure glad there was no “video phone” hooked up. 

As I adjusted the copy and my headphones and checked my supply of Kleenex, the engineer’s voice in Florida said, “Okay, hang on, I’m patching you in with the other studio to record the spot.” 

Confused, I stammered something about only being contacted for an audition.  “You can do the voice, can’t you?”, came the response.

“Sure.”  (It was just a couple of lines as a comic waiter with a German accent.)

“Great.  Stand by.”

And standing there in my studio booth, looking like something my cat would have refused to drag in, I hear this lovely voice in my headphones say, “Hi, this is Lauren Hutton, who am I talking to?”

I acquitted myself nicely in a couple of takes, did a polite sign-off with my fashion model/screen actress voice partner, and let her do her spokesperson thing while I crawled back under the covers…again, so very very grateful to be working behind a microphone, out of sight, in my little ISDN booth.

— over and out —

i…love…quincy…jones.

The man is my musical hero.  He can do anything (though I haven’t heard him tackle country or classical…maybe it’s out there too).

I started noticing the name attached to TV show themes I’d hear growing up (“wow, who did that?”).  There were more revelations on his LPs at that time which pointed to what he’d already been doing for years with his own big swing band, and writing and arranging music for others.  His arrangements for Count Basie are among my favorite Basie tracks ever.  The Quincy Jones band/orchestra albums for Mercury in the 60s were amazing in their range of emotion…from cool to thoughtful to downright fun (Mike Myers lifted his goofy “Austin Powers” theme straight off of one of those albums).

His musical ideas formed a seamless fit with the voices of Sinatra and Aretha Franklin.

And Quincy Jones’ arrangments and background tracks were the only part of Micheal Jackson that could make me want to listen.  I personally doubt the King of Pop would have risen so fast if it weren’t for the work of Quincy Jones lifting him up, though Mr. Jones never sought to grab the spotlight.

All this to preface a marvelous quote I just read in an Associated Press story about Quincy Jones being interviewed at an ASCAP event recently.

I think I’m going to have to have it bronzed and mounted over my computer screen.

Get a big dream, so if you get halfway there, you’re still OK.”  — Quincy Jones.

Who knew he could give good advice to voiceover people as well?

— over and out —

“cut me some slack, jack!”

I always associate the term “Cut me some slack” with  hipster dudes from the 80s, even though I knew I’d heard it earlier than that.

(Favorite subtitled scene from “Airplane!” anyone?)

Turns out it goes wayyyyyyyy back.  According to the website, harbourguides.com, it’s a nautical phrase:

“…‘give me some slack’ or ‘cut me some slack’ (meaning make allowances to complete something) is actually hundreds of years old. Tying a ship to a pier was no easy feat and took two teams of men armed with mooring lines. As one line was pulled to haul the ship closer the other line was released or ‘given slack’. The process would go on until the ship was properly aligned.”

Anyway, this week I ran afoul of being “cut some slack”, by not making full and proper use of it.  The result is, I’ll be working extra hard these next few days to “pick it up”!

It shouldn’t be this way, but it does seem I’m too often tempted to reward someone who’s given me more time…by making them wait even longer.  Meanwhile, someone whose deadline is hard and fast gets the extra attention.

Fortunately, this story will have a happy ending…thanks to a friendly reminder.  The rest of  you,  learn from my example.

When someone “cuts you some slack”, they expect you to pick it up and start pulling your weight!

— over and out —

the best agent you’ll ever have…

I have a few official agents so far…professionals who put my name forward for work or let me know about work i might audition for, in exchange for a percentage of what I book through their efforts.  And I’m very grateful to have their attention and assistance.  Lately, I’ve worked to better present myself as someone who could make money for those representing me.

But in all the focus on getting these worthy representatives, I was reminded afresh this week that I already have other agents out there working for me.  …and without a commission!

Phone rings.  It’s a client (and friend) named Jean Paul.  I’ve done many projects with him, and I doubt if either of us can remember the year of the first one.  “You’re gonna get a call from (insert name here).  I’m editing some video for him and he said he needs some voiceover work and audio production for a corporate show.  I told him he needed to talk to you.”  Several hours later, the call comes in.  I’m evidently pre-sold.

Earlier in the week.  Email arrives.  “We are casting for a quick voice over project, and one of our producers Chadd Pierce turned me onto your voice and thought you’d be a good match.  Would you mind cutting us a sample that we can review with the client?”  A quick mp3 is cut and returned.  Next day, new email:  “Got the okay from the client.  Send just like you did before, with a few variations and that should be perfect.  You nailed it last time.”

The point?  I had both these jobs, either 99% or in total, before I even knew about them.  Both were jobs I wouldn’t have even known to seek out.  And this is by no means the first time this sort of thing has happened.  It’s the whole  “agent” angle I hadn’t really thought of till now.

How many “agents” do you really have working for you?  …more than you realize, I’ll bet.  And it probably isn’t because of any well thought-0ut campaign you’ve waged.  More likely you, or your work, or your reputation, were enough to get the ball rolling.

So I guess that makes YOU your own agent as well…even when you don’t know how widely you’re “representing” yourself.

And when I offer to slice off a percentage to my surprise benefactor, I usually get a reply like this one from Chadd:  “…my pleasure to recommend someone as kind and talented as you (I knew you’d knock ’em dead)! No favor to return– honestly, it makes ME look good for turning Kelley onto your quality work 😉

Dang.  Now that makes me wanna be HIS agent when the time comes!  More work for me.  Oh…wait a minute…yeah…more work for me!  That was the whole point of this, wasn’t it!

— over and out —

I didn’t get anything done today.

No, that’s not quite right.  I didn’t get any “business” done today.  That wasn’t the original plan, it just happened.  And ya know what?  It feels GREAT.  The world didn’t end because I wasn’t glued to my computer console trying to catch up on one set of deadlines, work ahead on the next, or create impossible new ones for myself.

Instead, I slept in.  I let a friend fix my car’s air conditioning.  I stopped on the way to the auto parts store to let my wife sit and watch heavy machinery clearing a lot of some trees (she’s fascinated by such stuff…she only married ME for CONTRAST).  I helped my daughter with a computer problem.  I took my son to his favorite videogame place and let him try out some demos.  I let my wife take us out to dinner (her idea).  I took another nap afterward, then did some online reading.

I make no guarantees, and I am not a medical professional or psychiatrist, but I feel better for this day.

…and of course, just after midnight I read a post on the vo-bb.com about making a business plan, which shamed me into writing something up for myself, posting it, then looking at other people’s blogs and realizing I hadn’t made an entry in a few days (something I’ve set as a goal), came straight over here!

But hey…technically…it’s after midnight…right?  The “Clark Kent” day is allowed to stand.  Plenty of time to play “Superman” for everybody else tomorrow.  …even if I do look horrible in tights.

p.s. – the image is a downloadable paper cutout toy from this site.

— over and out —

non-disclosure closure!

Finally, another alter-ego can be revealed.  It’s a wise professor who knows to keep the client happy!

The Fit Family campaign includes three videos featuring Professor Wisely (at right) and his young assistant, Zedo.  Fellow puppeteer/puppet-maker Jay Tyson and I did these last summer!  But we were asked…nicely…by the producers not to post anything about it or use it in demos until everything was ready to roll out.  I’ve done non-disclosure work for legal firms, medical outfits…even the U.S. Army.  But keeping quiet about such a fun project as this for such a long time was harder work than anything in the project itself!

As you may have guessed, we finally got clearance this week.  I’ll be posting at least one of the videos on this blog soon, featuring me as the Professor, but they’re available now at the Fit Family website:  http://fitfamilync.com/meet-the-cast.aspx.

Credits:  NC Health and Wellness Trust fund www.healthwellnc.comThe ad agency who developed the campaign – MSA: The Think Agency www.thinkmsa.com.     Videos produced by Bright Ideas Studios www.brightideastudios.com in Raleigh, NC.

Norman Corwin celebrates his 100th birthday on May 3, 2010.  And if you love imaginative language, the use of sound, provocative thought or cutting satire, you should be celebrating the man whether you’ve ever heard of him or not.

Mr. Corwin is someone I “met” in recordings I discovered in college from his days at CBS Radio.  He’s not necessarily the name people associate with so-called “Old Time Radio”…not the Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, or The Shadow.  His shows were usually un-sponsored…what were called “sustaining series”…whose costs were assumed by the network.  But he directed casts which included names such as Orson Welles and Groucho Marx.  And along with some whimsical stories (“The Odyssey of Runyon Jones”, and “The Undecided Molecule” are among my favorites) and parodies of the industry (“Radio Primer”),  he wrote and was the driving force behind some of the most historic radio programs ever produced, particularly the one-hour special commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany, “On A Note Of Triumph”, which was broadcast live on all three national networks.

I finally got to “see” Norman Corwin in the 1970s, when he hosted a TV series on PBS called “Academy Leaders”, which showcased Oscar-nomiated short films. 

As a writer, he inspired the likes of Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, and Gene Roddenberry.  With his use of words, sounds, and music, he advanced the language of Radio some of us still use today…though we use different tools.

I wish I could get out to California for the tribute he’s due to receive from the Writers Guild in May.   I’ve been offered a chance to meet him at his home through the good offices of my college ‘radio partner’, Richard Fish, who has developed and maintained a close association with the man.  But between time and finances, Mr. Corwin and I may have to let our association remain where it started and grew…in my imagination.

Happy Birthday, Sir.

Learn more about this amazing creative talent at normancorwin.com.  You may still be able to get  Writers Guild ceremony tickets for the May 1st event ( www.CARTaudio.org.).  My professor, R. LeRoy Bannerman’s excellent Corwin biography is still in print.  And plenty of recordings of the original shows are to be found. 

— over and out —

photo: Chris Beach/flickr.com

It’s always nice to see an over-used word get a some literal meaning.  Around this place, it’s the word “Godsend”.

This week marked the One Year Anniversary of the first airing of the satellite radio series, “Billy Graham Presents An Evening At The Cove.”   Since April of last year, I’ve been editing, producing, and writing continuity for this five-day-a-week radio program on Sirius XM from my studio.

A slower than expected pre-production ramp-up meant the series started without a large backlog of finished programs, so it’s been a literal treadmill ever since.  Even the odd re-run needs re-editing and re-mixing.  That means 52 weeks worth…260 shows…and some much-appreciated work at a time when so many folks are without it.  And I at least  have lots of tangible progress to show for the constant work cycle…as well as a lot to be grateful for. 

Even nicer:  the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association decided earlier this year to continue the program (and me with it), meaning another guaranteed 12 months of production work.  This is in addition to other freelance jobs I field along the way. 

So when the blog lapses, or I sound a little sleepy on the phone, it just means there’s a flurry of activity going on here.  Sometimes, day and night.  And that is truly a Godsend!

— over and out —

"Just once, couldn't I be too big to fail?"

While my main business and first love is voice work, I’m sometimes asked to do on-camera characters and this is one of the latest. 

It’s an internal video for IBM promoting a conference promising smart new ways of getting things done.  Obviously, I’m not the smartest guy at the table…but i do have the “pointing pen”…and the last line.  Video produced by Centerline.  (If they do a sequel, I’m going to offer to shave the mustache and lose the glasses if they’ll give me Pointy Hair.)

— over and out —