Knowing When (Not) To Say “No”.

If there’s anything better than being invited back for another creative animated tv spot by a great creative team:  it’s being asked to add a little something that wasn’t in the original script…and watching it take off!

In a spot recorded this summer and readied for air in the fall, the folks at Lawrence & Schiller    continued their Telly Award and Addy Award winning media campaign for Taco John’s.  My old coot farmer, who raises all the exotic-flavored chickens featured in those Baja Boneless Wings, has been coerced into being a retro DJ for his flock, who want to do…what else(?)…the Chicken Dance.

“I hate the Chicken Dance…” – used with permission

Originally, my character was just in the one TV spot, a treat in itself.  But after the demo tracks were done, I got the question:  “If we did some funny lyrics for the Chicken Dance, could the farmer sing them?”

I can’t read music, and can only carry a tune if the bucket’s big enough.  But rather than be all humble and shy and say “no”, I figured what the heck.

It actually worked out great.  My audition track had the creative team giggling (for all the right reasons).  On the day of recording the actual spots I was told they’d decided to go beyond the Radio :60 the lyrics were originally intended for…and use the character bit as a singing tag in all the spots in the campaign:  Radio and TV!  What a rush!  (…and what it did for the session fee wasn’t bad either!)

I haven’t heard the full sing radio version, but you can sample the fun of the tv spot in the video above.  Thanks to the Creative Coop at the agency, and for my Family Flock at Sunspots for putting us together in the first place.

…remember this the next time you’re tempted to tell a client you can’t do something.

— over and out —

I know, I know:  “Vacation???  What is this word ‘Vacation’ you keep using?  I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

For many working in Voiceovers, a vacation is just one more figment of the imagination.  Some take the work along with them via the internet.  Usually, it’s only the “voice” that gets to travel.  And once in awhile, you connect with a really cool client who’s nice enough to send you pictures and video so you can actually see where you’ve “been”.



Many thanks to my new client, who promises I’ll be tagging along on more storytelling trips in the future!

— over and out —

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.

— over and out —

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!

— over and out —


      In the interest of disclosure (not to mention Closure) as to details over recent unpleasantness, I’m offering some final words.   Okay, I doubt they’ll be the final words, but they’ll be the last you’ll see here.  And most of them aren’t my own words, but those of the various parties involved on both sides.  Treat the links below as reference material.  Point to them and my previous posts if anyone asks what all the fuss was about.  That way, no one will have to go back over the same sorry ground again and again as attempts are made to move on.


     If I was worried about my reputation being hurt by my so-called presidency at the association of voiceover artists known as SaVoa, I guess I can rest a little easier.  My own concerns are nothing compared to what the founder/creator of the group ought to be feeling right about now, after calling out practically everyone who has tried to help make his original vision a reality as a traitor and a hijacker.  

     The backlash has not been pretty.  The embattled creator has pulled the wagons in a circle, taking total control over what was purported to be an open and co-operative entity, compiling an Enemies List while citing dubious legal mumbo-jumbo and threatening to sue anyone who speaks contrary to his authority.

     But as one person with a longer history in the group than mine has stated:   remaining silent about what’s happened runs the risk of it happening again to someone else.

     So in addition to what I’ve personally written before (and which I stand by), I’ve established links to:

     …the document of the founder claiming victory over his disloyal minions here –

     …the very detailed rebuttal from the ex-Board Members and the questions they feel you should be asking the creator here –

     …and a scathing public comment from one of SaVoa’s other founding members (there were others????) here –

     If this much time, pain, and effort had been put into creating membership benefits for SaVoa certificate holders instead of this endless play for power…the original aim of all the founders might have been accomplished by now.

     (However, I am told on very good authority that if you still care at all about the original concept of an association of accredited professional voice talent, there may yet be a happy ending in the works.  I won’t be the one writing it, but I’ll be interested in what happens!)

     So there it is:  what’s left of SaVoa and why.  I’m sorry to have been a part of it.  I’m especially sorry if I influenced anyone to join it. 

–over and out —


(For those who came in late, Part 2 and Part 1 are below)

What does it say when Seven Professional Voiceover Artists finally decide they no longer want their names associated with the executive board of an Association of Professional Voiceover Artists.  (That’s a rhetorical question.)

It’s one thing if you want to have your own private club with your own rules.  No problem.  Enjoy.  But before its implosion yesterday, SaVoa’s executive board was meant to be more than a single person’s domain.

Why does it still bug me?  That’s not rhetorical.  And here’s the rest of it:

Several weeks ago, a special conference call was requested by members of the executive board and convened by me, to discuss the validity of concerns (mentioned in Part 2). And while it was eventually agreed the most recent case in point was not worth a huge fight, it did expose some existing tensions, and resulted in motions to request that our founder relinquish his office of Secretary/Treasurer. After some awkward and testy exchanges, I did probably the only presidential thing of my whole blessed term and suggested a compromise of asking the founder to stay on as Treasurer but turn Secretary duties over to another member, an idea which had been offered by our then-Vice President and with which I agreed.

The protestation was made that we did not have enough North Carolina residents to satisfy our charter, unless I was willing to take over another office. Further discussion was avoided when our attorney advised us that there was actually no such restriction on a certain number of officers being residents of the state.

Further proposed shufflings were proposed. And our founder was, justifiably, ticked off…feeling he was being given the Captain Queeg role in our own version of “The Caine Mutiny”. Raw nerves were exposed, tempers grew thin. And when our still- Secretary/Treasurer moved we table the conversation until a later time, I lost my temper. Rightly or wrongly, I hotly stated we were already in a meeting with the authority to discuss the issue and I was tired of hearing complaints from board members yet having to stand by — powerless to do anything either way.  I lost all diplomacy and, as us old folks still say, I lost “my cool”.  And it’s all there on the recording I was making for the group as meeting minutes and provided them with later…unedited with my blow-up intact.

A vote was taken, and the Secretary and Treasurer’s jobs were split, our founder promising to hand over the seal, membership database materials, and website passwords to another member who stepped forward to act as temporary Secretary.

I regained my composure somewhat for the remainder of the meeting, apologized for my outburst…and later that evening informed all concerned that I was resigning my position as so-called President. I had seen and heard for myself what had happened when I had tried to assert the authority I was supposed to have had. And it was a character I did not want to see ever again.

The board members, to a man (and one woman), assured me I was overstating my embarrassment…that they took no offense…and wanted me to stay on. One or two even complimented me for being one of the few to finally say something everyone else had been thinking.

I let my resignation stand, writing a lengthy explanation to the board as to why I felt they had a better chance of making great changes to SaVoa without me at the top of the roster.

I even stated for the record that I gave the group’s creator the benefit of the doubt…that I had not been recruited and put in place just so I would be the “reputation” and “friendly face” of SaVoa while the inner workings stayed with the status quo. But I told them that true or imagined, I sure felt that way.

The next week, as a courtesy, I was informed that new officers had been selected and voted upon in an emergency conference call. New members were being brought up into the executive board. Looked like things were finally ready to take off…progress to be made…benefits to members realized…faces saved . I was asked if I’d like to retain my shield and the designation, Friend of SaVoa…which I gratefully agreed to.

I told my friends I would withhold public comment about the recent dustup. No need to air the dirty laundry, now that it appeared the washing machine was working.

Now comes the “spin cycle”.

Now I learn that the creator/Treasurer has re-thought his relinquishment of power. I am informed that he’s consulted outside attorneys to fight his “ouster”. The control of the website will not be relinquished, nor its database of members. (While the claim of the founder that he paid for the establishment and upkeep of the site is absolutely valid, one of the last decisions I presided over was that he would be reimbursed for all his expenses to date with our thanks.)

With this, and all the talk of “lawyer-ing up”, I think I’ve changed my mind as well. No longer am I willing to give SaVoa’s creator the “benefit of the doubt” about anointing me as a mere  figurehead for my supposed reputation, so he could stay in control.

And I resent the hell out of it.

Mind you, this is all from my perspective. This is my experience and these are my opinions. You will doubtless hear or read other accounts, if you’re not too fatigued to follow them. I have deliberately gone out of my way not to name names. They’re easy enough to find for those who want to dig.

This is about MY name…and how I feel it has been misappropriated and misused.

All I can attest to is what I feel.

What I feel is “used”…used for my name – my reputation – to put a false front on something that could have really truly been a good thing for freelance voice talent.

Instead, it has imploded on itself, and given credence to some of its most vocal critics who originally dismissed SaVoa as just one good ol’ boy’s private clubhouse.

And that…makes…me…mad.

— over and out —

When one person resigns from an Executive Board, it’s not news.  When everyone BUT one person resigns…maybe so.

(For those who came in late:  see Part 1 below)

My departure as so-called President of the voiceover group known as SaVoa was my own decision, and I resigned feeling it was I who had failed the group.   Now I’m not so sure.

Like I said, it seemed the only real benefit I brought the non-profit group known as SaVoa was my reputation.

I said as much to the group’s creator, who was asking me to take over the title of President from him. He did me the honor of saying he thought that people who knew me, or knew of me, would see my acceptance of top office in SaVoa as a sign of positive change.

And indeed, some positive changes were slowly developing: reasons to offer when potential members asked the very real question: “Why should I join? How would it help me?”

A couple of our members took it upon themselves to “spread the Good Word” at voiceover conventions and gatherings. A few even spent their own money on promotional items for distribution (they were later paid back, but it seemed to take forever). One social-network-savvy member put in the work to create a companion website to the savoa-dot-org main site, establish a member forum, generate discussions and generally create awareness (again, he was later reimbursed for his expense, but he did it on his own).

Earlier this year, it seemed as if SaVoa was really poised to start delivering on some of its potential. Efforts were being made to create materials for a concerted promotional push outside the membership: advertising and promoting to people in the production community that a SaVoa membership shield on a freelance voice talent’s business card or home page was an indication the producer’s job would suddenly become a whole lot easier, by hiring an accredited talent. This was, finally, something we could respond with when someone asked what benefit membership would have.

The group’s own founder made good-faith efforts to find an insurance company to offer discounts to members. State laws made medical insurance impossible, but there were other forms of coverage in the works, only to stall from the insurer’s lack of interest. Our founder also had the great idea of expanding SaVoa to cover voice talent in other languages, recruiting people who would be qualified to evaluate talent in their own countries. SaVoa’s creator also, to his credit, advanced the idea of inviting more female talent onto the advisory and executive boards. It was an honest attempt to counter the somewhat accurate but unintentional perception that it was nothing more than a “Good Ol’ Boys Club”.

Another member, an attorney who just happens to also be a great talent (you may have seen him in a Super Bowl ad), offered to help out with legal questions and go over the group’s non-profit charter and by-laws.

Our board chairman, who was also our Vice President (and whose organizational skills still put me in awe) kept everyone notified of monthly conference calls, established the agendas, and made sure everyone had a voice in the proceedings.

President Me? I pretty much did what I’d been doing…offering an opinion or asking a question when I felt I had something worthy of input. Leadership? What Leadership?

…which put me in another awkward position when our chairman let us know he had to bow out for awhile due to some planned surgery which would affect his ability to talk. Nothing serious, but he’d be out of commission for awhile. I was asked, as president, to take over scheduling the conference calls and running the meetings till he got back. Just a month. Maybe two. And I’d have plenty of help. That was…how many months ago? I forget.

I’ve called myself the “intern president”. When asked if I meant “interim president”, I’ve used it as a self-effacing joke. A “joke” is pretty much what I felt I was in office anyway, though I continued to help out with reviewing voice demos of applicants, which I felt somewhat qualified to do.

Before and after our chairman’s sabbatical, it was often difficult to get our founder to be present in the conference calls. This wasn’t so much a problem of having a quorum, but the fact that he was also the Secretary/Treasurer, and the only one (it seemed) who had the passwords to the main website and paypal accounts. And to be fair, he…just like the rest of us…had a Real Life to attend to in addition to SaVoa. Perfectly understandable.

He was also good-naturedly chided month after month for not keeping our paperwork up to date with the IRS to comply with our non-profit tax status. We didn’t owe anything, but you know those folks really do love their paperwork. In all the meetings I was a part of, before and after “presidency”, it was kind of a running joke: “…haven’t gotten everything filed yet.” “I’ll get to it. By next meeting for sure.” I say it was treated with humor because no one on the board felt the treasury funds were being mishandled. But there was concern we could see our non-profit status jeopardized if the right forms weren’t kept up to date.

Adding to our founder’s workload were his duties heading the tech review committee (which evaluated the sound of a member’s home studio with a professional audio engineer’s ear and standards). Our VP/chairman had been on the committee, but was now out of commission. The other main committee member had resigned some months prior, not being able to devote proper time to the responsibility. One of our other members helped with reviews, but evidently did not always agree with the creator on quality standards. That made for friction.  Since I’ve never claimed to be an engineer (though I’ve been called a production genius), I stayed out of those conflicts, deferring to those more experienced.  And honestly, I’d rather get between two fighting cats than two quarreling engineers.

There it is again: deferring to the more experienced.

So what’s so bad about that?  Maybe nothing….except that “nothing” was mostly what was getting done.

Committees, by their very nature, are inefficient in my opinion. But the alternative is to leave all the decisions and work to a very few individuals.  Either way, progress on these and other issues was agonizingly slow. It seemed whenever we’d be on the verge of getting something started, the decision would be tabled for later discussion, or referred to another committee…which never got formed.

Our resident member-attorney worked over the group’s by-laws to customize them for our organization, and look for things we might need to add along the way. Systems of accountability through the advisory and executive boards were being hashed out. A wider distribution of control and authority was proposed on several levels. Some of these proposals were formally and politely resisted. And in more than one instance the objection came from the same person…who insisted he could manage things just fine the way they were.

(This would be a great place to introduce a Conspiracy Theory. In my view, there wasn’t one. That may not stop you from hearing other claims.)

But objections were raised at how members were recruited into the boards, and by whom (although the required votes were always dutifully taken). Objections were raised by some qualified folk who felt their engineering and technical skills were being ignored and possibly subverted by the status quo.

As the by-laws were put under legal scrutiny, a flap developed over concern that some applicants were being pushed through channels into membership without the proper vetting, showing favoritism. And those accusations were leveled toward the officer with the most power to do so. It wasn’t the “intern president”.

— to be continued —


So long, SaVoa.  I’m sorry.  Really truly sorry.

…and I’m angry.  Really truly angry.

As a voice talent, being used sort of comes with the territory, right?  I mean, you put yourself out there as spokesperson for whatever the script may call for (within reason).  It’s understood up front.  No harm, no foul.

But what happens when something you’ve put your voice to turns out not to be quite as advertised? And what if people are hurt after buying into it because you were such an effective “shill”?

Some years ago, a fellow got the really truly good idea for a group which would be called SaVoa:  Society of Accredited Voiceover Artists.  He, and some founding members, braved ridicule and derision for thinking there ought to be a non-profit group…or guild…or association…of professional, veteran voice talent who could establish a certain recognized level of talent and technical ability.  This was not to be/or/compete with a union.  As I later thought I understood the concept, it would be a sort of Underwriters Laboratory for voice talent:  wherein a producer considering a voice might see the SaVoa shield and be assured a quality job from an experienced talent.  …a Good Housekeeping Seal, of sorts.  Not a guarantee of work for the member, but one more reason for a potential client to say, “yes”.  This made sense to me because I regularly have clients of my own call and ask, “Who do you know that does…”.  And I have regularly benefitted from being recommended by another talent, and having my abilities vouched for by a trusted pro.

SaVoa’s creator, who by his own admission can come across as confrontational, took a lot of guff from the skeptics as he slowly sought the support of like-minded individuals.  Some reactions to his idea were downright hostile (“who do you think YOU are to judge ME???”)  Others were not so much offended as bewildered (“okay, I’m not sure how this would really benefit me”).  Originally, I counted myself among the latter, but saw no harm in the concept.

I’m still surprised when someone tells me they know my name, or my work, or my reputation.  I’m even more surprised when they express admiration for my talents and character.  I expressed that surprise a few years ago when I was approached to help with SaVoa’s advisory board by its then-President, the group’s creator.  While expressing thanks for the kind words, I reminded the gent that I wasn’t even a member…had never applied, submitted voice and tech samples or membership fee, nor did I really have it on my priority list, though I wished the organization no ill will.  I was told that wouldn’t be a problem.  The proper committe members would “vet” me, and my help in evaluating talent and perfomances could prove really useful.  I agreed, not feeling I had that much to offer, but willing to see if I could indeed help.

I sat through monthly conference calls, offered an opinion here and there, listened and offered opinions on some of the voice demos from potential members.  And that was about it.  I felt the others knew far more about how SaVoa was supposed to work, and so did not do much else in the way of “advising”.  Imagine my further surprise when not much later I was asked to accept a position on the Executive Board.  Again, I demurred, citing my lack of experience within the group and my status as a non-paying member.  Again, I was assured it would be beneficial to SaVoa to have someone of my reputation and experience on board (sorry…you know it’s bad when the puns come out unintended).  I accepted.

Surprise turned to outright disbelief when, not too much later, I was again approached by the group’s creator to see if I would consider accepting the presidency of SaVoa.  As it was explained to me, the original non-profit charter required a certain number of officers to be residents of North Carolina where the application was filed and approved.  There was to be a shuffling of duties and, as it was put to me by the group’s creator, he was aware that a lot of potential members might be put off by his somewhat abrasive public shows of personality…whereas I had a great reputation in both the talent and character departments, and could help SaVoa improve its image, while he stayed more in the background as Secretary/Treasurer.  Again I protested my inexperience, and my total lack of interest in parliamentary procedure, debate, and organizational structure.  Again I was assured there would be plenty of experienced hands to support me.

I knew I wasn’t the first person to be approached for this position.  So I checked with a couple of the others who were friends of mine.  Both explained their reasons for declining, and left the decision to me.

I wish I had listened to them.

— to be continued —

I Hate To Break It To You, But…

...shirt available from ...and no, I'm not being Opposite.

We are a mass of contradictions. 

     Most of us become so accustomed to it over time, that it passes for normal.

     But every so often an over-used phrase gets stuck in my head and hurts like the time Paul Anka’s “You’re Havin’ My Baby” came to live in my skull for a solid month.

     Of late, I’ve noticed “Opposite” Phrases…normally used as an insincere ploy to show deference while proceeding with offense.  Other times, it’s just annoyingly superfluous.

     The one that set me off recently was “…With all due respect” — usually uttered by someone who is about to say something completely disrespectful.  Also in that category is the ever-popular “I don’t wish to seem rude…” (you know you do!)

     Another one is “…Some say…” and its ugly cousins “Studies show…”, “I’ve heard…”,  “We all know…”, “You know as well as I do…”, and “I know for a fact…” — which you can usually translate into “I’m just making this up because it supports my argument.”

     Speaking of arguments:  at some point, you’ll usually hear “That’s not the point, the point is…”  — which means “That really was the point…you won it…and I want to change the focus quickly before I lose control of the argument.”  …or the last refuge:  “Well I guess we just have to agree to disagree…”  — usually followed by a muttered “even though I’m clearly right.”

     One I’ve always found particularly laughable and galling at the same time shows up in almost any sound bite from Congress.  It comes in several flavors.  “My Esteemed Colleague…”, “My Friend Across The Isle…”, “The Right Honorable…” — usually inserted in place of the speaker’s true opinion, which is anything BUT!

     Socially, there’s “I hate to be the one to tell you…” — usually said by someone who’s absolutely DELIGHTED to be the one to tell you.  “You don’t want to know…” — is used to remind you just how much you really DO want to know.  And there’s the classic “Oh, I’d be the last person in the world to…”  — say what I’m about to say anyway.   That one also shows up as “Far be it from me to…”

     And have you ever noticed in cop shows or war movies whenever someone says, “Permission to speak freely?” — they’re going to unload with a speech anyway.  (There was one show I wish I could remember where the authority figure just replied “No”.  I laughed out loud.)

     As a voiceover talent, voice artist, voice actor…whatever you want to call it…I know it’s to my advantage to actively listen to what people say and how they talk.  It helps me create a good performance when I’m behind the mic, whether I’m playing an actual character or not.  But I swear…(and I don’t, usually)…sometimes I wonder if it isn’t more of a liability, when it causes me to notice duplicitous phrases like these.

     Needless to say (though I’m saying it anyway), you can probably think of a lot more.

— over and out –

Hey, Mr. Answer Man!

     …got call from a second person in as many days, asking if I teach voiceover for locals. I keep deflecting calls and emails like these, offering a boilerplate document instead which outlines my observations on what it takes to get started.

     But more and more, I’m wondering if I’m doing the person calling a disservice or a favor. 

    I do spend time with anyone who calls before offering to send the “Basics” sheet.  I’m mindful that the only way I’ve ever advanced my own career has been through others who’ve taken time with me when I came with questions.  The ones I’ve paid charged a fair price.  Most never asked for anything at all.  However, as I listen to myself responding, I often have to backtrack and rephrase so I don’t sound like I’m just saying, “Forget it, kid.  It’s too hard, and there’s too much competition.”

     It’s a quandry with very few obvious and concrete answers.  Do I freely give as much time as everyone needs?  Do I look at my own precarious finances and decide it’s time to profit from what I know?  Do I really have any business advising others, given the scattered and uneven financial success I’ve had?  Do I owe it to others to pass on my experience, hoping it will benefit someone just starting out? 

     My friend Doug Turkel (the UNnouncer) frequently adds to his witty tirades against an un-named “Guru” who packages common sense or easily-found-for-free info at a hefty price as “Secrets to Voiceover Success”.  I know I don’t want to be perceived as one of those people.  But I also don’t want to be seen as a jealous gatekeeper, anxious to squash anyone’s dreams or stifle the budding career of someone who might turn out to be the next Harlan Hogan, Randy Thomas, or Tom Kenny.

     Finding a point of empathy is a talent I’m told I possess.  It’s not only helped me in voiceovers, it’s helped me successfully direct other talent to measurably improved performances.  I’m even being hired to direct other talent now…by other directors!   So am I foolishly ignoring a viable revenue stream?  Or am I being noble and assuming I don’t know enough that’s valuable enough to charge for?

     I sometimes wonder if being an expert in the field simply means little more than being the one who’s still stubbornly plugging away at something when all the sensible people have bailed!

— over and out —