Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rudyard Kipling Started the Rumor...

But was he correct? 

Back in 1888 Rudyard Kipling published a story within the book “In Black and White” titled “On the City Wall.” The first line of the one of the chapters in this story about a prostitute reads:  “Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world.”  That appears to be the first time the phrase appears in print and it seems everyone believed him and has kept the myth alive ever since.
In Black and White - Inside PlateI recently attended the reunion of Binghamton NY broadcasters, as I am an alumnus. The Emmy winning actor and well known voiceover talent Ed Herrman was given an award at that event.  In his acceptance remarks he challenged the Kipling myth and said that he believed the oldest  profession is actually storytelling. I'd like to think he is correct.
There is no hard evidence but storytelling may be equally as old and goes hand in hand with another ancient profession - salesmanship.  In some cases the three professions most definitely are intertwined.  For, you need to tell a good story in order to be seductive and win the other person's favor, money and wealth for those services or goods you provide.  Hmmmm...

Here's my top five list of great aural storytellers in this century, some deceased:

5. Oprah Winfrey
4. Dr. Wayne Dyer
3. Paul Harvey
2. Bill Cosby
1. Steve Jobs

And the list of my favorite storytellers in the written form, only one of them is contemporary:

5. Rudyard Kipling
4. Washington Irving
3. J.K. Rowling
2. Edgar Allen Poe
1. The Brothers Grimm

This is an opinion blog, so I'm sure your lists differ from mine.  But, the important thing to remember is that we are all storytellers in our own way.  Some tell stories and make a respectable living doing so and some tell stories just because it's part of who they are.  Have you told a story today? I suspect you have.

* Disclaimer – I don't necessarily sanction the products or services some of the contemporary storytellers offer. However, as storytellers, they are/were masters.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Articulation is not instantaneous...

It often takes many years. 

I recently heard an interview with John Mayer on the CBC Radio One program "Q" with Jian Ghomeshi. If you've never listed to this show, by all means check it out. It's streamed on the Internet, rebroadcast in edited form on American Public Radio and available via RSS feed as a podcast.

Mayer was talking about his maturing process as a singer songwriter. He really is a brilliant artist and quite articulate at the same time. During the interview he simplified something many of us already know.  He compared his career to the young student just out of high school and college as being armed with this fantastic vocabulary and eagerness to use those newly acquired words.  They often write using that vocabulary without the maturity needed to properly articulate.  He said at first you want to show everyone what you can do with those words but it takes 5-10 years before the writing matures. That's the way he looks at his own career.  You can hear the podcast here:


Now, when I listen to the radio I usually multi-task and was busy doing something else when I heard that interview.  I stopped what I was doing to make some notes so I could write about it here. It suddenly dawned on me that the John Mayer analogy applies to other situations as well including TV news broadcasters, who are are prime example of this.  The young journalist comes out of college with this raw energy, armed with new tools and a big vocabulary. They spend several years in very small television markets maturing and learning how to best to use those new tools and discovering their niche.

Then it it hit me. The same thing happens in our world of voiceover. A new voice talent is eager to use all the tools he or she has acquired during the many hours of coaching and classes undertaken to enter this field of work.  I think that's one of the reasons that many of the leaders in our industry are quick to point out that it take several years of perseverance before success can be realized.  During those years the talent matures and discovers a particular niche, like: character voices or storytelling or medicalnarration.  It often takes time to figure out strengths and weaknesses.  Like John Mayer said it might be several years before a talent can properly and appropriately articulate with the VOICE.  Instant success is rare and often peppered with years of struggle learning to use that voice in a way that is marketable. Even seasoned talent have to occasionally rediscover and retool to keep up with the trends and the demands of an ever changing youth driven industry.

So what do you think?  Am I in the ball park here?