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After a cruisy, relaxing weekend filled with great friends and amazing food (along with the weather as Summer is soon to hit Australia), I feel like writing the second installment of my new mini blog series. Today my blog continues from Channel 9’s “What’s Up Doc?” variety show which showcased all the cartoons from Warner Bros. Nowadays, Kids WB which showcases Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben 10 and including some earlier shows which are now featured on the channel called GO! Back when I was young however, Channel 9 was the station to watch in the afternoon for Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Tiny Toons and of course one of my all time favourites, Batman: The Animated Series.
I had the honour of meeting Batman himself, Kevin Conroy, back in 2011 and he also assisted in answering my question at the animation panel at Armageddon Expo explaining the importance of making brave acting choices when it came to crying or laughter. Every other VA on that panel assisted that year and it also lead to a great discussion with Steven Blum on his career. For those who may not know, I grew up with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is the general term I use but I have since conquered it over the years. Autism has its little bits and pieces on so many levels from OCD to Aspergers (these two tended to be what I would have more of after conquering the severe side of the Autism spectrum). Autism is a learning disability which usually leads to communication problems and “limited interests”. Though for my young mind, one of the things I loved to do, much like any other child would, was to watch cartoons. Though my obsession with cartoons or things of this fascination would soon see me watching cartoons for a majority of my life. I started to have a greater understanding and a greater appreciation after being introduced to Anime formally later down the track. Who knew that watching all of these cartoons would take this shy, quiet boy who did not speak until he was five years old into someone who eventually became an actor looking to go into voice over.
Batman: The Animated Series was one of those amazing cartoons that I don’t see very often in animation. For its time, it was quite dark. There were restrictions on violence but the fact of the matter is, the subject context was dark and it was not sugar coated. At the same time when all your cartoons were bright, colourful and wacky was something that was dark, gritty and overall entertaining. My fascination with Batman lead to me watching some old video tapes I got from my Dad for my birthday but this was an old 60s-70s series. I watched them over and over again because I just loved the fact it was Batman. Coming home after school just to watch Batman and all of these other amazing TV shows is something that I cannot grasp with some of today’s cartoons. Some of them are still interesting for example such as Adventure Time and Regular Show which you would need Pay TV to view but I guess what I have trouble grasping is the change in animation. I talked about how hand drawn was quickly being replaced by 3D or digital animation and it was becoming apparent. Digital animation is much more crisp but I guess the potential is increased and the workload is either more or less demanding.
Animaniacs, Tiny Toons and Pinky and the Brain were some of the most bizarre, wacky and secret adult content filled cartoons I had ever watched. Oblivious to adult jokes back then, I just remember the Warner Brothers and Warner Sister running around and being as outrageous as the Looney Tunes but set in my era of childhood. Not knowing the names of voice actors, I would see the characters bought to life by the likes of Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, Tress Macnielle, Jess Harnell, Frank Welker, Cree Summer and many more. After short pieces of Animaniacs it would move to animated segments from Pinky and the Brain, Katie Ka-Boom, Elmyra and Buttons etc. Tiny Toons was a little less outrageous than Animaniacs but I did catch on to the fact that they studied at a University taught by the veteran Looney Tunes. I would revisit these shows thanks to the power of Youtube bringing my childhood memories roaring back. I was mentioned in the Pinky episode of Rob Paulsen’s “Talkin’ Toons” podcast which made these memories last forever. The question came from my Twitter handle of @ktiddvoices and is about 25 minutes or so into the episode. Hearing Pinky not only say my full name but also answer my question made my inner fanboy squeal with joy. Squealing is probably not the most manliest thing to do but it boggled my mind and just left this incredible smile on my face.
My fascination with animation continued throughout my childhood when Channel 7 would provide cartoons in the morning as well as the afternoon. I find it sad that great animation is replaced with lacklustre “educational” content that is usually low budget and home made and does not give a child the time to relax. Kids WB has this covered however. Channel 7 used to be something grand for a child to enjoy his afternoons after school to relax after a long day. Channel 7 had a show in the mornings called “Agro’s Cartoon Connection”. Agro was a foul mouthed little puppet who was actually quite perverted, oblivious to young viewers (or not depending on how you were raised) but if you ever look at the old footage, you will see why this show stopped altogether. Back in the 80s, sketch comedy shows in Australia were full of somewhat racist, non-PC content which I guess in a way related to our laid back, Australian who-gives-a-damn way of life while being able to take a joke without being outrageously offended and this would of been the same since Paul Hogan’s sketch comedy or even the variety comedy likes of Graham Kennedy. You cannot get away with most of this stuff without hearing from the censors. Agro’s Cartoon Connection featured many different shows but the ones I remember include one of two Anime shows that I had watched called “Sailor Moon”. More aimed at a female audience, it was fascinating that a female protagonist in a skimpy Japanese school uniform would have magical powers. My memory may be sketchy but I cannot remember if either Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or my first memory of Anime in the form of Samurai Pizza Cats was either a morning or an afternoon show. I guess these two things would shape my brain into being fascinated with Japanese culture (mainly from the Samurai Pizza Cats but TMNT would of had a slight impact on the ideas of ninjas). Turtle Mania was still present during this time as I would have the original action figures of all four turtles, Master Splinter and Shredder. Samurai Pizza Cats is one of the more obscure, underated shows that not a lot of people would remember. Somewhere in time, I was informed that I used to also watch the original Voltron: Defenders of the Universe. I had no recollection of this in my past but it was nice to know there was something classic that I had in my repetoire of animation I would grow up with. I guess watching cartoons which had a reoccuring theme of Pizza also makes me understand why I loved going to Pizza Hut restaurants so much. Although as a child, I only enjoyed cheese pizza, garlic bread and ice cream.
I believe that brings me to the end of this installment of VO/Animation Standouts and Memories. Keep your eye out for Part 3 when I go into detail about the greatest part of waking up to a school morning or during the holidays from Primary School to my early teenage years, a little show on Channel 10 (no longer existant) called Cheez TV. So many cartoons were viewed during this time period.
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I was just flicking through Tumblr before and came across a page called Voice Acting Confessions. I first noticed this page when one of the confessions was “All of Grey DeLisle’s voices sound exactly the same”. I read through the six pages that are currently on this Tumblr page and to be honest, I am feeling a lot of negativity from these amatuer voice actors and fans despite staying anonymous.
First off, as an Australian voice actor/actor, I understand the hardships when you submit yourself or attend an audition and then don’t end up landing a role but hey, that’s life. This is why I took up live on-screen acting to get some acting experience to help further my career. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but there are some things that I would like to express when it comes to voice over based on what I have read on this Tumblr page.
First off, the comment about this confession: “All of Grey Delisle’s voices sound the same”. I hate this phrase because I have heard many other voice actors who have had this said about them. What you need to understand is that at least 95% of voice work is going to be “your own natural voice”. There is a small percentage of talented voice actors who do have those large vocal ranges but then why does Grey Delisle and all those other popular voice actors keep scoring roles? BECAUSE THEY CAN ACT! It isn’t about having a large range or a bunch of silly voices on tap, it is about delivering a believable performance through your voice, the one you were born with that has matured over time. I think Grey Delisle is fantastic and through her Tumblr page, she isn’t afraid to speak her mind even when she is making a joke. There is a time and place for everything but some people just take things way too seriously for their own good. Back to the point about acting, actors make choices when playing a role on-screen, so do voice actors when choosing a voice. These brave choices helps them land roles. It wouldn’t be called voice acting without the word “acting”. Also to note, my market is in one voice and this is called “naturalistic”. My current voice is my voice over voice. I can make a living off this one voice but I still need the acting to make it believable. I do intend to expand my range in the future.
One comment box actually said that they “… despise voice acting in general and it is all completely fake…” followed by the line after more rambling “… because voice actors can’t act”. Wait, what!? I’m sorry but this one kind of left me dumbfounded. Voice over has a sense of community and once you gain access into that community, they actually help each other. I’ve listened to anime directors, professional voice actors talk about this at conventions and also through the Talkin’ Toons podcast which Rob Paulsen talks about every now and again.
I’ve been reading a couple of posts relating to voice which involve fandubs, A-list voices and accents. I have mixed opinions on the following topics but let me list what I think of each to make reading about them a little easier:
- Fandubs: I’ve been known to watch TeamFourStar’s Dragon Ball Z Abridged dubs for fun and have also met LittleKuriboh in person. It is probably taken less seriously by certain professionals and amatuers but we do live in an age of remixing things and you see it on Youtube all the time. I also read one confession regarding the page Homestuck and how he edits he voice recordings to make him sound younger and this was heavily criticised. You know that Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Alvin and the Chipmunks and a fair amount of other voice over have had this technology to alter the pitch of their voices for years now right!? Even certain alien creatures have to be pitched a few octaves lower for effect. This does happen sometimes and it could of been an artistic choice. Sure they might not be able to replicate it live but again, sometimes it is needed for an effect.
- A-list voices: I’ve watched a fair few animations with the usual celebrity voices such as Tom Hanks, Jack Black, Mike Myers etc. Again mixed opinions, whilst I am not a huge fan, some of these movies are good. Toy Story is an example of this and if you read the credits, some professional voice actors such as Jack Angel have been included in credit lists.
- Accents: Are you someone who is getting sick of American accents in dubs and just about anything? Reality check, if you want to make a living doing cartoons and dubs, you will have to at some point commit and move to where the work is. I do wish some of the work was a bit more widespread but the thing about such posts makes me wonder. If you are one of these amatuer voice actors, why are you not taking the initiative to team up with college animators or creating your own content? Take Seth McFarlane for example: He started out as an animator, became a voice actor in the process and over time despite Family Guy being canceled, he was reborn into a successful guy in the world of animated sitcoms having three with probably another two or three in the making. And if you want to hear different accents, look up shows/movies such as Steamboy, Black Butler, Hellsing etc. And if you are a purist, watch an animated show in its original language.
Overall, when I read these confessions, I feel nothing but jealously, hatred and even anger towards the profession, professionals or any one just having a crack. Again, I don’t want to put hatred towards this page because we are all entitled to our own opinions but it is just the negativity I feel from reading these posts shocks me. There is also the talk about “giving new people a chance”. Yeah that is all well and good but you do need to remember that this industry is STILL A BUSINESS. It is up to you if you are pursuing this profession which steps you wish to take and there is no right or wrong way to get into this industry. I’m still trying to make my way in and I don’t care how long it takes. I love my life how it is even through the ups and downs, the hills and troughs etc. The reason why I also say these things is because you need to have a love for this industry as well as that sense of determination which through a combination of hard work and persistence can you get what you want. You do not get these things handed out to you on to a silver platter, you actually have to WORK for these things. End your negativity and start thinking positive. It is a tough industry but the people who get somewhere are the ones who take intiative. For a great example of this, go listen to Crispin Freeman’s Voice Acting Mastery podcast where he interviews two former students of his who went on to voice a game called Dust: An Elysian Tale.
These are just my opinions but I do wish the best of luck to those of you who are putting in the hard yards to get to where you want to be. Whether you are a voice actor or just someone hard working looking to get somewhere in life. Listen to criticism or pointers when given to you to improve your craft and take anything you hear with a grain of salt. And to those reading this blog and still feeling woeful about the ups and downs of not getting anywhere, I’ve probably wasted too much of your time but hope that some of things I have said may motivate you to get to where you want to go. Hey, what are you doing still reading this… GO PRACTICE NOW! :P
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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.
So after waiting a whole month to hear the announcements for Armageddon Expo 2012, I finally purchased tickets for both Saturday and Sunday, October 13th/14th for this amazing event. Seeing as this year’s Armageddon is going to be held in Melbourne, I would not be surprised to see it packed. Last year was fantastic, I got to meet a whole heap of my voice over idols from my youth (Kevin Conroy) to current generation voice actors who are considered veterans already (Steven Blum, well he now holds the Guinness World Record for most voices in video games/animation I believe).
So this year’s line up is decent, some good names out there including the following: Johnny Yong Bosch, Mela Lee, Sandy Fox, Lex Lang, Susan Eisenberg and Charles Martinet. The one that stood as the odd one out was Little Kuriboh (Martin Billany) who is one of the many voices of Yu Gi Oh: Abridged. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not placing hate on voice actors in Abridged fan made content such as this or what you get with Dragon Ball Z: Abridged with Team Four Star (which I watch regularly) but… sigh… that one place could of been reserved for a veteran with more knowledge, experience in the commercial animation VO world. I’m sorry but when you have a killer line up and you throw that ball out it is a bit of a miss for me. I want to learn about the reality of voice over. The rest of the guests make up the majority because I’ve seen their interviews on Bang Zoom! Entertainment’s Adventures in Voice Acting on DVD. Two other places were given to Kristi Reed (an Anime director who has worked on Samurai Champloo and Durarara!!) and Yaya Han who is a professional cosplayer. Now, Kristi Reed would be someone worth listening to so you can get more of an insider look into the industry itself. A woman worth listening to alongside that stellar VO cast. Mela Lee and Johnny Yong Bosch also bring their respective bands, Magnolia Memoirs (check them out, they are pretty good) and Eyeshine. I’ve also heard that there is a dedicated anime stage this year which will make things interesting.
Will I see any actors this year? Last year it was mainly for Adrian Paul (Highlander) and that was also a fantastic experience). This year’s line up is a bit of a miss for me but I am making sure that my Dad (who I am taking this year as part of his birthday present) meets Christopher Judge (Stargate) and several Stargate/Tron guests. I honestly wish I took him last year because the majority were Stargate/Sancturary guests which would of been perfect but I did not think about that at the time. This year’s event however is made up majorly of Babylon 5 people with the odd Game Of Thrones, Supernatural, Tron, James Bond type guests. If times don’t conflict, I’d probably spend time with my Dad at a Stargate or Tron based panel. Otherwise, my focus on attending these events is purely for voice actors only.
Why is this exactly? For one, voice actors sign for free. I understand that at these types of conventions you usually have to pay to get autographs or take photos but honestly, an autograph is worth more to me than a photograph. Though, photographs do carry a little bit of bragging rights. Any photos for me this year? Maybe but I actually would not mind having money this time for convention swag (I could of saved so much money on Anime DVDs last year).
This is how I plan my trips to these events (after my first last year):
- Get in early (make sure you have tickets/tokens beforehand, token system can now be pre purchased so I don’t have to wait in idiotic queues)
- Attend ALL animation guest panels
- Obtain ALL autographs from animation guests (and TV/Movie guests if applicable)
- Get photos from well known guests
- Attend any other panels (if applicable)
- Explore the entire exhibition and make note of things I might want to do the next day
- Attend music events (especially for this year)
Something I noticed that I have not seen (yet they spoke to me on Twitter and said they would do this) was Armageddon was supposed to have a dedicated voice acting workshop. There is no such news on their page. It could be one of those things announced later on before the event (this happens sometimes) but when they replied with “Done” to my Twitter account after I suggested this, I am curious to see if they will keep their word. Fingers crossed because that would be invaluable to any voice actor.
It still bugs me that I missed Supanova this year but I would of only gone to see Richard Horvitz. Maybe next year has something more promising (I don’t like it when you only have very few voice actors, Oz Comic Con was a bit like that as well from what I read). Otherwise, I’ll be attending both Saturday and Sunday at Armageddon Expo this year so if you read my blogs, live in Australia (particularly Melbourne in this case) and happen to see me, come say hi! I’m always happy to converse with other voice actors, actors and general fans alike.
For current voice over news, I am working on two community radio commercials for The Pulse, a radio play called Tinkerboy (a steampunk themed radio play, more news to be announced) and I’m still open to any other new work that comes my way, paid or unpaid (it is good to keep the acting chops up). After attending many acting classes, I am also seeking on-camera work just to mix things up a bit (and get those acting chops up even more).
As always, I hope to see you in the booth or anywhere else for that matter. A two part Armageddon blog will appear later this year. As for any other news, I shall keep you posted. I don’t always blog because I want to be sure that I do not release any information in which I may of previously signed a non-disclosure contract. Speaking of that here is a little something extra to finish this post with.
Tip of the Day: If you have to sign for a job that has a non-disclosure contract, no matter how excited you are that you get to work, please do not announce it via social networking websites, you could lose your job (it happens, not to me thankfully because I have never been in that situation but just be aware of that).
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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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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I apologise when I take forever to write these blogs when it comes to voice over. I know I started this blog to just connect with any voice actor/actor/fan using Tumblr but I really struggle to have anything to talk about when things are quiet. At this point in time, I want to know what YOU, yes you the reader, would like to talk about. Don’t be afraid to ask me anything, my comment box is open but keep them voice over centric or even anything based on my thoughts on acting in general. Though you may be wondering to yourself what I am currently doing in the world of voice over right now. Well there is something that I will brief over which I was very excited to do.
I recently went to audition for about 4-5 different commercials at a major radio station. I am currently in the position of waiting to hear back from them. A lot of time is spent waiting whether it be sending out demos or attending auditions or trying to book gigs. All you can really do in this situation is be patient, be persistent but not annoying and hope to find work to get this career to a great start. What I will say about this experience is that it is an incredible feeling to just use your skills that you have obtained through your training and see how it applies to real world applications.
In the downtime, I have been working my main job as a personal assistant for a home business which is my funding for my current freelancing voice over career. I also listen to voice over podcasts, read blogs, practice my craft and study acting at Mooregrace Acting Studios to make myself more believable. Actually, while I type this, I am listening to Rob Paulsen on Talkin’ Toons talking to Nolan North. And now, the main part of this blog that I wish to talk about.
I have been thinking about Australian animated series. According to Wikipedia, we have about 34 of them. Some of them are just based in Australia while others are combinations of Australian-French or Australian Canadian productions. These series include Plasmo (my voice coach voiced Plasmo!), Yakkity Yak, Blinky Bill, Lil’ Elvis and the Truckstoppers and many more. Out of all these animated series, there was something that I noticed in all of these shows, not a single one was an adult orientated Australian animated series. There may be others out there but they are not currently listed on Wikipedia. I have had several discussions in which every time I talk about Australian voice over in animation, people tend to cringe. There is something about the Australian accent which seems to be overdone or we have just become accustomed to American or Canadian voice actors voicing shows from the states which seem to have a broader appeal. Remember that Simpsons’ episode in which they go to Australia? Remember how we were portrayed? It feels insulting at times. I’ll admit, when I have watched Australian cartoons in the past, I can never get my head around our accents and how they sound in Australian cartoons. With a few exceptions, they just don’t seem to remain in our memories unlike our American counterparts producing more animations and as I had said before having a broader appeal, not to mention a greater audience. So here is the thought:
Make an Australian animated series which gains a broad appeal. When I say broad, I mean, the stuff FOX, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Hanna Barbera, Warner, Disney even Hub comes out with. It is sad that we don’t make that much stuff in Australia but I am sure there are some people out there looking to make some quality work and get it out into not only the Australian market but even the global market. Animation does get done in Australia but it is VERY limited. I would like to see a change in this because I believe voice actors, despite all the commercial VO work that is out there, why can’t we be the next voices in quality animation, video games, movies etc? Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing my country for not making enough animation, I just have not noticed in the industry the drive to make something appealing to a global audience. When was the last time you heard of a popular cartoon that was made in Australia in which our Australian VO talent was touring every Comic Con related event promoting it and having the chance to meet their overseas fans? This is merely an observation but also a dream of mine if I don’t manage to move to the States which I will probably have to do to achieve my goal of providing voices for animation/video games etc.
Next idea, vlogging. What does this have to do with voice over? Just an idea other than voice over. To sustain a business, things require money. Vlogging through Youtube being paid through Youtube sponsership has been an intriguing career choice and has been utilised by voice actors such as Kyle Hebert for KYLE TV (which is also his Stickam webcam show). Your full time career can be in front of a camera writing sketches, talking about things and if you manage to get millions of views, you are doing very well. It also opens opportunities for travel to events such as VidCon which is a convention for Youtube stars. It would be experimental but it is just an idea I had thought about. Not sure what it would be about but it sounds cool.
Last one, podcasts. This one could be for voice over but it could be also for other things. After listening to podcasts, I am a bit inspired to try my hand at this. Not much else to say about this, I have the equipment to do this so… why not?
Well, mainly this blog was to have a bit of a rant about the Australian animation industry and to just let you know what has been going on. I could post pictures just like a regular Tumblr user but I probably should have a personal page for that sort of stuff. I just enjoy writing which is how I view blogging. Let me know what you think on the subject if you would like, I am here a fair bit, checking out what is happening.
Until then, take care and hope to see you in the booth!
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