The Erik and Ember Show Episode One: Joan Baker

Awww yeah boy, the long wait is finally over.  Prepare yourself to be dazzled by the most informative and entertaining podcast the world of voiceover podcasting has seen in quite some time!1

While Ember and I alone easily have enough personality to keep you riveted for hours, it certainly didn’t hurt that our very first guest is my number one voice crush, the lovely and talented voice talent, coach and author Joan Baker.  We had a blast talking shop with her and she was kind enough to give us some background on her incredible career and dropped some pearls of wisdom for those of you still building up your business.  All of you should be humbled and thank her profusely.  What a great talent.

Oh, and by the way, she is also a stone cold fox:

Hubba Hubba.2

The show runs a little long but only because it is so jam packed with voiceovery goodness that I couldn’t bring myself to cut any more of it.  Check it out on the groovy new podcast player3 over on the sidebar, get it from iTunes by clicking the button underneath or subscribe to the rss feed.  Be sure to share your love with Joan in the comments, just keep your paws to yourself.

Joan Baker links:

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that the awesome Dave DeAndrea is our announcer and he produced the intro, outro, and stingers as well.  I think we can all agree that they rock.  Find him at Dave DeAndrea.com and give him all of your money.

In case you are interested our theme song is “Tuco” by one of my favorite bands, Keelhaul.

1. I have to learn how to write more enticing copy.
2. I have a thing for chicks who bend their right arm.  I’m a freak like that.
3. It kind of sucks actually.  If anyone knows of a better looking one please enlighten me.

The Results Are In

Two weeks ago I posed the brilliant question: What are we calling our industry? It was really quite something in case you missed it.  There was a cool poll widget and everything.  Ah, good times…

Amazingly, this nonsense was picked up by a few other VO blogs on the interwebz and it resulted in a flurry of half-witted responses.  Over a hundred people chimed in by voting or leaving comments.  You guys are really the best.  Anyway, after an appropriately unscientific tabulation, the winner by a landslide was “Voiceover.”

Here is a sampling of comments culled from here, the Boblog and Vox Daily:

“I have always said and spelled it, “Voiceover”. Some have been cute and written it as VOiceover or VoiceOver. I started using Signature Voiceover Actor around 2000 and just last year, shortened it to Voice Actor.  Cute or not, we are Voice Actors if we put our character and personality into our reads. If you strictly “read” copy without any emotion, skill or attitude, please do not add “Actor” to the end of your title. That’s only for those of us who MUST read with experience, understanding and grasp the meaning our clients are trying to convey with their written words in order to brand their products successfully.”
-Johnny George

“I’ll stand with Merriam Webster and VOICE OVER. I can’t be bothered with hyphens.”

-Diane Havens

“The Oxford English Dictionary only shows the hyphenated form, so it would be the voice-over industry.”
-Grammar Girl

“First, I consider “voiceover” to be industry jargon and unquestionably correct within that context. Outside the industry, and IMHO from purely a linguistic perspective, I consider “voice-over” to be the correct form as an adjective and “voice over”, with the quotation marks, to be the correct form of the noun for the field.  Personally, I prefer voice acting in most cases. Go figure.”
-Corson Bremer

“It should be “voice-over” because you add hyphen when you need to join two (or more) words together to form a compound or single expression. Also, you use a hyphen to join words in a compound expression that is put before a noun. ie: Voice-Over Artist, Voice-Over Actor. But I admit, I write “voice over” all the time.”
-Alexandra Barta

“I will be happy to suffer whatever scorn you wish to heap upon me, but voiceover is the term I will use because it’s the one with the least false positives for searches.”

-Bob Souer

“Personally, I say we are in the voiceover industry. I think most of us actually say it that way. Think about it…we say it as one continuous flowing word with the emphasis on voice – VOICEover; not as two separate words – VOICE OVER. Plus, while the dictionary hyphenates the word, I think they do that whenever a phrase or term has been coined, to fit the usage as understood by the general public. However, in the industry itself, it’s not just a coined phrase, it’s our jargon for what we do, and our spelling would be the official spelling.”
-Susan Wade

“Not many people now remember that “Voice Over” is short for “Voice Over Film”. The course of most terms in English is to go from separate words (“Base Ball”) to hyphenated words (“base-ball”) to a single word (“baseball”). With all due respect to the dictionary folks, they can only reflect the usage of the public, and must always lag behind the curve.  So the historically accurate can use “Voice Over,” those on the cutting edge can use “voiceover”, but the one destined to be dropped as a transitional placeholder is voice-over.”
-Dan Popp

“Anything but “voiceover,” which is not a word.”
-Catherine Campion

“Dictionaries and spellcheckers reflect, and are not meant to lead the lexicon of any given occupation or endeavor. We are only in the third generation of whatever this thing is. We’re making this up as we go along. When I started teaching voice over in ’74, I remember making up terms for what we do. There were very few terms for what we do. I made lists, borrowing from acting, speech, and music terms, and struggled to come up with terms, attempting to avoid confusion.  There are two different areas of nomenclature, which are of interest:  What is the category or genre called and what are those who perform the jobs referred to as?  Personally, for the genre, in 2009, I weight in with, “voice over JOBS.” JOBS, is less self-aggrandizing than any of the alternatives I can think of. I like “Voice Over PERFORMER” for what I do. Voice Over “ACTOR,” may very well describe what I personally do, and the skills I employ for the lion’s share of voice over jobs I get, but those who narrate, or do promo work, for examples, do more “presenting” than acting. And I do not cite “presenting” as a pejorative. I so wish I had more skills at presenting. Lot of money in promo work, and I stink at it. “Voice Over TALENT” possesses the connotative meaning of possessing formidable skills, and I don’t like conveying that meaning. I find the same problem with using Voice Over ARTIST.”

-Pat Fraley

So what does it all mean?  Probably nothing.  Surprisingly, I am going to go with the majority and start unapologetically using “voiceover”.1 I think it looks nicer and rolls off the tongue easier than the two word “voice over” and I’m just not really down with the hyphens.2 I trust that now that you have been hipped to my usage it will become de rigueur and those of you who voted otherwise will see the error of your ways.  I’m glad we can all finally get some sleep now.

1. Voiceover.  Voiceover, voiceover, voiceover!  Oh that feels good.
2. I saw a hyphen kill a box full of puppies once.  True story.

I Wish I Was Bi (Part Two)

Besides easily being the nicest person I have ever met in my life, VTP talent Tito Alvarez is well on his way to becoming a legend in our industry.  His impressive list of clients include Coca Cola, Verizon, Budweiser, Showtime, Microsoft, Master Card, American Airlines and Nascar and he has done the Spanish trailers for films such as Frida, Traffic and Dawn Of The Dead.  While primarily working as a Latino talent being bilingual has helped him virtually corner the Hispanic market in the United States and earned him representation with the nation’s top talent agencies.

A quick story:  A few months back I was talking to Tito on the phone and he was a bit torn because it seemed that he would have to leave his long term relationship with William Morris in Los Angeles because he was offered a contract with TGMD.  Seriously, I would give up body parts that I have become quite attached to if I could have dilemmas like that.1 Jeez.  Oh, he is also with Abrams in New York.  This guy is a rock star.

Feast your ears on this but be warned,  keep your ladies out of the room gentlemen or you will lose them.

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If you are a Spanish male talent you might just want to go to dental school right about now because it’s over.2 Lo siento, amigos.

1. Perhaps that is an overstatement, but not by much.
2. Don’t worry Banderas, he has no interest in Nasonex.

I Need An Award

Well, it’s that time of year again and Voices.com have begun accepting nominations for The 2009 Voicey Awards.  As usual the categories include New Voice, Child Voice, Teen Voice, Female Voice, Male Voice, Voice Team, Foreign Voice, Personal Branding and Lifetime Achievement.

While the mantels of my many fireplaces are nearly filled to capacity with all the awards and accolades I have received over the years, I may just have room for one more.  So, dear friends, in the name of unbridled hubris I look to you to nominate yours truly for Best Male Voice.  Not simply because I am clearly the best male voice but because it would clearly send a message to those who want to maintain the status quo that we demand change.  We will not sit idly by while the same voice over fat cats steal this competition from us, the everyday working talents who audition and voice and blog and are truly the salt of the earth.  We can take this industry back and I am the man to do it!  Yes we can!  Yes we can!

Show your support by following the directions below.  If I win I will thank all of you by posting nude pictures of me on this blog.  Scratch that, if you don’t nominate me I will punish your insolence and post nude pictures of me on this blog and really, there are some things that children may just not be ready to see.1

My fellow Americans, heed the call to action by clicking here, entering my Voices.com URL (http://www.voices.com/people/eriksheppard) and pasting in the URL to my television narration demo (http://voicetalentproductions.com/mp3/ESheppardDemos/ErikSheppard%20NarrationDemo.mp3).  Also, feel free to elaborate on why you are nominating me in the space provided.  Some suggested comments are “I get the chills when I hear him work”, “He is clearly the most talented artist since Picasso” and “If he wins thanks to my nomination perhaps I can guilt him into the sack.”2 Of course you can just pick from your own plethora of reasons as well.

While you are there, be sure to nominate September Day Leach for Best Female Talent as well (http://www.voices.com/people/SeptemberDay and her demo is at http://voicetalentproductions.com/mp3/SLeachDemos/SeptemberDayLeach%20CommercialDemo.mp3)  We will be sure to remember you all once we take our rightful positions as your benevolent overlords.

1. Won’t somebody please think of the children?
2. Other acceptable comments include “Please reward his humility” and “For the love of God, isn’t it about time?”

I Wish I Was Bi (Part One)

For religious reasons I only speak English, although those who have heard me speak it say that my oratory is pretty much the pinnacle of the language as an art form.  While I know this to be true, I still can’t help but feel that I am missing out on something being limited to just one tongue.1 Besides the obvious coolness and perceived worldliness that goes along with being bilingual, if you are fluent enough you can double your market.  The insanely talented VTP talent Liz de Nesnera basically tripled hers.  Check this out: Liz speaks both English and French BUT she speaks Continental French as well as French Canadian so she has clients from just about everywhere falling all over themselves to get her in the booth for them.

So on any given day she can get a phone call from an American company looking to book an IVR talent, some Canuck might get off his moose and hire her for a beer commercial and later some cheese eating surrender monkey might email from France asking her to do a corporate spot for his white flag factory.  She makes a mint this way.  How cool is that?

“Un voiceover s’il vous plaît”

Jealous?  Of course you are, although Liz can kick an ass or two so she totally deserves everything she gets.  Check her out:

American Liz:

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French Liz:

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So, do you want a whole lot more work?  Just go out, learn an entirely new language and voilà!

1. My ex-wife felt the same way.  *sigh*

One Spelling To Rule Them All

UPDATE: Stephanie from Voices.com, Dave Courvoisier, and Bobbo have joined the fray!  We may just get a consensus on this.

Alright, I can’t be the only one who is being driven nuts by this.  I assume it came out of folks trying to register URLs for their VO websites that were not already taken but now it has just become a free for all and I think we should decide on a clear winner so I can sleep at night.1 What other industry out there has such a myriad of spellings?  None, because that would be stupid.  Instead I’m the one who feels stupid every time I have to decide what to write in an email or letter or just about anything.  I usually use the default term “Voice Talent” when talking about myself or others because I think it is descriptive and has a nice ring to it, but once I get to voiceover/voice over/voice-over I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m just like a little kid playing in Mommy’s makeup box.2

Now I’m sure you understand the weight of the situation at hand.  No less than the fate of our future is at stake and so I call upon you to draw your line in the sand.  Stand up and make your voices heard, shout your choice from the rooftops as if your life depended on it! Remember those who have sacrificed so much in the past so we can be where we are today and honor them by laying this issue to rest once and for all and restoring unity and sanity to our great profession!  Vote for change!  Vote for hope! Hell, do it for Pony Boy if you’d like, lets just do it.

Check out the voting widget thing over there on the right under the microblog and make your choice.  If you have a blog or website of your own, please grab the code and share it there too.  All the votes should go to the same place to be tabulated.  I’ll keep the poll open for exactly two weeks and then a winner shall reign supreme.  Anyone who uses the losing terms afterward will be met with scorn and will be forced to forever walk the earth accursed and bedraggled.  Either that or they face Thunderdome.  I haven’t decided yet.  Either way it should be pretty cool.

1. I’m not quite right, you know.
2. Wow, there had to be a better analogy than that for me to use.

Too Cool For School

I am pleased to announce that I will soon begin teaching courses at the world renowned Edge Studio in New York City.  These guys run a top notch studio that has been around for over 20 years, they are beyond professional, they are honest and now they have me.  High fives and back slapping all around are certainly in order.  David and his staff know the voice over1 industry inside and out so it is an honor.  From their site:

INDUSTRY KNOW-HOW 101: Look Pro, and Get Hired Like A Pro!
Offered in-studio AND by tele-class

Concerned you’ll look like a newbie? This seminar ensures you LOOK PRO!

LEARN:
When and which questions pros ask producers
Whether or not you should sign the talent-release form. (Not sure what this is?)
Cans, sibilance, dubbing, dialogue, completed hour, frames,…
Punching-in, turning pages, off-axis, proximity, slating, pick-ups,….
Pros and cons of joining SAG and AFTRA

Objective:
Come across professional so you’re hired again.

We welcome questions and leave room for Q&A.

Click here to get the schedule for this class and information on their other incredibly fine offerings.  I will also be one of the coaches involved in the Talk With a Pro series which is a really unique concept and indicative of the culture at Edge.  You know what, just click the main link up top and poke around to get a better feel of where they are coming from.  Be sure to find the link to their 3,500 free voice over scripts if you, um, want 3,500 free voice over scripts.2

I like to think that my students will be city kids who maybe have a tough exterior but just need someone to believe in them.  At times I may not think it is worth it, that I’m not really reaching them, but somehow we find common ground and I gain their respect.  In the end we all learn a little bit about life, love and the power of perseverance.

1. Voiceover?  Voice-over?  Really, I need some closure on this one.
2. Do I have to spell everything out for you?

But What Does It All Mean?

So I found this interesting site called StateStats that shows you how popular a Google search query is in each U.S. state and decided to play around with it for a bit.  I was a little surprised at the results.

First off, there is no data for a Google search of “Erik Sheppard” so obviously the thing is majorly flawed, but I digress.  Searching for the next most popular terms in the industry I put in “voiceover” (all one word) and the top 5 states came back in descending order as New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and Georgia.  Nothing too surprising there.  A search for “voice over” as two words1 resulted in California, New York, Georgia, Florida and Illinois.  How are more people in freaking Georgia of all places searching for voice over on Google than Illinois?

Weird, right?

This is even weirder: a search for “voice talent” results in Georgia being number one(!) followed by Colorado(!!), Minnesota(!?!), Florida and Washington.  Aside from the well deserved popularity of Atlanta superstar September Day Leach, I am totally at a loss here.  By the way, New York and Cali came in 6th and 7th.  Go figure.

So what does it all mean?  Government conspiracy?  Foofaraw?  Hokum?  Flimmery?2 Maybe this doesn’t take into account individual state population.  Feel free to conjecture amongst yourselves and let me know what you come up with or click on the link above to play around.  I’m out.

1. One or two words? Can we have a meeting and come to some consensus on this please?
2. Alright, I made that last one up.