Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Amazeball VO Nuggets with Terry Daniel and Jeff Kafer

Terry: Kafer! Thanks for doing this, man! Doug Turkel and I chatted about VO in my last blog and I know you can do better than him. J/K! Doug rocked it and I expect the same from you! Did I really just write J/K? What’s with all of these hip abbreviated acronyms? Even my father is using LOL now. Anyway, I think we should have a cooler of Guinness brought to us before we start this thing, don’t you think?

Jeff: Guinness. Nectar of the Gods.

Terry:  Why yes it is! So, you’re an audio book guy. At least according to my research you are! I have the attention span of a Boxelder bug, so audio books are no longer a part of my forte. How do you stay focused on these? Well, when there isn't someone like me bothering you!

Jeff: Well, I’m not JUST an audiobook guy. I also do a ton of e-learning. But yeah, long form is my main focus. And audiobooks keep me the most busy simply because they are so much work. The key to doing the marathon audiobooks is to set daily goals. For example, I know that I can finish 2.5 hours of finished audio per day. If I know the audiobook is going to be 10 hours, that’s 4 days. I start on Monday, then I’ll be done on Thursday. This helps me plan out my calendar so I know exactly to-the-day when I can deliver.  So you wimped out and gave up on audiobooks. What’s the matter, Princess, couldn't handle it?

Terry: That’s Mr. Princess to you! Thanks for not being a jackass about it. I got spoiled when I started doing more and more theme park announcement type work and my ADD brain could no longer handle audio books. I would still consider narrating a fictional or sports related audio book, if it were less than 20 pages long. Lol! Do you remember when they were called “books on tape” back in the 80’s and did you own any?

Jeff: When people ask what I do and I say I narrate “audiobooks”, I often get a dumb stare. Then I’ll say “... Books on tape?” Then the lightbulb goes off and they know what I’m talking about. And then they usually go on to say how they tried one and hated it, so they gave up. That’s like saying, “I don’t like this song on the radio. I hate music!” Anyway, I digress. So what were we talking about?

Terry: Good question. What are we EVER talking about! Speaking of music, do you ever add background music in the audio book narration? I did one where the client wanted it in the epilogue but that was it.

Jeff: You only add music at the bumpers, the opening and closing credits. Unless it’s a full cast audio drama, listeners do NOT want music. It’s distracting and sets up a false, forced emotion. What works in movies, doesn't always work in audiobooks. Plus getting the rights to music can be icky. What’s “royalty-free” isn't always, depending on the distribution. Fine print.

Theme park announcements? Is there a lot of that kind of work? It would seem to me that once you record “Keep your arms inside the vehicle, you frickin’ moron”, they use it in perpetuity.

Terry: Lol! It’s very seasonal but it’s brought in some decent revenue the past couple of years. I’m not buying BMW’s with the money I make from them but it’s been a nice addition to everything else I am doing. I actually did one where I said, “Please wait for the ride to stop before exiting.” What kind of moron would jump from the ride before it stops? Well, I guess it happens! Every now and then, I’ll send my client a few phony ones like these;

     1.          “If you’re going to vomit on this ride, please aim it at someone you don’t like.”
     2.          “Ladies and Gentlemen, smoking is permitted and highly recommended at the park.”
     3.          “If you've soiled yourself on this ride, a $5000 fine will be assessed as you exit.”

So, when did you get started in this crazy business and how soon did you determine that audio books were going to be your niche?

Jeff: I always wanted to do audiobooks. That’s actually how I got started. When I was working at Microsoft, I commuted to work listening to audiobooks. I listened to many hundreds of books over the years and fell in love with it. So when I was beginning my career while still at microsoft, I did a few books. Once I left (re: got laid off), the transition to VO and audiobooks was a little less difficult than had I started from the beginning while jobless.

Now, you also do a lot of medical narration. Is that what inspired your penchant for hot nurses and pharmaceutical-grade drugs?

Terry: Who is this? What’s your operating number? Sorry, I just have to squeeze in a random Star Wars Line in wherever I can. It’s a sickness. Medical narration sort of fell in my lap uninvited. Like many others, I would rather be doing the fun stuff like TV promos and character voices but in the past few years I realized there was a trend developing in the eLearning and medical narration field. A few of my clients who use me regularly found my website online in a Google search. Another client, found me via my Facebook business page. From there, I started marketing to companies to produce medical and pharmaceutical supplies. Referrals are a plus when it comes to medical narration as well. I hope we haven’t put people to sleep. Perhaps a brief intermission is in order. Quick, what is your all time favorite 80’s hair band?

Jeff: Bon Jovi. Do they count? I know there was a lot of Aqua net used. Hey, have you ever noticed that some movies from our childhood that we thought were AWESOME just suck now as adults? I watched the Michael Keaton version of Batman a couple of days ago with my kids and it really is crappy. Kim Basinger spends 90% of the movie being thrown by either the Joker or Batman. Not exactly a strong female role, there.

Terry: Yeah, Michael Keaton wasn't exactly the scariest of Batmans! When I was in high school, I thought “The Terminator” was the greatest film of all time. Yes, it was directed by the now terrific James Cameron but man, what piece of shit that movie is! I suppose music works the same way. I thought “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III was the greatest song ever recorded and when I hear it now, it’s the cheesiest song I've ever heard.

Jeff: It’s really funny to watch cartoons from back in the day. Some of them hold up so well and others are total headscratchers, especially those that reference pop culture from 70 years ago! Speaking of amazing segues back into VO, do you do, or want to do, much character work?

Terry: And give up the entertainment value of medical narration? NEVER!! Actually, I've done some character work here and there and love it! How can you not? I’m not Mr. Cartoon voice but my stage experience has helped me with real life like characters in commercials and explainer video projects. I imagine with audio books that you do a little character work in the fiction books?

Jeff: Audiobooks feature a LOT of character work, but it’s not the over-the-top kind in animation. The tend to be more realistic characters with normal dialogue. The trick is to NOT overdo them and yet differentiate them. Your conversations in real life tend to be flat and void of much vocal theatrics (like you might hear on a soap opera) and audiobooks need to have that level of realism. Coaches like Paul Alan Ruben really teach people to pull back and flatten it out, which is the opposite of what our instinct tells us to do.

So what’s the one thing in your career you wish you had done differently? Deep question, I know, but you can handle it. I have some Kleenex if you get all weepy and nostalgic.

Terry: Great thanks. I’m weeping all over my equipment. Well, there are plenty of voiceover domains I wish I would have snatched up first! The other thing I wish I would have done differently was the way I got into voiceovers. I did it half-assed and didn't take the proper steps i.e.coaching. I wasn't getting anywhere but then I came to my senses and hired a great local coach who assisted in helping me curb by lovely MN accent, as well as my “radio announcer” delivery. As you know, that will usually kill you in this business. As we close this award winning blog, is there anything in your career you wish you had done differently? My brain is dead and I couldn't think of an original question, so I am copying yours.

Jeff:  Wow, what an original question! If I could do anything differently, I would have not made a demo so quickly. My first demo was TRASH. When I shopped it around to agencies, of course I got no nibbles. And finally ONE of the agencies said basically, “would you go listen to other demos? not only are yours mediocre, they aren’t the right length” (Mine was about 3 minutes). Plus it had this cheeseball picture of me on the label (which was a sticker, BTW). Pretty much anything that one could do wrong, I did.

Oh and that agency that gave me the advice? They put me on their roster a year later after I became a little less stupid. So in typical, blunt Kafer fashion, I give this advice: Never underestimate how much you don’t know.

Terry: Well said, my friend. Thank you for taking the time and we’ll see you at FaffCon!