Saturday, March 12, 2022

Ditch the headphones...sometimes

Here's a simple way to make your voice-over reads more natural sounding; take your headphones off when you record. The problem with wearing them in your home studio booth is, too often, voice talents get use to listening to their own voice in the headphones as they record.  I've been taking my headphones off for years and have never regretted it. Especially for those jobs where they want a conversational tone, like e Learning. Overloading your ears with sound is not going to be beneficial.

Now, that said, sometimes you must wear them. If you're at a recording session, you'll need to have them on so as to be able to hear input from the director who is outside your booth; usually looking at you through glass. You can turn the volume of the headphones down a bit as you read script.

I know. I know! You like the sound of your own voice flooding through your headphones and into your ears when you record. You're comfortable that way. Let me ask you something. What exactly are you listening for when you put on headphones inside your home studio booth? While you stumble and bumble to come up with a legitimate answer, I would suggest you try an experiment; take your headphones off in your recording booth. If you're in love with the sound of your own voice with your headphones on, you'll probably be uncomfortable for a while. Stay with it! Your reads will benefit. 

If you're editing audio, of course, you'll want to have your headphones on to check for unwanted mouth clicks and any other undesirable sounds you can edit out. Sometimes studio monitors will not give you super accurate feedback. With your headphones on while editing, you'll hear things you won't hear on your monitors.

A good set of headphones is a must for any studio. I use Audio-Technica. But there are a ton of different, quality brands out there. Sony, Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser come to mind. Do some research online before buying. Stay away from "cheap" headphones. Not all are created equal. Over the years, I've used Broadcast Supply Worldwide to buy my studio equipment and have been pleased with the price, quality, and on-time delivery. Here's a link to their headphone offerings.



Monday, March 7, 2022

"Pssst! I have something really cool to share with you"

One of my favorite, top tier, A List voice actors is Scott Rummell; a terrific promo and trailer voice. He's a big league talent you've no doubt heard over the years. A Disney voice, Lee Jeans and much more. He also seems like a very generous and nice guy. (his picture is down below)

Here's a link to Scott in an L.A. studio recording a new commercial demo. Watch the process. Much to learn from this. It runs about 20 minutes. You'll notice the session was "light and breezy." The guy producing the demos is Chuck Duran of "Demos That Rock Studio" in L.A. 

And here's a link to a really entertaining TED Talk Scott gave where he speaks about how he got started in voice acting. Very enjoyable. I highly recommend you watch it. It's truly inspirational and also runs about 20 minutes. If you've been sitting on the fence about getting into voice acting, maybe this will give you the kick in the pants you need. Even if you're not a voice actor, check it out. The power of persistence comes through loud and clear.

                                                                        



Friday, March 4, 2022

How is your stuff doing these days?

 In my early days of radio broadcasting, I was constantly moving to the next opportunity. U-Haul and I were the best of friends. I usually rented the smallest truck. I made it a rule not to hang on to useless clutter that I would have to senselessly move to my next town. Besides, most of the time when they hired you, they'd want you there in days...not weeks.

Which brings me to the fine art of clutter. Some folks are really good at it. I don't have a lot of that here at my place as I've never been a "things" person. I'm allergic to malls. A few months ago, I went down to my carport storage, unlocked the door for the first time in years, and saw a few big Tupperware containers which I had forgotten I had down there. Much to my surprise, there was a shoe box crammed with cassette tapes of my old radio shows. I took the box out and went back upstairs to my living room where I could see dates on the cassettes; some of them dating back to the mid 80's! Not having a cassette player, I called a friend who had one, and she gladly loaned it to me. Playing the tapes of my early radio shows was kind of weird. Some of my on-air antics were cool; others I was less impressed with. Time gives you a whole different perspective. I even had a recording of a couple of actors who visited my studio for a live, on-air interview from "Greater Tuna," a very funny show featuring Joe Sears and Jaston Williams; a comedic play set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, the "third- smallest" town in the state.

After listening, I was going to put the cassettes in a closet, when it occurred to me, I would probably never be listening to them again. All of this was from my past, and it had very little sentimental value to me. I took the entire box, cassettes and all, and threw them in the garbage can for Monday morning pickup. See how easy that was? Something clicked, and it made me feel good. 

I went through my closet and found like new pants and other clothes I will never wear. Off  they went to my neighborhood Goodwill. "Ahhhh...much better now." 

 I was reading a book by one of my favorite British authors, Stuart Wilde, where he speaks about decluttering our lives and making way for the new and the good that's coming to you. I'm a firm believer. Less, not more, is the way to go.    

Some people just can't imagine throwing their useless junk away; they seem attached to it. And I'm not talking about hoarders.  Even though they've never touched it in years, there it sits taking up space and collecting dust.  And God forbid they should have to move. That'll take days to relocate all the stuff they never use. They'll have to rent out that jumbo sized U-Haul you see around town to get all that junk to a new location; and beg family and friends to help them move all that crap stuff into and out of the truck. Insane, I say. Get rid of it already! You'll feel much better. And "lighter." Out with the old...in with the new!

                                                                  



Wednesday, February 23, 2022

"The Wonderful World of Water"

OK, just keeping it real. I have a confession to make.  I HATE WATER!

Maybe the all caps is a little too dramatic. I don't really hate water, but I often forget to drink enough of it throughout the day. According to "Culligan Water"...

"The average amount of water you need per day is about 3 liters (13 cups for men) and 2.2 liters  (9 cups for women)" 

No  doubt, it's really important to stay hydrated throughout the day. And as a voice actor, it's especially important to get your recommended amount to keep the vocal cords from drying up or getting hoarse. If you're heading out to record a session, don't forget the bottled water! And start drinking water well before the session. If you're recording in your home studio, same thing applies. Water, water everywhere...

I've long considered water taste to be bland and boring. I know there are a gazillion choices at the store to remedy that. I like to put a little lemon juice in mine to step it up a notch.  Trust me, I'm not dissing  water. It's a wonderful thing when you think about all the ways we use water. I'm grateful. Very. In some parts of the parched world, it's gold. As I write this, I have an annoying, dripping, shower head in my bathroom. I tried a new shower head, and still,drip, drip, drip. Time to make a phone call. Water's been VERY good to plumbers, hasn't it? I was told it's not the shower head that's causing the dripping,it's a seal behind the hot/cold handle that has worn out and needs to be be replaced. My father, a very talented man, once went on a wild rant in our little country house in Ohio when he tried to do some plumbing in the basement and  had a mega meltdown;swearing all kinds of unmentionables because he was having little success making the repair.  No doubt, water can be tricky and has a mind of its own. No thank you. I'll leave the more "involved" plumbing to the pros.  

OK, where were we? 

Here's a cool fact.

"The average person could survive about a month without food. But only a week without water."

As voice actors, it's important we protect our voices. Lose your voice; lose money.

 So, here's to drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated throughout the day.

Gulp, gulp, gulp.Where are my lemon wedges?


Monday, January 31, 2022

Her million dollar voice is SO familiar

If you watch live awards shows you have heard her voice announcing the presenters, guests and such. Her name is Randy Thomas. She began making money with her voice in radio years ago, where women were largely pushed to the side. Men ruled and women played second fiddle. But Randy broke those barriers. If you're a female voice actor, you have Randy to thank, as she kicked in the door for those that followed her.

No doubt, live announcing a huge event like the Oscars with millions watching,would be nerve- racking. But she's got it down; a real pro. 

Here's a link to a very brief piece about her I found online speaking from her home studio. 

                                                                 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

"Leave that jewelry at home!"

Pretty much common sense, but if you're going in for a recording session, leave your jewelry at home, or at least put it in your handbag. Loose fitting jewelry can make a bit of noise and  microphones are very sensitive. The producer and audio engineer will not be pleased with you if you bring unwanted sounds to the recording session.  I have a guided meditation I listen to and at some points you can hear the narrator's wrist bracelet in the background. Not good. OK, keeping it short and sweet on this post.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

"Do I need a website to be a competitive voice actor?"

Those just jumping into the voice over world may wonder whether a voice over website is a must. Some may think it costs too much money to have a website. I believe if you DON'T have a website, you're potentially losing money/business. A well thought out website is your online "storefront." If done right, it gives you credibility. It's a place where potential customers can go to listen to your voice demos, read testimonials (powerful), see actual examples of your voice over work through videos you've recorded for, tells folks a bit about your background, answers questions with an FAQ, and contains details about how to reach you.

By the way, it's not expensive to have your website up on the Internet. You generally pay a quarterly dollar amount. The companies who host websites are very competitive. Do some investigating. You might be surprised.

I won't speak for others in the voice over industry, but I will give you my experience with my website. When I decided to leave my on-air radio career hosting a midday show in Charlotte about 15 years ago to go full-time with voice over, I was fortunate to have the help of our radio group webmaster. I told him I needed a "basic" website put together so I could land voice over jobs. He graciously agreed to meet me at the station on a weekend (a good thing--no distractions in the building) and he put the website together, as I looked over his shoulder. At one point he asked me what I wanted to call my website--"John Miles Productions" Or, "John Miles Creative." I suggested we go with "productions" as it was a bit more all inclusive. So, "John Miles Productions" was born. That website gave me confidence to approach people for work. I was able to send out marketing emails to production companies and direct them with a link to my voice demos. Back then, things were a bit different; I would sometimes receive an email or phone call from someone I had just emailed my information to same day. "Good timing John. I have a voice over job you might want to do." None of this would have been possible without a website.

I highly recommend hiring a competent web designer to create your website. Some voice talents like to put their own website together (e.g."WIX"). In my opinion, that's OK, as long as it looks neat and clean and contains the information I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. And by all means, there is no need for flash and tons of bells and whistles. The people who may hire you want TWO things from your website. They want to hear your voice demos, and they want to know how to reach you. Put your contact information (i.e. email and phone number) where it's easy to see. Of course, same thing for your demos. There's always been a lot of talk in the voice over industry as to whether to put a picture of yourself on your website. I've taken the "no picture" route. Some feel it's a good thing to have a picture as people like to see who they're dealing with. I'll leave that debate to others. I don't want people judging me by what I look like. I want them judging me by what I sound like. Some voice talents are in their 70's, or even 80's, and they sound much younger. The great, late, narrator Peter Thomas' career spanned 7 decades! He was 92 when he died and still had narration job offers! (You no doubt heard him on TV many times. A real legend. "Forensic Files" was one of his shows.)

After putting off a much needed voice over website update for way too long, a very talented nephew of mine from Ohio put together a wonderful website for me. He did an outstanding job, and I'm proud to have a website I can send potential customers to where they can hear demos and read about my background. A HUGE thank you to him. I have absolutely no eye for website design, and he took copy I provided and made everything work. 

So, the answer to "Do I need a website to be a competitive voice actor?" I believe is... YES. I know there are voice talents who get work from so called "pay to play" websites like Voice 123 and Voices.com and do not have their own website. They use those sites to upload their voice demos and provide background information. That's fine. I just know from past experience that a personal website is a definite plus. I think that those who ignore it as a very effective marketing tool, do so at their own peril.  A website gives you "presence."

Here's a link to my new voice over website. It allows me to put everything in ONE place. And it looks professional. It gives the potential customer/client the impression that I'm a pro and ready to go to work. And that's a good thing.



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

"This copy stinks!" (A warning for you). And an Orson Welles drop by

 I don't think there's a voice actor who's been around for a while who hasn't received copy from clients/producers that lacks proper punctuation, has misspelled words, or awkward phrasing. 

It's very frustrating for you, as the voice talent, because your goal is to make your read "sparkle." But that little voice inside your head says "I'm never going to be able to make this sound professional. Just too many errors." 

When in a recording session with a client, although tempting, never make fun of or mock the copy. The person directing you may have written it! He or she may not appreciate your on the spot critique. They may think it's a masterpiece.You feel otherwise. Keep it to yourself.

The best thing you can do is to roll with the flow. But you might want to politely say, "Where it says _____, do we want to say_____ ?" Defer to the client. They're paying you. If you're recording from your home studio without direction, you might want to email the client and ask about certain things before you start recording. Sometimes the client is "English second language" and they may be counting on YOU to smooth it out. This is common with overseas companies.

When I lived in Carolina, I use to drive down two times a week to a well known music service company that also produced on hold messages galore. I would sit in a booth for an hour and read message after message as the audio engineer captured my voice over in another room. Almost every session, there was  a piece of copy that would come up that looked like no one had bothered to proofread it. More than a few times,  I had to bite my lip. (And I have broad lips. Ouch!) Sometimes, the audio engineer would chime in with "Let's try it this way..."

Now, because you've read this post this far, I want to share with you an entertaining, old school recording session with the late, great, actor/producer/director/writer Orson Welles of "Citizen Kane" and "War of the Worlds" fame. He was recording a voice over for frozen peas and burgers, and to say that he was critical of the copy would be a huge understatement. Listen to how his anger builds with every mistake, and then he explodes before walking out of the session. It's a true classic. And funny too! Here's the link.

Friday, January 14, 2022

"Let's Get Ready To Rummmble!" (No, this is not about your family's last holiday get together)

 Years ago, I received an email from a gentleman who wanted me to record a TV commercial for him. As I remember, it was for a small/medium sized market. I asked him to email me the copy before I committed to recording it for him. I immediately noticed the copy contained the phrase "Let's Get Ready To Rumble!" I had read somewhere that the phrase had been trademarked by boxing announcer extraordinaire, Michael Buffer. If you watch sporting events, you've no doubt heard his over the top announcement at the beginning of a boxing match.  (Pic down below). He gets between $25,000 to $100,000 to say those five words, depending on the match! Yep. How sweet is that? He had the phrase trademarked back in 1992, and since then, it's been used in movies, TV shows, video games, Washington political hearings and beyond. (OK. I made that last part up, but it IS fitting).  In fact, it's estimated he's made $400,000,000 to date off the phrase. He and his company vigorously enforce the legal use of it.  He's actually made more off the licensing than ring announcing. 

Back to that customer who wanted me to say the phrase in his TV commercial. I emailed him back and clued him in. He had no idea it had been trademarked.  We went with some variation of "Let's Get Ready To Rumble!" and all was well.

This reminds me of the Wendy's TV commercial back in the 80's with Clara Peller-the onscreen, feisty, grandma known for her gripe, "Where's the Beef?!" Humorous, to say the least. Back then, the phrase caught wildfire and was being heard and seen everywhere; including on a huge bunch of tee shirts. Wendy's trademarked it back in 1984. I interviewed Clara on my radio show when I was on in West Palm Beach . She and her manager son were in town that weekend for a Senior Olympics event. Clara was extremely hard of hearing, and the story goes that when she was taping a TV commercial, with a few other grandmas standing behind a counter with her, a producer hidden down below tapped her on the ankle to bark those famous words "Where's the Beef?!" right on cue.

Now all you and I have to do is come up with another catchy marketing phrase that everyone wants and trademark it. I'll give you 50 percent. You in? 

                                                                 


                                        

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.



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

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. 


                                                                 


                                                                           

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 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.

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. 

                                                 



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, 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, 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. 


                                                             



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. 


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.


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" i...