Archive for April, 2012


This is gonna be relatively quick and easy, but I have to talk about this, or I will feel I’m doing the Universe a disservice, if such a thing is even possible.

Look, if you can imagine something, really visualize it, really want it, really dream it up in your head… you can also make it materialize in three dimensions, on the earthly plain, okay? I’m telling you this as a fact, not a New Age aphorism.

And one more thing… please remember… “AT THE MOMENT OF COMMITMENT, THE UNIVERSES CONSPIRES TO ASSIST YOU”

 

Got it? Good. Go live it!

Sometimes I’m just at a point where I spend so much time in the booth, working at my craft, that it’s not what I want to blog about when I come to the keyboard.

I’d kind of like to go off on a small rant about “fan” rudeness. And I put the word “fan” in quotes, because I often wonder IF you’re somebody’s fan, why would you be shitty towards them? Anyway, I’m not gonna go there right now. It’s an ugly place, and plus that blog would take about an hour to compose. And truth be told, for every person out there who calls himself a fan but is truly a jerk, there are ten other people who are awesome.

Okay, ’nuff of that.

I guess I do need to talk about something, as it’s an issue I’ve been given a lesson in very recently, and it warrants discussion, if not in-depth scoping. And it’s the issue of BREATH.

Breath in voice acting, I should say. Especially breath in Audiobook Narration. Look, I’m not gonna play around, I listen to LOTS of people’s Audiobook Demos, and these are people who label and call themselves Pros, and I gotta tell you, I’m aware I’m better than a great lot of them. But, I do have one tremendous weakness when it comes to narration, and that’s my breathing style. (Now, don’t go searching for this on titles I’ve done, or it’s all you’ll notice!) Ahem. Anyway, I’ve often noticed that my catch-breaths, for lack of a better term, while narrating, fall into natural pockets, but they tend to be a bit RASPY,  or even plain LOUD. A producer recently emailed me about this, and he let me in on some techniques on how to avoid this. So far, it’s been really helpful. The embarrassing thing is, if I’d just applied a little bit of the vocal training I’d received as a singer, I would have figured this all out on my own. But, here’s the rub, sorta. When you’re on stage, and you have to take big breaths, whether or not their incredibly audible doesn’t so much come through, because you’re playing to a giant hall, even IF you’re wearing a body mic. It’s just not as noticeable because of sound dispersion, size of space, etc. … However, in the intimate world of recording Voiceover, again, everything is intimate and naked. And not in a sexy way. I mean it’s all laid bare. Every little glitch of the mouth. And improper, or stressed, or cramped breathing can sound like a windstorm, when in “real life”, it would be barely noticeable.

I’m still trying to master the technique, but it has to do with breathing with your tongue forward, so as to keep an open pharynx, which allows an effortless passage of air. For me, getting my mouth INTO this position in the nanoseconds it takes to do a catch breath while reading is the big challenge. But like I said, I’m working on it.

A good performing artist is always learning and improving!

 

 

The Hydration Situation

So let’s talk about all those ugly noises you can sometimes hear in your recordings. Or, if you’re not a VO kinda person, let’s talk about waking up with bad breath, feeling tongue-tied when you talk, feeling like you can’t properly swallow, feeling bloated in the belly, feeling tired more often than you think you should… Sound familiar? Anyone? Yeah, well, here’s an idea: DRINK SOME DAMN WATER!

No, really. Do it. Now. Stop reading, get up, get a glass of water, drink it down, sit back down, continue reading.

Feeling better already, aren’t you?

Water is one of the most underrated things on this planet. Not only do we need it to, ya know, not die… but it actually helps our bodies function properly in so many ways that we may not even realize. And yes, as a Voice Talent, staying properly hydrated is ESSENTIAL to delivering clean takes, to being less tongue-tied, and to experiencing less fatigue in the booth.

Even if all the above wasn’t important, or true (it is), consider this nifty list:

WHY WATER KICKS ASS

And on the real, you’ll never hear me say “OMG don’t eVAR drink alcohol or caffeine! EVAR!!!” We’re humans. We’re going to do some stupid stuff to feel good and have fun sometimes, but remember, the best way to remedy the damage done by such indulgence is, you guessed it, WATER!

Narrating a ton of audiobooks has made my awareness of hydration like thrice what it ever was before, because the tracks you deliver when narrating an Audiobook are SO quiet and naked. It’s you and the mic, baby, and any extraneous noise? It’s gonna be makin’ a guest appearance! And the more junk like that there is on your tracks, the less a client is going to want to work with you. Trust.

I just wanted to get this offa my fingers (see what I did there) because hydration is always on my mind. So for those of you who didn’t know, yes, water is way more important than you ever could have imagined.

DRINK IT!

 

 

Though it shouldn’t be… a touchy subject that is. And maybe it’s not anymore. God knows I’m not all up in the “con mix” like I used to be. But I remember when the whole thing started blowing up, and there were like a bajillion Anime Cons in every state, and Voice Actors in a different city every weekend, practically, with barely enough time to actually work. There was a lot of drama, back then, over “certain people” charging (gasp!) APPEARANCE FEES! These people were looked upon my some with scorn and headshakes, talked about in hushed tones as if they were criminals or villains, trying to bleed conventions out of their every last penny.

At the time, I tried not to have much of an opinion on the matter. I only knew that, in my mind, I wasn’t a “big enough name” at the time to really rate any sort of an Appearance Fee.

But that changed.

The busier I got, and the busier cons got,  and the more annoying traveling became, the more appearing at conventions started to feel like work… You know why? BECAUSE IT IS! Yes, it’s true, not only does appearing at a convention mean a free flight, hotel room and food, but it also means keeping very odd hours, typically compromising your immune system, paneling for hours, signing autographs for hours, stopping every few minutes (sometimes seconds) in hallways and ballrooms to have your picture taken, and… DUN DUN DUNNN!, missing out on work!

Now, for me, the work part of a con doesn’t bother me. I’m a brand, a product, a business unto myself, and if I’ve been invited to a con, then it’s my duty to promote myself, and to entertain fans, and help make the con a profitable venture for those in charge. But, guess what that means? I get paid. And the main reason I get paid (again, for me, as I can’t and won’t speak for anybody else on this issue) is that I’m missing out on work, potential work, and marketing myself in the Voice Over market in general.

Let me break it down a bit:

I work six days a week, anywhere from about three to nine hours a day, sometimes more. In that time, I’m either recording, editing, marketing, or sometimes (though more rarely now) driving to or from a gig. Without disclosing any exact numbers, my usual money-making goal in a day ranges anywhere from about $200-$600. Do I always reach my goals? No, but I often do. Alright, now let’s consider that when I appear at a con, I’m usually asked to be there from Thursday night through either Sunday night or Monday morning. So, let’s be really conservative here and say that in the shortest commitment situation, I’d fly out on a Friday morning, and back on a Sunday morning. *note- this is almost never the case     But in that case, I’d be missing doing work and marketing for a Friday and a Saturday, a potential anywhere from $400-$1200.  Now, let’s be a little more realistic… Typical con schedule: I fly out on a Thursday morning, do all the con work on Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday. Get some r and r back at the hotel, then fly out Monday morning, sometimes even Monday evening. So, what has now happened? I’ve missed Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and really, Monday, too. That’s five days. That’s a potential $1,000-$3,000. It also causes me to run the slight risk of getting behind on deadlines, which can cause friction in relationships with a potential long-term client, which basically translates into loss of income.

So, there it is.

Now, you’ll notice I didn’t tell you what my exact appearance fee is, but I gave you a method by which you could arrive at a ballpark amount. As far as what other Guests charge, I have no idea. I only know that whenever I suggest my fee to the person inviting me, 99% of the time the response I get is “oh, that’s totally fine!” So, either I’m being lied to, or my appearance fee is nowhere near as high as certain other talents. *I’m almost willing to bet it’s the latter 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to take a sort of hush-hush subject and demystify it a bit, and possibly help anybody reading this understand why VOs appearing at cons tend to ask for, and usually get, an Appearance Fee.

Yes, it’s Art, it’s our Art, and we love it. But it’s also our Business, and the Artist who forgets that will very likely end up, well, unable to practice his Art, as he or she will spend all their time at a job that does nothing to fulfill them, but instead robs them of their time.

That’s all for now.

Everybody have a great Monday!

 

-Chris

Hey people!

It’s Monday morning, wake up, have some caffeine, run around the park, and then kiss a sunbeam or hug a tree or drive your car around singing Lady Gaga songs… or just be content reading my blog! …

So, I want to talk about why I love being so very involved in the wonderful world of Audiobooks, as a narrative Voice Talent.

First and foremost, I love storytelling. I’ve been acting all my life, and even in those dark days when I was not being paid for my craft, I still enjoyed it, loved it, reveled in it… why? Well, I thought about that for a long time… was it the applause? recognition? the “being able” to tell people I was an actor and sound oh-so chi-chi and artsy? Nah, it was the fact that I LOVED telling  stories! Still do, actually. I think storytelling is what all great acting is at its core. And when I’m doing it at its best, it almost feels magickal, or Shamanic, even. As if I’m a storyteller of old, invoking characters to evoke emotions in the people around me who are seeking some sort of moral, or lesson, or great TRUTH… But perhaps I oversell my craft a bit… but not really. I mean, that IS what it actually feels like!

Anyway, this may sound completely bonkers, simply from a logistics point of view, but I’m currently narrating SEVEN Audiobooks… and I must say, though they’re all good, I must do that thing that no parent is ever supposed to do, and dote on a current favorite… In fact, it’s the book I’m closest to finishing right now, and it’s called What Dies In Summer, and is written by Tom Wright. It’s a fantastically haunting coming-of-age tale that takes place in my home state, Texas. Imagine a mash up of Stand by Me, The Prince of Tides, and maybe something by Tennessee Williams. Really rich, chilling stuff!

Now, I’m not going to lie or beat about the bush on this: Audiobooks are more work for the money, as opposed to a commercial or a quick narration, or something along those lines, but the work is very rewarding, and the money IS good. So, if narrating Audiobooks has ever appealed to you, make sure it’s because you love to spin a good yarn, and not because you think you’ll have won the Voice Over lottery!

That’s all for now, but I shall be writing more very soon!

Please subscribe if you like what I have to say… and if you don’t, keep your damn mouth shut! 😉

 

 

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