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- February 2014
- A Child’s Creativity
- Dealing with Rejection
- eLearning logistics – how to create files in seconds
- Character Voiceover Tip: Build a library
- Character Voiceover Tips: Learning an Accent
Exceeded expectations. Lighting speed delivery.
"Jay was amazing to work with. Exceeded expectations. Lighting speed delivery. Easy to work with and a great communicator.
A couple of unique things about Jay. First, his demo reel shows a great selection of voice options to chose from... but none of them were exactly what we were looking for. However, when we told him what we wanted he was able to take our abstract ideas (about being educational, sincere, conversation etc) and transform those directions into EXACTLY what we had in mind.
So if you're thinking about hiring him... tell him what you want... give him a sample to read... I'm sure he can deliver what you want. We're very VERY impressed. Will use Jay's services many more times in the future. Secondly, he delivered our project within a day and made adjustments within the hour. Highly highly recommend."
- John Sweeney - Academy of Mine
"We are now big fans and I'll tell my colleagues about you as well!"
On receiving my read as Arnold Schwarzenegger Barbara had this to say:
"THIS IS GREAT!! Love it already, you are very talented, glad we found you! We are now big fans and I'll tell my colleagues about you as well!
-Barbara Schroeder, Answers Productions
A Child’s Creativity
My son is 4 and yet currently knows more creativity that I will ever know again in my life time. The plus side of this is that he recently taught me a great lesson about what creativity means that I thought I’d share with you. I hope it provides you with the same epiphany it bought me!
LEGO Mixels are the current flavour of the month in our house, now if you haven’t come across them they are groups of 3 LEGO characters that you can then combine into a Mega Max Mixel and my son now probably owns around a million of these characters (not hyperbole). So, what does this have to do with creativity?
Well one, rainy, Sunday morning out come the Mixels. My son has now built these things repeatedly, multiple times, and designs his own and mixes and matches many of them together in ever more complicated patterns. Watching him on this fateful day it suddenly dawned on me that I was watching pure creation in progress.
I don’t know about you but if I get an idea for something, somewhere, in the first thoughts I have about it are probably “oh no, that’ll be rubbish” or I’ll never get the idea off the ground because I am too bound by the parameters of perfection. As an adult, you become acutely aware of criticism, both your own and the external worlds, and that can lead you to question what you are creating to the point where you end up not creating anything at all.
In my son’s head though, it was clear he wasn’t suffering from those same doubtful thoughts and you know what the result was? He created some truly amazing new characters! Sure, some of the legs didn’t match or the construction was a little wonky but the point is he had created something. During building he so obviously had a clear vision of what it was he was trying to create and ploughed forward. Now he has character models that he can further improve on, develop and use to create even greater things, whereas I’d still be sat there with a box of LEGO copying whatever is on the box for fear of creating something rubbish.
The point here is that you can’t let the pursuit of perfection or the thoughts of inevitable criticism stop you from creating. Sure, on first pass what you create might not be exactly what you wanted or were aiming for but you’ll have learnt something, have a new idea you can develop further and most importantly you will have actually created.
There is an important part of being creative, known as the “gap”. It’s explained beautifully in this video here:
So, go out and create something, anything, it doesn’t matter, just play again as a child and do what you want to do because you enjoy it.
Dealing with Rejection
One of the things I wish someone had told me before I got in to voice acting was just how much rejection I was going to have to cope with and more importantly how much that rejection would hurt. The same goes for any facet of life really, rejection can always be difficult to navigate but when it’s attached to something creative it seems to gnaw at you that little bit more.
I can’t speak for everyone but whenever I audition for a project or put myself forward for something there is always a little bit of “me” in it. It’s always intensely personal, usually because I’ve had to draw on something from within to create a character or give a certain performance. Even for something non-character based such as a commercial, it always feels personal, it’s your take on the script, your interpretation.
Here’s the thing though, if you want to last more than 5 minutes in the acting industry you need to get a grip on rejection and how you handle it, a good booking rate would be 10%-15% which means you’re going to lose 85 – 90% of jobs you go for. It took me a while but I have found a way to deal with the rejection, don’t get me wrong, it still sucks but it’s simply become part of my process. So, here’s my tips and philosophies that might hopefully help you when the chips are down:
The rejection isn’t personal
This is possibly the most important aspect of dealing with the rejection, understanding that it’s not personal. When we don’t book a job the usual go to thought is that we’re not “good enough” or that “they didn’t like me” but the problem is that that’s a flawed thought process to start with. Part of the problem with anything creative is that ultimately it’s always subjective, meaning you could deliver what you think is an outstanding performance and 50% may love it and 50% may hate it (we’ve all got films we love that others think are atrocious J ). If you prepared properly and delivered your best you can be happy.
I like to use the analogy of Oscars Dresses to try and explain this one; imagine there are 10 dresses on a rack and you must pick one to wear to the Oscars. All 10 dresses are exquisitely made and fantastic but there’ll just be one that you pick for reasons you probably can’t determine. Now, the fact that one dress got picked doesn’t mean the other 9 dresses aren’t equally suited to a night at the Oscars, it just means a different dress got picked. The story there is that not getting selected doesn’t necessarily reflect anything about your performance!
Give up control
Let me state this clearly, you have no control over whether you book or not. The only thing you can control is the performance you give and even that is subject to the information and direction given to you by the client. Stop thinking that booking or not booking a job is even remotely within your control, there are far too many variables at play for this to be the case and it’s arrogant to assume otherwise. What is in your control is giving the best performance you can give; the rest is up to who knows who. By giving up attempts to control the outcome of the audition you are much freer to give a performance not bound by a desire to book the job, which ironically is always a better performance and therefore more likely, but not guaranteed, to book!
By understanding that you have little control over the outcome you become less tied to it and therefore when you don’t succeed you don’t fall in to the “what else could I have done” trap. That doesn’t mean you can’t think about your performance and what you might improve next time but that’s something you should be doing regardless of whether you book the job or not.
Someone else’s squee!
This one is an interesting one and is more about thinking outwardly rather than inward. When you don’t book a job, what can help is to remember the times you did book and the “squee” of excitement it generated in you. Understanding that by you not booking a job someone else out there is having a “squee” moment can be comforting; you can tune in to that feeling and somewhat have that “squee” vicariously. When you don’t book, especially if it’s a gig you really desired, it’s oh so easy to forget all the times you do book, you suddenly feel like your entire career is measured against this one gig you didn’t get. By focusing outwardly on someone else’s squee it can give you perspective and help to remind you that you too have had those squee moments yourself.
There’s always more opportunities
This one, this one helps you move forward.
I had a period recently where I had 6 irons in 6 delightful fires, I was very grateful for those opportunities and blown away by the sort of company’s I was in discussion with. Do you know what happened? Not even one of those opportunities turned in to bookings. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, it was a pretty big punch to the gut. Now, when things like that happen (and they will, see the booking rate in the first section!) it’s imperative to remember that there are ALWAYS more opportunities. It’s incredibly hard to do at the time and it can feel like your career is in the toilet but I promise there are always more opportunities. Sure enough a week later I got 4 auditions through for AAA games and a new animation series but when you’ve taken a hit it’s very hard to see what’s coming in the next weeks and months. You must keep moving forward, you must fire and forget on your auditions and focus only on keeping going, momentum is your friend!
Take the time you need
Finally, take the time you need to get over the rejection. Even with coping mechanisms and thought processes in place losing jobs is always tough and will get you down at some point. What’s important is that you take the time to feel down, leave the booth alone for a day, take a day to yourself, go out for lunch, watch some Netflix and try again tomorrow. When you feel down sometimes the worst thing you can do is keep going, it’ll seep in to your auditions and start a vicious cycle. So, sometimes, just walk away and come back again tomorrow.
eLearning logistics – how to create files in seconds
The eLearning Challenge!
If you’re a voiceover artist that works in eLearning, you’ll know that one of the more trickier aspects of it is coping with the need to split and name sometimes hundreds of files.
Splitting and individually naming files can sometimes take longer than the recording itself and ultimately, time not spent behind the mic is time wasted. To try and help out with this I’ve created the video below. Frustrated by how long it took to deal with this logistical challenge I put my 12 year IT career to some good use (finally) and created a very simple Excel file to help out.
Watch the video below and download the Excel file from here and you’ll be renaming eLearning files almost instantaneously!
The basic premise I have followed is to split the files at the point of recording using the free audio software, Audacity (get it here). I then use Excel to create a set of commands we can dump in to a command prompt to rename all the files in one fell swoop!
Hopefully this will work for many of you out there and it really has not only improved my efficiency but also allowed me to improve my turnaround times for customers. It also frees up my time to spend on other activities, such as more recording, some marketing or just relaxing with a cup of tea!
If you have any issues or need some help getting it to work for you, please feel free to hit me up on Twitter or drop me an e-mail and I’ll do what I can!
Character Voiceover Tip: Build a library
Prepare your character stable!
One of the most important things you can do to increase your capabilities is to actually document what you already know and build a character library.
Your character library will be your rolodex of voices that you can “turn on” immediately and be the go to resource when you need to create a character quickly e.g. an Audition!
Creating your character library is a great way of establishing what your voice can do, what you are comfortable doing and where your true talents lie. When I talk about documenting the library I mean exactly that, write it down! The way I created my library was to turn my phone on to record and work my way around the globe doing all the different characters I knew I did from each region. Once I had that recording, I listened back writing down every voice, giving the character a name, an ideal genre and some basics notes. Any voice that didn’t sound “real” got resigned to the bin so that I only had the best of my best written down. You should also include any “bad” celebrity impressions you do as a bad impression is, after all, another character voice so it’s worth having it to hand just in case!
By having this library and becoming familiar with it you prepare yourself for that moment either in a session or an audition where “just try this character” is sprung on you and you have to come up with a voice immediately. Usually within your character library there will be someone close or you can mix a few together to get something close quickly. This is also a great way of establishing a “stable” of characters from which you can grow and expand your repertoire!
Check out the video below for more on this topic!
Character Voiceover Tips: Learning an Accent
Don’t learn an accent in character
One of the biggest problems with accents and character voices is that it’s very difficult to disassemble them when they’ve been learnt together. What I mean by this is that if you create a character called “Friendly Scottish Nanny” you might find you have trouble doing a Scottish accent without it sounding like your character or vice versa, you might have trouble creating a friendly nanny without making her Scottish.
Always learn accents outside of a character voice and always try to make a character more than just a voice.
Check out the video below to see what I mean and its pitfalls!