Well, it seems I’ve exhausted everything “Getting Started in Voice Over”, and since last week was kind of a “dead” week, this week I’m just going to ramble a bit. Sit back and relax, no telling where this one might go.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am recently retired from 40+ years serving with the US Navy. I’ve spent time reflecting (see: The Legend has RETIRED) about my time with the Navy and trying to get over the idea that I am no longer a part of that illustrious crew. Now I am looking ahead to finally doing something I enjoy, for ME instead of someone else.
An auspicious beginning
Several years ago, in 2015 to be exact, as an avid audio book listener, I decided “Hey, I can do that” and tried my hand at narrating audio books. I figured this can’t be too hard, I mean, I can read and I can talk, so why not go for it? I bought some inexpensive equipment, hung moving blankets from my ceiling and started auditioning for books through ACX. As luck would have it, I pretty quickly landed several jobs. Four to be exact. You can find them through Audible here: Gary Mason’s 4 titles.
One of the very first things I learned about this business is; I was wrong. It’s actually a lot harder than it seems. If you took the time to listen to any of the titles I narrated in 2015, thank you. One thing you’ll notice right away is that they are not awesome. In particular, the audio quality is horrible. In the minus column here, I’m not very proud of that work, and I put it out there as an example of how NOT to get started in this business.
However, in the plus column, I DID do it, and I gained some real experience. I decided to Go For It, and I went for it.
Don’t let fear hold you back
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” -JK Rowling
For so many of us it is the FEAR of failure that holds us back from achieving our full potential. As Ms. Rowling points out, if you don’t Go For It out of fear of failure, you’ve failed before even beginning.
So my voice over career had a not too auspicious beginning, and was (at the time) short lived. As I was not a very good sound engineer and my acting abilities also in question, plus with a major promotion in my day job and a personal tragedy to contend with, my very short lived audiobook narration career was put on hold.
So I took a(nother) break!
Fast forward to 2020. With a global pandemic happening and everyone getting VERY familiar with programs like Zoom, Skype and MS Teams while working from home…and with retirement looming on the nearby horizon for me personally…I decided to resurrect my career as a voice over artist. With no “day job” I was going to need something to keep me busy. I mean, you can’t golf seven days a week after all!
Once again, I was going to Go For It!
And I got some work…
And this time I was going to do it right. I purchased a Diamond Series Vocal Booth, a professional microphone and interface and a new iMac computer. I upgraded Studio One and iZotope RX and started looking for a coach. Along the way I booked another audio book (which will be submitted by the end of January 2021) and produced two professional demo reels. While this was a pretty significant investment , if I intended to do this professionally after retirement it was imperative that I was treating this as the small business it was and using professional equipment.
Recording the demos was COOL!
Concerning those demo reels, let me tell you that was a mixture of fun and REALLY hard work, culminating in a trip to a local recording studio: BIAS studios in Alexandria Virginia. MAN, that was an experience! As my career in voice over grows, I hope to be able to do more in studio work. If you are looking for a local studio, and happen to be in Northern Virginia, I can’t recommend BIAS any more highly.
Restarting this journey in a year when we experienced a global pandemic turned out to be serendipitous for me. Almost as soon as the decision was made to start getting setup for a follow on career in voice over we all went on lock down and my “day job” sent everyone home to work remotely. Little di I know at the time that I would never return to my office except to pack up my personal belongings and then later turn in my computer and access card.
Although the pandemic was (is) horrible and quite taxing to most people, for me it was a bit of a blessing in disguise. Without the need to travel to the office 5 days a week, and with flexible working hours, it afforded me the time and opportunity to jump start my voice over work. During 2020 I was able to schedule coaching and training sessions flexibly and to take some strategic vacation days to record demo reels. I had time during the day to both practice AND record auditions.
There was some minor success…
Starting in August of 2020, I signed up for several P2P sites and began auditioning, booking 2 animated short films and 3 commercial voice over projects, all while continuing to work full time. I was also able to explore online training opportunities and connect online with multiple other more experienced voice artists. All in all, 2020 was a good year for me despite the challenges being experienced around the world. When life hands you lemons…
Oh, and while everyone else it seems was gaining “lock down weight” staying at home 24/7, I began a Keto diet in November and am now down 20 pounds on top of that.
Not to diminish or discount the suffering COVID has caused, it has certainly been detrimental, even fatal, for many people and I wouldn’t wish a global pandemic on the world, but I can’t really say this situation hasn’t been good for me personally.
Part of the training I began to pursue late in the 2020 is acting classes. Before I enlisted in the military I was a part of several stage productions in Junior and Senior high school that I very much enjoyed. Of course, I was too “cool” to admit that I enjoyed it back then, so of course outside of classes I never pursued acting. Once I retired from the military in 1999 and moved to the Washington DC area, I found a local community theater group and worked on a production of “A Comedy of Errors”. What great fun THAT was, but alas, it took far too much time and was incompatible with a job whose hours were not set and which required copious amounts of travel, so I did not work on any other theater projects.
What I DID do, though, is discover I still really enjoyed acting.
And a little MORE success…
Since voice acting IS acting, it was time to find an acting coach/teacher to help me improve my game. I searched lessons.com and hooked up with Scott Olson, a local actor/director/teacher. As luck would have it, my acting teacher ALSO directs local community theater in Virginia! After just a couple classes he asked me to read for a couple very small supporting roles in a Zoom style play he was directing! You can check out the Quarantine Players production of Agatha Christie’s novel “Murder on the Links”. It was loads of fun to work on this project and I am forever grateful for Scott Olson for the opportunity (and the great lessons as well!).
With a little training under my belt, I began searching the casting sites not JUST for work in voice over, but for local acting opportunities as well. I searched and found two sites that listed opportunities for actors: Back Stage and All Casting.
And even MORE success!
Through these two sites I was able to find, and audition for, several theater, movie and TV opportunities. It’s a bit surprising (to me anyway) how many local opportunities are available. Of course, with COVID, many opportunities are virtual, which of course makes auditioning much easier as it is done through the comfort of your own home.
Unbelievably, I had some pretty immediate success.
Since starting to pursue acting opportunities I managed to book a part in a documentary about Sleep Apnea (which I suffer from), a supporting role in a feature film (which shoots this month in Maryland), a role as a judge in a film being shot via Zoom (Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs the Board of Education) and as background cast on an upcoming Hulu Original limited series that is in production now. While I can’t talk about the TV show yet, the Zoom film will premiere on January 17th, online. Details to watch the premier are below:
Pre-Registration Preferred online
Cost to stream this film is listed as “0$ to $20”.
What does all this have to do with Go For It? Well, I think the whole post screams Go For It!
GO FOR IT!
We’ve all heard the saying:
Find a job you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life” (Anonymous)
I’ve actually spent a good deal of time researching that quote, and found that while some people attribute it to Confucius (it really DOES sound like something he’d have said, right!?), what I have found is the first recorded use of the term was by a psychology professor to his class said it while attributing it to “An old timer”. So no one really knows, hence, anonymous.
And the message itself, while a great thought, is a bit misleading. It tends to indicate that if you find something you love, that you are passionate about, earning a living won’t feel like work anymore. In comparison to something you HATE doing, that’s probably quite true, but to suggest that working on something you love doesn’t require a lot of hard work, and sometimes stress and frustration, is just not so. Absolutely find something you love to do, but don’t expect to not have to work hard at it!
Don’t let your fears, or other people, hold you back: GO FOR IT!
The message here is don’t let your fears, your other obligations and people in your life hold you back from doing something you love to do. As of this writing I’ve only been retired from my day job for 5 days, and I am ALREADY having the time of my life. I’m working hard, sometimes have tight deadlines and one of the above-mentioned jobs requires me to sometimes drive 100 miles for 10 minutes of work. Yet, I have asked myself nearly every day “Why didn’t you pursue this earlier?”.
Like you, my answer is along the lines of “Well, I’d grown accustomed to a roof over my head and food on the table for my family”. And there is definitely something to that. We are all acquainted with the term “starving artist”, and that was something I never wanted to be. But now, 40 years down the line, with financial security and more time on my hands I’m FINALLY doing something that makes me happy, and generates a little income along the way. I’ll never be rich or famous, but I’m definitely going to have a blast!
Pursue your dreams: GO FOR IT!
So, to you I say: Go For It. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t for some reason? Fear of failure? Some other “thing” that makes you believe you could never be successful? Maybe you feel like you are not attractive enough, or well-spoken enough, or educated enough, or your family has told you it’s not in the cards for you. Change your appearance, lose that weight, go to the gym, hire a speech therapist, go back to school. It is in your power to make the changes you need to pursue your passion.
Listen, take it from me, a not terribly attractive, sort of rough spoken member of a family that includes those who would tell me I could never “do that”. I’ve heard about how the odds of being successful are against me more times than I can count. Here’s the thing though, those same people telling me that are STILL buy lottery tickets (Note to some family members: the lottery is NOT a retirement plan!). And here I am 5 days into “me time” and already feel successful.
If you have a dream, or a passion: Go For It!