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a new era or new headaches?

Depending on your position the answer is:

It passed.

OR

IT PASSED!!!!!

I am not in the union. I understand the prospective value of being in it but in the past I didn’t see the value for my business for a variety of reasons. The union isn’t bad generally, it’s just not for me presently.

Going forward, I’m very much of the wait and see opinion. There will be so much elbowing for a place at the new combined table (egos, anyone?) while trying to herd the operational cats that a union manages (health care comes to mind) that it’s going to be a bumpy union ride for a while.

I’m hopeful for the union members because this really seems to be the union’s final shot at legitimacy and effectiveness.

The union is necessary in practice and principle. Good luck to all.

faffcon 4 – my really long & incomplete thank you note

FaffCon Treasure

Editor’s Note: I am publishing this post on Friday, March 30th but I have been writing it since I got on the plane home at LAX on Monday, March 26th. I had a lot of thoughts to digest.

Walking into LAX this morning, an American Airlines associate stopped me to make sure I had my boarding pass, which I had on my iPhone. As I reached into my pocket to retrieve the phone, out popped a few gold tokens that I had been given over the weekend. She looked a bit quizzically at me and I told her they were plastic yet more valuable than she could ever imagine.

On to security, and on the other side of the conveyor belt, the TSA agent picked up one of the totes that had gone through the x-ray and looked at something under my sneakers. He pulled out a flat gray rock with some writing on it that showed up on the screen. He looked disinterested, he placed it back in the tote and then I put the rock back in my pocket and went to my gate.

Whether they are called conventions, meetings, conferences or even unconferences, every industry has their meetings, and if they are any good, the participants leave the event energized and reinvigorated to return to their jobs and improve their company’s profitability from the knowledge they gained.

Of all those gatherings, I don’t know how many participants actually leave their event mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally changed. Participants at other conferences may be more educated, but are they more changed? For their sake I hope so.

I am flying home now from my third FaffCon – the Voiceover Unconference. It took place in Ventura Beach, California. And it changed a lot for a lot of people.

It is said of most professional activities, you get out of it what you put into it. So if you join an organization, you should attend its events, mingle and join a committee so that people get to know you, especially if your goal is to create new business opportunities through your membership. Friends do business with friends.

The same holds true for conferences or in FaffCon’s case, unconferences. But with FaffCon, it seems evident to even a first-timer of the most introverted condition: participation really isn’t an option – and they willingly do.

People don’t come to FaffCon eager to learn, they hunger for it. They don’t come expecting to network with fellow professional, they crave it. And I believe everyone leaves satiated yet still wanting more…the sign of a good party and a particularly good unconference. And simply put…it’s fun.

To assume that such an event comes off without an awful lot of work would be a mistake. After a successful event like this, the chorus of thank yous are rich in number and sincerity. Were I stupid enough to enumerate them, I’d surely miss someone. But it’s a blog and I can edit it if I want to.

Amy Snively is asleep right now I’m sure so I will quietly thank her and allow her to continue her slumber. There just are no words.

Pam Tierney is amazing in so many ways (smart, charming, swears like a sailor) and I got to work with her directly on this FaffCon – thanks for letting me help out.

Connie Terwilliger as you may have been able to tell from past and present voice demos of mine is one of my favorite female voice talents whom I’ve known for years and who I enjoyed working with when we were on the national board together for MCA-I. When I saw she was going to work with me on sponsorship, I knew everything was going to work out just fine. And it did.

Lauren McCullough may be one of the most patient and kind people I know whose last name isn’t Souer. She was the human form of a golden nugget – someone I knew of and liked before the event but when we worked on F4 she sooo impressed me with her organizational skills, can do attitude and consistently pleasant demeanor. She has probably been the best gift FaffCon even received.

Natalie Stanfield Thomas is imposing because she has three names and is like a crazy talented voice over talent but this one was the one who watched over us all, especially late at night to make sure everybody got home OK. Yet I bet you never felt like you were being protected, did ya? She’s good that way.

CC Heim is another one of those get’er done people. Positive, focused and so much fun to have on the team. She did a lot of stuff but my memory of her from FaffCon is how she did it all with a tremendous smile…that’s a great non-verbal attitude adjustment for her co-volunteers that kept us all up and positive.

Dan Friedman not only should be in 12 step program for excitable improv actors (get thee to an improve troupe!) but watching him Sunday go Road Runner fast setting up the closing circle PA was to watch a maestro at work. He was wasn’t frustrated, he wasn’t mad…he just quickly and quietly mad it happen, then and ALL weekend long. My friend Dan is a total pro.

Corey Snow is scary smart and brought internet technology to its knees at the feet of FaffCon. What ever IT accomplishment FaffCon enjoyed, Corey was the man who made it happen, simple as that.

Anyone with the last name Souer should be thanked by strangers off the street let alone Faffers. Their commitment and dedication, as strong to FaffCon as it is, is actually more a testament to family than the event. And oh what a marvelous example it is.

So who should who should I have shared MY golden shekels with had I the presence of mind that proper sleep and no time changes offer more thoughtful people? I will speak them now.

Kelley Buttrick – most people know here as a swell person but her professional generosity towards me was – as the kids say – “off da hook”. It was offered, not asked -THAT kind of generosity. No matter how it turns out I shall not forget her graciousness.

JS Gilbert – Who saw me challenged by a script and stepped in to give me someone to play off of – a voiceover lifejacket, if you will. The subsequent so-so performance was all me but the selflessness was all JS. Thanks very much.

Mercedes Rose – Who hosted a session for me and Catherine Campion and…that’s it. And it was loaded full of facts and while she could have just passed it off or cut the session short, she didn’t, she committed and that was pretty great.

Dean Panaro – Look it’s simple, there is no WAY any LA agent is going to sit through 3 hours in a hotel ballroom listening to the same scripts being read again and again, let alone given specific personalized notes to each performer…truly listening to their work and letting them try again. Unless, evidently, your name is Dean Panaro. His professionalism and generosity impressed me more than I can express and was one of the top highlights of my FaffCon experience. And no, I’m not angling for anything here…if you were there, you couldn’t help but be impressed.

Tanya Buchanan – When I get off a plane from FaffCon and your new agent from TO calls and says “I’ve got an urgent audition, get back to me right away,” there’s no way that doesn’t make a positive impression. I’ve had agents for years and I’ve spoken to them once…maybe. This is why, with or without me on the roster, she will be a success.

Bruce Miles – look, I just think we should create a BruceCon and when the weekend is over we all sound like him with almost a third of his acting talent.

Jane Ingalls – who had never done an improv before in her LIFE and took the jump in my session, nailed it and told me she was buzzing with excitement for a half hour afterwards. The thrill was mine…watching her and EVERYONE in that session.

Bill Mehner – who came into my Conversational Read presentation, read the script like an announcer but finished in an intimate conversation and made that script come alive. I got chills from the transformation of everyone who was able to read with me in there.

Doug Turkel – sense and sensibility.

Martha Mayakis is an interrupter, a shaker-upper and an A-type personality. But she clearly knows voice over. I performed in her Saturday morning session (see JS Gilbert) and while it wasn’t the worst, it was poor in relation to my abilities, in my opinion. But I moved on. Fast forward to Saturday afternoon and I do some MC’ing for the FaffCon prizes. Fast forward to the closing session on Sunday when I’m talking with Pam Tierney and up pops Martha who says my light, my performance essence was found within that MC’ing. Within my natural presentation Saturday was my point of difference that I need to harness in my voice work. My ears rang and my brain shook a little (my knees more than that). My FaffCon epiphany. Not a golden nugget- platinum. The very pinnacle of my learning experience at FaffCon 4 and for that, Martha, I thank you so sincerely.

Thank you to everyone I had the great pleasure of encountering during FaffCon – this list is only a small sample of the greatness I enjoyed in Ventura Beach.

FaffCon 5 will be in Charlotte, NC on October 12-15 and I hope you are afforded the opportunity to join us.

FaffCon is voiceover nirvana.

5 Questions for a Professional Voice Over Talent – Bruce Miles

Male Voice Talent Bruce Miles

Today’s 5 Questions for a Professional Voice Over Talent are answered by Bruce Miles, a professional voice over talent based in Portland, Oregon.

1. The beginning: When did you know you wanted to be a voiceover talent; how did your career begin (please include what year it started) and then when did your passion for voiceover develop into something professional?

I started by being the class clown, always cutting up, often getting into trouble. In fifth grade I improv’ed a line in a school play making 300 kids laugh in a big roar and I was hooked for life. Like many others in this business I spent a large amount of my youth with a tape recorder creating commercials and shows in my bedroom. In high school I snuck out of the house late at night and visited disc jockeys at the hot Top 40 stations and after observing their “glamorous” line of work the first phase of my career was set.

Starting in 1970 I spent 10 years full-time and 4 years part-time in radio playing rock, pop, and country, I did news, lots of audio production and program directed in Phoenix and San Diego. Being funny, interesting, and informative were my usual goals. From radio I got a lot of experience recording commercials that went beyond the station and getting paid for them (yay!) so my passion for VO started early. During those days and afterwards I also got opportunities to do TV commercials and shows, movies, and plays. I love all those performing formats.

From 1989 to 1993 I co-owned and managed a live theater company and produced 40 plays and 40 music concerts, most with good to excellent reviews. We couldn’t make a decent profit at it so I went back to full time acting. As I lost my boyish good looks my work shifted more and more to voiceover. I built a home studio in 2001 and that’s been my office and man cave ever since.

2. What is the one thing you know now that you wish someone had told you when you first started out in voiceover?

Befriend Peter O’Connell right away. He’s great to talk to and buys you a nice dinner when he visits your town. Only somewhat more seriously there are two things to work on from day one in a VO career.

a) If you don’t already know how, learn how to schmooze and market yourself. As a rule, the most successful among us are the ones who do this best. Until you’ve reached Philip Banks status, one who has people clamoring for his talents, marketing requires about 50% of your time (give or take 40%) to make it big in the biz. Yes, agents and production houses can bring you some work, but how do you convince them to sign you on? Good schmoozing.

b) The second important thing to do is be a sponge. Study the craft. Learn what the greats are doing right and what the so-so’s are doing wrong. Mimic the best until you create your own best styles. Study the news, be up on the general interest stories and trends of the day. Conversing intelligently with clients earns you loads of respect and just makes you a better talent overall.

3. What do you see as the biggest professional or personal obstacle you face that impacts your voiceover business and how are you working to overcome it?

It amazes me that while communication is at the core of my business (I’ve easily talked to 200,000 people at a time on live radio and TV, and 3,000 people staring at me in a theater), talking to just one stranger about using my communication talents is really difficult. I’m clearly not shy, however, I am very modest about my talents, so it must be my trepidation about extolling my virtues that holds me back.

To conquer this I just do it. I have a script I try to ad lib off of, and the more calls I make and the more positive responses I get the easier it gets. But I have to tell myself what I just told you here every day before I start calling.

4. What personal trait or professional tool has helped you succeed the most in your career so far?

Here I go extolling a virtue, but I think I’m very good at interpreting copy. How to stress, manipulate, massage certain words and phrases. How to make copy interesting for the intended audience even when I don’t find the subject matter personally of interest. That’s where being a sponge has been a help…studying styles of read and absorbing content that might help me later. My brain may explode some day, but I know I’ll die happier. I read that somewhere.

5. In your development as a voice over performer, who has been the one particular individual or what has been the one piece of performance advice (maybe a key performance trick, etc.) that you felt has had the most impact on your actual voice over performance and why?

I have a man crush on a number of great voiceover artists: David McCullough, Keith David, Liev Schriber, Peter Coyote, Orson Welles just to name a few. The first three have a great natural style. The next two a great theatrical style. I study them when I listen to them. What are they doing/thinking/feeling that makes them read that way?

I’m thankful for the fellow deejay who told me early in my career to stop “puking” on the air (playing with words unnecessarily, artificially). And that leads me to offer, don’t fall in love with your voice; fall in love with the copy. Make the words and ideas special and the rest will follow.

paul strikwerda is a gossip

Paul Strikwerda voice over talent

So it’s up to you if you want to learn the stuff from him that nobody else will tell you.

john florian gets a facelift

I kid – as John doesn’t actually need a facelift but as he does own the voiceover industry’s journal of record, VoiceOverXtra, it was my attention grabbing way of letting you know that his site has gone through an extensive redesign, the first (I believe) since he started it in 1876.

And, because I am a voiceoverist of power and prestige (in my mind, anyway) John clued me in on his web plans sometime ago. For the record, yes, that does make me cool.

Congrats to John and a sincere thank you on behalf of ALL your many readers for the great information and service you provide.

dreading faffcon

Faffcon_4_faffcon.com_the_voiceover_unconference

What is this heresy you speak?!

Well hear me out.

Friday kicks off FaffCon 4, the Ventura Beach iteration of the enormously popular working voiceover pros unconference. I have been to Faffs 2 & 3, missing the first Faff for the birth of my youngest son (I know, what completely screwed up priorities I have).

For those 2-3 of you who have read postings in this space before, you know that I have, from its inception, cheered from the bell tower (where I am kept under lock and key) all things FaffCon. This year, I even helped out on one the FaffCon committees, taking orders from, er…working with Pam Tierney and Connie Terwilliger.

So why the dread?

Because it will end.

Not forever but just until next time, FaffCon 5. And I hate that feeling.

The saying goodbye, the having to go out and do all the new things I’ve learned how to do from my peers without them all next to me cheering me on, the insights they offered, the secrets that they shared….all end Monday as I board the plane at LAX (ooooooh note to self: buy dark sunglasses, don’t shave and wear a ripped t-shirt to look like a traveling celebrity walking through LAX – albeit a middle aged, short, fat, suburban father looking celebrity who, in that get up, will look more like a street urchin).

So I’ve got to focus on the present while ignoring the future. I’ve got to try and enjoy and be present in every second of the event…taking none of it for granted (much like I try to do in my family life and fail miserably). Keeping in mind all the literally hundreds of people who would like to be in my spot at FaffCon.

And with no effort, I will love every faffing minute of it.

I am grateful to Amy Snively, her committee, the sponsors and all my fellow voice talents who come together in this unique event. I shall learn, share and be enriched.

And I am especially indebted (yet again) to my wife and children who, in spite of my already imposing travel schedule, allow me to further impose on them by my absence during another cherished weekend so that I may learn more and hopefully make a better life for all of us. Thank you…again.