VMD: “Making Friends With Your Voice” – Trina

VMD: “Making Friends With Your Voice” – Trina

During our first Blumvox Studios Team Meeting (nearly two years ago!), when we were deciding how best to deliver Voiceover Training to the world, we collectively came together and said that we wanted to create a newsletter to support our students. We had no idea what it was going to look like or how it was going to unfold, but we did know that if we said yes to the Vision, it would happen! Each one of our Team members has been writing a monthly column for almost a year now and we’ve dedicated ourselves to being real, authentic, genuine and honest. As a result, this has given us the ability to build our foundation of BVS from the Heart up.

“The Voice Monkey Dispatch” newsletter is my favorite part of Blumvox Studios. We wanted to create a place for you to come and chill with us, read with us, laugh with us and even cry with us. There’s A LOT of work that goes into each issue, and you get the newsletter for free when you become a student of Steve’s Voiceover Training course. If you’re interested in learning more about it, you can find the info here.

We decided as a Team recently that we’d like to make some of the VMD content available to the general public. The following is an excerpt from our March 2018 issue of the VMD, entitled “Making Friends with Your Voice”. While some of you may not relate (yet!) to the voiceover actor making friends with his voice, you MAY relate to the experiences of those of us on his Team. Over these next few months you’ll see some of our Team “voices” here in the Blog, and we hope that you’ll get as much benefit from them as our Voiceover Training students and VMD subscribers have. I’d like to thank those of you that have been with us since the beginning (The OG!) and would also like to thank those of you that are new to our community. You have given us a platform to share ourselves with you and it’s been a true honor. Here we go!

Making Friends with Your Voice. – Trina Watton (President and COO of Blumvox Studios)

As I reflect on Making Friends with My Voice, I must admit that it has been an extreme challenge for me throughout most of my life. I felt silenced as a child and learned that I couldn’t speak up for myself without getting in trouble. Over the years I had created a soft, high-pitched voice that was full of fear. You could hear it in my breath before I’d even speak because my abdomen would be trembling. Being soft spoken was my way of disappearing and staying safe. It caused me to hold my breath a lot and I’d often forget to breathe to the point of passing out. It was an unconscious behavior of mine. It was as if somehow in that breath, if I let it go, truly let it go, the whole world would fall apart in front of me.

Having lived a good portion of my life gripped in fear and anxiety, my “inauthentic voice” began to take its toll on me. Maintaining this persona and hiding my pain literally stopped oxygen from flowing freely throughout my body. I became stagnant, stiff, irritable, angry and just plain miserable. I’d heard for years that everything starts with the Breath. I’d heard for years that we ARE our breath. I’d heard for years that in order to heal, it was time to become One with our breath. Years of avoidance taught me that I wasn’t ready to embrace those truths until I was ready to deal with my pain. I knew inherently that it would change my life because it meant coming face to face with me.

When I finally began to breathe conscious breaths, making it a focused daily practice, my world changed drastically. It became brighter, clearer, joyful, more purposeful AND my world didn’t fall apart! You wanna know the best part? My voice began to change. It changes all the time! The deeper I get into myself and breathe slow breaths using my abdomen, the deeper and more rich my voice becomes. When I’m feeling courageous and ready to explore the next layer of pain breathing only through my nose, the stronger my voice becomes. The more I embrace my joy with deep purposeful breaths, the brighter my voice becomes. I’ve learned through the years that I don’t laugh enough and that in itself is a breathing practice. My inauthentic voice still comes up from time to time and in those moments, I embrace it! It’s an opportunity for me to check in with myself, get quiet and ask “what is it that I’m afraid of and why am I withholding my truth?” With stillness and patience, my breath always gives me the answer.

Breath is life. Breath is strength. Breath is real. Breath is revealing. Breath is courage. Breath is honest. Breath breathes through your voice, your mind, your body and your soul. Breath can hinder you or highlight who you are. It’s up to you how you choose to breathe.

I’d like to invite you to embrace your breath. I have a very simple exercise I’d like to share with you:

For a minimum of five to ten minutes per day over the next 30 days, I’d like you to write down what you notice about your breath (I highly recommend using a journal for this so you can keep all of your writings in one place). Notice if it’s short, hollow, winded, fast, limited, gasping, frustrated, pissy, resentful OR happy, excited, intentional, fluid, slow, creative, purposeful, etc… Start with your breath and see where it takes you each day. Feel free to bring your voice into it. Allow yourself to create different sounds for the feelings you’re experiencing and give them a voice. Your unique sound has messages to share with you and the more time you spend with this exercise, the more you will uncover AND discover about yourself. Please be kind to you during this journey. This is not a space for judgement. You may just surprise yourself and birth a new character or two along the way. <3

May we breathe into our authentic voices together…

With Love,

Trina

Confidence and Self Care

Confidence and Self Care

So early on in our voiceover classes, and literally every time I talk to folks that want to get into Voiceover, I talk about building confidence, looking stupid and embracing it, and taking care of your voice physically, by warming it up and cooling it down. That’s because It’s all related, and the connecting thread is your well-being. I know. Dang it Steve, you’re gonna dig in again, aren’t you? Yeah. Might as well get used to it.

Your health – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually – can affect your ability to perform. In life, relationships, work and yes, even in voiceover. Simply put, when you feel good, you’re better able to express yourself.

So when I suggest to my students to let go of the fear and judgment they’ve been carrying around (in many cases it’s not even theirs!) – and going back to that childlike place inside where it was ok to be dorky, I’m simply encouraging them to work on their health.

When you forget joy and forget to play and let fear run your life, it manifests in anxiety, anger and sadness, and sometimes even physical pain or illness. Let’s go back to the sandbox analogy… when you see children playing in a sandbox and one of them is sick… unless the sickness is so bad the kid physically can’t function, that child is gonna play uninhibited with as much joy and energy as he/she/they can muster. Doesn’t matter if there’s a river of snot pouring from their nose, or if they have a cast on their arm, or they’ve got a diaper full of doody – they’re gonna use every bit of that playtime they have before they have to go take a nap, or clean up, or go eat, etc.

Unfortunately many of us lose that enthusiasm for play as we get older and start becoming self-conscious. We focus on what isn’t working or on what others tell us is OK to feel, based on their ideas and often, their fears. When you stop playing, you stop living.

I met a boy with ALS a few years ago. He no longer had any use of his body. He couldn’t speak. His organs were shutting down and he could only communicate with his eyes through a series of yes/no answers on an alphabet chart his father created. Yet even in that state, when his hero, Kari Wahlgren (if you don’t know her – look her up) came to visit, he communicated that he was a huge fan of her work… he was excited to meet her and was bordering on flirty! He remembered, even under the most extreme circumstances – the things that brought him joy and it gave him something positive to concentrate on – when everything else in his life was a struggle for survival. His family told us that it improved the quality of his life and that of everyone around him.

Now that’s an extreme example, but the point is, no matter what you’re going through, looking for the joy, staying playful and finding the funny – only serves to improve the quality of your life and enhances the quality of everything you do and everyone you interact with.

So how do the warm-ups and cool-downs apply? Even when I’m doing something as potentially mundane as a warm-up exercise, I look for the fun. If you’ve tried the warm-ups and cool-downs I’ve suggested in other blogs here, you know that most of them require some pretty ridiculous faces and actions. They’re designed to help you physically loosen the muscles and structures involved in voice work, so you feel better. But they also help you unleash your inner dork so you’re less inhibited by fear! To help you feel less restricted and more able to perform at your best, and most importantly – to ENJOY THE PROCESS. All this, plus, they help you to avoid injury and to recover from stress after. Pretty good stuff for just making weird noises and faces, huh?

When you’re feeling better physically, and emotionally, your mental abilities improve, you’re more creative, your perspective changes and life just seems a little better. I’ll leave spirituality alone for now, because some people aren’t comfortable with that. But trust me, when you seek the positive, you’re already doing that work.

Be happy, be healthy and be a dork!

Love you guys!

Steve

Trust

Trust

trust |trəst|

noun

firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

We’re called upon to trust often in this business. Trust the process, trust that our teachers aren’t full of crap, trust that if we do the work, something will come of it…
Trust that we’ll be remembered when we’re great and not forgotten when we suck.
Trust that they will forget when we suck, but not forget us!

Trust that we’ve got a handle on the fear, so it won’t be in control when we get our shot.

Trust that we GET a shot!

It’s tough to trust anyone these days. So with all of that swirling in our heads as we approach anything creative… whom do you trust? And how do you trust?

Starts with you, boo. In the Teaching Series classes, we’ve discussed taking direction and cold reading (reading something you’ve never seen before out loud). So while it’s pretty clear that you have to trust your director, the choices you make based on that, begin with trusting your own passion for the work, the months or years of study you’ve put in, and that you wouldn’t even BE in front of a director if they didn’t think you were worthy. The hardest part of all of this is remembering that you ARE worthy! Even when you’re by yourself, practicing your cold reading, it requires you to trust your instincts in fleshing out believable characters with no preparation.

Trust takes practice. And people often lose trust when they feel betrayed by others. A natural, and necessary protective human reflex. But what about when we let ourselves down? We have a chance at something and we blow it. We start beating ourselves up and tearing ourselves down. This isn’t a protective reflex, this is an unnecessary, but very common breakdown of our trust in ourselves.  When you make a mistake, or just weren’t ready for the task at hand, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s an opportunity for a breakthrough.  You get back up, dust yourself off, and get your butt back to work. Take the time to learn from the mistake.

DO what you need to do so this mistake doesn’t happen again!  Then get back up with this new wisdom in your pocket. Just the fact that you GOT back up is a huge victory! Celebrate that and you’ll be surprised at your ability to create something new and amazing from that.

Many years ago, I read for the part of Goro for the Mortal Kombat movie. I did a great first audition. Even made it to final callbacks. I had to read live for a panel of casting and studio people in an on-camera type, intimidating room where they sat in elevated chairs looking down at me and running me through the copy. I freaked out inside. Still did a fair audition, but my inner turmoil turned into a big, dramatic huffing and puffing after the read, like I’d just lifted a car over my head. They mentioned that I probably wouldn’t be capable of sustaining the role for a whole film if one little audition made me that tired. I insisted I wasn’t tired, just invested in the role. I thanked them politely, then left devastated, thinking that I just blew the biggest opportunity of my life.

But the next day, I got back up. Busted through the continuous internal beatings, and auditioned for a little anime show. Certainly not the same level as this movie, but made me feel a little better. I probably booked it. Don’t remember. But I kept moving forward. Now, more than 20 years later, I get to voice Sub-Zero in the Mortal Kombat games. The full circle took a while, but apparently, I used some of that fuel from that mistake to build an entire career. I trusted myself enough to get back up and try again.

As I was reading this back just now, I realized I never found out who ended up booking that role, so I looked it up. It was my dear friend, the amazing Frank Welker. Pretty good company to even be in the running with – so early on in my career! They probably had an offer out to him the whole time and were just looking for a backup plan. If Frank had declined the role, I actually may have still been in the running. So all of that anguish… all of that self doubt… may have been completely unfounded anyway.

Believe in yourself first, guys. You’re capable of so much more than you can ever imagine. Fail magnificently, and trust that you can grow from it. So excited to see what you bring to the party!

Karabast! It’s Over!

Karabast! It’s Over!

Star Wars Rebels and the end of an era (and a job!)

So I recently wrapped one my favorite shows ever, Star Wars Rebels. This year marked the 4th and final season of an incredible odyssey, and the opportunity for me to play in a universe I loved as a kid, though I couldn’t possibly have imagined “growing up” to become a member of the crew.

Rebels was a huge part of my life for years. While being out of a job sucks, the thing I miss most is seeing the Rebels crew every week. We all bonded deeply on that show, including everyone on the other side of the glass, which is unusual for animation. We truly became the family you saw on TV, albeit (thankfully) with 80% less chance of dying week-to-week. We still get together as often as we can for dinners and events, but that time in the booth can never be recreated.

I’ve said it many times, but the Lucas family is unlike any other. We geeked out together, they included us in the collaborative process, and we became friends for life. We were all heavily invested in giving the fans something special and creating a show of the highest quality possible. We made something we wanted to watch!

When we were told it was ending, it was painful for all of us. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a show to continue more than this one. That said, it was tempered by the knowledge that Dave Filoni and company could tell the story they wanted/needed to tell and finish it on their terms. Clone Wars didn’t have that luxury the first time around. Rebels felt complete to me and as a fan I found that very satisfying.

So yeah, that’s the thing about this business. You effectively lose your job often, sometimes every week! You can bring your all to a part and then you have to… well, let it go. In my Voiceover Classes I tell my students that being a voice actor requires “emotional elasticity.” Being able to handle the ups and downs of the business, the absence of callbacks, the re-casts, the cancellations, and the completion of shows you know will never be again. We’re not just voices, we’re often fans too, and because of that, we’re deeply connected to the characters we bring to life, and are all too often sad to see them go. But…that’s the gig, and learning how to be emotionally elastic is critically important if you want to get into this business and last.

Rebels was like no other show I’ve ever worked on. We stepped into and lived and breathed in the magnificent Star Wars universe. I mean, come on…STAR WARS!!! This beloved place of future legend. We were given the opportunity to voice characters that will now be considered canon… forever! That was an honor no-one took lightly. Sometimes we’d discuss things as simple as the name of a new fruit – like the Meiloorun – for an hour, because if it was going to be canon we needed to make sure it was right. And we were often witness to (and sometimes participants) in nerd battles on both sides of the glass at recording sessions. That’s not something you get to experience with other projects. Most often those kinds of decisions are made well in advance and they don’t need or even welcome input from the actors. They always allowed time for us to be fans and discuss the stuff we knew would be topics of deep nerd conversation for generations to come.

I guess by now it’s pretty evident how much I love and appreciate Star Wars. And I’m grateful every day that I get to do this work at all. Voiceover is so much more than just standing at the mic grunting, screaming, reading some lines and going home. You have to love it to your core to endure the stuff it takes to make it in this business. You also have to love it so much, that when a show like this ends for the right reasons, you can let it go.

Characters like Zeb remind me of the power of connecting to a character and embuing it with as much of a real life as I can in animated form. And the characters always return the favor. I’ll carry a part of him with me forever.

In fact, the best characters bring out parts of me that I may have been uncomfortable with – or even completely unaware of!
Creating art can be a deeply symbiotic, humbling and in some cases course-correcting relationship if you allow it to be.
To do it most effectively, you need to let walls down, drop pre-conceived notions and to trust yourself enough even when/especially when – things become their most uncomfortable.

Part of why I focus so much of my teaching around the inner game is so that new actors can build a solid foundation of confidence, in themselves and in the qualities that they were born with. Rather than only trying to emulate someone else they admire, I encourage my students to become aware of their own unique talents and abilities. To develop their foundational skillset in addition to what they already possess. There is only one person on the planet like you. And that person is amazing, so please never underestimate your gifts.

With regard to the technical side of voicing someone like Zeb, I’m often asked what I did to physically prepare for those sessions. It always began with warmups. Exaggerated vowel sounds, low note humming, stretching the face and body – and enunciation exercises, etc. It’s so important to do this, I taught an entire class on warmups and cooldowns.

Compared to video games, the outbursts of vocal stress in Rebels were pretty limited. Still, I followed the same protocol I always do for vocal care – sleep, hydration, rest, and Chinese herbal throat drops.

Though occasionally a little painful, Zeb’s outbursts were actually healing for me! It allowed me to blow off a little steam from daily frustration without the consistent, unrelenting throat ripping that the characters in a video game so often demand. I always looked forward to playing Zeb.

Something else I tell my students all the time is to listen to the director. In the case of Star Wars Rebels, the Crew (on both sides of the glass) was so tight and dedicated to the franchise – that we were appreciated (out loud!) by the ones in charge and encouraged to contribute. There was a palpable mutual trust, and that collaborative energy made for a harmonious work environment. That’s not always the case, and as an actor it’s very important to remember that you are only there to help realize someone else’s creation. Sometimes a show has been in the works for years before you ever get a chance to be a part of it, so listening to the Director and following directions is not only expected, its morally the right thing to do. Creators are profoundly connected to the characters, As a voice actor, it’s your job to bring them off the page while respecting the vision of those who put them there.

For me, working with Lucasfilm was a dream come true. I’d never before been given that kind of access to so many of the actual creators. From the story group, writers, animators, editors, engineers, music department, lighting, fx, executives, assistants, interns, PR and everything in between, we were allowed to see how it all fits together from the inside. It’s no easy thing to make a show this good. Lucas let us meet some of the hundreds of people required to do this, and encouraged them to meet us. These shows involve incredibly creative people at all levels, hence why I’m often quoted saying “I’m just a voicemonkey.” I do my best to bring a character like Zeb to life, but I’m only a small bearing in a giant machine that has been busy building long before I walked into that booth.

This show will always be a special part of my life, and I’m honored to be a part of the Star Wars Universe, even if just for a hyper-second in the grand scheme (though I’ve made it annoyingly obvious that I’m available for anything they may do in the future!).

If you haven’t watched Rebels yet, as a fellow fan, I highly recommend it (and would even if I had nothing to do with it)! It’s a beautifully executed piece of important Star Wars connective tissue and for some… a perfect gateway into this wonderful universe. May it continue for generations to come and may the force be with you.

 

The Many Lives of A Voiceover Artist – Character Animation Comes to Life

The Many Lives of A Voiceover Artist – Character Animation Comes to Life

Steve recently sat down with the amazing folks over at Sideshow Collectibles, the dream team that bring your favorite characters to life in real, 3D form. Sideshow has been around since 1994 and lovingly and meticulously create collectible figures that have become iconic in their own right. While collecting figures began in earnest in the late 1970’s, around the time of Star Wars, entire generations have taken what was once a childhood hobby and turned it into a fully-fledged and often sacred and valued aspect of their lives. These figures are incredibly special to collectors, and the high-end statues often become table centerpieces and are absolutely breathtaking to see up close.

Like most successful companies Sideshow is a “family”, one filled with artists that all work in tandem to create works of art with some of the most well-known characters in pop culture. It mirrors the “family” that make up the Voiceover Actors who give their blood, sweat and tears to the voices of these characters, many of whom we grew up listening to and identifying with. As most of you know Steve Blum is a legendary name within the world of animation and video games, and his visits to Sideshow are nothing less than hilarious reminders that art imitates life/imitates art. It often feels like a family re-union of sorts and laughter is the most common thing happening.

Our Blumvox team recently took a tour of the Sideshow production facility and we were blown away, not just with the talented and amazingly friendly people we encountered as we went floor to floor and room to room, but with the dedication and commitment the creators, visionaries and artists have to honoring the legacy of the stories their work represents. From the initial digital artists who provide the style, movement and scale, to the molding and sculpting department, to the painters, to the fabric designers and costume-makers, to the photographers that stage and shoot the final product, it was incredible to see just what goes into each piece and how much of themselves they pour into this. These are truly labors of love.

Steve’s recent podcast with Sideshow was in honor of the unveiling of the latest Starscream figure, and as you’ll see in the following video it’s a beautifully crafted sight to behold. These “Unveilings” are done Live online, and give folks a chance to not only ask questions in the moment to the voice actor about his or her time playing that character, they also allow us to remind ourselves just how pivotal these characters and their stories have been in our own lives.

As you’ll see here the interview is a lot of fun, there’s lots to appreciate about how hard a voice actor has to work to bring the character off the page, with Steve’s own stories about some of the hardest characters he’s had to voice retold here. One of the most common questions budding voice actors ask is “How do you take care of your Voice”, and while Steve teaches this in-depth in his classes, you can find more info on Caring for your Voice (and yourself!) in this article: https://www.blumvoxstudios.com/holistic-care-of-your-instrument-2/

We love the Sideshow family, and we hope you’ll enjoy this podcast as much as we did. Imagine yourself someday immortalized in character.

Art is Life!

Team Blumvox

 

For more info on Sideshow Collectibles here: https://www.sideshowtoy.com

Holistic Care of Your Instrument

Holistic Care of Your Instrument

 

So we have this awesome little multimedia newsletter called The Voicemonkey Dispatch that comes out once a month. Each month I get to riff a little on the previous months class topics from my online Teaching Series, which if you don’t know about you can get more info on here.

The following is an excerpt from the VMD Issue May, 2018. I hope you enjoy!

 

Physical care of your Voice

 

In our April classes we talked a lot about how a solid career in voiceover starts from the inside out, and how the health of your body, mind and even spirit integrates and is essential for performance, stamina and longevity.

There’s a reason I talk so much in class about the mechanical structure of your voice machine and how to best maintain it.  This is because it’s a critical component to your success – especially in the beginning of your voiceover career. You have to understand the importance of taking care of the machine. There are some great products that I recommend that can help you maintain the health of your voice. For those of you not in class with me we’ll be putting up a list of product recommendations on the website soon. I talk alot about the importance of diet, exercise, rest, rejuvenation. You might think “blah blah blah” when you hear that, but truly, if you start a healthy regimen now you’ll be very grateful later.

I had a session today that was only a 2 hour booking. I was told that it’d just be a couple of pickups from a previous episode and some lines in my characters’ voices. It was for an interactive children’s book based on a series. Sounds like no big deal, right? Wrong. I get there and the children’s project is 4 episodes, 163 lines, three characters, all talking to each other, VERY s-l-o-w-l-y (so young kids reading along can keep up).  Two of them are extremely vocally stressful, three takes of each line. Had I not kept the machine in good working order, I would have been blown out in the first 15 minutes. 

 

Mental & Emotional Preparedness makes a HUGE difference!

 

Not only did I have to rise to the occasion physically, I had to get through the mental issues of not receiving the script beforehand. I was going to be grossly underpaid because they didn’t tell my agent what I was in for, and I had no recourse in the moment because I signed the contract before I saw the scripts. I’ll be paid about 1/5th of what I should for a project like this.

I had to suck it up, do an on-the-spot mental and emotional reset, remain positive and professional, and deliver a top-quality performance.  So what does that require?  Well anger management, for starters.  Generally we have a fair idea about what we’re stepping into before we take on projects.  There are always variables, but in this case, the sheer quantity of lines and vocal stress required by this job necessitated excellent physical condition.

The deception of the producers intentionally throwing me into this situation felt like betrayal, (I’ve been working with them for two years – they know better). If I hadn’t meditated this morning and had the tools to deal with it mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I would’ve screamed at them and walked out.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this is the kind of job that can cause permanent physical damage.  I know the person who booked this with my agent didn’t know, nor did the director, so to take my rage out on them in the studio would have been inappropriate and misdirected.

I realized this evening that despite the surprises and massive physical stress, I’m feeling ok tonight.  My mind has been on balancing the mind/body/spirit every day since beginning these classes, and thankfully, I practice what I preach. I also teach what I practice, and if you’re interested in delving into meditation there’s a guided meditation download available on this site here.

Take care of your instrument, folks.  The WHOLE instrument!

 

Many times new voice actors skip over the non-physical aspects of what make great actors great. What makes great actors great? Well for one thing they’ve done a lot of “inner work”, in addition to developing their physical chops. Part of the reason I spend SO much time in my classes teaching inner game stuff (how to handle upset, how to handle “hits” to your confidence, how to handle disappointment etc) is because these kinds of experiences like the one I described above WILL happen in your voiceover career. Be it an audition, a session, or out on the convention circuit. It’s not a matter of IF its a matter of when.

I realize not every voiceover lesson is gonna teach this. I also realize not every voiceover coach WANTS to go that deep. I personally think it’s critical for a long and solid career. Alot of us enter into our voiceover career focusing on the physical side of our craft. All that stuff (mic technique, breathwork etc) IS important, and I teach on that too, but being able to handle mental and emotional curveballs is the difference between getting the gig and KEEPING the gig. In the long-run that’s what I want for you. Longevity as a Voice Actor. I want you to not only know HOW to look after yourself and your voice physically, but how to look after yourself mentally and emotionally as well.

Take care of your instrument.
The WHOLE instrument.
Until next time…
Be well!

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