Kiefer Crawling (North Carolina Trip.) Auditions: Winn-Dixie, Morning Mist (Callback), Army Wives, EAB PSA, Publix, Crackerjack (with Kiefer) to Savannah, ServPro, Friendly's, Food Lion, Honda, PBS Slavery film (went in for one, read for another, infront of an all AA panel...in Montgomery, AL), HHGregg 3/2 Film Shoot (CashAmerica?) Audiobook teleconference 2nd In the Pits shoot (Inspector, hanging - Line work) David Drew's Birthday Learned pediatrician has a radio show (link?), also learned that mommy can't eat too much citrus when breastfeeding (ouch!) ID4 and Henry V Mike's Dog House Chili Cookoff CSX Role Play (again) EuHReka VO job (home) SMUG Photo Group - was a marketing meeting...very similar to the actor marketing workshops I have attended. Same messages given: Brand yourself, find a niche, etc.
February: Of course, in order to make this whole voiceover thing work, I have to get properly trained. Too many people think they can just jump into this industry with "a good voice" and a few hundred dollars of equipment, and call themselves a business. There are a number of voice coaches all over the country who provide training online via Skype and other methods. With today's technology, plenty can be done from your home with the proper setup. Kevin Delaney "The Voiceover Ninja" hosts business webinars, voiceover workouts, and genre-specific voice workshops, where he provides specific feedback to each student in his limited-seating online classes. Aaron Tucker is a successful voice actor and voiceover coach in this area, whom I have worked with on commercial shoots and other projects around town. Recently, he hosted a weekend seminar, chock-full of information, and we really only scratched the surface. He also leads weekly voiceover classes with Cindy Hogan, The Acting Coach. I have also found some local and online resources that have helped me practice when at home: Edge Studio in New York has a wealth of information on their website, member forums, weekly VO contests, practice scripts, and an area where members can provide feedback to each other's recordings. LibriVox is an online community of voiceover artists working to provide recordings of many public domain texts. This is an excellent way to practice reading a certain genre or developing characters for your voiceover portfolio. Also, I have been plundering the Jacksonville Public Library for industry-specific texts; one of which, "You Can Bank on Your Voice" by Rodney Saulsberry was very thorough, offering an insider's look at this career path. I plan on picking up his latest book, "Step Up to the Mic" soon. Storytime with Miss Pat at the Library Ford Dealership - Rear Lock, hundreds of dollars of repairs, etc. Crowder's CDW Project at Northgate and at Home Auditions: Savannah, Century 21, Closet Maid, Verizon, DHS FLETC Film Shoot CDW Re-record at home Cast in student film, character study with graphic novel sketchbook. Scan image? Aaron tucker VO workshop Shuttle Launch (verify date) - went on roof...ssh!

The harder you work...and the smarter you work...the better the rewards, right? Something else I have learned over the past couple years, is that patience is not only a virtue, but a way of life and an absolute requirement for long-term success (financial advisors will even tell you to look at investments over the long term, rather than the day-to-day fluctuations of a stock or commodity). So, between auditions, shoots, workshops and other performances (sometimes during the drive to or from any of these), I reflect on my knowledge and skills, and identify areas for improvement.

Voiceover is one facet of acting, and voiceover itself has many facets. The most notable voiceover style is the film trailer, made famous by the late, great Don "In a World..." LaFontaine, but also includes film and television narration, audiobooks, commercial announcers, animations (film, television and games), television and radio "station identification," promotions, PSA's, interactive phone menus, and (what I have become familiar with recently) talking toys. I have worked with a number of actors who have been successful in the voiceover business for a long time, and I have considered pursuing similar work, but have never committed to getting the training and the equipment, and actually practicing delivering copy, critically listening to my reads, and editing and finalizing audio for delivery until this year. I started learning as much as I could about the industry, and sat in on several webconferences with established professionals to make sure this was a fit for me. I purchased some inexpensive equipment and downloaded Audacity, a free audio editing program, and I began working with some scripts I already had from previous auditions and shoots. I really hadn't shared my decision with anyone, which goes against most success coaches' advice, who often are heard saying, "Designate an accountability partner -- once you share your goals with someone, you are more likely to achieve them." I took the alternate approach: If I decided after "getting my feet wet" that voiceover was not for me, I wanted to quickly sweep it under the rug, without an announced goal nagging me forever. Call it karma, luck or God's will, but just as soon as I started getting comfortable with the thought that, with sufficient resources and training, I really could be successful at this voiceover thing, I received an email from an actor friend of mine whom I haven't heard from in years, asking me if I would be interested in a 200-page e-Learning voiceover project for a major global client. How did he know? I jumped at the opportunity, pouring over the chapters upon chapters of technical jargon, "marking the copy" to help with the actual delivery, and becoming acclimated to presenting all this information to a microphone just inches away. I learned a lot about my performance technique from that first job, including:
  • Rehearse at various speeds. Since I wasn't given a target duration, I practiced reading at a rate slower than the client desired. Oftentimes, changing the pace is a simple adjustment; however, with long sections laden heavily with technical jargon, I found myself getting a little tongue-tied, which required a few re-takes.
  • Simple diction is key. After listening to some of my practice reads, I was amazed at the number of times I said "an-" instead of "and," "-z" for "as," and "thn" for either "then" or "than." After that eye-opener, I pulled out some old articulation exercises to practice before any future voiceover work.
  • There were also words and phrases that just tripped me up. They wouldn't necessarily be tongue twisters, but certain combinations of sounds would, for some unexplained reason, get all muddled during my read. It's good to know this before going into a studio...the client's or yours...and wasting time. On that same note, I noticed that after some time, the amount of mistakes increased. I need to work on extending my endurance, and also know to take breaks and schedule recording sessions accordingly.
  • When reading copy, it is natural to let the energy, volume and/or pace to trail off. In voiceover, much like performances on stage and camera, one must be cognizant of keeping the energy, volume and pace levels consistent.
  • I am being paid to sound like, well, "I know what I'm saying." Although I was familiar with the concepts in this e-Learning series, I wasn't initially familiar enough with the text, and I sounded more like I was "just reading it off of the page." The quick pace of the reads, when not completely comfortable with the text, makes the delivery sound very cold and impersonal.
  • Something I have often heard, but didn't truly take to heart until I did several test recordings myself: SMILE when reading. When in a studio, with just a music stand, lamp and microphone, it's easy to discount something like "smiling"...who's going to see it, anyway? It CAN be heard.
  • It is also very important to remember lessons learned in stage acting, including breath control. Even though I might have marked my script to eliminate any long phrases, I have to be careful not to run out of breath, nor "gasp" for air with that sensitive microphone just inches away.
  • Finally, I have had to remind myself to relax. Just like smiling, tension in the body can be perceived in the delivery. Preparation, stretches, comfortable clothing and posture, deep breaths and focus all help to alleviate the tension that can just destroy a good read.
I also became much more aware of noises when listening to my recordings. These microphones are sensitive. Even in well-insulated interior rooms, cars and planes can still be heard outside, then there's the air conditioner, fan, squeaky floor (funny, I never noticed it before), the headphone cord hitting the stand, rustly clothes, and on one occasion, my gurgling stomach! No wonder professional studios are engineered to strict tolerances to eliminate as much sound as possible...though I don't think they have an engineering solution to my hunger pangs. As one pro told me, "Eat before your session." I swear...I did! After completing the first project, there were some re-writes, but my friend was out of the country on a business trip. I recorded the new copy at home with my simple setup and emailed him some samples, which he shared with his client. Everyone was pleased with the files I produced, which saved us all time, and kept the project on schedule. In fact, they needed a recording of someone else for another project during the same time frame, and my "studio" was recommended. Since then, I was hired for a second job, which I recorded completely at home. It allows for flexibility of scheduling, rather than having to coordinate multiple people and resource calendars. Although I am proud of the work I have done so far, I know I have plenty to learn. I have joined several online groups to keep up on "best practices" within the industry, and I have also contacted a couple local coaches to fine-tune my technique. Voiceover is highly competitive, and even though I can expand my reach to many more markets through "the miracle of the Internet," so can everybody else. VO Samples: Audiobook Demo (00:43) Character Demo (00:23) Commercial Demo (00:16) eLearning Demo (01:03) Film Demo (00:15) IVR Demo (00:10) Presentation Demo (00:09) Radio Image Demo (00:10) Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
It's been a long, hard year, and with the birth of my son...a very good year, indeed! When I started this blog, my intent was to share my journey as an entertainment professional. As you have learned, it has become an all-encompassing diary, including aviation and technology topics, and now...fatherhood. I have contemplated separating my thoughts into separate entries (possibly even separate blogs, altogether), for that segment of my audience that prefers a narrow focus. It's one of those "to do" items whose priority is dwarfed by other tasks right now. So, mind my ramblings, and enjoy! Although we never want to see our industry "wind down," there are expected slow periods, and the December timeframe allows for us to focus on family and holiday celebrations. I did have a run of auditions early in the month, for commercials and television series. I hit the driving range several days, as three of those auditions wanted to see my golf swing. Have you ever been to a place where dozens of men are swinging golf clubs, inside, all at the same time? I had to chuckle! I have gotten fairly adept at taping my own auditions. A couple casting directors at distant locations accept emailed videos. For a while, I thought candidates who chose to self-tape were considered only after those who made the trip (or were local to begin with), until I learned that these CD's are adamant about reviewing all submissions, and knowing a couple actors who booked using this method. I have since obtained a more professional lighting kit, and moved the setup upstairs to the former master bedroom, which is now a 250 square foot studio / child's play area. (We moved downstairs, to be close to the nursery.) The quality of the footage I send continues to improve, and the time spent capturing, editing and rendering has become much more manageable. I picked up a couple commercials this month, including a sporting goods store that insisted we shoot outside regular business hours. Previously, they would cordon off an area of the store, and send employee "runners" to obtain products for customers while shooting in that area. After a couple of poor sales reports, they stopped shooting during the day. So, breakfast at 8:00 PM, Shoot at 9:00 PM, lunch around 1:00 AM and wrap around 3:30 AM...just enough time for a couple hours sleep before that next audition! I also had the opportunity to audition for "The Merchant of Venice." As you have likely read before, there is a special place in my heart for all things Shakespeare. I was unavailable for "Romeo and Juliet" earlier in the year, and the director of "Merchant" and I have worked together before. Actually, he was instrumental in readying some actors very new to performing classic literature for a production of I directed a couple years ago. In the end, I opted not to audition, since it was likely I would be dealing with a conflict during the run of his show. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbaIYdex5pA&rel=0] The rest of the month was all about family. We started the holidays early, introducing our five-month-old to Santa...again, and again, and again. Yes, it was more for us than it was for him, but he actually enjoyed each experience. I think it will be a different story THIS year! (Maybe, maybe not.) The one event we really looked forward to was "Breakfast with Santa," hosted by a local theatre group. The food was hot and delicious; however, Santa was less than "the jolly old elf" we expected. He arrived late, ate breakfast in the room with the children, half out of costume, with his beard slung over the seat next to him...then constantly complained how hot the costume was, and how long the event was taking. We met some new friends there, so diverted our attention away from Santa Grinch. Later in the morning, a very jovial man took the throne, well-bedecked, Ho Ho Ho-ing, and singing songs with the kids. The photographer (whom we recognized from a jazz festival where we bumped into him years ago) approached us and asked, "Do you want pictures with a better Santa?" We weren't going to say anything, since we were there to support the theatre, but we had to laugh when he said that! At one of our Christmas parties, Kiefer was presented with a wrapped toy. He was mesmerized by the paper...and thrilled just to look at it, all in one piece! Once we showed him that there was something special inside, he meticulously peeled the paper away, strip by strip. We've gotten a lot of mileage out of that toy, something he still plays with to this day, and he was more than prepared to strip wrapping paper from gifts come Christmas morning! Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
Okay, everyone: Just pretend it was six months ago, okay? Lots have happened in the past half-year, so I will feed it all to you, as always, in bite-size little month-long nuggets. Like all new parents, new responsibilities materialize, and one must take the time to prioritize his obligations. Unfortunately, my dear readers, this blog fell "below the line," an occurrence I hope to rectify for you now. So think back, way way back, to November 2010; ah, those were the days... Kiefer was almost four months old then, and now, it seems like nearly a lifetime ago! Friends and family came to visit, and we took great pride when introducing our son to our extended theatre, aviation and church "families." Mr. Personality always put on a good face -- always very calm, with practically a permanent smile emblazoned on his precious little face! One such occurrence was at the St. Augustine Airport for its annual fall World War II Hangar Dance. This themed event brings people together in 1940's-era garb to enjoy music from the Clay County Community Swing Band, dancing, food and hanging out with friends. A local museum displayed uniforms, weapons, photos and other memorabilia from World War II, and some of the pilots association members brought their 1940's era aircraft and other equipment for show. It's always a fun night, and Kiefer fit right in with his A-2 leather bomber jacket I appropriated from his stuffed monkey! For the past ten years, I have worked on quite a few industrial films for a government agency. Working with the same director and crew on multiple shoots is so fun, since you have already established the rapport, and you know the personalities of all the players, and what the "mood" will be like on set. I always look forward to these shoots, especially since nearly all have been direct bookings. It's nice to feel wanted! Recently, upper-level personnel from that agency (at another office in the nation's capital), arranged for auditions for future projects. Those of us who have worked there before thought it was quite odd, kind of expecting to continue to receive work through direct bookings, but understood that the decision-makers at times need to see the pool of talent available. I felt very good about my audition, especially since the directors I have worked with took the time to introduce me to his VIP guests in the room. The next day was another one of my whirlwind audition days. I keep telling myself, eventually I'll get burned, but when multiple excellent opportunities present themselves, I also feel I am doing myself a disservice by not pursuing each lead. In the early morning, I found myself driving to Charleston, South Carolina for a national eye care commercial. I left in plenty enough time that I arrived nearly an hour before my time slot (these long-distance trips, you can't be too safe). Panic didn't set in until I noticed the casting director was nearly an hour late getting started...AND I HAD AN AUDITION IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA THAT AFTERNOON! I didn't let it affect my performance (I don't think); however, they were auditioning in groups...basically a completely improvised scene with five other actors whom I have never met, let alone worked with on scripted or improvised scenes before. Though all claimed to have some level improv experience, the scene was very disjointed, with conversations overlapping and very little "listening" going on. I have mixed emotions about auditions of this type: If you can "click" with your scene partner(s), everybody benefits...if you don't, you could suffer, regardless of the amount of preparation, training and raw talent. By the way, I was on time for the Orlando audition, and I had plenty of time to get that experience out of my head, so that it would not affect my next performance. ...and speaking of "feeling wanted"... I got a callback! Of course, any actor would be thrilled for a callback, especially if he eventually books the job, but there's more to it than that this time. At a prior audition with the same casting director, someone on the panel made a comment as I was leaving, that I don't think I was supposed to hear. Since I wasn't sure of the context, I never knew whether or not it was a slight. I try to never let anything like that bug me...but this one stung just a little bit, and I didn't know why. Since my performance at this audition warranted a callback, I can put my mind at ease, and remind myself to never let things I can't control affect my dedication to this art form. Then there are acting jobs that people rarely think about. Not everything we do is for entertainment purposes. Sure, there are countless educational programs on television and for private consumption, where actors must demonstrate processes or illustrate situations that may occur within an organization; however, I recently had a job that doesn't fit either category. A local Fortune 500 company this year implemented a complex, multi-tiered manager candidate selection process. Since this company hires from all over the country (and the world), the first couple rounds included phone interviews and Internet surveys. During the final determination, the top candidates are flown to the company's headquarters for face-to-face interviews, a "job fit" meeting, and a role play scenario, where the candidate (as the manager), must determine an effective course of action in a live, interactive meeting with his "employee" (me). The scenarios are mostly improvisational; however, we actors are given guidelines, so that grading of the candidates' responses can be consistent. During the event, we are expected to confront our "manager." What we learned is: that many confrontations (up to nine in one day) can really wear you down, even if it is just a character you're playing. I've been "suspended" and "fired" so many times, I've lost count, including one candidate who met me at the door with my "pink slip" and called "security" before the "meeting" even began; though I can't say the outcome the observers truly are looking for. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4psOHqNWyZ4&rel=0] November was also when Layla and I started getting involved with Help Four Paws, which is a perfect match for us, since we both have a love for aviation and rescuing animals. Help Four Paws is an organization that includes ground and air transportation for shelter animals when their new forever home (or rescue organization) is a great distance away. The euthanization rate of abandoned animals is many times higher in the Southeast United States than throughout the rest of the country, so this free means of getting animals out of harm's way is a vital resource. We helped organize a golf tournament and silent auction to raise funds for the organization (fuel ain't cheap, you know). Kiefer quietly attended all the planning meetings, but for the day's event, we decided he could stay with Grandma and Grandpa. They didn't mind one bit! It was the first time neither of us was with the little guy, and he took it in stride (so did Mommy and Daddy!). The weather was perfect for the tournament, many animals were adopted that day, and Help Four Paws received positive publicity and much-needed funds. Keep an eye out for their next fundraising event at http://www.HelpFourPaws.org The following weekend, I attended a "Direction and Performance" workshop sponsored by the continuing education branch of a local university. It was a potpourri of topics, as they were kicking off a series of film and television related curricula for directors, producers, actors and crew. It's great to see the spate of educational offerings for the industry in this area. The following weekend was Thanksgiving, best spent with family. We celebrated our first Thanksgiving with the newest family member at home this year. Layla found a recipe for bourbon sweet potatoes that she just had to have. While Kiefer and I babysat the turkey, she went on a wild-goose hunt, trying to find one store open on the holiday or a neighbor who was home, who had a half-cup of the precious ingredient. Her solution was rather unorthodox, which I won't detail to protect the bartender who offered the distilled nectar in a "to-go" cup! Cheers! Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com

Scott and Kiefer at "Trick or Trunk"

After having a couple relatively slow weeks at the end of September, October started with a packed schedule...and lots of mileage. Friday, I received a call for a last-minute feature film casting in Atlanta. I had just enough time to tape the session and email it before the end of business that day. Later that evening, while at SAAPA First Friday, my agent calls me, and everyone in the room was cracking up after watching my submission. I'll take that as a compliment, thankyouverymuch!

The following day, Layla and Kiefer accompanied me up to Savannah for a film adaptation for a novel set in the area, and written by a Savannah author. The directions to the audition location were rather perplexing; the final step of the instructions stated, "Where the Abercrombie and Fitch used to be!" I later learned that the A&F store had been vacant for several years, so even recent residents of the area would not have been familiar with that reference. We had hoped to spend some time in the Historic District, and walk Kiefer through one of the beautiful parks there, but a late start combined with time finding the casting location limited the amount of time to enjoy the city. We probably could have, had I not been so persistent with arriving prior to my call time, even though my actual audition was hours later, due to delays at that location earlier in the day. From Savannah on Saturday, I was called to Miami on Monday. I was hoping for Tampa on Tuesday to keep the alliterative week going, but that just was not to be. A major grocery store was casting for a regional commercial in South Florida. It was my first call to Brad Davis Casting, and I look forward to our next meeting. It's quite a trek down I-95 and makes the round trip an all-day excursion, but the work is worth it, so I trudge ahead! I also (finally) updated my demo reel. I tried to come up with something that would work in most situations, even though it seems like each request for my reel has different requirements. The current posting is actually three 60-second clips (one film, one commercial, one industrial) stitched together. Trying to present a broad sampling of my work in a coherent manner in under a minute was quite a challenge. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms0WllSteQg] The following week was the Jacksonville International Film Festival. My favorite events, I think I have said here before, are the short film series. During these presentations, you get to compare a variety of directing, acting, shooting and editing styles in a two- to three-hour period, and also enjoy a multitude of interesting stories. During the closing event and awards presentation, some local film-makers were among the recipients, director and host Warren Skeels awarded a SmartCar ForTwo via phone on stage, followed by a screening of "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." What sounds like a possibly dry documentary actually was a thought-provoking and interesting tale of facts that never made it to the evening news about the energy corporation's demise. Mid-way through the football season, Layla and I started "Jonesing" for some good football. This is the first year in over a decade we do not have season tickets to the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars home games, and watching the matches on television just is not the same experience at all. In addition, as good parents, we would be remiss if we did not introduce Kiefer to the wonderful tradition that is football. On a Friday night, we drove to The Bolles School in San Jose to witness the competition between the Bulldogs and the West Nassau Warriors, and of course, enjoy some nutrition-less concession stand food! Throughout the game, he was completely mesmerized by the activity on the field and in the stands. He especially liked the marching bands during halftime and flirting with the cheerleaders after the game (that's my boy!). I was also asked to videotape the Ordination and Installation of Pastor Mark R. Tonnesen at my church, Advent Lutheran. There are others who typically videotape services, but since I have created video-recordings of Advent Lutheran events on three occasions in the past and I was available that weekend, I accepted the request. I thought I was well-prepared, arriving early with spare battery and tape in tow (just in case). Little did I know, that the presentation and giving of the stole would be conducted with the entire congregation standing, which made capturing the key portion of the event difficult from my vantage point. In addition, the supposed "three hour" battery did not sustain its charge, and started warning me "Low Battery" during the guest pastor's sermon! I had my spare at the ready, and thankfully (graciously? mercifully?), I was able to capture the message in its entirety and restart the camera before the hymn of the day. Whew! The month concluded with a series of Halloween (er, "Fall Festival") events, which proved that the little guy can hang with the grown ups. We attended a "Trick or Trunk" (or is it a "Trunk or Treat?") event hosted by Shepherd of the Woods Lutheran Church where the traditional trick-or-treat excursion is conducted at the facility's parking lot, with other festivities, such as a hay ride, music, bounce houses, arts and crafts and a pumpkin patch. Kiefer wore his stylin' bumblebee outfit (the insect, not the Transformer Autobot), while mommy and daddy sported handmade beekeeper outfits. We also attended a World-War II-style hangar dance at St. Augustine Airport, which has recently become a tradition each fall. Friday, we trick-or-treated at Whole Foods, where we bumped into some of Kiefer's friends from his "preschool" class (play date group), and repeated the activity on Sunday night in his two-year-old cousin Trey's neighborhood. We're excited to experience the upcoming Holiday Season through our son's eyes. We know he won't remember much, but the amazement and delight in his eyes as he encounters each new thing warms our hearts! There is so much to teach him, and I feel we'll learn so much more from him. Happy Thanksgiving, all! Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com

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