Archive for June, 2011

The “Good Parts” Version

“What the heck is an Un-Conference?”, I asked.

Here I was, having just barely managed to attend the fabulous Dan O’Day Summit in Los Angeles (due largely to the help of the self-described Second Nicest Guy In Voiceover), and now, at the “wrap party”, I was being encouraged to commit to yet another trip to the west coast within 60 days…for a completely different something-or-other called an Un-Conference.

Had it been anyone other than the wonderful Amy Snively doing the impassioned talking, I probably would have found a way to politely opt out. But tired as I was, (and broke as I was), Amy’s enthusiasm was joyously infectious. I’d “met” her through our conversations on the vo-bb (voiceover bulletin board…and if you aren’t part of the vo-bb.com, shame on you), and found her even more vivacious in person. I have yet to meet anyone Amy can’t charm. Luckily, she only uses her powers for Good, not Evil!

As I recall, she’d gotten the idea of an Un-Conference from her husband, who traveled to a lot of scientific conferences where attendees noticed they sometimes got more out of the time between formal lecture sessions, just talking and sharing ideas with fellow professionals. Why not, she thought, do something similar for Voice Talent?

Amy knew there are already enough traditional Conferences, many of them quite good. No need to compete. But rather than being just some glorified “bull session” (my term, not Amy’s), this Un-Conference would be semi-organized but largely ad-libbed, with various attendees prepared either to lead or merely start a one-hour discussion…and plenty of slots for other attendees to post a topic he/she wanted to know more about. Someone else in the group could then spontaneously take on that subject.

No lectures. No one-way communication. No “here’s a sample…now buy my book/study course”. Just the “Good Parts”.  No egos. …and, for the most part, No Newbies.  Now before I offend anyone, let me explain.

This is one of the most frustrating aspects of training for me. I’ll think I’ve finally found someone who has the answers I need…only to learn that I already knew most of the stuff being presented. Not that it’s without value…it’s just aimed at the beginner. And while there’s a lot I don’t know, I don’t need to keep repeating Voiceover Kindergarten.

An Un-Conference (in this case: Faffcon) allows me to spend time with fellow professionals who have practical experience in areas I’ve not mastered. And it’s a free exchange of ideas…offer what you can/take what you need. So while I’m pretty well off in the Acting and Setting-Up-A-Studio department, I’ll load up on the Self-Promotion/Marketing/Business/Internet/Social Media stuff where I’m really not up to par.

I’ve been to the first two Faffcons so far, and have sat in on Marketing and Self-Promotion sessions facilitated by the same people both years, getting new and valuable information each time…partially because each session had a different mix of attendees, with additional ideas on the subject.

And it’s also great to finally meet some of these talented friends I’ve only corresponded with over the years…some of whom seem to think I’m pretty talented too.

I expect no less from my next Faffcon, which will be held September 23-25 in Hershey, PA.  You can register here.  And I hope you will.

By the way, the word Faffcon (in case you’re wondering) was coined using a term from the UK: “faffing about”. It’s evidently used to describe semi-aimless activity, lacking a ultra-somber and serious tone. And that’s okay with me. Turns out we voice talent can have a great time faffing about, and experience a lot of satisfying, useful (and yes, profitable) give and take with like-minded friends.

It’s fun, it’s helpful, and it’s less expensive than some of the more traditional conferences out there…with a smaller attendance cap which keeps things more intimate, inclusive, and friendly.

Besides…this time, there’ll be Chocolate!

— over and out —

Winner Notification!

On a day in which my only time before the microphone was for freebies…

On a day in which the only calls to book my studio were for recording someone else’s voice…

…and the only other calls were from automated bill collectors…

I got a card in the mail!

Not an e-card (though I do love those)…a REAL card.  Hand-written.  Not some nice note from a beginner I’d helped with career advice, or a fellow producer needing a hard-to-find sound effect.  This was from someone I consider a seasoned professional, letting me know what an “inspiration” I’ve been to a fellow becalmed voice actor.  ‘Seems without realizing it, I have both perserverance and tenacity!  (My mother would use the terms:  “bullheaded” and “contrary-ness”.)  …and, evidently, having that on display can be encouraging to others going through similar circumstances.

It was one of those days most of us…unless we’re positive powerhouses of promotional persuasion, or have a superbly accented voice and need only send out rate cards and appointment availabilites…  Yeah.  It was another one of those days.

But with that card, and that thought…especially sent by someone I consider a model of what I should be, professionally…well…

I feel like a WINNER!!!

— over and out —

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.

— over and out —

No, this post isn't about this book. I just like the title. Maybe if you buy a copy on amazon, nobody will sue me for using the image.

 “Thanks for making us sound good.”

That’s a parting comment I got from a long-time studio friend/producer not long ago.

I had understood the script ahead of the session, was ready with what I thought their client wanted, but was able to immediately shift gears when said client had another idea and glide seamlessly into the groove he finally settled on. All in just a few takes.

Session over, client happy, my studio contact lookin’ good for recommending me.

Maybe I’ve just found my “Unique Selling Point” all those marketing gurus have been prompting me to discover.

My studio friend may have turned out to be my best copywriter.

— over and out —

 

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.

— over and out —