Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Who Are You...

Who Who Who (expletive deleted) are you?

Who Am I - Petula Clark
Petula Clark - Album Cover

This week's blog has nothing to do with voiceover. But, then again, maybe it does. If you were tuned in to pop music in the seventies you'll recognize that the title of this blog today is borrowed from the song of the same name written by Pete Townsend and performed by Townsend Roger Daltry, Keith Moon and John Entwistle, a.k.a. The Who. It made its way into the top forty in 1978 and gained a great deal of renewed popularity thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer's CSI. Petula Clark made popular another song with a similar title – Who Am I. There's a new TV show that's gained some popularity of late using another song title as it's show title – Who Do You Think You Are? Bo Donaldson and the Haywoods made that one popular in 1974.

Where is he going with this?
The questions being asked suggest that you really should know a little about yourself and where you came from. “Who Do You Think You Are” focuses on genealogy and is a blatant advertisement for a pay as you go genealogy service called I have opinions here but will keep them to myself. I bring this up because I think knowing your roots can tell you a lot about your own makeup and give clues to the inner workings of your own personality.

Knowing who I am and where I came from has been a lifelong passion for me. I have been researching my family roots for the better part of 35 years and have a pretty good understanding of who my ancestors are, where they lived and the lives they lived. For example, the Reed family was a very private family going back several generations. They lived in rural Vermont and in a secluded area of Northern New York. The Ables, on the other hand,  came to this country in the mid 1800s to find a better live than the one they lived in Darmstadt, Germany. Both families kept to themselves. The opposite was true of my maternal grandparents. Both my grandfather and great grandfather were merchants and loved interacting with people. So this explains to me why sometimes I'm very comfortable being very private and can function as a loner. It also explains why I can carry on a conversation with just about anyone and be very comfortable talking to strangers.

All of my ancestors were USA immigrants as some point. I have no aboriginal blood line that I know of and I have researched my family roots through the 1600s in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. One family came to England with William the Conqueror and has Flemish roots. I can trace my ancestors to several passengers on the Mayflower. Another family purchased Oyster Bay NY from the aboriginal natives living there and that deed is on display in the Teddy Roosevelt Museum. I have traced my German ancestors only back to the 1800s. Unfortunately, some German records are very difficult to find due to the two world wars that ravaged the country. Another ancestral family of mine left Ireland during the potato famine for a better life in America. So, I know who I am. I know almost all of the skeletons hanging in the closet and I know who was and is “out” of the closet.
I am fortunate that for many of my families, I have photos dating back to the mid 1800s, when photography became readily available. The images tell a lot about people.

It is still quite difficult for me to understand why anyone would not want to know about their family history. Some people are so focused on the “today and tomorrow” that they have little regard for the past. Knowing where you came from can be very enlightening for a voiceover artist and anyone for that matter. Voice actors are always trying to answer the question: “Who Am I.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A voice actor's vortex...

He finally feels the energy.

I took a couple weeks off from writing this blog to take a vacation and re-energize.

All of my life I have been around people who have talked about things like: “feeling the energy,” “the aura,” “the spirit within,” and “spirituality.” Being that I'm a “hands-on, have to hold it and touch it” kind of a guy, I always had difficulty understanding what it is that they were talking about. I suspect I have had those experiences but never could quite get a handle on something that I couldn't “reach out and touch.” I guess that's why I never could quite “get” the idea of religion. I was expected to have blind faith in something or someone that I couldn't see. I never could quite understand the concept.

It's one of those barriers that I have in voice acting too. I have always had difficulty taking on a role that I could only imagine. They appeared to be just words on paper. I accomplish the task but it takes great effort. Being an “announcer” was always easy for me. Ad-libbing, as a radio performer, was also easy. It was my own personality and didn't have to be someone else. Being a voice actor takes a whole different approach.

Sunrise - Airport Mesa, Sedona Arizona - Jerry's Voice the BlogThis vacation has helped me realize that I have to let go of the material things and just let the energy flow in order to take on roles that I can only imagine. I realized that it's not a one-step process. I first have to just absorb the environment. Our trip took my partner and I to Sedona, Arizona. Prior to our arrival, a new word was added to my vocabulary – vortex. I was told that there were four of them in and around the red rocks of the southwest. Early on the morning after our arrival, we woke before daybreak and drove to one of those spots hoping to catch sunrise from the airport mesa vortex. We climbed to the pinnacle of the red rocks just as the sun came up.
A cool breeze greeted us and a handful of others that had also arrived shortly after 5 a.m. My goal was to capture the sunrise with my camera, which I did and came away was some awesome photos. I had not really embraced the vortex concept yet as others had. They were there to “feel the energy.” Little did I realize that I would, too. I stood there in the morning breeze and when the glow of the sun warmed my face I experienced something I couldn't touch, but I could feel. I couldn't even talk about it, because I couldn't describe it. I could only feel it.

Buddha Beach - Stone Buddhas - Red Rocks State Park, ArizonaI experienced that same feeling a day later at the Red Rocks State Park. Again my goal was to take photos of Cathedral Rock, an image I had seen in the travel brochures and magazines. We entered the state park grounds and followed the designated trails to the red rocks that the brochures had described. This was the site of another vortex. I knew we were getting close when we came upon an opening where people that preceded us had balanced hundreds of rocks on top of each other in delicate formations resembling pyramids (stone Buddhas). I started to feel something again, but couldn't quite understand it. We proceeded along the trail to another opening where flat red rocks appeared and beyond that another area with that same pyramid type rock creations. There was that feeling again. I knew that thousands of people has previously been to that same spot. They call it Buddha Beach. These people appeared to have left something behind and it seemed to be coming from these balancing rocks. We couldn't resist and created our own, leaving our symbols for those to come.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona Arizona - Jerry's Voice the Blog
I revisited the state park area again the two days later with the goal of capturing a sunrise photo of Cathedral Rock. I got the shot, but chose a slightly different path back to the rental car. I felt something prior to coming upon another lone pile of rocks balanced one on top of the other in a clearing (a stone Buddha). It wasn't just a pile of rocks. It was left intentionally by someone before me. That person also left something else for me to experience, the energy.

Stone Buddah of Red Rocks, Sedona Arizona
I had been to two vortex sites, one of them twice, and I can actually say the experience has helped me leave some of my materialistic concepts behind. I know it's not an overnight process and will take more time. However, I believe the experience will help me be a better voice actor, one that can more readily take on roles and characters I can only imagine because now I know what it is to “feel the energy.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Shoot Yourself in the Foot...

and Your Voiceover Career Along With It.

I use all the social networks to promote myself and my voiceover services. I am always willing to connect to other professionals in the voiceover business for the networking opportunities. It certainly has helped in my case when a connection has recommended my services and I have landed jobs because of it. So, let me tell the tale of one such voiceover artist that asked to connect with me and what he did or didn't do.

I have one particular client that I work with regularly. I have done many many projects with this man at two different companies. We have stayed connected over the years and now use LinkedIn to stay up to date. I respect this man and know that we have a solid relationship. So, when he asks to be introduced to one of my LinkedIn connections, I know that it will not jeopardize my voiceover job opportunities with him. We will call him Bob for the sake of this story, although that's not his real name.

Recently, I had a connection request from a man located in one of the major cities in the South. This man we will call Jim. Although, that's not his real name either. When I received the connection request from Jim, he appeared well connected and recommended by other leaders in the voiceover industry. So, I accepted his request to connect. I didn't think anything more about it and didn't investigate further. So, Jim became listed as one of my connections.

LinkedIn makes regular public updates of new connections. Bob saw the update that I was now connected to Jim and reviewed his profile and was interested in adding Jim to his cadre of voiceover artists. So, he asked to be introduced to Jim. Before I responded to Bob, I took another look at Jim's profile and realized there was something missing. There was no link to a professional web site and other than a brief mention that he had a relationship with a public broadcaster, there was no information about his particular credits, or the company he supposedly was connected with. There were no audio demo and no link to video. Fail #1 However, he did have a Gmail address listed. So, I sent Jim an email through LinkedIn and a message to the Gmail account. I told him of the request from Bob and asked for a link to his demos and or web site where his demos could be reviewed.

I had already responded to Bob telling him that I could not recommend Jim as I had not heard his demos, but had written to him requesting links and further information. I would let Bob know as soon as I received a response. That was yesterday. I have not heard from Jim and he may not be a connection much longer. To further complicate things, I decided to look up Jim on Twitter. Found him. But his tweets and account are protected. Fail #2 . I looked for him on Facebook. I found him there, also. He's well connected to some pretty powerful people in the voiceover industry, but still no links to a web site or demos. This guy could be the next messiah for all I care. But, he's a giant failure in my book.

Hunter with Rifle - Shooting Foot
Am I too impatient? I don't think so. In our industry response time is critical. Seconds become minutes become hours become an eternity. I'm not a big ad agency exec and I don't have a big job to offer, but he doesn't know that. So why didn't he respond in this day of smart-phones with email? Beats me.

 Shall we take out the other foot while we're at it?