Feed The Flame

I was telling a girlfriend of mine about a recent accomplishment when I noticed that I got giddy talking about it.  I was smiling ear to ear and explaining how exhilarating it was to go into the booth and record commands for a video game character.  I had such a blast!  Then seeing my character in action was a whole different level of aw, motivation, and that sweet reminder of what excited me about this profession in the first place.  This feeling, along with an audiobook I have been fully immersed in, and also a quote I saw on twitter the other day, gave me a beautiful reminder of my ultimate goal as a voice actor.  I want to be cartoon characters.  And yes, video games do fall into that category for me. 

 

 “Allow your passion to become your purpose, and it will one day become your profession.” 

 

This was the quote I read the morning that I saw my video game character in action.  It spoke directly to me.  The book I have fallen head over heals for is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the listen on Audible and have been unable to turn it off.  I won’t go into a full book review here but the characters in the book all seek their success and happiness in various ways.  I am enamored by the words and vision of Howard Roark and how his passion to create guides everything he does.  Unlike Roark, I DO want my client to be happy and do aim to please and am always happy to take direction J .  But the passion, that fire that ignites when we do something we truly love, is what I aim to continue to fuel as I build my voiceover career . 

 

I have held many jobs in my life. I have been a paper girl, a waitress, a life guard, an insurance agent, an intern at a non-profit, a sales and marketing manager, a teacher and now an actor.  I got my degree in elementary education and taught for 5 years after college.  When I think back to the classroom days, the best part of every day for me, was Read Aloud.  For one, I loved the idea of inspiring children to read and Inspiring them to get excited about jumping into a book and letting it take over their imagination.  That, and I LOVE doing voices. 

 

I would immerse myself completely in the book, making big deep male voices, tiny mice voices, accented voices, anything that brought those characters to life. 

 

When I started doing voiceover, and I mentioned to other actors that I wanted to do Animation, the responses I often received was something like this.... “That’s what everyone wants to do.”  “That’s almost impossible to get in to if you’re not living in NYC or LA.”  “It’s really hard to break in to.”  “Most jobs out there are not animation.”  “It’s not a realistic route.” My desire to be in cartoons never faded, but I decided to listen to the others and “be more realistic”.  I have worked in the arenas of commercials, e-learning, audiobooks, IVR/Telephony,  and most recently, my very first video game.   The embers were always there, but this specific job got the fire going again.  I laughed evil laughs, jumped around in my booth making fighting noises, played around with my evil villainess, and it was extremely satisfying.  And yes, I will gladly travel to LA or NYC or anywhere else to join a cast of actors and directors!  I would do it in a heart beat if that’s what is required for the job.  I travel for on camera work all the time!

 

Back to what makes us passionate, what excites us, what makes us tick….

Do you know what makes you tick?  What brings you extreme joy?  Are you doing it in your daily life?  Are you lucky enough to do it and call it work?  That is my goal.  I love many aspects of voiceover, and feel incredibly grateful to call this line of work, my profession, but getting into the booth and dropping my guard completely to cut loose and bring a character to life, is where I know that fire grows.   

 

I have decided to challenge myself and to create. 

 

Starting tomorrow, for the next 30 days, I will create a character voice a day.  I will find pictures, comics, illustrations from books, anything really, and create a voice for that image.  You can find these on Instagram and Twitter (@MarisaBlakeActs) and I will hashtag #30voicesin30days.  This is my way of pushing myself to do something every day that brings me extreme joy and satisfaction and also to showcase what I am passionate about. 

 

I will continue to train, but spend more time focusing on training in the animation and video game realm.  I will look into getting demos produced that showcase my ability in this arena, and then hit the ground running marketing myself to production houses.  The fire has been lit, and I could not be more excited to watch it burn bright!

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Everyday I'm Hustlin'

April was my most lucrative voiceover month in my three years of doing VO.  It felt amazing and I was on cloud 9.  However, it was followed by May.  In May, I booked one voiceover job. 

What does that mean?  In June, I Uber. 

I spent my evening last night Ubering.  I live in a tourist town and am grateful for a flexible job option when things are tight and we need a little extra income to supplement.  However, I don't WANT to do it, and I look forward to the day that it is in my past.  It got me thinking about my path to where I am today thus far in my acting and Voiceover career.  It’s a tough one.  You have to be flexible to be an actor as casting could call you in the night before or you book a job same day in the VO world and need to be in the booth in an hour to two.  It’s hard to juggle life’s demands.  And it is hard to have a regular 9-5 job when you are trying to pursue a career in acting. 

Many times we see what everyone else is doing, and it’s hard to understand why you are struggling and everyone else seems to be flourishing.  You wonder, when will it be your turn?  When will everything fall in to place?  I have experience behind the mic and on camera from my childhood, but as an adult and as a mom, I have been an actor for 4 years and I got into voiceover again 3 years ago.  I have had moments of success where I think, “This is it, the tide is turning!”  To then the following month, feeling like I am back at square one.  If this is you too, you are not alone!

It can be hard to maintain a good attitude, when you literally get turned down for a living.  As actors behind the mic and on camera, we put our heart on the line every day.  We are raw and real, every day.  We try to connect and tell a story and be unique and try to stand out every single day.  The wins are much less frequent than the denials.  And as those in the industry know, it’s not ever really an official denial.  You actually never hear anything at all.  Silence at the other end when you don’t book.  It’s not easy to then come back the next day and keep on being your shiny self.

So, what does the average day look like for someone who is still new to the business? It might look like this (If you have kids)

6:45 – Wake up, get kids ready for school

8:30 – Back home from sending everyone off

8:40 – Maybe you can squeeze in a work out

9:40 – 2:40 - I submit VO auditions on a P2P sites, thru my agent, and thru production houses that I have been vigorously reaching out to. I volunteer for Learning Ally and am currently narrating an audiobook for them.  Some days I have a job!  (Those are the best!)  Some days I have on camera auditions that I am studying for and then filming.  Most days I spend time on Linkedin and try to make connections.  I spend time on Twitter and try to interact on social media.  I send out emails to production houses and studios across the country and try to make connections there.   I still work part time for a video production company in town (Check them out www.iamavl.com).

2:45 – I pick up my youngest from school.

3:00 – 8:00 - I then spend the afternoon as a mother, playing outside, cleaning up around the house, cooking dinner, cleaning up after dinner, driving one kid to soccer, picking up another from the skate park, whatever needs to happen, you know?

8:00 – Bedtime - Then some nights I Uber. I head out at 8:00 and drive till I am too tired to. 

This makes for an incredibly long day, all because I have goals and dreams to pursue.  All I can do is hope that my hard work and dedication pays off. 

Sometimes I want to quit.  And if that is you too reader, I suggest you do a few things.

1.     Visualize yourself in 5-10 years, are you doing this?  Do you love it?  If yes, keep going!  (I have a vivid visual of my future studio, and also of living in different places all over the world, doing this work.)

2.     Find yourself a cheerleader (or 5!)  My husband and a handful of my friends are my greatest cheerleaders when I feel like quitting.

3.     Set goals.  Like, write them down. Make them attainable, then check them off as you reach them.

4.     Create a vision board and look at it every day.  Some people post Mantras near the mirror and literally say them to themselves every day in the mirror. 

5.     GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA.  This is where I find I get most depressed.  When I see that everyone is bright, sparkly and successful and I am back to square one.  It can make you feel pretty worthless, put it away when you start to feel blue.  Focus on you!

6.     Train.  If you can’t afford it, get creative.  It can be really hard but I have bartered before and have met really incredible mentors who have taken me in on occasion and I am forever grateful.  Sometimes I can’t afford to train so I do some things on my own…        

a.     On Camera

                                                      i.     Download scripts and monologues and work                                                                   them

                                                      ii.     Find some actor friends and work together on                                                               these scenes

                                                     iii.     Film each other and critique each other

                                                     iv.     Submit yourself to local projects to gain                                                                          experience

b.     Voiceover

                                                        i.     Edge Studio has a TON of scripts to read and                                                                practice.   You can even record yourself and                                                                  submit it for FREE and have others critique you.

                                                      ii.     Read, Read, Read.

                                                     iii.     Find other VO Actors and meet up!

                                                     iv.     Start a Youtube or Spotify Channel and upload                                                                things you are proud of.                                                                                         (I started a YouTube channel, Miss Bee’s AudioReads

                                                       v.     Listen!  To audiobooks, to commercials, to                                                                      tutorials, oh my!

7.     DO ONE THING YOU LOVE EVERYDAY! 

This career is not for the weak.  It’s a marathon and not a sprint.  But if you see yourself here, and it feels right most of the time, keep hustlin’.

Movement is always good

I started doing voiceover when I was 13 or 14 years old, back when you used to have to drive around to different studios to audition and as far as I knew, home studios were not really a thing.  At least not for me.  I recently got back into Voiceover a few years ago and boy has there been a lot to learn and a lot of ways to grow!  I have trained with various professionals such as Dan Friedman, Lisa Biggs, Stephanie Morgan, Robin Armstrong, and Steven Heller.  I have listened to hours and hours of podcasts, I have spent the years growing my studio space from closet, to corner, to now a real booth, from various mics to now a TLM 103, from a homemade demo to a beautifully produced commercial demo from J. Michael Collins. From feeling confused and helpless, to starting to get a handle on how things work.  I am by no means a master, but I can call myself a professional voice actor.  I can offer you a 24 hours or less turn around time, I can offer translation services and Spanish VO, I can offer live directed sessions from my home studio and That. Feels. Great!  

It has been a step by step process.  I think it is important when you are just starting out, to be patient with yourself.  This is a beautiful business, but it takes A LOT of work, confidence, dedication, and a desire to never stop learning and growing.  

Last week I was walking up my driveway opening a check in the mail from one of my newest clients who I work with several times a month.  I walked up my driveway in a dream state.  This was part of the vision and the plan I had last year at this time.  This past month I made more money with my voice, than I have ever made in one month.  I am not FULLY making what I would like to make, but it is a HUGE step, and again, It. Feels. GREAT!  

I have a clear vision, that if I keep working on my craft, and I keep growing my business with those phone calls, emails, LinkedIn messages, networking events, conferences and so on, then this time next year I should be so lucky to call myself a full time voice actor!  

I think it's important that as you get started, you track these baby steps.  Track the movement and the small victories.  They all add up AND they will help you fight thru on those days when you ask yourself, "What am doing here?!?" 

I want to wish you if you are reading this, THE BEST!  May you be inspired to keep working at it, and keep moving forward!  

Hanging by a thread

When you have double digits in your bank account and your waiting on invoices to be paid by clients and bills are due, it can become quite stressful very quickly.  Being an actor seems to be a feast or famine way of life.  Part of the the learning and growing process is certainly to stretch and save the money when their is abundance.  Squirrel it away for the dry days.  When you are just getting started in VO, this can be easier said than done. 

It is on these dry days that it takes every ounce of my being to not throw up my hands and quit.  It is on these days where I have to dig really deep and carve out and toss the thoughts of self doubt that eat away at my creativity and drive.  It is on these days that I have to remind myself that I am good enough, and I am moving in the right direction.  

What will I do today instead of quitting?

-  Maybe I go for a run and/or a long stretch first!  THEN:

-  I will send at least 10 emails to production houses and include my demos.

-  I will submit at least 10 auditions into one the P2P sites.

-  I will CREATE something that brings me joy.  This may be a song, this may be recording a favorite children's book, or writing a story to record.  

-  Sometimes, I just clean my house, my studio space, my desk space.  Sometimes cleaning out and cleaning up and clean your mind of all the gunk! 

Bottom line, there is no sense in sulking.  Some weeks or months can be tough.  But if this is the life you choose, you know what you have to do.  You have to work extra hard and put in extra hours.  You have to get creative AND you have to believe in yourself!  

 

When your money maker gets wrecked by mucus and congestion...

This past Wednesday I woke up with...dun dun dun...a sore throat!  I went to the store, got some EmergenC and some Echinacea tea and rested my voice thinking it would pass.  Thursday morning I woke up congested, coughing, and totally unable to work.  Luckily the next day or two was reserved for emailing, marketing, and some work for my other part time job.  However, as I continue to work towards making VO my main source of income, I realized that this would not fly if I had had a handful of gigs that day!  So, I turned to some VO friends and asked about some of their remedies and solutions and thought that creating a list may be helpful to others!  

So, here ya go! 

-  Here is a recipe to a soup that I love to make when I, or family start to get sick.  I make a big batch, let is sit for a while, then strain it.  I then pour it and drink several cups a day and it helps knock out symptoms within a couple of days: http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/ancient-ginger-garlic-soup-recipe-fights-flu-common-cold-excess-mucus-sinus-infections.html

-  Although no secret, many suggested Traditional Medicinals "Throat Coat" Tea: https://www.traditionalmedicinals.com/products/throat-coat/

-  Sleeping with a humidifier regularly.  I have friends who are full time musicians and also swear by this trick!  Why I haven't started yet, I don't know?!

- Yin Chiao - This is a Chinese Herb that looks like one I will have to keep in stock.  Helps keep colds away and shortens their life.  

- Here's one I had never heard of, but will be investing! Ponaris Nasal Emollient, I mean, it was used in NASA's medical space kits! http://www.ponaris.net/

-  Garlic!  Yup, just raw.  Chew it up and swallow.  It's strong but I think it really helped this time around.  I chewed up a clove yesterday morning. one last night and one again this morning.  I think this as made a huge difference in how I feel.  

-  Lemon Water daily!

- Hot bone broth with tumeric and pepper.

-  Elderberry Syrup

-CBD Oil

- Zinc daily

- And of course: Drinking lots of water and getting rest!  

I know there is a ton more we could add to this list. I was hoping to take this list and share it should you be looking to fight off that cold of yours or keep it away completely.  

 

Why not a blog?

Being in a creative industry and being an entrepreneur can often be difficult and we all have various places we go to for help and guidance.  I, have been thinking about writing more.  Although I acted and did voiceover work in my teens, this field is new to me as an adult.  I do feel like I am starting over and learning the ropes again.  After three years of consistent training, agents for both acting ventures, building my own VO booth and audition space in my "Mom Cave."  I feel like I have most of my ducks in a row.  Now we sit and wait right? 

No.  Now we get creative.  

We keep training.

We keep growing.  

I will use this blog to track the highs and the lows of this journey that I have chosen to go on.  Maybe someone will read it, maybe it'll just be for me, maybe it will help someone in their quest to enlightenment as an actor?  Who knows! 

Why not blog about it?