Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath.
Could you for one minute consider that you might not know it all?
Challenging yourself is healthy even when it hurts like hell.
This past weekend, I completed a host bootcamp in Santa Monica with Marki Costello. Dragging my carcass home saturday night, I was filled with equal parts exhilaration and terror.
By five am sunday morning, all I wanted to do was pull my stinging eye balls out of my head. The voice of my inner thoughts whispered, ‘You don’t have to go.’ For a few seconds I pondered the consequences of not going as I slapped my new coach’s, “progress not perfection,” ointment on my face. I got my butt to the beach, respecting Ms. Costello and myself more than my flaws.
There are certain things you cannot teach.
Can I get a witness?
Character is one of them.
I showed up because I craved accountability from someone who is GOOD AT HER JOB (pardon my yelling). Marki is a badass that does not give two toots about my history or excuses.
We can lie to ourselves all day long about a lot of things, huh?
Ya know what the cool thing is? If you have the courage to suit up with a gladiator, you actually see your truth.
Things were definitely exposed and I WAS RELIEVED (Oops, screaming again, my bad). Know why? She was right.
It feels good to be caught. Let me say that again this time for emphasis — IT FEELS GOOD TO BE CAUGHT. There is nothing sexier than lack being exposed. HINT: See Title.
Whether you want to read the next few paragraphs of nostalgic junk or not, this past weekend I learned that it is paramount to reveal, so here ya go…
As a teenager, I found an audition for Quilters, an all female musical, in Gig Harbor’s, Peninsula Gateway.
My tenacity smelled opportunity, as I gobbled up the Narrows’s Bridge like it was my job, chewing threw the North End until my feet were planted in the isles of UPS’s music library hosting the score of My Fair Lady. Scrolling for freedom, my finger found it’s bulls eye, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? BINGO… Copying the sheet music to hand to the accompanist, I was set. Due to watching the VHS tape my Auntie Ardy lent me on repeat, this tune dovetailed into my matrix. The concept of not getting in this production was not even an option for me.
At the first read-through, I was eager to spy on the working pros. These ladies inspired me in ways I never even knew existed with their expertise. I felt alive when I glimpsed the thespian who brought her personal tape recorder to that rehearsal. As I witnessed her pop in a fresh cassette, I felt like Nancy Drew cracking a case. The way she captured our cast delivering in their own voice her ques just like they would sound on stage mesmerized me. This technique allowed her to multi task as she shoved her homework into her car’s tape player to memorize on the go. “These broads were geniuses,” I gasped to myself as I unlocked each one of their devices of efficency.
Being a piece of sizzling bacon in a high school acting class was not my jam. Watching Audrey Hepburn 90,000 times unmasked a new need: positioning myself in a play to learn skills only gained by wing dinging them in context. This community theatre production was not paid, on the other hand, I did not have to come up with the cost of torpedoing myself up to Seattle for a professional acting class I could not afford. Feasting off daily soul food, I had a potent appetite for each rehearsal, the task of running lines became the equivalent of taste testing for Darigold ice cream as each word coated my lips. In anticipation of the audience, the final part of the collaboration, the triumph of shining my light on them yielded me many baskets of deliciousness.
I know what you’re thinking… ‘Ok, ok, ok! But, LADY, how did you get into voice overs?’
I failed at on camera. Yep. Little Miss I Want It More Than ANYone, but I’m willing to work for it, lost.
When I graduated college, I drove to LA with every intention that I was going to act on camera. You can stop laughing now. It is pretty hysterical though looking back. I would type up these letters that read, “Dear Agent, I want to be a leading lady in motion pictures,” dead serious. VO was the only thing I consistently booked.
Ya know what? VO is like anything you will ever encounter in life. There are no short cuts. Drawback’s suck.
I wanted to be a movie star, remember?
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for VO because otherwise, I probably would not be vested my union or qualify for consistent health insurance or pensions.
Did you know I was one of the first girls to announce a car?
My voice over “class” took place at Margarita Mix de Santa Monica on Lincoln. For well over a year and a half, I branded the full line of each car model the company sold. Depending on the time of year (Labor Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day — are you catching the theme), I would read 5 to 25 scripts a week or month for their Accent, Tiberon, Sonata and Elantra sale events. And get this, they paid ME.
Those were amazing days, with the studio full of men who owned dealerships, Bates USA (the ad agency) and my favorite, the copy right editor. You have not lived until you have mimicked each and every inflection that came out of Carmen’s mouth (using your voice) in order to properly pronounce, Hyundai. She was my favorite because a) she was the only woman besides me & B) she demanded excellence. Her lessons gave me a career.
Let me repeat, my smart phone did not get me my career, hard work did. But, LADY, times have changed.
But you know what hasn’t?
Do whatever you want.
You are going to do what you want to anyway.
Quick! Buy your mic so you can talk in your closet.
Google cheap mics or get a tip from someone who doesn’t actually make their living in voice overs. I’m sure they have an excellent recommendation. I never bought a cheap mic because I have only wanted to be the best. If I was not ready for the best, I WORKED MY WAY UP with my character (things that don’t cost anything) until I could easily afford the mic every working pro uses in LA.
Here’s the deal, if I want to have a shot, shouldn’t MY quality match what the folks who are going up to the mic everyday are using? Is or is this not business 101?
My point is, there is so much more to being good than talking into something that amplifies your sound and records it. Buying a mic is the easy part but getting great at the mundane by passing the passion test is what makes stars.
Why do you think I told you about what a lunatic I was growing up in those lame paragraphs above? To establish this takes time, it takes grace and it takes someone with a vision that never ends. To be good at anything you have to possess the kind of stick-to-it-ness, whatever it takes, I don’t care if I come sliding in on my last eye lash and my panties explode, I will sell that house today (Annette Benning, American Beauty). Or for all you millennials, not getting my references, it looks like Emma Stone lip syncing on Jimmy Fallon, All I Do Is Win.
You kinda have to be a maniac who bounces back and you cannot buy that on Amazon.
Do you want to know what I did?
Used other people’s money until I made my own. Maybe it’s the country girl in me forever at a garage sale with my Grandma Gracie but I never spent a dime on VO until it paid me.
Have you researched the studios in your area to see if you can throw them five bucks to get direction, play backs, mastering and packaging so all you have to do is be the talent? Personally, my background loves a good collaboration. Even if it is just me, the engineer and the relationships I have with that studio because I NEED PEOPLE.
Can I do it alone? All day.
But I have never been interested in being the butcher, the baker and the candle stick maker. It takes away from my real strengths. Am I a life long learner? Mos Def.
Check it out, it is important to tell the truth and not set yourself up to fail.
Did you know struggling makes you weaker? I personally have decided I do not need SHE HAD THE HIGHEST PAIN TOLERANCE on my tomb stone.
Just for five seconds, imagine what it would be like to partner with an imperfect person, like you.
The transparent quality about ignorance is that when you don’t know what you are doing, you don’t know what you don’t know, yet all the people who DO know can see that you are green.
Believe me, I also suffered from the lie that you needed an agent to get work even though I was booking just fine without one. During one silly season, my whole identity was wrapped up in the fact that I was with TGMD and had Don LaFontaine’s agent when he was alive. Big whoop. Would you believe my income has more than quadrupled without representation?
Before dinosaurs walked the earth, I vividly remember SAG held a screening of Calendar Girls at the Design Center in WEHO. Dame Helen Mirren was in person for a Q & A that took place immediately following the viewing. I had approximately 47 heart explosions every time she spoke. Like a floral forager pressing pansies in between the pages of Shakespearean anthology, I laminated each syllable that escaped her mouth to my heart like a seal. I will never forget when she said, “I had my nose pressed up against the glass the whole time thinking, ‘How. Can. I. Get. In. There?'” There, was this little hamlet called Hollywood, and I thought, ‘Holy crap, YOU ARE DAME HELEN MIRREN and YOU have felt that way too?’
Wherever you are on your voice over journey, I want to welcome you. The last thing I want you to feel like is you don’t belong because there is room for everyone. Bob Bergen says it best as he praises the internet in last friday’s Hollywood Reporter, “There’s more work today than ever before. There’s more people doing it than ever before since the Internet opened it up to anyone with a mouse. It doesn’t mean they’re good, but there are more people.”
Don’t rip yourself off by not doing the work. If you want to compete in voice overs, understand that “For very little money you can audition from home now,” he adds. “For under 100 bucks, your computer or phone can become your portable studio.”
Now that you know that, if you are a female, you are up against me! If you think your iPhone or blue mic can come up against my Sennhesier, PreSonus, Focurite piped into my Mac with every cell in my body frothing like I am running with the dogs tonight, in Suburbia, bring it on!
Break A Lip,