random battles

MAGFest 8.5 Recap

There is now a second yearly MAGFest in our lives, and our lives are better for it. MAGFest 8.5 marks the festival's glorious return to the Alexandria Hilton for three days of pure gaming goodness. It's all about games, bands, and partying, just the good ole days. I got to catch all of the panels I wanted to see, which were the three voice over panels with Wes Johnson and Jon St. John, (both wonderful gentlemen and fantastic actors), and the cosplay contest judged by Tommy Sinbazo, the Joker and Harley Quinn. Tommy killed it as usual. I also got to watch most of the bands this year, which is something I haven't done in years (the lack of a second stage and a third day of concerts helped).

And the partying. My God, the partying. I forgot what it was like to be able to stay at a hotel room party for more than five minutes without being kicked out by security. Friends were only a short, terrifying elevator ride away, and there were many friends.

Oh, and Epileptic Peat taught me how to juggle. I highly recommend seeking him out lessons if you have the means.

I haven't had this much fun at a MAGFest in a long, long time. I sincerely hope they do this again next year. Kudos to Dom and the rest of the MAGCrew for putting on a hell of a weekend.


Every Job Feeds Into the Next

I was recently interviewed for a college survey project about my career as a voice actor. This is the first time I've given an interview for something not involving music (I write for and play in Random Battles and Uatu) and I was immensely flattered to be asked. Throughout the interview, I noticed most of my answers had a bent of marketing and advertising. I hope I didn't bore my interviewer too much, but I had made the magical world of VO sound like a business 101 lecture. But there was one point I happened to make to that I wanted to explore.

Every job feeds into the next.

I haven't been a voice actor for very long (I went "full-time" back in October). Aside from this, I've been a wedding DJ (still am, in fact), a maintenance man, audio engineer, server, bartender, HUD appraisal manager, IT tech, and graphic artist. As you may imagine, none of these industries have a ton of crossover. But, I've taken the skills and tricks I've learned from each of these jobs and applied them to my current endeavors.

This is what constructs my unique business approach: You may have sat down to a Pro Tools session in a studio, but have you ever replaced the carpet and tiles in that room? Have you been the delivery guy who brought you lunch? You've been a guest at a wedding, but have you been the valet, server, maitre'd, bartender, or DJ before (being only an attendee at a wedding is a very rare and strange thing for me)? While this may not seem relevant to voiceover, these experiences have shaped my outlook on my new business and informed how I approach its various challenges. I've sold myself as a DJ to brides for years, which taught me first hand how to adapt my skills and shape my words in order to present the best possible product for my client. Improv skills help in that realm just as much as behind the mic, by the way.

I wouldn't have had the confidence to build my own home studio without having been a gopher at my dad's construction sites growing up or been a maintenance man at Meadow Mills, incidentally now about two blocks away from my house and home to theater troupes in my social circle. I certainly wouldn't have appreciated the relative freedom and empowerment running my own business is without having sat in many,  many offices on many, many unbearably boring days. Those memories provide extra catalyst for building a successful business, and let me tell you, it's a hell of a good one.

As I progress in my business, now every job feeds into the next by way of word of mouth or repeat business. As I grow as into voiceover more and more, the type of work is aligning more and more: instead of serving, DJ'ing and interning at a recording studio, I'm performing a school assembly, acting in a short film, producing an awesome podcast, and, well, DJ'ing. In five years, who knows, maybe I'll be discerning between audiobook work and IVR. A guy can dream.






What Motivates You?

I recently had a discussion with my wife about our respective places we find ourselves in our burgeoning new careers. We talked about everything from our fears and hesitations about the future to why we're pursuing what we're pursuing. Yes, there are things like bills and debt and years of schooling that have led to these decisions, but beyond the immediate needs a career (hopefully) provides for, there's a desire inside us that, at least I've, never felt for an occupation before. Since starting my career in voice acting, I've discovered this little feeling in my stomach when I sit down to an audition recording session. I was actually looking forward to what I was about to do. I actually, gulp, liked my job! Yes, it's very part time, it's not really paying the bills, but it is generating income and it is the thing I'm most likely to associate with my name. Even though I'm a wedding DJ, an assistant to an awesome magician, and a IT associate, voice acting is my trade. Instead of rattling off a half mumbled explanation of what I'm doing and what I really want to do, I get to introduce myself as a voice actor. 'Nuff said.

As a freelancer, your motivation will be the difference between flirting with a new concept and making it into your lifestyle. And yes, being a freelancer is a life choice, not just a career. Why do I sit in my basement all day, microphone in front of me, sending audition after audition after audition, then switching to networking and researching new markets while planning out new ways to get my name out in the world? It's a ton of work and the benefits are not immediately felt. There's plenty of room for depression to creep in when the phone doesn't ring and the inbox remains empty for days, weeks, or even heaven forbid months on end. How do I stick through the bad times to get to the good, assuming the good days are out there?

I was playing video games with a good friend and bandmate of mine the other day when he told me how inspirational my decision to become a voiceover talent was to him. It stopped me in my tracks. I get so caught in the day to day grind, the constantly evolving marketing strategies, the hunt for connections and friends of friends and potential clients that I rarely sit back and even listen to what work I have finished and put out into the world. It didn't even really occur that what I do would even be recognized. When my wife told me the same thing later that night, I felt compelled to carry on if not for myself, than to be a positive example in my circle of friends.

Then there's the love of the medium. I've been a huge fan of video games and cartoons since I was old enough to form memories. I was hooked on Atari since I was two years old. The first movie I ever saw in theaters was The Land Before Time. I guess I secretly always wanted to be a part of that world, even if that wasn't obvious to me until fairly recently. And now that I am aware of that desire in myself, I'm hard pressed to think of something I'd feel prouder of than a great character in a great piece of work.

One final thought: during my office days, I used to be fond of saying '40 hours a week is an awful lot of time to waste on something you hate doing'. Just a little matter-of-factly negativity to cement my poor attitude, but it's true. And, at the very least, I don't feel that way about my career anymore. Even when it's more like 80 hours a week than 40. At the end of the day, I still get to call myself a voice actor.