Archive for August, 2010

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.

— over and out —

My Cat Is Not Dead.

     So many times, I only learn about someone’s treasured animal friend (some call them “pets”) when there’s a loss. I figured I’d buck the trend and mention my cat, Dodger, isn’t dead. In fact, although he’s around 17 years old in people years, he’s in surprisingly good shape. He’s long been a studio fixture, and his image on my studio door warning about the place being protected by an Attack Cat is just a joke. Dodger is really very friendly.

     I only call him “my” cat due to the inefficiencies of the English language.


Dodger (photo copyright Marilyn Gormon)

    Dodger is only “my” cat in the same way I refer to “my hometown”, or “my church”, “my friends”…I am not so arrogant as to claim ownership. It’s more a matter of me being accepted by them.

     Of course, Dodger accepts me because of the way I treat him. I’m usually very responsive to his needs…even if he has been trying to move dinnertime up an hour every few months of late. I try to give in to his prompts for attention with at least an hour or so of time on my lap in the recliner at least once in every 24. I know what brands of food he likes, and doesn’t like, and I try not to disturb him when he’s busy…sleeping on top of something I really need to get to.

     He’s been a good friend for many years, and I hope to have him around a lot longer.

     But I didn’t prod myself over to the keyboard just to tell you about “my” cat. No, there’s a tie-in to Voiceover work in here for those who can use it.

     I left out one more important example in the possible mis-use of the word “my”. I’ll bet you use it all the time, just like I do.

     “My” clients.

     There are no such things. My friends, my clubs, my church, my wife…are only mine in the same sense and by the same definition as “my” big ol’ kitty cat. They accept me.

     And maybe they continue to accept me for a lot of the same reasons (except for the time on my lap in the recliner).

     When you get a chance, take a moment and pay some attention to the things you put the word “my” in front of…clients included.

     It can make life a whole lot more comfortable. …as comfortable as a big ol’ cat curled up in your lap.

— over and out —

Keeping The Circuits Active!

Maybe others can profit from my mistake.  I got a refresher course in The Value of Staying Connected over the weekend.  It was a lesson I shouldn’t have had to learn again and took a lot more time than any of those involved should have had to put into it.

Point of fact:  you may think you can always go back and get things easily re-established after a lapse of time.  But whether it involves your mother, a client, or…oh, I dunno…let’s say “the phone company”…paying a little more attention when it’s due can save you a whole lot of time untangling things later!

For reasons best left unexplored, I let the charges on my ISDN lines go without attention just a little too long.  The phone company at least tries to help you save face.    During my various calls to put things back in order, I repeatedly heard the phrase, “Line disconnected at subscriber request.”  I might as well have signed a work order!

Admittedly, the trouble started with me.  But over the course of three whole days, it became clear that just getting online and paying the bill wasn’t going to magically make everything work again.  It seems there are numerous switching points for these magical ISDN lines, any one of which being out of kilter can make a full connection impossible, whether the bill is paid or not.  And since the technology is not mainstream, not just any technician is going to see any trouble if at least the basic connection is showing on the circuit tester.

I’m no engineer, but I got an English translation  from the wonderfully non-judgmental tech support guy who came out Sunday afternoon and spent almost two hours on the phone with his fellow wizards (one in Tennessee, one in California) to track down the missing link and get it patched back up.  To wit:  when it looks like I don’t want to be connected anymore, patches are pulled, switches are switched, and connections are re-connected for other paths of communication.

If I don’t want to have to  untangle that mess again…it will help if I keep the account active.  Lesson learned.

Of course, it’s made me remember other non-technical “connections”  I haven’t always been so careful about.  Calling Mom more regularly?  That’s a no-brainer.  Keeping in touch with clients, letting them know I’m not dead yet?  Gotta work on that.  Risking the loss of a true friend through careless or willful  inattentiveness?  Well, fortunately for me, I have been gifted with more than a few friendships where the connection is strong not because of my own efforts…but my Friend’s.

So take it however you want:  a guilt-trip about how you never call yer mother…a reminder to pay yer darn bill on time…or a little nudge to go through your mental address book and notice someone who thinks you might have become disconnected “at subscriber request”.

I know you can’t cover all the bases.  But you might save yourself some serious wasted time untangling something important later on.

— over and out —

…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

— over and out —

     Another night out with the “It’s A Mystery” troupe reminded me all over again why I sweat through these evening-long half-improv sessions in a wool fedora and a trenchcoat (in August).  Aside from the delightful company of quick-witted men and equally witty and beautiful women, tonight’s “Motivation for Murder” included dinner for the cast at our host facility:  Ruths Chris Steakhouse!   And our personal host, Chris (no relation),  proved as quick on the quip as any of us, remarking about Kaki Carl’s rare steak, “You know, a good vetrinarian could probably bring that one back.”

The pleasant experience reminded me I hadn’t posted about another memorable dinner:  this one at the suggestion of another lovely and talented woman – Pam Tierney during the recent Dan O’ Day summit in Los Angeles.  That’s Pam on the left, with Bob Souer (center) as we Voice Actors dined at the legendary Musso & Frank’s in Hollywood.   (Pam’s suggestion.  Bob’s car.  I got to tag along.) 

I didn’t have to don the trenchcoat and fedora for that one…but it would have fit right in with the mood and decor!

And people wonder why guys like me continue to pursue the career we’ve chosen!

— over and out —

If there’s one good thing about being at this business for so many years, it’s the store of experience one can draw on in an emergency…which turns into another emergency…which deteriorates into another emergency!

If you can just avoid panic, chances are you can think of one more work-around. That was impressed upon me following a session that really happened…but almost didn’t…this past Friday the 13th.

Project: local radio spot…acting as producer for a first-time client a good friend/client had sent my way.

Problem (#1): voice talent client had chosen from my suggested list couldn’t make it to my studio. No Problem. We’d hook up via our ISDN, even though we’re both in the same town.

Problem (#2): ISDN boxes won’t connect, in either direction. Carrier error? Phase of the moon? Billing issue? No time to sort it out. No Problem: we’ll just do the session with my Talented Friend recording on her side, and my client and I listening/directing by regular telephone while I record the phone patch for any playbacks we need during the session. File can be sent to me for editing/mixing with only a short delay.

Problem (#3): Even though recording was successfully made on Talented Friend’s computer…no attempt to send it to me via email finds its way over the internet. No Problem: we use a third-party delivery service (in this case, yousendit).

Problem (#4): Yousendit…doesn’t. After long minutes of clicking the “get mail” button on my side, Talented Friend finally checks her account status, which tells her the service did not, indeed, receive or send the file she’d gotten confirmation of. No Problem (although, by now it’s becoming a problem but I’ve assured client the original cost estimate will be honored). If I need to, I’ll just drive across town, pickup a CD from Talented Friend with the recorded tracks and drive back home to finish the session, at no extra charge to client…whose deadline will still be easily met.

Problem (#5): Talented Friend can’t seem to get her computer to burn a CD. Even after we get a burning program she can use, one drive ignores the blank disc, the other won’t even open for her! No Problem. I’ll make the trip over with a flashdrive, retrieve the files, etc, etc, etc.

Fortunately, my wonderful first-time client (who instantly felt at home in my ecclectic museum/studio and befriended its real owner – my cat, Dodger), knows she’s going to have her spot on time, and we set up means of finishing over the phone and having her spot delivered directly for final approval without costing her an extra trip to my place.

As she’s leaving her chair and I’m looking for my car keys…email #1 shows up with the first attached audio file from Talented Friend (only took 1/2 hour). Since we know what we wanted was on a second file, lost in yousendit-land, client and I start to head for the door, when…the yousendit file shows up, in perfect condition! Wonderful client has time to sit and have the spot edited, processed, mixed and approved. And a happy ending is enjoyed by all.

No Problem. And the spot sounds just the way she wanted it.

Now I’ve still got to figure out the ISDN glitch, and Talented Friend still needs to get a better ISP for email and figure out how to burn CDs on her computer. But the important part is: panic was avoided, alternatives were offered, solutions were found, and the client left the session happy.

I’m just glad to have clients who know “stuff happens”…and who trust me to figure work-arounds when it does. That ability is just as much a benefit of my years of experience as anything I draw from when I’m the one behind the mic. (And just for any potential “new clients” reading this…the main reason I’m telling this story is because it is very much out of the ordinary. Don’t be scared off!)

And even though I don’t think any of us involved in this story are particularly superstitious…I wonder if we’ll go out of our way to avoid scheduling future recording sessions on a Friday the 13th after this!

[Epilogue:  found out today the spot was approved by my client’s client…and Talented Friend’s computer crashed from a virus the day after our session!  Friday the 13th has a long, long reach!]

— over and out —

It’s been a week since my satifying experience on the west coast at Dan O’Day’s “Summit”.  Friend Bob Souer and I took the overnight flight out of Los Angeles, and I’ve told people it was my first experience with a “Red Eye”…at least, the first one involving an airplane.

But over the past week, and especially this weekened, I’m beginning to wonder:  at what point do I have to stop blaming the red-eye…and admit that I’m just a tired out old man.

— over and (yawn) out —

     We’re supposed to be the grateful ones, right?  In the best of situations, we’re paid to do what we love and have fun doing.  And if we’re smart, we always thank our clients and everyone (engineers, agents, etc) who made it possible for us to have that magic moment.

     But the best of times are made even better when those people turn around and express gratitude!  “Thanks for getting this done so quickly!”, or “You ‘got it’ almost immediately…made our job a lot easier.”  And one I don’t think I’ve heard till today from a happy client:  “Thanks for working us into your schedule on short notice!”   Wow…I thought that was just part of the job (see previous post about “sounding alike”).

     What’s even better about that even better than best of times?  Knowing that your demo got you the job before you even knew you had it.

     And you want to know what makes that “best of the best” even better?   …finding out that your 20 minutes in the studio is going into a national spot with a one-year buy at very generous rates!

     The only thing that could possibly add to the better best-ness of this scenario will be when the client calls me back for another gig.  And since this is the second job the studio has recommended me for in three weeks…I have a postive vibe about the possibilities!

     If I’m honest about it, maybe that whole “positive vibe” feeling has something to do with all the above-mentioned.  There had to be something there worth remarking on, didn’t there?

— over and out —

     If you’ve even thought about getting some training in voiceovers, you’ve at least heard the name, Nancy Wolfson

     She’s been lauded as a woman with an expert ear for what top-level voice casting people expect.  She’s been touted as a “tough-love” voice teacher who tells you what you need to know, even if it isn’t what you want to hear.  

     She’s also been (unfairly) depicted as someone who loves doing to voice talent and their demos what your little cousins used to do to your favorite toys when they came to visit.

     I’m biased.  I love Nancy Wolfson.   And I’m one of the many people who, if you’re bad-mouthing her, will ask you to step outside.  (Of course, being the coward that I am, I’d let you go first and then lock the door behind you.)

     Anyone who’s bought into the myth that Nancy only lives to criticize should have been at the recent Dan O’Day International Radio Creative and Production Summit in Los Angeles.   There was plenty of fair criticism in evidence, but always preceded by something positive, and more importantly – specific suggestions on what could be changed.   …and why. 

     But even Nancy, in a moment of self-mocking humor, stopped and noted how little criticism this year’s crop of voiceover demos submited for the Critique-A-Thon came in for.  And she wasn’t just listening to work from her own students, in demos she’d produced herself.

     Of course the self-serving part of me is writing this because I was one of the people submitting a newly-edited Commercial Demo.  Last year, Nancy had commented on the progress I’d made since the first demo she’d gotten from me the year before.  And even then, I was amazed and grateful she only had a couple of minor suggestions.

     This year, I made some more changes, even though I had not been able to study with her.  What she’s taught me so far must have stuck, though.  Because as my new audio played out over the crowd, she kept nodding and saying, “Nice”, “Nice touch”, or “Very Nice” at the various clips.  After it finished she laughed at the realization she’d just given me five (5) “Nices” over the course of the piece.  And while there were still a couple of cosmetic tweaks suggested (two clips she thought sounded too much the same, “you’ve got other things you can use that real estate for”), it was another very gratifying moment for me.  Not just that she approved of what I’d put together…but that she was able to compare it from memory with demos she’d heard one time each over the past two years!  

     It also felt good when she used my new demo as an example to another fellow she felt was letting his talent for characters and archetypes smother his real, and marketable, “voice” (something she’s been after me about since the beginning).

     My friend Bob Souer completed Nancy’s tele-course some time ago.  But he told me this weekend he’s arranging to start over, saying he feels he can get so much more out of her teaching, now that he has some more experience of his own.  That’s inspiring me to pick up where I left off with this very, very talented lady.

     After all,  I’m not going to try and coast along on a “Five-Nice” rating the rest of my life.  And don’t think I was a Teacher’s Pet or anything.  She gave Rich Owen‘s Movie Trailer Demo an  A++++!    (I agree, for what that’s worth.)

     So…back to my opening line:  if you’ve even thought about getting some training in voiceovers…you know who you should be calling. 

     You can even tell her I sent you.  (….unless you’re still sore at me for locking you outside.)

— over and out —