Steve’s Personal Story
Welcome to the Blumvox Studios Blogosphere. I rarely talk about the early part of my journey, but I thought I’d share it with you here in hopes that something you see here may inspire you on your own path.
I’ve always been a bit of a loner. Even as a small child, though I liked people, I would be just as happy playing by myself. Creating imaginary worlds and talking to myself. I was overweight, shy, insecure, bullied often and felt like I was average or worse at pretty much everything. I found joy in art though. I wasn’t particularly good at much of anything, but I loved to create. I didn’t really care what medium. It all felt the same and somehow made me feel better. Music, drawing, sculpting – all of it helped me to escape my own perception of my mediocrity for my appreciative audience of one. Going outside and communing with nature has always been soothing to me too. I’d hunt for interesting bugs, lizards, frogs (and other fauna), plants and rocks, etc., and spend hours marveling at their designs, shapes colors, sounds… I had two dachshunds who were my best friends. I also began collecting fish, reptiles and birds for company. I was convinced that if I tried hard enough, someday I’d be able to communicate with the animals. I dreamed that I could fly, or eventually have superpowers. It was almost an obsession that took some of the harshness out of the rest of my world.
Later at age 12, my first job was working in the comic department of my grandfather’s book store. It was a beautiful place called Cherokee Books in Hollywood California. High ceilings, wood everywhere, rolling ladders that accessed a magnificent library of classic books and movie memorabilia from all over the world. I was mostly tucked away upstairs in a back room, sorting comics from recent purchases. My uncle Burt would buy huge lots of stuff from estate sales and collectors and I was charged with sorting and cataloging the titles. Since I worked alone most of the time, I read a LOT of comics back then. The characters would each have distinct voices in my head as I poured over the panels. I couldn’t voice them out loud yet (because boyhood voice), but every creature, every superhero and every villain would occupy a different vocal space in my brain. Back then, it never occurred to me that anyone could actually make a living creating these characters out loud. I was a huge fan of Looney Tunes, Disney, Hanna Barbera… pretty much anything animated. I’d often do terrible impressions of my favorite cartoon idols, but was too shy to share them with most people.
Later on when I bought my first answering machine – (back when they recorded on tape and sounded like crap), I did a Goofy impression as my outgoing message. Somebody called me by mistake and left a message with laughing in the background. They called back and shortly thereafter, his friends started to call to listen to the message. My friends picked up on it too and not too long after, were giving me character requests. I had to change the message almost on a weekly basis. It was fun, but I thought that was the end of it.
I still had no idea that “voice acting” was a thing or that anyone could even consider that as a career. When my kids were born, I began reading children’s books to them and acting out all the characters. It just seemed to be the right way to read those books. Later I went to their school as a volunteer parent and read for their classes. That’s when my voice training really began, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was already dabbling in Anime for fun on the side, but the kids didn’t really know or understand that – or care. They just knew if I was reading their stories properly and would handily and bluntly school me if I wasn’t.
Now this is the part you may have heard before. Regarding the Anime thing… a few years before the school schooling, I was working as a production assistant/driver/mailroom clerk etc. for a film studio called Empire Entertainment (the company that made Reanimator, Ghoulies, then later – the Puppetmaster films, etc.) My friend (actor) and head mailroom-slavedriver Victor Garcia asked me if I’d like to try working on a crazy “Japanamation” project he was helping to cast. I was probably the only non-actor in the building, but he noticed that I liked to mess around with stupid character voices with the actors who worked there. My friend Tom Fahn and I physically could not greet each other without our bodies slumping, hiking our pants up and transforming into two old Jewish men from New York. Still can’t (except now we’re actually much closer to that age!) Anyway, Victor offered us all an audition one weekend for his project – a show called “The Guyver.” I was terrified, but said yes, because he said they’d feed me a couple of meals whether I got the part or not and pay me a little if I booked it. He knew I had no experience, but I had the deepest voice in the mailroom and he needed somebody who could voice creatures. He had me at the “free food”. I was a below average starving R&B musician at the time, when everybody else was playing glam and heavy metal, so a free meal really meant something to me.
The pacing of the dubbing seemed musical and natural, and I took to it well. They hired me for 26 episodes, I eventually dubbed human characters, and learned how to act over the next couple of decades by just doing it and stealing technique from everyone I could. Not the easiest (or fastest) way to break in, and I screwed up A LOT, but the pressure is minimal when you have no idea why people are paying you to fart and bark into a microphone. I simply did it because I loved it and the community in the voice acting world was unlike anything I’d experienced in any other line of work.
I stayed at the film studio for almost 15 years, eventually becoming an executive with a beautiful office in Hollywood. What began as a fun, creative environment, became a competitive, back-stabbing, typical corporate entertainment hell and I hated going to work every day. I was praying for a way out, but had a decent salary in a steady job and was still able to do a little voice work in my off-time for fun and pocket change.
Then I booked a gig as the voice of 7-11. I thought “this is it!” I heard that once you book a big commercial campaign – you get to buy the house, car, decent clothes… So I quit my job at the studio and declared myself to be a full time voice actor! Unfortunately the commercials only paid a fraction of what I was expecting (only the big network national spots paid the big bucks and this was not that). Then the union went on strike for 8 months and I couldn’t get a decently paying voice job for about a year and a half. I lived on credit cards and every odd job I could scrounge to stay afloat. I went into huge debt and was terrified to pay the bills each month. The thing that made that time ok for me was every moment in the studio recording the stuff that still wouldn’t pay the bills. That and my friends in the Anime community who supported me by continuing to co-create art when everything else went to sh*t.
I remember those days vividly and it’s the reason why I insist that new voice actors really check themselves before getting into this business. You must be passionate about it and know that even if you NEVER make a living at it, it will be one of the most fulfilling art forms you’ll ever experience. That to me is worth every moment you invest and you’ll never be disappointed if you approach it from that perspective. If you’re in it purely for the fortune or fame… I suggest calling the Kardashians. That’s an entirely different business. Thanks for reading this and I hope to see you in my voiceover classes!
Hi Steve, I can so relate to you in the fact you were a loner. Even at my age now(50s)I’m pretty much a loner. Not that don’t enjoy hanging out. I can be a goof ball. It’s just the way I’ve become. I so thank you for your honest story. It gives me hope. People always say I have a good voice. I just have a good ear, I think. I do great at karaoke. But I always wanted to get into VO because I know I would enjoy doing it. I just want to be able to be happy doing something I love. Making a living is a plus for I want to do it full time. But fame & fortune is not what I’m after. If it happens great. I’ve just been a jack of all trades most of my life and I just want to do something I know would just be fun for me. I’m so glad I got a good VO coach here in Boston. And I’m so glad I found your classes. I’m learning so much in just three classes I’ve taken from you. I am a fan. 😀
I really enjoy reading about the early days of Steve’s career. I grew up watching “The Guyver” anime, on good old VHS tapes, as a wee little child. I have fond memories of the story and sometimes cried myself to sleep from the scary Zoanoids. Though there is something pretty darn cool about looking back at your childhood and realizing that your voice acting hero is the one that made the creature sounds that really made you afraid of the dark.
I’m not quite sure why, but as a child I always enjoyed looking through the names listed in the credits (still do, to be honest). And Steve Blum’s name was one from “The Guyver” that stood out to me, because of it’s reoccurring appearance. “The Guyver” truly meant so much to me, and to find out that it was a pivotal moment in Steve’s career makes the series all that more special to me.
So thankful to have connected about 3 to 5 months ago via Facebook and finally make my first purchase of guidance from Blumvox Studios. I could say so much more; but, I will leave it at that for now. Looking forward to exploring and connecting more deeply with voiceover artistry.
Hi steve blum my name is sean Martinez I’m a voice actor in training and i always wanted to be one thanks to you because you give me so much inspiration and your story is so inspirational and I’m also autistic as well my goal is to be an awesome voice actor like you one day
I always loved the Redwall novels-moreso when I discovered the audiobooks “narrated by the author and others”. I want to read like that, but have spent my young life in church where you can’t hear yourself sing. It *pained* me to hear a famous singer say he wasn’t out to cancel anyone.
No more. I’m going to learn to say my piece. Thank you, Steve.
Your story is deeply inspiring and brain-storming Steve! A few things in your story are a few things we share in common. I am so still looking into it to unlock what my story is about to follow you in your footsteps. I haven’t heard of Guyver and I will get around to finding out about it at a certain point in time but in the meantime I have to keep reading your story while I continue building mine. I am grateful for you have to offer.
What a great story! I love hearing people’s beginnings. I’m so glad you stuck with it! I haven’t heard of Guyver. Will have to check it out.
so inspiring! to know where you have come from, hownyou got started and see the potential in myself gives great sense of purpose as i navigate my journey. feom humble beginnings, comes greatness!
Steve, your story has inspired me since the first time i looked into training with you. and for 2 yrs now, you and your teachings have elevated my acting and have given me a model of the man i would like to be. you arent old enough to be my father but ill take you as an uncle or friend. im just happy to have you as a mentor.
I loved your life story, I’m actually very shocked that I’m almost living the same place as you were when you were younger. I don’t have many friends and I always stay to myself. My parents never really understood that I wasn’t a very social type and I couldn’t do some things. I am overweight, at least I think I am. Sometimes I look at these girls and think “gosh, why can’t I be like that?” I put myself down and sometimes it hurts. Especially with the imaginary worlds, I always just jump into one and make up things. Or I usually game, I feel like it makes me escape reality and just be one with the game, my character.
After all, it’s just, I’ve related to your post and I want to say thank you for opening my eyes:)
I am looking forward into taking classes soon and learn to shape a future voice acting carrer. I have been told many times that I’m chasing a daydream and to “get real”. I have loved acting since I first started at High School and I started attending university to further develop… but fate has a funny way of getting in the way. I had to drop out and get a job. However I have not given up. I have been focused into relocating… but after watching your video. You changed my perspective to start on working making my dream and what can be my future now.
Thank you for giving all inspiring VO / VA hope and guidance to achieve ” a better tomorrow”
I really appreciate you sharing this with us Steve. Your childhood sounds very familiar to mine. I was an outcast, I didn’t care for much, happy in my own world and safe vs trying to fit into the world and mimic things that weren’t who I was. I spent time gaming, drawing, writing short stories and dabbled in arts and crafts and still do to this day, I can still recall having the voice in my head for my imaginary creations and figures I played with. It’s amazing how in just childhood, your future calling can already shine it’s light on you.
Wow! So many similarities between you, me and my youngest. I have spent many hours creating voices and silly noises with my son. He is a huge fan of Minecraft and other video games. Sometimes he and I will just stand in front of one another and make goofy noises. My other kids can’t figure us out lol. And the bit about you and your friend hiking your pants up and become the two old Jews is right in line with me and my buddy Julian. While I am new to this whole process I am confident that with time and dogged persistence I will be successful in my endeavors. Great article 🙂
I can definitely relate to a lot to what you went through during your childhood: Spending a lot of time in your own company and imagination, and imitating/creating voices for characters when reading to yourself.
It’s also good to know from a veteran in the industry how things really look, and to underscore that voice acting is ultimately a labor of love
Thanks so much for posting – super inspiring 🙂
Hi, Steve! Even though you are my favorite voice actor, I admit that I hardly knew anything about you or even voice acting, so, I want to thank you for sharing this story with us. I find your story inspiring! While I am a very unsure if I have what it takes to be a voice actor in addition to the means (like money and less dependency on my parents) and find myself a little discouraged by some stories or articles I’ve read about voice acting, reading the struggles you faced and seeing how successful you are today convinces me to not discount the possibility that I might not only overcome just my general current struggles, but that I might be able to make it into uncharted territory such as voice acting; it honestly. I hope when this pandemic is over, I’ll be able to meet you again at a youmacon and have a re-do of the photo that I had taken with you but sadly the photographer messed up. Keep your chin up during these tough times and stay safe.
You have a good origins story and it was fun to read. I also am a loner and prefer to read, draw, or play music by myself. I also enjoy the company of the animals I have adopted and or rescued. I currently have a dog, one cat, one kitten, one guinea pig, three gerbils, and one fish. Of course the number of small animals always fluctuate depending on when or who needs a little hospice care. Anyways, I enjoyed your story and hope to learn more from you that may benefit me in my career and overall life.
I love your story. It’s inspiring and I feel like It’s my story too. Thank you so much for this.
And Guyver was the first anime I ever saw as a kid and is still one of my favorite stories today.
My daughter and I saw you at Ichiboncon and it was a pleasure to see you and talk with you again. I have been a nurse for 43 years and am looking for a new hobby. I am hoping to get into one of your classes as voice over sounds so much fun. Hope to hear or see you once again. Maybe it will be at a convention with Beau who knows.
My name is Eda Rodriguez. My son Richard and I saw you at Comic Con yesterday. He was the one that gave you a fan letter with a picture of Vic and him. I love your perspective on voice acting. I had the opportunity to checkout your website and am impressed. Thank you. I now know how to help my son reach his dream of becoming a voice actor.
P.S. He said hello 🙂
I enjoyed reading this. At first I wanted to do medical field but when I heard about voice acting at first I was thinking about it and some people kept telling me what if I don’t get paid enough and I told them if I get into voice acting it won’t be for money. It will be because I want to do something I will love.