Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Archive for the tag “voiceover”

Searching for thanks to give

MH900422849 (Cornucopia)This has turned out to be the most difficult blog post I’ve ever written.

It’s about giving thanks.

Now, granted, that kind of subject shouldn’t be too hard to write about…but you haven’t had the month my wife and I have had.

One Sunday morning about four weeks ago, we started get brownouts and power surges whenever we ran electricity here at the house. I couldn’t turn on the microwave, flip a light switch, or even let the water pump come on without losing power and hearing sizzling downstairs. (My lovely wife described the sound as “Frankenstein’s lab” – and that was, unfortunately, a perfectly accurate description)

Being a Sunday, it was a herculean task contacting an electrician. Most were unavailable (including two who supposedly ‘specialized’ in 24-hour emergency service and have still yet to return my call) and the two or three I was able to reach were busy and wouldn’t be able to get here for a few days. Finally, by late Monday morning, we had an electrician here working on the problem…and what he discovered was not only surprising, it was confusing.

Water had gotten inside the main electrical panel and corroded most of the breakers. What was bizarre was the fact that the water had seeped in via the cable running from the meter box into the panel. It hadn’t seeped into the house, mind you, it inexplicably had gotten inside the cable itself.

But that was only the beginning of the problems.

Not only did we discover that we were living in a 100-amp house – it was built in 1905 – but we learned that to upgrade to a 200-amp breaker box (which we would need to do, since the entire thing has to be replaced, anyway) would run about $1400.

And then something worse happened.

boiler

That’s a 4″X8″ hole blown out of the side of the cast-iron. The entire house smelled of steam and antifreeze.

A mere ten minutes after we got our electricity back up & running…the water boiler blew. And by “blew,” I don’t mean it died and stopped working. I mean it blew apart.

So after going 2 days with no electricity or water, we got to spend a couple more days with no water – and no heat, since we use forced hot water via the boiler. Thank goodness for wood stoves. I had plenty of wood available, as we go through about 5 or 6 cords of wood each season…but unfortunately, although the house was warm, I didn’t get to shower until the following weekend.

In case you’re wondering, ice-cold sponge baths suck.

Of course, our home insurance won’t cover any of this – the adjustor told us the boiler isn’t covered for one reason and the electrical panel isn’t covered for the opposite reason. I’m guessing they have NO reasons to cover anything, which is why the insurance company is in better financial shape than we are.

Oh, and our plumber spent nearly an hour over the course of two days explaining to the adjustor how boilers even work. So to recap: a guy who doesn’t know how something works was the guy responsible for deciding how and why it stopped working.

A few days after all of this began, I received a call from my mother to let me know my father had been taken to the emergency room with a severe systemic infection. He spent a week in recovery and has been at a rehab facility for the past week and a half. Mom doesn’t drive, so it’s been up to me to drive 35 minutes to pick her up, drive another 40 minutes to visit dad, then bring her back home and bring myself back home on a near-daily basis.

I’m fitting all this in while trying to be a stay-at-home dad to my 4-year-old and 1-year-old, and doing my voiceover work.

Guess what I haven’t been doing?

Other than voicing some scripts for a couple of my regular clients, I have had no time to actually try to make money; no auditions, no emails, no phone calls. It is ironic that at the point where we need as much money as we can get ($1400 for the electrical panel, $7000 for the boiler system, and who knows how much for the leaking roof – oh, I forgot to tell you about that?), I’m making less than I ever have.

And…the first snowstorm of the season is on its way and will prevent me from bringing my folks to our house for Thanksgiving. The last thing I want is for dad to spend his day alone at a rehab center, but that’s exactly where he’s going to be.

And…the toe I smashed last year when I dropped a 6-foot log on it is still causing me problems and I will probably have to have minor surgery on it this Monday.

And…my wife just broke a tooth which now needs a crown.

And…I’m having cataract surgery on my right eye in 3 weeks.

The reason I’m explaining all of this is not to sound like I’m throwing a pity party or anything, but simply to give you an inkling as to why I haven’t been around on social media much lately and why I’ve been having a hard time being thankful this year.

The view from Hackleboro Orchard in Canterbury, where we often go apple-picking. One more thing to be thankful for.

I would love to be the person who remains chipper and positive throughout all adversity, shouting out profundities like, “God doesn’t give you more than what you can handle!” while smiling cheerfully as my house collapses – but honestly, I’m not that person. I am, however, a person who is capable of taking stock in his blessings when given the opportunity to just take a deep breath and survey his situation.

After a few moments of consideration, I can come up with quite a few things I am genuinely thankful and grateful for:

  1. My kids are safe.
  2. Dad is safe; if he had been even slightly worse when they brought him in, we very likely would have lost him.
  3. The boiler could have blown in mid-February (thank God for small favours).
  4. My wife was able to get a loan from the bank to cover the repairs; we have no idea how we’ll pay the loan off, but for now, we’re ok.
  5. There will be food on the Thanksgiving table.
  6. The roof might be leaking…but at least we have one.
  7. My wife will get a nearly-unheard-of 5 days off in a row, from Thursday through Monday. I can’t wait to spend time with her.
  8. My wife’s father, who underwent scheduled knee-replacement surgery 2 weeks ago, is doing well.
  9. I’ll have at least 7 children’s poems published in 2015. For a guy who didn’t have any children’s poems published this year (or ANY year), I’d say that’s a good start.
  10. Bacon exists.

I realize I have many things to be thankful for, and I kick myself for letting them take a back seat to my troubles. Of course, I have many more blessings than just the ones I’ve enumerated here…but being able to spend time considering them is not only cathartic, it’s absolutely essential.

For me, and for everyone.

Find the time. Make your list. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

I appreciate the help…but you’re not really helping

ID-10084724 (Mic)I wasn’t planning on a follow-up to last week’s post about the need for information when doing voiceover auditions. I figured I’d covered just about everything – what to expect from voice talent, what not to expect, how to help them help you get better auditions.

But as I thought about it, it occurred to me I had so many great examples of what not to say or do…I had to share some of them. These auditions weren’t lacking direction, necessarily; however, they were lacking the right information!

If you read last week’s post, you’ll recognize many of the points I made. These are all 100% completely real, too…so don’t think I’m embellishing anything here!

If you want me to audition, a script is helpful

Earlier this year, I came across an audition I had to look over 3 or 4 times, just to make sure I was reading it correctly. The request was to take a swear word and “make it funny.” The voice seeker was creating a “funny product” and wanted to use sound bites that would eventually have music and sound effects added.

Fortunately, I wasn’t being asked to provide the post-production for the audition – which is something voice actors rarely, if ever, do- but I was being expected to spend my time trying to think of funny ways of saying a vulgarity, just for the possibility of getting the gig.

Yep, I’d say there was definitely something “funny” about this audition.

I passed.

If you expect me to audition without a script, make it worth my while

About the same time that previously-mentioned audition came through, I saw another one requesting “funny, true stories.” The recordings needed to be original, at least 3 minutes in length, and then as I read the request I noticed they said that they will pay for recordings they like, so to therefore not submit ‘audition’ recordings.

It took me a moment to realize this company, which features podcasts and videos of real-life stories online, was looking for freelance contributors – not voiceover artists. There is a difference folks.

You wouldn’t ask a certified ASE mechanic to wash your car. You wouldn’t ask a licensed plumber to pour you a drink of water.

Not trying to sound arrogant here or anything…but if you want to get people to submit something for use on your website, that’s great! I hope you get plenty of submissions you can use! But please – know your audience. Understand that what people like me do is a profession, not a pastime. Very few of us will record, edit, and mix down 3 minutes of audio for a mere $100.

Please give me voice direction that makes sense

I once saw an audition for what I could only imagine was a humorous project…but which still made no sense. The producers were looking for a colonial-era American voice who sounds like a Boston Red Sox fan.

Ummm…right. Well, as someone who IS a Boston Red Sox fan – and who grew up around Boston Red Sox fans – I’m not exactly sure how any of them would have ended up in colonial America. Conversely, I don’t know how anyone in colonial America would even have a Boston accent, since we were all still speaking the Queen’s English at the time.

Perhaps I was missing something.

Like better instructions.

If you want me to add music, give me an adjective I can work with

ID-10032444 (grandma)

“Excuse me, dear, is that the Slade version, or Quiet Riot?”

Years ago, I was producing a radio commercial for a restaurant. I was asked to use some “nice Mother’s Day-type” music underneath.

Uh-huh.

Well, I could have used “Mama” by Genesis, “Mama Told Me Not to Come” by Three Dog Night, or my favourite, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” by Slade…but since I figured I’d run into intellectual copyright issues with all of those, I used a soft, sappy acoustic production music track and sent it off.
.

They approved it. Apparently, moms love soft, sappy acoustic production music.

Know what you want before you ask

It comes down to understanding what you’re asking for. Before you write up the audition request, stop and ask yourself a few questions: Is this request reasonable? Am I expecting too much from someone who hasn’t even been hired yet? Does what I’m asking even make sense? Are these instructions clear enough?

Trying to put yourself in the position of the voice actor will not only help the voice actor, but it will help you in preparing for what you’ll receive for auditions. If you receive an inordinate number of auditions that are not what you were looking for, it might not be the fault of the voice talent.

It could be a confusing, unclear, mixed-message audition request – and all that will get you is a bunch of recordings you probably can’t use.

And probably more than a couple of swear words that won’t be very funny.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Hiring voice talent: I can’t help you if you don’t help me

You’re hungry. It’s almost 1pm, and you realize you haven’t had lunch yet. So you walk into a local sandwich shop where you’ve heard they have great food, and say,

ID-100204903 (sandwich)“I’d like a sandwich on bread.”

The guy at the counter looks at you questioningly and asks, “Umm…what type of sandwich?”

You reply, “Well, I’m not really sure – why don’t you give me a bunch of different ones and I’ll let you know which one I like.”

Preposterous? Ridiculous? Unrealistic? Perhaps…but in the world of voiceovers, this sort of thing happens all the time.

Knowing what you need

I see a lot of auditions every week, and one thing that strikes me is how often the people seeking voice talent do not know what they are looking for. (Or if they do, they keep it a secret) Many times the auditions look something like this:

“Looking for a male voice for corporate narration.”

Is that a young male voice? Middle-aged? Upbeat? Conversational? Urban-cool or mature-professional?

Now, I’m not going to try to audition for something that is not at all suited to my voice or delivery – like pretending I have a growling, textured voice instead of my smooth baritone – but I can provide a number of different style reads, depending on what a potential client prefers. You want serious? Happy? Energetic? I can do that. You want an emphatic whisper or a jovial next-door neighbor? I can do that, too.

I can’t do “husky,” “hip,” “or “urban.” I’m not opposed to those types of deliveries – I simply can’t do them. So knowing what you’re looking for helps me determine if I should audition for you. There’s no sense in me wasting time recording a sample script if I don’t have the voice you want. And there’s no point in wasting your time making you listen to something that isn’t at all what you need.

Speaking of wasting time…

Another common request from voice seekers is to provide several different takes…which is fine, as I normally provide at least 2, sometimes 3 takes of the same script when I audition (depending on how long the script is).

"What if?"But when I see a request to provide multiple takes in different styles because the seeker isn’t quite sure what he or she wants…that indicates to a voice artist that the person they may end up working with is probably going to be very difficult to please.

If you don’t know what you like before you get my audio, how do I know you’re going to like my audio when you get it?

It comes down to having at least a general idea of what you need, and understanding the ramifications and parameters of that need. I once received an audition for a pre-colonial southern American soldier, and the directions stated to include a southern accent, if we could. I didn’t. I read the script with a British accent and explained that our common American accents hadn’t developed at that point in history. Before the Revolutionary War, we were all still British citizens. with the Queen’s English fully intact.

Fortunately, the seeker agreed and I got the part!

Help me to help you

I’m more than happy to provide assistance like that.

I’m more than happy to inform a voice seeker that there is a grammar error or syntax error that should be corrected, if I feel it’s appropriate to do so.

I’ve even partially improvised a few auditions when requested to do so.

However, I skip over auditions that expect me to actually write the script when that’s not part of the project. Seriously – I’ve seen auditions for radio liners, DJ drops, and even games that ask me to make up “funny” lines and be creative with it. Keep in mind, this is for the audition, not the gig itself. I’m sorry, but having to write my own audition script is pure laziness on the part of the voice seeker. I’ve written plenty of scripts in my life and it is one of the services I offer – but I’m not doing it for free.

Ham & cheese or pastrami on rye?

You wouldn’t walk into a deli and ask for some meat on bread. But that’s what you’re doing when you ask for a “male voice” with no other information.

Do you want smoked turkey or oven-roasted? Swiss cheese, American, or cheddar? Whole wheat, white, or sourdough bread? There are as many variations to your sandwich as there are voices. I can provide some of those variations; I can’t provide all of them. Perhaps you’ll like what I do; perhaps you’ll prefer someone else.

Either way, the next time you need a voice, stop and consider what type of voice you think will work best. You’ll save yourself time – and money, too – by narrowing your search.

As for sandwiches…I’d suggest the Reuben.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Coming to Terms,” CYBILS Awards, and a Wandering Wildebeest

poetryfridaybutton-fulllJama Rattigan is hosting Poetry Friday today, and if anyone knows how to create a crowd using food, it’s Jama! She has croissants and chocolate and candied rose petals and raspberry-litchi pate and…well, you’ll just have to stop by and try some.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I announced that a new anthology titled, Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life, had just been made available for sale. I was looking forward to seeing it because I was one of the folks whose poetry had been selected for inclusion…and today, I’ll be sharing that poem here!

More on that in just a little bit…

First, I need to let you know the 9th Annual CYBILS Awards nominations are now OPEN!

Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2The CYBILS, as they are called, are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards, and are announced in February of each year. Two rounds of judges will narrow down all the nominated books for a variety of categories, and will decide which they feel are the best of the best.

But before they can whittle down the list…they need a list! That’s where you come in. Just click visit the CYBILS nominations page and let the judges know which of this year’s books for children and young adults you feel deserve some special recognition. As you’ll see, there are lots of categories, from early readers to young adult speculative fiction to my favourite, poetry!

(We already have some FANTASTIC poetry collections, too – which is going to make this even harder then normal!)

So make sure you log on and get your favourite book nominated - and I’ll keep you posted here about what’s happening!

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WildebeestSpeaking of poetry collections, I just received my copy of Irene Latham’s Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Watering Hole yesterday, and it’s as wonderful as I had suspected. Many thanks to Irene as well as to last year’s CYBILS Poetry Award winner, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for sending it to me – I was lucky enough to be the winner of a giveaway Amy hosted, and I read the book as soon as I opened up the box!

The book contains 15 poems of varying styles – some rhyming, some free verse, some light-hearted, some more serious – all about the various creatures that come to visit a watering hole on the African grasslands. Irene spotlights meerkats, rhinos, lionesses, and black mambas, to name a few, but I think my two favourites are the ones Irene opens and closes with, “To All the Beasts Who Enter Here” and “Says Nightjar to the Stars,” respectively.

Anna Wadham’s illustrations perfectly complement the playful, spontaneous, and stoic nature of the beasts, too – and of Irene’s text. If you haven’t considered picking this up yet, I recommend you do!

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Now, then…to my poem! I have to thank award-winning slam poet Zachary Kluckman, the anthologist of Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life, for selecting this poem for inclusion.  When I first read what type of book he was putting together and the subject matter – literally, how poetry can save someone’s life – I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

trigger-warningAbout 25 years ago, a very close friend of mine went through an extremely difficult time in his life…and it nearly destroyed him. Fortunately, he found support from his friends and therapy from writing poetry. I hope you like it.  I’ve posted audio of my reading of the poem below (sorry about the big head – I can’t do anything about it!) and of course, if you’d like to read more about how poetry can save lives, be sure to pick up a copy of the book, on sale now!

Coming to Terms

He had to keep quiet.

No one could know of his love, no –
infatuation – for the tall, dark beauty
with whom he shared daily smiles. His thoughts
were his, yet quickly
he became their slave; not uncommon,
of course, as we all succumb
to that numbness, once, at least,
but for his own sake

he had to keep quiet.
None could know, not even
Dark Beauty, who
had no inkling of an unthinkable
courtship, but simply smiled back
as acquaintances do
until one day, in a burst of emotion and discovery,
every passionate detail of his desire
came pouring forth from every pore
in an unintended self-immolation of love and pain.

The revelation
and cloud of rejection suffocated
and he wished it would
deaden the nerves that allowed him to feel
every word hurled
from Dark Beauty, friends,
parents, the world.
Endless days spent scared and crying
bled into pill-filled nights
that led not to quiet slumber but to weeks
and months
in the ward, safe and distressed. Alone

in his room, with pen
firm between heart and forefinger, line
by line he began to sort through love,
loss, dejection,
reflection
and the realization
he had been lying to himself, thinking

he had to keep quiet.

© Matt Forrest Esenwine, from Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life (Swimming with Elephants Publications, 2014)

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Getting the maximum out of minimalism

As I mentioned last week. I continue to be too busy writing…to write! My children’s writing is keeping me busier than I’ve ever been, which is good, although it’s preventing me from being as consistent with my blog as I should be. With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you this post from Oct. 2012 which, although it’s two years old, still makes for some interesting reading, I think. (Then again, I’m the one who wrote it, so what do I know??)

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Sometimes, it pays to keep things simple.

I was reminded of this maxim over the weekend, when I recently came across this blog post from artist and designer Christian Jackson at Square Inch Design.  Jackson took classic children’s tales and rendered them as minimalist posters – basically reducing the stories, characters, and plots into very simple designs that are at once striking, yet instantly familiar.

With all the extraneous stuff out of the way, the viewer is left with just the germ of the story, a simple visual cue that – to anyone who knows the particular story – conjures up images and memories of our favourite parts of each story.

This got me thinking about how we, as creatives, often get carried away in our work and sometimes lose sight of our objectives.  Sometimes, being detail-oriented can be a very good thing.

But sometimes…things don’t need to be as complicated as we try to make them.

“Is the guy running away, or coming down the stairs?”

Details can do wonders.  If you’re writing a book, you may need to expound on the layout of a castle or the idiosyncracies of an antagonist.  If you’re producing a radio commercial, simply having two people talking to each other may not be enough; adding footstep sound effects or outdoor ambience can really flesh out a scene.

(And for those unfamiliar with radio production, ‘footstep’ sound effects are not as cut-and-dry as you might suspect; there are ‘footsteps on gravel,’ ‘footsteps on pavement,’ ‘footsteps going upstairs – cement,’ ‘footsteps going downstairs – wood,’ ‘footsteps running away,’ ‘footsteps coming closer,’ and tons of other variations I won’t bore you with right now.  Talk about details.)

However, there are times when the details just get in the way.

“Spare me the details”

A friend of mine has been working for months on a middle-grade chapter book.  An artist by training, when she first began writing her story, she would spend an entire page just describing a room:  how the tables were set, what the chinaware looked like, what the curtains were made of, what flowers were used for the centerpieces.  It was beautiful writing, flourishing imagery, vivid detail…unfortunately, much of it was irrelevant to the actual storyline.

So she ended up cutting some of her story, revising some of it, and also leaving some of it – and her manuscript is much stronger now because the reader doesn’t lose sight of the plot.

Unless you’re Tom Clancy, there’s no need to spend an entire chapter describing a boat.

Personally, I’ve produced hundreds of radio commercials that required significant details vis-a-vis sound effects or multiple voices, but I have also produced many spots that feature nothing but a voice.  It all depends on the message, and whether or not music or sound effects will add to the listener’s experience or detract from it.

Background music in commercials:  Yes or No?

Maybe.

Clients ask me this question all the time.  I explain to them that music should only be used if it helps propel their message.

Music can create drama, evoke a mood, or act as a transition from one scene to another – but it will not, contrary to what some of my fellow radio programmers say, ‘keep things interesting.’  In a commercial, if the script is not written well enough to create a compelling message, no amount of music will keep a listener from turning the channel.  Likewise, if a message is compelling, why muddle it with an electric piano?

Think about your own life and consider how ridiculous it is to think that music will make a message ‘interesting.’  An excited friend comes up to you to tell you some fantastic news – but you say, “Hold on, there, pal.  Let me find something on my iPod to make our conversation interesting.”

The devil’s in the details

This past July, I decided to leave my position as production director for a 5-station radio group and work from home.  It was a scary decision because of all the unknowns ahead of me – will I make enough money, will I find new clients, etc. – but the clincher was an examination of the details of my life.  My wife and I were amazed when we actually broke things down:

I was spending $400+/month just commuting (not total driving, just commuting).  We were also spending $650/month for daycare for my 2-year-old.  When I added just those two expenses, I realized I was spending nearly an entire paycheck for the privelege of working!  After crunching the numbers, it became apparent that my goal of running my own voiceover business and pursuing my children’s writing was never going to have a chance as long as I kept spending almost $1100 and 245 hours each month just driving and working.

The details of my life were killing my dream!

So I quit the job on good terms, finished building my home studio, and now can work on my voiceover and writing careers while being a stay-at-home dad to my 2-year-old son.  By the way, I highly recommend number-crunching.  It may not sound like fun, but it’s worth it:  I discovered that because of the money I could save, I only needed to make a minimum of $150/week to break even.  (Granted, I plan on making more than $150/week – but that’s my minimum)  With numbers like that, why would I NOT want to move forward??

Just like my friend’s book, editing out some of the details of my life has made my life better.

“Keep it simple, stupid”

The Pizza Margherita is a prime example of the beauty of simplicity.  Just three ingredients – crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese – on a pizza crust.  Yes, you can throw in a little extra virgin olive oil, if you want – but you’d better stop there.  No amount of ‘details’ like garlic, onion, peppers, or anything else are going to make this classic pizza taste any better.  It is a perfect blend of minimal ingredients creating maximum flavour.

Whether it’s a pizza or a poem or an aeronautical system, the more complicated it is, the more trouble you’re asking for.  As Lockheed’s famous engineer, Kelly Johnson, once said, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

Remember this the next time you get stuck writing, producing, or creating.  Take a look at your project and ask yourself if the details are needed, if they drive the plot, if they’re important for the goal…or if they are a detraction.  Even if it’s life in general, like mine – examine the details.  You might realize there are some that need to be edited out.

And, like mine, you may be surprised at the details you didn’t even know where there.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

What I learned at the fair, III

As I’ve mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, I’m the live announcer for the Hopkinton (New Hampshire) State Fair. For the past four days, I have wandered from end to end and corner to corner, chatting with folks about everything from giant pumpkins and cattle pulls to fried dough and magic shows.

Over our public address system, I let the attendees know where the bathrooms are, when the next goat show is going to be, and how to get their tickets to the demolition derbies.

And I learn a lot!

That said, I’ve developed a tradition of sharing some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from the fair here in my blog. Last year I wrote of giant robot dinosaurs and the most despised candies in the universe. The year before that, I mourned the loss of patriotism.

This year, I’ve learned all sorts of new things…

  1. The best time to smell the fair is the first few hours of the very first day. Having been the announcer for about 5 or 6 years now, I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed this before. During those first hours of the fair, each aroma is its own: the donuts, with their yeasty, sugary delicateness; the charbroil grills firing up; the fresh hay and manure. (Yes, fresh manure counts as a ‘good’ smell for me. For those of us who grew up in the country, it’s a very earthy, honest smell). Once the fair gets going all those aromas blend into one – and although you might be able to pick out individual smells, they are much more delightful and independent when you first arrive.
    .
  2. If your job can be done by someone else, make sure it can’t. Friday morning we had our stock farm tractor pull, where big, powerful machines attempt to pull heavy weights along a dirt path. The one that eventually goes the farthest, wins. Well, our usual announcer was unable to do it this year, so we had someone else fill in (you can see her hard at work in the photo).
    Fair - truck pullShe did a surprisingly good job; however, I’m pretty sure we’ll see Andy Mack, the regular announcer, back next year.
    .
    Consider this, though…if you’re doing a task that someone else can do, too, you’d better provide some added value to that task and show why you are capable of doing it better. Do you go above and beyond? Are you friendlier, smarter, more positive? Whatever the superlative, make it your own! Once they discover you’re not special, you’re toast.
    .
  3. There’s a new maple syrup grading system being put into place. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a huge deal for maple syrup-producing states like New Hampshire and Vermont. For years, customers have been confused by the names of the types of maple syrup, which have varied state to state. What might be called “Grade A Fancy” in one state (such as Vermont), is referred to as “Grade A Light Amber” in another – and what Vermont calls “Light Amber” is different somewhere else. (And don’t even get me started on “Grade B” syrup, which is darker and more robust in flavor, but is just as high a quality as “Grade A”)
    .
    It’s taken about 10 years of wrangling, but it appears that a new grading system has been agreed upon between the states, and we’ll start seeing the new names in the upcoming spring 2015 sugaring season.
    .
  4. The less clothing you wear, the more trouble it is. This is one of those issues women seem to have to deal with more so than men. As I spent my four fair days walking from dairy barn to music tent, from horse show ring to funnel cake booth, I noticed something. Those who wore t-shirts, button-down shirts, or dresses appeared completely unconcerned with their wardrobe. On the other hand, those who wore tight-fitting, spaghetti-strapped, midriff-baring, cleavage-inducing tank tops were constantly pulling at themselves, pinching, pulling, adjusting.
    .
    I just don’t get it. If being sexy is that uncomfortable, suggest to your boyfriend that he try wearing that sort of thing sometime and see how he likes it.
    .
  5. Loaded baked stuffed potatoes are still the best thing about the fair. I wrote about this last year and it remains the truth. Pure heaven.Fair - potato
    .
  6. Patriotism still isn’t what it used to be. I’ve also written about this before. When the national anthem plays each day at noon, many folks stop and face the flag(s) on the fairgrounds; others will stand around, wondering what’s going on while others simply pay no heed and continue about their day. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but things like this really annoy me.
    .
  7. Souped-up pickup trucks with tractor tires are deafeningly loud. OK, so I already knew that. This was just a reason to post a picture of the mud race:

Fair - mud race

Do any of these things come as a surprise to you? Am I alone in my enlightenment here? Anything you’ve ever learned while enjoying the local fair that you’d  care to share?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Matt Forrest, Dream-Killer

Sweet, loveable me…destroying dreams?

Alas, it appears so.

I am often asked how one starts a career doing voiceovers or writing children’s books. As someone who has been doing voice work and audio editing for 25+ years, I’m happy to share advice, tips, and some guidance.

As someone who has yet to accomplish the feat of getting a children’s book published, I can only offer a few suggestions – like practice, networking, and critiquing. I have had numerous adult poems published in collections over the years and will soon have about 6 or 7 children’s poems published in various anthologies within the next year or two…but that’s a far cry from getting a book deal.

Be that as it may, much of the advice I give can be applied to either industry – and many more.  The reaction I get after giving the advice is often the same, as well.

Notice I called it an industry

Voiceover work and writing children’s books and poetry are similar in that they are both creative pursuits; however, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that they are, in fact, industries. Businesses. Professional careers that require all the time, effort, and skill that most other professional careers require.

ID-100232154 (water pipe)

Other than turning off the water, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do next.

You wouldn’t decide to become an astronaut on a whim. You wouldn’t think that by buying a socket wrench you can pass yourself off as a car mechanic.

You wouldn’t decide to open a plumbing business simply because you once unclogged a drain in the upstairs bathroom and it seemed like easy money.

Unfortunately, there is something about creative media that makes people think anyone can do it. And to be honest, many people can do it – but don’t really want to.

Or rather, they don’t want to hear about the reality of it.

This is where the dream-killing begins…

The first thing I tell folks who ask me how to get into voiceovers or break into children’s publishing is this: learn about the industry. Read blog posts, seek out professional web pages, and get a feel for what is truly involved. There is more to voiceovers than speaking into a microphone, and there’s more to writing children’s stories than “See Spot Run.”

When I tell these well-meaning people that the industry (either one!) is difficult to break into, they first look at me as if I’m trying to keep them out of a secret club or something. Then when I tell them a few of the things they are actually going to need to do, I get the feeling they think I’m trying to scare them away.

I have to implore them not to misunderstand me – that I’m just trying to be honest and blunt with them.

Blunt honesty, it appears, is not popular.

The frightening facts

Some of the nuggets of advice I offer – while not particularly unique or even insightful – are certainly solid for either industry:

- It may be fun, but it’s work, and you need to treat it as such.
– It’s also enormously competitive. The good news is that most of the other folks in the industry are surprisingly supportive!

- If you want to be a professional, understand what that means and what is expected of you.
- It doesn’t matter if you have a “great voice”; what matters is if you can read well and bring a script to life.
- It doesn’t matter if you love kids; what matters is your ability to write and your willingness to revise, over and over.
- Understand that not everyone can do what you are attempting to do. If it was so easy anyone could do it, everyone would.
- Understand that this is a skill requiring training, perseverance, and talent (not necessarily in that order).
- Understand that rejection is a way of life. There is a very, very high likelihood that you will fail multiple times before you even begin to succeed. You might get passed over dozens of auditions before getting that first gig, and you might send out a hundred manuscripts before an agent or editor thinks you’ve got what it takes.
- Tenacity, perseverance, skill, communication abilities, a thick skin, and a sense of humor are your best friends.
- Egos will get you nowhere.

There are plenty of other industry-specific things I might share when chatting with folks about voiceovers or children’s publishing, but I usually lose them at “enormously competitive.”

I’m really not trying to kill dreams…it just sort of happens

Honestly, I’m not sure how many dreams I’ve killed. I know that many of the folks who have emailed me or spoken to me in person over the last few years are not currently pursuing the vocation they had asked me about in the first place.

SCBWII can only make some broad assumptions.

Either they a) got scared and decided to stick with what they were doing; b) thought I was trying to scare them and decided to do it their own way and failed; or c) are still trying to find the time to be able to engage in an industry as competitive as voiceovers (or children’s writing).

These days, I refer voiceover questions to fellow voice artists like Paul Strikwerda, whose book, Making Money in Your PJs, provides as much insight, advice, and blunt honesty as one can handle, or Dave Courvoisier, author of More Than Just a Voice, a book that details the nuts-and-bolts of the industry like marketing, coaching, and equipment. The professional organization World Voices is good place to learn what being a professional voice talent is all about.

For questions about children’s book publishing, writers like Katie Davis, Julie Hedlund, Tara Lazar, Dr. Patricia Stohr-Hunt, and many, many more are all willing to help teach, guide, and inspire. And of course, there’s always the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), which is a great resource.

So if you happen to be wondering what it takes to get into these industries – or any of the creative arts – don’t let hard work and the fear of rejection stop you from realizing your dreams. Just do the work necessary and plan to stick with it for the long haul.

I’m not really a “Dream-Killer,” after all…just more of a reality-checker.

But hey, if Abe Lincoln can be a Vampire Hunter, why can’t I have an ominous-sounding moniker, as well?

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

“I can see clearly now, membrane is gone…”

By the time you’re probably reading this, I’ll be able to read it, too.

Since sometime in early spring, I’ve noticed my ability to focus my left eye has been increasingly difficult. It got to the point while we were on our vacation trip to Maine that I couldn’t even focus on road signs, sailboats, or women in bikinis.

It was very confusing to me why this would be happening, because I had undergone cataract surgery about 4 years ago and had a brand-new lens stuck inside my eyeball. This had given me perfect distance-vision (I still needed reading glasses, though). Because I was still near-sighted (naturally) in my right eye, I lived with monovision: I’d use m y left eye for distance, right eye for reading. For some people, this drives them nuts; for me, I was already nuts, so it worked out fine.

Fast forward to this  past June, after we got back from vacation…

As you can imagine, I couldn’t stand not being able to see properly. Which made it doubly worse is that I have now developed a cataract in my right eye, too – which limits my ability to see anything in focus farther than 4 inches away. I kid you not.

So I made an emergency appointment with the eye doctor, who told me I had a cloudy membrane. It seems there’s this thin, clear little sheet that separates the front and back of your eyeball. Surgeons leave it there to help hold the new lens in place during cataract surgery, and 50% of all patients never have any problems. for the other 50% – of which I’m part – our membranes start to become cloudy, much like our lenses did when we developed the cataracts.

In the words of the doctor, “This membrane should look like Saran Wrap; yours is more like wax paper.”

Great.

Fortunately, I’m told it’s a simple procedure to fix it. They’re going to give me a couple of eye drops, hold my eyelids open, focus a laser beam at that pesky sheet of wax paper, and blast it to smithereens.

And thanks to modern medicine, it’s a 30-second procedure.  Seriously. 30 seconds to blow the membrane apart – after which I’ll probably see some ‘floaters,’ as they call them, which the body will simply absorb over the following week. There’s no recuperation period, I’m told; no restrictions, no side effects, other than a possibility that my eye pressure might increase, although the doctor says that has never happened.

Of course, now that he made that bold claim, I’ll probably be the shlub who breaks the record.

“But wait!” you ask. “If you can’t see out of either eye, how have you been writing and doing voiceover work?”

The simple answer is: I haven’t. Or, if I have, it’s been taking me forever.  I can’t read or write unless I’m 4 inches away from the computer screen – which, I don’t have to tell you, is as challenging as it is unhealthy. Reading glasses and magnifying lenses are useless because they help a person’s eyes to focus – yet in my case, there is no way for me to focus.

So unless I blow up the font size of a script to 24-point, recording audio has been a real trick. And writing just gives me headaches after awhile…which is why I’ll wrap this up now. My appointment for membrane-destruction is Tuesday morning, which is why I hope that by the time you read this, I’ll be reading it, as well.

I’m looking forward to seeing what I wrote.

I’m also eager to go back to the beach.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

FaffCamp is back!

If you are a voice talent, voice actor, voice artist, voiceover professional – heck, whatever you call yourself – you should know about FaffCamp! It’s a professional development conference organized by the same folks who orchestrate the hugely popular “un-conference,” FaffCon – and it’s a tremendous opportunity to network, learn, and be inspired in a fun, relaxed setting.

There are two ‘tracks,’ so to speak – one for seasoned pros and one for those who are just starting to get into the voiceover industry – so there really is something for everyone. Even if you work with, hire, or produce voiceover pros, you’ll probably find something of interest at this conference: ad agencies, eLearning providers, and even copywriters are encouraged to come check it out!

faffcamp-patch-logo-faffcon_225x200

 March 19-22, 2015 – San Antonio, TX

If you’re interested, don’t delay! Registration closes July 11 – and since it’s being done Kickstarter-style, if they don’t get enough registrants to break even by that date, they’ll have to cancel the event. So click the image above for all the details, and don’t miss Faff Camp II!

- Matt

Someone spent a lot of money promoting their competition

I think I’m a fairly low-key, easy-going guy. I tend to take things in stride, but every now and then something will get me all worked up to the point where I’m jumping around, hollering like an idiot.

It’s usually due to moron drivers and bad commercials.

In this case, I felt compelled to share my discontent because we’re dealing with a bad commercial featuring people driving! And really, it’s not that bad a commercial…it’s just advertising the wrong business. (Which I guess makes it a pretty bad commercial, after all.)

Check out this commercial for Fiat:
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Oh, wait – that wasn’t a commercial for Fiat. That was for Lexus! Oh, stupid me…my bad. You see, I just spent 60 seconds looking at fine sports cars and seeing the sleek “F” logo popping up in my face. Can you blame for mistaking this for a Fiat commercial?

Seriously, Lexus: the viewer only gets a few quick glances at the Lexus “L” logo on the cars…and unless the viewer’s attention is completely focused on the commercial, he/she will never realize those are all Lexuses (Lexi? What, exactly, is the plural?).

Here’s how I presume it all went down:

- Someone at the Lexus corporation said, “Let’s call our new model the same letter that our competition’s name starts with.”
– Someone at the ad agency said, “Let’s flash the first letter of the competition’s name throughout the entire commercial – and be sure not to show anyone the Lexus name or logo until after they have determined it’s an ad for the competition.”
– A whole bunch of executives said, “We agree! That’s a great idea!”

I’ve written before about what happens when a good story goes bad, and this is one of those times. And as always, I critique these spots not out of displeasure with or dislike of ad agencies – heck, I’m a voiceover guy, I LOVE ad agencies! – but out of love. Tough love,

So now that I’ve had my rant, I’m going to go take a rest. But be forewarned – if Ford Trucks comes out with a TV commercial featuring a male sheep, I might need to write another blog post.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

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