Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An Amazing Night For A Great Cause

I am walking on air today, with a huge grin on my face!

If you know me, you probably know that besides being a VO, I'm a family caregiver.
I care for my mom who had a stroke in '94 that has left her paralysed on the right side and wheelchair-bound.
I also cared for my dad. He died in 2003 as a result of Alzheimer's Disease.

Some Background

Joan Baker, a top VO here in NYC wrote a book called "Secrets of Voice-Over Success" where a whole slew of top voice over talent each wrote a chapter about how they got started and succeeded in our awesome industry.

Not only is it a great book, but all profits from the book go to the Alzheimer's Association, because Joan's dad died from the disease and she wanted to do something that could raise money to help find a cure for this awful disease.

I met Joan, because after buying the book, I emailed her thanking her for both putting together the book (it's really great!) but also for doing what she's doing to raise awareness about the disease that took both of our fathers.

We started an email correspondence and then I actually trained with her. She has since become a friend and I'm in awe of her energy and talent. Joan is an awesome lady!
Voices Remember

Well, last night, Joan held another fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Association. It was an intimate event called "Voices Remember" where several singers and Broadway performers sang and used their voices in memory of those who lost their voices to Alzheimer's.

Because this was a cause close to my heart,
because Joan was putting it together ,
because she was bringing together top VO's and VO industry leaders,

I decided to attend.
I am so glad I did.

Joan & I

The talent that was gathered in that room, to support a cause so important to our society today was just amazing.

Not only did I have a great time, but it was heartwarming to know that all these people were there for the same reason. Because they knew how important finding a cure for Alzheimer's Disease is. (Yeah, OK, there was some networking going on, but frankly it had the feel of an intimate dinner party, and I felt really lucky to be there!)

Yes, I met some of the top voice over artists and industry people in the country today.

Stewart Wilson-Turner (the creator of VoiceBank.net) & I

Yes, I got a night out,
Yes, I got a respite from my caregiving duties.

Yes, I got a kiss from both "The Don" and Joe Cip!

But what was even more important to me was that I showed up, supporting a great cause and validating to myself that as a working voice talent, I am doing what I love and showing up for my dreams. I am so happy to belong to an industry where the people are nice, generous and talented!

It's a night I won't soon forget!
(OK...how appropriate a comment is that for an Alzheimer's event! ;-)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Do You Believe In Magic?

Sometimes in this business (and yes it IS a business..more on that in a minute) you hear about/learn from some amazing talent. Bob Fraser is one of those people. Bob posts on several of the Voice Over groups I'm on, and a post this week really resonated with me.

Voice Over is work. It's what I do. It's my job. IT'S MY PASSION. It is NOT a "quick way to make a buck." I wanted to share this post as a reminder to those of us who are working at what we love, and as an eye-opener to those who think that Acting/VO are easy! (This is a long post, so grab a cup or glass of something, pull up a chair and read on)

Thanks Bob!

* * * *

Do You Believe In Magic?

There are basically two types of actors who read my stuff, study my computer-based programs, or come to my seminars:

Working pros who are looking for ways to improve their acting income, and newer performers who are anxious to start making money acting.

I think I attract those types of actors because they know that my entire focus is on the money-making part of being an actor.

The success part.

The show BUSINESS part.

As my pal, Charlie Holliday, loves to say, "They don't call it show art!" And I do my best to provide good information for actors who want to make money in show business.

But the fact of the matter is, I know the truth - and the truth is that the only actors who are really going to succeed in our business, are the ones who understand (probably before I launch into one of my rants) that they must take effective action, in order to see the fruition of their dreams.

Not to put too fine a point on things ...YOU HAVE TO WORK AT IT!

I'm sorry for yelling, but THAT is a good piece of information.

What brought on the yelling?

Well, as you have probably gathered, I am a well-known recluse. I like being at home with my family, my bird (Boyd), my books, and my computers. But in the last month or so, I've been going out to see a few plays and participate in a couple of 'panels' - at various actors' gatherings. I don't know why I get invited to these things, as I am clearly anti-social and pretty much the working definition of a hermit - but I do get invited and I go, with my adorable wife, who comes along to gently remind me to be nice.

Anyway, as a result of my recent forays into the real world, I have run into quite a few actors.

Now, while it is sorta nice to be recognized (if you could call it that) - "Oh you're that guy who writes on Now Casting. What's his name?" - the problem is that I meet far too many actors who sadden me.

There are a lot of actors out there who seem to befully invested in the belief that there is a one-step method to show business success.

"Can you introduce me to an agent who can help me? I'll thank you when I get my Oscar," is the most common conversational gambit. I try to point out that there is no golden ticket to get "in" - and that it's a waste of time to keep looking for one. But people don't listen. Frankly, it's frustrating to see our school system turning out so many educated people who still to believe in magic, wizards, lucky charms... and, just possibly, enchanted beans.

This adult belief in a magical solution is probably the main stumbling block for those actors who are having a hard time of things. Especially those who continue to insist that their careers will 'happen' -somehow - as long as they believe it will and continue to intone that plaintive (but clearly magical) incantation ... "I want to be a working actor, I want to be a working actor." Not to mention the poor unfortunates who go to endless parties and spew out the all too common - "I'm an actor... do you know any casting directors who will give me work? I know I can be a star, if someone would just give me a chance" - elevator speech.

Don't they know that while they are in that 'mode,' they're about as interesting as an Amway salesman at an orgy?

The part that saddens is that I am certain that these actors - the sort who believe that there must be a secret passageway that leads directly to the red carpet ... and all they have to do is find someone to give them the key - are going to suffer tons of frustration and disappointment - for a very long time.

AND they are leaving themselves wide-open to the early onset of bitterness - which is a kind of mental cancer. Believe me - eventually bitterness metastasizes into regret, grief, anger and depression.

My prescription?

Throw away your magic beans!


It's not a good plan to lollygag around, acting for free in theatre and student films - for years on end - hoping that the Wonderful Director of Oz will appear one day, in a sparkle of pixie dust, and discover you.

Spend a lot more time looking for a paycheck for your performing and a lot less time schmoozing with adults who believe in magical chants, secret handshakes, bewitching potions, enchanted headshots or Staples' Magic Button.

Please, oh please - do not continue to believe in fairy tales - because if you do ... you will not live happily ever after.

Which brings us to talent.

Oh, that word!

Shakespeare said, "Talent will out!"

But he didn't add "Talent will be well paid, respected and successful."

(Because Willie was a sharp cookie and knew better.)

Talent is a gift - and if you put it to use, it may pay the bills.

The critical phrase is ... "IF you put it to use."

Jennifer Hudson is a recent case in point.

Meteoric is a word they use.

Has she got talent? Yes, by the truckload.

But everyone is turning her bio into a Cinderella story, a fairy tale ... "first she lost on American Idol and all looked hopeless ... but then she got a lucky break and went on to win the Oscar."

The erroneous conclusion being drawn from Jennifer's story (and others like hers) is that her talent was 'discovered' and well rewarded ... and that ours will be 'discovered' and rewarded too.

But did you know that about four years ago Jennifer was working on a Disney cruise ship - in a big heavy costume with five-inch heels and tons of make-up - belting out Disney ditties for a paycheck?

The point is this:

If a tremendously talented future Oscar winner can 'go on the road,' working on a cruise ship to earn money with her talent ... oh, never mind - I'm sure you get the point.

Listen, after you throw away your magic beans, your next move is to stop wasting your time looking for a one step solution - and start looking for acting work that pays.

ANY acting work that pays.

That's the first step.

That's putting your talent to use.

Go on the road if you have to.


And please don't invite me to anything ...I'm staying home this month.

* * * *

If I lived in L.A., I would take him out for a drink!

If you want to get more insights from Bob, subscribe to his newsletter: Show Biz How-To

So, what do you think?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

April 3rd is Good People Day!

What an awesome idea! After reading a post by my friend, fellow VO talent & awesome marketing guy, Peter O'Connell I just had to pass it on!

uhhh....thanks Peter for "supplying" the graphic! :-)

Today, April 3rd, 2008 is GOOD PEOPLE DAY!

It was started by Gary Vaynerchuk who wants us to harness the power of the Internet and social media and have “people write and talk (and) blog and twitter and just flat out SING about people that are AWESOME and GOOD.”

In my life I have been blessed to have many GOOD PEOPLE help me along the way both personally and professionally. As someone once said "No man is an island," and even "self-made" men had help along the way. Below are just a few of the people who I consider not only good but AWESOME. Also, please know that this is far from an exhaustive list...I do need to get back to work!!! ;-) But just know that I have been blessed to have these people as a part of my life!

Of course my husband Brian, who married me in the midst of many family issues and whose support has allowed me to fulfill the role of family caregiver to my parents....and for doing ALL the grocery shopping for the past 10 years!!!!

Leanne Avery, the best sister one could ever hope for!

Fr. Alex Vinogradov, the coolest priest on the planet who has helped me through a lot!

....and when it comes to VO and Business, the following is a list of GOOD PEOPLE who I am SO lucky to have in my life! ...and remember, those of you that my mind has, for some reason, not included on this list....blame in on recent sleep-deprivation!!!! YOU are also AWESOME!!!!

There is no order in this list....I just love you all!

Moe Eagan - We met, we connected...yeah...we're stuck with each other for life!
Bob Souer - One of the most generous, giving, genuinely nice people on the planet!
Frank Frederick - Sassy & sensational!
Peter O'Connell - A marketing machine, and awesome talent!
Peter Drew - Full of info & fun!
Paul Payton - One of my most ardent cheerleaders & supporters, and a great VO!
DB Cooper - I humbly bow to her talent and generosity of spirit.
Mary McKitrick - Lovely & talented, insightful & awesome!
Connie Terwilliger - Fantastic VO, and always a fountain of info on how to move ahead.
Philip Banks - The wise one. I could listen to his voice (and advice) all day!
Kara Edwards - Beautiful AND talented....a striking combination!
Amanda Fellows - Friendly & fabulous!
Melissa Exelberth - It's great having someone who lives close by to chat with & who gets it!
Barbara Winter - The person most instrumental in helping me strike out on my own!
Alice Barry - Inspired entrepreneur & awesome friend!
Rosemary Senjem - Taught me how much fun it can be to play at work!
Johnna Gottlieb - I'm learning so much from her about the market & stepping up my game.
Joan Baker - Yeah, another killer combo of beauty, brains & VO talent!
Terry Daniel - Cool guy, funny guy, talented guy. Yep, that's Terry!
Trish Basanyi - We started at the same radio station, and both ended up in VO!

So there you go...the good people in my life right now....I'm SURE the list will grow...but I want to thank everyone who has helped me become who I am!...yeah...well...maybe they shouldn't be blamed for that! :-)

So?...who are the Good People in your life?