October 13th, 2020
Are you absolutely speaking or speaking absolutes?
All, Always, Any, Best, Ever, Every, Everywhere, Forever, Greatest, Never, No, None, Nothing, Only, Ultimate.
Why do we sometimes exaggerate and use words that are all encompassing? While guilty of it myself (usually when I’m debating or arguing), the level or usage of absolutes in the voice over scripts that come my way is perplexing. It makes me wonder if there is data that confirms that speaking in extremes is what resonates with listeners to convey messages, compel action, or come to resolve. Despite wanting to be the voice behind as many projects as I can deliver with high quality, I find myself passing on things written with absolutes.
Is the purpose to coerce the audience? Or should voice over tell a story and get listeners to think, feel, and understand?
Not to mention voiceover has many genres and variations and several command a conversational voiceover read over an announcer or radio type voice. Now imagine trying to deliver a more conversational voiceover while using several absolute terms. I hope you can envision how the over usage might pivot the voice-over delivery to sound like a stereotypical sales read.
What does the use of absolutes in commercials, explainers and promotions accomplish? Is anything 100% Right or Wrong? How often are absolutes truly factual?
Recently, I took a risk with a client and asked if they were ok if I take a creative license with the script. They said ok so I submitted an additional take just to see what they thought. I did share that the original script had multiple absolutes and as a result I felt that the audible delivery came across tone deaf and condescending. I shared that my second take was an attempt to be more authentic and compelling using voiceover performance techniques and not absolute words.
This was a gamble for me because the representative I was working with was also the one who wrote the script. I have learned quickly that writers are like chefs when it comes to their VO scripts. Their view - something is wrong with us, not them if we do not like their creations.
So, what is this talk about absolutes? They are a great part of our language that helps us bring emotion and effect when speaking. Yet, I believe that absolutes should be used sparingly and respectfully. In voiceover, I believe script writing should prompt the listener to have the epiphany based on the content and an authentic voice.
I believe voice-over artists and actors should value their time and talents to share feedback that allows everyone’s brand to be represented well and accomplish the project’s goals.
Yes, we should absolutely speak and provide the best read possible by contributing our voiceover artistry. The minimal use of absolutes when voicing will strengthen the message and credibility.
October 05th, 2020
Are distractions good or bad?
The answer. It DEPENDS!
For some reason, the term distraction has a negative connotation most of the time. The poor word is a scapegoat for the lack of accountability we humans like to dodge. We are so good at blaming words for our dilemmas. Let’s face it we have distractions because we Decide to have distractions.
They can be healthy and positive. They can be unhealthy and dysfunctional. But let’s not blame or give the word distraction a bad rap. The culprit, antecedent, and catalyst is the character you see when you look in the mirror….. me, myself, and I……who makes micro and macro decisions all day, every day.
Distractions are needed. Yet, we seem to sometimes want to have guilt about them.
For me I try to assess the usefulness and benefits of my distractions based on a few things.
1.How does it make me feel? Does it make me feel good afterwards?
2.Am I confusing distraction with productivity?
3.Am I using a distraction to avoid something I need to do now or soon?
4.Am I using a distraction to not deal with reality?
5.Am I using the distraction to escape or grow? (Both can be good btw)
6.Have my distractions become an addiction?
I honestly feel that if we unapologetically lean into our healthy distractions, we will find that distractions are not the enemy. Do you need a distraction? #AWVO out
September 10th, 2020
What led me to VO!
So, I have been getting this question lately and just thought I would share on my blog.
Honestly, I have always used my voice. I’ve done voice overs, speeches, MC, jingles, backup vocals, live training, videos…. you name it. However, in the early days I was not paid for them. They were always part of some initiative in corporate, for a friend, or for a friend of a friend. In my corporate jobs it was touted as part of the job or it was a way to get more exposure for a project or initiative. It was a “comes with the territory” expectation.
Likewise, despite having great paying jobs, I have always had side hustles and a personal mandate that I would have multiple streams of income. Honestly, I have always been an entrepreneur. It has been my primary goal but being a polymath and a self-described Renaissance Woman, it is sometimes hard to not shift constantly between rational and experiential thinking. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/renaissance-men_b_875453
Having the ability to switch between modes of thought and the demands of the tasks is both a gift and a curse. Often, I find myself doing things that I don’t enjoy, simply because I’m good at it and I can.
Well with time comes wisdom. With wisdom comes everything. And everything comes at a price.
After decades of being thrown into everything, sitting in board rooms where my ideas are stolen, having a voice but not being heard, being ridiculed due to misogyny, patriarchy, gerontocracy, and racism, I realized that I was a H-E-N-R-Y (High Earner Not Rich Yet), but also Tired, Tired, and more Tired.
My brother and I were a singing, dancing, and narrating duo as children. We would come outside from playing and go straight to recording. Until we were older and purchased studio equipment, we would use 2 boom boxes (that term just dated me) to record ourselves, play back and record stacked tracks of harmonies, adlibs, radio imaging, announcements, etc. We set out on a path as children to use our voices and monetize our passions. But growing up in rural SC at that time did not lend itself to natural pathways into broadcast media and creative genres. So, while it was our #1 desire, it ultimately became our hobby instead of our primary plan. So, we took jobs that paid the bills but by excelling in those jobs, our passions became a pastime. Despite not abandoning our dreams entirely, we never took the risks to truly get the traction we wanted. Add love, marriage and baby carriages and you have a tsunami of responsibility that further puts your passions on the shelf.
So, what did I do? EVERYTHING. Corporate, Engineering, HR, real estate, consulting, coaching, training, singing-songwriting, music, production, etc., while trying to be a devoted wife, mommy, daughter, sister, aunt, friend. The juggling made for some interesting times and burnout. Yet when you are self-made and come from a hard-working family who had to prioritize, compromise, and sacrifice, you are wired to work like you will lose it all tomorrow. Not to mention, we live in a patriarchal society where it is socialized that women must be everything, do everything, be a superwoman.
The self-intervention point came when I took stock of more than just my bank account. Decades later I had material things but felt like that was all I had. I had no extracurricular activities anymore, I either slept an awful lot or not at all, my athletic physique was a memory in pictures (still is but I'm working on it with some great friends who hold me accountable and won't let me backslide), and I didn't want to be around people that much anymore because I was around jerks all the time. I became an introvert (although I was an extreme extrovert prior), was a shell of my former self and literally felt like I was being sucked dry of my essence. So, I started to make some changes to reclaim my happiness and Zen. I began to make discerning choices, I began to say "No", and I began to walk away from any sign of drama or people who did not value my talents, education, experiences, and perspective. I stopped worrying about the double standards that were placed on me and realized I can't outwork self-consumed, cutthroat people and cultures. Nor did I want to make that my mission to spend my valuable time and talents trying to convince people to change or prove them wrong. I began to do work that benefits me, makes me feel more whole again, and breathe life and vitality back into my lungs. I developed my list of non- negotiables and it was freeing.
However, the one thing still on my abandoned goals list was using my voice. I was still approaching it from a hobbyist lens. The pivot came when my niece and nephew started their company https://www.lovebombd.com/. I always talk to them about finding ways to diversify and start businesses. But they did it with the magnitude and force that I’d wish my brother and I had when we were younger. They devised a plan, got it up and running, and took the big risk and leap to leave their jobs before they could talk themselves out of it. Despite having a career in the field she studied in college, my niece realized very quickly that she would not be happy with the politics that hides incompetence by working for someone else. They have never looked back and have been thriving for years now. That lit a fire in me to stop playing it safe.
Even though I made my mind up to change the focus of my efforts and investment of my time, I was still straying away from my vocal passion. It wasn’t until I was proudly listening to my niece and nephew who were featured on the podcast Side Hustle School (https://sidehustleschool.com/episode/594/) that I stumbled upon an episode with voice actor Carrie Olsen (https://sidehustleschool.com/episode/923/). Funny thing is, I was doing some training for a client as part of a consulting project at the time and I was asked to convert the planned live training session I was supposed to facilitate into an e-Learning module. It was a daunting and excessive effort and I totally did not price my services appropriately. The client was happy with my work, but I was not happy because I did so much work for pennies. I knew the value of live facilitation but did not know how to price creating and voicing eLearning because for me it had always been a “comes with the territory” in my HR and corporate experience. Yet I saw glimpses of my story in Carrie’s. I looked her up and reached out to her to get involved in her Voice Over Success Intensive training (https://carrieolsenvo.com/). I have met some great people, have learned so much about the industry, and am constantly working and building my voice over business each day.
I have no regrets. Albeit painful and full of adversity, the things I have mastered and now utilize from the business and corporate world are invaluable. I can focus on my performance and am gaining new VO muscle because the business side is innate in me.
I will never dumb down or suppress my talents or thoughts again. My motto is catch up or I’ll go the path alone. I am comfortable with seeking ongoing improvements, new levels of happiness, and lifelong learning. So, in this phase of life, I am focused on exercising my creative muscle more and hopefully I will provide professional voice services in my padded room until I can’t voice no more. #AWVO out.
My AWVO Studio Lures Me To Work
As voiceover artists and actors, we obsess over our studios or recording spaces. I’m no different. Actually, I went to great lengths to not only put my professional VO studio together, but also to make it a place where I thrive and enjoy spending most of my day. Because of my background as a Corporate Executive and as an Entrepreneur who owns a few small businesses, professionalism, quality, and delighting clients is first and foremost in all that I do. I’m an “all or nothing” type of girl. I’ll forego submitting or participating in something if I can’t put my best work forward. I pride myself on having a great work ethic and being a woman of my word.
I took great care, in selecting where I would setup my #AWVO (April Watkins Voice Over) studio. In my household of four, there’s always noise, hard walking/running. and a gang of teenagers in and out. My home also has lots of windows, no carpet, and high ceilings. Not the best conditions when you’re trying to isolate sound and realize a great noise floor.
First, I thoroughly analyzed where the best place would be to set up my studio in my home. I have a home office and at first I wanted to convert that space into my studio, but it’s at the front of the house with windows and I felt even with an isolation booth it could be problematic at times. I then considered converting a walk in closet, but it was just too hot with equipment in there and has no ventilation. I considered converting the home theatre into dual purpose and thought about making it a live room setup. However, the costs to do so by adding all the proper acoustical treatments, etc., was more than I wanted to spend at the time and I don’t think my current home is my last as I plan to downsize significantly when my teenage boy, girl twins leave home. The room in the basement we use as a gym is the most central/interior room in the house, completely isolated and has no windows. It was most ideal and had a great sound floor without any booth or isolation treatments. However, my hubby, didn’t want me encroaching and detracting from that space. So, I chose the 2nd most central, interior spot in my basement (which is below grade) and not directly near any windows or doors. I have a nice little nook in the corner of my basement below the stairs that measures 45 X 65 inches with a 9 ft ceiling. I ordered the StudioBricks ONE VO Edition ISO booth and it fits so perfectly in the space.
My laptop sits outside the booth to cut down on fan and mechanical noise/interference inside the booth and I made use of a 13 inch VIZIO TV as my monitor, my IPAD mini to read and markup my scripts, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. The booth is considered a 1-2 person booth but it has a small yet effective desk (for editing, mixing, and holding my water), a boom for my microphone, an easel for scripts, lighting, and ventilation. I needed a small but comfortable chair to go inside the isolation booth. So I took a page out of the musicians playbook and purchased the Tama Ergo-Rider. It has great support, however after using it for a few weeks, I found it to be a little hard on my tush so I did purchase a gel seat cushion and it helped me keep the neat chair.
Outside of the booth I have all the studio lounge components such as great seating, TV and surround sound. I have a kitchen with access to beverages and snacks. There’s also a pool and ping pong table, a playstation, WII and a golf simulator. Lastly, I also have a reversible green/blue screen that I can use to shoot videos and add visual effects.
I’m really happy and comfortable with my space. I have a setup that lures me each day to be productive and perform at my best.
My equipment list
StudioBricks ONE VO Edition ISO isolation booth
Rode NT2-A microphone and pop filter
Apogee HypeMic (for when I travel)
Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface
Presonus Eris Studio Monitors
Adobe Audition Recording and Editing Software
Izotop audio mastering and pulg-ins software
Kaotica Eyeball (when traveling or I need extra isolation)
Tama 1st Chair Ergo-Rider Drum Throne with Backrest
ComfiLife Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion
Penta Angel Pet Training Clicker Button Clicker with Wrist Strap
Neewer Chromakey Collapsible Backdrop Collapsible Reversible Background Green/Blue
1080P Web Cam with Microphone Computer Web Camera HD USB Webcam for PC Desktop & Laptop Streaming Video Cam