Voice Over Demos:

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The Voice of James Joyce

I didn't even know there were any recordings of James Joyce in existence, but here's a sample of him reading his classic Finnegan's Wake via Boing Boing. It's a great example of an Irish accent, though an unsubstantiated commenter notes that Joyce is altering his accent to protray a rural washer woman character.

James Joyce - Finnegan's Wake

It'd be interesting to read this along with the text and note the vowel and phoneme changes.

The Talent/Client Relationship?

A friend showed me this video yesterday.  While it's intended to highlight the relationship between graphic designers or web developers and their clients, I think it captures some aspects of the voice talent/client relationship as well.

It comes down to perception...the client wants to fit the VO square peg in their circular business or payment model, and it doesn't always work that way!

AudioBook Workshop in Chicago

Chicago's very own Sheri Burger is hosting an audiobook workshop through Voice Over U, June 13 and 14.  The workshop features special guest William Dufris - the voice of Bob the Builder.

Back by popular demand, VOU will once again host William (Bill) Dufris, one of the leading audiobook narrators in the country and voice of Bob the Builder , for a weekend of audiobook workshops in Chicago. We’ve updated the Beginner level, fine tuning the format making it more comprehensive and allowing more on-mic opportunities for participants to work on techniques and workshop their reads. And we’ve added an Advanced workshop to take you to the next level quickly and prepare you to meet publishers’ needs for home recording and production.

You can register at Sheri's site, and listen to an audio message from William Dufris.

Listening to Audio Books

A panel moderator mentioned at APAC the importance of us narrators actually listening to each other's work; taking the time to listen to new audio books.  I have to admit I felt convicted in my seat as I sat listening.  I listen to other narrator's demos and pieces or samples of audiobooks, but I can't remember the last time I listened to an entire book.

Oh wait, yes I can, it was the last time I had a car!  I forget how tied to driving audiobooks are for me - they are the perfect past-time for a brain that is partly devoted to staying on the road.  I find it hard to listen at home, and it's a bit hard to pin down why.  I think it has to do with the speed of my own reading habits.  I read fast, 2-3 books a week, so listening to an audio version I find myself getting impatient, thinking ahead and then losing the train of narration.  I have to make an effort.

I realized the Chicago Public Library has audiobooks for download, how cool is that?  Of course, I had to install this stupid program called Overdrive to download the audio, and it's in WMA so I can't listen on my iPhone 3g.  Now I have to go figure out a way to convert the files so I can listen on the train.  I just downloaded Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris.  It's an Audio award winner, and I vow to listen to the whole thing!

APAC Round-Up

Audio Publisher's Association Convention 5-28-09

So, APAC has come and gone.  This was my first year attending, and if there's anything else I've learned, it's that I suck at networking.  I did get to meet a lot of "names" in the industry, though, and learned a bunch of new things that will influence how I produce more audiobook demo tracks and market myself to producers.

Morning Session: Employment and Visibility for Veterans

Ostensibly this session was to be about marketing yourself - what genres you're best in, and how to extend your flexibility.  We ended up talking about everything under the sun, a pattern I would see repeated the rest of the day.  Not necessarily a bad thing :)  There were a nice mix of producers, agents, and narrators on the panel, almost too many in my opinion.

A point that stood out to me:

  • Sue Mackewich from Gizmo AudioBooks stated "we remember the weakest track on your demo."  The other producers nodded their heads in agreement.  This is scary since it came up amidst the discussion of extending your range - or putting genres on your demo you may not have that much experience in.  John McElroy from Gas House Productions backed this up when he said that he loses confidences in narrators if they're clearly out of their depth.  This makes for hard decisions, do you put on your demo a track in a genre you're not super-experienced in in an attempt to get cast in that genre?

Accents, Race and Age

  • They called this session the "elephant in the room" and it's easy to see why.  There was some interesting discussion around race-casting, and why people want to hear certain ethnic sounding voices for certain books.  All the producers on the panel seemed united in recommending learning as many dialects and accents as possible...but then only putting them on your demo if you're "exceedingly good" at them.  Age came up in the question of whether to ever associate your picture or headshot with your audiobook or voiceover work.  The majority seemed to not care, or advise to not put your picture anywhere.  There was only one producer who said she likes to see pictures, so she can match up a face with a voice.

Added Value in Narrators: Productivity vs. Cost

  • This session was the weakest of them all.  It was supposed to be a discussion of how to increase your flow/productivity in order to save the producers money and therefore be more employable.  It quickly degenerated to narrators swapping stories of horribly unprepared people they've encountered.  We were also reminded, for the 14th time, that reading the book beforehand is a good idea...  There were some interesting little personal notes, one narrator on the panel said he searched high and low for exactly the right height of book stand, and another shared how he does push ups during breaks to get the blood flowing.

Navigating Through Genres

  • This session also covered a lot of the same ground that was covered in other sessions.  There's a few random things that stuck out to me.  Numerous people asked about how to create character voices for characters in a book when there's no physical or vocal description for them.  Some people suggested accents, but one of the panelists had an interesting insight: she suggested paying close attention for clues to physical action, or clues in the text about how the character is moving or interacting with other characters.  Throughout the day one of the veteran narrators would say "acting trumps accents," by which he means accents can be distracting, and good acting will often do the job better.  You don't need to change your voice to an extreme all the time, but by just having the attitude of the character the listener will be able to sense a difference.

Phew.  So those were the sessions.  Overall I was a little disappointed at the lack of "hands-on" sessions or anything similar.  That's not what the conference was about, though.  I wish I were better at elbowing right up to producers to hand over my card, but it takes me a while to work up to that.  I don't want to be that schmoozy actor-boy so much that sometimes I err too much in the opposite direction.

Here's a good take-home note: no one wants physical demos at these events!  I spent the money to get 50 copies of my demo printed and beautifully packaged, and no one wanted them!  Most producers just wanted to be emailed links to a website with mp3s.  There are still the hold-overs, though, that want a demo mailed via snail-mail.  So for now we'll have to keep wasting the money until the digital conversion is complete.

Of course, I learned a few things at the conference that leads me to go back and re-record or tweak some tracks, so those 50 beautiful demos...$200...down the drain.  Live and learn.