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As much as we all love being involved in the arts whether it be acting, voice over, theater, music and such, we all need to create a life outside of these things to do the following:
1) To avoid becoming what is known as “an acting robot”. An acting robot is a term that is sometimes used to describe someone who only lives for acting and that is it. This tends to create boring people with no interesting characteristics that they can bring to characters. I live by the Vincent Price quote “A man who limits his interests limits his life” for a reason.
2) Entertainment can be a lot of hard work that takes dedication, patience, persistence, practice and a damn good work ethic to keep seeking work or to be involved in projects opening your mind to new and amazing things.
What I am going to do is write from time to time things I like to do outside of voice over and why I do these things. Sometimes great things can come out of the little things I like to be involved in. It can give me inspiration, a new set of skills I would of never thought about having (which could lead to certain roles) and a sense of balance. Before I get into the first thing I like to be involved in, here is a little story to show why I need this particular hobby/way of life to keep myself balanced.
It was around Year 12 and I seemed to have it all, a girlfriend, a job, a school band (nothing with brass instruments, rock stuff) in which we played some pretty awesome sets and also a proper originals band that I was working on putting together. My now ex-girlfriend used to be my drummer for this band (I guess I had a bit of a John and Yoko phase at this point when you are both musicians in a band together) and all of this stuff I mention is where it all began to fall apart. First off, I got frustrated working in a supermarket and just quit entirely so I could just get through Year 12. My girlfriend broke her arm just before my examination performances so I had to get one of the back up singer’s boyfriends to play drums for us and after it was all said and done, I went through a rough patch where my girlfriend and I weren’t communicating all that much so I decided to break it off. Oh I forgot to mention that I was in another band in which we played a lot of covers, trying to write originals but I was fired from said band because of “timing problems”. I lost the first band which I had founded with a few friends but they decided they did not want me (hell, they didn’t even tell me I had these problems which I could of been happy to fix). After I broke up with my now ex girlfriend, I almost destroyed my band entirely and disbanded the other members (well, they kind of went MIA for most of it and stopped rocking up to rehearsals). I had my studies as a sound engineer to look forward to at this point and my band was being revived by a close friend of mine who became my lead guitarist and the rest fell into place. I had a band once again which we started doing shows and it was an exciting time in my life. Towards the third year of my studies, I was given an ultimatum to either stay in the band or leave the band because of some record deal bullshit that fell through anyway and pretty much tried to destroy the bonds we had built.
A lot of things were not going right for me at this point, it left me with mixed feelings, most of them anger. Every time a band fell apart (and I tried to find new bands), it would just not work. I was starting to worry that a career in music was not going to work for me at all and I started having doubts about my life’s direction. It was not until halfway through my second or third year at JMC that after watching cartoons on Youtube, an idea sparked that I should pursue voice over because 1) I loved animation and 2) It was something to do with my voice. Hell, if singing in a band did not work out, surely being a voice actor would make me happy. I chose to go into business for myself, work my own hours. When I started to pursue acting, I landed a car commercial which I am still proud to have on my resume. I’m sorry if I seem to go off in all sorts of different directions but I assure you, I am getting to the main point of what this hobby/way of life was that has now kept me sane and balanced through the good times and the bad.
I admit it, I am terrible at sports. I even tried a few, Golf, Archery and there was always the sports in school and I know that I wasn’t the most athletic person. Being bad at sports kind of made me feel bad. When my brothers decided to play music, they chose the guitar. I chose piano which later lead to singing. When my brothers played football and basketball, I decided I wanted to try something physical that I would enjoy. There was no way I was going to be involved in any team sport and because I was that kid with the glasses and I was not going to wear contacts for any reason.
I looked in the Yellow Pages (you know, that big yellow book people used to find work in), and came across the martial arts section. Around this time, I was exposed to video games such as Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat and enjoyed this genre of games. Sure, I cannot shoot fireballs out of my hands or do anything supernatural but there was something about martial arts that had a certain appeal to my brain. I wanted self confidence and I wanted to feel strong. I had a lot of self esteem issues in the past so this was the turning point in which I would pursue the martial arts. It has been a fair journey but this is how it went all down.
The first style I took up was Tae Kwon Do. I tried out for some classes, wore the uniform and spent hours practicing my punches and kicks. My instructor was very old school, he used to discipline his students by hitting them with a table tennis racket (by the way, that is something you can’t really do in modern martial arts today) and then you had to go do 20 push ups. We had to do leap frog as an exercise and I remember going to leap over this one poor woman and as I executed the jump, my hands on her back forced her to go down which made me fall. I remember my kicks being able to go high, in a round house and in an axe kick. I am not that flexible any more. But there was something about this style that didn’t feel right and in the end before my first grading, I decided to quit.
The second form I took up was Australian Form Fighting. It combined Karate with Wrestling, Boxing and a few other different styles. This was my first entry into very physically intense martial arts training. I had done a couple of classes to see whether I would enjoy it and thought I would give it a go. It got crazy, I was about 12-15 years old at the time and I remember having to wrestle a 19 year old student who lived down the road from me (and at the rank of Brown Belt). I couldn’t budge him, not even once. Also, I started getting the biggest sweat rash from my armpit all the way down the side of my body. I thought this was incredibly stupid and pointless, my impatience striked again and I chose to leave. My Mum was not happy about this and it makes me feel bad when at the time, she was helping pay for my classes and my uniform.
The third style was Kyokushin Karate. If you know me, I love anything Japanese, but a Japanese martial arts style is ancient and there is so much tradition involved. They don’t like to change up their style much and you needed to memorise all these different moves. I started doing this style with a couple of friends and this was a style my Dad and my older brother once took up for a while. Honestly, it felt like Tae Kwon Do again though I remember seeing a tournament (full contact) and I thought it looked impressive. Again, white belt all over again and I chose to leave this one too and so did my friends. I stopped going to martial arts classes altogether because I didn’t really want to make my Mum angry to put me through another class.
Present day, or well starting around October 2010. I was a young adult at this time and frustrated with the previous events mentioned of my band dying off and I had just finished my studies at JMC and wanted to pursue voice over. I had to make a long, hard decision about my choice of martial arts style if I was going to take it up again and promised myself (even though I was an adult anyway) that I would pay for my own classes and take the time to learn a style all the way. I flipped through the phone book again and came across an ad which talked about Filopino Stick Fighting. Ooh, a weapon based style, now this got my attention. I looked through the little ad in the phone book and it also mentioned sticks, staves, knives and street fighting. It also sounds practical, not as strict as some of my other previous styles. I looked up some videos on Youtube and right there and then, I decided to make the move. The style is called Doce Pares Eskrima or Filopino Stick Fighting. Doce Pare is Spanish for 12 pairs and Eskrima means fencing. I rang up by going through the website and talked to this instructor. The instructor (Glen Eden) told me that if I was to pursue this style, that I would need to learn something from each class or else it would be a waste of time. Wow, this guy was serious, I could not argue with that. I went in for my first class on October 2010 and holy crap, this style was intense. I watched as other students were spinning their sticks in the air with such ferocity and grace and executing moves that made my jaw drop. I was a bit on the unfit side and this first class took it right out of me. The next day, I felt every part of my body ache. This went on for a couple of weeks but I was persistence and took the time to learn the style. This persistence paid off as I wanted to be the best that I could be. Glen only made students go up a belt when they were ready and not by the curriculum whilst Josh (my current instructor) followed the curriculum but being an instructor black belt had to make the call when to push up the ranks. The gym moved to Breakwater and I moved to live in a suburb called Highton (only 10 minutes away, convineant). In 2011, I worked day and night, getting fit and perfecting my craft. I was only a white belt but had no belt to show for it. Belts started to get brought back in to make the system in Geelong more unified. I went for my first belt which was Yellow and was very excited to move up in rank. I worked on my techniques and for some reason, decided to drink Jameson all night. I went the next morning for my grading, slightly sluggish but still able to fight. I was hitting the pads in the street fighting part of it like no tomorrow and demonstrating my form work. My instructor was impressed that I put in the hard yards and thus, I became a yellow belt. Many months later, I was suprised to learn that I was ready to go up another rank, Orange belt. I had to demonstrate my kicks, punches and form work with the sticks once again. Hard into the training, I wanted to push myself physically so I was able to earn this belt. In just one year, I went up two belt ranks. I also participated in my first stick fighting tournament in which I was overwhelmed instantly. I lost my first two matches in single and double stick. Due to numbers, I managed to rank third place in double stick.
To not be overly lengthy on the last paragraph, today was an amazing day. The second tournament, my goal, to win a match and have fun. I had been training for months on end and I wanted to at least have something to show for it. If you have ever seen stick fighting, we wear suits of armour with a helmet (similar to that of a fencing mask or Kendo mask but more cage like), lots of protective gear for elbows, arms, legs and boxes (for your crotch hahaha). Stick Fighting is more like a game but sometimes when those strikes hit, you can sometimes feel them if you are not careful. Hard and fast the sticks come at you and you have to demonstrate that you can get in many hits, defend and move around to please the judges. You are scored on how many hits you make, your movements, defense and get awarded points for disarms. Three disarms means you win regardless of how many rounds you have. Each round is one minute with a thirty second break in between. Three rounds, a fourth elimination round if the two of you break even. My opponent was a tall, slightly large fellow by the name of Kyle. I think he may of been new but he seemed to know what he was doing. As I geared up and ready to go, I made sure to get many strikes in as possible. I managed to move very quickly due to my fitness which began to slow my opponent down as he started to burn out over time. In the second round, I scored a disarm without even knowing it (this happens a lot more than you think, to disarm, you must do so in one swift movement). By the third round, I was mixing up my strikes (you cannot perform the same strikes over and over, they must be in combinations). The timer went off and the three rounds ended. I stood there, hot in my suit of armour waiting for the announcement. And then, a smile came across my face when I heard “By unnanimous decision, the winner, Kyle” and my hand was lifted as you would for a boxing or MMA match. It was a proud moment because for the first time ever, I WON! I won a match! This was a confidence booster. The second match I lost but I was proud to face off against an opponent with a little more challenge. He was quick on his feet and had excellent timing. He went on to place first. But that did not shatter my dreams because I knew I burnt out towards the end even though I scored even with him in the first half of the match.
To sum up my current martial arts history from this time on:
- I have gone up two belts in a year. White to Yellow and Yellow to Orange
- I won my first match in a tournament after having lost twice the previous year proving that I can compete on the same level as these different age groups
You see, martial arts gives me a balance in life. It keeps me physically fit, it doesn’t allow me to gain unneccessary weight, it gives me self confidence, strength, quick reflexes and the ability to detect certain danger. It also controls my anger, yeah I used to be very angry. I know this sounds comic book corny but with great power comes great responsibility. When you are given the tools and techniques to defend yourself, if danger ever occurs, you just need to be ready to face the challenge. I am not a thug by any means, I don’t like people who go around looking for fights. If I want to fight, I’ll do it in a controlled full contact environment. I actually tried some full contact fighting in MMA gear, my jaw was swollen for three days. I had never been in a fight before at this point (yeah I would fight with my brothers but not in the sense that it feels like a simulation of what could happen in a real street fight).
The point I am trying to get across is that I chose to take up martial arts again is because it used to be a big part of my life. It kept me balanced. I have regained that balance and the self confidence I had always strived for. This style could translate to movie roles and I include it as a skill on my resume. And I would say the same to you, do something that doesn’t relate to acting that you enjoy. Why? Because it makes you a more interesting person and gives you something to work with in future acting careers.
So tell me, what do you enjoy doing besides acting? I am still looking at trying new things but apart from acting, music and movies, martial arts is what really gets me ready to rock.
Now if you will excuse me, I wouldn’t mind trying to find where I can practice some Kendo or Fencing in Australia. Or something other than martial arts.
It has been a while since I have written one of these blogs but I have been making sure to get prepared for the new year (well the not so new year now after being a couple of weeks) to get everything moving forward. I find that procastinating and distracting yourself from your real work is counter-productive so I made myself a small new year’s resolution to make sure I do at least one or more productive tasks a day. This mindset has actually kept my focus sharp and I seem to be on track with everything at the moment which is good to know. The downtime between acting auditions and finding voice over work is used for practice, research and listening exercises. The other day, due to the counter-productive laziness, I managed to listen to nine hours worth of Talkin’ Toons podcast material. Before I begin this next section of this blog series, let me fill you in on what I have managed to do to get my voice over work on track:
- Booked some American dialect coaching (you must learn an American accent to do any dubbing work in the US or original animation work)
- Booked in for a new demo recording (a short targeted demo is in the works)
- I bought a digital radio/alarm clock/iPod dock so I can listen to radio stations to research voice over trends
- I have organised my workspace to well… be more of a workspace.
Just doing these little things can make a difference to your working life. It is good to have some down time in between but keeping focused on the tasks at hand makes the journey even more sweeter and the rewards more fulfilling once things begin to happen. And now, the segway into a time in high school when this sort of work ethic had to be done to make a movie in my media class in high school.
Year 12 Media at North Geelong Secondary College, 2007. We were given the biggest assignment for the year, to make a short film with all the trimmings. Various editing techniques, camera techniques etc had to be incorporated to make the best short film we could possibly make. I found out that we had a camera specifically designed for stop motion animation. This let my ideas begin to swell within my brain and I was keen to get something like this happening after previously watching Wallace and Gromit and some other little stop motion films beforehand. Before we could begin any sort of filming, we had to write essentially a whole manual that included the film’s script, storyboards, plot/synopsis, equipment needed and compile it into a typed written assignment. I had to come up with an idea which I didn’t have at first but mucked around with.
Originally, I wanted to make a complete plasticine stop motion film involing a lonely ronin who would walk around temple grounds practicing his sword skills. My teacher however thought it would be too technical and the moment I mentioned “sword”, he instantly thought violence (which he dissaproved of with his strong Christian morals). I had to think a little harder on the idea but then it came to me, I happened to be in possession of some Lego. Suddenly my mind began to come up with this minimalistic, philisophical idea of where the film could go. This movie would be called “Der Plastik Indre” which is translated from Danish as “The Plastic Mind”. It turned out to be a slightly avant-garde piece in which I narrated the entire project with my own voice over (this was before I had even considered voice over as a career). The story was about a small lego man who did not understand his existance. I was inspired by this thought process after watching Neon Genesis: Evangelion which took a similar path when discussing religion and the meaning of life. I created a small diorama that was painted entirely pitch black and then had several more made that included a colourful felt blanket and a pitch white background afterwards.
I sat in front of the stop motion camera, inching every little bit of movement that I could on the little Lego man in front of me. I added a Lego door in which he would travel in between the depths of his mind. It was coming along nicely until my media teacher thought that no one would take the Lego man seriously in this way. I disagreed and continued to film my project (after all, it had been approved) and I was way ahead of my fellow students who were still writing out their scripts and storyboards. I spent a few lunch breaks working on my masterpiece. Being a bit shy and not wanting to make a lot of noise, I had to record my voice over in an open classroom environment and thought people would look at me weird if I was talking to myself. The other problem I encountered during this process was building a soundtrack. Now here is where my sound engineering skills were not completely developed. I played a random melody that consisted of choir voices on my Casio digital piano and put a microphone over my piano to record the sound (by the way, this comes out awful). For the ending music credits, I remember I used one of the demo samples and just let it record. I am not sure if it was copyrighted (because we had to use all original music) but I let it slide.
Finally, after working on my little animation and doing the final process of editing through Final Cut Pro, it was finished! I previewed it several times to many different potential media students for the new year. Some people thought I was on drugs when I made this but I just had a vivid imagination. I still have a copy of this film lying around on a disk but have had trouble converting it to Youtube in the past. If I do manage to uncover it all over again, I may share it with you all :)
This was my first time I had done some voice over work (besides a little thing I did for a radio station for my event organisation group) and really got into the nuts and bolts of stop motion animation. Stay tuned for more as I talk about the cartoons of SBS (the multicultural channel) which I generally watched from my teens till today whenever I get a chance.
Hey everyone, back for another addition of VO/Animation Standouts and Memories. Today I talk about a little TV show that ran for many years on Channel 10 starting at around 7pm every school morning called “Cheez TV”. Cheez TV ran between 1995-2005 so not only did it take up my entire years of Primary School but it ran over into high school as well. Ryan Lappin and Jade Gatt were the hosts of the show who would present cartoon after cartoon. For years, this is the show where a majority of my television viewing as a child would come from (especially in animation). I had to look up the Wikipedia page for all the shows I have watched. I shall list the ones I remember below and talk about them briefly. The aim of Cheez TV was to run against Agro’s Cartoon Connection on Channel 7. Cheez TV had a more broad audience and quickly ran Agro’s Cartoon Connection off the air as Channel 7 decided to opt for an adult morning breakfast show instead. So without further delay, here is what I watched on my television screen every morning over the years (that I can remember):
- The Marvel Action Hour (usually Iron Man and The Fantastic Four)
- The Incredible Hulk
- Spiderman: The Animated Series
- Street Sharks
- Extreme Dinosaurs
- Biker Mice From Mars
- Earthworm Jim
- The Tick
- Zoids: Chaotic Century
- Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog (also seen previously on VHS at one time)
- Dragonball Z
- Sonic X
- Men In Black: The Animated Series
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 Version)
- Dog City (a forgotten gem until I just remembered it then)
- Butt Ugly Martians From Mars
- Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (live action though voiced over)
- Count Duckula
- Inspector Gadget
Some other cartoons were mentioned in the list but I did not put them down because I probably did not watch them. Getting up to school every morning as much of a chore as it was at the time, I could never forget about watching Marvel cartoons during the mid 90s or watching glimpses of Anime such as Teknoman, Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z. Pokemon is memorable because it taught me a lot about popularity and how crazy it can get (even though before it was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). I guess my growing mind saw how much I got into a show collecting trading cards, Game Boy games and even stuff for the Nintendo 64. Dragon Ball Z was shown a lot between 2001 and so on to get my action fix. Although some mornings were a little slow because they could just stand there and talk for an entire half hour and not even fight once. The theme songs from some of these cartoons are incredible, lots of rock and metal stuff with soaring vocals. There was always the one or two odd shows such as Butt Ugly Martians or Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. It was weird to me because having seen the previous incarnations of live action Ninja Turtles, having a female Turtle turned that show up on its head. A short lived series that ran between 1997-1998 from Saban. I used to have action figures from Street Sharks, Extreme Dinosaurs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the first cartoon series), Biker Mice From Mars and Transformers. Some shows were previously shown on Channel 2 such as Rugrats and Count Duckula. Dog City was a show that caught my attention because it was an animated series from the Jim Henson universe. It started out as puppets but became a cartoon series. A very good one at that.
The thing about cartoons from this era was that it was still in the hand drawn territory, full of action, excitement and imagination. Animation has changed over the years and some shows for me are a little hit and miss. What it really comes down to is capturing the imagination. I guess when I looked back on a whole heap of those retro shows on Youtube to relive some childhood, it gave me the spark and the voice (pun intended) to pursue a career in voice over. Plus I was a singer, I used my voice a lot. My music wasn’t doing too well in my late teens to early twenties and my first chosen path (audio engineering) started to make me become unhappy. Although it did give me some great benefits asrecording knowledge has become very important for the self made voice actor.
Many awesome cartoons that filled the Monday to Friday gap of my youth. I hope you have enjoyed tonight’s blog and stay tuned next week as I go deeper into Channel 7 weekend cartoons on a show called Saturday Disney. I talk about shows I used to watch such as Aladdin, Gargoyles and The Mighty Ducks. A future episode down the track to come (or it may be added to the next) is what I call the Channel 2 Toons in which I cover shows such as Bangers and Mash, Banana Man and Daria.
As a reminder, if you wish to discuss or share some shows that you used to watch or can recommend, please feel free to post in the questions box that you can usually find on Tumblr.
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And now for the thrilling conclusion of my second day at Armageddon Expo.
I got up around 6 in the morning again to drive off to see my Dad who I was taking to Armageddon Expo for the first time this year. See, my Dad, much like your father perhaps, has seen a lot in his years from Doctor Who, Star Wars among many other things back in the day. As we took the train up once again to the exhibition centre, we began to have a wonder around the stands checking out the cosplayers for the day, taking photos and what not. As to fulfill my day of learning about voice over in the process, the first panel we attended was hosted by Anime director Kristi Reed. This voice over panel was a little more detailed and featured voice actress Mela Lee to take questions. I decided to expand on my previous questions from yesterday to really get some inside information about making the transistion to doing voice over work in Los Angeles. I was told that my persistence would pay off whether that would be from resubmitting my work to doing part time work at jobs that would help keep me financially stable. Another great way to be a part of the business is to take part in a Walla group, a group of voice actors that provide background noise just as a group of extras fill in the blanks of a movie setting. Since studios are looking for new talent, they suggested that if I was ever over there that I should submit my current demo (or maybe one of an American variation) whilst explaining my current situation and see where I can go from there. Essentially, it is just doing research on the production companies that work on video games, anime, original animation etc.
After that panel had subsided, I began to wonder the stalls again after lunch with my Dad and managed to catch at least the majority of Mela Lee’s jazz band; Magnolia Memoir. Her music is so delicate, beautiful yet intricate to every last little detail. I was also lucky to grab my last free voice actor autograph from Susan Eisenberg, the voice of Wonder Woman in Justice League. Her line was very short so I was lucky to sneak in a quick chat and an autograph to complete my collection. Afterwards to make sure I attended panels I am pretty sure my Dad would of liked (which he did) instead of going to panels that would only benefit me, I decided to make a comprimise and attend the Christopher Heyerdahl panel. Christopher Heyerdahl played the character Wraith Todd in Stargate: Atlantis as well as John Druitt and Bigfoot in Sancturary (two of my Dad’s favourite shows). He was even asked to do a bit of his voice and instantly made the room cheer after quoting the line “John… Shepard…” I took something from an acting perspective from his panel which was something along the lines of this:
“It is the small, hidden details whether they be shock, surprise etc. that truly make a character”.
Straight after, we went downstairs to the Terry Malloy panel. Terry Malloy is famous for being the Dalek leader Davros in one of the old Dr. Who series which I believe was during the Colin Baker years. I am no expert on Dr. Who but I managed to take a few things from his panel. He came across as a friendly Englishman who was able to answer any fan question thrown at him no matter how odd. He even looked at one person in the audience who went to ask a question and instantly went into his Davros voice having a back and fourth with him which went a little something like this:
“I pity you, Davros”
“Do not have any pity for me, DIE!!!”
The occasional switch into his character of Davros earned him much applause. His knowledge on the subject of Dr. Who was astounding since he seemed to be as much of a fan of the show as his own fans were.
I had decided to take my Dad to the two non-voice over related panels because I was planning on going for two days with him to also see a Tron panel as well as a Christopher Judge panel (Christopher Judge was on Stargate SG-1). He could only make the Sunday so this is where the compromise came into the picture. I had missed out on a second panel with Lex Lang and Sandy Fox as well as a special panel from Kristi Reed which involved showing unseen footage of a Yu-Gi-Oh series (a complete new series) that had never seen the light of day. This was all to do things with my Dad because it was technically a birthday gift this year for him.
This however, did not mean that I would be entirely lost on voice over panels. The last two panels consisted of Charles Martinet, the voice actor behind Mario who was very inspiring to listen to as he had such a positive outlook on life. Many Nintendo/Mario related questions were thrown around the room and it was a very entertaining experience. As for the last panel, it was with Kristi Reed who showed the audience blooper reels from Persona 4 and Durarara!! This certainly complimented the end of the day when you get what I call “convention fatigue”.
I highlighted the positives in my previous blog about how much Armageddon Expo improved from this year. I have very little critique to give out but here is what I think needs a bit of work. The third stage, sound wise, could of been handled better. A lot of popping from the speakers when connecting jacks into laptops which in turn set off speakers involving loud buzzing and occasional feedback could of been more clean. This was especially true when you have the guest showing clips from their laptop. This was slightly fixed today but yesterday it was just… annoying.
Overall, I had a great day. I managed to do some networking as well and now all I want to do is just relax, probably get some sleep as well since I need it so badly. Well, I hope you have enjoyed my two blogs overlooking Armageddon Expo. Again, I write this out of personal interest and to show you what you can gain from going to a convention. Conventions are a great place to meet like minded people as well as professionals. If you are a self trading business like myself, I would highly suggest making the time to attend them, learn from them. Some of those workshops if in a different environment would of cost money but this information was free. The only price you pay is your entrance to the exhibition. Sure you might get some merchandise, food, photos, autographs along the way but you can really get your dollar’s worth at a convention.
It seems what I consider a “voice over adventure” tends to be conventions. But any way, welcome to part one of my Armageddon Expo Melbourne trip for 2012. Part two which is the Sunday coming up will be included as well in my double blog post. After my response to the few small things that bugged me about how the event was organised, much had changed over the year and it lead to a much more smoother (well somewhat smoother than last time) day to top it all off. And so here is my story that I wish to share. Keep your eyes out because I will be posting some stuff I picked up during the voice over workshops which are in abundance this year.
I got up at about 6.00am this morning to make sure I was ready to start my day since I decided to take a train this time at around 7.30am to get a better place in line. My place in line seemed no different than my first time at Armageddon but the staff were quick to take tickets and give us wristbands to enter the venue outside of the line. This lead to a streamlined entrance into the venue without having to wait to get right to the front just to exchange your ticket for a wristband at the door. That went a bit wrong last year. As I entered the venue, eager to check out the sights, I was there on time so I had about two hours to kill before the first panel I wished to attend would begin. Here is a list of the things that changed which were for the better when I began my journey through the exhibition.
- Since pre-orders for photos/autographs from the guests were made public around October 1st days before the event, there was a huge decrease in the line that was essentially a giant serpent last year. This made getting around the venue a little easier than before.
- There was more space in the venue this time, it didn’t seem so clogged but that was probably because last year had a fancy gaming stall displaying Batman: Arkham City. Getting a stall probably costs a hell of a lot of money for some people so that could also explain why there was not enough space. Every bit of space was booked out.
- The photo/signing areas were all combined into one corner. The celebrity signing table was where it was followed by the photo booths and soon followed by the animation signing table.
- I did not know about Stage 3 in the venue. I now know where it is. Not sure if I needed to go there but hey that is where I was for most of the time.
Ok now to the really good stuff, the panels! The first panel I attended was a “Be A Voice Actor” panel hosted by Kristi Reed, anime director of shows such as Durarara!!, Blade Of The Immortal and Persona 4. A few of us were chosen to perform a line from a scene from either Vampire Knight or Durarara!! My scene was from Durarara!! I had been teaching myself about the three beeps from the Adventures In Voice Acting DVD that I own (co-directed by Kristi Reed). It threw me off at least three times because after the third beep, you are supposed to begin speaking your line from that point whilst matching the mouth flaps on the screen. Around the 4th take, I did a pretty good job. Little did I know that the first four or five people who chose to go up to do voices were unaware that our voices were being broadcast downstairs due to a microphone error. Around the end of the day, people began saying Stage 3 was cursed because there were some slight technical problems involving the projector. I’ll get into detail on that later. This was followed by some Q&A with Kristi Reed in which I answered two questions followed by straight answers which opened up my eyes to things. Here were the following:
- Question 1: Have many voice actors from overseas made it in the American market? Ok this one was a bit obvious since I have known of British voice actors being heard in Anime or maybe the odd Canadian from across the border but the answer simply is yes. During this answer, she also explained that you MUST have a “general American accent” to do work over in LA or just about anywhere. If there is a time your natural accent is required for a voice, you have it in your repetoire (I will sum up my tips at the end of this blog).
- Question 2: How do you generally hear of voice over work in the States is it by trade papers, advertisements or word of mouth? According to Kristi Reed, if it was through her, generally your best bet would be word of mouth. Voice over is a community. The ones who know other voice actors, have great demos/resumes are usually suggested to audition etc. If you do manage to get a gig through a recommendation, you are pretty much set to be called in or send an mp3 audition (this is a popular trend in the US so having mixing skills will help in this case).
This was followed by a few other questions but the one that struck a chord with me was how long does it take to generally get in to the business. Roughly they say it will take you at least 3-5 years to break in to voice over in the States. There are some other acting kind of things you may require though such as a SAG card which essentially makes it official that you are an actor in the States but that is another topic of discussion later which may be a future blog post.
The second panel I attended was hosted by a voice over couple; Lex Lang and Sandy Fox. Lex Lang is known for his work as Dr. Doom, Batman, Dr. Neo Cortex among many other voices both original and anime. Sandy Fox is known for her work as various characters on The Simpsons, Futurama and various anime projects. This workshop focused on learning about the craft of voice over in which I have many tips to sum up once again at the end of this post because it would just be a crowded paragraph to write it all here. I was so close to having a chance to redeem my previous terrible dubbing effort from before by performing in a walla group but ran out of time after having to wait for the other guys to get their voices matching the timing. They were really kind and apologised for the whole thing. I said it was ok because hey… the animation panel was next!
The third panel was the animation panel. The stage was small last time with very few voice actors but this one bought it on home. The cast included Lex Lang, Sandy Fox, Johnny Yong Bosch, Marianne Miller, Little Kuriboh (Yu Gi Oh Abridged Series), Mela Lee, Charles Martinet (Mario himself… as well as Skyrim’s Paarthurnax), Susan Eisenberg and lastly Kristi Reed the anime director. Questions were presented back and fourth and a lot of them were very positive especially coming from people such as Charles Martinet and Mela Lee who had a real positive outlook on the craft which some of these questions included many rounds of applause. They ditched the microphone stand up front system for the more common staff member running around with a wireless microphone routine. I honestly ran out of questions to ask at this point because I have done a ton of research beforehand so I run out of things to ask. Which gives me an idea for something I will explain later on.
The panels were done and dusted except for the Lupin The Third R18 Blooper Reel towards the end of the day. Before I went to this last panel however, I stood in line for autographs. The line was quite long and this was a true test of patience as usual. The line began to move very slowly one step to two steps as some people had been waiting hours beforehand whilst others were just coming from the animation panel. I kept looking at my phone clock to make sure it did not reach 5pm otherwise I would of had to do this line waiting dance all over again. Luckily, it started to pick up the pace and I managed to get everyone’s signatures (all except Susan Eisenberg who was on a seperate table far down the other end in the Warner Bros. section). This happened to Kevin Conroy as well and it made sense. A top Warner Bros. voice actor for DC based shows and you keep them seperate away from the general anime guests. I didn’t get photos this time because well, they take time. I paid for a few of the autograph prints since they were special ones when generally they are free. But hey, they were all so humble and easy to talk to. Afterwards, I attended a blooper reel panel in which many laughs were had after you hear voice actors mucking up their lines or just being crazy.
A tad drained from the experience, it was well worth it. I plan to go Sunday with my Dad so I may or may not make all of the next set of voice over panels since to be honest, this year’s Armageddon trip was supposed to be for my Dad since it was my birthday present to him. He couldn’t make it today but was happy to go the next day.
Here is the summary of the voice over panels from what I have been taught in order from the panels I attended:
- Voice over in the US takes 3-5 years to break into.
- Voice over is a tight knit community so you will have to get in by word of mouth from another voice actor or send a demo/resume directly to the source (the production company or director if you can manage). Also, help each other out even if you are competing for the same role!
- People overseas CAN make it in voice over in the States. Be prepared to learn a general American accent. Especially on the spot like the hosts had done (by hosts I mean, two guys from a comic book podcast passing around the microphone)
- Dubbing is difficult at first. Be sure to start speaking your lines on the fourth, imaginary beep after the first three beeps. This is an essential skill and talented voice actors make it look easy
- Have an agent and a demo, otherwise freelance with a good demo (this last bit is my advice since I am currently freelancing). A resume is good but that won’t happen until you start gettng some work done.
- mp3 Auditions are big in the US. It only happens every now and again that you will have to travel to a studio to audition for a role. James Arnold Taylor I know essentially works from a home studio.
- The two most important things about being a great voice over artist is not only having a voice but to be a great actor
- To get a role from 1 out of 100 auditions is still a good sign
- To take your voice over auditions to the next level, this is what Lex Lang had to say after asking this question to voice director Andrea Romano and this is what she had to say (I am paraphrasing but this has been summed up in my scribbled notes). The first is to remember who you are speaking to in the script. The second is to know the distance in which you are positioned when speaking to someone and the third is to know your environment in which your character is located.
- In demos, reduce your music levels, keep them short and simple, if you have five voices that sound the same they will be stopped to go on to the next voice actor’s demo and remember to be versatile
Wow, that was a lot to talk about. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s final blog on the event. Whether I make it to the other voice over panels will depend on how my day is going. Although, I still require Susan Eisenberg’s autograph to complete my year. Also, if you are wondering why I am passing on this information, it is because I believe in the philosophy of helping other voice actors get to where they want to be as it may help yourself in the process. If we can help each other, that would be a very positive outcome.
So I was sitting in bed with my laptop last night listening to Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen last night in which he pretty much had done the entire podcast as his character Pinky from Pinky and the Brain. Pinky was taking questions about well… Pinky. I submitted a question via Twitter (@ktiddvoices which is my username, @yakkopinky if you wish to follow the legend himself) and to my amazement about 28 minutes in, I GOT MENTIONED!! Never would my childhood self be able to comprehend that via the power of the internet, not only would I be mentioned by a veteran in the world of voice over but it would be by one that I had listened to throughout my childhood. It felt like meeting Kevin Conroy at Armageddon Expo 2011 all over again except this time, it was another amazing voice actor from another show I used to watch as a child.
Right now, I have the biggest smile on my face. He answered the question, as Pinky, and for those who have met a voice actor and listened to them live or met them during photo sessions and autograph signings at conventions, you know that once they perform the voice in person, your inner fan is just screaming out with excitement. You may also just make a little excited noise just from hearing it. I hope to meet him one day in person but for now, I can’t help but feel amazing after hearing Pinky answer my question (and even get my name right, a lot of people do not get it right for some reason).
If you wish to listen to the episode that my question was answered on, download it for free on iTunes from Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen under the episode “Pinky”. If you love what you hear, why not subscribe as I have highly recommended in a previous blog post? If you just want to listen, go to robpaulsenlive.com and you can find it there. I try to bring you, the reader, as much voice over/animation related content as possible and this story by far in my opinion stands out among my posts.
July 3rd today, Armageddon Expo announces their guests for the year every day of the week until the end of the month. They have been working hard to improve the event and there are some things that made me smile. First of all, to cut down crowd times, they are now allowing pre-purchases of all autograph/photograph tokens weeks before the event. For those who were not at Armageddon Expo 2011 last year, this was one of my frustrating problems that I had to deal with as a first time con attendee. The queue essentially crawled like a giant snake all over the venue. They have also expanded in size and worked out a system to control crowds. I hope to make my photographs a lot more appealing than last year (but I still cherish those fun times with all those amazing voice actors). The reason why I say this is that when it comes to photograph, I tend to pull some crazy faces. Not on purpose but just trying to smile. I also recall making a suggestion to Armageddon Expo via my Twitter account to see if they can bring in a voice over workshop (something Supanova tends to do apparently) and they actually replied with “Done”. Whether they are going to live up to this is the next question but hey here is hoping.
If you happen to be on Twitter by the way, my username is @ktiddvoices. Just general day to day thoughts and opinions on voice over, martial arts, video games etc.
The reason for this particular blog post is because I missed out on this year’s Supanova in Melbourne (where Richard Horvitz and Vic Mignogna were at I believe) and Oz Comic Con has already been and gone. I have missed out on all the events from before 2011 which I still hate myself for missing out on (but I was swamped with assignments in my audio course back then). I look forward to seeing what Armageddon cooks up as far as voice actors go. And just like last year, I will be writing a two part blog post recounting my experiences as part of my voice over adventures.
If you happen to a Australian voice actor or have come from overseas to attend this event, don’t be afraid to say hi. I am happy to share some conversation whilst killing time between waiting for autographs, photos or generally looking at all that this expo has to offer. I do recall seeing a few Australian voice actors whether they were beginners or people in my current position of finding work in the industry. This should be a good opportunity to do some networking if the situation arises. Though we tend to do things for ourselves in a competitive market, sometimes giving each other a push in the right direction will help us further down the track. Make a few long time friends/work buddies along the way.
Apart from pursuing voice over, I have been looking at on-camera work. Training at Mooregrace Acting Studios where I study improv and on-camera acting. This just opens up more opportunities to refine my craft for the future. I’ve been to two show off sessions with two different casting agencies and just about to attend a third one later this week. If you feel as if you are in a voice acting rut, think about this. I was listening to Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen recently in an interview with John DiMaggio (Bender, Jake from Adventure Time) and he mentioned a quote along the lines of (paraphrased) “Even when things start to look sucky or bad meaning no pay or no work, just know that having the opportunity to do what you have always wanted to do will get you through”. If you want the proper quote, I suggest subscribing to Talkin’ Toons but listen to about 12-20 minutes into the John DiMaggio interview. If you are not listening to this podcast, Voice Acting Mastery with Crispin Freeman and VO Minute, now would be a good time to suss them out (as mentioned in a previous blog about recommended voice over podcasts). Free education, it is a good thing.
Good luck on your own voice over adventures and remember: This is a self trading business that requires LOTS of hard work, LOTS of patience and LOTS of persistence (without being annoying to other studios).
Next blog will be… whenever that will be. Don’t forget, I am always happy to take questions. I also reply to comments on Twitter, I tend to have a lot of time on my hands whilst trying to pursue work.
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Before I made the jump to voice over after studying audio engineering for three years of my life, I did have the following preconceptions that I believed in when it came to voice over:
- Voice Over requires you to have a “funny voice” or a “golden voice”
- You don’t need to be an actor to get into voice over, you just need a good voice
I know this seems a bit ignorant at first but this is honestly the first impression most people will have about the voice over industry. True, there are voice actors in the commercial world (in Australia anyway) who are not necessarily trained actors but this blog is going to highlight why it is crucial, hell, even important to be a trained performer before going into the world of voice over. Since I have been doing some research into this industry after watching interviews, listening to podcasts, watching Adventures in Voice Acting, talking to other voice actors via email and taking voice over workshops and currently acting classes, I have gained the understanding that I have heard from every single voice actor say as part of their advice about gaining a foothold in the industry: take acting classes. The majority of voice actors all have a performance background: acting, music, comedy, theater etc. For example, my performance background comes from music after playing in several bands and taking improv classes at Mooregrace Acting Studios.
About two years ago, I made an amateur mistake of throwing a small example of voices for one of my idols: Wally Wingert. I copied a variety of voices from a voice over agency website’s profile of voice actors and sent them off to them to see if I had any potential. It was not a proper voice over demo, just throwing examples of voices. He wrote back to me telling me how what I had shown him needed something more and how my reads sounding exactly the same. After I responded back to his honest, constructive criticism, he wrote a tiny message which read (paraphrased) “All in all, a good first try”. This lesson however made me make sure I would never ever make this mistake in the real world. I had an email conversation with Wally Wingert whilst working on a thesis based on voice over as part of one of my audio assignments. He told me about how becoming actor was a very important step. I was hesitant to ever become an actor because I had studied at JMC Academy and did not wish to study at a University (which a friend of mine suggested I should do). It wasn’t until after my first year of being fresh out of JMC Academy that I spent most of my time volunteering at community radio stations working on voice over. I have built my own self business from the ground up very slowly by taking lessons, compiling different material for my voice over demo, building an official website, making business cards and much much more. The final decision to take acting classes came at the beginning of the last two weeks of the term for Mooregrace last year and I just fell in love with the craft.
Back to the point of why becoming an actor is crucial. I have several reasons of coming to this decision and why I would highly recommend this to you if you are looking to get into voice over. This is based from all of my previous experiences in workshops and even to recent voice over auditions that I have been attending lately:
- As I watched actors in Abbe Holmes’ workshop, my jaw dropped about how flawless and convincing their voice sounds in each of those commercial examples
- Your goal is to create a believable performance, people can hear a fake coming a mile away
- Your competition whether in Australia or anywhere is against the top in the industry who are regularly hired. Strive to be as good as them or even better
- Voice over requires you to think on the spot. This is why I study improvisational acting within Mooregrace Acting Studios. I also study on-camera work and am looking at doing a few TV commercials or score a role in a TV series or film
- The current voice over market is natural voices. This is my specialty until I develop my craft to become more versatile. Work with your strengths. I was told that people who watch commercials turn off when they hear an announcer voice in a commercial. The market still exists, but not as much
- Every voice actor I have listened to in interviews and even those I talked to personally at Armageddon Expo 2011 (idols such as Kevin Conroy and Steven Blum) all talk about the importance of acting. If this is where they are because of acting, why wouldn’t you want to become one?
- Acting is a risky business. It is highly competitive. Not being a trained actor is going to be against your favour. I work another job as a personal assistant which gives me the flexibility to become a voice actor
I hope what I have written helps you on your journey on becoming a voice actor. It certainly is a big part of my life currently at the moment and I am just as inspired to help you as others have helped me before. You cannot treat this industry as a hobby, it is a full time career. At first, it might not be a very profitable career but this is why you need something to fall back on or as I said before, a second job. I wish you the best of luck because despite all the ups and downs I am currently feeling at the moment, I just cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing.
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For me it is the following:
- Look for more voice over work!!
- Practice voice over, warm up and exercise
- Focus on my acting (I am looking at doing some on-camera work to not only improve my acting but just to try something new at the same time). Not to mention if you are a serious voice actor, I highly recommend it. Take classes, I’ve had the professionals tell me this (Wally Wingert (via email), Steven Blum, Kyle Hebert, Paul Eiding, Scott McCord and Kevin Conroy). If you have ever watched a great actor who is very keen on voice over, they stand out immensely! Look, there are some people out there who have had no prior acting training and it can be done but why wouldn’t you want to improve your VO performances by becoming believable. You can tell a bad VO just by how much they are not putting into it. Ok, rant ended, next item on the list…
- Research and study television and radio advertisements
- Listen to voice over podcasts (you learn plenty from the ones I have previously suggested)
- Play video games (considered research if you listen to the voice over close enough, there tends to be a lot of screaming, yelling and things that can burn out a voice or two)
- Watch a ton of classic, cult or sci-fi movies (and anything else in between)
- Watch a ton of Japanese movies (or any Asian martial arts movies such as anything from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or the Ip Man series).
- Watch a ton of original animation
- Watch a ton of Anime (dubbed or original Japanese, one to know which direction the English VO talent has gone compared to the original intention of the original Japanese VO)
- Practice Martial Arts (Eskrima). Generally for fitness, sport and practical self defense. It really gets the lungs going as you learn to control your breathing. And when I can, I drag myself to the gym.
- Read books
- Write books (working on a couple of novel ideas)
We all have our own ideas on what to do during the down time. Just be sure to make it constructive or relaxing.
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