Career Vampires

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Career Vampires

They skulk in the shadows… sucking the very life blood from your fledgling VO career.

Your time, money and energy… are theirs to consume.

But this is a tale with a twist: You give them all of these, willingly.

Who are these “Career Vampires”?

Even though they disguise themselves, they will mesmerize you into spending more money, giving more time, wasting your vital energy.

How can you avoid these monsters and save your career?

Do the work.
Research each one before you waste your precious resources.
Ask some trusted friends in the industry.
If you have a coach or mentor, they can help you too.
And always weigh what you’re getting out of the deal.
Everyone is different – there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to crafting your career.

Without further ado, BEWARE!!! Horrors lurk below:

The Three Wraiths: Conventions, Classes, Coaches

Each of these wily wraiths will lure you with promises of easy money, contests, prizes, fame and followers. There are a lot of good ones mixed in with a few bad ones. But it only takes one to set you back in your plans. False hope is the bait for their trap… your money is what they hunger for!

Sirens of Social Media (FrankenBook, InstaGolem, TweetZilla)

Like the labyrinth of old, social media sirens will draw you in. Stealing your time. Filling your mind with misinformation. Distracting you from the real work that needs to be done to build the foundation needed for a career. Cast them aside! Or, if you have the strength, be very selective where you roam. Despair lines the cold stone walls of this maddening maze.

Zombies of Your Mind

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Overconfidence and self-doubt are two sides of the same devil’s coin. One will lead you to believe you already know the way forward. The other will cause you to freeze in a downward spiral. We’ve all had these thoughts from time-to-time. Pause… Breathe… Take the hand of a trusted comrade when you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Video Ghouls

There’s a trap waiting for you… The idea that the internet can teach you anything! Sure, you can find video tutorials and binge watch until your eyes glaze over. But are you really learning what you need? There is no substitute for real-world experience. Go outside. Get involved with a theatre, improv troupe, or choir. These types of productions will teach you things you can never learn by simply watching videos non-stop. How to be directed. Working with others. Building real characters instead of funny voices. Acting and reacting with other actors. Feeling the audience reaction and feedback. Only the light of day can banish the dark reaches of the Video Ghouls!

Have you encountered any of these?
Perhaps you’ve run into some I haven’t mentioned here.
Help me to warn others with a career saving comment below!

 

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

 

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Is This Scalpel Good For Brain Surgery?

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Is This Scalpel Good For Brain Surgery?

(When questions and answers go awry…)

I often find myself frustrated by many of the questions and answers posted about Voice Acting on online forums.

What’s this got to do with Scalpels and Brain Surgery? Everything!

There are 4 parts to what I consider a good, helpful Q+A:

  • The person asking the question (background, experience, etc.)
  • The person answering (background, experience, etc.)
  • The question itself (researched, specific, unambiguous, etc.)
  • The answer (takes into account all of the above and addresses the issues, possibly raising new questions)

Based on these 4 parts, here are some general thoughts on how we can all do better asking and answering questions (based on the “Scalpels for Brain Surgery” example):

  • Before you ask a question, do some research.
    Many of the questions being asked have been asked and answered. Try searching professional forums on the topic you’re interested in. Look for instructional videos or reviews. Ask a trusted teacher or a professional in the industry. A side benefit of this may mean that you’ll find other answers to questions you hadn’t even considered.
  • Give people some background before asking the question.
    It’s impossible to answer a question if you don’t know who you’re speaking to, or what their experience is. For our Scalpels example, are they a med student? Practicing doctor? Surgeon? Or just an interested non-medical person? Knowing this will make it easier for people to give helpful answers.
  • Be as specific as possible when asking for advice.
    I’ve seen newbies and pros make the same mistake: broad, non-specific questions. Try to narrow down the question before posting it. If you’re not sure how to narrow it, that may mean you don’t know what you’re really after. In that case, go back and do some more digging and research. If you ask a wide open question, you’re likely to get a wide range of useless answers.
  • Find out who you’re talking to.
    This is really important for both the person asking the question (see “Background” above), and for the person answering. After all, if you’re a qualified brain surgeon looking for a real answer about scalpels, you probably don’t want the advice of a med student, veterinarian, or failed top-chef contestant. Beware of newbies answering other newbie questions!
  • Don’t answer questions if you’re not qualified.
    Lots of people are more than willing to jump in with their opinion on any topic posted online. This doesn’t mean they’re qualified to answer. I know it’s difficult, but try to know the limits of your own knowledge. Too much misleading and downright horrible information is being shared as if it’s the truth. Before answering, ask yourself how much you really know about the question being asked. If the answer is “I watched a YouTube once about Do-It-Yourself Brain Surgery”, maybe you should sit this one out…

BTW, this advice is a follow-up to a prior post:
Advice on Advice

So, can we all do better? Yes!

Will we? That’s up to you…

 

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

 

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Working at Joe’s Dump

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Working at Joe’s Dump

Here’s a bit of a peek behind the curtain about Working at Joe’s Dump.

I keep a Google doc with all of my ideas for new posts. Once I’ve actually gotten around to using an idea, I move it over to a completed document. They’re both getting pretty long after all these years.

The reason I mention it is because it’s a great way to stay creative. Whenever I hit a snag in one project, I just look to see what random ideas I’ve had in the past. Sometimes I’ll feel like completing one of those instead.

Right now, I’ve got 3 or 4 songs in the works, some ideas for business posts, poetry and graphics notions, video ideas, etc.

Once you start writing down ideas, the process becomes much easier… and a bit addictive.

So, when I feel overwhelmed or under pressure, it’s time to take a break.

Listen to your muse – sometime she’s saying “Take some time off”.

You’ll come back refreshed and ready to create.

… at least that’s how it works for me 😉

Cheers,
Joe

 

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

 

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Carbs and Weight in Spain

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Carbs and Weight in Spain

As I walk down the street in Barcelona, I pass shop after shop with breads and pastries. There are people enjoying a beer and bocadillo (small sandwich) at 10 in the morning. For lunch, you’ll see paella (rice), pastas, and pan con tomate (bread with tomato). The thing I don’t see much of: overweight people.

I’ll often hear of my friends having success in their weight management by doing Keto or Atkins. Or with some similar plan that restricts carbs, sugar, or otherwise cuts out an entire food group.

But does that really help?

Disclaimer: In the end, whatever works best for you, long term, is what works. Just make sure it’s a diet and lifestyle you can live with.

So, is there a disconnect? What I see in Spain just doesn’t bear out the idea that carbs are bad for you. What’s going on?

I suspect it’s a combination of the difference in lifestyle, food, and other factors. Barcelona is a walking city. I haven’t been in a car in months. Most days I get 15,000+ steps just doing my daily routine plus a bit of exercise. Another factor is the portion sizes. Most things are pretty small by comparison to the US versions. And even when I eat the same thing, there seems to be less sugar used. Other things like fresher meats, fruits and veggies make a difference too.

So… Is it just eating less and moving more? Well, no. But that’s a part of it. It’s also what you eat, but without cutting out entire food groups or feeling deprived.

I walk. I still eat pastas, rice, breads and pastries. Even dessert. But the quantities are smaller and the qualities are better, in my opinion.

One other factor to consider: Stress. There seems to be a lot less of it in Spain. Lower crime, no shootings, a social safety net, health care, etc. All of that combined with a “No pasa nada” attitude seems to bring the general level of stress way down for daily life.

Can this be achieved in the USA? Maybe. I suspect it would be a bit more difficult. For it to really change for everyone, a lot of things would need to change too. Cars. Restaurants. Food supply. Health care. Even the government.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It would just take much more effort to achieve.

Whatever your path to good health, I hope you find it and are happy with your lives.

Be well,
Joe

 

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

 

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P2P Sites: Not For Practice

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P2P Sites: Not For Practice

I often see posts on social media where someone who is new to voice acting says that they’re using P2P (Pay-To-Play) sites to practice. Although I understand this line of thinking, that’s not the best way to practice… Here’s why:

The point of practicing is to improve your skills. For acting, a very important component is missing when practicing on your own: Feedback.

Constructive feedback helps to improve your acting ability. It can come in many forms. In an acting class, the teacher will provide feedback and guidance. Coaches perform a similar function, but in a more focused 1-on-1 manner. Performing on stage has many forms of feedback: the director, reactions from other actors in the scene, and the audience.

“So, Joe, what’s the harm in practicing on my own? It’s still practice, right?”

Although it may improve your reading skills and even the speed at which you can scan the copy, it may actually be a detriment to your skills as an actor. Instead of learning where your flaws and weaknesses are and addressing them to improve, you may be blind to the flaws you have. Continuing to practice without any feedback may reinforce your bad habits. Those can be even more difficult to un-learn in the future.

Let’s take the classic “You have a great voice! You should be doing voice acting!”. After hearing that, maybe you become enamored with the sound of your own voice. You join a P2P site “just for practice.” Reading one thing after another in a cool way, or an artificially deep voice, or a style that isn’t used in the industry. Spend enough time reinforcing the idea that this is the “right” way to read copy without any guidance can lead you down a path that will be difficult to correct in the future.

Other examples are speech impediments and thick accents. Learning about the issues that may impede your progress and correcting them early on will make your journey to become a voice actor that much easier.

In my opinion, the best way to a solid career as a Voice Actor is to learn acting first. And that requires training, direction, and real-world experience.

For now, due to the limitations of in-person opportunities, try to find some online ways to play. Improv Zoom groups. Classes. Audio drama (directed). There are even some VO reading groups that meet on a regular basis. These could provide a good start.

Once the pandemic is over and it is safe, get involved with a local theatre. Join a choir. Take some improv classes. Get training and direction and perform in front of live audiences. All of these will improve your acting skills and give you a solid foundation for voice acting.

Best of luck on your journey!
Joe

 

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

 

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No More Birthdays ;-)

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No More Birthdays on Facebook

For several years, I’ve been wishing all my friends on Facebook “Happy Birthday!

It’s time for a change.

From now on, I’m going to just enjoy my friends, their stories, triumphs and troubles as they happen. And be there for them. Or just be more “present” every day.

I hope that’s a better gift than just a once-a-year wish.

So, “Happy Day”, my friends.

It sure is great to have you all in my life.

See you around…
🎂🎈🎁

 

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

 

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Time Traveler: Month One

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Time Traveler: Month One

One month ago, my wife and I moved from Los Angeles to Barcelona. I’ve noticed advantages and disadvantages due to the time difference.

The following is my general weekday schedule, and below that, my thoughts on how the move has affected me… Forward! 9 Hours Into THE FUTURE!!!

Los Angeles Barcelona Activity
10:00 PM 7:00 AM Rise and shine!
10:30 PM 7:30 AM Morning stretches and hygiene
11:30 PM 8:30 AM Light breakfast; Check emails for auditions
12:00 AM 9:00 AM Walk; Buy daily groceries, bread, snack
1:00 AM 10:00 AM Auditions; Work
2:00 AM 11:00 AM Mid-day snack; Pre-lunch walk
3:00 AM 12:00 AM Other Work Stuff; Creative Time
5:00 AM 2:00 PM Lunch
6:00 AM 3:00 PM More Creative / Work time
9:00 AM 6:00 PM Exercise; Shower + Shave
10:00 AM 7:00 PM Sessions; Auditions; Make it Rain!
12:00 PM 9:00 PM Dinner
1:00 PM 10:00 PM More work (if needed); TV Time
3:00 PM 12:00 AM Bedtime!

This schedule allows me to be available until 3 PM in Los Angeles and 6 PM in New York. For the majority of jobs, that works very well. There are exceptions, of course. I’ve already had one session with LA/Tokyo/Barcelona that presented some timing issues. But I can stand the occasional Midnight-2 AM gig 😉

Positives: Able to handle most jobs and auditions. More relaxed schedule. Greater Work/Life balance. More available for clients in Europe.

Negatives: May miss out on some RUSH!!! auditions. Not available for late day sessions, classes, or meetups.

Other thoughts: With the political climate in the US of A, I found my time being consumed with negative emotions, both my own and others, while living in LA. Since moving, the distance has allowed a greater sense of calm, and a broader perspective. Perhaps it’s because the consequences seem less. Or maybe it’s just not being under a constant barrage of news, posts, and tweets. Either way, I feel it’s better for my mental and physical health. It’s possible the same thing can be achieved without moving. Turn off the TV, social media, etc. But if that were the case, I wasn’t able to find a way to make it work while there.

Next stop… VOTING!

 

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

 

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Explaining Masks For Children (and many others)

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Explaining Masks for Children (and many others)

Explaining Masks for Children

(and many others)

This Spaceship is your Home, the Airlock your front door
Outside is empty space, it’ll make your lungs real sore

You’ll need a helmet to go out, it looks just like a mask
It keeps you and others safe, that is it’s central task

Be sure to wear it properly, to cover mouth and nose
And not around your neck, your chin or way down by your toes

Keep your distance out in space, at least six feet away
That space will keep the gunk and germs and nasty things at bay

Do not remove your helmet, no matter what you do
Not to talk or drink, to bike or run or chew

Just keep it on until you’re home – that is the only way
We’ll all be safe… Our lungs will thank you every single day!

 

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

 

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Mask Confusion

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Mask Confusion

There’s a lot of bad information out there about Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and Masks.

So, let’s try to set the record straight on Masks:

  • Masks protect others from you. (non-medical ones, that is) They do very little to protect you from others. I wear a mask to protect you. You wear a mask to protect me.
  • They must be worn correctly over the nose and mouth. Not just the mouth. Or just the nose. Or around your neck.
  • Don’t put the mask on and off repeatedly. This means your touching your face more, and that’s bad for you. Just put it on before you leave the house. Leave it on until you get home and can wash your hands.
  • Everyone should be wearing a mask outside of the house. Everyone. Not just parents. Or elderly. Or people not running and biking. Everyone. That’s how we get through this faster.
  • Masks are not a substitute for Social Distancing. You still need to stay 6 feet or more away from others. Remember: the mask is not to protect you – it’s to stop you from spreading the virus to others.
  • Wear a mask even if you feel well. Covid-19 can and does spread without any symptoms. So just because you feel well doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus… and are spreading it to others.

ALSO! Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

Got more advice? Feel free to comment below. And I will be deleting inaccurate comments. It’s my blog – deal with it!

 

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

 

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Paranoia Control

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Paranoia Control

Paranoia. Anxiety. Fear.

It’s normal for us to feel these things when a threat is nearby. I know many are feeling this with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

I’ve got a secret that may help, and it stems from my being diagnosed as “Hypervigilant“.

Hypervigilance put simply means that I am overly aware of everything around me at all times. In a restaurant, for example, I will be listening to multiple conversations, watching people come and go, seeing what other tables are ordering, doing, etc. It can be exhausting to filter this much information. But there are ways to cope. Ways that may be of use in these pandemic times.

First and foremost is the realization that no single person can ever be completely “safe”. It’s a hard reality to face. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. Knowing where the line between “being cautious” and “being paranoid” can be tough to find.

So… here’s how it works for me:

  • Do what you can: keep your hands clean, and don’t touch your face; Practice social distancing.
  • Realize others don’t have the same view of the world; what you see, they may be completely oblivious to.
  • Help who you can: for loved ones, family and friends, give advice when appropriate to keep them safe – but don’t nag.
  • Let it go: sometimes you have to realize it’s your own bias and let it go… everyone has to live their own lives – nobody’s perfect, and that includes you.
  • Stay connected: although it can be hard when you’re aware of all the flaws, it’s important to stay emotionally connected to the world – we all need support sometimes.

Making peace with the world outside of ourselves is an individual journey. But when we become obsessed with others’ actions, as Shakespeare’s King Lear said:

“O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.”

Stay safe, sane and healthy, my friends,
Joe

 

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

 

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