TITLE: Sit with this.
DATE: 3/02/2009 09:30:00 AM
Labels: Simon Hoegsberg
TITLE: Laugh Out Loud Morning
DATE: 3/02/2009 09:09:00 AM
Tiny Art Director is my new favorite blog. I love that Bill Zeman listens to his daughter and includes her in his work.
I really like people who really like their children. One of my favorite things about working with the IMS, Tim and Jim at The Studio
, is hearing the love they express for their kids.
Labels: Bill Zeman, The Studio
TITLE: Bloody Violent
DATE: 3/01/2009 10:35:00 PM
I watched this week's episode of "Lost" this afternoon. There was a brutal scene in which John Locke was tossed into the back of a truck in Tunisia and delivered to a primitive desert hospital to have a compound leg fracture set. There was a car accident, a shooting murder, an attempted suicide by hanging, and a strangulation. It was particularly, explicitly violent and difficult to watch this week.
What affected me most were the scenes with John being overpowered by strangers and medicine shoved down his throat, later being forced back into his wheelchair, and still later with his leg in a cast and using crutches. It made me wonder what dramaturgy O'Quinn has explored to create the layers of his character. I enjoy his story arc so much, I'm sure because I identify so deeply with his pain, bitterness at being confined to a wheelchair, and his passionate determination to be physically in control of his destiny.
Terry O'Quinn is such an easy actor to watch. He fully inhabits Locke, and even though I felt like the producers were rushing through this episode and smashing me with assault after assault without giving the episode enough room to breathe, O'Quinn slowed his moments down with his breath and focus.
So, a brutal episode, but an episode that reaffirms O'Quinn's talent and confidence as an actor. I keep thinking about degrees of pain, the relationship between physical and psychic pain and the cleansing nature of pain, and this was a timely episode.
Labels: John Locke, Lost, Terry O'Quinn
TITLE: Media That Matters
DATE: 3/01/2009 07:03:00 PM
Something new on Hulu. It's not a new show debut, it's a spot for Foundation Rwanda airing during the commercial break.
It's arresting. Opening with a black screen, a smiling boy, and a simple, powerful line of music, the message - in written text, no voiceover - is:
20,000 children of war
More than anything they want education
$150 for one year of school
Help us send 1500 kids to school
Learn more about their stories and how to help
The spot cuts from the text to photos of Rwandans taken by photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik
. I first heard about Torgovnik when Andrew Sullivan
mentioned Torgovnik's photo series on February 22nd. His images are powerful, and it's exciting to see time on Hulu being used to bring attention to Foundation Rwanda.
A Google search takes me to Media Storm
. Brian Storm is the executive producer of a nearly 15-minute documentary, Intended Consequences, which includes Torgovnik's still photography of Tutsi rape survivors and the children they conceived as a consequence of those systematic, brutal rapes during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The documentary was filmed by Jules Shell with original music by Pamela Chen and Sherman Jia and voiced narratives from Torgovnik's interviews with the mothers.
The narrators, Rosette Adera, Yvette Rugasaguhunga, and Hope Kantete, perfectly embody the mother's pain, strength, anger, numbness. We see the eyes of these women, their tears, their shame, their grief, their hope, their love, their spirits that are fighting to survive, and we hear their voices. We take in their story.
This is transparent media. If you're willing to sit with this story, the creators give you a chance to get deep into it, including a full transcript of the production and a written statement by Torgovnik. The language on his website is more spare, so I appreciate the opportunity to get deeper into his experience. He documented "the most severe trauma that any human being I think can deal with," he says. Read Torgovnik's powerful statement here
At this moment - from my warm, safe home in Portland, Maine, I can't get close to these women. But I am connected to them, as a woman and as a human being. Torgovnik has shared his experience with me through words and images, and Brian Storm has masterfully produced this documentary, and now I've spent an hour and a half hearing their stories, looking into their eyes as best I can through a computer screen, and from out of their space and time. Now I feel connected. And connection is the point.
Torgovnik and Shell allowed themselves to get connected. They didn't just document, they took action. The two men are the founders of Foundation Rwanda, which was created to fund secondary education for Rwandan children born of rape, link their mothers to psychological and medical support services, and use new media and photography to create awareness about the consequences of genocide and sexual violence.
There is so much pain in these stories, in the faces of the women and the children. What happened was so inconceivably anguishing, it would be far easier to continue ignoring the truth, as most of us have for 15 years. But the truth cannot be ignored, and I'm so glad Media Storm and Foundation Rwanda are honoring these women - these mothers, by telling their stories in sound and image.
We need more media like this. This is media that matters.
Labels: Brian Storm, Foundation Rwanda, Jonathan Torgovnik, Jules Shell, Media Storm
TITLE: And While We're On the Subject
DATE: 3/01/2009 01:18:00 PM
A Seth Godin blog post alerted me this morning to this BoingBoing article about the text-to-speech feature of the Kindle2. I am not going to get involved in the Kindle debate, other than to say that Percy told me he was thinking of buying me one for my birthday, and I told him that was very sweet and thoughtful but that I wasn't interested.
I will say only that I am not one bit worried that any computerized text-to-speech feature will put audiobooks out of business. Seriously.
But let me direct you to Wil Wheaton's blog post
about the Kindle, because he IS getting involved in the text-to-speech debate. It's an interesting post, and what I especially
like about it that my name is mentioned. In his blog Whatever.Scalzi.com
, wonderful science fiction author John Scalzi has applauded my narration of his novel Zoe's Tale not once, not twice, but THREE times this year, and to support his position on the Kindle, Wil Wheaton includes a quote from Scalzi from one of the posts in which Scalzi mentions my name. I had a major crush on Wil Wheaton during his Next Generation days, so I'm a little giddy that my name showed up in his blog. I am delighted and honored that John Scalzi enjoyed my narration so much, especially because it remains one of my favorite audiobook projects!
(This isn't fun only for me, but for my friend Eric Nelsen, who emailed me from Seattle a few weeks ago to tell me how excited he was to see my namecheck
in one of his favorite blogs - John Scalzi's blog. The world is very small, and there's magic every day.)
Labels: John Scalzi, Kindle, Text-to-Speech, Wil Wheaton
DATE: 3/01/2009 01:06:00 PM
Kym Dakin, my friend and fellow audiobook-narrator, just sent out an email announcing that she is narrating "The Wildwater Walking Club" by Claire Cooks for Bill Dufris this week. In the email she congratulated Bill on his latest Audie nomination, and she then shared with her readers that I had received my first nomination, and gave me warm congratulations as well.
That's incredibly generous of Kym. Actors are often competitive and insecure, and Kym's confidence and warmth are attractive, in all senses of the word.
Labels: Kym Dakin
DATE: 3/01/2009 11:57:00 AM
Just for the record? Marisa Tomei's Oscar gown was the most beautiful, exciting, and elegant dress on the red carpet. A week later, and I'm still thinking about it. Most dresses bore me, but hers was outstanding.
Labels: Marisa Tomei
TITLE: Running at the Dog
DATE: 3/01/2009 09:39:00 AM
My morning reading from Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart:
One boy asked [Trungpa Rinpoche]if he was ever afraid. Rinpoche answered that his teacher had encouraged him to go to places like graveyards that scared him and to experiment with approaching things he didn't like. Then he told a story about traveling with his attendants to a monastery he'd never seen before. As they neared the gates, he saw a large guard dog with huge teeth and red eyes. It was growling ferociously and struggling to get free from the chain that held it. The dog seemed deperate to attack them....Suddenly the chain broke and the dog rushed at them. The attendants screamed and froze in terror. Rinpoche turned and ran as fast as he could - straight at the dog. The dog was so surprised that he put his tail between his legs and ran away.
...The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving.
...We sit in meditation so that we'll be more awake in our lives.
...Awakeness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird, unfathomable, ordinary everyday lives.
Writing regularly, deep breathing, my injured neck, shoulders, back, and feet, and sitting in meditation...these are all my dogs that have broken loose from their chains and are running right at me.
And I'm running right at them, as fast as I can.
Labels: fear, meditation, Pema Chodron
TITLE: Jim Oscar Reuben
DATE: 3/01/2009 12:37:00 AM
What a lovely day it has been!
Started out my work day at The Studio
with the one and only Jim Begley
, who was kind enough to set me up in the Studio's beautiful A Room in order to record four auditions for an animated feature film currently being cast. Having an audition opportunity for an animated feature is very rare, so I wanted to put everything I had into it. Jim and I had fun playing with different reads, and I felt I'd done my very best to make strong, specific, evocative choices with the copy.
A bonus was hanging out with Jim after I'd finished my audition takes. We talked about music and he introduced me to Kings of Leon. I really enjoy the close listening Jim inspires - the way I hear music when I am in his company that is far different than the way I listen to music when I'm alone. It's exciting to listen to a great band and a really well-produced album with someone who totally understands the process of creating an album. Jim was able to describe what worked, what to listen for, and how things were put together from the perspective of the producer, which I'd never before considered.
Jim's description of the collaborative nature of the producer/artist relationship is essentially the collaborative relationships between a skilled, confident director and a cast of actors. I was fascinated, because that producer/musician relationship and album creation parallels the way great theater and film and some audio productions are put together. The dream for any passionate and daring actor is to work with a director who will respect their talent and recognize their craft, their artistry, and their ideas, while challenging them to go deeper, try something new, experiment and play and create the unexpected. (Or that's my dream, anyway.)
And the evocative relationship in a creative collaboration is the reason I don't work alone on audiobooks. It's the relationship between the director and the voice actor that is meaningful - for the creative team and for the listener. Not every listener will know she's getting the benefit of that creative conflict and creative spark, the exploration that comes with the great relationship between an actor and director, but I believe it will be clear in the quality of the work.
After submitting my auditions and uploading the final chapter of Embrace the Grim Reaper for Blackstone
, I went home to see Percy before he went to work at The Merrill (striking Sweeney Todd), and to talk to my wonderful mama. (I told her I had awakened with the strong desire to get new tattoos - on my wrist and on both feet, and she was as enthusiastic about that idea as she was about my first two tattoos.) Then I spent some silly amount of time debating with Brian what fun and funny thing we could do for the evening. I coaxed and cajoled and finally convinced him to go with me to The Frontier Cinema and Cafe
to see the Oscar-nominated animated and live-action short films, so we headed off to Brunswick for our movie films.
I love the Frontier, and hope everyone will support it so that it can be a part of my life forever (is that selfish? okay fine). Brian and I ordered bottles of Old Engine Oil beer and Reubens, and watched the five nominated and five highly commended short films, followed by the five live action films.
I really love having the opportunity to see these films, because as the quotes that flashed on screen between each film attest, short films are examples of some of the most inspired, creative, and mindful film-making. There is far less room for filler and or excuse-making in a short story than a broad, sweeping one, and that holds true for film as well as written stories. Particularly effective was the winning film, La Maison En Petits Cubes, as well as one of the Commended films, Varmints, which has had mixed reviews but which I really enjoyed. It was disturbing, weird, terrifying, and beautiful, and made me VERY uncomfortable (that's a good thing) and yet hopeful.
And the live action films were great, particularly New Boy, which juxtaposed isolation, fear, brutality, and loss, with loyalty, justice, and the healing connection of laughter. Auf Der Strecke (On the Line) was wonderful, mostly because of the performance of the lead, Swiss actor Roeland Wiesnekker. He was so present, and the pain and conflict of the story was told through his eyes. I don't know if I have ever noted a film actor's presence quite as much as I did Wiesnekker's. I would have driven the 40 minutes just to see him.
Brian and I wrapped up the film extravaganza and drove home. I was very sad to miss my lovely friend Sara Hallie Richardson
's show at The Space Gallery
, but I've been listening to her music while writing to atone for my absence. She is fantastic, and I know I missed a great show. I received and enjoyed a long, sweet email from my friend, The Inestimable Norman Dietz
, who shared a newspaper article noting that Audiofile Magazine had called his narration of Studs Terkel's Touch and Go
one of the best audiobooks of 2008. In honor of Norman's awesomeness, now I'm listening to the Audible clip of Touch and Go. Norman is the perfect person to narrate this work, and perhaps the ONLY person besides Terkel himself who has the humility, curiosity, wit, and hilarity to voice Terkel's words.
And now I'm ending this very long blog post, because Percy has returned home from work. It's 1:59 a.m., and I am going to sleep grateful for a great day.
Labels: Jim Begley, Norman Dietz, Sara Hallie Richardson, The Frontier, The Studio
TITLE: History is the Teacher
DATE: 2/28/2009 09:41:00 AM
I went to The Salt Institute last night for the premiere of Rob Rosenthal and Kate Philbrick's audio/photography documentary, Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold. The piece included both photography and constructed imagery, as well as an hour-long story about the 1912 forced eviction of about 50 residents - poor, black, white, and mixed race - from Malaga Island off the coast of Phippsburg.
This documentary, three years in the making, was a testament to how essential, how vital story-telling is. The painful past of Malaga, and the violence of the State of Maine against the people of Malaga, has been long-buried, yet reverberates deeply for the descendents of Malaga, even 100 years after the Malaga residents were forced to leave their homes.
One of the most moving moments of the documentary was when a man interviewed for the documentary expressed his desire for the Malaga story to remain buried. He believes that by now, people know that the eviction was wrong and unjust, but to keep dredging up the painful past is pointless. If we keep bringing up the past, it will keep the wound open. Let the past fade away, dissolve into history, don't refer to it again, and it will be like it never happened - and if it never happened, it won't hurt today, he thinks.
Rob and Kate have a different view, I think, as do I. What happened to the people of Malaga DID happen, and nothing can erase the painful past. Denial can't and won't change it. Only by acknowledging what happened, honoring the people of Malaga and their descendents by telling their story without shame, with bravery, tenderness, and compassion, can true healing and forgiveness occur. And with understanding and forgiveness, injustice like the Malaga Island violence is less likely to occur in the future.
Labels: Malaga Island, The Salt Institute
TITLE: Okay, Seth Godin. For you, I'll do it.
DATE: 2/24/2009 09:38:00 PM
It's been a long time, my lovely blog. Because Seth Godin is such an inspiration, I'm responding to his call to bloggers to post something interesting in honor of his 3,000 blog post. Today I wrote content for my new voiceover website, and it was so fun and inspiring it made me want to dance. The way THIS GUY dances.
Labels: dance, joy, Seth Godin
TITLE: Right on.
DATE: 8/16/2008 07:40:00 PM
Labels: bicycle, creative thinking, gas addict
TITLE: Voice Actor Gets First Nude Scene
DATE: 8/11/2008 01:37:00 PM
Thanks, Jason, for the head's up!
When getting naked is the only way to maintain the integrity of the ad copy.
Labels: The Onion, voice acting
TITLE: And another.
DATE: 8/05/2008 04:20:00 PM
"A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side" – Aristotle
Labels: disaster, George Bush, hypocrite, liar, Vote Obama
DATE: August 8, 2008 at 8:37 PM
DATE: 8/03/2008 05:23:00 PM
Read this in an impassioned voice to my esteemed partner, Stephen, trying to put him in his place!
Language is mobile and liable to change. It is a free country, and man may call a "vase" a "vawse", a "vahse", a "vaze", or a "vase", as he pleases. And why should he not? We do not all think alike, walk alike, dress alike, write alike, or dine alike; why should not we use our liberty in speech also, so long as the purpose of speech, to be intelligible, and its grace, are not interfered with?-- Sir James Murray, first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary
But he believes what he believes. He simply will not be put. Right is right.
But that's why I love working with him. It's the battle.
Labels: language, Oxford English Dictionary, stubborn men
DATE: August 3, 2008 at 9:23 PM
Your blog is refreshing and different. I really like how it ties into voiceover and other topics as well!
TITLE: What Makes an Artist?
DATE: 7/18/2008 12:40:00 AM
I've been listening to a wonderful conversation between Dick Gordon and the photographer David Plowden on American Public Media's program The Story. I'm passionate about photography, especially the kind of photographs that share the vision that Plowden embraces - photos of grain silos, bridges, locomotives. The artistry of industry, of labor, of determination, ingenuity, force.
This, from Plowden's website, captures the nature of his work:
"David Plowden’s work is sometimes compared to that of the great WPA photographers— Walker Evans, Bernice Abbott, Russell Lee, Dorothea Lange—but he’s been in the field decades longer than any of them were. What he has done is nothing less than capture a nation passing through fifty years of changes as monumentous as those unleased by the industrial revolution a century earlier."
— from the Richard Snow's Foreward to Vanishing Point, a collection of Plowden's photographs
Dick Gordon asks Plowden about his process in capturing an image. It is fascinating to listen to Plowden describe setting up the camera, framing the picture, interacting with time and space and geography and light and air. Plowden is so clearly at home as a photographer, skilled and precise. And yet he's not in control of the elements he's fixing on film. He's waiting, poised and ready to push the button at the perfect moment of convergence.
I love hearing Dick's response and the ensuing exhange with Plowden. Cue your iPod to minute 34:59 and listen.
"Say it. You're an artist."
"Well, I'm an aritst, maybe. All right. You, you said it."
"Cause you wouldn't. You're too shy."
"I, I...well, it's such a...to me it's such a remarkable thing to be an artist, but I guess, I, you said it, okay, okay, I'll go with you on that. Because I'm another person, and because I care, and because I am SO careful."
I think Plowden's definition of what makes an artist is wonderful. Because he cares, and he is careful. Is there any more simple and elegant definition of art and artistry?
Stephen and I put together our company description this afternoon for our producer listing in the Audiofile Magazine
Reference Guide. We engaged in much argument and hysterical laughter, made as many thoughtful choices as there were words and ideas, and very much enjoyed the painstaking, passionate, and playful work of defining who we are and what we do.
McGil Audio is Stephen McLaughlin and Tavia Gilbert. We elicit the best in each other, that your project may reach its creative potential. We represent East and West Coast origins; British and American sensibilities; experience and idealism; improvisation and preparation. Our literate, exacting choices are infused with passion and humor.
Labels: American Public Media, artistry, Audiofile, David Plowden, Dick Gordon
TITLE: Be like Willie
DATE: 7/01/2008 08:31:00 AM
My husband and I got married on August 22, 2004. We had a fantastic wedding, and after the party ended, we went back to our bed and breakfast, while our good friends went to a karaoke bar. We were utterly exhausted, but late in the night, we decided to drag ourselves to the bar to join our pals.
I'm a singer and an actor, and obviously, I love performing. I'm not a fan of karaoke, but that night it seemed appropriately giddy and whimsical. So I thought, "What the heck? I'll sing a little something! You only get married once, right?" (That's the plan, anyway, and so far, so good.)
I chose a Willie Nelson song - You Were Always On My Mind. As I began to sing, I heard one of my friends say confidently to one of the drunken bar patrons, "She's a singer. This will be good."
Well, sadly, it was not good. Not good at all.
I chose to sing a song by Willie because I adore his music, and I know his music, and I'm a singer. Should have been a recipe for success.
But what I found was that I could not have chosen a more difficult song. There's nothing particularly complicated in his melody, but Willie's melodic range is expansive, and the man is freaking relaxed. Visit this link, and then come right back. I'll wait.
You Were Always on My Mind
You can see and hear how absolutely at ease he is. There is no stress or hesitation in his voice (and it's not just the weed talking). He is utterly confident about the gift he is sharing with his listeners. He is loose and easy and unencumbered by anxiety. Willie obviously take pleasure in making his music. He sounds like a happy man. Satisfied. Content.
Most importantly, he gets out of the way of his music and lets the spirit of his work course through him. He flows and keeps his music so simple, so gentle, so grounded, that it would be virtually impossible to be unmoved.
And he moves me. Both times I've seen Willie perform live, the moment he opens his mouth and begins to sing, I've been overcome by emotion and have listened, rapt, with tears rolling down my cheeks. I think it's because he is so gently offering me something. Not pushing, not anxiously hoping that I'll like him and his music. He's just putting something lovely out there for me, if I want it. It makes it so easy to accept the gift that he's giving.
He makes it look and sound so easy, that I thought, in my glowy in love state of mind, "Oh, I can do that."
Even though I made a mess of the song, realizing how complicated Willie's signature sound actually is was an important revelation.
This memory informs my work. Willie Nelson is the kind of voice artist I aspire to be. I want to achieve Willie Nelson's relaxation and his degree of confidence. I want to chill out and get out of my own way and give the gift of my sound - whether it's a commercial spot, a recording of a Shakespeare monologue, or an audiobook narration. Would it be virtually impossible for potential clients to hire someone else if I simply offered the gift of my signature sound, without a note of pushing, pleading anxiety behind it? I think it would.
So, my new mantra?
Be like Willie.
Labels: relaxation, voiceover, Willie Nelson, You Were Always On My Mind
TITLE: And another thing...
DATE: 6/24/2008 07:45:00 PM
True beauty: a rainy evening rainbow over a smoke tree.
Now, that's hot.
Labels: beauty, Paris Hilton, Portland Maine, rainbows
TITLE: Beauty is in the eye of the casting agent | csmonitor.com
DATE: 6/24/2008 04:28:00 PM
Actors were once judged on talent. Today it's all about being 'hot.' This timely article, written by long-time acting coach Anthony Abeson, details the obsession with skin-thin "hotness." He argues that the fixation on looks is damaging to youth, art, and culture, but unfortunately doesn't prescribe a solution. So...how can we create change?
read more | digg story
My reading of this article coincides with an interview I read a few days ago with Megan Fox, the young star of the Transformers movies. This, from WENN's article: And the 21-year-old insists she is working diligently to deliver on director Michael Bay's vision: "His main note to me is just to look hot, so I try my best."
Can she act? Does Fox care that her job is to be objectified?
Beauty is a reflection of one's spirit. Hotness fades...quickly.
Speaking of beautiful women, I'm looking forward to a 10 days vacation with my family in Idaho, where I can hug my mother, who has been through two kinds of cancer and several serious, prolonged illnesses. My mother radiates joy, playfulness, generosity, wonder and curiosity, and kindness. I've never been a "hot" girl, and I'm okay with that. I'd much rather grow into the kind of deep soul beauty that I see in the face of my mother.
Labels: Anthony Abeson, beauty, Megan Fox
DATE: June 24, 2008 at 9:15 PM
There was that weekend back in 2006...
TITLE: Does it really matter?
DATE: 6/22/2008 01:57:00 PM
Stephen and I have been laboring with love and devotion for many weeks narrating and producing the series of Plain Tales Classics. It's been a rich project, and a very demanding one.
We were contracted by publisher Brian Keairns to produce classic, original children's stories that, including Oscar Wilde's short stories The Happy Prince and The Selfish Giant, The Velveteen Rabbit, Rosy's Journey by Louisa May Alcott, and tales from The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit.
Brian also commissioned productions of translations of children's stories, including The Nightingale and The Emperor's New Clothes, stories that the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) wrote and Mrs. Edgar V. Lucas translated. [I can't find much of anything online about who Mrs. Edgar Lucas was, but Wikipedia has an article about her husband, Edgar Lucas (1868-1938).]
We've also produced a series of fairy tales translated by Scottish writer Andrew Lang (1844-1912).
Two of Lang's translated fairy tales include Hansel and Gretel and The Fisherman and His Wife, which were originally published by the brothers Grimm. Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Karl (1786–1859) Grimm were German linguists, who, according to Wikipedia, gathered folktales from peasants and villagers and then penned and published the stories.
In the early 1900's, Andrew Lang published translations of The Arabian Nights, and we've just completed productions of Scheherazade, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp. The One Thousand and One Nights, or The Arabian Nights, are ancient stories that cannot be attributed to any one author, an exact time of origin, or even any one culture.
Our immersion in story and language has generated many conversations and questions. We worked hard to track down the right versions of each story, and found that there is rarely one exact right manuscript of any story. Sometimes a few words from an Andrew Lang translation would vary from book to book, so if we recorded the script published in one place, like Lang's Red Fairy Book, when we proofed the story against the same tale published in Lang's Fifty Favorite Fairy Tales, the versions would vary slightly.
Another example: when we recorded Nesbit's The Book of Beasts from one script, we later picked up another printed copy of the story, and discovered it was the version printed for American audiences and referenced "soccer" instead of "football," as well as other slight shifts.
Even the beloved Velveteen Rabbit was found to have a few differences of wording from publication to publication.
Language is so important to both Stephen and me. It's important enough that even when the temperature in my woefully unventilated studio has risen to an uncomfortable degree, we still worked late into the evening to make even just one-word final corrections in stories recorded from these shifting scripts.
Before we realized that even printed books published decades ago had these inconsistencies, I was convinced that the internet was to blame for any inconsistency. I do believe that the web does more harm than good by making books available online. We first read our scripts online, stories that had been pulled from websites that make copyright-free materials available, and stories which were riddled with misspellings, sections completely absent, and syntax that was not true to the original story.
It concerns me that people will read Rip Van Winkle online, but they won't be reading Washington Irving's version of it. They'll be reading a version that has been corrupted by a well-meaning volunteer who typed it into Project Gutenberg and didn't take the time to make sure it was word perfect. So we have put a huge amount of time into proofing and researching the Plain Tales project, to make sure that what McGil Audio (my production company with Stephen) produces is of the highest quality, despite language corruption that may now exist.
I am concerned that the more stories are put online, and the more people move to doing research and seeking information exclusively online, the less accurate the information and the less informed people will become. (I do recognize the irony here - that I have several times referenced Wikipedia in this post. So lets review the facts listed herein with wiki-skepticism.)
But I was surprised and interested to have discovered the variations in language in printed book publications, as well as in the e-book versions.
Since I've discovered that the language in these stories is not constant - that I can rarely grasp the absolute, unequivocal right version of it - my questions have moved out of the minute and have become broader and more difficult to answer.
I'm still curious as to why there were slight differences between publications of Lang translations of fairy tales. But I'm more interested in who Lang was, why he invested so much of his life in creating countless volumes of fairy tales, and what his agenda or mission was. What was happening in the world and in the place and time when Andersen and the Grimm brothers were writing stories that have such specific gender roles and exemplify the standards of docility and strength, beauty and power, right and terrible behavior?
I want to find out answers. I have so many questions after this project, and I would love to produce a series of audio documentaries that explore some of the background about the stories. I want to know who Oscar Wilde was skewering in The Remarkable Rocket. I want to know where Kenneth Grahame wrote The Reluctant Dragon. I want to walk the places Beatrix Potter loved in the Lake District that inspired her queer and compelling children's stories.
And I want to know how much fairy tales changed over time. What were they originally? Were the women always so wicked, like Hansel and Gretel's mother, or Sleeping Beauty's mother-in-law, or the Fisherman's Wife, or did those stories change to reflect the culture and politics of the time in which they were finally published?
Language matters. But these contextual questions interest me more than anything. These stories stand on their own, but the context for story is as important to me as the story itself. I want to explore.
Labels: Andrew Lang, children's books, Grimm's, Hans Christian Andersen, Plain Tales
TITLE: I'm In Love
DATE: 6/22/2008 10:20:00 AM
I have to admit something.
I've fallen in love with someone new. Actually four new people.
I'm in love with Sophie. And Aunt Al. And Andrew. And Bernard Cribbins.
All weekend I've been listening to audiobooks in the Sophie series of charming children's books written by Dick King-Smith. (You can purchase the printed or recorded books here or download the audiobooks here.)
I know these are children's books, and now - at my great advanced age of 31, perhaps I should be listening only to serious, weighty classics or "how to" business success books.
But I've read and listened to tons of those, and these are way more fun!
I met Sophie first as a four-year-old in Sophie's Snail, where she set forth her determination to someday become a "Lady Farmer," and care for her menagerie of animals, including a pig named Measles, hens named April and May, and a pony called Shorty. Sophie lives with her parents and her twin brothers, Matthew and Mark, whom she calls "mouldy, stupid, and assive." (This is a trilogy of insults I love and plan to adopt.)
Sophie's biggest supporter and greatest, greatest friend is her great-great, Scottish Aunt Al, who is in her 80's and as pragmatic, confident, and determined as little Sophie. With her highland brogue, she sounds like an angel.
Andrew is Sophie's best friend, the son of a farmer, and Sophie's future husband, according to Sophie, and together, he and Sophie make the most sensible, honest, and hilarious pair.
The wonderful Dick King-Smith, who wrote the story on which the movie Babe was written, penned the six Sophie stories. And all the narrations are performed by Bernard Cribbins, whose characterizations and dialogue are some of the best I've heard. Cribbins is Sophie; whomever cast him to narrate a series of children's stories in which the star of the show is a very little girl was daring and brilliant.
Cribbins perfectly narrates what Puddles the dog would say if he could only talk. He perfectly voices the various "eews" and "ughs" of the children when Sophie and Andrew arrive in the classroom with a bit of a farmyard "pong." He even slightly ages the twin brothers over the few years of the series, which is subtle and so lovely.
In preparation for narrating and producing a series of children's stories for a new children's audiobook publisher, Plain Tales, I've been listening to a lot of children's audiobooks, and I plan to keep spending time with great stories and fantastic narrators of children's stories. Children's books are so comforting and calming and hopeful. I hope that my work brings joy to my adult and child listeners, as my loves - Sophie, Aunt Al, Andrew, and especially Bernard Cribbins - are giving me.
Labels: audiobooks, Bernard Cribbins, children's books, Dick King-Smith
TITLE: Winding Down the Day
DATE: 6/19/2008 10:44:00 PM
What a lovely birthday.
Homemade cheesecake from Jason, delivered to my front steps early this morning.
A Ferdinand card and funky feather hair bauble along with a delicious Two Fat Cats cupcake from Miss Jennifer Batchelor and Miss Mandy Morrish.
A bag of books from Mr. Barowitz.
A bottle of champagne from Karyn and Peter.
A bottle of wine from Stephen and Jess.
A beautiful black Surly bicycle with handbuilt wheels on pink rims, pink handlebar tape, a pink bell, and a bar bag from Percy.
A warm, lovely Add Verb Productions potluck BBQ in Clara's backyard haven, complete with a fire pit, lots of wine, and a tire swing.
Numerous happy phone calls from friends and familia, including a raucous "Happy Birthday" belt from Miss Bianca. Warm feelings of being loved loved loved.
Birthdays are the best excuse for frivolity and sugar.
Labels: Add Verb Productions, birthdays, Ferdinand, Two Fat Cats, wine
TITLE: 31 things
DATE: 6/19/2008 07:38:00 AM
Today, for my 31st birthday, I share 31 blessings of my life:
My husband, Percy Wheeler.
Percy is an inspiration. My best friend. My biggest fan. He's a constant, unwavering source of support, laughter, encouragement, comfort, challenge, truth. Meeting and marrying Percy has truly been the greatest surprise and the greatest gift of my life.
My family - Terry and Carolyn Gilbert and Cy Gilbert.
I know that not everyone is nurtured by their family. Not everyone has a close, loving, honest relationship with their parents or their siblings. So I am aware of my good fortune and feel deeply thankful to have been given parents who are wise and funny, intelligent and seeking, generous and warm, kind and real and loving. And now that we're both adult-ish and he no longer stomps on my feet for little sister torture tactics, my older brother, Cy, has become one of my closest friends. He's immensely talented, and has a great capacity for love and and tenderness, a burning fire that fuels his intense passions, and a spiritual grounding that has cleared pathways for my own quest.
My lovely catties give me unconditional love and affection, steal my pillow in the middle of the night, purr in the crook of my arm, chase their tail round and round in the bathtub, vomit on the stairs, the bed, the couch, the kitchen floor, and my bathrobe, chase each other up the stairs and down the stairs and up the stairs no down the stairs, who reach their paws out to touch my cheeks, who purr and flex and stretch in joy with just one loving look from me, who come running to the door the second the key is put into the lock. To all the kitties I have loved - thank you: Mirren, Blossom, Houdini, Sossity, Puffin, Smokey, Polar Bear, Echo, and Turtle. (And a special thank you to my little black rabbit, who I had when I was 12 years old, and who was named Percy Olin.)
Voice and story.
Working with my voice and learning about the mind/body/soul/spirit/voice connection has brought me the greatest joy and the greatest challenge. Hearing voices and stories enriches my life - from singers like Cassandra Wilson and Bob Marley and Johnny Cash, actors like Davina Porter and Norman Dietz and the cast of The Archers and the late Anna Fields, radio producers like Dick Gordon and Krista Tippett and David Isay.
Portland has been my home since the fall of 2001, and it's the city in which I met my husband, became connected to the ocean, started riding my bicycle long distances, started my first compost pile and garden, and felt a part of a connected community for the first time. This is the city where I started my voice acting, found my business partner, and chose a direction for my heart and soul. I thought I would be here for 3 months, and seven-plus years later, I'm still finding beauty and meaning in this unexpected home.
Cornish College of the Arts.
The college that gave me four rigorous, demanding, enriching, and empowering years of study. I'm honored to have studied with all the great teachers at Cornish, and the thankfulness I feel at my years there is too deep to detail.
The Salt Institute.
Salt gave me a place to learn storytelling, to learn to listen, to learn to trust my perspective. All these years after my three intense months at Salt, I'm still processing what I learned there, becoming the person I began to be there, connecting with the people who started me on this long journey in sound and voice and story and truth.
Nancy has been a great teacher and a spiritual guide. Her direction has been invaluable.
Stephen and Jess.
Stephen is my precious friend, my business partner, my director, my sounding board, my confidante, my teacher. His fiancee, Jess, has become a dear and trusted friend. I'm grateful every day that Stephen puts up with me, believes in me, shows me patience, humor, understanding, and commitment. I'm so fortunate to have both of these wise and wonderful people in my life.
My indescribably beautiful sistah. She teaches me gardening, health and nutrition, strength, deep friendship, soul, love. I could rave about her, but she and I know what she is to me.
My host of beloved friends.
Jamalieh and Josh, Jason, Elena, Vernon, Pete, Eric, Nadine, Lynda, Jennifer and Jeremy, Maggie, Thatcher, Scott Sheffer, Scott Logan, Pam and Kyle, Donna Galluzzo, Cathy Plourde and Add Verb Productions, Mandy, Peter and Karyn, Paul Haley, Zack Barowitz, all my Renaissance Voices compatriots, Bernie Horowitz, Bianca, Marita, Jeff Forman, Liz and Nate, Erik, Randall, Ian, Andrew, Lorelei, Cynthia, Hal, Matty and Sarah, David and Louisa, Els and Jim, and a very long list of people who make my life a life well lived. And those people who have gone from my life, and will always be deeply loved and deeply missed - Zeke Miller and Howard Miller. Byron. Josey.
These feet of mine, which have given me so much incredible pain and challenge, have given me compassion, understanding, wisdom. Without these feet and all these 19 surgeries and all the unusual experiences of growing through life with a persistent reminder of mortality and humanity and fragility and strength, who would I be? Where would I be? These two funny feet have been a gift.
Stevie was my teacher at Cornish and my friend after college. Now she's a wonderful novelist and she's publishing her second book, Sing Them Home, coming out this fall. Stevie is a loving and devoted parent, a wonderful woman, an artist, an example of how to navigate in this complicated world. I admire her so much, and will be proud to narrate the audiobook of Sing Them Home later this year.
Paul is a great teacher, researcher, writer, and listener. His talent for dialect work is huge, and his understanding of voice and speech and communication and story-telling and theater is magnificent. The International Dialects of English Archive is a gift and one of the best things on the internet ever.
Pat Fraley and Hillary Huber.
Pat and Hillary have been my friends and supporters and cheerleaders. I have been amazed at the amount of generosity, care, concern, and kindness they have shown me. They're not only talented and successful, they're real and they operate in the world with integrity. I adore both of them.
Grover Gardner and Blackstone Audio.
Grover gave me my first unabridged work as an audiobooks narrator, and I'm thankful that he was willing to take a chance on a green, unknown narrator. Blackstone has been a great publisher to work with and I'm proud and honored to narrate for them.
Ogden Morse gave me my first narration work ever four years ago, and not just any work, but Shakespeare, Greek classics, classic American and British novels - incredible words to read. He believed in me and gave me a chance to narrate, direct, cast, and manage his narration projects. Without Ogden's faith in my work, I would not be where I am today. And Ogden isn't just a client, he's a person I have grown to deeply respect and admire and trust. The more I work with other people, the more I recognize how unusual it is to work with people who take their time, build businesses and relationships slowly, and whose actions speak louder than words. I hope I live up to Ogden's example.
Scott Davis and bicycles.
I had such a crush on Scott Davis back in the day, and even though he broke my heart a little bit, it was because of him that I started to ride a bicycle. I had to think of a way to spend time with aloof and squirrely Scott, and the best way I could think up was to ask him to help me pick out a bicycle to ride...and then to suggest lots of bike rides. I didn't ultimately have a love affair with Scott, but I did get a love affair with bicycles. He was lovely, but bicycles are even lovelier than tall, freckled, redheaded boys.
I've always loved my family, but as I grow older I'm finally starting to understand the importance and meaning of family. With growing perspective, I understand how I link back to those who came before me, and I appreciate the lives they created, and what those lives have planted in me. My grandfather, Don Houts - a watercolor and oil painter. My grandmother, Mildred Houts - a nurse and homemaker. My grandfather, Glenn Gilbert - an upholsterer and small business owner. And my grandmother, Tharel Gilbert - a small business owner and homemaker. I appreciate my relationship with my one living grandparent, Tharel, and really enjoy watching her develop a friendship with my husband.
Ah, Seattle. Where my heart lives. There is always a space left empty by my distance from this city. I will never forget driving into Seattle with my family for the first time when I was 14 years old, and feeling like I'd come home. Seattle gave me summers at The Northwest School, two years at the University of Washington, my first apartment, my first experiences living away from home, first concerts at The Moore, love affairs and fierce battles, the WTO protests, theater and dance and music and art, adventure and tumult and my first home on Capital Hill (the smallest possible condo), education formal and informal, beauty and pain and wandering and tears and a sense of self and smallness and greatness and place. I never meant to leave my city for longer than 3 months, and now I don't know if I'll ever get back for more than a visit. But I know my beautiful Seattle will always be there. I yearn for Seattle.
My home state. My 13-years home, which I only now appreciate after having long left it. I grew up with the complication of living in a Mormon Republican state, when I was from a Christian family and where being aligned with the Democrat party was the deepest religion. This was not easy. It was lonely and stressful and made me anxious to get away. But now, when I look back on my life, I see how fortunate I was to grow up on my friends' farms - gathering eggs from the chicken coops and experiencing sheep-shearing and running across the corrugated metal roofs of the pig pens and watching a hog being born. I helped irrigate a field and had bonfires in the desert among the sagebrush and lived near the Snake River Canyon and Blue Lakes. I rode dirt bikes in the South Hills and hiked down to Pillar Falls on the last day of my senior year of high school. I took piano lessons in Filer and guitar lessons in Pocatello and watched fireworks and listened to the city band concert at CSI. I did theater with the JUMP Company and the Dilettantes. And as it gets farther and farther away, it feels like it wasn't so bad. It's not so terrible to be from a state with incredible natural beauty, roadless wilderness, and the sweetest-smelling air. I'm grateful now, and I can't wait to go home for a visit.
The Trek Across Maine.
Percy and I finished the Trek on Sunday - 180 miles biked in three days. I have a lot to write about this, so I'll tease you and leave you with my deep gratitude and thanks for this incredible experience.
The Common Ground Fair.
I went to the Common Ground for the first time in 2001, and I've been almost every year since. What an incredible place! A celebration of organic farming and gardening, all things local and beautiful. I love going to the fair, where I see people I know and love and only run into once a year. Percy and I biked to the Common Ground in 2002, and maybe we'll do it again this year. It's the best fair, and makes me so glad to live in a rural state.
For at least another year, we are renting the home of the lovely Alfred DePew, who has moved to British Columia. So we get to live in the middle of Portland, within walking or biking distance of the Portland Museum of Art, Bangkok Thai and Norm's, Monument Square, the library, Deering Oaks Park, Wigon Office Supply, Aurora Provisions, Arabica, Whole Foods, the North Star, Salt, MECA, and The Space Gallery. We have great neighbors, beautiful flowers in our yard, enough space to allow both of us to work from home, and we are so very fortunate to have this house to love.
I have to include Seth Godin, who has taught me more about business than anyone else. He is so remarkable, so unusual, so honorable, the purplest cow of them all. I appreciate the contribution his work makes in my life and in my understanding of what I'm trying to accomplish with my work and why I want to work for myself. I am so glad to 'know' Seth Godin, and hope one day to thank him in person for the role he plays in my education.
Tom Filogomo and Tim and Jim at The Studio
Tom agreed to do a project with me a few years ago, and he has surpassed all my expectations. He's become a friend, and he's shown me great patience, kindness, trust, and commitment. I am so glad to know him and to be moving...slowly but steadily...toward the fruition of our partnership. The Studio has been a resource for me since the very beginning of my voiceover career five years ago. Tim and Jim have been unbelievably generous with me - answering countless, hysterical "I don't know what I messed up in ProTools! HELP!" calls, scheduling me for last minute studio sessions, helping me get my home studio in working order, even going shopping with me for equipment and setting it up for me. Tim and Jim are great fathers, great community members, great people, great friends.
Steve has been a great friend to Percy and to me, and he's been incredibly generous to both of us. He was an inspiration on the Trek Across Maine, radiating joy and humor and encouragement, as he always does. On several occasions, Steve has handed me the keys to his beautiful Greenwich Village apartment and allowed me to stay for several days at a time at his home when I've had business in New York. He's a joker, a jester, and he does serious theater business. I adore him.
Buzz and Becky Leonard.
This couple has become dear friends to Percy and me, including us in their family gathering on Christmas, fishing trips, birthday celebrations, and dinner dates. Percy and I see that after four children, several grandchildren, and careers that forced long distance separations, Buzz and Becky are as much in love as they were when they first met. They seem to really like us and want to hang out with us, and we feel really lucky to know them and be invited to be a part of their lives.
I love living in this community, where I can see friends at Coffee By Design, where I know the owner of Bangkok Thai, see friends at the farmer's market on Saturday and Wednesday, walk at Kettle Cove or bike to Cape Elizabeth. It means a lot to me to meet people Percy has known for 20 years, to feel the amount of love and support I've been gifted by marriage. Maine is a wonderful place - a magical state. I love living here, close to the ocean, close to New York, Montreal, Vermont. If you've not visited - come for a little while! See Old Orchard Beach in the summer, Wolfe's Neck Park any time, Popham Beach in the fall, the Eastern Prom on the 4th of July, the first lilacs in spring, the waters of Boothbay. Maine is like no other place on earth.
When theater exists in its highest and best potential, it transcends the boundaries of time and space, geography, class, gender, education, economics, language. It is ancient and archetypal, present, meditative, magical. At moments I see and hear glimpses of the best kind of theater, and it fills me with the deepest source of joy.
I'm finding my way back to you. And back to myself. Thank you for never disconnecting. I am learning to step aside and let you flow through me.
Labels: Blackstone Audio, Cornish College of the Arts, Grover Gardner, Hillary Huber, Idaho, Nancy Gnecco, Norman Dietz, Pat Fraley, Paul Meier, Portland Maine, Seattle, The Archers, The Salt Institute
DATE: 6/11/2008 08:20:00 AM
I've been working with phenomenal voiceover coach Nancy Wolfson since January. I'm very close to cutting a new demo with her - it will be done at the end of this month. And last night was a very, very difficult session.
Nancy is awesome - very direct, very blunt, very honest. And sometimes the truth can hurt. Last night she called me on my people-pleasing, don't-want-to-do-it-wrong, want-everyone-to-likemeloveme voiceover work. I'm sick of it myself, and she demanded better. I got through the session and she gave me a great, very fun technique for breaking the mindset that jabbers, "Don't be rude. Be pretty. Be nice. Be perfect. Don't upset anyone. Don't make waves. Disappear. Don't stand out." It's a very loud voice, but it quiets quickly with one shift in thinking. Still, embracing the place in my voice that is real and authentic and not worried with pretty/pleasing/perfection is pretty uncomfortable.
When I hooked up with my husband after the session with Nancy was over, I told him that it wasn't my voice that needed work so much as my soul. I don't think that I will be able to approach the level of mastery and opportunity I want if I'm so concerned with not rocking the boat - with putting everyone else's feelings above my own. Nancy is calling me on my voiceover work, but what she's revealing to me is that I have to grow and evolve as a person in order for my voice to grow and evolve. I can't be so concerned with nice and pretty. I have to be confident. I have to be strong. To care about my opinion of me and not worry about what anyone else thinks of me. I have to begin to operate instinctually and emotionally and stop over-thinking everything.
My sweet husband told me to practice with him, and I enjoyed a giggling half hour of saying things that to me seemed terribly mean, but for him read simply as honest and assertive. Then he told me I had to stop it.
I probably sound like a terrible doormat, and I'm not. I can be pretty mouthy and tough, actually. Ask my parents. No, don't - just take my word for it. I easily stand up for people I love when I think they've been wronged. I rail against injustice. I can debate and stand my ground. But this evolution that is required in my soul needs to open a new place, a different place in me.
It's got to come from a place that doesn't strive to be grounded, but is grounded. It's the place where I am relaxed, because I've done my work and I can trust that it will pay off. It's the place of faith and deep breathing and space, not rushed, overworked, overtired, over-stressed yearning.
I've been passionate about studying voice since I was studying as an actor at Cornish College of the Arts. From the first day in Deena Burke's freshman voice class, the connection between the physical voice and the emotion and heart - the soul revealed, exposed by the voice - fascinated me, but it also immediately and deeply challenged comfort and complacency.
While working through four years of intensive voice and speech courses, I achieved tremendous physical release, stripped away countless, habitual guarding tactics that were obvious in my voice work, and expressed long buried grief and heart scars through evocative voice exercise. I was blessed to train at Cornish under teachers like Deena, who gave me a safe environment to integrate my mind, body, voice, heart, and soul and become a strong and independent theater artist.
Now I'm essentially on my own as an artist. I'm almost done with these months of study with Nancy. I'm not in school, I'm not surrounded all day every day by a team of top teachers who nurture me every step of the way, who push me to grow and evolve and toughen up. I'm lucky to have a fantastic business parter, Stephen McLaughlin, who is my audiobooks director and with whom I co-produce, and who challenges my heart and mind, but most of the time I'm on my own as I pursue my work as a voice actor.
So it's my choice and my responsibility to be disciplined in my study of the voice. It's up to me to be as demanding as my teachers were, to identify how far out of my comfort zone I'm willing to go to grow as a voice actor. I'm just as floored today as I was in my college years at how the voice reveals one's very essence and soul. If you're going to be great, there is no hiding, no safety, no idiosyncratic desperate attempts to be guarded that can show up in your voice.
That is freaking scary.
It's far scarier now than it was when I was a student. When I was a student, I was free to study and explore and experiment and make mistakes. I worked with total devotion and commitment, but my rent wasn't riding on my studies. I didn't make a living as an actor, I was just studying and training for some nebulous future.
Well, the future has arrived. I have made one of the scariest choices I could have ever made - I rely on my skill and talent to put food on my table. To pay my rent. To feed my cats, who eat...a lot. I have to make some uncomfortable changes in the way I operate in the world. Now is my time to be fierce with myself and compassionate, too. To acknowledge that my comfortable likemeloveme style has gotten me this far, but it doesn't get to lead the rest of the journey.
I know I'm ready.
Labels: Cornish College of the Arts, Deena Burke, Nancy Wolfson, voiceover
DATE: June 11, 2008 at 10:13 AM
Nice work, Gilbert. You're a brave one.
AUTHOR: Nancy Wolfson
DATE: June 11, 2008 at 9:22 PM
The pursuit of creativity and true growth requires this strange leap into DISCOMFORT. If you feel a little uncomfortable (or very much so) then it's an encouraging sign you've ventured into new territory. It isn't easy, and in fact can feel something close to masochistic. But ya won't hurt yourself. And as Fat Albert once said, "If you're not careful, ya just might learn something."
I applaud your emotional bravery.
AUTHOR: Bob Souer
DATE: June 12, 2008 at 12:07 PM
This is a really excellent post. Thank you for pushing yourself to be so open about the things with which you wrestle.
It's inspiring to read.
(And I truly love Nancy Wolfson!)
DATE: June 26, 2008 at 12:11 PM
There is such a struggle between those two opposites, isn't there? I mean, there's always been this push for as long as I've been studying theater to make theater more accessible at all costs. However pursuing that train of thought leads to dumbed-down, lowest common denominator shows. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you insist on making art personal, and refuse to care about the community, you end up acting for no one and you risk becoming self-indulgent.
It's something I don't really understand the balance of. Or at least don't notice it until I run close to one of those situations, when I revise and start off the other way.
Balance is the hardest thing. I'd love to hear more about this. Hopefully I could learn something.
TITLE: Language matters
DATE: 6/08/2008 09:18:00 AM
Just got an interesting "Making Selling Fun and Profitable" email from Leesa Barnes. Leesa is the Author of Podcasting for Profit and a self-professed podcasting expert. (I'm not using that term to be snarky - I've just not yet read her book, so I'm not sure if I agree with the label.)
Leesa shares an email exchange with one of her podcast listeners. You can read the whole post here: It's Called a Podcas Silly.
The listener wrote Leesa to encourage her to use a pop filter, and to point out that she constantly says "podcas" instead of "podcast."
Leesa listened to a few of her podcast voiceovers, and completely brushes off the note. She writes that she will, in fact, always leave off the T on podcast. Her articulation of language is influenced by her culture, nationality, education level, or geographic placement, she says.
I agree with Leesa about what influences have created the idiosyncrasies of her delivery of language. We've all got language patterns that grow out of our particular culture, whether it's a pronunciation we grew up saying in our family (my mom says "ChIvy" for"ChEvy"), our region (the Philadelphia "wuter" for "water"), or on a national level ("foy-er" instead of the original French "fwa-yay").
I love unique language qualities like these, and rely on them to help create character and add richness and depth and realism to my audiobook work.
But Leesa Barnes is a professional podcaster. She plays herself, the podcasting expert, when she makes media appearances. So she needs to know how her character plays to the audience. The listener wrote that even though the content was great, he found the dropped T's really difficult to listen to - in fact, he struggled through the podcast. Leesa is confounded. How can he say the content is great, but he struggled through it?
The listener is absolutely right. Content can be fantastic, but if the delivery grates, an opportunity is lost. That's why voice is so important - and why the right voice delivering the right message to the right listener is so powerful.
This should be helpful information for Leesa. I certainly don't believe that a performer must change their performance based on every note they get - that would be madness - but this note gave her the opportunity to become more aware of her habitual delivery of language and the effect on one listener.
Leesa was only offended that these were pointed out to her. In fact, she completely dismissed the listener's comment, hitting back that there were more important things to worry about, like global warming and thousands of lives lost in China.
So she's missing a great marketing opportunity - not only to grow in her voice performance, which is as important to the listener as the content she's producing, but to harness the power of her blog and podcast to grow her brand. She is building her business with blogging and podcasting, and she's selling products about podcasting. The tools with which she is a supposed expert have the power of interactivity. The opportunity is that the blogger/podcaster gets to engage in an authentic way with her audience. When she received the note, she had a chance to build a real relationship and to grow in the spirit she is bringing to her work - even if she still pops her P's and drops her T's. But in choosing to respond with sarcasm, she probably lost a subscriber, and certainly didn't sell me any more firmly on her brand.
Labels: articulation, language, leesa barnes, podcasting, voice
AUTHOR: Leesa Barnes
DATE: June 8, 2008 at 10:14 PM
I read your comments with great interest. First, just to clear it up, I'm not a self-professed podcasting expert. A journalist called me this back in 2006 and it stuck.
Also, the point of the post was to poke fun at myself, not to dismiss the listeners comments.
I coach people everyday on how to develop their own podcast and the biggest issues isn't how to record or how to create compelling content. It's language and accents.
I agree that language matters, but it should never stop anyone from podcasting. Just like I won't let a missing T stop me from podcasting either ;)
DATE: June 8, 2008 at 11:47 PM
Thanks for commenting. Definitely don't let anything stop you from podcasting. I agree with that.
I'm a little bit confused by this:
"I coach people everyday on how to develop their own podcast and the biggest issues isn't how to record or how to create compelling content. It's language and accents."
Are you saying that the biggest issue for which people come to you for help is language and accents, not how to record or create compelling content? That's fascinating. If that's what you mean, I'd be interested in hearing more about what the issues about language and accents entail.
TITLE: Get real
DATE: 6/06/2008 09:09:00 PM
Just got an email posting about a week-long summer acting intensive to be held nearby in a small Maine town.
Here's the promise the teachers make:
"Get everything you need to start working in Film, T.V, Theater or Voice-Over. All participants will leave this course knowledgeable and prepared to enter the world of professional Film/TV/Stage."
The class is open for participants ages 6th grade and up.
Give me a freaking break.
I'm all for classes, and for exposing interested people to new opportunities and possibility. But making claims like these is utter bullshit. I'm sure some people will jump on board because they get swept in and blinded by the totally unrealistic guarantee that in JUST ONE WEEK each participant will suddenly be endowed with everything they need to be a successful professional.
So what will one get out of the class? It's incredible, really, what is included in the $175 fee. A headshot! A film clip that will be seen by agents and producers! On camera scene study! How to write a film! A video performance video! (Umm...what's that, now?)
I don't usually get so irked, but this is simply one of the most blatantly unrealistic class offerings I've seen. It links to a webpage that has this description of what a headshot is:
"Traditionally, headshot is a Black & White picture of your face without any make-up on an 8X10 sized paper with your wardrobe measurements and resume printed on the back side. This will cost you around $1000."
That should tell you something. That bizarre definition and the incredible price estimate should tell you to RUN AWAY. Where did this information come from? This is simply ridiculous. Spend $1000 on headshots if you're a serious actor with some serious tools in your back pocket, with a long-term investment in building a long-term career. Do not spend $1000 on headshots if you live in Maine and you're just looking to pick up a few commercial gigs a year or test the waters. Please. Times are tough enough.
This class offering (and my rant) comes on a day when a friend called me to say that her aunt is interested in getting into voiceover, and did I know how she could get work? I told her to tell her aunt that if she's really serious about pursuing voiceover, she should start by reading. Doing research. Going to the library and exploring the resources available online. Then I told her the sum that I'd invested in building my career, and, when she gulped, I explained that any successful acting career is a business.
I only wish that I'd had the class offering to forward to my pal this afternoon. She could have passed it on to her aunt, and her aunt could have saved herself all the time, money, and effort of actual training and skill development, and instead taken the AMAZING class.
Whew. I'm going to go take a bath and relax.
Labels: acting classes, misrepresentation, skills, training
TITLE: Know Thyself
DATE: 6/05/2008 08:23:00 PM
Yesterday I listened to a really disturbing hour of documentary radio, an episode of Chicago Public Radio's Resound, which was written and voiced by the writer A. H. Weatherman.
While her content was interesting - and wicked twisted - I was disappointed in the overall production.
There's a problem I'm picking up on in public radio, and it's the This American Life effect. Ira Glass has branded his show brilliantly, and there's a TAL voiceover sound that is consistent. It really WORKS for his production.
But it isn't for every production. Not every bit of content sounds right with the restrained energy, undercut, quiet, nearly blase approach that sounds just SO for his program.
And while I love the fact that so many people are fiercely committed This American Life fans, it should be said that their production is not the RIGHT way to do radio, it's just THEIR way. To me, it sounded like the whole production was influenced by the TAL mindset, even though the stories Weatherman shared were deeply personal, pretty shocking, and not stories a few steps removed.
Voiceover is incredibly challenging. There are so many things to consider. It's the technical - mic placement. It's the emotional - how much do you emote and how far back do you need to pull in order for the audience to have room to feel what THEY'RE feeling? It's the creative - pacing, volume, musicality, tone. Adding in the layer of a writer reading their own work, especially a writer who's not a voice performer, and that just made the production all the more precious. Finally, rounding out the whole shebang with not just a bit music, but full musical scoring, and you've got either a recipe for a great success, or something that just falls short.
This show, for me, didn't reach its potential.
Still, I'm glad I listened. Because of the power of the writing, "Confessions of a Child Beauty Queen" is definitely worth hearing, even if the execution is awkward.
(But don't listen with children in the room.)
Labels: production, radio, twisted, voice
TITLE: New Year
DATE: 1/02/2008 01:24:00 PM
Today is the first work day of the New Year, and my first day back at work in several weeks. I've been recovering from a lingering illness that essentially served as a forced vacation for the last two weeks of the year. When you're a voice actor, if your voice is not at peak performance - you sound congested or scratchy or low energy - you cannot, or should not, work. So instead of working obsessively, as is my habit, I've been thinking obsessively...as is my other habit. (I've also been working with my counselor to break the habit of obsessively doing anything. But that's another story.)
Food for thought has been in nearly every blog entry or article or magazine spread I've read in the last few weeks, which has been the typical year-end fare. Writers have been contemplating goal setting and long-term planning, those looking back at what has been accomplished in the last year, and those who are determined to achieve more in 2008.
I have been thinking about those things, too, but mostly I have been thinking about stories.
My attention to story could be partly because my small reserves of energy were committed for several sick days to watching Grey's Anatomy reruns. (Clearly, I am not an 'early adopter.' A few years into the wild success of Grey's, and I'm just NOW learning how dreamy McDreamy can be. I'm not proud of it. But a positive step in recovery is admitting there's an addiction.)
And as I've been looking ahead to the new year of my voice acting business, I've been thinking about how very important STORY is. In nearly every market, there is more than one provider of a product or a service. Often whatever is offered is essentially the same, with similarities in quality, or price, or quantity, or style. Even with similarities, a product or service can be differentiated, and one of the most compelling and different elements of any creative business is the STORY behind the product or service.
So why am I now addicted to this soap opera, and what does that have to do with my business, or your business? Because in this admittedly silly program, there's a compelling story being told, a through-line that I'm infatuated with and invested in. There's struggle and high stakes and there's always a life and death situation intermixed with the story of love and family and romance and intimacy.
And we each have a story - whatever story got us into a business, into the field of work we've chosen to pursue. On our path, there is a struggle and there are high stakes, there is love and family, romance and intimacy, challenge and growth. And though we don't have a helicopter camera flying over us to record sweeping shots like the beautiful skyline of Seattle to decorate our stories, each of our stories can be just as compelling to our customers and clients - as important to our market as a one-hour, prime-time tragicomedy can be to a regular viewer.
So what would happen in our businesses this year if we learned to regularly share our story in a compelling way that promoted the intimacy viewers feel when they tune in each week to catch up with the continuing saga of characters?
That's my aim for this new year. While I am setting goals, assessing progress, and looking ahead, I'm particularly going to be thinking of what story I share with my market, and, even better, the unique way I can help my customers and clients share their story with their market. That's the key to the success that I know awaits us all in 2008.
Labels: grey's anatomy, marketing, story
AUTHOR: Clea Simon
DATE: January 16, 2008 at 12:04 PM
I Googled you and made my way from your website to your blog because you just did an audio book of my new mystery, "Cries and Whiskers." My copies have just arrived, so I haven't heard it yet. I'll confess, I'm a little nervous in case you don't sound like "Theda" to me. But reading your credits, and your thoughts on story, has given me heart. Pleased to make your acquaintance! I hope you enjoyed Theda as much as I do.
- Clea Simon
TITLE: Being Independent
DATE: 7/03/2007 12:01:00 PM
It's fitting that my blog and my website (TaviaGilbert.com) are being launched in time for Independence Day, as the last 9 months have been an exercise in establishing the ultimate independence of self employment. I spent more than a decade working as a writer, researcher, and strategist in law offices in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Maine. But last October marked the beginning of either a brilliant leap of faith or a ridiculous risk when I walked away from a regular paycheck, health insurance, my 401-K, and the "golden handcuffs" of stable employment.
I had a great meeting with a friend yesterday afternoon, the sea-scented breeze blowing in his living room windows while we spoke softly so that his sleeping baby wouldn't awaken. Ogden is an inspiration - a passionate, focused, articulate teacher, as well as an unwaveringly daring, innovative, values-driven entrepreneur. And I've been blessed with his support during the last several months of ceaseless transition.
He asked, "Did you make the right decision?"
Oh, yes. No question.
Would I rather be sitting in a square of sunlight at 2:30 p.m. with a cold glass of water, a sliver of Casco Bay on the horizon, in the presence of an angelic sleeping child, discussing an upcoming audiobooks narration project,
perched on an office chair under fluorescent lights, balancing a phone while typing notes of an increasingly contentious call with an insurance adjuster, an unobstructed view of the parking garage outside my seagull-marked window?
It's not a struggle to choose between the two options.
But do I miss the predictability and regularity of a paycheck signed by the same hand week after week?
Oh, yes. No question.
There is no comparison between the job I held and the pleasure I take in forging my own path and developing my communications business. My work casts a wide net - voiceover, writing, marketing consulting, acting, entrepreneurship - and it's an exhilarating and emotional and gut-wrenching new lifestyle. But there's no going back.
it's comforting to know that I am not alone. Thousands of creative people endeavor each day to define what unique services they bring to the marketplace, what solutions they can innovate for the problems of their clients, to what niche their marketing is targeted. I admire those who flourish while balancing highly creative work while attending to an ocean of administrative minutiae. I'm a Gemini - highly organized, business-savvy, intuitive, open-minded, and extremely creative. So my flourishing will certainly be a result of that lucky personality split.
I'm a fairly recent reader of blogs (and so have developed only one serious blog-crush, on Seth Godin's shiny dome). It's exciting to have this space. I look forward to developing Art + Business as a valuable forum!
Have a great Independence Day!
Labels: Fourth of July, innovation, risk, self-employment
DATE: September 19, 2007 at 10:34 AM
It is an exciting world. I hope to be able to follow suit as well sometime.