Thursday, June 24, 2010

The San Francisco Treat

I enjoy walking in San Francisco, especially on weekends when the streets are extra busy with tourists and locals. I live in East Bay, so I hop on BART (our rapid transit service), right near my studio, and zip on up to the city in about 30 minutes or so. Couldn't be more convenient. I like to get off at the Powell and Market cable car turnaround to start my walk. Such interesting characters! Street performers are always there, and the ever present line of tourists waiting patiently to take a cable car ride up Powell Street and down to Fisherman's Wharf. (The going rate is $5). If you're looking for exercise, there's no better place to walk than the hills of San Francisco. And they're not for the faint of heart. It's just a whole lot of fun to walk and people watch at the same time, plus the health benefits are obvious. After a good long walk up and down the streets, your legs will be screaming for relief.

If you ever plan to visit our great city, by all means, email or call in advance. I'd be happy to take you on a "leisurely stroll." (And I also know some terrific restaurants where we can take a momentary rest.).

UPDATE: Here's a link to a story just published in our San Francisco Chronicle about a man who walked every street, alley, cul-de-sac (you name it), in the city. It took him 500 hours over the course of seven years!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Voices, voices everywhere...yacking freely...not a care

It never ceases to amaze me just how many unique voices I hear when I walk through a busy place like a supermarket or a mall. I tend to categorize voices. I'll hear the person in front of me at the check out line interacting with the cashier and think, "Good voice for corporate narrations." Or, "WOW! She's a grown woman and still has a little girl's voice. Maybe animation/cartoons would be a good place for her voice." Of course, to be a successful voice over actor, it's all about what you do with that voice. That's where the acting part comes in.

Recently, I received an invite to audition for a job where they wanted a gruff, drill sergeant type voice. And while I can do an adequate one, I decided to pass on the audition. Days later, I ran into a mid 60's gentleman who started talking to me and had all the characteristics to pull that type of voice off, with a bit of practice and a touch of acting. His natural speaking voice was raspy, deep toned, and had lots of authority in it. I told him he would be the perfect drill sergeant voice over for a script I had received. He smiled at me and said, "Voice over? What's that?"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Technical narrations are fun, aren't they? ( I said... "Aren't they!?")

Much of what I voice is of a technical nature for corporate videos, websites or Power Point learning. I just finished about thirteen minutes of narration for an overseas client. Needless to say, as a voice talent (even one with experience in these types of tongue twisting scripts), it's standard practice to go through the script before recording and check accepted pronunciations. Here's an excerpt from the one I just voiced in first person, as if delivering a lecture.

" Next, I would like to talk about unusual NRPSs producing b-lysine homooligomers, which are involved in the biosynthesis of streptothricins (STs). However, I would like to brief you on it, because one of our Ph.D. candidates will give a more detailed talk on this the day after tomorrow.
STs are broad-spectrum antibiotics that were first isolated from Streptomyces lavendulae in 1943. However, STs are not currently used therapeutically due to their nephrotoxicity. All STs have a homooligomer of 1 to 7 b-lysine residues in their chemical structures. Recently, we have identified a novel enzyme, the ST hydrolase, SttH. Interestingly, the selective toxicity of ST-D was altered from broad-spectrum to bacterial-specific, although ST-F-acid was detoxified in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, demonstrating that the moiety of the b-lysine oligomer plays a crucial role in antibiotic activity. Thus, the biosynthetic mechanism of b-lysine oligomer is intriguing in ST biosynthesis."

In my experience, sometimes the client wants you to say the word differently than what is recommended by Merriam Webster's audio dictionary, which presents another unique challenge. (Ahhhh, those "regionalisms.")

I've learned to assume nothing. When it comes to medical scripts, doctors sometimes have their own unique way of saying industry specific words, so again, it just makes sense to ask beforehand to avoid excessive (and time consuming) revisions.

A cool piece on VO legend Don LaFontaine (The movie trailer guy)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Dad the "voice over man"

As I write this latest post, it's early morning Father's Day. For all of us in our family, this one will be a bit different. Dad passed away months ago. He was bigger than life, had boat loads of charisma, and enjoyed a good joke and cigar. He also was a BIG ham.

Years ago, his brothers, sisters and cousins would get together at Christmas time and have a "party for grownups." A big part of that was Dad's funny tape recording where he would mercilessly roast all those in attendance with bawdy, inside, family humor. (Think Dean Martin celebrity roast and you're on the right track). It drew big laughs, and those in attendance couldn't wait to hear what he had drummed up that year, even if the cringe factor was off the scale.

Dad had one of those old reel to reel tape recorders and a microphone always set up in the bedroom, and when the inspiration hit him, he'd fire it up and use homemade sound effects, and his own devilish vocal delivery, to tell a funny story or joke about some unsuspecting family member. I remember him laughing hysterically as he put the whole thing together,and I could tell he truly enjoyed creating that year's comical masterpiece. It was, as they say, a labor of love.

This is one of my favorite memories of Dad on this Father's Day. Another is of our Sunday morning golf outings, where he taught me the game that I still enjoy to this day.

Thanks for the laughs Dad, and the memories.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Common Errors with Word Usage

Here's a really terrific guide to word usage that I think is fascinating. Don't be surprised if you find that you have made (or are making), some of these same mistakes.

WARNING: Once you click on one word and explore, you'll want to keep clicking on one word after another. That could take all day!

Thanks given to Paul Brians for posting the lengthy list and sharing. Credit to Nancy P. McKee and George P. Kennedy, who wrote "Correcting Common Errors in Writing," published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 rolls out into theaters this weekend to very good pre-screening reviews.
USA Today says: "This installment of the franchise, the best of the three, is everything a movie should be: hilarious, touching, exciting and clever. The voices behind Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the other playthings contribute mightily to the character development in what is easily the summer's best movie thus far."

Interesting factoid: Toy Story was the first foray into animated voice work for Hanks and Allen. (Not a bad gig guys, right?)

Interestingly enough, Toy Story 3 voice work was done by Hanks, Allen and others at Pixar, in Emeryville, California, just to the north of my studio.

UPDATE: I just went to see Toy Story 3 yesterday and it lived up to all the hype.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Interesting" direction I've seen on audition scripts

Like a good number of full-time voice actors, I audition on a daily basis in between paying voice jobs. I like to skip the morning comics section of my newspaper and instead look at the baffling direction that tops some audition scripts. Here are a few I found "interesting." I have not altered them in any way.

From a audition:

“Don't be afraid to add emphasis on certain words just as long as it sounds PROFESSIONAL.” (So glad you gave us that permission.)

And this one:

Male, 30-60 years old.

"Should sound intelligent, but not professorial. Non Announce sounding. Casual but not everyman. This person should sound as though they are smarter than the audience, but are still very approachable. The voice should carry a weight of understated intelligence." (I may be mistaken, but I think they want to hire Oprah. Oops, no their job spec says,"Male, 30-60 years old." My bad.)

And of course, I absolutely love the casting calls where they're looking for a James Earl Jones sound alike ("Voice of God") and they're budgeting $100 for the voice-over. I almost want to email them, tongue planted firmly in cheek, and tell them that instead of posting for a James Earl Jones sound alike, they might want to get in touch with him and see if he'll take a pay cut from the norm and voice their script for $50. I'm pretty sure I already know the answer.

In all fairness to accomplished producers and casting folks, the above are not typical of most audition notices I receive. But they do provide some much needed comedic relief in our often very stressful and time-line driven business.

If you're a voice talent, undoubtedly, you've had a few amusing job leads come your way. Feel free to post them in the comments section below.