Here’s an adorable trailer for the upcoming claymation feature film inspired by Lewis Carroll’s immortal nonsense poem, The Hunting of the Snark. It’s written and directed by Saranne Bensusan. I’m not featured in this trailer, but I contributed the voice of the Judge to the Barrister’s Dream sequence. After all, who could turn down an appearance in a Lewis Carroll project? Not me! Enjoy.
The Hunting of the Snark – Official Trailer from From the 3rd Story Productions on Vimeo.
I recently contributed my voice to an animated short film being created by the very talented writer/director/animator Alexandra Huzsvai. The piece is called Majnun’s Dream Theater Shadow Show, and I play the role of The Living Skeleton, a mysterious character who appears before the heroine when things look bleak. I’m delighted to be able to share this conceptual rendering of my character, courtesy of (and copyright by) Alexandra.
When we went into the studio to record the Skeleton’s lines, Alexandra noted that she sees him as someone who was possibly a jazz musician when he was alive. And in all her renderings, he still sports a lit cigar, so I suggested that perhaps the smoking was what killed him! She wanted to make sure he came across initially as a character whose motives were unclear, and I suggested that sounded a bit like the Cheshire Cat, an association she loved. Yet ultimately, he reveals himself to be something of a spirit guide for the heroine. So I had great fun working that all into my vocal interpretation of the Skeleton’s lines–cool, oblique, raspy breath, playful, yet ultimately kind. Voiceover work can be so liberating for an actor–you can’t be “typed out” of a role because of your own height, weight, age, gender, etc. Instead, the only limitation is your own vocal imagination. It’s a blast.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I think the script for this short film is terrific. It’s surprising and intriguing, and underneath there’s a strong message about the importance of recognizing and leaving an abusive relationship. The script is particularly effective in the way Alexandra uses visual metaphors to depict the heroine’s gradual awakening. I’m delighted to have been part of the project, and can’t wait to see the finished film later this year! My thanks again to Alexandra for permission to share this sneak peek at my character well ahead of the film’s release.
After the recording session, Alexandra and I chatted briefly, and conversation revealed we both originally hail from New England. Even bigger coicidence: it turns out we were both born in the same hospital in Cambridge, MA, and grew up in towns right next to each other! I love “small world” discoveries like that. It’s a good omen.
After two rounds of audio auditions, I’m happy to say I landed a cool role in an animated short film called Majnun’s Dream Theater Shadow Show which is being created by talented filmmaker Alexandra Huzsvai. I’m very excited about this piece because the script is beautifully written, and it takes a fascinating and fantastical approach to the very serious issue of leaving an abusive relationship. The script doesn’t preach, it just subliminally teaches the lead character Layla by example. I play a mysterious, Cheshire Cat-like creature called the Living Skeleton, who opens Layla’s eyes to the possibility of another life. We record next Monday, and I can’t wait!
I’m delighted to announce that I now offer a comprehensive set of voiceover samples on the Voiceovers page of my web site. I’ve always had the commercial v/o demo available, but now I’ve added a host of others in a variety of categories, including eLearning, Documentary, Animation, World Dialects, and more. A number of the samples are tongue-in-cheek, so I hope you have as much fun listening to them as I did writing and recording them. In addition, the new samples have music by my old friend Elliot Sokolov, a fantastic composer and all-around great collaborator who has created music for film, television, and theatre.
To hear my new demos, click the Voiceovers link on my site, or click the microphone image on this post to visit that page. You will have the option of launching a nifty Flash menu that will allow you to mouse over each of the samples to hear them, or for those of you using devices unable to play Flash (like iPads/iPhones), you can launch the clips individually from the links provided on the Voiceovers page. Some of the clips contain more than one sample. NOTE: As the Flash file contains a total of 10 demo clips, it may take up to a minute to load on some systems.
Let me know what you think! And if you know of anyone seeking voiceover talent, please feel free to share the link to my Voiceovers page with them. Thanks!
A bit of background on the music in the new clips: Elliot and I were in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop together for a couple of years many moons ago, me as a lyricist/librettiest and Elliot for his music. Others in the class included Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, two other swell people who went on to become the team responsible for Ragtime and many other fine shows. Elliot and I lost touch over the years, until Facebook came along. We hooked up again, began chatting, and when I asked if he knew of anyone to do some sound editing/engineering for my new voiceover demos, he revealed that these are some of the services he offers now! So it was a great excuse to get back together and catch up after all these years, and meet his adorable puppy Augie. I think Elliot’s music works fantastically with my demo clips. If you want to know more about Elliot, or if you’d like to take advantage of his services as composer or sound engineer, I encourage you to visit his site by clicking here. He’s a great guy to work with, and can write just about any kind of music imaginable!
I’ve just returned from sunny and warm Orlando, Florida. I’m glad to be home and back in New York, but I sure did love that Orlando weather! I was teaching at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference, and had a fantastic time. I created and taught a full-day pre-conference certificate program on How to Create and Deliver e-Learning Voiceovers Like a Pro. I had 13 wonderful students from across the U.S. and Canada. I had designed an extremely hands-on program, which gave everyone lots of opportunity to practice new ideas and tricks as I taught them throughout the day. We worked on writing and rewriting scripts to turn them into compelling voiceover copy, we worked on basic relaxation exercises and vocal techniques, and we worked on the essentials of recording and editing voiceover files. Then I held an extended lab in the afternoon where participants worked on creating scripts and audio content while I walked around the room, working one-on-one with each student to answer questions and provide suggestions and guidance. At the end of the day, each student did a mini-presentation, playing and discussing the difference between audio files they created first thing that day, and then again at the end of the day, using the same script. The improvements in every case were audible and substantial. I was proud of all the students for the progress they demonstrated in the space of just one day! I was also both pleased and humbled when I read all of the anonymous student feedback the following day; it means a lot to me to have made such a positive impact with my teaching. I salute each and every one of my students for working so hard, and for doing such a great job! I’ll share some of the written feedback in a future post.
I also led a one-hour Presentation Skills 101 class each of the three days of the conference, helping e-Learning professionals overcome the classic roadblocks to delivering an engaging and inspiring presentation. Again, the students were great participants, and gave me great reviews afterward. I like to think that there are a lot more e-Learning professionals out there now who can get up in front of any audience with confidence and really make a difference.
I’m not usually the type to wear a “slogan” T-shirt, but when I arrived in Orlando, I found a Disney store that allowed you to create your own design, and so I created the one shown in the picture here, and proudly wore it for my full-day program: “E-Learning Without Human Voiceovers? That’s Like a Grin Without a Cat!”
My thanks to Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild for inviting me to teach these courses this year. It was a fantastic experience, and I’d love to do it again. If you know of anyone needing coaching, by all means please refer them to the Coaching page on my consulting site.
Well, I love the works of Lewis Carroll (after all, I’m President Emeritus of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America), and I love animation (with a special place in my heart for the painstaking labors of stop-motion animation), so perhaps this project was inevitable! Nevertheless, I was delighted when director Saranne Bensusan invited me to provide the voice for a small role in her upcoming adaptation of Caroll’s timeless masterpiece, The Hunting of the Snark. I am voicing the character of the Judge in the Barrister’s Dream sequence, and it’s a very trippy dream, indeed! The other roles are being recorded in London, where the film is being created. But happily I was able to record my audio files here in New York, and e-mail them to Saranne. Ah, technology! I gave her multiple takes of each line, so that she has some choices once she has the character created and the scene animated. And the other actors recording that scene will be able to hear my tracks when they add their own.
You can find out more about the film by clicking the logo image on the right side of this post. Saranne has taken Carroll’s poem, and interspersed snippets of it creatively throughout her script. Purists will note that she has made some changes to the characters and events of the original poem, but having read the entertaining script, I can tell you that it remains true to Carroll’s spirit. Look for it in June of 2012!
Some good news! Based on the success of the introductory eLearning voiceover sessions I offered at two eLearning Guild conferences in 2010, I’ve been asked to offer a full-day certificate program on the topic as part of the guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference. I’ll be offering my workshop on Tuesday, March 22nd, from 8:30am-4:30pm at the Walt Disney World Hilton in Orlando, Florida.
My hands-on workshop will offer participants practice in:
- Preparing Your Script for Speaking
- Editing the text for impact
- Preparing Your Voice
- Diction exercises from the Pros
- Preparing to Record
- Setting up your “studio”
- Noise filtering
- Recording Your Voiceovers
- Practice with different content types: orientation, compliance, sales
- Editing and Enhancing
- Removing silences & sounds
- Adjusting levels
- Altering pitch & timing
- Saving the final file
- Working with the Pros
To learn more and to register, click the conference logo on this post. Because I want to have all participants actively involved and working throughout the day, and so that I can give each participant personalized feedback, I’ve told the eLearning Guild that I am only accepting a maximum of 15 students. I encourage you to register ASAP to reserve your place in this workshop. If you have been given the responsibility of recording voiceovers for your company’s internal eLearning projects, I can give you the confidence and skills to take the quality of your work to a whole new level. I’ll be posting more information between now and the workshop, and I will also be communicating directly with all those who register. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to post a comment, or e-mail me directly. Sign up today and join me on March 22nd. And if you know someone else who should be taking this certificate program, spread the word! Reservations will be first-come, first-served.
I have to say, by and large, I genuinely like the casting directors I meet. They tend to be smart, positive, and enthusiastic audiences. Occasionally, I run across the rare exception. I remember being at a studio with multiple auditions going on a few months ago, and at one point a casting director came out of one room to address the hopefuls lined up for him, people who were expected to display themselves on camera in very little clothing. His instructions were curt and dismissive, as if he was expecting each and every one of his auditioners to do something very stupid. I thought, what on earth is the point of that attitude? I was relieved that I was not auditioning for him. The real pros know that part of their job is to provide a welcoming environment that encourages the talent to really shine. A successful audition is in everyone’s best interest, and it takes so little to make that positive choice.
By contrast, I had a wonderful experience with a casting director recently that I wanted to share, even though I didn’t book the job. I was at a studio in Chelsea for a couple of auditions that didn’t require much in the way of preparation, and while waiting for my turn, I noted another audition being held in the next room that seemed to be for a male voiceover artist, based on the conversation snippets I was hearing. As I’m always looking to expand my voiceover work, I strolled over and read the audition side/copy, which turned out to be for a major telecom company. I really liked the writing, and it seemed like something I could do well. But there was a very short list of guys signing up and waiting for their auditions, so it seemed like a pretty exclusive event.
After I finished my own audition, I decided to do something I’ve never done before: I waited for the woman hosting the voiceover audition to come out to check her list, and I spoke to her. I introduced myself, told her that I was not someone on her list, but that I’d read the copy and loved it, and asked if she might be willing to consider auditioning someone she hadn’t invited. She looked at me for a moment, sizing me up, then pointed to a couple of crossed out names on her sign-in sheet and said, “You know, two guys have already tried to crash my audition this morning….”
My heart sank, and I was abashed. I stammered, “I would never…” And then she continued.
“But you asked.” And she gave a small smile. “As it turns out, I should have a little time later, so yes, I’ll give you a shot.” I thanked her and assured her I would never presume to go ahead and sign up for an audition where I hadn’t been invited. When she found a lull in her scheduled appointments, she invited me in to read. I gave her my resumé, and she explained that she mainly works with the top seven voiceover agencies, but that she’s open to new talent regardless. I gave three reads, and she contributed brief and helpful adjustments for what she wanted to hear. She was professional, pleasant, and committed to bringing out my best. When I finished, as she worked on finalizing the audio files, she said “Those were three good reads! I can’t say what will happen, but that was good work.” I thanked her again for taking the time to see me, and she gave a slight smile again. “Well, I could tell outside you had a good voice.”
So, I didn’t get a callback or book a job from this experience, but that’s almost beside the point. I felt like I’d met another real pro, someone who really enjoys all the aspects of her job, and who is open to new talent. It also affirmed for me that casting directors like to know they’re respected every bit as much as actors do. I’m not including the casting director’s name on this post, as I wouldn’t want people descending on her next audition, asking to be seen. It’s something I’d never done before, and will probably do very rarely in future. But I sure hope to read for her again somewhere down the road, as I really liked the way she worked. I did get called back for both of my other auditions that day, including a larger role for one, so it was a good day all around!
If you have a story about a classy casting director (regardless of whether or not you were cast), please share it!
I was delighted to learn that Jenny Woolf, author of the fascinating new biography The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, greatly enjoyed the two free nonsense poem audio downloads I created for Storypods Audiobooks over in Oxford, England. On her Facebook page, Jenny wrote:
“I’ve been in email correspondence with Andrew Sellon, LCSNA president, but never heard his voice. I am enchanted by his wonderful readings of these nonsense poems, winners of an Alice contest run by Oxford Storypods.”
Thanks, Jenny! I had great fun doing the recordings for Liz and Francis of Storypods. Both poems are very clever, and it’s great to be able to share some free poetry with the online community. I hope to record a lot more poetry to share. If you haven’t already listened to or downloaded the two contest winners, click the image on this post to visit the Storypods site. While you’re there, check out their own recording of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and selected letters of Lewis Carroll; it’s delightful.
If you have or know kids grades 1-6, check out this great free e-Learning site! I contributed the voiceovers for the Guided Tour, and all the content is created by e-Learning professionals volunteering their time, which I think is fantastic. Kids don’t need to register to use the site, so parents don’t have to worry about any personal information being collected, etc. It’s a global initiative to give kids access to fun, free learning experiences from any pc with an internet connection. Congrats again to Michael Williams, Director of Courseware Development, and to everyone involved in this worthy web site.
To visit the site, click the image on the right. To see (and hear!) the Guided Tour, find the same Guided Tour image on the site’s home page and click on it there. Enjoy, and spread the word!