My wife has a bible verse that she always goes back to, and in these times it is a most important one to remember:
Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.
No matter what we had planned at the beginning of 2020, the year certainly didn’t go the way we had planned.
For me, and you’ll see if you look on my New Years blog entry, I had a fantastic year set out before me. I called it my 2020 Vision, and that vision was focused on Voice Over Acting for Animation. I’ve been a comic book artist and an animation script writer, so why not add Voice Over to my portfolio of work.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and certainly not something I could jump into. I didn’t even think I could do ‘funny voices.’ But that didn’t matter, I have a passion for animation and a growing love for Voice Acting.
So I did the smartest thing I reached out to some of my Animation and Voice Over friends for a recommendation of where I should go to receive the best beginners training.
I had been putting money aside over the last year to be used in this new goal of mine, and in December of last year I signed up for a Voice Acting Workshop that would begin in March.
Then the Clock chimed in a new year, my family celebrated on the 1st as we all was did, and on the 2nd I went back to work.
I am called into the boss who informs me that for budgetary reason my position was being eliminated, and so at the end of January I was laid off from a part-time job I’ve had for 9 years.
Disappointed I was, but not giving up, I had already put the money down on my class and so I was going to see it through.
Over the next months I began to reach out to many of my friends in the animation industry, as well as employment recruiters I had gotten to know over the years. All promised they would keep an eye open for any opportunities that came along. Some of them even knew of openings with their companies and submitted my names with a recommendation letter. I also checked every company job board on a daily basis.
I wasn’t expecting a job to come right out of the blue…
Then March came along and my Voice Over Acting Workshop was about to begin. I was absolutely thrilled to be taking it. I had no idea if I’d be any good, but I was going to enjoy every moment as I learned what I could. At the absolute least I would gain knowledge of being an actor which I could use as an animation script writer.
You can write the lines, but it’s important to know how the actor is going to interpret them.
I showed up for the first class ready to get started. It was the introductory class letting us know how the instructor (a very well known animation voice actor, who had even worked on a show my wife had been on in production) told us how he would teach us to have fun.
On that first night each one of us had the opportunity to stand before the mic and read lines of dialog.
I had wondered if I was going to get scared that first time, get nervous, chicken out, or have a coughing fit I couldn’t control and would have to leave —
— Oh, I hadn’t mentioned, I had gotten a cold in early December, shook it off but it returned at the end of the year and into January. The cough always remains long after the cold is gone. But by February I thought it was gone and so I signed up for a local Improv Group. Small gathering of actors doing this on their own. The nightly payment wasn’t bad so I gave it a try. The first part of it went well, I contributed properly, but by about half way through the gathering my COUGH returned so badly that I couldn’t participate well and so ended up sitting off to the side watching the others do some fantastic work. I’ll be honest, the cough was partially an excuse because I had frozen up in one scene and had no idea what I was doing next. But the coughing was bad enough it wasn’t helping the story so I sat on the side. Leaving that night I wanted to return, but was also terrified to do it again —
So I had similar feelings (but luckily no cough) when I stepped up to the mic, and you know what?
I actually did pretty well.
I was able to read all my lines without stumbling over my tongue. Sure, I wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t bad either. The teacher gave suggestion on how to improve, and he even told me what actor I sounded like.
I left that night absolutely thrilled and looking forward to the next and standing before that mic once more.
By the time the second week there were already concerns about people being sick and the virus spreading, but it was still a minor thing.
The instructor spent an hour telling us more about being an actor and how best to have fun playing as he gave us our lessons. Then it Mic time once more. New lines of dialog (this time having gotten to study and practice with them over the last few days) to read.
And… I surprised myself again. I understood what the instructor was wanting us to discover in the dialog and how to use it in being the character. I really did well a second time, and was thrilled by the outcome.
I was really looking forward to the next week, and even more so when a few days later I receives the story I’d be playing.
But then everything got turned upside down. The news broke of the growing number of cases of the Corona-Virus…
The instructor sent out an email saying that he planned to have the next class, we would find a way to provide ‘social distancing’ in the studio. (Which I knew would be very hard because of how many people were in the class and how small the studio was.) Then a second email came saying that after talking with the staff at the studio, and considering all the other people that came and went during a day there, it would be best not to have the class there for a while.
So the the instructor suggested we do it online. He already does personal coaching that way, so setting up a class via Skype or Zoom was a possibility. (I didn’t even know what Zoom was until that day, now everyone knows and uses it). So he offered the class to vote to see if we wanted to continue the class via Zoom or postpone till this was all over.
I, wanting to continue what I was so excited about doing, voted to Zoom it. Unfortunately most of the class wanted to postpone it.
I understood the reason, but my heart sunk.
The instructor hoped to get things started again in a few weeks, and would be in touch along the way. But over the following weeks I didn’t heard anything so reached out to the teacher. But it would be another week or more before I got a response.
He reached out to the class once more, and this time they agreed to continue to do the class via Zoom. (Maybe some of them were just bored and wanted to something to do.)
I was absolutely thrilled.
So this past Tuesday we were back at it, but from each of our homes, on mic and on camera.
I had been practicing my lines during the break period and had pretty well honed the character down to what I thought it should be.
So now my ‘time at the mic’ came up and I did pretty good, but the instructor could tell I had been rehearsing. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but I think it lacked some spontaneity. That’s when the real assignment began. Based on homework we turned in, he gave us different characters to play while reading the same lines.
I really amazed myself as I switched voices into a new character.
As i read my lines from the printed paper out of the corner of my eye I could see the teacher reacting. Though muted he seemed to be smiling and laughing.
When I was done he turned all the mics on and I got thrilling response from the instructor and all the other students. The crazy thing was that this hadn’t happened with any of the others. They were all good, but I had never heard them all response to a performance all at once.
It was a really great feeling.
One great performance doesn’t an actor make, but it was a fantastic experience.
I’m looking forward to what we do in the remaining three weeks of the class.
What happens after that I don’t know, but I’m ready to find out.
We may plan our days, but God establishes our steps.