Thursday, September 18, 2014

ipDTL (I piddled?) No...

Ok, this is going to be short and sweet.


Go ahead, check it out. You'll need Google Chrome
I have tried, and tried to get ISDN in my studio and
have failed. My local phone company is Fairpoint
Communications, but the phone lines and connection is somehow owned by Verizon. Fairpoint was in bankruptcy proceedings, so they're really not interested in helping me get ISDN.

Fine.

But now… oh man, I hope it's as good as it says it is… ipDTL is available.

Yesterday I was able to connect over DSL, using Google Chrome and ipDTL to a studio in Birmingham Alabama. They said it sounded great!

I think it's witchcraft!

Seriously. It has to be magic. I'm in the woods, my computer is connected via WiFi, and then Fairpoint DSL, that audio stream is flying over the wire down to a studio and we're able to converse just as if I'm in the booth. At first I could here myself as they had me in the mix, once the removed me from the mix (mix-minus) it sounded normal, but even then, when I was in the mix, the delay was only a fraction of a second.

Magic.

For now, I've only done the monthly plan of $25.00 with the intention of going to a yearly $160.00 plan if I get one more gig out of it.

Give it a go, let the world know you can connect, and get busy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

One Bowl

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a while.

It SORT OF has to do with V.O. work as I'm in the middle of a 30 pound challenge for FaffCon 7. I can't make FaffCon 7 due to a scheduling conflict, however I have been carrying around an extra 30 to 40 pounds of weight that I can certainly afford to lose.

Wait, Monk, you're giving weight loss tips?


Um. kinda.

I have this working theory that we eat too much. We eat too much for our level of activity and personally I eat to quickly. I can finish a meal before you even think about starting. NOM it's gone.

So the old tried and true, reduce calories and increase exercise, it sells magazines and books every day. All different renditions of the same thing. Cut down in the intake of calories, increase the burning of calories, the result is a reduction in overall weight.

Those calories are sneaky, THEY'RE IN EVERYTHING! And you have to make smart choices of where you want those calories to come from. I'm not going to give up a glass of wine or two at the end of the day. (aprox 175 calories for ONE 6oz glass of wine!)

Ok ok. So we limit the intake of calories, I'm aiming for a day of 1300-1500 calories with a morning walk.

What does that mean? A sausage egg McMuffin with a hash brown is 570 calories according to the chart at the drive up. Ok, not bad, I'm reserving calories for those two glasses of wine brings me up to 920 calories for the day. That's not including lunch or dinner! YIPES.

No egg McMuffin. 


How about an egg and toast for breakfast? The egg averages out to 70 calories, the toast dials in another 70 or so, (spelt whole grain) and a pat of butter is 36 calories. 176 calories!

There's room there to make this work!

So back to the One Bowl thought.


Not to big, not to small.
Excluding green vegetables, which do have calories but we're going to excuse them from being counted. And I mean kale, broccoli, lettuce, etc, not root vegetables like carrots or potatoes. I think it takes more energy to break down celery or cucumber than you get out of it. I don't have scientific proof, but really it's just fiber and water, eat up.

Find a small bowl that fits comfortably in one hand.

One hand. Not a big cereal bowl. A bowl that just fits your fist. This is your meal bowl.

The protein and carbohydrate goes in here. Again, be careful, don't make it a bowl of ravioli! I'm talking brown rice and chicken or meat or fish. This is about portion control!

And even if it is a bowl of ravioli, it's One Bowl.

If you get hungry in a few hours, grab some vegetables and load up. This isn't hard, but put down the bag of chips, step away from the donut, and leave the 4 course dinner to special occasions.

Seriously!


People are having their stomachs pinched and stapled to lose weight. Pinch and staple that huge dinner plate!

Slow down, calm down, consume less, weigh less. One Bowl.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

You Can't Build an Airplane!

In my basement, next to the motorcycle project are the parts to a Spencer Aircar. It's a homebuilt design by the guy who designed the SeaBee. It's a HUGE project

The Spencer Aircar amphibian
Huge

Stick with me, there's a reason I'm telling you about this. An airplane is a complex contraption that has moving parts, an engine, wiring, etc. To imagine building one can cause the brain to freeze up and all motor functions to stop.

And here's my point. Sometimes the "big picture" is too big. Instead of tackling it, it gets pushed aside for easier projects.

The Metaphor 

An airplane is a good example, because just the thought, to most people causes a reaction. But this same idea can be applied to learning to play guitar, trumpet or any instrument. It also can be applied to the business of Voice Over.

Becoming a successful V.O. talent can be overwhelming if looked at all at once. (Perhaps not so if you just think you'll buy a microphone and go make money.) But this is a business, it requires marketing, training, tools, and everything else that goes along creating a business. If you were to open up a dentist's office, there's a list of things to check off before you drill your first bicuspid.

The Airplane

The phrase "You Can't Build an Airplane" is common in the home builder, experimental aircraft field. The follow up phrase is, "But you can build parts, that then becomes assembled into an airplane."

That's the key to getting it done. Every day, every single day, work on a small part of the airplane. Cut pieces, read the schematic, glue up a piece of something. No less than 20 minutes to touch the project and do something.

The same holds true for learning an instrument. It's not how many years you've been practicing, it's how many hours. An airplane can take 7000 hours to build from scratch. Taking a bite out of that, bit by bit is how it gets done.

Every Day

Even a small task. A minuscule item. A phone call, an email, research a production company, has value. If you were learning guitar I'd say you strum a G chord, to a C chord to a D chord for 20 minutes.

This all makes sense right? You've heard the phrases! "Slow and steady wins the race." "The longest journey begins with a single step." and so on!

Do something for your business EVERY DAY. Don't put it off till tomorrow and do twice as much. Because then you run the risk of the brain saying, "There's too much to do!" and you'll lock up and become that deer in the headlights.

You can create the parts that becomes your success. One day at a time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vocal Warmup

I was having a conversation with my friend Lee a few months back and we were kidding around about vocal warm ups.

A quick clearing of the throat and off to the booth.

Yah, no.

The voice box, as you may or may not be aware of is two thin muscles that shape the noise of the air passing over them. Imagine when you hold a balloon, and you let the air out, and you make noises by tightening and manipulating the end where the air escapes. Same concept.

The tone then gets further shaped by the soft palate, the tongue, teeth, lips and sinus cavity. All well and good, blah, blah, blah.

How do you "warm" up this thing?

Here's what I do. It's plain, simple and puts me in a good mood.

I sing.

Full rip, no fear, belt it out Broadway style singing. Start soft with the first verse, build it for the second verse and smack the back of the house with the third verse.

Find a Broadway song that is in your range. Don't stretch to Tenor or Soprano if you can't comfortably get there. THAT'S NOT THE POINT. This is a song that sits right in your wheelhouse. For me, it's "Try to Remember" from The Fantasticks, a song that when I played El Gallo, (I know..) I went out and got some training from a teacher. He said my technique was fine, but this song needs the confidence behind it to make it soar. Just let it go. Really send it out there with everything you have.

Don't destroy the voice by pushing too hard, just make it full, solid and loud. Bust out that inner diva.

How?

A good half hour before a session sing it at least twice through. Now you may be wondering, where on earth can you do this?  I can do this in the car easily enough on the way to a session, or in my own space prior to recording, but if you're in a tiny apartment and about to get on the Subway, use the bathroom at home. They generally have some decent reverb. A stairwell is an ok place, but EVERYONE is going to hear you. Which, depending on your neighbors, could be a good or bad thing.




Why?

Good question. Just like stretching or warming up before going for a jog, it gets the blood moving and opens up those pipes. You'll move some phlegm (lovely word) out of the way and open up the lungs with some air. During most of the day, people take shallow breadths, this is the time to breath in deep and let it out long.

Test yourself. Do a two sentence recording of a script prior to a singing session and after. You should hear a marked difference. A fullness more rounded delivery.

Suggestions

Bass / Baratone: 
Try to Remember - The Fantasticks
Master of the House - Les Miserables
The Impossible Dream - Man of La Mancha
If I Were a Rich Man - Fiddler on the Roof

Alto:
Any Dream Will Do - Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat
I Dreamed a Dream- Les Miserables 
On My Own- Les Miserables 

Let it Go - Frozen

I won't list Tenor or Soprano, as they have SO many songs since they're usually the lead. 

Summary

The key is, use one or two songs. But nail them. Get into them. Sing your heart out. This is for you, you're not necessarily going to perform these on stage, this is for you to get your sound warmed up in a way that moves through a dynamic range and a relaxed state. Have fun with it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Advantage of You

I'm in Grad School. Yep, I guess holding down a day job, acting at night and doing V.O. work while renovating the house and restoring a motorcycle… WASN'T BUSY ENOUGH for me.

:)

So we're studying Communications and Information Management at Bay Path College, fine. And here we are in the second semester and I have heard this reoccurring theme, not only in class and in the books, but also from people in the world I respect.

Create value, by being unique.

You see, in the world of V.O. some people will say, "It's VERY competitive!" and that's true and it isn't true. You have to be good at this; a good reader, a good actor, someone who can interpret a script, etc. But NO ONE is like you.

No one.

Market that uniqueness of you.

It's that old philosophical idea of "be yourself." Don't be like Madonna, or Tiger Woods, they got to their level by BEING THEMSELVES!

And that's the trick of it really. It's hard to not be influenced by the world around you, and you will be influenced, but as many times as someone says that I remind them of Jackie Gleason or a young Nathan Lane, I am not them. I like those guys, but alas I am Monk.

Presently I'm in the process of going through a branding exercise with Celia Siegle whom I met at the last FaffCon in San Antonio TX. I hired her to look at my branding and give me a going over. She said that monksvoice.com was good, but it didn't have my "Personality" represented. The font didn't give people enough insight to what it would be like working with me. To formal. And my demo needed updating.

Good solid advice. So we're booking time with a director in New York, going to head to a studio next week, and we are going to get a new demo done. When talking on the phone, David, (the director) wanted me to talk about myself to find out who I am. What's my style, where did I feel the most natural.

I'll keep you posted on that as we move into next week.

The thing I'm looking forward to, is being more me. Letting the me, be me. Because there's no one else quite like me.

Or you. And that has value. And that value, is your sustainable advantage in the market…


Friday, October 18, 2013

Character Development

At FaffCon6 I broke tradition and decided to talk about how I develop characters. I've been a character actor for several years on stage and in the vocal booth. Covering everything from Santa to soldiers, cowboys to reindeer!


And I want to give a huge thanks again to the amazing Peter O'Connell, who helped out with the session. The man knows how to run a room.

Who is this Character?

First off, I don't do impersonations. However the voices I hear do INFLUENCE the voices I use.

Let me use an example, right now as of this writing, I'm in a production on-stage playing the roll of Lawrence Garfinkle, aka "Larry the Liquidator" in the show Other People's Money. The book states that Lawrence "Larry" is a third generation guy from the Bronx. Not to be played too heavy on the accent.

Ok. So here's a guy, he's in his 40's, overweight, and pretty well off. He dresses well but is not highly read, his sentence structure is still that of his youth on the streets of the Bronx. "You doing your job good." for example.

He's street smart, and is good at his game. That's the surface.

Lawrence Garfinkle and Kate Sullivan
as played by Monk and Colleen Lovett

Peel The Onion

There's more to him and here is where I go deeper into figuring out this guy. He says in the show that he used to be skinny, well, skinny-er.  I see him as the fat kid in school that was bullied. Little Lawrence Garfinkle was never "Larry" in grade school. He was teased, he was pushed around and then he grew up. And he turned into a bully himself. That kid that once knocked his books out of his hands in the hallway, was just let go from the factory that "Larry the Liquidator" bought and shut down. I can almost see Piggy from Lord of the Flies.

So he's got power and money. When he dates women, he doesn't go for prom queens or cheerleader types. He dates the waitress or the secretary from the office pool. Someone he can control and impress. But it's shallow and he'll never marry them because of his own dim view of his self.

All the bluster of a bully, and all the self loathing of a fat little kid in grade school.

Voices of Inspiration

As I mentioned, I don't do impersonations, BUT I hear and picture people that can add a facet or piece to this character. For Lawrence I picture a couple of people. The late great James Gandolfini for his physicality and ability to be light on his feet. Lawrence is heavy, but after a lifetime of heavy, he's strong enough to hold himself up and move. The other image in my head is Robert DeNiro. DeNiro has one character, he does it well and even makes fun of it in some movies, but it's always the same. I sum it up with the phrase, "You...."

Say it while pointing.  "You... all of you.." It's an attitude. He is commanding the room, looking at each person in the eye and making a promise, not a threat.

Details

Lawrence Garfinkle is from the Bronx. Now I'll admit, I have a slight handicap here as my family is from South Boston. Good old Fackin Southy. A Bronx accent and a South Boston accent are different in many ways, and similar in others. For the longest time I thought that Archie Bunker was from Southy.

The subtleties are in vowels, Southy is Cah, Dawla, Cahfee.  Bronx is Caw. Smawt. Dahlah. Cawfee.

Not over the top, it has to sound natural. But if you say Cah, when you should have said Caw, that audience member from Flatbush is going to catch it and call you on it later. Work on it. Get someone to listen to you and call you on it. It helps that I have a lot of New York friends to call on.

Physical

For me, I have to get a character into my bones, into my muscle memory. A troll for example is top heavy and generally needs something to lean on. A police sergeant is chest out, hand on the butt of a nightstick or barton, head up and jaw set.

Lawrence I see in some ways as a boxer. After growing up fat, he took some boxing lessons because he read an add in the back of a comic book, you know the one, some guy kicking sand in his face, so he goes and gets buff. Only Lawrence never changed his eating habits, he still consumes way to many donuts. But he stands balanced, never really resting on his heels and never caught with both hands in his pockets. If he relaxes for a second or two, he may put his left hand in a pocket, but only for a moment. I think Lawrence could throw a few mean punches, and in reality would throw you down a set of stairs and keep hitting you once you passed out. Again, the anger of being bullied as a kid.

Now mind you, NONE of this is in the script. It's all backstory that I create to develop a character. Which brings me to the next point...

Make it Your Own

I don't imitate, I get inspired by others. And I even go so far as to NOT see someone else's version of a character. If I know of a show or movie of the show I'm doing. I DO NOT go see it till afterward. The reward is hearing, "I liked your take on the character." or "You made it your own."

When you imitate you get drawn into someone else's choices. And you run the risk of getting compared to that persons work and character creation. It may happen, I have heard that I remind people of Jackie Gleason or once "A young Nathan Lane." (Comparisons I can live with!) But you don't want to get stuck doing something that a director or person has heard a hundred times before.

Give the character dimension in your own mind, it's all make believe, but don't give it a short shrift, know who this troll/elf/cowboy/office worker/tailgunner is. It works for me.

Summary

So I visualize, write down details, create a history, and get physically into a character. When Lawrence Garfinkle walks out on stage, he is the sum of his past and the people I know. He wants to be attractive, but damn, donuts taste so freakin good. Want one?

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Art of Faffing


Faffing : "The excessive use of time for nonsense activities.

Stop faffing around already, and please provide to me my work objectives." ~ Urban dictionary

FaffCon started a couple years ago once Amy Snively (rhymes with Lively!) and some friends realized that it's the conversations in a hallway or after the convention closes that are the real value in attending. Why not create an "un-convention" and create the agenda once people arrive and express what they want to talk about.

My Fourth FaffCon


I’ve been attending FaffCon since FaffCon3. I remember driving to Hershy PA and sitting in this room of strangers wondering if I just stumbled into an Amway meeting or was about to hear about the power of positive thinking.

Well, in some ways, that’s true. FaffCon is a boost to my business every year, it re-enforces the idea, or belief that I’m good at VO work and I can make money and perhaps even eventually do this full time.

Hey, it’s a great goal! I love the work!

So FaffCon6 was in San Antonio Texas this round. I had not been to San Antonio since I left it in the rear view mirror when I left basic training at Lackland AFB back in 1984. I flew via United Airlines, and let me just say, if that seat cushion is meant to be a floatation device... I'm screwed. A two hour flight and my tukus was sorus.

Seeing San Antonio was great though and it was fun to stroll the riverwalk, and dig into some Tex-Mex.

Why go EVERY year?


Why do I go to FaffCon? As I mentioned, it’s my annual trek to refuel, to learn more and add to the knowledge of this work we call Voice Over. People leave their ego at the door and they share, they help, they push. Each person in the room wants to be better and wants you to be better at what you do as well. I mean that part. The people in that room are rooting you on! Ok, they may not give you their client list, but they will guide you in the direction of building your own. 

Faffers have turned into a family for me. People I can call, people I trust and to be honest, people I love. And not in the sappy hallmark card way of saying “I love them” but a real feeling of connection and commitment.

If Amy Snively (rhymes with LIVELY) calls and asks a favor, I’m all in. I'm not just an attendee or even someone who adds to the conversation, I help sponsor this event. Even if I couldn’t make it for whatever reason, I would make sure to toss Amy and crew some extra cash to help out. I would take a bullet for this lady.

FaffCon is so worth it.

Take Sessions - Lead Sessions


First and for most, I want to give a huge THANK YOU to Peter O'Connell for helping out in a session that I gave on character voices. Amy had asked in the opening circle for us to do something different, and the past two FaffCon's I spoke about my adventure of building a home studio. This time I would talk about something that I do, and share my technique for developing a character and voice. I was firkin nervous about that! I asked Peter's help and he was able to dive in and bring the conversation into the room vs me just blabbing on for 50 minutes. Peter knows how to work a room, I owe him big time.

FaffCon is an un-conference where you can have a session with only one person attending. It's about sharing ideas and methods to further the career. I'm sure you're getting the point by now if you've stuck through this diatribe this far.

Connections, Connections, Connections


One of the goals for me this year (and last year) was to amp up my marketing, I can guarantee you that I will be sitting down with Celia Siegel and talking about how to get more people to know who I am. I will be calling Cliff Zellman down in Dallas for some guidance on my Automotive demo as well as my commercial demo. I will be going through all my notes and will endeavor to join a stand up group to keep the pressure on.

It's a lot!

There were quite a few new Faffers at FaffCon6, and it felt good to sit and talk with people about the business and ins and outs. It's great being HELPFUL! I learn, and I share. The "Rising tide lifts all boats" mentality.

Only Once a Year


I know I was happy that FaffCon went from twice a year, to once a year... initially. Seeing these people only once a year is not enough. Which is why I pop into NYC as often as I do to see friends. If you get a chance to attend a FaffCamp or FaffCon, do it. Seriously. Sit by your computer on registration day and make it happen. It's education with a firehose, and will take a few weeks to sift through everything that hits you on a weekend, but it is SO WORTH IT! 

Final Thoughts

I can go into detail with what I learned in various sessions, and I'll share some things in following posts to keep you up to date. But here's the skinny.

As a Voice Actor, you're often alone in a booth, alone in a studio, it can be an isolated lifestyle with only a internet connection to people. The great thing about FaffCon is that it is a safe place to be with fellow talent and you can be open and honest about what roadblocks are in front of you. And then, people actually HELP you get over those hurdles. FOR REAL! IN PERSON! THEY UNDERSTAND!

I don't know how I was so lucky to be guided to FaffCon, but wild horses won't keep me away. I'll see you there.