Dialect Donor: Cake Boss!

Posted in dialects for actors on July 12th, 2010 by Mary — 2 Comments

I was so taken with Pamela Vanderway’s concept of using a dialect donor when you need a model for a certain dialect that now that’s the term I think of when I hear somebody who speaks with an accent.

If you need a great model for a 2nd generation Italian-American accent from northern New Jersey, you’re not likely to get to work with Buddy Valastro directly.  He’s way too busy turning out beautiful works of cake art.  But please feast your ears and listen to the Cake Boss narrating his “Meeting Buddy” video.  Then feast your eyes at the Carlo’s Bakery website and see some of his extraordinary creations.

Buddy, I love you.  Is it okay to tell you that?

The Facebook “Fan” Page

Posted in voice-over marketing on July 12th, 2010 by Mary — 3 Comments

Of course, it isn’t really a fan page anymore because we no longer become Fans – rather, we Like.  I haven’t read anything about why the change from fanning to liking occurred, but I rather Like it.  It puts everybody involved on more or less equal footing rather than suggesting that the page owner is elevated to celebrity status!

My friend Peter O’Connell recently wrote on his blog of his ambivalence about creating a Facebook page for his voiceover business because it seemed egotistical – you’re basically asking people to like you, be your fan, whatever you want to call it.  He ultimately decided to create one despite his misgivings, because it could help people who are interested in his business to connect with him in a way that’s comfortable for them.

Ever since I started to overhaul my marketing plan a few months ago, I knew I would eventually create a Facebook page for my voiceover business.  The only reason I waited this long is that I’ve been pruning my contact database and in the course of doing so, have sought out the Facebook pages of the companies I work with or would like to be working with.  I wanted to get a better sense of what other people do with their pages, which would help me decide what I want my own page to do.  At this point fewer than 20% of my contacts have a business page on Facebook.  I feel that if a business does not have a Facebook page they’re missing out on a great way to connect with their customers.

I love it when the businesses I like have a Facebook page.  It’s wonderful to have a little community with which one is connected even when one is not physically at the place of business.  One of my favorite such Facebook pages is that of Bread Euphoria, a local cafe/restaurant.   Their website does a great job of telling me what’s on their regular menu.  Their Facebook page goes further and tells me what their specials are this weekend, makes note of a fun, free family event at the local library and suggests grabbing a pizza at Bread Euphoria afterwards and proceeding to a nearby park where there’s a free concert.  Perfect!  They often ask questions of their community, and their friends post comments about the delicious breads and pastries they buy from the bakery store.  The page administrator responds, so it’s a nice conversation. 

My voiceover business page is now up at Facebook as well.  As Peter suggests, it’s a bit nerve-wracking, actually taking the plunge.  I’m not going to heckle people to join me there, but I’ll be very happy if they want to.  This is the first place I’ve mentioned it to anyone, but it was fun to go there the morning after creating it expecting to see it “wandering lonely as a cloud” only to find that a few people had found it on their own in the night.  A warm welcome to them!  I wish I had some nice bread or pastries to offer like Bread Euphoria… I’ll work on that!

More dialect resources

Posted in dialects for actors on July 7th, 2010 by Mary — Be the first to comment!

Yesterday’s post was inspired by a video at Pamela Vanderway’s blog, and this morning I took a bit of time to look at some of Pamela’s other posts.  What a delightful experience!  She’s a dialect consultant and has such an interesting perspective.  If you’re an actor, whether on-camera or in voice-over, I think you’ll enjoy her blog.  I was especially taken with Finding a Dialect Donor.  What a concept!

For other dialect resources, you can search my blog by entering dialect in the “Search this blog” box at the upper left.

Being present.

Posted in acting, customer service on July 6th, 2010 by Mary — 2 Comments

Today I met a friend for lunch at one of my new favorite places.  Because I’ve had an unusually high number of lunch dates recently I’ve been cycling through my three favorite places, so even though I ate at this place last week it was already their turn again.  But whereas last week I was able to order a cheddar panini with apple, this week I tried to order the same thing and was told, “we don’t have prices for extras – you can get one of these other sandwiches though”. 

 I don’t have a lot of patience with this sort of approach in a customer-oriented business.  I can’t imagine what would make somebody deny a customer what they want when it would be so easy to give it to them.  But instead of pursuing it, I just asked for a plain cheddar panini.  This is because I noticed that whereas it was nice and cool and pleasant in the seating area, it was terribly hot and uncomfortable at the counter and it must have been much worse behind the counter, preparing hot food, and what business did I have ordering a hot sandwich on a 100+ degree day?  I didn’t want to make it even hotter by insisting on getting what I wanted.  Save that for a cooler day.  It wasn’t until later, when my family were sitting at dinner telling each other about our day, that I realised that I had accepted a lunch that wasn’t what I wanted out of deference to somebody else’s comfort.  It was kind of a light bulb moment for me, even though the incident was minor, to realise I had let a conflict go out of empathy for somebody else, and that that had pretty much been my first reaction to it.  

 My friend Hélène Janover posted a video on Facebook this evening that brought this back to me again – a video of voice coach Patsy Rodenburg who relates a story about a man she encountered while on a book tour in Australia.  This man’s body language suggested that he didn’t like her – that was her first reaction.  But when he came up to talk to her afterwards she decided just to let him talk.  If you watch this entire wonderful video you’ll see why it was so incredibly important that she let this incident not be about her.  It makes my own little story seem exceptionally trivial, but the point is, no matter how much you might want to be treated or responded to in a certain way, consider the possibility that the other person might very much need you just to be present – connected.  Which is what actors are supposed to do.

 The video comes to you by way of the blog of dialect consultant Pamela Vanderway.

How do you stay in touch? Part 2

Posted in voice-over marketing, voice-over newsletter on June 24th, 2010 by Mary — 3 Comments

In December 2006, I was contemplating sending out an electronic newsletter as an alternative to keeping in touch with clients and potential clients via individual emails.  The problem I was having was that I had to send 27 emails a day in order to achieve my goal of writing to each contact just 4 times a year.  And of course, my list of contacts was growing every day.  Although there were a lot of reasons why I preferred sending individual emails, this had become quite a time burden and in January 2007 I took the plunge and signed up with a newsletter service. 

Last month I finally canceled the subscription.  Why? Because in the last few years it seems that the number of impersonal emails we all receive has grown so huge that each one is just another decibel in the noise.  The noise is deafening, and  I don’t want to contribute to it any more.

When I first got into the voiceover business, I thought that the more companies I contacted, the more business I would get.  In theory that makes sense, but if one isn’t careful, the list of contacts itself becomes “noisy”. It gets to be full of companies that aren’t a good fit for one reason or another.  One of the many reasons is that it includes people who don’t like to be contacted by voice actors they don’t know.  Considering that the best way to get business is via referral, there are probably lots of people in that category.

Since cancelling the subscription, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do instead.  Business people are supposed to market.  The odd thing is that I have more business now than ever, but still, I need to have a plan, right? So my plan is this, and it’s an evolving one: go through that database yet again. It has grown to over 3700 companies, still with only around 1200 that were on my email newsletter list, but I’m looking at each of those companies and deciding if I really want to do business with them.  I’m trying to make the list much smaller, much more reflective of the kinds of people I like to work with. If they have a business page on Facebook or a Twitter account, I join, or Follow, or Like (so far there are relatively few that have links from their website to Twitter or Facebook, even if they actually do have an account) but I hope more will catch on).  I do like the idea of having a “conversation” with the business and with its fans, friends, & followers.  After this current decluttering and Liking/Following project is done (as in, I’ve gone through my entire database), I’ll have to make further decisions about how to keep in touch – whether by personal emails, postcards or even hand-written notes.  I just want to make the contact more personal than it has been the last few years.

Marketing is an ever-evolving process, as we try different things and assess their effectiveness and how they feel to us.  The business landscape is constantly changing as well, as new trends emerge and people tire of the “old” ways of doing business.  But my concerns over the use of electronic newsletters are the same now as they were when I first started wondering whether to use them – they’re impersonal, and the more such tools are available, the more people seem to want “old-fashioned”, real life relationships.

The hazards of being Scottish in a lift

Posted in dialects for actors on June 17th, 2010 by Mary — 2 Comments

For those of you working on your Scottish accent, you can’t do better than this.

The durability of print

Posted in information retrieval on May 27th, 2010 by Mary — Be the first to comment!

This is not a pitting of print versus digital format, just musings on the future of information.  I recently wanted to dust off my Curriculum Vitae and make sure it was up-to-date, and remembered that I no longer had the most recent version.  As I recall, that version was on a floppy disk – the old large kind – and I no longer have such a disk drive and discarded the disk long ago.  Apparently I no longer have a hard copy either, or possibly never did because I never needed to print it out.  So I had to rely on my memory to reconstitute it and although I think I did okay, there are probably some details missing, a bit of my life that is no longer easily accessible.  All of this probably speaks more to the merits of having an “information team” than it does to the merits of any one class of information format or storage – people or systems to help me retrieve information.  Even if I had a hard copy, I don’t know if my filing methods would have made it easy to find the document.  I can’t remember if I checked the folder labeled “Stuff I have to keep indefinitely even though I don’t want to.”

I often wonder what the biographers of tomorrow are going to do about correspondence.  How will they know what kind of letter-writing habits their subjects had if it was all in email?  A year or so ago I was going through my old letters, preparing to dump them all in the recycling bin.  I like to get rid of stuff. The more I tossed, the more this dull feeling of loss crept over me, and finally I picked up the phone and called my sister, as I often do when I need somebody to tell me the obvious.  “You can’t throw them out” she said.  Hundreds of letters written while I was on the faculty and museum staff at a large midwestern university: letters to colleagues, friends, people wanting to borrow specimens, invite me to give talks, request help, students wanting to come and do research in my lab.  They were fun to read, and definitely of another era.  They will amuse somebody someday (not a biographer, of course, but at least my descendants will get a kick out of them).  I kept them.

A few nights ago I attended an alumni dinner and the speaker was the university librarian at my alma mater.  She talked about some of the extraordinary items in the university library’s holdings, including over 1000 letters from T. S. Eliot to his muse, Emily Hale.  The letters are wrapped in brown paper and the bundles encircled with a metal band, and they were given to the library by Miss Hale with the stipulation that they not be opened until January 1st, 2020, by which time presumably anyone who could be offended by the contents would have passed on.  Eliot had burned all of her letters to him, but she, thankfully, could not bring herself to destroy his letters to her.  The library receives many pleas each year from Eliot scholars, each one with a unique reason why they should be allowed to look at the letters before the appointed date.  I’m sure the experience of looking at and (very carefully) handling these documents, penned between 1930 and 1956 by a Nobel laureate poet, will be an amazing experience.  Looking at email can’t possibly be anywhere near as thrilling.  Another item in the library’s collections is a copy of Paradise Lost that had belonged to Herman Melville, and its margins are crammed with Melville’s hand-written comments.  You certainly can’t do that to a Kindle.  In addition to the many digital documents and journals to which the university library has access, they still purchase 100,000 printed books – about a mile’s worth – every year.  I asked our speaker to tell me her thoughts about keeping up with digital format and storage, and she said that it is, obviously, a moving target, and anybody who says it’s simple is kidding themselves.

The digital age offers some freedom from paper, at least some kinds.  I like not getting bank statements in the mail, and I love being able to pay bills online, although the security of one’s information is a concern.  The more electronic bills I elect to receive, the more I worry about organization.  How do I keep track of it all?  Will the lack of paper make it more difficult to monitor trends in my water, gas and electricity usage, for example, or will it make it easier?  Am I more or less likely to notice errors in my bills?  I don’t actually feel like there is any less paper in my life these days, and the options for storage of my information do not seem any easier.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on photographs!  It’s great not to have all those prints to deal with, and big hulking photo albums, but what if I want to stroll down memory lane sometime?  What am I supposed to do with all these folders of photos on my computer?  I suppose I could look at them on our television with some kind of game system, but I confess that I don’t seem to be keeping up.  I think one has to have money to keep up, and I’d rather use my money to go abroad and study a language than spend it on electronic toys.  Did life used to be simpler?  Didn’t there used to be a lot fewer necessities than there are now?  Before cell phones and data plans, cable, Fios, Xbox Live subscriptions, Netflix, and so forth?

No, I don’t want to go back to the Old Days, not really.  Never has there been so much information available to so many as there is today, nor so many choices.  Granted, not all of it is as accessible as it should be (for example, PDFs of a number of papers I published are available online, and the research on which they are based was funded by federal grants – i.e., taxpayers’ money.  But you either have to pay for the PDFs or be associated with an academic institution in order to get at them.  Write to your congressperson about that, will you?).  It’s just amazing what is at one’s fingertips.  I just wish I knew the best way to organize it and keep it accessible, and whether the choices I make today will keep the information available far into the future. 

Additional reading: 

University Press Forum 2010: To E or Not to E, by R. A. Bartlett.  Choice, v.47, no. 09, May 2010

The importance of telling people what you want and the merits of paying attention

Posted in audiobooks, voice-over networking on May 13th, 2010 by Mary — 7 Comments

A scant 6 weeks ago, author David Niall Wilson posted on his blog that he had a strong desire to turn some of his books into audio books.  The universe heard him. Two audiobook narrators left comments at the blog and the result is that several of Wilson’s titles are now available from his new audiobook publishing company, Crossroad Press.  That’s some pretty fast work!

The two people who left comments:

Jeffrey Kafer  (who also owns Springbrook Audio) , who narrated Roll Them Bones by David Niall Wilson

 Joe Geoffrey , who narrated the Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature by David Niall Wilson

Morals of story:

1) If you want something, say so on the internet.

2) When people say they want something, pay attention!

Cool things can happen.

FiRe Field Recorder by Audiofile Engineering

Posted in gear on May 5th, 2010 by Mary — Be the first to comment!

I don’t own an iPhone – yet – I’m waiting for Verizon to release one.  But if I had one the first thing I would do is download this field recorder app from Audiofile Engineering.  I have an H4 Zoom recorder which I use primarily for recording promos on TV so I can study them at my leisure, and I thought I would be using it to record bird sounds in the field.  In the 2 years I’ve had it I haven’t done that once.  Just one more thing to remember to take with me.  Lame, yes.  But I never forget my phone, even when I go bird-watching.  So for $9.99, this one will be a no-brainer.  It will also be great for recording dialects on the go – you never know when you’re going to meet someone with an interesting accent and you probably won’t have the Zoom handy when you do.

If you’re a filmmaker, check out these Top Ten Best iPhone Apps for Filmmakers.  Thank-you @mhp_video for tweeting about this!

Restaurant trailer

Posted in trailers on May 4th, 2010 by Mary — Be the first to comment!

A few weeks ago I wrote about my enduring enchantment with book trailers.  Now I read at Serious Eats that a restaurant (Next) and bar (Aviary) opening in the fall in Chicago have a trailer too!  And why not?  The trailer medium is intended to help build excitement for coming attractions, and these public houses certainly fit that category.

In general I am tolerant of trailers without voice-over, but in this case I think narration would have enhanced the finished product.  Still, that doesn’t take away from my admiration for the trailer’s creators.