Film reels. Jon Gardner voice-overs, old beginnings

Walking out of my bedroom this morning, I glanced at a photo on the wall. It has been there for years so it normally wouldn’t register, but today it did, and it got me reminiscing.

The photo is of my wife and myself on our wedding day. She looks beautiful in her custom made, perfectly fitting dress. I look happy but frumpy in my four sizes too big rented tux. After my internal cringe fades, I think back to the beginning of our married life.

I will have more to say about my wedding and honeymoon in the next episode of The TL;DR Voice-Over Blog, so stay tuned. Don’t worry—it all ties into voice-over!

Memories

My wife and her family have taught me that memories are important to memorialize and review. I think this is especially true of beginnings. Photos, souvenirs, mementos, whatever it is, these things help us remember important times in our lives and serve as touchpoints to the motivations behind the choices we made. They can be educational, and have the power to help us through the tough times by reinvigorating our motivation.

Do you have things from your voice-over adventure you can look back on that refocus you and refuel your fire? Your first business plan maybe? A list of early goals? A recording from an early coaching session?

Old beginnings

Thinking about getting started as a voice talent led me to re-watching the one-on-one coaching sessions I did with J. Michael Collins a couple years ago. It wasn’t always easy to watch. In fact, it was frequently brutal. As helpful as looking back at beginnings can be, it can also be difficult.

I wasn’t a complete rookie, but I looked like a deer in the headlights, dazed and confused. Listening back, there was cringe after cringe as I listened to my seemingly endless pickups of pickups which were pickups from other pickups until there was nothing left but pickups. The times I tried valiantly to show how much I knew, only to reveal in bright shining colors how much I didn’t. And the incessant throat clearing! Oh my effing god! Now I know why my wife has threatened to divorce me if I don’t stop. I feel bad for both her and in this case, JMC.

A close look

To take full advantage of the replay, one of the things I did was to watch J. Michael very carefully whenever I was reading. He has a pretty good poker face, but watching closely I could sometimes get hints of what he was thinking. The subtle reddening of face and the bunched up neck muscles as he clenched his jaw was one clue. Hiding his face in his hands and sobbing was another. Then there were those times when he bit his tongue until there was blood dripping down his face; well, you get the picture.  As you can see, I am excellent at reading the hidden subtext of body language.

Honestly, I was impressed with J. Michael all over again. The sheer volume of knowledge and insight he shared was incredible. His patience, his understanding, his ability to just remain tolerant throughout is amazing. He never faltered from being the consummate professional that he is. I’ll never know how he kept going to the end of our sessions; I certainly wasn’t paying him enough to compensate for the experience.

Not all bad

Putting aside my internal embarrassment, I had to admit to myself there was a lot to appreciate in this backward glance. It wasn’t all bad. The basic ingredients were there, and once in a while I actually did pretty well. Looking at where I have come from and how much I have learned and grown in so short a time is reassuring. Knowing that I have grown gives me confidence I can continue.

So let me ask again, do you have things you can look back at to remind you about why you got started in voice-over in the first place? Are there written goals you can look back on to recognize how much you have accomplished, or like me, early recordings you can play to learn how far you have come?

New beginnings

Reviewing old beginnings can be a great way to begin new ones, whether it is a new year or a new phase in your voice-over career. Let your history guide you as you make new goals for the future. Take the confidence boost that come from seeing the progress you have made and apply it to learning new things and taking more performance risks. It may be difficult at times, but try to focus on the things that are right, good, and propel you forward.

Next time

Just a reminder, next time will be episode two of Old Beginnings, where I will expound on my honeymoon, Renaissance art, and why I can find beauty in where I am right now, even though it isn’t where I want to be.

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12 Responses

  1. It’s occasionally good to look back…sometimes wistfully, sometimes cringe-illy. It reminds us of how far we’ve come, or maybe of things we want to not continue doing. In my mind it is encouraging to remember where we were, compared to where we are, as long as we don’t get stuck ALWAYS looking back. The key is to mark your progress and in so doing remind ourselves that we are not yet finished and have things to look forward to!

  2. I have not laughed this hard in a while! The descriptions of JMC losing it while you read were pure heavenly perfection. At one point didn’t he actually turn into a real live lobster and try to claw you? And wasn’t it at that point that you slathered him in butter and ate him? I do not recall how this coaching episode ended but I haven’t seen him in person for a while so I suspect you ate him and the imagery I see online of him is simply body-doubles. Please verify. And no more cringing! I thought you looked like a stallion in your suit. I was there. You just never saw me.

    Sincerely,
    Former Wedding Videographer & Stalker

    • I cannot confirm or deny whether I have eaten any unnamed person who lives in Luxembourg in crustacean form.

      You are correct, I did look like a stallion at my wedding. A stallion in an overlarge tux, but a stallion none the less. Curious; I did not know you were at my wedding. Next time I replay my memories from that day I will look for you.

  3. Thank you! I’m going to go back and listen to my first 1 on 1 with Penny Rawlins and listen. I know I asked whether she would recommend me as a VO! and I remember her sputtering when I said I had learnt “dont bore your mentor!”

    • Ha ha! I really liked Penny (I suppose I still do!). She was the first pro voice actor to tell me that I was ready “to put myself out there”. Very kind and gentle, but not afraid to push.

  4. Great post (great imagery, too!), Jon! So funny the timing of my reading this…just prior, my friend asked me if I had ever done any disclaimers, and I told her I had – once – my first month into auditioning. That caused me to go back and listen to it again, now 14 months later. I couldn’t believe I thought it was good enough to submit. The read, itself, was not too bad, but I had ZERO daw skills and no-doubt didn’t even know what a noise floor was at that point. Talk about cringe-worthy! So yes, looking back gives great perspective on how far we’ve come. I’m less than 2 years in and realize now how much there still is to learn.

  5. I’m going to need to muster up the courage to listen to some older things from my VO Journey. At least if I’ve made progress, I’ll be able to cringe over it all! Can’t wait to see the next chapter you write!!

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