PANDEMIC 2020: IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES……IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES….
I’ve been reading a lot during this pandemic and after going through my entire list of “must-reads” I made my way back to forgotten classics. Charles Dickens's work “A Tale of Two Cities” popped up on my Kindle feed so I gave it a re-read. Such amazing prolific poetic work. I myself love to write, and I am always in awe of those so far superior to me.
This “downtime” (if that is what you want to call it,) has made me pause and take stock of what is truly important. And I am slowly……but trust me……SURELY……understanding what is important in my life. Of course…..family (first and foremost.) Friends are important…….yes…….but I trimmed my list back in May to a very tight 3. We do that “tight” in stand up comedy. You come up with a tight 10 to perform. But during a pandemic, you come with a tight 2-5 for your life and safety (depending on whether you work outside the home, you have children, or you are taking care of elderly or sick relatives). Because you need to create pods so you can stay safe. And I even had to make a hard decision tonight. Word of advice: you have to stay aware at all times and tonight I decided to trim it back, even more, My emotional safety is just as important as my physical ssafety. I suddenly realized that this person was 100% self-serving, so that has no place in my life. Your pods should include your family and other necessary close circles you will be seeing on a regular basis, co-workers, and people that you can trust that will keep their pods tight and shut down. If you feel that a pod is not quite right…..of course…..close it up. If you feel they are not keeping your best interests at heart.......dump that pod. And find a new one to replace whatever that pod provided to your mix (love-friendship-companionship.) Honestly..life is way too short to entertain those that do not truly serve you. Feel 100% confident in moving away from a disconnected pod. And find that new amazing perfect pod. It’s out there. Trust me.
The Voice In Your Head
Last night we walked through a casino in South Lake Tahoe and low and behold I heard my voice coming out of a blackjack machine with a virtual dealer. Yes, that is my voice, and no….those are not my boobs. But it was kind of cool to see that my voice was matched with a gorgeous model. Walking back to my cabin on a beautiful summer moonlit evening I made a mental list of everywhere my voice could possibly be right now. At an ATM in Firenze, Italy (English audio instructions,) at a castle in Germany (I’m the English version of the audio tour,) emergency evacuation announcements for a train in Europe (I remember recording the announcements in my home studio in my bedroom. The client told me to read with escalating urgency as the evacuation levels increased. I always get worried about neighbors hearing me voice such jobs.) Apps, children’s learning toys, voice prompts……….you name it and I probably provided the voice for it. Sometimes when I get hired for an explainer video I will ask the client to provide a reference so I can match the energy and pacing they are looking for. More often than not they send me a YouTube reference of an explainer video that I narrated. I’m never sure if they know it’s me because voice credits are not given on that type of work. Another interesting fact: most of my clients are in Europe and Asia. For some reason, they like my voice. I have been told a few times (in broken Google-translated English,) that they chose me because I sounded the “least American.” (Whatever that means. Haha.) But send me Euros and I can sound however you want me to sound.
Voice over is actually a super cool way to earn a living. You can pretty much stay under the radar when you provide voices for non-broadcast jobs, and it is also super fun when your friends hear you on the radio or TV. But I can walk into Von’s in Burbank and no one has a clue who I am. When I was on a soap opera people would follow me around in Trader Joe’s in Studio City hoping to find out what the future held for Theresa and Luis.
I’ve also had three people call and beg me to replace the voice in the elevator at Kaiser in North Hollywood. I had to laugh because I was a little shocked the first time I went to pick up a prescription at that location so I knew what they were talking about. The voice in that elevator is a tad too sexy. I felt like I was being taken to the Bunny Ranch rather than Kaiser.
A voice-over student of mine recently asked me a question that I thought I could answer in an instant but after reading it I asked if I could have a few days to think about it. She wanted to know why I was successful in voice-over when so many people get trained, get demo reels and go nowhere. Hmmmmm……how can I answer this without offending a lot of hopefuls? I think I am successful because first and foremost…….I am an actor. And true actors know there is NO plan B. It’s acting and only acting. We can’t do anything else. So giving up is not an option. We keep going no matter what. I was chatting with a friend recently about the differences in getting to auditions in LA and San Francisco. I was telling her that in LA we have so many options for getting to the studios. If the freeways are at a standstill we just get off at the next exit and drive city streets to our destination. But in San Francisco, we are royally screwed if there is a fender bender on the bridge. The only exit is Treasure Island. My friend said “Yeah but Jan I know you. To get to an audition you would exit at Treasure Island and swim to San Francisco.” (In truth, I probably wouldn’t swim because I never get my hair wet, but I would probably rent a kayak.)
I think another component of voice over success is embracing technology. You pretty much need a degree in sound engineering. I am 100% self-taught but I do pick up tips and tricks from sound engineer friends. And we all love to talk shop. Interfaces, noise floor, gain, mics, acoustic housing………….all perfect cocktail chit chat. You absolutely have to love tinkering with digital files and if you don’t love it………you better learn how to love it fast.
Last but not least, you need to be a master marketer for your product (your voice.) Yes, it is a bit like panning for gold to uncover all of the possible production houses that can use your voice, but I was born in the land of the 49ers so panning for gold is in my DNA. I train all of my students on how to market their voice. But the drive, determination, tenacity, and consistent hard work is up to them.
Here I am in Lake Tahoe at my cabin with all of my recording equipment and I’m trying to figure out when I will get my auditions done. My daughter wants to go horseback riding, we want to walk around Camp Richardson, go grocery shopping and then probably have a cookout in our backyard. So…..I think I will record while they are out on the deck. I’ll make it work somehow. Where there is a .wav file……there is a way.
The next time you are pumping gas and your gas pump encourages you to go inside to buy a hot dog or a cup of coffee, the next time you hear your GPS telling you to “watch out, object in the road,”or the next time you hear a blood-curdling scream in your video game realize that it might be me, recording from my bedroom in Toluca Lake. Or better yet, it's one of my students recording from anywhere in the world.
New Blog Post - March 17, 2019
WHAT EXACTLY IS IGTV?
I recently launched my comedy show The Sit Down Comic tm on IGTV and while it has been well received, I would have to say the most common question I get asked is “What is IGTV?” Good question. I asked myself that same question several times over the past year and then I decided to finally look into it and now……I am an IGTV creator. As a matter of fact, IGTV is begging for content, producers, creators.
Here is the actual Wikipedia description of what IGTV is:
IGTV is a standalone vertical video application owned by Instagram made primarily for smartphones. Unlike Instagram, it allows users to upload vertical videos up to 10 minutes in length or up to 60 minutes if you are verified or popular. Wikipedia
Initial release date: June 20, 2018
Developed by: Instagram (Facebook)
Now, do you understand what IGTV is all about? A lot of people wanted to know why I shot my show in “vertical” as opposed to “horizontal.” Well, for one IGTV requires you to shoot vertically, and two, these days most people are doing everything on their phone (shopping, reading, conducting business, dating, communicating, etc.,) so why not watch TV too.
Another common question is “how do I find IGTV?” You can actually download the IGTV app or you can access it from your Instagram app. If you go to my profile @starjan you should see the IGTV button and it will take you straight to my channel. If you click the IGTV button on your home page it will take you to all the IGTV channels that are owned by the people you follow on Instagram. It will also show you what is popular and make suggestions based on your Instagram interests.
The first time I went to IGTV was by accident. I think I hit the button on Instagram because I was curious and I was instantly sent to low carb recipes, wrinkle creams, 30 day fitness challenges, and non-stop JLO (who happens to be my guru and hero. I have my headshot photoshopped onto her body on my vision board.) I realized that my experiences are based on who I follow on Instagram and probably on everything I Google.
I encourage everyone to check out this platform if you haven’t already done so and let me know what you think. Every episode of my show is under 2 minutes and I did this for a few reasons. I wanted to take on a project that I knew I could finish because I’m insanely busy but also insanely creative. Short videos seem to be the answer. And the other reason is that as we have all been told, people’s attention spans are rapidly reducing by the minute (or second.) My own attention span has always been short and I used to think I probably had ADHD but now I realize I was born way ahead of my time. I was born for one-minute videos.
So once again, check out IGTV, let me know what you think, give me feedback on The Sit Down Comic tm, and please start to create your own content. All it takes in an idea, your phone and a minute.
Blog Post-February 18, 2019
All The World’s A Track – an actress who runs
In 2013 I was invited to become a runner for the documentary A Long Run. The documentary profiled runner and founder of Runner’s World, Bob Anderson. He started running races and writing Runner’s World when he was 15 years old. For his 50th year of running, he decided to produce a documentary that featured him running 50 races in one year. 50 races for 50 years of running. Imagine that. One race per week with two weeks off. That takes up the entire year. And the dude was running half marathons, not 5Ks. I was super impressed chatting with him the first night we met at a café in Silicon Valley. He was interviewing me to possibly be profiled as a non-runner who starts running during his 50th anniversary year. I remember sitting in the coffee shop with Bob, his wife, and his adult son. They asked me “Can you run three miles?” I immediately thought to myself “Three miles? A piece of cake!!!” Three miles doesn’t sound like much until you start running. Yikes! I had no idea what I got myself into. He offered me the part and I signed on. About three weeks into the year I was quite sure I had made a horrible mistake. Whatever made me think I could run a race. I always felt like I was in fairly good shape, but wow, the minute you start running you realize how out of shape you really are. With life getting in the way every five minutes it took me the entire year to train for a 5K. My deadline to complete the project and be profiled in the documentary was his Double Run Race right at around Christmas time. I had the entire year to train and on race day I still did not feel ready. It was pouring rain, my start time was 7 am, and I had to get to Pleasanton California. Somehow I did it. Crossing the finish line was incredibly emotional and at that point, I felt hooked for life. My niece ran the race with me and she felt the same way. We were hooked so for the following year we signed up for a lot of races, eventually working our way up to several half marathons. Each year we ran a few “fun runs,” like The Color Run 5K, but we also factored in 10Ks and more half marathons. I’ll never forget the San Jose Rock & Roll Half. Coming around the corner near SAP center, seeing the finish line in the distance, and hearing the screams of several South Bay High School cheerleaders cheering me on to finish………wow. What a feeling. After running 13 miles I really needed those cheerleaders to emotionally push me to cross the finish line.
In 2018 I fell back into lazy patterns. I only signed up for one 10K to support Northern California firefighters and one 5K to raise money for our rescue dogs at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. I didn’t even really train for those races. At this point in my life I can pretty much run 3-6 miles without training. Not a good idea, but I can do it.
So…..here we are 2019. At the end of 2018, I was seriously thinking about trying to find a very special race so I would feel motivated to train. Then I met my new friend Donna. She and her husband own Surreal Brewing. (Surreal brews my favorite non-alcoholic craft beer.) www.SurrealBrewing.com I met up with her to buy a few cases of her non-alcoholic beer and we really hit it off. Later in the day, she emailed to ask me if I knew about Title Nine and their races. We both love what Title Nine stands for and I love their clothes! She said they hold a race every year called The Mermaid. They have a 10 Mile race that goes across The Golden Gate Bridge! Can you imagine how gorgeous that run will be.? They will close the bridge for several hours that morning for this race. At the risk of having every single person in Marin County hate me…..I am going to do it. Now that is something to get excited about. The race is in October. Does anyone want to run the 10 Mile with me? Donna is going to run the 5K with her little boy. So we won’t run together but we will be accountability partners for the training and we can hang out on race day. I’m going to ask her to bring a keg of her fantastic non-alcoholic craft beer!!!! I’m going to need it after running 10 miles. Donna is a cancer survivor like my son Ryan, so on race day I will be running for the health of both Donna and Ryan while running across the Golden Gate Bridge.
man·i·fes·ta·tion Dictionary result for manifestation/ˌmanəfəˈstāSH(ə)n,ˌmanəˌfesˈtāSH(ə)n/noun an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, especially a theory or an abstract idea