Monday, September 26, 2016

An Interview with VO Mastery Founder Randy Thomas

For the last two years, voiceover legend Randy Thomas has hosted the VO Mastery Event, (randythomaspresents.com,) originally in Fort Myers, Florida. This year the event moves to Los Angeles.     

I had the pleasure of presenting in 2015, and will be back in 2016 to talk about the business of voiceover, and how to build a career through whatever path is right for you.

Recently, I chatted with Randy about what makes the VO Mastery Event such a unique and valuable entry on the conference calendar. 

JMC: What inspired you to create the VO Mastery Event?

Randy: Truthfully, I am a teacher at heart. That is why I wrote Voice For Hire. I feel there is so much to share with others who are in pursuit of their dreams, especially when my dreams align with theirs. To that end living in Ft. Myers, Florida for the past 14 years, I got lonely for my LA and NYC VO Pros. So I created an event to bring them together to help aspiring voice actors reach their goals and the defy the odds to put a little town like Fort Myers on the national map of conferences, and it did.

JMC: For two years the event was in Fort Myers, Florida. Why have you brought it to LA this year?

Randy: This past August, my husband of 32 years and I sold our Florida home and have moved back to Los Angeles. The 3rd Annual VO Mastery Event follows in tow and is an opportunity for me to tap the shoulders of my superstar Animation heroes and ask them to come spend a day in Studio City, to generously share how they do what they do.

JMC: There are more and more VO conferences these days. What makes VO Mastery unique?

Randy: I am so blessed to have had the career that I do. After 24 years as a Voice Over Actor and Announcer I have experienced the extreme highs of working at the very top of the industry, as have many of my friends who participate in this event that always has limited seating. At VOMastery our goal is not to be the biggest event where we run the risk of losing personal touch. Every VOMastery event offers a boutique, intimate and welcoming atmosphere which absolutely sets us apart from other voiceover events. Even our venue selection is part of our one-of-a-kind formula that makes our event different. Were in the business of telling stories and, we seek to gather in a places that offer a unique story and history.

JMC: Tell us about this year's venue.

Randy: The Sportsmens Lodge is a famous and premier landmark in Los Angeles. More than just any other hotel in Studio City, its doors have been no stranger to Hollywoods Classic and most iconic stars like Katherine Hepburn and Clark Gable. When my husband and I first moved to LA, and becoming regular visitors thereafter we relocated to FL, we would always stay at this family oriented hotel. The BEST perk to me is without Valet, self-parking is free. In LA, being able to park at a hotel ALL-DAY for free is unheard of. For the main event we are using both of the their hotel meeting rooms and providing breakfast, lunch and a ticket to the rocked out networking cocktail party from 6-9PM. Melissa Disney is singing a few songs, and we are putting together a House Band for the party that begins in the Zen Garden which is beautiful and an incredible way to end the day.

 JMC: For those who have attended VO Mastery before, what will be the same this year, and what will change?

Randy: Every year is different, but the thread that runs through every VO Mastery event is that you will come out of this experience inspired, informed, educated and  enlightened by the fact that we are a community coming together to raise the standards and stakes to ultimately become better, more successful and influential within the world of voice over.

 JMC: Can you share any stories with us of how VO Mastery has impacted an attendee's life or career?

Randy: First of all, it has impacted my career because I feel so much more connected to the work and the folks who do the work. For those who come with their hearts open and their dreams of success we do not disappoint. I have seen voice actors from small towns across America who arrive as I just described but leave with the very clear message that they can succeed in this amazing and fun business. I have honestly lost count keeping track of the lives I have witnessed changed. The most recent is an attendee whos name I will keep private, was homeless. After dedicating many coaching hours  to this individual, years later it was a priceless overwhelming feeling to hug this person and to hear their life turn around because of the opportunity I was fortunate enough to give. Paying it forward through education is the greatest reward of what I love to do.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

An Interview With Brenda Robinson, 2015 SOVAS Academic Scholarship Recipient

The 2016 Voice Arts Awards, ( http://sovas.org/home-vaa/,) preceded by the That's Voiceover Career Expo, (http://thatsvoiceover.com/,) are just around the corner. These November staples of the voiceover industry social calendar, conceived and brilliantly managed by Rudy Gaskins and Joan Baker, who founded the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences, offer all members of the voiceover community the opportunity to both learn from industry luminaries, and celebrate the business that is so near to all of our hearts.

In 2015, The Society of Voice Arts and Sciences introduced the first SOVAS Academic Scholarship, (http://sovas.org/sovas-scholarship/,) which I had the honor of sponsoring. This year, the scholarship has grown in content and support, and the opportunities for career advancement provided by the package of training, equipment, and access being offered is second to none.

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the scholarship with 2015 recipient Brenda Robinson. Here are some excerpts from that interview:


Tell me about your background in voiceover, and where you were in your career when you won the SOVAS Academic Scholarship.


I was involved in the film industry in Utah off and on for years, first doing background, then auditioning for minor parts and commercials. Later, after starting voice over, I joined Utah Women in Film and started learning a little more about film-making behind the scenes. I also sing, and have studied Broadway, opera and pop. Voiceover was something I was intrigued by, and it was just the love of being creative and acting but being somewhat anonymous that made me want to dive in. I worked with a coach on and off for about two years before I made my first commercial demo almost 8 years ago, and I have been working at it ever since, doing a few various spots, from E -books to some corporate narration, commercial work for web and TV, to recently working with a childrens' author in the UK narrating one of his stories. There will be more collaborating to come. There’s been a lot of learning, sometimes through the school of hard knocks, along the way.


How did you first hear about That's Voiceover?


I met Joan Baker two years ago at VOICE 2014, which was produced by Penny Abshire and James Alburger. She won the Humanitarian Award. Afterward, when everyone was dancing, I started talking to Joan as we were dancing and I mentioned that Rudy was already a Facebook friend of mine, and then she and I connected on Facebook. After that I started taking notice more about That’s Voiceover, and I knew I just had to attend last year.


What were your thoughts when you were announced as the winner of the scholarship? There was no formal application process in 2015. Was it a surprise?


I had absolutely no idea it existed, and yet even though I didn’t know anything when you, (J. Michael,) started talking and got ready to announce it, a feeling came over me that my name would be called; Yet it was all in one moment and very surreal. More than anything, I felt humbled and so grateful to have been chosen. That has meant as much or maybe more to me than even the financial aspects, but of course that helps too. It was great to be the recipient of such fantastic opportunities, and to be given this gift. Many VO friends I was sitting by kept telling me to run up to the stage, and although I remember some of what happened, much of it is a blur.


What did you enjoy about That's Voiceover in 2015?


I enjoyed the chance to mingle with other voice artists, or those looking to get into the business, and to hone my craft and learn more from some of the best in the business, like you, JMC, Joan and others. I love how the voice community in general is so giving and I feel there is less ego involved than in some other forms of acting and entertainment. I really like the opportunities it gives us to audition for big jobs like the Channel 2 news and the Speed Dating with agents, as well as attending the awards themselves, which are such a wonderful addition to the entertainment industry by honoring voice artists.


How has the scholarship helped you advance your voiceover career?


It has given me the confidence and more of the tools I need to take me to higher pursuits. It was great to work with Joan one on one, and I feel we have made a real connection emotionally and professionally. I took away some valuable information that I have kept and implemented regarding the auditioning process and getting out of my own way so I can soar. We have a lasting connection on both fronts. Pat Fraley has always been so genuinely kind and helpful as well, and he has such a wealth of knowledge about different aspects of the business, in addition to various genres of voice over, which when followed and practiced make a difference for the better in the audition process and when voicing anything.


What do you hope to learn at this year's That's Voiceover expo?


That by continuing on this path and working through the tough times, I will continue to hone and gain invaluable skills. Also, learning more about the business end and technology, and to grow more as a voice actor, It’s always wonderful to see so many friends I know and to make new friends in the business.