Creativity Farm

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Creativity Farm

Animation, music, business, poetry and utter nonsense…

How do I come up with a new Joe’s Dump post most every Monday?

I use a Creativity Farm!
Joe's Dump Creativity Farm!

Whenever I have an idea for Joe’s Dump, I jot down a short title and a few notes in a Google doc. These are the “Seeds” on my farm.

I use a Google doc because it lets me edit my ideas on my phone, tablet or computer. When the muse inspires, I’m ready.

Next, I cultivate the Seeds by choosing a promising one and giving it my time and focus. This is like sunlight and water. The promising Seeds then grow into mature Plants, ready for posting to the blog!

Of course, along the way, some weeding must also be done. Not all ideas will bear fruit.

Once I’ve posted the finished crop, it’s moved to another Google doc for archive.

Here are just a few samples from my current batch of Seeds (who knows which will grow?):

  • A rap song about Jimmy Durante
  • Fake movie trailers
  • A noir novella set in Cleveland
  • Poetry for pets
  • Designs for a personal hovercraft
  • Learning Tuvan throat-singing

If you’ve got the time and inclination, maybe you can start your own Creativity Farm!

What do you do to keep your creativity flowing?

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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VO Workout

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VO Workout

VO Workout Banner

How staying fit can help you in your voiceover career.

When most of us hear the term “VO Workout”, we imagine a group of fellow voice actors gathering to read copy and get feedback. But there’s another kind of workout you should be adding to boost your VO career.

Keeping physically fit, mentally healthy, and getting proper nutrition all contribute to our bodies, minds and spirits working at peak levels. All of these factors can affect the sound of your voice, mood of your delivery, and how you interact with other people in the biz. Breathing, core strength, mobility, relaxation – all can come from maintaining good health. Below are some of the key factors I consider every day…
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The Nothing

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The Nothing

The Nothing” is an unusual villain from the German fantasy book “The NeverEnding Story” (a film version was made in 1984)

(*** spoilers below ***)

I use the word “villain” in a loose way, as it’s more of a force of nature. In the story, it is slowly destroying Fantasia, a land of wonder, imagination, and endless variety. In the movie version, “The Nothing” is represented by an ominous storm, and by a large black wolf:
The Nothing from The NeverEnding Story

The book is not as concrete, but much more frightening in it’s portrayal. “The Nothing” represents all of the worst of humankind. Apathy, cynicism, despair, and all the darkest aspects of our nature.

In the end, it’s a boy’s imagination and willingness to believe that saves Fantasia from “The Nothing”.

The Nothing: It’s At Work On Our World

Beyond the simple story lies a chilling truth: “The Nothing” is quite real. And it’s been growing. We feed it by giving into our greed, anger, and small-mindedness. Where is it? How can we identify it? And what can be done to stop it? I’ve provided some examples below, and I’m sure once you see it too, you’ll be able to find many more…

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Singing For VO

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Singing for Voice Over

Singing offers a lot of tangible advantages to anyone in Voice Acting.
For those of you who sing, I know I’m preaching to the choir! (rim shot)

But how long has it been since you’ve had a refresher?
And if you’re in VO and don’t sing, why not?

Although I’ve been in many musicals, sung with choral groups, and even performed musical improv, it had been a few years since I really sang.

Time for a tune-up!
I recently started taking lessons with a new teacher, and it’s given me a renewed sense of confidence in my vocal abilities.

Here are just a few of the areas singing can help with:

  • Tone:
    The pitch of your voice… high, medium, low (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone Bass)
  • Breathing:
    Proper breathing allows you to better control your sound.
  • Timing:
    Learning musical rhythm can help in setting your pace for both segments of the copy and for the overall read.
  • Vocal Placement:
    Chest voice, Head voice, Throat, etc. Placement is especially useful in creating characters and accents.
  • Core Support and Strengthening:
    A strong core is related to your breathing, and can give you more power and energy in your voice.
  • Volume Control:
    Knowing when to sing soft is just as important as being able to belt out a tune. Having a solid control of your volume takes practice.
  • Conveying Emotion:
    Even in a language you may not understand, songs can elicit a great deal of emotion. Learning how to deliver that to your audience is directly applicable to VO work.
  • Communication of Ideas:
    Clear communication is another win for any voice work. Knowing how to form your words and phrases so that they convey ideas is the core of it all.

My friend Marc Cashman even has a chapter in his book “V-Oh! Tips, Tricks, Tools and Techniques to Start and Sustain Your Voiceover Career” dedicated to the concept of “Finding the Music in Copy”. Here’s a short excerpt:

“Copy or text is musical. It has ebb and flow and different keys. It has sharps, flats, rests, words that are held, chopped off, high or low, soft or loud, all the same emphasis or wild ups and downs, with dynamics and crescendos. Copy reads (or plays) like a story/song, with a beginning, middle and end.”

(Marc’s book is available on Amazon, or click here to order an autographed copy)

Sometimes, I’ll even sing the copy just to get a different feel for the way it flows.

Do you sing? If so, how long has it been since you performed or had lessons? It might be time for a refresher to tune-up your instrument!

To close, here’s a number that I’ve been working on.
It’s called “I Won’t Send Roses” from the musical “Mack and Mabel” – Enjoy!

      I Won't Send Roses (Joe J Thomas)

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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How Do I Get Into Voice Over?

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How Do I Get Into Voice Over?

We hear it all the time… It seems like a simple enough question, but in truth it may as well say “How do I build a house?”

The answer depends on many things, including:

  • Who’s asking the question?
  • What genre of VO are they pursuing?
  • Do they have prior skills?

Here’s three possible scenarios:

Scenario 1: Albert
Background: Professional name screen actor in movies and tv. Would like to get into animated features.
Advice: Ask your agent or manager to start focusing on VO. Take some classes in mic technique if needed.

Scenario 2: Betty
Background: Was in radio for years, now retired. Wants to get into narration.
Advice: Take some acting or improv classes, along with coaching for a more natural VO delivery. Get a VO demo made when ready, and find an agent to represent you.

Scenario 3: Charles
Background: No prior acting experience, but can do some voices. Loves anime and would like to be an ADR VO.
Advice: Start with the basics. Take acting, improv and singing. Learn to build fully-fleshed characters, not just voices. Then move on to VO classes and find a trusted coach. They can lead you from there.

Too often, we rush into answering the question “How Do I Get Into VO?” without considering who’s asking or what they mean. In order for the advice to be truly useful, it must be targeted to the person asking the question.

In many ways, this is related to a prior post that you may also wish to read:
Joe’s Dump – Advice on Advice

So, next time you hear this question, maybe take a step back and consider before answering. It could be much more valuable to the person who’s asking.

Cheers,
Joe

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Bad Business

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Bad Business

What a horrible dessert can tell you about running a good business

After a recent sushi dinner, my wife and I decided we wanted to grab a little dessert… something other than green tea or mochi ice cream.

We chose a new branch of an iconic LA eatery known for good pancakes, pies, etc.

It did not turn out as we had hoped.

But from the ashes of this nasty experience rose some truths about customer service and quality products.

The Dessert Debacle

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Calloused Attitude

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Calloused Attitude

40+ miles. Every week.

That’s how much I walk and hike.

JoeActor FitBit Stats 2016-02

With that much mileage, you’re bound to build up some callouses. And I had some doosies. The bottoms of my feet were like leather.

Callouses have their purpose. They build up to protect your skin and the tissue beneath. But, in excess, they can cause other issues.

Calloused Attitude


The same process happens with our attitudes. Over time, and given enough exposure to the friction with others, we build up our defenses. Become resistant. Protect ourselves.

Removal by Erosion


For callouses on my feet, the process is pretty simple: buy a pumice stone or one of those rotary foot sanders, then spend a little time every day buffing down my feet.

For a calloused attitude, the process is also simple: catch yourself when you’re angry or resistant to hearing others, then remove a little of those biases every day.

Results


With most of the callouses removed from my feet, they’ve become more flexible and my balance has also improved. Of course they’re also more sensitive, but that’s the trade-off.

As for attitude, with fewer emotional callouses I’m more open to hearing others, and able to respond with less anger. I don’t have to agree, but I can disagree cordially.

How do you deal with your callouses?

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Problem. Solution.

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Problem Solution - Joe's Dump

Quote: Joe J Thomas
Cartoon: Gary Larson

Problem.

Sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated and it’s like I’m banging my head against the wall, the best thing I can do is…

Stop.

Take a break. Breathe. Push back from the issue. Get a wider view.

Consider.

Think about why I’m feeling anger or frustration. What’s causing it?

Identify.

Dig deep and try to find the real problem. Pull it from the depths and stare it in the face.

Source.

Sometimes the source of the issue is me. Sometimes it’s someone else. Or nobody. Or miscommunication. Or just a random event.

Solution.

Once you know what the issue is, the answer might be contained in the problem itself. Or it may take time to work out a good answer. Maybe there are no answers for some problems.

Either way…

If you can’t see the problem,
No solution is possible.

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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The Adaptability Problem

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The Adaptability Problem

Adaptability has enabled humans to rise to the top of the food chain, and individuals, groups, companies and governments to accomplish amazing things.

So… Where’s the problem with adaptability?

In short, when we adapt to small, incremental negative changes, the end result is that, over time, we’re putting ourselves in a worse position than where we started.

Let’s take “Pay-To-Play” services for voice over jobs as an example. Incrementally, these services have slowly limited the number of auditions available, lowered the pay per project, restricted access to information, and taken a larger fee for renewal and other charges. Had they implemented all these changes at once, they would have been rejected outright. But by staging these changes in gradual steps, it gives individuals time to adapt and hides the trend that the company is headed. Worse, those joining now who don’t research the history think that the current state of affairs is the norm.

This same strategy is employed by companies, governments, political parties and religious organizations. As we blindly adapt without standing up for ourselves, we allow them to gain a greater control over our lives. We even adapt to things like climate change, political correctness, a rise in violence, and a decline in our living standards. Without even thinking about it, we accept the current state of affairs as normal.

For me, this is unacceptable.

But there is a solution.

We must look to the past to see if we’re improving or declining. And we must plan for the future before blindly accepting what we’re told as being the only truth.

As individuals, we can wield an amazing amount of power and control over our own future, and the future direction of our companies, our society, and even our planet.

All it takes is a willingness to be aware. To stand up for ourselves and others. And to take action when needed.

True freedom requires individual responsibility.

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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Comedy to Cash

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Comedy to Cash
or
Mockery to Moolah

A couple weeks ago, I was on “This American Life” on NPR.
The segment was on Volkswagen’s recent emission scandal, and was written to sound like a Frontline documentary, or like a stereotypical NPR or PBS spot. A really cool gig…

But that’s not where the story begins.

I listen to a lot of NPR. My wife got me hooked a while back. Being a natural mimic and seeing the comic potential, I wrote a parody called “This United States Life” in 2013:

      JPR-BillParker_JoeActor_20130819

(I play all the voices on it)

Just by playing and doing what comes naturally to me I was also unknowingly preparing myself for a real gig!

Here’s the real “This American Life” spot:

      NPR_VW_ComingClean_Joe_J_Thomas_20151009

(Also play all the voices on this one)

So, go out there and hand some fun with the things you hear every day. Play with it, script it, record, edit – do whatever it takes to turn your playtime into a new character for your repertoire. You never know when one might turn into a real job!

See you in the booth!
Joe

This Is JPR logo

 

All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com

 

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