Saturday, May 29, 2010

Goodbye Sweet Dennis Hopper

I have been in love with Dennis Hopper for forty or more years. From afar. My husband has known this forever. Easy Rider was the start but Apocalypse Now was the summit, the climax. And when Dennis said, with cameras around his neck, "How am I going to outer space? I can't go on a fraction! Like, what am I gonna do? I can't go to outer space on like, 3/4 or 2/8 or..." And in the same flick he said, "He says profound things like (referring to Brando's character...) the middle word in life, man, is 'if.'" Can you dig it, as they used to say in the 1960s, my hippie days?

Dennis was forever my hippie, my dangerous on-the-edge hippie and I loved him. Enjoy your new journey, Dennis. You were wiser than all of us. You died as you lived, happy and peaceful.

Bettye Zoller
May 31, 2010

Italy: Vacation Tales From Europe

Rome, Venice, and Switzerland, two long train rides, gorgeous scenery, amazing food, antiquities, moving moments in churches, museums, and so much more. A wealth of sights and sounds during our three and one-half weeks in April. Was it wonderful? Good and bad...yes, both.

First, Rome is work. Rome is hill climbing and walking for miles, hours, with nowhere to sit and rest. Rome seems to want to keep us on our feet. The occasional small park with three benches and people fighting to sit on them was a welcome relief. Bridges with hundreds of tiny steps to climb and no other way to get to the other side along with waiting for buses and taxis, incessant noise and fumes from millions of motorcycles, made Rome a chore, not a pleasure. The prices for everything were so high plus the unfavorable comparison of Euro to US Dollar made the costs astronomical. At one shop, two scoops of ice cream were the equivalent of sixteen US dollars. We walked out. Everything requires a taxi ride and the money just flew out of our wallets with every excursion outside our hotel, which, was also expensive!

We couldn't see the Sistine Chapel. It would be a six day wait to buy a ticket to get in. Never mind. We saw many other comparable sights and gorgeous antiquities. The Vatican was amazing. So big. So many buildings. St. Peter's Square was ruined by hawking vendors who chased us at times selling cheap toys and junk. Rome should try to keep the sites cleaner too. Public restrooms cost money to use and are filthy. You have to be taught how to use them and what to pay and where to insert the coins or buy the tickets. Don't wait till the last minute to find a restroom.

On to Venice: Noisy, crowded, pushing and shoving, vendors and booths. We quickly learned to leave the Grand Canal area and go inward, into the city where people live and hang their washing out. We ate at neighborhood restaurants. Delicious foods. Little cafes with house wines. We also saw the tourist shops, Gucci et. al. but passed by in favor of quaint antique shops. I bought some china to bring home. I can't say I would recommend Venice to you. It really was not worth the enormous prices.

The two train rides North through Italy and on through Switzerland to Zurich where we stayed in a lovely hotel for five days was glorious. All in all, it was a terrific trip. Next time, we will not endure the Euro and it being about 60 cents compared to the dollar. We'll go where we use francs or better, American dollars. And we've also decided we're going to keep our money and ourselves at home next year in the good old USA.

Oh please don't think Europe isn't wonderful or I'm ungrateful. I love every European journey. This is our fourth. Now, we're ready to see other parts of our wonderful earth. Perhaps a journey to Australia or Alaska or the Hawaiian Islands. Perhaps the California Wine Country. There are so many wonderful places to see. We're going to try to see and do as much as we can.

A Memorial Day Tribute to My Teachers

Do you ever remember and give thanks to your teachers and those who helped you along the way? If you can do so with your personal phonecall or email, do it now! If the person is deceased, perhaps you can write a tribute in your blog or mention names on your website in a box. Put a framed tribute on the wall in your studio listing favorite coaches and teachers. You'll think of something. do it.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I'm giving thanks to my teachers and mentors, the people who helped me along the path to my life and my career as a singer, actor, voice over talent, audio engineer, and audio producer. I also am experienced in creating jingles and worked as a lyricist and songwriter for a time, as well as a copywriter and writer (a skill I use daily). So here goes:

Josephine Borserine, my childhood drama coach in Kansas City, MO
Stanley Deacon, my singing coach for fourteen years in Kansas City, MO and at the University of Missouri at Kansas City as an undergraduate and graduate working on my first master's degree
Dr. Leroy Pogemiller at the University of Missouri at Kansas City who taught me music sight reading, opening the door to my later career as a studio jingle singer and as a performer in musicals and cabarets. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to say "thank you" to Dr. Pogemiller in person when I presented a convocation at UMKC as a returning alumnae, honored as, "The Graduate With the Most Unusual Career." That was such a wonderful reunion with friends and family in Kansas City two years ago.
My wonderful mother, a professional pianist and composer, who started me in show business at age 4, Hazel Cline Volkart. She passed away but remains always in my heart.
Verna Brackinreed, piano teacher, who gave me my skills as a pianist. Thank you.
Dr. Leonore McCroskey, University of North Texas, who, twenty years later, refreshed my keyboard skills and taught me the fine art of the harpsichord.
Tom Merriman, founder of Dallas' TM Communiations, now deceased, my employer and mentor. I was Commercial Creative Director of TM for six years and learned my producer skills there. I also was Tom's lyricist and one of his favorite singers. Thanks Tom!
Phil Kelly, a wonderful producer, composer, and the person who gave me my start in the Dallas recording studios over thirty years ago now.
Ronnie Tutt, the person who helped me begin my career in the Dallas studios as a jingle singer. He later became Elvis Presley's drummer and you can view him in the Las Vegas videos of Elvis concerts still being played on TV. Hope you read this tribute, Ronnie.
Larry Mehoberac, who later became Elvis' pianist. Thank you for helping me begin my studio career.
Hugh Lampman, legendary voice over talent and teacher. I attended his sixteen week course when first beginning in voice overs. Later, we were business partners and taught together with workshops all over the U.S. Hugh passed away in 2002.
Dave Jackson, Jackson Artists, who booked me and my jazz group wonderfully well when I was on the road as a cabaret performer for seven years.
Don LaFontaine
. I was honored to teach on the same bill with Don more than once in LA and we miss him.
Skip Frazee, legendary audio engineer, who taught me so much as I sat beside him watching as I produced sessions over the years.
Rik Hess, voice over performer and one of my assistants, for being my friend. Rik is my former student.
There are so many others I need to thank including the people at MGM Studios in Hollywood who trained me when I was a child actor there starting at age five. Thank you all.

It feels good to say "thank you." Try it. You'll like it.

Bettye Zoller
May 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What Voice Over Talents Talk About Most

Here are the topics that voice performers (voice over talents) discuss the most. The answers never are (or will be) definitive. The verdict's always 'out.' We might as well discuss 'how many angels could sit on the head of a pin' or 'how many individual M and M candies have I eaten in my lifetime so far. Anyway...just had to blog on this.

Rehash after rehash on dozens upon dozens of websites and blogs and nothing ever gets resolved. Why? Because every person and his or her voice and every person's business operation and every person's needs for an income, large to small, and every person's emotional and physical personality is unique. Thus, none of these topics which I deem to be "the most discussed" will ever be 'solved' but only discussed. There is a difference. So stop expecting answers. There are none.

Now here's my list, as I see it--the most-discussed topics voice over talents talk about:
  1. What to charge a client when the voice talent has to budget a job.
  2. Whether the online pay-to-play sites are good or bad and which site is the best one.
  3. Various voice potions and pills and folk remedies and old wives' tales one should gargle or swallow to (sometimes magically) make one's voice heal faster after damage or sound better. (Few if any of these are worth the money you spend on them. Stop abusing your voice and take better care of it and consult your ear nose throat physician more often!)
  4. How do I know if my voice is good enough to be a voice over professional?
  5. What should my voice over demo sound like?
  6. Is my current demo good, bad, or just plain awful?
  7. Why aren't I making more money at this?
  8. How can I start learning audio engineering (and be good at it in a week . . .)
  9. Why is there a buzz or knock or clang in my home recording studio?
  10. How can I get signed by agents who book me?
  11. How can I get audio book narration jobs (or movie trailer jobs, commercial jobs, any kind of job . . .) and why don't I win more auditions on the pay-to-play websites?
  12. How long will it take me to get rich?
  13. How do I know when it's time to quit this crazy endeavor?
  14. Should I study with this or that teacher or spend my money on this or that convention?
  15. How can I promote myself without spending any money on it?
  16. How can I make a demo for a very cheap price?
  17. How can I stop being depressed about my voice over career?
  18. When can I quit my day job?
  19. How do some talents make so much money and I hardly ever have a voiceover job?
  20. Why didn't I do this years before now?
Well, there it is folks. Read 'em and weep (or chuckle) and keep on keepin' on. Most people give up too soon. Stick with it. This is my 34th year as a voice over and studio singer professional and coach and I feel as if I've never worked a day in my life (except once, when I was Creative Director at a production house where we worked 24/7 with no overtime and no benefits! I resigned, but not soon enough, and went back to my freelance career as a voice, a teacher, a consultant, a recording studio owner, audio engineer, audio producer, and general all-around good broad.

All best...
Hope this helps.
Bettye Zoller

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On Mother's Day

Proud of: Making it through, educating my boys in the best schools and colleges, in summer camps, writing camps, drama lessons, piano lessons, dancing lessons, more. Sharing them with my parents who enriched them enormously. Being single mom six years before re-marrying was tough but I made it. Juggling my career and kids and especially in the middle-school through high school years. Being perceptive and caring.

Regrets: Not taking time to enjoy babyhood more but I was the sole support at that time and then divorced. I envy women I see pushing baby carriages slowly and shopping. I envy women in parks watching children swing and play. I was at work. I regret not understanding teenagers more. I know now what I did wrong when my boys were becoming men. I should have understood their changing. Instead, I resented their growing apart and leaving home. It was time. They did what they needed to do. All mothers look back with regret. People tell me I did the best job I knew how. I hope that's true.

Happy Mom's Day Everybody.

Why We Network and How!

Networking is vital to everyone's business. I'm in the voice business. I also own and operate a recording studio and invite new audio projects to come to me. So how do I get the word out? First, what does NOT work for me: Print advertisements. Went nowhere. Online advertisements: Now and then get results. Often, nothing happens. Banners on sites: No way to measure. Not sure they do me good. Blogging: Too soon to tell. But I surely enjoy writing. Always have been a writer at heart. Online e-mail groups etc: They are good. Twitter and FB: Probably good for me. Hard to assess. Name recognition probably improves. Linked-In and other business sites: Only so-so thus far. Yesterday, someone told me I'm not using Linked-In the right way so I'll be investigating that. Getting every mention possible online is always a good thing. Even disputes and trivial debates seem to up one's rating in the polls of popularity. Networking where I live is very vital. Don't forget there is a real world out here, not just the online world, sitting alone, typing. And if you're going through life head down on your phone and Blackberry as I see so many people doing nowadays, stop and look up now and then. When I was in Europe last month, I saw people in Rome and Venice and Zurich bent over a phone or IPAD or Blackberry etc. instead of looking at the mountains, the water, the ancient sites. Amazing!! Get real!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day Memories Young Girls Will Dig

When I had my first son in 1968 I first used cloth diapers and had a diaper service wash them and come to the apt. daily to collect old and bring new. I had no idea how much my life would smell of urine and acid. It was terrible. Get this: Pampers were brand new. Yes, it's true. They were new. A girlfriend told me about them and I was all over that in a minute. Salvation. Expensive but who cared? I should have cared. We didn't have money. But I bought them anyway. When I had the baby, no one had ultrasound. We didn't know the sex nor did we know if the baby was ok or ill or .... I used to worry whenever he didn't kick for awhile. Basically, it was the dark ages.

When my firstborn entered preschool, other women could not believe I worked. I was a studio jingle singer, voice coach, and voice over talent. Still, they were stay-at-homes. They were amazed I worked and often became upset with me because I couldn't keep a carpool schedule going or attend the preschool assigned times to clean up the classrooms or be assistant teachers as they all did. It was an experience I've never forgotten.

When I became pregnant with my second son, at that time I was a producer at a jingle advertising firm and recording studio. My boss, upon hearing the news, told me good bye in no uncertain terms.Thinking I had a steady job, I had just bought a new Buick. I'll always remember that car. It was my freedom medal. I can remember going outside to sit in it, dejected, after my boss delivered my death knell, thinking, "how am I going to pay for this?" Well I DID pay for it and I've paid for thousands of things since then and every time fear sneaks in my brain about something, I remember that old Buick. What a fabulous lesson in self-sufficiency.

I've paid to put two sons through major expensive colleges. I own my home. I have bought dozens of cars and tons of clothes and expensive cruises and vacations and jewelry and handbags and well, I am alive. I am existing. I am keeping on keeping on.

Voice overs and singing and teaching have paid the bills and continue to do so. I have the greatest gig on the planet. Self-employment is bliss.

Go for it, ya' all.

Friday, May 7, 2010

To Be Or Not To Be A Voiceover Professional

Do you get up in the morning dreaming of being a voice performer? Do you dream about it? How long has this been happening? Do you hate your day job? Are you ready for a career change? Are you retired or retiring soon and searching for a later-life job? Voice overs may be for you! If, on the other hand, you are scared of isolation, working alone, staying at home a lot, cash flow crunches, being a business owner totally responsible for your own livlihood, better think twice. Voice overs can be scary. Voice overs can be wonderful. I've known both.

Actors, singers, and other creative types tend to be more 'at home' with risk-taking. Are you? But you may have considerations that prevent this laissez-faire outlook..for example, you may want to take an expensive vacation next summer or a family wedding is in your future. You may have a new car in mind or some redecorating and want to sock away extra funds. That may mean you'd better stick with the boring job awhile longer. That's not the time to go it alone.

Pay off some bills, buy those plane tickets, grab the brass ring, and then go for it. Start your voice over business when it "feels right." To do so prematurely will mean worry and anxiety for you. Choose your launch date carefully. Then, go full speed ahead. Do not, as some of my clients do, procrastinate on making your voice over demo. Nothing can happen until you have that "killer demo and run with it."

Do not put of study with reliable teachers at good workshops. You must learn your trade...your NEW trade...voice overs. Be careful who and what you spend money on and with! There are many scams out there and teachers who really do not know enough and just need your money. There are seminars and tele-classes with far too many students to permit any personal attention whatsoever. Stay away from those! There are schemes wanting you to pay for inferior training and a demo that's no good either. Ask for personal referrals. Go to their website and find people who have been through their program before. Did they think it was worth the money? Was the teacher good? Was the demo good?

Each year, without fail, I get twenty and more clients who have been victims of schools and rip-off teachers. They need a new demo or need the bad one redone. They tell me stories of classes and other types of instruction where they only got to read copy and be critiqued one time in many lessons. They tell stories of having to travel to the East Coast to take a course that wasn't very good and they could have found better training closer to home. I know "conventions" and "trade shows" billing themselves as "great educational events." Call a spade a spade. What is the event, primarily? A big social gathering at a pricey hotel you're supposed to have fun at or a serious educational event you can truly learn from (considering the money spent)? Ask these questions.

And why should you pay money to socialize with other voice talents? It's nice, of course, but they can't hire you! They are your competition. Sure, it's nice, but what should you be spending money on first? Your website, a new demo, more publicity? Spend wisely.

That's my take for today...

All best

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Staying enthusiastic with voice over auditioning

Every time someone hears you, that's a new audition and a new opportunity. I get calls and emails from people I auditioned for or voiced for years ago, who first say, "I'm sure you won't remember me but..." They are correct in that assumption. I don't. Next, they tell me of an audition or job I voiced for them long ago. They have something new for me to do. Good! That's the way things happen in this business. Sometimes, it is not the person for whom I auditioned, but rather, a person that person referred to me. Six degrees of separation. Yes, word of mouth is always best. So when your enthusiasm lags about auditioning, just remember that's advertising, that's your best source of work. Stick with it. Think of others in other fields of work...the salesperson in a store, the person hoping to sell a music album or a painting. Some sell, some don't, but they have to try. So do you. And what's are plying your trade, practicing your craft. Every time you audition, you learn something new. Go for it!

Venice Let Me Down

Just returned from trip to Rome, Venice, many areas of Switzerland ending in Zurich for five days. Total trip over three weeks. I expected Rome to be noisy and polluted and it was. The motorcycles of all sizes were horrible, so loud and intrusive. The antiquities we saw were awesome, of course, but many things were closed and under repair and others had waiting lists, long lines, and the Sistine Chapel, well, there was a six day wait to even get on a list. We passed. The food was fab, of course, hideously expensive, service ok but touristy. But Venice...well, my romantic ideas vanished with the first boat taking us to the Grand Canal area. Pushing, shoving, rude people everywhere fighting for a seat, elbows dangerously close to my eyes, pickpocket paradise. Vendors hawking wares all over the canal front. Prices in the cafes unbelievable. One ice cream shop wanted 16 Euros for two scoops of ice cream in a cup. We walked out. A cup of espresso was 8 Euros. Of course, this is in the most pricey parts of the Grand Canal. The second day, we left the waterfront alone, wandering cobblestone streets to the interior where there are neighborhoods with tiny delis reminding us of New York. Romantic? no. I suggest visiting elsewhere rather than have your romantic dream of eternal Venice trashed.

New Way to Raise Money ONLINE! Dig This!

A music student, age 23, wanted to duplicate 1000 CDs of her new music album. She needed the funds to do it. She stumbled on the site "KICKSARTER," a year-old fund-raising site. It connects creative people in the arts and other areas with people willing to donate money, small or large, in return for services or goods. The music student offered a free CD for a donation of $30, a T-Shirt included with the album for $150, and those who gave $500 received a custom song. She ended up raising $7,400 and was able to go back in a recording studio and create yet another album. The site has many stories. The bottom line is that the site does NOT release any money to a recipient until their project has been funded according to the initial request amount. Then, the site first takes five percent of the monies raised. One film maker raised over $20,000 for a film about a fictitious congressman. Stories abound. Take a look. Interesting funding scheme. Wish it had been around when I owned my audio book publishing house in the 1990s!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why I love books

I have discovered that I've been neglecting my reading. Yes, having grown up in a library behind my grandmother's house, having houses full of books my entire life, loving them all the while, I find I have neglected my love of reading, caught up in other things. The internet, my business, so many things took my attention away from books. I'm BACK. Oh yes, back, back, back. I'm in bookstores, eyes wide with wonder. I'm on Amazon ordering oodles of goodies. I'm reading for periods each day now, wild with delight. I'm back. And I love books...real books...the feel of paper in my hands, the typesetting, the photos, the smell of the ink. I love cover design and layouts. I'm in love with the way books feel in my hands. I'm back to books. I will be talking about some of my favs in this blog. Keep reading.

Why I just began blogging after so long

I have been active networking on the web for over ten years now and was on FB and Twitter long before many others. I've dragged my feet about blogging. I do lots of writing, articles, books, teaching materials, and told myself I did not have the time to blog. But now, I realize the communicative value of the blog. It's great. So here I am, everyone. I am going to be using this form of communication regularly now, not only as a voice performer and teacher, but as a person, a living person with a life. Oh yes, I forget that sometimes. I'm getting better at looking in my back garden at the birds and flowering trees before I go back into my recording studio to do more work. I'm getting better at reading some of a favorite book and having a cup of tea before returning phone calls and answering the dozens of emails every day. And then, there is the voice over auditioning, so time consuming daily, but must be done if one is a voice performer. The jobs won't happen if I don't read for them, audition for them. And then there are my steady accounts who need service...oh wow...busy busy. But here I am, making time for blogging. So I hope somebody out there reads me.

Voiceovers in Europe: My journey

Just returned from Italy and Switzerland working, touring, eating, enjoying. Fabulous but super tiring. Travel is hard, especially today. I hate airplanes. Not pleasant. Ugly. I love trains and that's the great thing about Europe. So easy, so fun, especially first class trains. And you get to see the country. Well, back to the subject...voiceovers I heard. They are similar to the U.S. in the 1960s or 1970s...the females super smiley and syrupy, glossy and super sell. The men, deep baritones at the bottom of their vocal ranges. Some were smarmy, like the old time radio guys. Interesting. But the voices, male and female, were full bodied and rich, not the voices heard too often in North America that my voice therapist friends refer to as "chirpers." Especially the females today in the U.S. really are shallow voiced, chirping, staccato, never smooth or gliding, never full toned. Have you noticed? It's a cultural oddity, this chirping. And it has carried over into voiceovers. Take a listen. You'll see.