Archive for December 2008

Planning for success

December 28, 2008

This morning, I presented a lesson on the subject of planning. It’s a good subject for the approaching dawn of a new year, when people are getting themselves into the forward-thinking mode.

Like many of my better lessons, it’s one I preached to myself first.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that my planning and organizational skills suck swamp water. It’s not that I lack the ability to think strategically and work in an organized manner — it’s more that I lack the motivation. To be brutally honest, I just get lazy.

But, as I drove the point home this morning, success requires a plan — conceived, detailed, and executed. No productive journey begins without the traveler knowing not only where the destination is, but also the roads to take and the resources that will be needed along the way. If I’m going to reap the results I so boldly affirm that I desire from my voiceover career, then I’d better figure out where exactly I want to go, and map out the steps that will take me there.

Acting coach Bob Fraser, whose Actor’s Tool-Kit e-newsletter I read religiously, sent a packet of amazingly helpful planning materials to his subscribers last week. In the days since, I’ve been using Bob’s Action! A Workbook for Professional Actors as the template for my 2009 strategizing.

I still have to follow through, of course. But for me, just having a clear direction and a sequential process for reaching the goal is quantum leaps further than I usually go.

If you’re not already reading Bob Fraser’s free newsletter, I recommend that you pop over to his site right now and sign up. His insights into what it takes to be a successful actor are worthy of your time and consideration.

As Joe Jackson once sang, “You can’t get what you want until you know what you want.” I almost always know what I want. I don’t often know how I’m going to achieve it.

This coming year will be different.

I’m planning on it.


RIP, Eartha Kitt

December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt, the multitalented entertainer who recently won consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for her voice work in Disney’s The Emperor’s New School, died today.

You can read my complete tribute over at my pop culture blog, SwanShadow Thinks Out Loud.

Ironic twist: Ms. Kitt, who popularized the pop-jazz carol “Santa Baby” in 1953, passed away on Christmas Day.

Act like you’re in Jeopardy!

December 23, 2008

Tonight on Jeopardy!, one of the contestants was a voice actress named Sam Johnston. She demonstrated her prodigious telephony skills during the interview segment: “To speak to a representative, please press 1.”

I’m trying to think… would I exchange Sam’s VO career for my Jeopardy! career?

Probably not just yet.


December 23, 2008

Yesterday, I ponied up the balance due on my January narration class at Voicetrax. When I looked at the invoice amount, I had to remind myself that I’m making an investment in my future.

I was reminding myself of that very thing this morning, as I was working through my daily reads.

It’s easy to find excuses not to put in the time to pull copy, analyze it, establish my settings, circumstances, and motivations, run a take, listen to it critically, and run it again to fix the things I missed the first time through. It’s work. It’s time-consuming. On days when the reads don’t flow, and I really struggle to come up with a competitive-sounding take, it’s humbling and frustrating.

But it’s an investment.

And if I don’t make that investment every day, I’ll never get where I want to go.

My future is being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery

December 19, 2008

The girls and I got Chinese takeout for my birthday dinner. Here’s the good word from my post-repast fortune cookie:

You will be fortunate in everything you put your hands to.

Dangling preposition aside, I hope that prediction finds its reality in my VO career in 2009.


December 17, 2008

…I will like the sound of my voice.

It’s strange, really. I first sang a solo on stage when I was ten. I’ve acted since I was in sixth grade. I’ve sung in choruses for a dozen years and in a quartet for three, in front of audiences as large as 10,000. I’ve been speaking in front of audiences several times a week for the past 22 years. I have been a vocal communicator and performer all of my life.

After all of that, my voice still sounds peculiar to me.

And not in a good way.

That’s not to say I can’t listen to and assess my vocal performance. Since I began studying voiceover seriously, I’ve been doing that almost every day. I appreciate the good things about my playbacks to the same degree that I am critical of the things that are lacking in my performances. I’m capable of recognizing a good take — even a great one — just as I can pick apart a take that is substandard.

I’m even getting to the point that Samantha calls “knowing when good enough is good enough.” Not always, but often.

But I still don’t like the sound of my voice.

Even when I love the things I do with it. And that’s increasingly often.

Someday, though…

I will.

A kick in the private

December 12, 2008

This morning, I headed down to Voicetrax in Sausalito for a private coaching session with Sirenetta Leoni. I enjoy the private sessions when I can schedule them — an hour of nonstop booth time, with a chance to experiment and get feedback one-on-one.

Sirenetta and I had never worked together before, so I was a bit apprehensive as I reviewed the four pieces of copy she had pulled for me in advance of the session. There was a beer commercial that called for a naturalistic,”real guy” read; a gasoline ad with a more narrative style; a spot for a fitness club that fell somewhere between the two; and a clip of character copy that might have come from an animated series episode or a video game.

By the time Sirenetta arrived, I had gone through each piece of copy, setting the circumstances I’d learned in my acting classes. I established my character’s persona and surroundings, and the events that had happened immediately before the first line of copy. Since I’ve been told that I need to focus on script analysis, I really concentrated on trying to understand each writer’s intent, and create scenarios for myself that would help me accurately interpret each message.

Once I stepped into the booth, I tried to let all of the process fall into place and just immerse myself in each read. That proved harder today than it usually is for me. Sirenetta was patient, though. I appreciated her analytical approach — her direction was clear and sensible. She praised my instincts and ability to take direction.

We worked the beer spot a couple of different ways — Sirenetta’s ideas, no surprise, turned out better than my own. The wording of the gasoline spot felt awkward to me, and it took me a couple of run-throughs to produce a clean read. The fitness spot went better, though I was disappointed when I heard the playback that more of the nuance I thought I’d put into my read didn’t come through over the mic. The character bit (as Lex Luthor, Superman’s archenemy) felt good. Once we had worked out the kinks, I was pleased with the finished cut, even though the character type isn’t my strong suit.

Lessons learned:

  • I still have some road to travel with script analysis. That will definitely be my emphasis in practice over the coming weeks.
  • Bigger is always better. What irked me most about today’s playbacks was the fact that the read I heard in my head didn’t fully escape my mouth.
  • My anal-retentiveness remains my nemesis. I have to get beyond my fear of getting the words out imperfectly, and just let things flow.

I had fun working with Sirenetta. I look forward to having another coaching session with her.

Next class: Introduction to Narration, Thursday nights in January. Sirenetta said that with my instincts, I should do well. We shall see.