Friday, February 13, 2009

Keel Finding

Better than keel-hauling, to be sure.

Had another class Wednesday evening. Session 2 of "Actor's Bag O' Tricks" which N. taught. Whatever mental core dump took place Tuesday night must've been a bit helpful. Just rereading that last post, it's tempting to select edit, then delete because it just sounds like self-indulgent whimpering.

But, in most everything I've ever done, the frustration usually sets in solidly before any gains take place. And that's pretty much where the needle was pointing after class Tuesday. Or, to keep the nautical-theme of the title, things were leanin' pretty hard to port. Wednesday brought things a bit back to center.

And it was fun getting there. Which is good. I spent a little time after work talking with my wife, and she listened extremely patiently to my chattering about wanting to hit the right mark, etc... When I'd exhausted most of my thoughts, she quietly asked, "You still like it, right?"

That pretty much skewered the crux of the issue.

Yeah. I like it. A lot. No. More than that. I have ridiculous amounts of fun doing this, really enjoy the people I have met so far, and look forward to things with a high degree of optimism.

"So," she continued. "Have fun with it."

Which adds to the long tally of reasons why I married her. Spot on, she was.

And so I wandered down to class, and had fun. Did absolutely the ugliest Australian accent I've ever managed and just had to smile and laugh afterwards. Threw it another gear (Russian) and cracked off a decent bit. Had fun with that. Listened, learned, tried to tune my ears some more and finished the evening by cracking off a legal delivery that scared me a little when I listened back to it this morning. (My wife asked me if they had sped it up...) A good evening and quality class.

It's funny to think about how much of this verbal, vocal, vox business has nothing to do with speaking. So much more is about the mental position, attitude and, well, the fun you bring in with you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Post-Class Thoughts

"It's Pretty Simple... just do it the way you hear it in your head."

Well, at least that got me to laugh a little bit as I walked the dog. Crisp and clear night sky between the showers. Just-past-full moon looking downward and the sparodic hissing of tires getting someone home reasonably late.

The dog didn't even look up at my observation and resultant chuckle. I didn't really expect her to, as she's 14 or so and quite deaf. So, the words and my chuckle just sort of hung there in the late night air, sounding quite simple following an evening of not quite bringing it.

I mean, it's all pretty simple stuff.

It's just the doing of it that seems to get complicated.

Maybe a part of the complication is the wanting. Wanting to do it well. The wanting gets in the way, makes you focus on articulating the tricky words and clever phrases. Wanting to do it Perfectly.

Doing it Perfectly removes it squarely from anything unique.

And the unique take is really the only thing that a voice actor can bring to the table.

It just felt pretty danged clumsy at the table tonight. Too safe. A bit timid. At one point, I really felt like something was trying to make itself known from within the first script, but didn't pay enough attention - just got back to the rhymes and words as they were written. Committed the cardinal sin of not just going outside and reading it aloud.

I mean, what the hell was up with that?

Which made that take sound like a bad first rehersal - y'know, getting most of the words, but missing the whole intent of the copy. Because the words never hit the air, it never opened up like it wanted to.

We all got to go back and read it again. But, if the first one was strangled, the second read sounded like a tired narration. A second take at the second read began to find some life, but it only stayed on the fairway because a helpful breeze gusted at the right time.

And it kind of felt like it continued that way all night.

There's a phrase in bike racing - "jour sans" - specifically "a day without" where you just have no gas for no reason. You've been training and worrying about all the things, but when it comes to crunch time, you just can't stay with the group.

As I read that, I'm hoping that's an overstatement. Haven't listened to the files yet, but can't really shake the feeling that it was an evening of Not My Best Work.

Didn't feel focused. Didn't feel centered. Never really felt relaxed.

At one point tonight - actually after we'd read the first script - when Sam P. talked about just letting the words drop. Just letting things flow, fall where they may.

Implicit in that was the idea of trust. Trusting that you've put in enough work to have some decent instincts. Trusting in the choice that you make and drilling into it deeper rather than stepping back. Because if you pull away from that trust, you end up trying to be a little safe, a little careful.

Which is not the way you ever hear it in your head.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Big Ol' Voiceover Week So Far

All of the classes which I really wanted to take seem to be a bit front-loaded into this semester at Voicetrax. Advanced Character started in January, the Ultimate Road Show two day class hit last weekend, then the first of two February classes which I'd been pretty excited about started last night.

I'd first heard of Sam Pond through a comment that Instructor/Voice Actor Brian Sommer made. We had just worked a script which was thoroughly hilarious, and Brian said, "That was a Sam Pond script - if you ever have a chance to work with him, DO IT!"

As I took more classes and began to see all manner of scripts, a few would stick out because they were irreverent, clever or really managed to find elegant humor. Most of these turned out to be Pond scripts.

If you are around the SF Bay Area, and have heard one of the Lombardi Sports ads in the last few years, that was probably one of his. He was recently the winner of $1 million in advertising on Clear Channel, and came up with some hilariously sparse bits which were just him, trying to figure out what to do with all the ad time he now sat upon.

If you haven't run across his stuff before, head over to and hit the "Spots" link.

The first session of class had a high velocity of scripts and takes, and by the midpoint, my cheeks were cramping from so much laughing. By the end of class, my ribs were sore. It's the only time (so far) when I've been in the booth on a dialog, and the class was laughing so hard that I started channelling Tim Conway/Harvey Korman from the Carol Brunett Show, when they both got serious giggles and almost imploded.

Just to make it an All-Voice-All-The-Time experience, on Tuesday, I finished up necessary job-stuff early and told folks I was going to work from home in the afternoon. This let me enjoy a late lunch while watching "View from the Bay", which was doing a segment with Voicetrax founder Samantha Paris. Here's a short camphone capture -

If you wander over to the Vew From The Bay site, they seem to maintain archives of show segments for webcast. (Broadcast date was 2/3/09, you may have to root around to find it today). The funny thing was that the first segment was a promotion of the "Go Red!" Heart Disease Awareness Fashion Show. The doctor who appears in that segment - Joanne Dames - is another Voicetrax student and voice actor.

Which pretty much meant only Monday will be non-voice-overy. What a great week!