I was proud to narrate this video celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. Follow the link below to check it out.
The creative client, MiniMatters LLC, was truly delightful to work with!
Exactly what the headline promises…
My new character demo has been produced and uploaded! Check it out at the link below:
It’s an entertaining sampling of my character stylings for animation and video games. Not an exhaustive catalog, by any means — just a few of the voices inside my head.
My sincere thanks to the team at Voicetrax San Francisco: the incomparable Samantha Paris, who directed and co-produced; and the inimitable Chuck Kourouklis, who co-produced and engineered.
A while back, I played a key role in Episode 5 of Law & Order: Legacies, produced by the fun-loving folks at Telltale Games. My character, an auto mechanic named Scott Leonard, makes his first appearance at about 10:50 into this video sample. (Bonus points to any reader who knows which real-life vocal group is led by a singer named Scott Leonard.)
As a longtime Law & Order fanatic, this was a dream project for me. If you’re intrigued by what you see here, you can purchase the complete seven-episode game for your iPhone or iPad at the App Store, or for your PC or Mac at the Telltale Games website.
Enjoy the preview!
Yikes… it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here. This occasion, however, warrants the resurrection.
On January 19, I recorded my new commercial demo at Voicetrax San Francisco. That’s Samantha Paris, my beloved mentor and coach, in the director’s chair; voice actor and technical wizard supreme Chuck Kourouklis manned the sound board and video equipment.
This video demonstrates two essential facts: (1) Samantha is an amazing director; and (2) I should stick to acting off-camera.
My new demo, however, will be awesome.
Thanks to Samantha and Chuck for a fantastic experience!
Take a look at something…
What do you see in the box above? The word READ, yes?
Now here’s a fun exercise: Try NOT to see the word READ there. Try to see a series of four random symbols with no particular meaning. Go ahead… I’ll wait.
Can’t do it, can you? No matter how hard you stare at the writing in that box, it’s always going to say READ to you. Your brain can’t interpret those symbols any other way. The concept of reading is so thoroughly ingrained in your mental processes that when you see something that can be read, you can’t not read it. (Double negative intentional.)
There was a time in your life when this wasn’t the case. If you’re anything like me, that time is practically ancient history. But when you were an infant, you would have looked at that box and not seen a word there, but only unintelligible pictures. You hadn’t yet learned to look at these symbols and interpret them in a narrowly specific way. You hadn’t yet learned to read. But even though that was once true for you personally, you can’t compel your mind to return to that state, as our little exercise just demonstrated.
Once you’ve learned to read, you can’t unlearn.
The point of all of this is that it’s infinitely simpler to train the human mind than it is to overcome training that’s already there. Learning is easy. Unlearning can be nigh onto impossible.
I’ve taught and illustrated this principle in lectures and classes for at least 20 years. I’m just now beginning to understand its effect on my voice acting development.
For nearly a quarter of a century, I’ve been an active public speaker. I’m in front of an audience a minimum of four times each week. I’ve learned to project my voice so that it fills space, whether a classroom or an auditorium, frequently without amplification. Like a stage actor, I’ve become skilled at reaching a listener at the back of the hall with the same nuance heard by someone seated in the front row. After 20-odd years, my “speaker voice” is as much a part of me as my brown eyes or my curly hair.
It’s difficult now to unlearn it.
I’m trying to think more cinematically in my reads. That is, to speak at the conversational volume of actors in an intimate film scene. The actors don’t project. They don’t have to — expensive, technologically brilliant microphones hover inches away, just outside the camera’s focus. Not to mention the fact that much of the dialogue will be looped in a studio, with those same incredible microphones isolated a hand’s breadth from the actors’ lips.
Whenever I’m in the studio, I always have to remind myself not to project to the hall. The mic is right there. It hears me just fine. I have to trust that, and not do what Pat Fraley calls “creating emotion with volume.” In the moment, I have to unlearn my decades of stagecraft.
Listening to, and mimicking, the voiceovers in television commercials is helping. No one ever yells in a TV spot, unless they’re attempting to become the next Billy Mays. TV VO is always intimate, tucked under, and as smooth as glass. That’s the quality I’m working to capture. It’s not easy, but I’m showing signs of progress.
Every day, I learn something that helps me grow into a more proficient and marketable voice actor. Some days, I’m just unlearning the things that hold me back from that goal.
After four weeks of toiling in my dialects and accents workshop, here’s what I’ve discovered:
Accents are definitely not my strong suit, which is exactly the reason I enrolled in this course. But I now have some tools to work with, and some resources to utilize when the situation demands.
More than anything, I need to listen more.
That’s probably good advice for my life outside of voiceover, too.
I kissed a video game, and I liked it.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Pat Fraley‘s Game World event in San Francisco. Three reasons: (1) I had a blast working with Pat during a previous event; (2) Pat’s guest coach was Darragh O’Farrell of LucasArts, about whose directing I’ve heard excellent reports; and (3) I’ve taken a few classes on interactive game voice acting in recent months, and I’ve yearned for the opportunity to test-drive my new chops.
Yesterday, the big moment rolled around, so off I trekked — jumbo coffee in hand — to the downtown studio where Pat hosts his San Francisco events.
In a word: Cowabunga. (This assumes that you accept “Cowabunga” as a word. Which, since I attended college in Malibu and have played Snoopy onstage, I most certainly do.)
As strange as it sounds from someone who thought he was getting into voiceover to do industrial narration — not to mention to a guy whose video gaming experience dates back to (and more or less ends with) Asteroids and Frogger — I really, really want to voice interactive characters. That burning yen gained fuel under the tutelage of Messrs. Fraley and O’Farrell. (I know. It sounds like an Irish joke waiting for a punch line. You’ll just have to keep waiting.)
Prior to the event, Pat sent out a thick e-file crammed with character sides, from which each student was supposed to select four options. We ended up doing two scripts each, plus participating as examples in a series of excellent technique exercises.
My first audition script was a character from a fantasy game — an avaricious thief. (Yes, a redundancy. Hang with me.) I’ve observed in previous character workshops that I have a knack for evil — or at the very least, duplicitous — roles. This one proved no exception. I felt strong about the acting approach I took, and the specific choices I made with my lines. Best of all, I knew precisely how I wanted to play each scene before I stepped behind the microphone, and when I exited the booth, I was confident that I’d executed my plan. Darragh offered a touch of crisp direction that helped pull it all together. If this were an audition, I’d like my chances.
Round two, as I’d feared, took a slightly harder turn. I’d chosen a character from the same game as my first round selection, but one diametrically opposed to the other in type. I sometimes struggle playing good guys, and I did again here. My first take at my hero was a bit too soft — Pat told me that he sounded “like he eats too much quiche.” In attempting to make the character more vigorously masculine, I cranked in too much force and volume. I knew that was the wrong choice — how often do I have to hear “less is more” before I finally get it? — and Pat promptly reeled me back to a more monochromatic delivery. I should have played the Eastwood card straight out of the box. Oh, well… next time, I’ll remember.
My demonstration exercise taught me how to yell effectively without injuring my voice. I’ll be using that technique a ton, no question. AAAAARRRRRRRGH!
As inevitably happens at a VO workshop, I met some cool new colleagues, enjoyed working alongside some of my favorite fellow actors (Aileen and Brenda, you both rocked, as usual — I’m in awe, seriously), picked up a wealth of handy technical and career-enhancement tips, and benefited from some killer coaching.
By the time 6 p.m. rolled around and Pat sent us on our merry way, my shoes weighed fifty pounds each, but my synapses sizzled with fresh information and my heart soared as though pumped full of helium. I’m itching to spend the next couple of weeks digesting and practicing everything I drank from the Fraley and O’Farrell Fountain of Wisdom. (It’s 100% alcohol-free. Honest.)
Now, I need to go mining for auditions. Need a crafty villain? I’m your huckleberry.