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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Focus on the Narrative...

It's cold in Cape Cod and how the wind howls!  I stepped outside earlier today to go and see if the CVS two doors down from this house was open and had to hold the hat I borrowed from my dad on my head to keep it from getting picked up by the wind.  I was only going to seek out tissues because this head cold has forced me to consume almost every facial tissue that was in this house when we arrived yesterday.

So far, despite having the sicks still, I've had a great time.  Today was a long day of just hanging out in the house and meeting relatives from my mom's side either whom I've never met or wouldn't remember meeting.  Been awful nice to not leave the house all day except for a fruitless trip to an already closed drug store mere steps from the house.  Oh and one slightly longer walk earlier in the day before everyone arrived when it was weirdly warmer.  I think it's helped me get over this cold a little.  Even after taking last Wednesday off, I think I must've relapsed as I have been coughing and coughing and blowing my nose incessantly.

The good thing is my voice has come back up a few notes in pitch and is not squeaky despite the veritable assault of four days of non stop coughing.  The voice over gig is slated for Tuesday at 1pm and I was told in the audition notes "younger, edgier, not voice of god."  You should've heard me Thursday and Friday at work.  People would ask, when I answered the phone, "Tim?" as if I'm the only one whose voice could possibly be that low but acknowledging that something definitely wasn't right.

Yes.  It was me.  Barry White had nothing on me.  But it wouldn't have been appropriate for this read.   Well it might've worked but the point is that's not what they said they want...and after all I have the range...on a good day.  The job is an ad for a new Bourne novel called Bourne Ascendancy.  Kind of an exciting gig, really.  And I really hope I can keep getting gigs like this.  I need stuff to pad my promo demo because I really only have one job and a few solid recordings from coaching sessions that I can include on there now.   The promo demo is something that I've wanted to get rolling for quite a while...really since that first promo gig, "Scarlet," that I did in November 2012.  They've got to be the most fulfilling jobs I do.  Ask anyone who's ever watched network television sitting on the couch next to me.  Whenever a network promo or movie trailer comes on, I mimic the voice style and ham it up.  I love it.

Of course, sounding like those guys is not the only thing that gets jobs.  As my coach and I have discussed in our sessions, it's about sounding believable.  Thinking about the words and not just how my voice sounds.  You can start to obsess over it and then you forget things like properly breathing and a phrase or two could drop out at the end and you have to do a retake and things get slowed down and the director gets impatient and the whole experience can be unpleasant and then they never hire you again.  Okay, that's like, worst case scenario, but you get the idea.  Focus on the script.  Tell the story.

Focus on the script.  Tell the story.  Replace script with narrative and it's good advice for both of my endeavors.  "The Life" score is the same.  If the music is not helping to tell the story and is just there because of some convoluted obsession with canvasing the visuals with aural support, then its effectiveness could be minimal to nil.

Thankfully there's a tiny bit less pressure on the scoring because I can watch the scenes over and over, retreat for a day or so and come back to it and ask myself, "is this still working?"  It's remarkable how I've actually become dissatisfied with my first takes and wanted desperately to go back and fine tune it.  At first, they sounded great (even the director liked them) but now they sound like music playing in the background.  I know that that literally is what it is but you don't want it to sound like music playing in the background.  I'd rather people not notice my music at all until the parts where it's supposed to shine.

At any rate, my first takes now sound childish and elementary, so my second takes sound like gold now that I have a clearer idea of what I want for each scene.  The opening cue is a great example.  I had music playing from the start of the scene and it was basically a structured song with a chord progression and a melody, albeit stripped back.  Just an electric guitar with delay strumming whole note chords and my token backwards guitar melody.   The mood of the music really struck a chord (boy, I really didn't want to use that phrase just then) with the director so we moved forward with it. That cue ended up being on the cut that went to the Boston screening.  But there was something wrong with the audio channels from the dialogue track and when it got burned to DVD some of the character's lines in that scene were completely missing.  So we just had background noise and my music.  So, now all of a sudden, my music is laid bare, flaws in my performances and all.

But what was most compelling was that, on my second listen, I started to realize that a continuous musical idea was not fitting this scene.  The first thing you hear in the opening scene is music.  And once you're hearing it you can't unhear it.  So, all of the other things you're supposed to be noticing about the scene are diminished (especially when the lines of dialogue are missing).

The solution, I figured, was to strip it way back.  I tried an idea with all the audio I had already recorded.  I got rid of the strums on the delayed guitar and didn't even bring in the backwards melody until a few seconds into the scene.  The I let it fade before the main character's dialogue starts.  Then the music, as it was originally orchestrated swells up once the dialogue is done and carries us into the next scene.  This is an oversimplification of what's going on but, let's face it, I've never liked writing about what music sounds like.  Whenever I had to do it in graduate school, all attempts came across as asinine and contrived.  Program notes.  Pssht! Hated that shit.

But, I digress. Essentially, on the first pass, I got the mood right.  But it took a second pass and a mishap at the screening for me to return to it and reevaluate, attempting to also hit the mark with the music's timing and cadence.  It's all about feeling the rhythm of the scene itself and figuring out how to make the music match that rhythm.  Focus on the narrative.  Tell the story.

That's all for tonight guys.  Tomorrow I'm hanging out with my 94 year old Uncle Norman again and my dad's sister, Aunt Suzy before they drop me off in Boston for the bus ride home.  4 hours in a bus and I only have one episode of "True Detective" left.  Wish me luck.

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