Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Behind the Mic: Dream meets reality

Rewind my crazy life just about two years ago. I was far from home and on the East coast (New York to be exact…). And I was literally living a dream. I spent a week standing behind microphones, getting my voice recorded, being coached professionally by actors and sound engineers and technicians. I was faking accents over five-star dinners with other students who had also traveled great distances for the same experience. I sat in on talks by big names in the dramatic audio industry learning techniques in sound design, script writing, and voice-over, among other things as well. It was seven full days of pure pinch-me-I’m-dreaming hysteria. Even though I was miles and miles from home, away from my life-long friends and most of my family, I just didn’t want it to end. Not ever. But I knew it would. I knew I would have to leave that dream and I didn’t know if I’d ever make it back someday. My only hope, my only chance of returning to that utopia after the plane touched down at the airport in my home-state, was making a big enough impression on the people around me while I was there, that they’d remember me. In the middle of some casting crisis they’d think to themselves, “Who was that kid with the great Scottish accent?” And boom, my portal would be open and I’d be able to return to that dreamland. So while, yes, I learned a lot and soaked in all I could, the biggest opportunity that was open to me for that week I spent at a world-class mountain house in the Hudson Valley was meeting people who could, in a way, change my life.

I wanted a career in Voice-Over, I wanted to be a Voice-Actor. People would ask me, “Voice actor? What is that? Not just an actor?” They’d tell me I was funny, and I’d tell them I’m not that pretty. Then they’d tell me I could make it, and I’d laugh and shrug. But I never thought it was me that made people laugh. It wasn’t my mannerisms or the weird way I used my hands to spell everything out. “Voice actor, huh? Okay… so, what, you act with your voice?” Because that was what made people laugh. That was my hook and line, my light bulb attracting attention. My voice and those phony accents I could switch to like flipping a light switch. So easy for me and so enchanting for those I was entertaining.

I know exactly when the bug bit me. Our family had been invited over to dine with some friends of ours. Their kids where all very nice, but apart from their two oldest, they were all quite shy. By the time we had all eaten supper, I’d only really spoken with the parents and their two oldest children, because their other kids had made themselves a little scarce. I’ve never been immensely out-going, but hamming around was always a great way for me to break the ice and somehow a lot easier than just opening a conversation and attempting to play small talk. As pivotal as this memory is, some of the details have been lost with time and I can’t remember why or how we started playing cards. I do remember that my older sister used to take a deck or two of cards with her everywhere, just tossed into her purse, so it isn’t so odd to me that in this particular memory, we were playing a game of golf (The card game - duh.). Another detail I can’t remember is why I started speaking in accent, but I did. The kids we were playing with thought it was awesome. They, like me, were accent enthusiasts and as far as they were concerned, I was really good. They kept bringing up movie titles and character names, telling me I sounded like this person or that one. And I just ate it up. As long as the laughs kept coming I kept talking in accent. And then I realized something. Little heads were poking around corners, with little faces smiling and laughing too. The laughing at the table had attracted the attention of the shy kids, and now they were involved in the conversation too.

“You should be a voice actor!” One of their older kids told me. And my mind’s jets ignited. My brain careened down a runway and blasted into the sky. A voice-actor.

After that evening, I was never the same. I wanted to be a voice-actor. Thinking back, I’d see those shy kids’ faces all lit up and happy and I’d wonder how many people I could touch like that. It was something that I loved to do, something that was somehow so natural… could I ever make a living doing that? Really?

Now, please put me on the record as believing in miracles. I’ve seen them happen. But to be realistic, I don’t see me making enough money to support myself through VO. If it does happen, I’ll be a very happy guy. But I’m not going to invest my entirety in a dream as frail as that. Still… it is something I love, so at the very least it’ll remain a hobby that I pursue. Two years ago I got a taste of what it would be like to voice act… and that experience was a dream I’ve always wanted to return to.

Last Friday I was able to live that dream again. I was sent to a studio to record lines for an audio drama. Two years ago I met a young man at that mountain house who, just like me, had dreams and aspirations. Today, he’s creating his own production company, with the goal of producing audio dramas and films. And somehow along the way, through crossed connections and friends and auditions he had my name. I forget exactly how long, but a while back he got a hold of me and asked me to audition for a character in the audio-drama project he was working on. He recently finished the script for that drama, the first for his company to produce, and sent his actors to studios to record their lines professionally. What’s funny, is I’m not playing that character in this drama.

I was scheduled to record Friday and headed to Seattle where my producer had made arrangements. It was a nice sunny day and I took Matty along as a sort of caddy. Murphy went with us too, and where Murphy goes his law follows, so basically everything that could go wrong did. When the session ended, Matty and I left the studio, but no more than ten minutes into our drive and my producer called me, informing me as politely as he could that the session was utterly bombed. He said he’d asked the studio when we’d be able to re-schedule a session and they’d offered Sunday. I told him I’d be available after church, and he made the appointment. So Sunday would be our chance to amend the nightmare that Friday had turned out to be. I stressed out up until the recording session, at which point I mellowed out long enough to record all my lines. My producer reviewed the recordings and told me I’d topped his expectations and that was that. Riding home was heavenly. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of victory. The experience had been stressful at times, sure. But over-all it had just been incredibly fun.

I don’t have a date as to when the production will be released, or even finished. I just have to sit back and let my producer do his thing. But even now, it’s so crazy thinking that my dream came true. I’m a voice-actor. I may not be famous, or starring in the biggest production of the year, but I’m a voice-actor. It feels so crazy thinking about it that way, but it’s true.

Two years ago, at that mountain house, one message was taught in every room. “Give everything you have to Jesus… everything… and He will bless you.” Well let me tell you… I’ve never felt more blessed.
(Big shout out to my brother for the pictures in this post.
Thanks so much, Matty, for being my personal photographer.
You rock, dude!)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A pair of knights (idiots)...

So... when I'm not writing, or drawing, or studying, or blogging, or working...

What do I choose to do? Stupid stuff like this. Matty and I were doing some chores on the property and we came across some rather long lance-like branches. Matty challenged me to a joust, and I suggested we use a couple crapped-up and rotting boards as our shields. We got distracted from our chores when we fashioned handles onto the boards and painted them with sigils and all. We felt pretty proud of ourselves and bamboozled Hannah into filming us at our joust...

We're only slightly bruised too. One of Matty's lances caught me just above the left knee, and during a sword-fighting fray I nailed his upper lip with the top edge of my shield. But all in all, we were fairly unscathed.

My sigil was a lion. Can't you tell?

After the joust and sword-fight...

Matty's sigil was supposed to be a wolf...
One of my lances pierced right through his shield...
Maybe some day we'll make full suites of armor out of crappy, old wood and actually be semi-safe while charging towards one another with long sticks. If we're still alive by then, we'll have to film that too.

... Hey! At least we didn't pull out a couple bikes and ride those at one another. We thought about it... but thought we were probably dangerous enough on foot.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The importance of friends in my life

This post is meant for my friends. Primarily the peers in my life who deal with me on a day to day, or week to week basis.

Basically, I want to encourage you. Partly because of something incredible that happened today. And partly because of recent circumstances that have just led me to feel the need to thank you in a semi-public fashion.

You guys are incredible.

The reason you’re incredible, is your surrender to Christ. Most of you have made a public profession of your faith in the living God. You believe with your whole heart that Jesus Christ selflessly laid down his life, to save you from eternal torment in hell. With some of you, I was at your baptisms, watching as you took that step of faith, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is your King, and you eagerly look forward to his return. I know your hearts, and have seen you transformed by Him from one year to the next.

But it doesn’t stop there. Your surrender gives Christ control over you and gives Him access to use you to further His Kingdom. And I see it. Recently, I’ve seen it a lot. I saw it last month, I saw it last week, and I saw it just today. A close friend of mine and I were talking about issues in our lives, and school, and things, and I looked him in the eye and told him, “God can’t use me. I’ve piddled away my time until now, I know God hasn’t turned His back on me yet, because I’ve returned to Him constantly and I still feel His presence and see Him working, but I feel useless for His kingdom. I don’t understand why He continues to waste His time on me, because I’m worthless. I’m awed, I’m thankful, I’m so fully in love with Him because He hasn’t abandoned me yet… but He’ll never be able to use me.”

But my friend looked at me, with caring, encouraging eyes and said, “I know for a fact, you’re wrong. Because I have scripture to back me.”

Doubting, I shook my head. “Show me.” I challenged, arrogance dripping from my words. Tears threatening to seep from my eyes. “Show me the verse, because I just don’t see my use.”

He read me these words from 1 Corinthians 1 :24 – 31:

“But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I’m the least. I’m worthless. I’m the last guy who’d ever get picked in the grand dodge-ball game of life. But God can still use me… and according to these verses… He is, and He has. That thought… broke me down. Jesus Christ hasn’t given up on me, and He’s even chosen to use me despite my numerous flaws. At the moment of realization, I felt an overwhelming comfort. They were the exact words I needed to hear, and God sent them, through my friend, just at the perfect time.

Recently I’ve been praying that the Lord would just let His perfect will be known to me. And in that moment, I felt Him speaking to me, showing me that when the time is right, He will reveal His will to me.

Yes, I’m thanking Christ for His perfect timing. Yes, I’m thanking Him for saving my worthless soul and using me to further His kingdom; as useless as I often feel. But I’m thanking my friends too. For humbling yourselves, and letting Jesus Christ use you. He uses you in my life so constantly. In verses shared, in thought-provoking blog posts, in heart-to-heart talks…

If He uses one as unlikely as I… then I know for a fact He uses people like you guys too. And I've been blessed to be on the receiving end of that use more times than I ever deserved.