Monday, December 27, 2021

Another handy guide for your voice over toolbox

 As you record scripts for clients from your home studio, you may come across a proper name or foreign word that you can't find on You Tube for pronunciation help. A favorite audio pronunciation site I've been using for years is called "Forvo." There are many pronunciation guides online, but what I like about this one is you'll have many "real world folks" saying the word for comparison. As mentioned in another post on this blog, never go on just one person's pronunciation. Listen for multiple ones to make sure you'll be able to record it correctly and save time. 

Now, there are exceptions that you may encounter that can lead to frustration and confusion. I recently voiced a video narration for a large Mexican supermarket called "Chedraui." It's a very popular chain and they're expanding into the U.S. Ever heard of them? Me neither. So, I went online to check, and many of the pronunciations were being said in "mother tongue." Frankly, it was hard to understand, as the pronunciation varied. Many times it comes down to how the client wants it said. I found out Chedraui is a family name that goes way back in the supermarket's history. I went on You Tube and searched Chedraui videos and heard no less than 3 or 4 ways people were saying the name. So, checking with the person you're recording for and asking how they want the word pronounced may well be the way to go. Of course, if you're out of your home studio and being directed in a recording session, the director/producer should certainly be able to tell you on the spot how they want it said.

Forvo is quite extensive and useful--most of the time. And I find they often have pronunciations that other sites do not. Check them out here. Then bookmark them. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

My Dad the "voice over man"

 Christmas certainly brings back many fond memories; going out with family to a tree farm in the cold Ohio snow to find that just right one, and hauling it back home to set it up and put on tinsel, lights and decorations. The aroma of a freshly cut tree in the living room was wonderful. You knew Christmas had arrived.

I was thinking the other day, it's hard to believe, Dad has been gone for 12 years now. Gone... but certainly not forgotten. He was bigger than life, had boat loads of charisma, and enjoyed a good joke and cigar.  He  possessed mad, pro-level bowling skills (Once bowled a 299 in league competition! The alley gave him the pin that refused to fall) and despite all efforts, I could never beat him at pool. He was a master of the bank shot and showed no mercy to his opponents. 

Years ago, his brothers, sisters, and cousins, started a family tradition of getting together at Christmas time and having a nighttime "party for grownups." In other words, no children allowed. 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. He worked all year on recording funny bits, then played it at the party. (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 charts. I'm sure it was kind of an honor to have him roast you.

He had one of those old reel to reel tape recorders and a microphone set up year round 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 at home, and I could tell he truly enjoyed creating that year's comical masterpiece. It was, as they say, a labor of love. 

These days when we need a sound effect for a production, we can instantly find it online with the click of a mouse. Dad did it the old school way. And had a helluva good time doing it.

                                                                    


                                     

Monday, December 13, 2021

Is perfectionism ruining your voice over auditions?

 So you work from a home studio and do your fair share of auditions for voice over jobs. You preview the copy for clues as to how to audition; trying to zero in on what they are looking for. Perhaps you read the specs the client has provided as to what they want. You crank up your recording software, and with copy in hand, head into your booth, or wherever you do your voice work, to record the audition. Being a fairly new, enthusiastic voice talent, you aim for perfection. At this point, I'd like to step in and ask your permission to kindly offer you some advice. And here it is...   STOP trying to be perfect with your auditions! Aim for good or very good. Perfect? NO. Perfection is a very subjective thing. One man's perfect is another man's "Just OK." Trying to be perfect is a fool's game you'll never win. If you're standing or sitting in your booth recording an audition and wondering how you're doing as you're recording the copy ("Hmmmm. Does this sound right?") there's likely  going to be a disconnect. In other words, you should NOT be self critiquing as you're voicing the audition. 

Merriam-Webster dictionary has this definition of perfectionism:

"a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable"

Trust your voice! Try to bring something unique to your audition. Maybe a take on the copy that they would not expect. Strive to be DIFFERENT. And definitely forget about trying to be perfect. That's a waste of time, and you'll drive yourself crazy in the process. In my humble opinion, if you can't nail a solid audition in no more than 3-4 takes, you probably shouldn't be auditioning for the job. Too many takes and you'll be second guessing yourself as to what take to submit for the audition. You'll get lost in what I like to call, "Audition Hell." Be selective in what you audition for. And again, drop the need to be perfect. It's a myth. No voice actor markets himself/herself as a "Perfect voice talent." No voice actor is right for EVERY job. Even the greatest of the greats. 


Thursday, December 9, 2021

The tale of George Foreman and his mighty grill

 I was watching TV in the afternoon recently and almost fell off my chair when George Foreman came on a TV commercial for one of those Medicare benefits companies. According to celebrity net worth, and other sources, ol' George is worth somewhere around $300,000,000. In the commercial, with bubbling enthusiasm, George says, "Do like I did! Call the Medicare Helpline at the number on the screen to claim your extra $1700 a year in benefits!" I don't know about you but the idea of a guy who's worth 300 million dollars (good for him by the way) calling a helpline to claim an extra $1700 a year, is a bit laughable, and I dare say, unbelievable. The cynic in me thinks, "C'mon George. You didn't call the helpline and you know it." LOL. No issues with him doing the commercial at all. And I hope it genuinely helps people who could use the extra money. It's just that the premise makes me chuckle a bit. Oh well, when did TV commercials stop stretching the truth.

So, where did George earn the bulk of that fortune?  If you guessed boxing,guess again.

According to trusted sources...

"George was being paid  about 40 percent of the profits on each grill sold, earning him $4.5 million a MONTH in payouts at its peak, so it is estimated he made a total of over $200 million for the endorsement, a sum that is substantially more than he earned as a boxer." Ya think?

The kicker is, the grill endorsement was originally offered to Hulk Hogan (Terry Eugene Bollea), the wrestling god, who turned it down, and the endorsement was then offered to George.  Instead, Hulk endorsed the "Hulkamania Meatball Maker"which failed in the market.

So, just a common sense warning. If you ever run into Hulk Hogan, don't bring up the George Foreman Grill. He's likely to body slam you or put you in a nasty choke hold on the spot. That could be really embarrassing. And it might mess up your really expensive shoes.

                                                                          

Saturday, December 4, 2021

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

 I miss seeing Don LaFontaine on funny TV commercials and recording movie trailers as only he could. I didn't know him personally but heard he was extremely generous in helping others with career advice.  Here's a video of him talking about his rise to international fame as a movie trailer superstar, and how as a kid, his voice just changed one day to a deep "growl".This clip has over 5 million views on You Tube! A fun watch. Don's great sense of humor comes through loud and clear.



Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Just WOW!

 Just finished watching the CBS Special with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga from Radio City in New York. At 95 and Alzheimer Disease becoming an issue, his manager son, and others, decided it was time to wind things down, as far as on stage performances. 

This made for TV concert was taped back in August, and the audience, who gave him an endless amount of standing ovations (I lost count) was a real Who's Who of celebrities and VIP's; including Bill Clinton. It was wonderful to see all ages in the audience looking on with admiration and appreciation as Tony and Lady Gaga worked their way through a highly enjoyable playlist of jazz classics. At the end, she slowly walked him off stage as he waved to the adoring crowd.

Watching it made me a bit weepy eyed as Tony Bennett was one of my late Mom's favorites. It's impossible for me to hear him sing "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" without thinking about her. I was in a Walgreens walking on a Saturday in the city and I dipped in to see all the activity. This particular store on Powell Street is loaded with souvenirs, and I walked back to the middle part of the store to check out all the variety of things, when all of a sudden, Tony Bennett, right on cue, came blaring out of the overhead speaker singing "I Left My Heart..." and I thought, "This one's for you, Mom." (Actually, it kind of startled me a bit. "Mom, is that you speaking to me from beyond?"). The timing was uncanny.

It goes without saying, this man at 95, is such an inspiration to so many. His voice still so powerful and authentic. And that he remembers all the lyrics is beyond amazing. CBS Sunday Morning did a really great piece on him and his wife Susan. You can find it on You Tube. (Isn't everything on You Tube?).

A charming performer. Class act. Talented painter. And oh, by the way, he sings real well too. 



Friday, November 19, 2021

Cable cars and more (plus a handy tip)

 If you're visiting San Francisco, Powell and Market Streets is a good location to drop by. It's a beehive of activity. Our rapid transit service (BART) is centrally located here. 

Here you have a  very popular cable car turnaround, some places to grab a quick bite, a major shopping mall (with public restrooms= hard to find in SF), hotels, and lots of  tourist activity. Often you'll see a street musician playing here or a highly energized, toe-tapping dancer entertaining the crowds waiting to hop on a cable car. It's a great place to people watch. There's usually a sidewalk hot dog vendor here. Don't know what it is, but hot dogs, to me, always taste better eaten outdoors. "I'll have a kraut dog to go! Thank you very much sir!"

The lines at Powell and Market at the cable car turnaround can be very l-o-n-g. Tourists come to San Francisco and their vacation is not complete unless they ride on a cable car. Here's a tip: If you walk up Powell a bit, you'll see some cable car street signs up the line where you can hop on. The operators of the cable car usually leave a little space for a few pickups along the way. It'll save you a very long wait in line back at Powell and Market streets. Not guaranteed, but worth the try. And if you're traveling with a group of five or ten, there's not going to be enough room to hop on. This is for one to two folks max.

A little bit further up Powell is Union Square. Almost always there's something going on at the plaza. In winter, an ice skating rink! For folks who live in the snowy areas, an ice skating rink is no big deal. But here in the Bay Area, it's a fun experience for many, especially around Christmas time.

The city has installed some very contemporary benches along part of the Powell sidewalk where you can take a break and watch the cable cars come and go.

On a visit to have breakfast and walk through Chinatown on a Saturday, I spotted this new piece of artwork on Powell.

                                                                       



    

Thursday, October 21, 2021

"Let's Get Physical!"

 Some of us remember the old Olivia Newton John song, "Physical," from way back when. It was a song full of sexual tension and play. Here's the chorus line.

"Let's get physical, physical, I wanna get physical, let's get into physical. Let me hear your body talk, your body talk, let me hear your body talk" 

Why am I posting this on a voice over blog? Folks are often surprised to see all the physical movements that voice actors use in the booth. Established Hollywood stars often find voice over quite challenging. That makes sense. Think about it. If you're on camera, you have both sound (your voice) and visual (body movement) coming into play. With voice over, visual is not a factor. So, there's that additional requirement of needing to convey the emotion through words alone. Not always an easy task.

Beginning voice over artists are often told by their coaches to go ahead and get physical. (Not the kind Olivia sang about but you get the idea). Move those hands! Make those facial expressions as you voice! In other words, don't just stand at the microphone!  It all comes through in the recording. So it should come as no surprise to see  voice actors gesturing a lot in the recording booth. Watching an animation recording session is particularly loaded with actors using body language to the max.

Here's an experiment. Grab some copy for an auto dealership ( or write a paragraph or two) where the direction is "High energy-over the top" with the delivery. You've no doubt heard these hard sell spots on your TV. (Yep, the loud, annoying ones). Now, put both your hands in your pocket and try voicing with that high energy direction in mind. I'm sure you'll find that the hands in your pocket will clamp you down considerably. It's much more productive to get those hands moving as you read. It's the same reason why many VO artists record standing up. Sitting down can cramp your style. Studies have shown there is a direct correlation between your vocal chords and body movement. 

When I was in high school, I used to get teased for talking with my hands. When I entered the voice over world, I realized that talking with your hands can make you money. Not a bad trade.

So, go ahead, get physical when you voice that copy! 

ZZZZZZZZZZ! Are you getting enough sleep?

Without a doubt, sleep, or the lack of it, plays a major role in our daytime performance; whether at work or at play. We spend a third of our life sleeping. The great inventor Thomas Alva Edison slept only 3-4 hours a night and was also a "power napper." He had this to say about sleep:

"People will not only do what they like to do — they overdo it 100 per cent. Most people overeat 100 per cent, and oversleep 100 per cent, because they like it. That extra 100 per cent makes them unhealthy and inefficient. The person who sleeps eight or ten hours a night is never fully asleep and never fully awake — they have only different degrees of doze through the twenty-four hours."

I have never been one to sleep for long periods of time; 6 -7 hours. As a kid, growing up in a rural area of Ohio, my Dad use to write up a list of chores for my brother and I to do while he went off to work to support himself, my Mom, and 9 kids! Yep, a very large family. Kind of like the Waltons. When in junior and senior high, sometimes I would hear a schoolmate say, "Oh man. I feel SO good. I slept in this weekend way beyond 1 PM." I was never one to sleep in. My father made sure of that. Everything was geared toward getting up and getting at it. These days I find I need a bit less sleep. 

If you have a voice over job you'll be doing next day in your home studio or a session to go out to, enough sleep is essential. And yawning in front of the director is not a really good thing to do. As some would say, "a bad optic." I find  sometimes it's hard to fall asleep when I have an important voice over project to get to first thing in the morning.  I'm thinking about the script, the client who is expecting speedy turnaround, my strong desire to give him or her the read they need, and a host of other things. For sure, I've had some sleep issues. Thankfully, there are remedies. 

Here's a link to some 22 surprising facts courtesy of sleep specialist Dr. Michelle Drerup.  It may provide some needed input if you struggle with sleep. Here's one of the facts on the list...

"Being awake for 16 hours straight decreases your performance as much as if your blood alcohol level were .05% (the legal limit is .08%)."  


  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Taking direction and the importance of listening

 I've done voice over for many corporate, radio and TV commercials, explainer videos, as well as documentary style. Nine times out of ten, I have not seen the video BEFORE I record. So you have to listen carefully as the person you're recording for gives you direction. You also must look at the copy beforehand for clues as to how you're going to voice the copy. Much of it becomes instinctive over time, having recorded similar scripts. It's all about making choices. 

I was hired to record a series of voice overs for a new power spray washer. The client suggested I put a little grit in my voice which would work well with the videos. Many voice talents have their own way of interpreting and marking copy before recording. (That reminds me. Always have a pencil with you if you're being directed so you can write any changes on your copy). I also like to look at copy and determine if it's a male or female audience who will be listening to me. Sometimes it's both. Other times, more male than female, or vice versa. Take an auto parts store. We all know women go in to auto parts stores, but it's more of a man thing usually. So the voice style I would use would lean toward gritty, tough, durable, masculine. I certainly wouldn't use a "ladies skin care voice" for an auto parts voice over. It wouldn't sound right. Look at the copy carefully for clues as to what type of vocal delivery you're going to use. 

 Last week I recorded an on hold message for a popular Pittsburgh pizza place. They've come to me many times for updates on their on hold recording. When I record for them, I put on my "fun and happy" voice; and use lots of uptempo energy. Look for key words in the copy beforehand that you can emphasize. When you're saying the word "delicious," make it sound delicious.  It's what voice over folks call "coloring the words." It will make all the difference in your voice over. Don't just read the words on the page, make them come alive. If you're very new to doing voice over, it takes patience, practice, time, and instinct. Sometimes, a good voice over coach can pull the best out of you if you're struggling to breathe life into your reads or having a mental block. If you were getting paid just to read words off a script, everyone would be doing paid voice over jobs.

If you're being directed to record a voice over, it's important to listen to the input and then deliver what they're looking for. They may ask for multiple takes on the same copy. That's not unusual. Don't get paranoid. They may just want to try various ways before deciding they have what they need from you.


Thursday, October 14, 2021

How do you like your fries?

 Yipeeeeee! Wendy's has just announced that they're coming out with a "Hot and Crispy Fry Guarantee." That should allow some french fry fans to sleep better at night. There are few things in life more disappointing than a cold and soggy fry. And how awful you feel when heading over to the Wendy's drive-thru window and you're already prepping your taste buds for some mouth watering  fries, only to bite into a cold and limp fry. "It's just not right. What an injustice! I ought to sue!" Lawmakers need to pass "The French Fry Ordinance." Simply put, any restaurant that knowingly and willingly sells cold and soggy fries shall have their license taken from them. And the manager of the store may be subjected to a few days in county jail where he or she will be force fed soggy fries.

So here's the deal. Wendy's says if you receive cold french fries, all you have to do is exchange them back in for some hot and crispy ones. No questions asked. They've also changed the way they make the fries with a new french fry recipe to make sure they stay hot longer.  I'm sure the competition is watching this roll-out very carefully. "Hot fries! Crispy fries! PLUS, a free exchange guarantee!? How do we compete with that?"

While we're talking fries, did I ever tell you about the time I took a few friends up to see a San Francisco Giants game on a Saturday? I didn't go for the baseball. Nah, I went to try some of their famous GARLIC fries. And I wasn't disappointed. One of my friends held her nose a few seats down from me as she hates the smell and taste of garlic. Not me. "I'll have a double dose of garlic on those fries Miss." "Comin' right up sir." 

Life is good. Happy munching. Someone pass the ketchup please. 


                                                                 


                                                                           

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

"One man's sandwich is another man's..."

 A number of years ago, I would leave my home studio to record in San Francisco. As mentioned on this blog, working alone from home can be very isolating. So, it was fun to get out and be around other voice talents as we recorded together at the wonderful Pyramind Studios. (Yes, "Pyramind" not "Pyramid.")

I can hop on our rapid transit (BART) here in East Bay where I live and be in the heart of the city at Powell and Market Streets in about 30 minutes. Super convenient. The walk down to the studio is 10 minutes or so. Always the early bird, I landed in San Francisco with about half an hour to kill. I decided to buy a croissant ham and cheese sandwich  from a vendor at the Westfield Shopping Plaza. It was much larger than I anticipated. So, I finished half of it and wrapped the whole other half in the food wrapping paper it came in inside the bag. It was great that the lady used a knife to neatly halve it back where I bought it. The thought quickly occurred to me as I walked down the sidewalk to the recording session, I could give the food to one of the many homeless folks frequently seen. After a short while, I spotted a man down on the grass near a bus stop. I told him I had an untouched, half, fresh ham sandwich in the bag and he could have it. He immediately declined and said "I want money, not food." So, I bid him a good afternoon and continued down the street a bit where I saw another homeless man lounging on the grass. As I approached and told him I had free food for him, he jumped up excitedly and snatched the bag from my hand and put it in a backpack he had on.  He was thrilled. I told him to enjoy the sandwich and continued walking to the studio. Off in the distance he yelled at me, "Hey man, can I come with you?" I told him "No, but thanks for asking." I had work to get to. But the encounters left an impression on me. Money well spent on the sandwich and an  interesting study in human behaviour. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Halloween fun and Michael Jackson's " Thriller"

 It has always fascinated me that Vincent Price supposedly recorded his haunting narration for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in just one take. WOW!

Having him on that recording was pure genius. Who better to do the narration than the late king of horror movies-Vincent Price. I know some of you reading this are young and have no clue who Vincent Price is. Go on You Tube and search his name. His voice was perfect for spooky movies and he was quite in demand. 

Vincent apparently got paid a flat $20,000 to add his voice to this monster classic. But as an option, he was offered a percentage of the album sales, which he turned down. Ouch! That cost him millions. He was on a TV talk show and the host asked him why he didn't take the percentage deal and he humorously said he was doing well with his acting career at the time and didn't need the money.

Here's a link to the recording session with Michael and Vincent. It sounds like they had a lot of fun. Listen for Vincent's eerie laugh at the very end.


Thursday, September 9, 2021

"Don't Touch That Microphone!"

 Let me say up front that this post is for beginning voice over talents as more experienced ones will know this. There is a thing called "studio etiquette." It's sort of the "code of conduct" when you go outside your home to record in a studio with a client or customer.

When in the recording booth, never EVER touch or move, in any way, the microphone. That may get you a major look of disapproval (or scolding) from the recording engineer who is there to set up the session. It's his job to reposition the microphone, if necessary. So remember, while out in a studio, "Hands off!" While recording the script and being directed, should you flub a word , don't whine on and on and beat yourself up verbally. That makes you look like a beginner. And you won't win any points with the director(s). Simply listen to the direction as to where they want you to do the re-take.  This is called a "pick up." Typically, you'll go back to the beginning of the sentence where you made the flub and read the line again. By the way, it's no big deal. Even the best of the best flub a word or two. Nothing to be embarrassed about.

After the recording session, come out of the booth, sign any necessary paper work, thank them, and LEAVE. Don't linger with endless chatter. These folks are busy and that's bound to be very annoying to them. It's all about carrying yourself like a pro. It'll go a long way in your voice over career. The business is tough enough as it is. Don't shoot yourself in the foot and look like an amateur.  Be grateful for the work and move on.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Saying goodbye to the brilliant Ed Asner

 Ed Asner, actor, activist, audio book narrator, and much more, has passed away peacefully at the age of 91 with his family by his side.

He was best known for his role as boss man Lou Grant on the much Emmy awarded Mary Tyler Moore show, based in a TV news station in Minneapolis. Mr. Grant was gruff, straight forward, grouchy, argumentative, no nonsense, and sometimes warm hearted....like a puppy. (Sounds a lot like my late Dad). A good number of folks may not know Ed Asner had success on TV before he took the role of Lou Grant on MTM. The bond he had onscreen with his talented castmates was undeniable. What an ensemble! Ed went on to do a spin off drama in 1977-"Lou Grant."

Mr. Asner was  a terrific audio book narrator and taught classes in L.A. with Pat Fraley of TV cartoon fame. Even though I don't specialize in audio book narration, I was tempted to enroll in one of the weekend classes just to meet him in person and have him critique my work. How cool that would have been.

Ed was part of one of the funniest TV moments - "Chuckles Bites the Dust." You can see and hear a clip of it here. You may have tears coming down your eyes when you're done watching it. Grab some tissue!

Hear Mr. Asner  narrate  books found on Audible. That's here.

Job well done sir. R.I.P.


                                                                     



Friday, August 27, 2021

A question I never get asked

 I've been doing voice overs for quite some time now. And like many, I tend to look at other voice over websites to hear demos, read information, and see how other talents are presenting themselves.


From time to time, I'll see an overly lengthy description about what gear they are using-microphone, pre-amp, etc. In all my years of doing voice over, I have never had a client/customer ask me what microphone I'm using. Or frankly, about ANY equipment I'm using. For the most part, they don't care! So when I see all the specifics about equipment on a voice over website, I consider it wasted space. Here's what clients/customers want and expect. A good, clean audio file with no background noise in the format of their choosing (MP3, WAV, AIFF) with no or very limited processing, delivered on time. As a voice over talent, it is the client's decision as to how the audio will be processed in post production. Whether it be the amount of compression, if any, volume, possible light reverb, de-essing or any other effect they desire. I have a Neumann TLM 103  and Sennheiser 416 in my studio. They are two of the most popular microphones for voice over work. They get the job done and satisfy my clients. But nobody ever asks about them. And I'm OK with that.

Friday, August 13, 2021

The importance of having a good recording space

For many voice-over artists, especially new ones, dealing with unwanted sound reflections off of walls and surfaces, as well as outside noise, is a common challenge. You can have an expensive microphone, but if you're not in a good recording environment, your voice-overs are going to suffer. It's sad to see so many new/unaware voice-over folks having their auditions or work rejected not necessarily because of how they voiced the copy, but because of negative sound related issues. You don't have to build an exceptional recording studio, but get into a space where you're not going to have your voice-overs sound like they were recorded in an echoing cave or tiled bathroom floor.  You Tube videos are full of awful audio; hum, hiss, a way off mike voice, distorted audio, "cheap microphone sound" with lots of sibilance-you name it. 

Foam, sound blankets, and baffles are just some things that can be used to improve the sound quality of your  voice-overs. Do some research on Google about this or go to You Tube and do a search about setting up a solid recording space before going out and spending a lot of money. And don't forget that large walk in closet that you might have could be a very good option to record in! You'd be amazed at some of the adequate, but not eye appealing recording spaces, voice actors use at home. Remember, the people who are hiring you to record don't see your recording space. They just want good, clean audio that adds value to their production. And check with headphones on to make sure your computer fan isn't heard in the background of your recording. If it IS, create some space between your laptop and the microphone.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

"Hello. I'm Johnny Cash." (A surprise throwback pic)

 This picture of me and Mr. Cash was totally unexpected and not planned.

It was my day to host and emcee on behalf of our radio station WIRK from the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach. Typically, you'd have a matinee show under the big tent at 4 PM and then an evening show at 8PM. We had an RV off the midway with a live microphone back to the main station so we could go on the air from the fair and yack for a minute or so to get people to come out to see the entertainment;most of it Country music stars.

A station photographer and friend of mine was at the ready and yelled, "Hey John!" as we were going up the stairs. We both looked over and he snapped this wonderful picture of the two of us. I forgot all about it until Sam the photographer brought it by the station a few days later and gave it to me. I was honored to be on the same steps with "The Man In Black." A  real treasured photo.                    

                                                               




Tuesday, August 3, 2021

"Set It and Forget It!" and "Mr. Microphone"

 So, I hadn't seen Ron Popeil in a very long time and thought he had moved on to that big infomercial lounger in the sky a while back.  That is, until he passed away recently. Some of you reading this are very young and asking, "Who's Ron Popeil?" I would say one of the most successful marketers of all time. Everything he touched turned to gold. (OK. He had a few flops, but not many). He was known for inventing and TV marketing unique products; many of them in the over millions sold category. In case you've forgotten, here's a partial list of some of his hits:

1. Veg-O-Matic

2. Pocket Fisherman

3. Mr. Microphone  (The TV commercial for this one was absolutely hilarious. Hey, he sold over a million of them! I have the link to the commercial at the very bottom of this post. ) 

4. Smokeless Ashtray (Just what my Mom needed when Dad broke out his cigars in the living room.)

5. Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler 

6. Dial-O-Matic

7. Automatic Pasta Maker

8. GLH Formula Number 9 Hair System

 9. Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ Oven  ("Set It and Forget It!")

10. Electric Food Dehydrator

11.  Solid Flavor Injector


I took a few moments to check out some of his old TV infomercials on You Tube, and not only was he an inventing genius, he was quite funny in how he pitched his products on air.  As a kid, I watched many of his TV infomercials over and over again that just kind of drew your attention in.

I read his thoughts on being successful with his sales pitches and he said "Find out what people need and want and market to that."

Many of today's infomercials have taken their cue from him as to how to produce their shows. He seemed to always have a bonus to throw in with the deal. Famous for, "But wait! There's more!" (If you're desperately dating someone, say that at the end of the night.  OK, maybe not.) 

It's estimated he sold over a billion dollars of products through the course of his career. That's a lot of Veg-O-Matics.

Here's a link to the very funny "Mr. Microphone" TV commercial. 

                                                 



Thursday, July 22, 2021

"Duck! Here comes another piece of wedding cake!"

 I once co-owned a mobile deejay business with a partner when I was on radio in South Florida.  It was called "Hot Summer Nights." A fitting name for a Florida entertainment company we thought. We would book company Christmas parties, birthdays, weddings, you name it.  Pretty much any occasion where music was needed to light up the crowd for a good time. Coming from my radio background, mobile deejaying was extra fun, as I could actually see my "audience"...unlike radio.  

Weddings were a challenge as the guests in attendance at the reception were everyone from the bride and groom to little children, teens, and in most cases, Mom and Dad and Grandpa and Grandma. So you were playing music to a wide age range. You had to have  something for everyone and keep them all happy. And by all means, DON'T play any unfamiliar music that folks didn't know. That would make the dance floor empty quickly. And you might get a dissatisfied look from the bride or groom. For the most part, I played the hits and kept the good vibe going.

Before the wedding, I would always meet with the bride and groom (and sometimes their parents) to discuss exactly what song selections they wanted played... or didn't want played. Which brings me to what this post is all about. 

By far, a particular Italian wedding was one of, if not thee most, bizarre weddings I ever deejayed. I met beforehand with the bride and her Mom. Right off the bat, I knew this event was going to have its "unique challenges." The mother said, "My creepy ex-husband is going to be at the reception. If he comes up to make a request, DON'T play it!" Alrighty then. "Also," she went on to say, "An uncle and nephew have very bad blood and they'll be at the reception . Hopefully, there won't be any problems." After Mom gave me a 50%  cash deposit to deejay the event, I left our meeting driving home with all kinds of weird scenes playing out in my head; most of them not good. 

Fast forward to the wedding reception. It was your typical hot Summer, South Florida day. The couple had rented out a large party room at a West Palm Beach golf course on a Saturday. My assistant for the day helped me set up my deejay equipment. Soon, guests started filing in. It was a very large and lively crowd. I fired up some music and things got rolling. The dance floor was filling up nicely. That was always good to see. Just trying to keep everyone happy. Drinks were flowing freely as the crowd loosened up. Midway through the reception, the bride's Mom came up to me and handed me the balance due in cash and walked away. I told my helper/assistant to play the music as I wanted to step into the men's room and count the cash to make sure all was paid. Upon exiting, I saw fists flying from all corners and utter mayhem breaking loose, as the nephew and uncle I had been warned about had gotten into a push and shove match, with others stepping in to take a few swings swipes at the nephew, who apparently had a history of run-ins with the law and stirring up issues with the family. A chef came out of the kitchen and tried to get things under control. But the free for all fight kept rolling. I honestly thought someone might pull a knife or gun. I think I even saw Grandma  trying to get in a punch or two at the nephew, people yelling  and taking sides.  And at one point, I feared for my deejay equipment as a tidal wave of people was moving in my direction with little regard for my set-up. Things got so out of hand, someone called the police. The first cop that showed up looked like Barney Fife from the old Mayberry TV show. He looked like he weighed just shy of 130 pounds! I thought, "There's no way this guy is going to be able to get this angry crowd under control." Soon, more officers arrived in the parking lot before running into the reception area. I stepped out to the lot to see a middle aged man punching one of the guests who fell to the pavement. It was all very surreal. Like out of a movie. Or the phony WWE with all their staged wrestling fights on TV. And sadly, the bride had taken a seat in the limo with an open door and was sobbing hysterically, saying, "They've ruined my day!"  I truly felt badly for her. Eventually, things settled down and my assistant and I broke down our deejay equipment and left the "festivities." I was relieved to be on the road. Time to get home for a cold beer. Or maybe a couple.

Later that evening, my business partner called and asked me how the wedding went. I told him he would be deejaying the next wedding we booked. I needed a short "vacation."

                                          

                             



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Who is that lady's voice you hear overhead in the airport?

 As more and more folks begin again taking to the sky, they'll be moving through airports to get to their destination on time. In the background, they're likely to hear a female voice making all kinds of announcements to travelers. She does it in such a nice way and has to have one of the best jobs in the world! Literally. Her voice can be heard in over 200 airports globally. She records the announcements from her cozy home studio. Through good luck and timing, she landed this unique job many years ago.  Imagine introducing yourself at a party and someone asks you, "So what do you do for a living?" You reply,"I make airport announcements. I LOVE working from home and the pay's pretty good too." CBS News did a cool feature on her. It's  brief and fun. Take a look. She has a great laugh to boot. 


Friday, July 16, 2021

"Ewwww! How can you eat that stuff?"

Let me say upfront, I'm dedicating this blog post to the late, great, worldwide traveling TV chef superstar Anthony Bourdain, who ate just about every food known to man, including goose intestines. Yikes! By the way, I miss his wit and unique way of telling a story on camera. I suspect a lot of people do. He was wildly successful. 

 I'm guessing we all have some foods on our "enjoy eating list" that others just don't understand. I was reminded of this when I saw someone on You Tube making a liverwurst sandwich with onions. My mouth was watering as that's one of my favorite sandwiches of all time. Yet there are many who wouldn't take a bite of it in a million years. If you've had a liverwurst sandwich, you know it has a  very unusual odor; one that many may not appreciate in close quarters. Give me a liverwurst and onion on rye and I'm in heaven. I was thinking about attending "Liverwurst Anonymous" classes, but I love the stuff just way too much.  I'm not giving it up! 

I have a sister who has teased me over the years about "those stinky sardines you and Mom use to eat right out of the can. GROSS!" I'll admit, they are an acquired taste and not everyone's cup of tea. But sardines on a saltine or eaten right off the plate is OK by me. And the health benefits of sardines are off the charts.  There are some really good brands in the supermarket. One of my favorites is the King Oscar brand. Many come with olive oil, mustard sauce, tomato and the like. I've always figured the olive oil was good for my voice. You know, keeping it nice and lubricated for my next voice over job. Yep, bring on the sardines!

Another food Mom and I enjoyed eating on a hot Summer day in Ohio was limburger cheese. It has a very strong, distinct odor that my sister once referred to as smelling like "dirty tennis shoes."  I say, "Some people have no taste!" Limburger on rye bread with a bit of onions=priceless, to my tastebuds. I know many folks who love cheese of all kinds, but just say "No!" to limburger. I guess everyone draws the "food eating line" somewhere.  

I was watching TV the other day and a national commercial came on for Kraft macaroni and cheese. The mother is chasing her little daughter around the house with something on her fork (probably a vegetable) saying, "Just ONE more bite." The girl yells back at Mom, "No!" It was being played as she hated what Mom was trying to force feed her to eat. Cut to the next scene and the child and Mom are seated at the table where the girl is happily eating Kraft macaroni and cheese. All was now right in her world. It made me chuckle as I was raised in a middle class family, and as a kid, you ate what Mom put on your plate with no complaints. Dad made sure of that. "Finish what you have on your plate or you're not leaving the table."  And the thought of my Mom chasing me around the house to eat a food I didn't like, well, let's just say you'd have a better chance of hitting the Powerball jackpot than seeing that scenario in our house at dinner time. 

What about you? What's your favorite food that seemingly no one else can stand? Do you sneak down to the kitchen at 3 AM when everyone's snoring to enjoy your guilty pleasure? Any shame creeping out from the fridge? Enquiring minds want to know!

I will remind you. If you're going in to do a voice over session after eating limburger cheese, sardines or the like, it goes without saying, make sure you gargle and brush your teeth really well before heading out. Unless you want to get some very disapproving looks from the audio engineer or director. If you smell like walking limburger cheese, they may not invite you back again. But then again, they may ask you to bring them a limburger cheese sandwich to share at the next recording session. Not everybody hates limburger.


                                                        


                                               


Thursday, July 8, 2021

"Do I need an agent?"

Those just jumping into doing voice overs may long for agent representation thinking it will lead to great jobs falling in their lap. Odds are, it won't. Which leads to the question, "Do I need a voice over agent to succeed in the competitive voice over field?" The rather vague answer is "It all depends." You say, "Depends on what?" It depends on what kind of voice over you are pursuing and what your goals are; where you want to go. There are many voice actors making a good living without an agent. They may be thriving in non union corporate narration or learning voice over. Or perhaps are in demand for audio book narration.  On the other hand, if you're looking to land a national TV commercial , you're more than likely going to need an agent. Why? Because capable agents can get you in the door for an audition and hopefully a sweet voice over gig.  Also, they have access to casting/audition notices early in the process.  They have connections.  But remember this: An agent can't land you the job. That's on you and your audition. There is no magic wand. Having an agent is no guarantee of future success in the VO industry. And getting an agent to bring you onboard can be very frustrating. They may already have a voice talent that sounds similar to you. They have a roster of voice talents they represent and handle. They don't need you at this time. Or,they're just not that impressed with your demo. And when you approach an agent and are lucky enough to present your demo for representation consideration, it's got to be good. Really good. Like the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." I would say concentrate on your marketing and letting people know you're available and studio equipped at home. Don't get caught up on the fact that you don't have an agent. Remember, they're not magicians. Much of your success will depend on YOU.


  

Thursday, June 3, 2021

So You Want to Do Animation Voice Overs

 There are lots of folks teaching the various niches of voice over.  One of the most qualified is animation voice legend-Pat Fraley. Over the years, he's voiced thousands of cartoons. Years ago, I ordered his cassette course (remember those?) and was beyond impressed. Now, if you have a sincere desire to explore with Pat, you might be thinking, "But I live in Minneapolis and he's in LA!" Good news. He has home study courses as well as remote teaching/coaching over the Internet. Here's a short, cool interview with Pat running through a few of his voices. It runs about 8 minutes.


Go to his website at pat fraley.com to see all that he has to offer, which goes way beyond just animation. He also has regular course offerings on audio book narration which has been a booming segment of voice over for years now. There's a "free stuff" section you might want to check out. And be sure to click on "demos" to hear Pat's amazing animation demo.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood to stop and smell the roses

 I live in an older neighborhood here in East Bay San Francisco. I like that each house is different, many of them built long before I moved in eight years ago. A retired friend of mine said she was raised in a Victorian just a few doors down from me. The homes have "personality." 

I'm told that many years ago, the state of California was going to build a highway through my neighborhood and came in and bought a number of homes that they planned to demolish to make way for the highway. There was such an uproar from residents that the state finally abandoned plans. The homes sat vacant for years, and many were in a state of disrepair. About four years ago or so, California held auctions on my street to sell them on a "as is" basis, and get this, CASH only.  I'd look out my living room window and see cars parked up and down the street, and potential buyers with clipboards in hand ready to place a bid at auction. Now mind you, these houses were going to need a major renovation to get them back to being livable and presentable. But they sold quickly. I'm sure some of the buyers were pro investors looking to flip them for a profit. A lady friend asked one of the new owners what he paid cash for at auction and it was upwards of $500,000 for an abandoned house! The stock market and stock options in the tech world have been VERY good to some folks.

There's a neat, little, family owned convenience store one block over from me, and I sometimes take a break from recording in my studio and walk over there to grab a snack or something to drink. Yesterday, we had a blue ribbon day here in the Bay Area. Super clear skies, just a hint of coolness, no wind, abundant sunshine, and a very comfortable, humidity free, 72 degrees- a perfect Spring day to head over to the store. As I walk along the sidewalk, I'm always impressed with how people keep up their yards and do their gardening.  I have absolutely NO green thumb but can appreciate those that do. As I was coming back from the store, I passed by one of my favorite homes along the way with really beautiful flowers growing in the front and side of the house. They looked exceptional with the brilliant California sunshine. On this day, I saw a lady pruning the flowers. I had never seen anyone gardening there before and it was nice to see a face. Not wanting to keep her from her work pastime, I said a quick hello as I walked by; an elderly lady with a big hat on, gardening gloves, and a friendly smile. I told her I often walk by her home on the way to the store and really admire the flowers she has and the wonderful upkeep. She looked pleased with the compliment and I bid her a good day. As I walked to go back home, I felt glad that I had the opportunity to praise her gardening. And maybe, in some small way, it made her day a bit more enjoyable. As they say, "It's the little things in life."


                                                                    



Thursday, May 20, 2021

"Look Ma, I'm a game show host!"

 So back during my South Florida on air radio days at WIRK, I found out through a contact (a nice lady friend in the know), that the local FOX TV affiliate was going to be producing a LIVE game show with a male and female host, an in-studio audience, and a play at home TV audience. At that time (mid 80's), a number of TV stations were producing a variation of "Blackout Bingo," with some ratings success, and the general manager of our local FOX station decided he wanted to give it a try. My lady friend who worked there in the promotions department said auditions were going to soon be held for the host and hostess. She had heard me on my midday show on the radio and said she thought I should give it a try. So, I went down on the weekend when they were doing in front of the camera auditions and gave it a shot. There were quite a few guys/gals there that Saturday trying out. It was a very brief audition and involved some ad-libbing, something I was pretty comfortable doing on my radio show. I left that day feeling like I gave a pretty solid audition, and was quite surprised when someone called me and said they wanted me to be the new host. "Me?", I thought. "Are you sure you have the right guy?" I had very limited on camera experience other than a few public TV fundraisers I volunteered to do. The female they hired to be my co-host (Sara Premisler) was a local actress who had impressed the general manager of the TV station with some on stage performances he had seen her do. She wasn't "Vanna" and I wasn't "Pat." Far from it. But I enjoyed working with her. It was overall a fun gig to do, and besides, I still had my radio show to fall back on. I learned a lot on the job. When you do TV, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE), is a critic. "Hey John, I was channel surfing last night and saw you in that awful 'Miami Vice' jacket you had on. Where'd you get that?" Truth was, my co-host and I got our on camera wardrobe from a local clothing store who allowed us to wear the clothes for a mention at the end of the program in the rolling credits. (Promotional consideration). So, we had no choice as to what we were wearing. Another time, I was out in a Publix supermarket when a guy recognized me and came over and complained that his wife had auditioned for the hostess role and didn't get it, and was 'SO much better than my co-host.' (I chalked that up to sour grapes). Our show was called "$29,000 Blackout Bingo"- $29,000 being the big prize. No one ever won the jackpot, even though we were pulling for someone to do so. It would have been great publicity. Now get this. We were on at the same time as Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune! No one was going to beat those huge shows with a live, local show like ours. But we managed a bit of a cult following with surprise drop in guests from time to time, like pro wrestler Randy Macho Man Savage and other stars of the WWE. A real, campy hoot. Our show was sponsored by Pepsi and 7-11, where folks could go to pick up their bingo cards and play along with us from home. We had live operators to answer phones when viewers called in with a winning card. Having a live, in studio audience was fun to play off of. Halfway through the show, I would grab a microphone and go down for a little friendly chit chat and giggle.  In studio guests enjoyed being on TV. The show didn't last long, and I was actually kind of relieved when the producer told us one Friday evening after a show that they were pulling the plug and cancelling further production.

I enjoyed hosting, for the most part, but the constant critiquing from friends, family, and strangers got old after a while. I was happy to still have my radio show where I spoke to an unseen audience and played music. It was my "cozy safe space" to entertain. And casual dress was always OK. As I found out, when you're on TV, it's like being under a microscope. The way you wear your hair, your "crooked" on camera smile, what you have on, your voice, your on air persona, and on and on.  You have to get good at pretty much ignoring it all. Move on. Trust your instincts.Forget about the negative chatter. As they say, "There's no shortage of critics." They're a dime a dozen. Worry too much about what others say and you'll get a bad case of heartburn! That goes for everything in life. Not just a laughable, local, TV game show.

                                              



Monday, May 17, 2021

Wise advice from the late voice over master

So I was going through my book collection the other evening, and pulled out a book about voice over I bought several years ago. It's called, "Secrets of Voice Over Success" by Joan Baker. And while there are many voice over books on the market, I particularly like this one, as it features some of the top voice over artists in the industry talking about their path from unknown to the A list. Each chapter features a different voice, and the first one, fittingly, is the late movie trailer superstar, Don LaFontaine.

As anyone in this business knows, auditioning is the norm for landing jobs. I was taken by Don's observation about not only auditioning, but rejection. Here's the direct passage.

"No matter how good you may be, you're not going to book every job for which you audition. Sometimes the answer is going to be no. I never let it bother me. I keep in mind that this is a very subjective business. I am certainly not right for every job. As an actor, rejection is the first thing with which you learn to deal. It's not so much rejection as it is a process of elimination. You do it all the time. If you select Burger King over McDonalds, you're not rejecting McDonalds; you simply prefer Burger King. That's the way it is in this business. Don't dwell on it. Move on. Believe me; your career is not over."

This coming from, arguably, the most successful voice over artist of all time. Powerful stuff indeed.

Cool thing is the updated version of the book comes with a CD with demos on it. This is not a book that teaches voice over technique. It's a book with lots of real world advice from the best in the business about how to elevate your career.

The book is a great read. Here's a link.

                                                  



Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Alcatraz audio tour update. "I'm scared!"

 Now that the pandemic restrictions are easing, if you ever visit the San Francisco Bay Area, I highly recommend you take the ferry from Pier 33 and head out to the infamous Alcatraz. It's a very short ride.  I was joined by my sister and brother in law from Ohio when they vacationed here and we went on the walking tour through the prison. The narration and sound effects you hear through the rented headset are really outstanding. The audio tour is optional but you'll be missing a lot if you decline. You'll get an amazing look and listen into the way things used to be for the inmates and guards. It's a bit creepy, but fun. Bring a warm coat! It can be chilly out there, even in the Summer. Travel tip: Get your tickets in advance as the tours book very quickly. Showing up at Pier 33 the day you want to go over to Alcatraz is no guarantee of being able to go that day. You can get ticket information here



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Common Errors with Word Usage ("I told you you were saying it wrong!")

 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! It's a very long list.

ATM machine

“ATM” means “Automated Teller Machine,” so if you say “ATM machine” you are really saying, “Automated Teller Machine machine.” 


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.


Monday, April 26, 2021

Voice over "red flags"

 As you work in the voice over field, you'll become pretty good at seeing questionable jobs or someone running an ad for a needed voice over who will say things like what you'll read below. (I'm referring here to low budget or no budget jobs you'll often see on Craigslist.) Some of these I find humorous. Some are just plain sad.

"This should only take you 10 minutes to record."

"Easy money. We're paying $20."  (For a VO job that should pay $200.)

"You don't have to have professional equipment. You can record on your phone."

"We have nothing to pay you for this job but it COULD lead to future work."  (Yes, more non-paid work. Thanks for the heads up.)

" Nothing in the budget for you to record this short script. We're doing this for no pay too because it's a cause we believe in." (I believe in causes too. But they don't put groceries on the table.)

"This is for no compensation but it would be good for your voice over portfolio."

"We're not looking for a real professional for this. Just someone who can do a decent job reading the words on the page."

"If interested, please email us your rates." (I'd be glad to. But I need more specifics from you about the job so I can quote a proper and fair rate according to the type of voice over it is.)

"This is a super simple project..."

This is only a short "red flags" list I've come up with.  If you've been in the voice over biz for a while, I'm sure you have some of your own. I've learned to trust my gut.

If you see any of the above in an online ad, RUN. DON'T WALK! Your good judgement will thank you later.

                                                                   



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Why your voice sounds so different to you on playback

I was recently reminded about this phenomenon when a friend of mine visited my studio to record a few demo intro tracks. David has a wonderful South African accent and I asked if he wouldn't mind helping me out. He said, "Sure, no problem." After the very brief recording session, he came out of the booth to watch me edit the tracks and hear his takes through my monitors. He noted how it's always strange to hear your recorded voice, because it sounds so different from how we hear ourselves through our heads.

Here's a link to "Why we hate hearing our own voices."


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

"Hey! I'm CBS sportscasting legend Jim Nantz. Now don't mess up my breakfast!!!"

 OK. OK. I know. These days there's a lot of chatter and gossip about Jim Nantz' new contract with CBS. He's reportedly been making 6.5 million annually. And some so called "sources" say he'll be making 10.5 million per year going forward. Love the guy on NFL football games and his annual Masters coverage. Great voice. Great talent. Always a class act. He deserves every penny. But that's not totally what this blog post is about.

The cat's out of the bag now. And his legion of fans will  be seeing him through a whole different light from now on. Somebody spilled the beans. This may come off as a tad gossipy, but I think you REALLY need to know.  Well... I wasn't going to say anything but... Ready? OK, here goes...

(whispering) Jim Nantz is a huge breakfast fan and he likes his toast BURNT! "Charred" would be another word. And he admits to carrying a small, laminated picture in his wallet showing a burnt piece of whole wheat toast so his restaurant server and cook can get it right.  I think I read his wife gave him the pic. Ya know, there's nothing worse than living with a grump who's always complaining about a burnt toast fail.  And yes, by all means, the server has Jim's permission to take the pic back in the kitchen to show the cook just how burnt he wants it to be. Not a little bit burnt. A whole lot burnt! Apparently, some cooks haven't been burning his toast thoroughly enough. Maybe they were worried about setting off the fire alarms.

Here's an idea, but don't hold me to it. The next televised golf tournament , see if you can catch up to him as he heads to the broadcast tower. No small feat. If you're lucky enough to do that, don't ask him for his autograph. Say loudly for all to hear, "Mr. Nantz. I love your work. Now, can I see your burnt toast picture? I know you take it with you everywhere you go. I read about it on some voice over guy's blog." 

Then email me and let me know how that turned out. 


                                                             



Check your spam folder!

 Those of us who do voice overs from  a home studio (and it's increasing every second) depend heavily on the Internet. Pre-Internet, voice talents would go out to recording studios to do the work. And while being able to record and then send our work to our customers/clients online is a blessing (no rushing in traffic to get to a voice over session), you still have to make sure that the voice work you record makes it to its  destination-the producer, director, or individual who hired you. There are many audio delivery services on the Internet that can help you do that. The one I use is Send This File.com which I find to be dependable.  And some of them are free... up to a certain point. But putting ONE simple sentence in your emails to your customer or client after you email a link for them to download your voice over works like magic. And here it is. "Please confirm receipt of the voice over." Never assume that your work has gotten to its intended destination. Sometimes, even though you put the confirmation request sentence in your email, some clients will not email back and say something like, "Thanks 'Randy'... audio/voice over received." Make sure that once you send out your work, you follow up promptly. Some voice over talents will have a download option right on their websites, so the customer/client can log in with a password and download their audio. That's a really cool and efficient option for both parties. And as many know, sometimes emails and such default to spam folders. If you're doing business over the Internet, you should be checking your spam folder throughout the day. I like to tell a first-time customer how I will be delivering the voice over to them before I start the job. Some large companies have strict email settings that won't allow incoming emails such as download links. Let your customer/client know the process up front so you won't be having any problems later. It's a simple thing, but it's all about making your recording and delivery service smooth and professional with no entanglements. 

Of course, all of the above information applies to those who are not doing a directed session where the producer/director is using ISDN or Source Connect, in real time, to capture the voice over recording on their end. 

And some e Learning companies I work with have me upload the audio files to them using FTP-"file transfer protocol" where I log in using FTP software and do an audio upload. Very convenient.



Monday, March 22, 2021

How well do you know cats? Test your furry feline knowledge.

 So, a number of years ago, a client of mine gave me a tip that an LA media company was going to be producing some TV spots for the Game Show Network and they were looking for a voice. These were in support of a  new TV show called "Think Like a Cat." My client forwarded me the audition information and I sent in a few takes. A gentleman at the LA company emailed me and said they liked my voice for the project, but they weren't looking for a "cat character voice"- just a warm, smiley, friendly sounding guy. So, with that direction in mind, I re-submitted my audition. As most veteran voice over talents know, getting a second chance to audition is like gold. Days later, I heard from LA that they wanted to use me for the commercials. Of course, I was thrilled. They were going to email me the script, then direct me over phone patch from LA, as I recorded in my home studio. After the session, I just emailed them a download link to all the audio and they took it from there in post production. The copy was so well written, it took us maybe 30-40 minutes to record all four commercials. No substitute for good copy! Like much of my work, all four spots ended up on You Tube in addition to playing on the TV-Game Show Network. It was a super fun voice over job and I was very happy with how the commercials came out. Here's one of them.






Thursday, March 18, 2021

Psssssst. You've got seconds to impress.

Capable agents  know within seconds after starting to play your demo, whether or not you're a voice talent they want to hear more from, and perhaps represent. Yes, seconds. Every cut on your demo must shine, but the first one will either make them want to hear more, or hit the "stop button." That's why voice actors and demo producers give considerable thought to what the first cut is going to be. And like a good radio aircheck that's used to hire deejays, each cut on your demo should showcase something else you do well. Once you've shown that you do a great soft sell commercial read, or hard sell delivery, there's no need to show that style again.

During my on air days, I wandered into my program director's office.  He was looking to hire a new deejay. I saw lots of brown packages spread all over the floor that were mailed in from around the country. Each one contained a radio aircheck-a sort of "best of" clips taken from a deejay's show to allow the hiring program director to hear what the deejay sounds like on the air.  I watched as he put the CD (or cassette) in his player, and then pushed the play button. Most of the time, within seconds, the aircheck was being ejected and another put in.  To some folks that might seem harsh. But that's the reality of the situation.

So remember, when it comes to voice over demos, give much thought as to the order of your clips. And having a second set of ears to listen, wouldn't be a bad idea. The key is to have someone help you who actually knows the process within the voice over world. The mailman probably wouldn't be a good choice. We love our dedicated mail men and mail women. But just sayin'


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Jeopardy's amazing announcer Johnny Gilbert

 There's so much to be said these days about the iconic game show Jeopardy. The recent passing of host Alex Trebek was a shock to many, even knowing he was battling a vicious form of cancer. Many a fan's tear was shed as Alex opened up about his prognosis and how he intended to fight on. 

And now, replacements are being tried out on the show. (A bit more in a moment).  Clearly, Alex will be a tough act to follow. I always admired his soft spoken speech, great sense of humor, and how he could tease a player about missing an answer, without being mean or insulting. Alex had much to say off camera about the show he loved hosting so much. Even saying, "Of course I know all the correct answers. They're on a sheet right in front of me!"

His longtime "sidekick" announcer, Johnny Gilbert, is 92 years old and still working. In addition to his announcing duties, he warms up the crowd before show tapings begin. A lot of fans don't know that he live announces the show opening you've heard for many years-"This. Is. Jeopardy!" It's not pre-recorded. Oh, and by the way, it's reported that his current pay is 4 million dollars a year. At 92,or any other age for that matter, that's pretty darn impressive. You know those people who long to retire early? Well, Johnny ain't one  of them.

I know a librarian here in the Bay Area who is very bright and has tried out for Jeopardy twice. She told me what a rigorous process it is. Nerve racking comes to mind. No doubt. Lots of folks want to get on the show. I would be a terrible Jeopardy contestant. My recall is fair, but I'm sure I would be too slow clicking in. Not to mention, I'm clueless with many of the categories. Give me a country music question anytime, but don't ask me where Timbuktu is, or the population there!

So, who will follow the great Alex Trebek as the next Jeopardy host? A man or a woman? A big celebrity or former contestant? I talk to a few Jeopardy fans, and they all have their guesses. I remember when Bob Barker retired from "The Price Is Right" after so many years of hosting. Drew Carey was chosen, and that came with considerable pushback by fans who compared him to Bob. I thought then that the worst thing the new host could do was to try to be like Bob Barker. He had his own unique style, look and rhythm with the contestants. From what I've heard, Drew has now been generally accepted and is rolling along doing it his way. I hope the next Jeopardy host takes note.  

                                                                       


      

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Want to be a jack of all trades voice over artist? You might want to think again

 One of the questions that pops up regularly regarding voice over work is should a voice over talent pick a few niches and market that, or should you go for many "slices"  of the voice over pie and sell that?

I'm a firm believer in becoming very proficient in several genres of voice over but staying away from trying to be a jack of all trades. You can make a good living specializing. A lot of times, as your career progresses, you can see trends in what type of VO work you're being hired for. Mine tends to be corporate narration and e Learning. Sure, I'll record radio or TV scripts from time to time, but corporate and learning is in my wheelhouse.

I sometimes say that voice over work is like a big rainbow. You have audio book narrations, radio and TV commercials, documentary, explainer videos, e Learning, business videos, on hold messaging, product promos, animation and on and on. Become very good at several pieces of the "rainbow" and market that to producers and creatives.

Certainly, be open to expanding and trying new things. But continue to play to your strengths and focus on what you enjoy recording, as well as what you do best. 

The great, late "In a World..." superstar Don LaFontaine made millions voicing primarily movie trailers. But I highly doubt you'd hear him on an on hold message or Power Point presentation. He knew which side his bread was buttered on.  Not to mention the huge pay difference.   


Monday, March 1, 2021

CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley

 

One of my favorite TV shows is "CBS Sunday Morning"that airs here in the Bay Area at 7 AM on our local affiliate. It runs 90 minutes and features all kinds of interesting people, many in a creative field-writers, singers, artists, entertainers, producers, poets and beyond. Even the occasional voice actor. 

What I especially like about the show is the lighter fare. Nothing too heavy-most of the time. I find many of the personalities featured to be quite inspirational. Yesterday, they ran a piece on LeVar Burton, who in addition to his many outstanding acting credits like "Roots," also narrates audio books. 

In the same show, Bob Ross, the soft spoken, late artist of public TV fame, was profiled. I had seen him many times on his "Joy of Painting" show teaching painting techniques, but had no idea it was taped in a converted house! The feature said he had to rehearse a painting session so he could get everything finished within the allotted TV time for the viewer.  If you are not familiar with Mr. Ross, he had a very calming voice and spoke with a half whisper, as he dabbed the paint on the canvas while giving out instructions. And with that whisper, he drew you in to what he was doing. In a day and age where being loud often comes from our TV's, he was one of a kind.  It reminded me that as a voice actor, that half whisper can come in handy for subtle emphasis on copy.

Part of the magic of "CBS Sunday Morning" is that each show contains many segments. So if you're not particularly into one feature, you know that something else will soon be coming on. The last segment is usually a very brief, non-narrated nature/animal piece.  I highly recommend it. 

By the way, the hostess of the show, Jane Pauley, is married to  Pulitzer Prize winning American cartoonist, Garry Trudeau.  He's well known as the creator of the Doonesbury comic strip.


Friday, February 26, 2021

This blog has NO agenda!

There are already a huge amount of voice over blogs out there. When I decided to jump in with my own over ten years ago , I knew I would want to go beyond just talking about voice over techniques and tales. Living in the Bay Area, there's plenty of other stuff to write about. 

This blog is mainly intended for beginner and intermediate voice talents. Seasoned voice actors will know much of what I speak. 

One area of everyday conversation I will never write about on here is POLITICS.  Like many, I have my viewpoints, but I will not use this blog as a forum for political arguing and hostile chit chat. I'll leave that to others out there. 

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy and learn some voice over methods through my random writings here and the stories about my "former life"in radio and TV broadcasting. It was great fun for me, and now, recording voice overs suits me just fine. I have some fantastic, longtime clients/customers.You know who you are. THANK YOU!

Good luck to you in your journey. As someone once said, "Life is NOT a dress rehearsal." Live to your fullest right NOW! Nothing is guaranteed going forward. 

Feel free to reach out to me directly at john@johnmilesproductions.com with a comment or a question. 


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

An inspirational poem from Mom

 So, I was going through some boxes I had in storage here at my place and came across this poem my late Mother gave me many years ago. She was my biggest "cheerleader" and was totally all in when I would call to tell her I had landed a new radio station job. "Wonderful!" she would say with a smile in her voice as I broke the good news.

This poem is special and I wanted to share it with you because the ebb and flow of the voice over business can be unpredictable. One moment, your email is blowing up with jobs to be recorded, and the next it's quiet. (Dare I say "crickets?"). Don't take it personally. It happens to a lot of us who do this work. And there are voice over cycles throughout the year. Not surprisingly, Summers tend to be slow when many are on vacation sticking their toes in the sand. I find that during those down times, throwing myself into marketing my business and reaching out to others is a productive way to go. And remember all those jobs you landed in the past and how good it felt to have a customer/client appreciate your voice over work. If you're slow and doing the right things to promote your business, hang in there! Things will often change. Maybe not on your timetable, but the pendulum will swing back again into a busy cycle. The poem below is called "Don't Quit" by Edgar A. Guest in the 1920's.  You may have seen it before. I think it's especially significant during this current pandemic/economy.


 When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low but the debts are high,

And you want to smile but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

 Life is strange with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many failures turn about

When we might have won had we stuck it out.

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –

You may succeed with another blow.

 Success is failure turned inside out –

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

You can never tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.  


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Five movie trailer legends in a limo!

 This is an old video but always makes me laugh. Stay with it!  To see the faces that go with the voices-PRICELESS!  Classic voice over guys including the man who was the voice of Disney.