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.



Tuesday, January 12, 2021

"How much for that Wienerschnitzel kraut hot dog?!!! "

Working from my home voice over studio and not being a cook (I gladly ditched the cooking utensils a few years ago), I often use the Uber Eats phone app to bring me food when I get busy. I'm generally pleased with the on time delivery and the lighter fare offerings-hamburgers/hot dogs, pizza, Chinese soups, chicken and so forth. Most of it fast food, and no doubt, not particularly healthy. But it is very convenient.

Recently, I got a bit of a shock when I opened up the Uber Eats app on my phone to order one of my favorite and very simple foods- a kraut hot dog. I was working on a large e Learning narration project with a quick turnaround, and did not have the time to go to Wienerschnitzel to get it. If you're not familiar with Wienerschnitzel, it's fast food offerings times 10. Much to my surprise, for this very simple order, Uber Eats would be charging me over $11.  If you use Uber Eats, you're being hit with fee after fee . Service fee, small order fee (If your order is under $15 total, that's another $3 tacked on.) Tax, delivery fee, and here in California, they've recently added a California  Drivers Benefits fee ("This helps cover benefits like health insurance and guaranteed earnings for delivery people in your area.") Or so Uber says. And because I like the drivers who are getting their side hustle on to make some extra money, I would be tipping the driver who brings me the food. Anyway, that simple kraut dog with a very regular bun will cost you over $13 (including tip) through Uber Eats.  I get that you're going to pay for the convenience of delivery, but somehow paying $13 or more for a kraut dog with no extras other than the kraut on it and a packet of mustard is a "no go" for me. And I know that I always have the option to not buy through Uber Eats. No one has a gun to my head!

Just out of curiosity, I went to an online forum and many are talking about the very large price increases  the home food delivery companies are charging. Uber Eats leads the pack. In some cases, according to a recently released study, more than 90 percent of what it would cost to walk in and pick up your order! Undoubtedly, prices have risen substantially due to many folks staying inside at home as a result of the pandemic and ordering food in. I guess it all boils down to whether or not you're going to pay for all those extra add on fees to satisfy your appetite.






Another industry that absolutely kills with fees is banking. But you already knew that. Just look at your monthly statement. They charge you to sneeze. 


Sunday, December 13, 2020

"If you're coming to San Francisco, be sure to...

 As mentioned in other posts on this blog, pre-pandemic, I enjoy having a nice breakfast in San Francisco on Saturday and then walking through Chinatown and down to Pier 39 where most of the tourists and sea lions hang out. It's a considerable walk from where I start at the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market streets. Most of my breakfasts are fairly simple-eggs,hash browns, sausage/bacon, toast and coffee. And while I love a cup of hot coffee first thing before my city walk, it can often wreak havoc when I need to find a public restroom QUICKLY.  Recently, I added an app to my phone that is GPS driven that shows me where the closest public restrooms are from where I am, at any given time. A real life saver! Amazing. There's an app for everything. It's tough to find a PUBLIC restroom in the city. Most restrooms are for paying customers only. There use to be a small coffee shop in Chinatown I could count on to be my "saving grace" on my walks. It was the size of a few phone booths, but they DID have a public restroom if you bought a cup of coffee. Too bad it closed a number of years ago due to a lack of business. Bummer. 

So, just a heads up. Know where the public restrooms are or get the phone app. As the old Scott McKenzie song says "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." I say,"Be sure to know where the nearest public restroom is." (Let's get our priorities in order). 


                                                                  



Thursday, December 10, 2020

A funny voicemail message

 So I have a really wonderful friend who retired well from a metro bus building company right here in San Francisco East Bay. Her name is Diane. She's an independent soul and sometimes brings me unique food dishes that she finds on her shopping trips to Trader Joe's- one of her favorite places to buy groceries. 

We chat regularly about the happenings in the news.  She has a good sense of grumpy humor (most of the time) and seems to be enjoying her well deserved retirement. And there's one thing about her that makes me laugh more than anything. And I've told her so. No, it's not the clothes she wears or her hairstyle. Or her sometimes comical takes on what's going on at any given moment around the world. (Don't get her started). No,it's her cell phone voicemail message. Yes! Her strange and funny cell phone  message! Here it is, just as she says it... "Hi, it's Diane, I can't get to the phone right now. Call me right back." I asked her, ever so politely in jest one day, to think about what the caller is hearing. I told her, "Hey Diane, I called your number and was told to call you right back. So, I immediately did and got the same  message every time. 13 times in a row! I was exhausted." (Insert chuckle here). I suggested she record a simple message like, "Hi, it's Diane. I can't get to the phone right now. Just leave your name, phone number and a brief message and I'll call you back just as soon as possible." That was met with a brief moment of awkward silence on the phone. I took that to mean "mind your own business." Which I gladly did. Truly great friends are hard to come by.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"Which way would you like it?"

 Sometimes you'll receive a script to record that contains words that can be pronounced several ways. "Data" comes to mind. Some will say it as (da-tuh. "da" as in
"apple") and others as (day-tuh). Or the word "anti." Some will go with (ant-eye) and others as (ant-ee). Both ways are acceptable. One more. "Multi." You'll hear it said as (mull-tee) OR (mull-tie). Neither is wrong. Check with the person you'll be recording for about how they want it said BEFORE you step to the mike. You'll come off as a pro. And that's the goal, right?


Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Make it conversational"

 I often see producers wanting a conversational tone in the voice over. One part of that is lowering the volume of your voice. Don't shout at the microphone! It's designed to amplify your voice.

And remember, we speak in phrases. Usually, somewhat deliberately, as we think about how to express our thoughts. When reading copy that calls for a conversational delivery, don't go racing through it without pauses. A road runner approach doesn't work for conversational.

I do a lot of educational and training narrations. Using a conversational delivery is spot on. 

Here is a link to an online tutorial I voiced having to do with publishing and plagiarism. 


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Grand Theft Auto Vice City the Untold Story

On a recent Sunday, I was looking through Craigslist ads and spotted one wanting a voice over for one of the most successful video games of all time-"Grand Theft Auto". I immediately emailed a reply and the producer emailed back with some copy for me to do a quick audition. He liked what he heard and hired me as the narrator. He puts together these types of videos and parks them on You Tube and gets thousands of views.  The one I voiced is about 80's crime and drugs. WARNING: This video is violent. So,  it's up to you.  Here's a link to the video I narrated. It runs about 13 minutes.




Monday, May 4, 2020

Slower is better for on hold messages

So no joke,over the years I have voiced hundreds and hundreds of on hold messages. It's a different style of read. Go a bit slower with your pace so the caller can take in all the information. When you are recording the on hold script and come upon the company's phone number, hours of operation, and address, slow it down. You don't want to go too fast in these sections. All in all, it's a slower voice over than say a TV commercial or radio spot where things move fast .
Remember, when recording on hold messages, slower is better! 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The passing of Don Imus

As a former radio deejay, I have been keenly aware of the  long, storied, often controversial career of Don Imus. He spent 50 years on the air which in and of itself is unheard of. He said something once that stuck with me. It had to do with the idea of mentally editing what you are going to say on the air before you open the microphone. A sort of "mental rehearsal." Know what you're going to say. Get to the point. I tried to do that throughout my career. Good advice.

He was fired 4 times. There's an old saying in radio, "If you haven't been fired a time or two, you ain't doing it right."He got fired from a station once out in Stockton, California not far from me because he said the word "hell" on the air.  Can you imagine? That was at the very start of his career before he hit the bigtime in New York. My Dad enjoyed Imus because toward the end of his career he got into frequent political chit chat on his show and would often have well known political figures in the studio. Senator Bob Dole comes to mind. My Dad loved to read about and talk politics. Things often got heated at our house.

Imus could be grouchy, mean, angry, and often funny on his show, but through it all, he was always himself.  Listeners knew what to expect when they tuned in.  At the height of his career, he was making around 4 million dollars a year. He became a very rich man, but he gave back with his charity work and "Imus Ranch" for children in need. Just recently, I saw him being interviewed on CBS Sunday morning with Jane Pauley and he became quite emotional as he mentioned he had regrets about  some things he said or did on air that were hurtful to others. Teary eyed, it was a very rare moment indeed where he showed a side of himself others had never seen.  It was like he was reviewing his life and he looked rather frail. He was without a doubt one of a kind and there will never be another Don Imus.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Seller beware on Craigslist!

It's been quite the week here in my studio. I have a decent collection of voice over books that I'm looking to hand down to an aspiring voice actor. They're all in very good shape and on Craigslist under the "For Sale" books section. Last night around midnight, I was in bed and received a text message wanting to know if the books were still available. I replied they were and not hearing back from the individual, I went back to sleep. Next morning, I received another text saying he wanted to buy them and would pay me with a money order  PLUS pay me an extra $40 for them and he needed my name and address. I had been through a similar thing on Craigslist and a huge red flag went up on this.  I texted back and told him to stop trying to scam people. He disappeared. I'm in the Bay Area and his phone number was from New Jersey. In my ad, I specifically stated "Cash Only" and "Must pick up at my place." A variation of this scam involves a bogus check he or she gives you that you can deposit at your bank's ATM, but the bank will discover it's a fraud and you will be on the hook to make good on it.

And earlier this week, I responded to a voice over ad for a job out of L.A posted on Craigslist. A few days later, I received a reply from an "Alex" who said he had a $992 voice over job for me and they were making arrangements to find a recording studio near me so I could record there and they could direct from L.A.. There was some other weird wording about "I must be of a good mind" and other strange stuff having nothing to do with voice over. I emailed him back and said I would not be able to do the job because I had seen this scam outlined before on a voice over forum I frequent. There are a lot more details to this particular scam.  Just Google "Voice over scam" and you'll see lots of links.

So, just be very careful. There are some low lifes that for some time have been trying to dupe unsuspecting voice over talents. One final thing. When I listed my stuff on Craigslist, there was this information below. A good and timely reminder.

Avoiding Scams

Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
  • Do not provide payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping - deal with locals you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) - anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
  • Don't accept cashier/certified checks or money orders - banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a "guarantee".
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing "deal" may not exist.
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.
  • "craigslist voicemails" - Any message asking you to access or check "craigslist voicemails" or "craigslist voice messages" is fraudulent - no such service exists.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The voice of Porky Pig and Bob Bergen

I love the story of how the current voice of Porky Pig got the job. Of course, years ago the great master of cartoon voices, Mel Blanc, did the voice of Porky  and a ton of others. Go on You Tube and search his name and there are plenty of videos of his TV appearances. You'll be amazed. Now, about Bob Bergen. At age 14, he "cold called" Mel Blanc's house and secretly taped the conversation with Mr. Blanc.  The first thing Mel asked Bob was, "How did you get my number?" Bob was seeking out advice and Mel was kind enough to help him. Rather than me give you the specifics, you can hear this conversation on Bob's website, "BobBergen.com." Click on where it says, "Cool Clips." By the way, Bob said on a voice over forum board I frequent that every year he has to audition again to be the ongoing voice of Porky.  I'm sure it's a treasured job. One more thing, Bob's one of the nicest guys in the business. Always giving on spot advice to other voice actors and helping when  he can. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"I'm living on the air at WKRP in.....Mansfield, Ohio"

The start of my radio career wasn't exactly like the TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati," but it had a few wacky/odd moments. (None like the famous WKRP "turkeys dropped from high above" episode. A must see on You Tube!)

Upon graduating from high school in Strongsville, Ohio, I told my Dad I wanted to go to a broadcast school in Cleveland to become a radio deejay. He said, "Son, I don't know about that. It's a dog eat dog business." As usual, he was right. After considerable begging, he agreed and gave me a very reluctant nod of the head to enroll. The cool thing was that the instructors were deejays I heard on the radio in the Cleveland market. One of mine was "The Real Bob James." He was on WGAR, a very popular station at the time. Bob was very funny on air and would go on to co-found the American Comedy Network. It was a comedy service that radio deejays subscribed to for funny material they could use on their radio shows. I listened to Bob on the radio and held him in high regard. In short, I was thrilled to have him as one of my teachers. Upon graduation from the school, I started sending out my demo tape to radio stations around the country. Much to my surprise ( and my Mom and Dad's too), I got a phone call from a radio station in Mansfield, Ohio which was about 45 minutes south of where I grew up. It was a Mom and Pop AM/FM station called WCLW. They had a reputation for paying low wages and hiring guys like me who had zero on air experience but wanted to get in the radio business as a deejay. After a telephone interview, they hired me to do an afternoon show on their low wattage AM station. ("Hello. Is anyone out there?") My Mom and Dad had to have been in a mild state of shock. I actually got a job at a radio station!Thus began my very long and journeyed radio career. Even though at first I was awful on the air, I knew, with dedication, I could improve and work my way up to the better radio stations and actually make a living being on the radio. WCLW was owned by an elderly couple and their daughter Lynn ran it like a drill sergeant. One day, early into my employment there, she told me I was going to do a remote broadcast on an upcoming Sunday afternoon from a pet cemetery! The goal of the broadcast was to get people to buy a burial plot for their beloved pet. I'm thinking, "What in the world am I going to say on air about a pet cemetery of all things?" It would be the very first of many awkward on air assignments she would give me that were very much a "sink or swim"situation that eventually would make me a better broadcaster down the road. Other remote broadcasts would include a ladies clothing store in downtown Mansfield with a bubbly Julia Child- like owner on microphone with me talking about all the wonderful selections to buy. And at another broadcast chatting on air about the love making virtues of a waterbed with the inventor Charlie Hall, who was doing a live appearance at "Aquarius" waterbed store. I had many on air assignments at that first radio station that would force me to ad-lib and be on my toes. It was all quite the crash course and it turned out to be a very good thing  in preparing me to work at much bigger stations in the years ahead.

WCLW will always have a special place in my heart. It gave me my start. For that I am truly grateful. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

My love affair with... (wait for it!)...You Tube

As an avid music lover, when I'm not recording voice overs or marketing my business, I'm often on You Tube playing songs I haven't heard in years. Songs you rarely hear on the radio anymore but may have been a big part of the soundtrack of your life. Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me" comes to mind. It's one of those songs that never gets old no matter how many times I have heard it. I also like to read the comments below the video post of the song. It's cool to see what people are thinking with their likes or dislikes comments.

But from a voice over standpoint,  I use You Tube to check proper names that may come up in scripts I'm recording. Or product names that are not necessarily running commercials on radio or TV. I learned early on to check multiple videos for pronunciations of the same word as relying on only one video may not give you the correct pronunciation. In other posts on this blog I have recommended Forvo.com and Howjsay.com as helpful for pronunciations. Often they will not have a pronunciation for a proper name that can be found by doing a search on You Tube. Using You Tube for pronunciations has saved me a lot of time. Just make sure you double check the pronunciation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Perhaps my most favorite voice over job...ever

I was tipped off by a good client of many years that his company was filming at locations around the world for a new, inspirational TV show called "In Pursuit of Passion." And, much to my delight, the lady who was hosting the show (Tracy) was looking for someone to narrate it. So, I emailed her and told her of my interest. She agreed to email me a script for a short audition. I did not see any film of the show beforehand so I was a bit in the dark as to the energy needed on the narration. I went with a slightly upbeat take and emailed her a link to download the MP3 audition. She got back to me and said it was a bit too cheery and upbeat. With that direction in mind ( for which I was very grateful), I recorded a second audition and sent that to her. I was happy to receive an email from her saying the second take was solid and we would go with that. There was a total of six episodes to be narrated from places like Africa and Greece. It was a fun but somewhat challenging narration as the scripts contained quite a few proper names. And of course, those needed to be said correctly. I was often able to go to Forvo.com for pronunciations. (One of my favorite sites). I was delighted when she sent me a link to see the completed episodes. The show airs in select markets here and abroad.

A funny aside. A brother of mine in Ohio called me on a weekend and said he and his lady friend were watching a show on TV and at the end in the credits my name "John Miles" came on screen. He asked if it was me.  I scratched my head and told him I didn't think so. After he described a few parts of the episode he watched, it dawned on me it was me! I had recorded the narrations for the episodes the prior year and had sort of forgotten about them. Here's a link to one of the episodes from Africa. I must say, this is in my top 5 of all-time favorite voice over jobs I have done.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Magical Mornings

I totally enjoy getting out of bed early and getting at the day. I was raised in a small country house in Ohio with one bathroom. I have quite a few siblings (8) and mornings were very hectic. There was no such thing as "sleeping in." My Dad, who was a fantastic drywall and  plaster man, made sure that we got our outside chores done-raking the apple orchard, cleaning the barn stalls where we kept a few horses, weeding the garden, and so on. And yes, he made a list of chores in the morning before he left for work and would check to see how well we had done when he came home. He was a taskmaster for sure, and as a young boy, I sometimes resented it. Later in life, I came to realize it was a good thing as I was held accountable. My Dad's motto was the familiar refrain, "If you're gonna do something, do it right, or don't do it at all."

I learned to enjoy waking up early and starting the day. That motivation has stuck with me to this day. As mentioned in another post on this blog, Dad and I would often play early Sunday morning golf. As in, still kind of dark outside and dew on the grass.  My brother and I slept in a bunk bed. I remember Dad coming in early Sunday morning and shaking me and telling me to get up as we were going golfing. It was a special ritual.

And today, as I do voice overs from my home studio, I find mornings to be very special as there is the promise of a new day and the expectation of getting things done and accomplished. Not to mention, it's quiet. And every voice over artist who records can appreciate that. Some of my most productive work has occurred at 4 or 5 AM. But don't worry, if you hire me to do a voice over and you want to listen in as I record, we don't have to go with "crack of dawn" times. I realize early mornings aren't for everyone!

Monday, July 8, 2019

"You want to be paid for your voice over? Don't be ridiculous!"

If you go to Craigslist and look under "Gigs" and then "Creative" category, you will often see
job leads for voice over work. I'm use to it now, but my jaw use to drop open when seeing highly
detailed specs for a voice over job with no pay. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If you do voice overs, it should make you cringe. You've paid good money to buy your recording equipment. You may well have taken voice over lessons which are far from free. Plus voice over seminars/webinars to stay sharp and current. You have ongoing business expenses. Your website updates and maintenance. Yearly taxes. And here is someone on Craigslist offering you nothing for your time, expertise, and skill set. You deserve to be paid! I just had a producer approach me on a Friday afternoon who had received one of my marketing emails and was in a rush frame of mind. He needed a 5 minute long voice over for a high tech, corporate video. I zipped him back a very fair quote to which he said "Sorry. That's too expensive for me. I can pay $100."$100 for 5 minutes of professional voice over for a corporate video is extremely low. Plus it's a high tech narration which will more than likely take extra time to record properly. I thanked him for the "opportunity" and passed on the job. Just out of curiosity, I went to Yelp to check his studio and customer comments. He had quite a few complaints about shoddy work and 1 star ratings. Not good. I'm sure he found someone who is desperate for work who recorded it. We all have choices. But sometimes it's OK to say 'Thanks. But no thanks.' Stay away from the bottom of the barrel jobs. Once word gets around you work for free or on the cheap, it will be very difficult for you to charge a fair rate. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

My 20 foot commute from bed to studio

No doubt, working from home has its advantages. Living in the Bay Area, the traffic can be beyond awful. Years ago, voice over talents needed to head out to recording studios to voice projects, now we can work from our home studios thanks to the Internet. So, sitting in traffic jams is a thing of the past. Plus, when clients/customers come calling with rush or urgent requests, we can quickly access our home studios and turn voice overs around in no time at all. If I had a dollar for every time a client or customer said they appreciated my very fast turnaround, I'd be a very wealthy man. For all its advantages, working from home has some caveats. There can be distractions. Working alone, it's important to "self police" your work before sending it out. Stay in the moment. Focus. Allow yourself some mini breaks if you're working on long projects such as e Learning or audio books.  Working from home means no more boring conference room meetings with a bunch of overly talkative sleepy heads. (I will give one former boss credit. He always ordered pizzas in during our meetings.) Rejoice in the fact that you're able to make a living from home and ditch the honking horns and road rage incidents. And water cooler talk was never really that interesting anyway.

 OK, time for another cup of coffee. Sugar and cream please!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Fame can be a fickle thing!

Mid 1980's. I'm hanging in the front reception area at country music station WIRK in West Palm Beach after my midday show. Rhonda was a fun, sassy, thirty something, African American receptionist who answered the phones and gave listeners their prizes when they came in. It's a blistering hot South Florida day when the door swings open and in come two dudes with tank tops on, flip flops, cut offs. One of them approaches Rhonda and says "I'm here to tape an interview with Terry Slane." Terry was our morning deejay and program director. I immediately notice it's country music superstar Roy Clark. And back then he was on TV... a lot. Hee Haw, commercials, TV concerts playing his electric guitar to perfection. So, Rhonda says, "Your name?" He says, "Roy Clark." She gets on her phone and calls Terry. "Hey Terry, there's a Roy... um... er... ahhh... I'm sorry sir, what's your last name again?" He pointedly says, "Clark." "Terry, a Roy Clark is here to see you." She then hangs up the phone and tells Roy that Terry is on his way up. Terry comes up and shakes Roy's hand and the other dude's hand and off they go. I chime in, "Rhonda, that's Roy Clark! How could you not recognize Roy Clark!?" She loudly says, '' I don't listen to this country music crap, John. I'm a Rhythm and Blues girl!" I fell down laughing. Later, I thought, no matter how famous you think you are, to some people you're not famous at all! The man with him was his brother in law and they were out fishing at Lake Okeechobee before coming in to do the interview.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Sibilance. Ugh!

Without a doubt, sibilance is one of the most annoying things to deal with in the audio world.  In short, it's a harshness to the ear upon voice over playback. Most often it's a sizzling "s" sound.  Of course, this is not wanted and needs to be "tamed" either during recording or in editing afterward.  Some people's voice can naturally be more sibilant than others. And the position of the mouth to the microphone can cause excessive sibilance. Too close can cause problems. Instead of speaking directly into the mic, position it at a 45 degree angle from your mouth. Experiment a bit with different microphone positions. Also, be wary of very inexpensive (cheap) microphones that can cause lots of sibilance.

In post production, there are what are called de-essers. This is a type of compression application designed specifically to deal with sibilance. Almost every digital audio recording software has some form of de-esser under the effects category. Not all de-essers are created equal. WAVES has just come out with a plug-in called, not surprisingly, "Sibilance." It's gotten good reviews and is sometimes on sale on their website.

Another option to getting rid of annoying sibilance in a recording is to manually drop down the volume (around 4 to 6 db) of those sibilant sounds. When viewing the waveform zoomed in a bit in your audio editor, a sibilant "s" will often look like a small football shape. Just highlight that with your mouse and drop the volume down as mentioned above.

Bottom line, most everyone has some sibilance when they speak. There are ways to deal with it when editing that will greatly improve the quality of your voice overs.

Friday, February 22, 2019

A mighty Craigslist ad

Back when  I was moving from radio guy to voice over guy, I was planting "seeds" to find new business/clients. I have found that emailing people and companies who need voice over to be somewhat effective. Forget about spamming and just shooting out emails all over the place. Try to find a name on the website, so you can personalize the email. Keep it brief!

Years back, I wrote a short, free, classified ad on Craigslist about my services. A gentleman emailed me and said his company (an educational one) had a lot of voice over needs. He asked about my rates and turnaround time. That got the ball rolling. To this day, years later, I continue to get quite a bit of work from them, for which I am truly grateful. You never know where the work is going to come from. Once you get the work, be your very best. There's nothing quite like a satisfied client and repeat business, for which you do not have to audition.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Haters gonna hate and the Golden State Warriors

One thing's for sure, if you're living and breathing, you have people that will go negative towards you. For. No. Apparent. Reason. Sometimes supposed friends. A family member. Your jealous brother in-law "Tim." A person you hardly know. Haters. There's no shortage of them. They create false drama to make you look bad. Inside, they feel inferior and want to knock you down a peg or two. If you start to talk about your success stories or wins, they have fingers in their ears. Volumes have been written about how to deal with the haters in your life. A common conclusion is to create distance between yourself and the hater. 

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of the amazing Golden State Warriors. You don't have to visit too many online sports forums to see the depth of "haterism" for the team. Pretty simple to understand. They're just so darned good.  Not to mention Steph Curry as one of the greatest of all time. Psssst! I'm not a New England Patriots fan, but I'll give QB Tom Brady his due. He, like Steph, is undeniably talented in their respective sports.

So, when you're under attack from a hater, frenemy or enemy, remember the old saying, "The best revenge is massive success." (Frank Sinatra). It works wonders for your frame of mind.





   

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Burt Reynolds interview

The recent passing of Burt Reynolds put me in a very reflective mood. 1985-1986 were especially exciting years for me as an on air talent. I was on WIRK, a heritage country music station doing a midday show. Burt's people at his ranch in Jupiter, Florida approached our management team with the idea of building a broadcast studio in his gift/souvenir store, and  relaying the signal back to our main station, and then out across the South Florida airwaves.  I was in the right place at the right time. My daily routine consisted of driving to the main radio station in the morning, picking up commercial and music logs for that day, then driving twenty some miles up the Florida turnpike to the ranch studio to do my show. I interviewed lots of recording artists as well as celebrities-many of them friends of Burt's. One time, he showed up at the studio to do an interview with me and you would never have known you were talking to a very big movie star.  He was very real and gracious with his time. Here's a postcard I held on to through the years from his gift store. R.I.P. Burt. And thanks for being so kind.


Dolly Parton and working 9 to 5

 It was great seeing one of my favorites being honored on the recent Grammy Awards. Dolly Parton was joined on stage with other singers who helped salute her amazing career. Naturally, part of the song medley included her mega-hit "9 to 5".  I told a relative of mine recently that when you work full-time (or close to it) in voice overs, if you're looking for a 9 to 5 job, this business isn't for you. You'll have rush requests at  all hours. Being available to record is key. Not to mention, with overseas clients, you're dealing with different time zones.

Dolly is such a smart business woman. A large amount of her wealth comes from successful enterprises, including her fun, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee amusement park-"Dollywood." And royalties from songs she has written like"I Will Always Love You." 

Back in my former life as a radio deejay, I played tons of Dolly's songs. Always good stuff.
An American treasure. Still going strong at 73.

Congratulations on your long, successful career Dolly! Bravo!

Monday, October 7, 2013

San Francisco-a great place to be! (and play)

I consider myself very fortunate to live and voice here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Such diversity, things to do, wonderful weather (OK, it can be downright chilly in the city during the Summer so bring a jacket or a sweater), and I've met some fantastic folks at recording sessions who also do voice overs for a living-voice overs for a living, not a hobby. I'm up and at 'em every morning at 5AM PST and my day generally wraps at 2PM PST. But when it's time to close down the studio for the day, I'm out the door to enjoy all that this area has to offer. Golf is one of my favorite things to do and for the last nine months or so I've been coaching a twenty something, very talented basketball star. His natural ability has allowed him to quickly become a good golfer and I'm amazed how far he hits the ball. And the coaching aspect works wonders for me too at the end of a busy day.

As mentioned in another post, if you're planning on visiting San Francisco, make sure you get your tickets early for things like the Alcatraz tour. Showing up same day is no guarantee you'll be able to go.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

e Learning!

Newbies to the VO industry are often surprised to learn that around 90% of all voice over work is
non broadcast stuff-on hold messages, corporate video narration, audio book narration,
website audio, and learning voice overs. Much of my work consists of voicing learning projects. Many of the scripts that come to me are quite lengthy and detailed. After the recording comes the editing. In many cases, you'll be labeling and separating hundreds of files. I totally enjoy this segment of VO as I am helping others to learn.  And there's a large amount of learning narration work to be had. Online learning, mobile learning, and e Learning is exploding by the second.

While newcomers to this business may be attracted to the more "glamorous" jobs like TV and radio commercials, overlooking non broadcast voice over can be very costly. The key to voicing learning narrations is to speak naturally, clearly, understand key words or phrases to emphasize,
maintain a pace of speech that's not too fast nor overly slow throughout the learning modules and remembering that learners will need a bit of time to absorb what you're saying. Former radio deejays most often will find learning narrations to be challenging as everything in radio is generally said very fast. Slowing the pace of speech down, but not sounding robotic, takes some practice and self awareness. I aim for a fairly conversational tone.

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog. E learning narrations have been keeping me very busy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Award winning film I voiced

A few years back, I was called upon by producer Donald L. Vasicek to voice a very somber narration for "The Sand Creek Massacre." Don emailed me a few days ago telling me it had won numerous prestigious awards and is being distributed in North America and Asia. It has played at festivals in all states and recently was catalogued in the Smithsonian Institution. Needless to say, I was thrilled and very proud to be part of this. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Some videos I voiced for a German agency

The Internet has opened up many doorways for me and other voice talents. Going global with my voice overs has been very satisfying. I recently voiced a series of videos for Conrad Caine, a very large, international agency headquartered in Munich. Here's a link to one of the videos.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The 10 Most Irritating Phrases List

I'm posting this on a Sunday morning with "Meet the Press" on in the background. Once again, I cringe throughout the broadcast as politician after politician (and commentator) keeps saying "At the end of the day..." Is there some law that I missed that says on any nationally televised political show the phrase "At the end of the day" must be said at least 100 times? It got me to thinking, so I Googled "10 Most Irritating Phrases" and lo and behold, "At the end of the day"claimed the top spot according to an Oxford survey. Here's a link to the list.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remembering my friend Ed McCarthy of CNN radio

What a shock I got the other day. Having some down time between voice over jobs, I Googled the name of a friend I use to work with at WIRK in West Palm Beach, Florida. Don't know why, but I had him on my mind and was curious if he was still in the business. Like me, Ed had traveled around the country from station to station and landed a great job at CNN radio in the mid 80's. Back when he worked at WIRK, he was our news director. But he was also more than that to me. He was my golfing buddy, one of the funniest people I've ever met, a darn good broadcaster, and every year he would invite his co-workers from the radio station to come by his apartment for out of this world corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. A real character with a huge laugh. When I did my Google search, it indicated he had passed away back in 2009 at a hospital in Georgia. We had not been in touch for a very long time-I continued my career in radio and then voice over, and he became a national radio correspondent at CNN Atlanta.

I'll always remember the great times we had and how I was with him on a par 3 golf course in Florida one afternoon when he made a hole in one and fell down on the grass, laughing his rear end off. He hit the world's biggest slice ball off the tee. And he used a fairway wood to make the hole in one on a VERY short hole. Most average golfers would have used a nine iron. The ball did its usual wicked slice routine and fell in the hole, much to our amazement.

R.I.P friend. Thanks for the laughs and cool memories.





Sunday, November 6, 2011

The free online talking dictionary of English pronunciation- Howjsay

Lately I've been voicing some very technical medical scripts. One of my favorite sites to go to for audio pronunciation is Howjsay. It's pretty thorough. Some of the words I've been voicing are:

Phenylacetylthiocyanate
Tetramethylazodicarboxamide
alkylisothioureas

These kinds of words can be challenging to even an experienced voice talent. Making them roll off the tongue smoothly is key and may require multiple takes until it sounds natural. Long medical words are often several words strung together so you have to kind of break the word down. Like the word "alkylisothioureas" above. (alkyl-isothioureas). Howjsay can be very helpful in actually hearing the word pronounced, or a word within the long word.  Check out the site here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Craigslist, voice over and the lure of "easy money"

Recently I received some interesting emails from voice talents in response to a post I put on Craigslist. Essentially, I was warning newbie, or simply inexperienced voice talents, to be very careful about responding to ads for voice over work. When someone puts in their ad that it's a quick and easy job, I can feel my blood pressure rising. If the craft of voice over is so easy, then why isn't everyone doing it? (Scroll down the blog in a bit and read "So you want to do voice overs?" for a humorous take.) Most of the ads for voice over work on Craigslist are way below industry standards regarding pay and some even offer no pay with the proverbial dangling carrot of possible future work, or copy and credit. Here's an actual ad posted on Craigslist casting for voice talent. Take a look. This was posted under New York Craigslist jobs. I've altered nothing including the misuse of capital letters.

"Director in search of Voice Over Actress for Great looking Short film tomorrow in mid town studio bet 3-5p. The Original actress is unavailable and we want to release this within the month. We are looking for a youthful ( mid 20's ) and sexy voice. We have a great post house ready to let us do a few hours ( which should be more then enough). The movie is 90% done. Only missing V.O and color correction. This is for credit and $50. Please respond with headshot, voice sample and contact info


it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Compensation: $50"

Let's break this ad down and look at the specifics.

This voice seeker wants a quality voice but is offering a "whopping" $50 for two hours of time. Also, if all they need is a "youthful, mid 20's, sexy voice," why are they requesting a headshot? The ad says nothing about the actress also being on camera-it simply refers to a voice. BIG red flag. In addition, a nice looking 20 something female should be very wary about going to someone's studio alone. Bad news scenarios are rampant about Craigslist predators.

I understand that inexperienced voice talents might be desperate to land some work, but in my opinion, the majority of Craigslist ads for voice talent need to be reviewed very carefully. In the ad above, they promise "copy and credit." My question to them would be, what makes you think that your copy is something that's going to be so special that I would want to include it on my demo reel or VO resume? Another dangling carrot.

If you're an inexperienced voice talent or someone looking to explore this business, feel free to contact me for some solid input. I'll be happy to assist you. No charge.

In all fairness to Craigslist voice seekers, I have landed a few decent jobs from Craigslist, but those were few and far between.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Have you voiced anything I would know?"

It happened again yesterday at my bank. I had a check come in from a first time client that I was not able to deposit at the ATM so I went inside. I was standing in a very long teller line at Bank of America, when a customer rep asked if anyone had just a direct deposit-no cash back transaction, which mine was. So, she pulled me out of line (Yippeeee!) and we went to a service station where she handled the details. I told her for whatever reason the check was not able to be processed at the outdoor ATM.

At one point, she asked me what I do for a living. I told her that I do voice overs for TV, some radio, but LOTS of non broadcast stuff for websites, corporate videos, e learning narrations and the like. She then asked me a question I usually get when folks find out what I do for a living- "Have you done anything that I would have heard, or that made you famous?" Of course, I always chuckle inside a bit when I get asked this as it's hard to know what people have heard. I told her that I had voiced four TV spots that aired nationally on the Game Show Network in support of a show called "Think Like a Cat" that she might have seen and heard. (I have one of the spots posted in the video section on this blog.) I went on to tell her that I voice many different genres of voice over, much of it non-broadcast stuff. People are sometimes surprised to hear that roughly 90% of all voice over work is non broadcast-it's a huge part of the VO pie. (Audio book narration has exploded). Those just learning the voice over craft tend to want to gravitate toward the more glamorous stuff like TV commercials and animation voice. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you ignore all the opportunities that abound in non broadcast work, you'll be missing out on a lot.

Another thing I get often is "Oh,that's cool!' "C'mon, do some voices!" I politely decline
and hand out a business card with my website address where my online demos can be heard. Hate to be a party pooper, but...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

So how much do voice actors really make?

So, I was enjoying my morning coffee and newspaper on a Sunday at one of my favorite restaurants here in Castro Valley when I came upon the Parade Magazine insert. This particular issue was billed as their annual "How much do they make ?"survey. I've sometimes had folks ask me if the money is good for doing what I do. My initial response is it depends how accomplished you are, what niche of voice over you excel in (or don't), whether you voice full time or treat it as a hobby, how you structure your rates, whether you're a union or non union voice actor, etc. As you can see, there are lots of variables.

With a natural curiosity to see if this issue of Parade had voice actors listed, I opened the pages to find they did in fact have a listing for voice actors. The voice actress they showed from New York, New York made a "whopping" $10,000! My immediate reaction was this must be a typo. No offense to this woman, but you have to try really hard not to make more than $10,000 per year if you have decent voice acting abilities. I know non union voice actors who are making six figures. And we're not talking about celebrities paid large amounts of money to voice a commercial. We're talking people whose names and faces you would never know. My next thought was, "OK, well this is what this particular voice actress makes per year, and she might be voicing part time, but it is not a true indicator of what the average income of most voice actors is."

So my answer to "How much do voice actors make?" is a lot... and sometimes, not a lot, depending upon many variables. How's that for a vague answer? Like any of these so called salary surveys, you have to take the information with a grain of salt.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shifting gears

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges any voice over talent faces who works alone from a home project studio is being able to make the necessary adjustments throughout the day to give a particular piece of copy the read it needs. My day starts very early, 4-5 AM PST, as I have East Coast clients who come to me on an almost daily basis (Hello Comcast New York/New Jersey!). I tag a fair amount of TV spots and on air promos for them. So, they might come to me needing a very uptempo tag  for a  Monday Night Football sponsorship. Then I'll have something else hit my email that calls for a very deliberate read, such as e learning where the copy needs to be voiced rather slowly, so the learner can digest what's being said. After that, an audition comes in that requires a whole different pace and feel. So, it's important to take a breath between jobs and really try to refocus. It's part of effective self directing. All day long you're shifting vocal gears if you voice a wide variety of scripts. Sometimes just opening up the door and walking outside in between jobs for a moment helps to clear your head for the right read. When you're super busy, it's easy to forget to do this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Thanks for calling!"

When I lived in North Carolina a number of years ago, I use to drive over the border three times a week to Muzak headquarters in Ft. Mill, South Carolina and voice countless on hold messages. (Yes, Muzak does a lot more than just produce elevator music.) I was one of many voice talents who would drop in throughout the week to voice from a VO booth. We had an audio engineer down the hallway who would roll scripts on a monitor in front of us and capture the on hold messages for editing and formatting later. As voice talents, our role was to come in and voice as many two-three paragraph scripts as we could in an hour. This required very good "cold reading" ability. That is to say, we didn't have a chance to see the scripts before the session, so you had to be good at voicing on the fly. If you made a mistake, you'd simply revoice the line and move on;the fix would be done in editing. There was a HUGE premium put on voice talents who could whiz through the scripts and voice say, 35-45 separate messages in an hour.  We were paid a decent hourly rate and the work was relatively stress free with nominal direction. 

Phrases like, "You're call  is important to us," "Thanks for holding...we'll be with you in a minute," and "While you're waiting, did you know...?" have been the norm for many years with little change. Of course, many folks hate to be put on hold or get caught up in an on hold hell of sorts as they feverishly push buttons to be connected to a live, breathing, human being.

I've had a few funny experiences over the years when calling businesses. Recently, here in California, I called an online auto parts supplier to follow up on an order I had placed through their website. It was very early morning and I received an hours of operation, on hold message. ("We're currently closed, but our hours of operation are from..."). I heard the voice and thought, "Boy, that guy sounds a lot like me," when it dawned on me it WAS me! Having voiced many on hold messages it's easy to lose track and some can run for quite a while before needing to be updated.

Another time, a producer/client friend of mine emailed to tell me he was with friends in the middle of a California desert getting some gas when he heard my voice overhead at the gas pump beckoning customers to come in the convenience store to get a Slurpy or cup of freshly brewed coffee. He said it kind of freaked him out as my voice came out of nowhere and he told his friends, "Hey, that's John Miles. I hired him to voice for me." This type of messaging is what is known as "overhead." You hear these messages in stores all the time.

  Many voice talents stay away from on hold work. I still enjoy it. Part of the challenge is to combine a conversational read with some enthusiasm without sounding cheesy.