The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. — Anais Nin I have taken numerous voice-over classes in my career. In almost all of them, the teacher has encouraged me and other students to improvise with commercial copy. A common thought is that an ad-lib enhances one’s ability to stand out in an audition because you gave a read that was not expected.
On the flip side, I would never ad-lib when performing an audiobook. The narrator must serve the author’s purpose and point of view, reading
Henry Aaron is a class act.
I don't make that comment because he is one of the most beloved sports figures of all time or because he is a fellow Atlantan. I just saw the news replay of his speech last night as he congratulated Barry Bonds for surpassing him as the all-time baseball homerun champion. I'm reprinting it below in case you haven't seen or heard it.
I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home run leader.
It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity and determination.
Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball,
and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years.
I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historic achievement.
My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record
will inspire others to chase their own dreams.
You might think that Barry Bonds's tremendous accomplishment or Hank Aaron's scoreboard address would have nothing to do with voice-over. However, I see a parallel between these sports heroes and my voice-over career.
Over the past several years, I have checked with several local colleges -- especially those with pro audio curriculums -- to see if I could take a course in audio engineering as a non-degree student. I have a Masters degree in computer information systems, so I'm really don't want to spend a lot of time and money to pursue another degree! I therefore was quite excited to discover a 4-week course in Pro Tools offered this month by the Art Institute of Atlanta.
This class couldn't occur at a better time for me. I recently switched my voice-over studio configuration from a PC with Cool Edit software to a Macbook Pro with Pro Tools LE. Earlier this year, I hired a recording engineer to help me streamline my processes. After I bought this computer, he gave me a crash course in using Pro Tools, but I have much to learn about the program.
The first class was held this past Saturday. I am the only voice talent in the group. Most of the students are singer/songwriters, which is understandable when you consider that Atlanta is a thriving music city and home to a Grammy chapter and numerous Grammy winners.
One of my fellow students said he was in a band that had been signed by a minor label. He was wearing the t-shirt for a very famous band. I asked him why he wasn't wearing a shirt to promote his own band. His answer surprised me.
When I hear the same thing in quick succession from 2 or more people who aren't related to each other and have no vested interest in the comments, I feel the Universe is giving me a sign to pay attention!
Such was the case this week with the classic motivational book As A Man Thinketh by James Allen, originally published in 1902. I don't remember, but I think this work was referenced in The Secret. Since I am vitally interested in the power of our thoughts and words to create our reality, I recently downloaded the free audiobook of this work available from LearnOutLoud.com.
I began listening to it on 13 July. Ten minutes after I started listening, I decided I had heard enough. The audiobook narrator included at least 3 stumbled words, several lipsmacks and an uninteresting method of delivery. With the availability of low-cost and free audio editing software, I am incredulous that someone would choose to leave the stumbles and extraneous noises in an audiobook, even one offered for free. An audiobook is a thing of permanence. I would like to think that people would seek out my audiobooks 100 years from now, just as I was seeking out Allen's book.
I was showing my new business cards to a friend of mine this afternoon. She said she had a book that she wanted me to see. She and I have had many great discussions about the extreme power of our thoughts, and the book was on that subject. Which book do you think she recommended? Yep, that's right -- As A Man Thinketh by James Allen. Although I had abandoned the free audiobook, the Universe was telling me to give the book another try! I told my friend that I would get the book tonight.
However, I wasn't the only person who made a special trip to the book store. The store was crowded with people waiting for midnight, when the last Harry Potter book goes on sale. Someone who has been living under a rock or totally new to the country might think that tonight was Halloween, given the number of young people dressed in costume at the mall. Of course, they were flocking to the book store. They were not looking for a title associated with the Law of Attraction to help them live their lives to the best potential. No, all of those young people and their parents were at the book store to buy the final installment about the boy who lived!
I am not still at the store, waiting to get my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I will, however, buy the audiobook version consisting of 17 CDs sometime over the weekend. (I doubt that I will be wearing a costume when I buy it, though!) I encourage anyone interested in performing audiobooks to listen to Jim Dale's masterful narration of any book in this series. You can download the previous 6 books and thousands of other audiobooks on iTunes. I would imagine that this final book will be loaded on ITunes in the near future.
Also note the high level of production quality in one of these books. The series is so popular that the audiobook is published simultaneously with the hardback edition. Jim Dale didn't even have the opportunity to read the entire book before entering the recording studio. He read the book in segments of 100 pages. For a fascinating article about Jim Dale and his role as narrator of the Harry Potter series, you will want to read this feature story published 17 July in the New York Times.
Success leaves tracks,and you can gain valuable insight about the preparations for audiobook narration, as well as the production, by paying attention to Dale's comments.
I frequently state in my blog that voice-over is a business, yet people write things to me that indicate that they either are ignoring or don’t know about the business aspects of being a voice-over talent. Just last week, someone sent me an e-mail stating that
I believe I have a talent and I would love the freedom and independence that your job provides.You could do lots of things if you wanted to be free and independent. However, most of those things require some actual work to make them happen. Becoming a voice-over talent is no different. It requires you
My view of Times SquareOn my free day in the Big Apple (Wed., 30 May), I walked around and boosted the local economy as much as possible. Since Drew was unable to make the trip with me, I bought some presents for him. I first stopped at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue.
The big APPLE in the Big AppleI bought a Remote Radio for Drew to use with his iPod. He is delighted that he now can listen to FM radio while riding his motorcycle. I'm sure that Apple Store will be packed tomorrow with the first sale date of the iPhone. I'm going to get one....but not tomorrow! Love was in the air in New York, but it was also on the ground. Somewhere on my walk, I came upon a sculpture of the Love logo associated with the 1970 film Love Story. In a web search, I learned that the sculpture was created by Robert Indiana and located on the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan. Just like I give a different read when voicing scripts, I look for the unusual shot when taking pictures.
Love in New YorkThe Audio Publishers Association conference was held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Thursday, 31 May. I like to attend sessions aimed at both audiobook publishers and their narrators, especially since I am planning to start my own audiobook production company. This year, I went to the sessions on alternatives to CDs, technology and a narrators' panel.
Earlier this week, as often occurs, I received more e-mails from people wishing to break into voice-over. I endeavor to respond personally to everyone who writes to me, but I rarely get an acknowledgement. I don't know whether the information I provided was helpful. I don't know if they received my reply since I send it from a different e-mail address than is shown on my web site. Sometimes I think people can't be bothered to say thank you to people who help them along the way. I'm honest and sometimes blunt; I tell people what they need to know, which may not be what they wanted to hear.
One of the e-mails this week was from a person who wrote lines typical of so many messages that I receive:
my entire life I've been told that I should do something with my voice....I can also emulate just about any language, dialect, or style in a very short amount of time. I'm getting more and more curious about doing voice over work.
The person wondered if I would be interested in working with him. While I'm flattered when people ask me this question, I don't teach or hire others to work with me. I'm a voice talent who is actvely marketing myself. Occasionally, I need to recommend a fellow voice artist for a role to work with me or as a contact for a job that I need to pass on. However, I have a short list of talent in that category.
At this time, I do not mentor anyoneoutside of any help they may receive from my blog entries and the Advice and Links section on my web site. Since voice-over is a business, you need to have a business plan consisting of education, demo, marketing, MORE marketing, gigs, on-going education and maybe an agent....in that order. I hope that people are using this blog as part of their education, so I refer newcomers to these particular posts:
I have been traveling recently and have been unable to update my blog for several weeks. One of my trips was to New York to attend the Audio Publishers Association conference and BookExpo. Since audiobooks and narrations are the main focus of my voice-over work, going to New York was mission-critical! I really enjoyed seeing many colleagues again, as well as meeting new audio and print publishers with whom I might develop a working relationship. I already am planning to attend the same events next year in Los Angeles.
It's a law of nature that things happen in threes. That law was proven again on
Wednesday 30 May as I prepared to leave for New York.
I was talking with a friend today. This friend Don has advanced degrees in multiple disciplines, yet he continues to attend grad school to earn more degrees. Barbara Sher, author of the life-changing book I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, would say my friend is a scanner because he has varied interests and doesn't settle on one thing for too long. I also would say that Don doesn't want to commit to one thing. I'm convinced that he attends grad school so that he can postpone the inevitable time when he must finally make a choice of how he wants his life to proceed.
Today's conversation got around to my voice-over business. As I talked about recent successes and my plans for the future, Don said, as he has said more than once over the years, "maybe I should look into doing voice-overs." I tell anyone who asks me that they should explore any serious interest in voice-over work, sheep herding, Italian cooking or whatever. You don't want to get to the end of your life and wonder "how would my life have been if I had done that?".
As I have done in previous conversations, I recommended that Don start by reading books on my recommended list of voice-over books and taking some classes.
He asked how I would feel if he took a voice-over class and hit it big. Don is not someone in the incredible ** 81% ** of the Gen Y crowd (18-25 year-olds) who seems to expect fame and wealth as their birthright. Quite simply, Don is yet another person who thinks that making money in voice-over is an easy thing that can be done by anyone. Since he had a few spare hours in his schedule, Don was ready to sign up for the fortune and glory awaiting him as a voice-over actor.
I don't think he will actually follow through with any action. After all, he is the same person who could never be bothered to even listen to my demos.
Our discussion today reminded me how Don acted when I created my first demo. When you decide to go after your goals, your friends and family will change their attitudes about you. In many cases, that change won't be a positive one.