Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tomato, Tomahto...

Leaving the Studio
Today's Job Done, originally uploaded by Jim Edgar Voices.

Got a nice-way-to-start-your-day phone call this morning. Any day that starts with a "Can you come in to record?" question is by any measure a fine day.

It seems that the folks at the National Palace Museum in Taiwan had decided to re-change some previous changes on pronunciations, and so Antenna Audio needed me to come out for a final short session ASAP. Slid some tasks around on the day's schedule and eased out to their studio early this afternoon.

An excellent exercise in "matching" - tone, cadence, intent. All those things that are always important, but even more so at the intimate level of audiotours. Had Thom Pinto's always-excellent advice ringing in my ears from the weekend class, rolling into the pickups by including the sentence before. Went well, it did.

According to my director, they were actually sending the files over today, so if you are in Taipei, and happen to get a chance to take in the Yongzheng Emperor exhibit, I'd encourage you to get the audiotour as well!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Raising the Retail Bar - Thom Pinto 09/09

Two day workshop with Thom Pinto focusing on retail scripts. For some reason, I had written this class down in my calendar, scheduled the weekend appropriately and showed up to find that I was not actually, you know, in the class... Luckily, another student had scratched in the previous week, and so I quickly worked things out with Chuck and Thom so I could attend. First time I'd done that... and better than not showing up for a class you'd paid for.

That having been dealt with, we all hunkered down to the nuts and bolts of the Retail Script. This class was set up to mimic live auditions and sessions, with some other exercises thrown in to keep us loosened up. Essentially, in the first (evening) class, we received a script and read for Thom, who was playing a producer trying to cast the spot. Had some decent spots in that read, though I was briefly kicking myself for not noticing one of Thom's embedded "traps" in the script. I think what frustrated me was that I thought, "hmmmm, that's weird" and then didn't ask about it. Ya gots to trust that inner voice thing....

The next day was "Session Day." Having miraculously booked the job the night before, we were to be working with the same producer in a mock session. These were longer reads for each student, complete with reworking the copy to fit the time slot, working timing, pickups and those things which happen during an actual recording session. Ended up with a good-feeling read, and felt pretty solid and focused during the session.

Retail scripts may not get a lot of respect - they aren't necessarily "high art" and the bad ones are, well, challenges. But, they do represent a core area of work, and this was an excellent class on the path to refining that area.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weird VO Dream

Probably because I was up past midnight finishing off the v1.0 of my voiceover website, but I had a VO dream last night*. We were pairing up for reads - we being many of the folks who were in the first round of the recent Voicetrax LA Idol competition (none of whom I'll embarrass by including their names) - and being shuttled quickly down a dock into a small studio that appeared to be in an Airstream-shaped building. Very shiny. Very silvery.

Anyway, there were three of us, and the woman had the lead character. I was reacting to her, commenting back and forth with another guy. The script just kind of ended - one of those times that just screamed for an ad-lib button. We tried a couple things that didn't quite work.

Then we hit upon it - we would break into song. Specifically, "Mambo Italiano"**, which seemed to complement the words precisely. We discussed it a bit, actually keeping it secret from the woman we were reading with, so that she would react realistically to our ad-lib.

We also understood that it was a risk. There was an air of competition to the rapid shuttling of groups, and we were trying to make sure that none of the others were close enough to hear our idea. We positioned ourselves at the microphone, got the heads-up from the engineer, saw the cursor start moving on the computer screen and started.

Which of course caused me to wake up. Drat. I had the fully conscious thought that it was going to be a spectacular take. Ahh well...

I'll leave you with it being done right -

*and I'm not going to make a habit of inflicting my dream imagery upon you. It's just that I seldom recall quite so many details... and it is a voiceover dream. and the studio we were in was pretty cool.

** and I know why this song was used - it's been a freakin' earworm for the last week or two, ever since I came across it while checking out a link from voice-pal Annalisa, who has been appearing in "Tony And Tina's Wedding", which is running in SF right now.

Site's Up!

A bit simpler than it will end up, but the initial version of the JimEdgarVoices website is up.

Which, curiously enough is called -

There are a couple of demo files, and a few other bits in there. More to come, but at least something reasonably cogent is now in place. Whew! I should be in bed...

Friday, September 18, 2009

LA Idol - First Round and Results

Last Saturday was the first round of the Voicetrax LA Idol Competition. As I mentioned in a previous post, these focus upon voice work, rather than singing. There are two editions of this - "LA Idol", in which the winner(s) end(s) up with a week of auditions at the major Los Angeles voiceover talent agency, and "SF Idol", where the winner gets representation with a San Francisco talent agency for 6 months.

As threatened, I did a lot of breathing beforehand. And scripts. And got together with fellow voice actors to work dialogues, which was pretty much the name of the game on Saturday.

We did know that going in, of course. What we didn't know was who would be paired with whom, and what scripts were to be used. Folks assembled and the buzzing of excitement could easily be felt. By the time Juliette posted the order and brought out the script for the first round, we'd already busted one another up a few times.

And that, it certainly seems in retrospect was what made the day so darned great. The camaraderie. The sudden realization that these other people with whom I'd shared classes and practices and horrible first takes and glorious successes with over the last couple years had become friends and peers.

To put it another way, everyone in the group was competent. But, our knowledge of one another made it possible for each to enhance the other and bring out the best in each. It's a moment of grace that only too seldom seems to occur in life. Between takes and scripts, we hung out and joked and laughed and kept one another pretty loose.

And loose, and I'm not sure I've observed before, is very good.

Of course, focused is also a desirable attribute as well. I'd brought some notes from various classes (a lot of them seemed to be from Tom Pinto classes...) and had a hand-written set of thoughts, points and reminders which had occurred to me over the previous few days. Probably things that wouldn't make sense to or even help other people, but those specific things that tended to trip me up or remain forgotten when things got hectic.

My wife also sent me a quick loop of the badgers, which for some odd reason of its simplicity and oddness, always cracks me up. It came through on my phone just as we broke into pairings for the first dialog.

The day felt good. Felt fun and loose.

And it seems to have paid off, because it would seem that as of Thursday, my name was among the qualifiers for the finals. Which had me doing the happy dance at my desk. I may have even busted into a badger dance for a few verses...

The 2009 LA Idol Finalists are:

  • Chris Abell
  • Jessica Blue
  • Ralph Boethling
  • Brian Davis
  • Cinthia DeGregory
  • Jim Edgar
  • David Johansson
  • Ken Krauss
  • Kyle Morton
  • Angie Noble
  • Don Porto
  • Nicki Rapp
Which now means that I need to pull together some thoughts, a strategy and some scripts for the finals. And of course, remember to keep breathing, have fun and stay focused.

And maybe bust out a badger dance move now and again...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Invitational Advanced Workshop with Thom Pinto - 08/09

It's pretty easy to run out of superlatives when talking about Mr. Pinto's classes. On the one hand, it seems not too long ago when I was taking the "Colors" class and feeling a bit, uhhh, challenged and awed to be taking a class from Tom. Now, no semester seems complete without some time under his tutelage. He has the capacity to cut right to the core issue that any student may be dealing with and I always appreciate the energy and focus he brings to a class, not to mention the breadth of knowledge of any and all voice actors who have ever recorded anything. He's a true student of the craft and expects as much from his students.

In broad strokes, this was a four week class focusing on specificities. As such, it's one I could take again and have a number of different things stressed, as my needs at that time would be different than now.

But, there were definitely overarching themes: the need to hit the right note from the first syllable of the first word, the need to understand every script both in terms of its meaning and format, the need to be capable of accurate assessment and self-direction. All that stuff that sounds so easy, yet is never simple in the execution.

One nice aspect to this class was that one week was "cyber" style - forcing the students to submit scripts from home, then respond to his feedback with a second version. Very "real" test of the home studio. I will not recount here the number of weird computer issues which cropped up for me on that night, only say that I had to go next door and apologize to the neighbor for my yelling at the last crash. And I'd much rather have that happen on a class than a job...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Countdown to Idol

It's countdown time - the first round of Voicetrax Idol: LA hits on Saturday, September 12th. Deep breathing and working practice scripts shall ensue for the next dozen days...

For those of you not intimately aware - the Voicetrax Idol events are patterned after some large vocal talent contest which they tell me appears now and again on television. In this case, we're dealing with voice work, rather than singing. There are two editions of this - "LA Idol", in which the winner(s) end(s) up with a week of auditions at the major Los Angeles voiceover talent agency, and "SF Idol", where the winner gets representation with a San Francisco talent agency for 6 months.

The format has a couple rounds of competition, and the goal for me this time around is to get past the first one. This will be my third time in the competition. I did the LA a year ago, and it was a great experience, but I felt more like "pack fodder*" and was a little overwhelmed by the level of the other competitors. Most of the folks who showed up I'd never seen before in my classes, they all seemed to know one another and most of them were represented and working. All good, as they say, and I'm pretty happy with what I did. It was just that the folks who moved on seemed to do just a little more.

The SF Idol this spring was a bad patch. I'd love to claim that aliens possessed my brain, or even that the dingos ate my baby, but the fact is I started out of balance and it went downhill from there. Got clipped at the first cutoff.

The question now is whether I learned from the most recent competition. And the classes. And the privates. And all the reads since then.

Which is why I'm counting down the days. And breathing. And relaxing. It's just that funny balance of pushing yourself a certain direction and then getting out of your own way. I love this kind of stuff the way I love bike racing - the anticipation, the feeling of excitement and dread, the focus that comes when you toe the line.

*bike geek term for folks who fill out the pack in a bike race.

In other news, Voicetrax decided that there was so much interest in the Idol series that they filled another SF Idol for the fall. The first round went off a week or so ago, and the first round winners were announced yesterday.

Here's a big congratulations to all the folks who are moving on:
  • Patty Allen
  • Vicki Baum
  • Nigel Ball
  • Annalisa Bastiani
  • Alyson Casas
  • Lynn Douglas
  • Roni Gallimore
  • Dan Greenblatt
  • Maureen O’Donoghue
  • Liz O’Keefe
  • Rob Sandusky
I know a number of the first round winners quite well from classes, and it's hard to root for any one of the talented people listed above over anyone else.

Good luck to all in the next round! Bring it and have fun.