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surfing for a little gold on a sunday afternoon

legendary Warner Brother’s character voice actor Mel Blanc

It’s true, many of us surf the net with no real purpose. One link begets another begets another and so on. The fun part of this blog today is that I can actually remember HOW I got to the link I am about to share with you (even though I didn’t start my surfing with any desire to find an idea for a blog post).

I started at Bob Souer’s blog, whose voice over blog is pretty much read by all in the biz (mine, on the other hand, is read by my wife and now you…but you only found this by mistake I’m nearly sure). Bob was kind enough to write up and link to a post I had late last week. I posted a couple of comments on Bob’s blog and then fished around his site’s links where I noticed the Voice Chasers site. Among other things, it has a forum or bulletin board for people to talk about all things voiceover.

Well, the Voice Chaser’s forum looked pretty quiet except for the news page (thank you Kristy Sproul) which carried a story and a link from ASIFA Hollywood. A member found an old recording of a speech legendary Warner Brother’s character voice actor Mel Blanc gave to the 1966 Annual Awards Luncheon of the Station Representatives Association (no, I don’t really know what that group is either). At any rate, it’s a funny account of the state of advertising from Blanc, who also owned a production company that did commercials.

Note how little the advertising and marketing business has really changed in 41 years!

my new comp card

Peter O’Connell headshot

I’ve mentioned before how I loiter occasionally on VO-BB.com with my fellow voice professionals. Well occasionally, an avatar theme develops if members care to join in. The avatar is the little picture that is featured under your screen name on many message boards…the picture can be your photo, your logo or darn near anything you can justifiable identify in what amounts to a pretty tiny box.

Over on DB’s board, there have been such themes as animals, photos photo shopped in into KISS band members (some were especially odd), the Simpsonization graphics that I wrote of here and then, more recently, comp cards. Comp cards are those cards models and actresses leave behind for agents or casting directors when auditioning for a role; they usually feature one or more “headshots” and contact information etc.

Well, this brings up the old voice over talent argument of whether to ever feature your photo if you are a voice actor. Will your photographic image change in any way a casting director’s opinion of whether you are the right voice talent for a voice acting role (nothing on camera about it)? As I don’t like to do on camera work because I think I’m lousy at it, I always vote no to pictures but also do not begrudge any voice talent who also does on camera work for featuring their photo on their web site etc.

So when the board started posting comp card avatar’s after audio’connell Voice Over Talent Amy posted her recent headshot, I wasn’t going to participate. Until, that is, I got the crazy idea to create a comp card from my Simpsonized photo. THAT seemed most apropos as it’s a cartoon caricature and one of the things I do is character voices for cartoon and animation. Further, it also seemed silly and for me that sealed the deal.

So now on my web site biography, you will find my comp card and I’m also featuring it on my Facebook profile as that’s about the only photo of me I think the web is really ready for!

it’s not about me

Philip Banks, UK Voice Talent_http://www.philipbanks.co.uk/

Remember, voice over talents are like professional golfers…VO’s and golfers don’t compete against each other. Voice talents compete for the ear of the producer and golfers compete against the golf course superintendent (well, the course itself actually, but I’ve always felt most superintendents didn’t get the proper credit).

But as performers of a kind, both for voice actors and for golfers, ego “occasionally” rears its ugly head.

There is a “heady” gentleman in the UK who by most accounts as a voice talent who has always been well respected; through his web postings on various voice talent message boards, his thoughtfulness usually appreciated and his humor is sadly lost on a few…but not on me.

His name is Philip Banks and if you need a wonderful, truly British announcer (or some funny character voices too) you should simply call him and stopping your shopping at once. Having spoken to him and corresponded with him at various times over some years, he is quite a thoughtful gentleman. And he reminded a few of us the other day of a phrase he has used before with equal effectiveness each time:

“It’s not about me.”

For a voice talent, no matter the specialty, these are simple words. But their stunning, almost epiphany-like impact because of what they mean to the very core of our professional lives cannot be ignored. Why?

While voice talents are cognitive tools for producers and directors, we are still tools….voices through which messages are conveyed. But it’s the cognitive and emotional part of we “tools” (sentient & egotistical) that sometimes do not allow us to “get out of our own way.” Sometimes we put OUR interpretation of a script, or a line or a character ahead of the writer, producer or director. We can be inflexible.

Note well, I do not mean to say that any voice talent shouldn’t share an opinion if its welcomed. But ultimately, we can take our insights and interpretations too personally so that when a director says finally “do it my way” we feel in some way slighted. Cognitive tools made up of oversensitive wiring with an ego on top; that’s a recipe for a voice talent sundae.

But what we forget sometimes is that the director has a goal, a vision and we’ve agreed to take part in it using our tools (voice over abilities) to help “get him there”. So with her critique or alteration of our vocal performance, we need to remember is not a means to our end, it’s a means to her end. It’s about him or her.

It’s not about us. And that is as it should be.

a narration of our history

Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

I have been asked to quote on a character narration voice over project for a documentary that involves the voices of some of America’s founding fathers. As an expert in this topic I am an abysmal failure but I have, none the less, always been drawn to the writings and lives of some of these extraordinary men.

There are far more erudite students of American history who can share better insight than I can on the lives of John Adams or Thomas Jefferson but because this voice over job got me to thinking about my peculiar fascination with some of these historical figures, I’ll share with you how I have come to enjoy American history, my way.

If you’ve never been to Washington, DC, shame on your sorry ass. If you’re an American citizen, double shame! Yes, it’s a town with a grossly high concentration of liars and thieves but it is also the place where most of the important people and important decisions that have impacted America’s existence have taken place. The monuments, the documents, the very seed of your inalienable rights are in Washington, DC and you must go.

When you do, speaking of inalienable rights, you must go to my favorite monument, The Thomas Jefferson Memorial. It is magnificent by day and it is magical at night. It is said that when it was built on the Potomac River Tidal Basin during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, he wanted the statue of Jefferson to face towards the Oval Office and the residence balcony in the White House so that FDR might be inspired and draw strength. It worked, I think. And oh, could Mr. Jefferson write! Some of his marvelous writings adorn his monument and they are thrilling. Rush to get there, stay as long as you can.

One of the finest audio book voice talents I know of is Edward Herrman. I know this because I didn’t particularly care about John Adams until Herrman’s voice talent and David McCullough’s writing talent combined into the great audio book John Adams. Take a ride, get caught in traffic and enjoy.

David McCullough’s talents as a writer about things American need no endorsement from me. He’s already got a Pulitzer Prize for his book Truman, on the life of President Harry Truman. For the audio book, he did the narration and did a fine job. Everyone under estimated Harry Truman, don’t underestimate this book.

blog design with style and substance


A great blog design without good writing is like a bubble gum comic….it’s a passable idea but who cares?

Likewise, good blog writing is meaningless if it’s presented within a wishy-washy design.

And if you want to highlight your podcast, then all of that becomes a bit more complicated.

Well today Mitch Joel of Twist Image unveiled his new design and rebranded Six Pixels of Separation Blog and Podcast site.

If his company uses just this site as its design-content-web functionality calling card…Twist Image may not have actually write many more new business marketing/advertising/podcasting/public relations proposals. You can see it from the first page.

And he writes well.

THAT’S how its done, folks. Take note.

BTW, I’d be remiss if I didn’t direct you to Mitch’s recent podcast on the Toronto Geek Dinner, which I wrote about recently. Listen to the interviews (not because I’m on it) but for the various opinions and uses for blogging and podcasting….totally unique perspectives unedited and rolling live from people all using the same tools. And a great steak dinner, I might add.

remembering one of the greatest announcers

Johnny Olsen, The Price Is Right, CBS

The internet is a great resource for information that really doesn’t exist anywhere else. This is especially helpful when someone like me comes across an idea that needs to be quickly researched. 9 times out of 10, I find what I’m looking for on the web, because the internet has proven to me that the things that I’ve found interesting in my life that I thought only interested me actually were and are of interest to a great many people. I think that kind of personal epiphany has occurred across the globe, which gave rise to the social media phenomenon that has grown so rapidly.

Today I was thinking about Johnny Olsen. Anyone born after the early 80’s will probably have no idea of whom I am speaking. Johnny Olsen was a professional announcer on many game shows but is most famously associated with The Price Is Right hosted by Bob Barker. For me Johnny Olsen has some of the greatest voices for his genre: game shows. The announcer is sooo critical to the pace, excitement level and overall success of that show. He sets the stage for the mood of that show and boy did Johnny do that.

Johnny Olsen took simple phrases and made them television tipping points:

“Come on down!”

“A new car!”

Sadly, Johnny Olsen died in 1985 and I believe The Price Is Right employed 3-4 other announcers before Bob Barker retired (including Buffalo radio legend Rod Roddy ). Enjoy these clips from one of Johnny’s last shows and listen to one of the greats at work.

Thanks Johnny, someday I hope to be as good as you.