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Sunday, March 02, 2008

On voice acting and pole dancing

A week ago, I was at the Game Developers Conference, which turned out to create multiple unexpected opportunities on the acting front.

Now that I'm formally in the video game industry, the weeks up to, during, and after GDC have been a new level of insane as I transition from outside-in hobbyist to lifestyle professional.

And it's been really, really good on the acting front.

A quick summary of acting-related events in and around GDC:

Voice Acting:

My company did a tech demo for this year's GDC that is, in essence, a mini level of an on-rails shooter game. There is a lot of voice over, which I stayed out of even though I'm (A) a professional voice actor, and (B) know the audio house in LA to whom we subcontracted for the voice over work.

This about drove me insane to not be involved. In some ways it should have been a lock for me to exploit the opportunity to get my voices all over the project. But I made a professional decision to stay out of the way, avoid any conflict of interest issues, and support the teams in my official capacities to make the project successful (which it was -- beyond expectations).

Soooo hard.

But, I was inadvertently rewarded when -- the Friday before GDC -- the team wanted a voice over intro for the game. With no time to ramp up the contract house, I grabbed my home recording equipment and put down a track (after spending way too much time trying to find an XLR cable, since mine are in storage, Chapel Hill is no Austin, and it took our phenomenal office admin Brady to save the day and chase down a cable).

The game is an homage to video games and 1950s B-movie horror flicks, titled "Forbidden Terror on Space Station Z!", so my voice over is cheese ball, AM-style schlock (I even compressed it a bit so it had the AM-radio crackle vibe), and a lot of fun. You'll be hearing it soon in various places, and I'll put a version on the site here, too.

I also was able to provide reference audio for a little boy audio clip that -- recorded by a voice actress and missing the creep factor -- was too bright and girlish, and didn't work for its place in the game. So I edited it closer to what we wanted, and our audio contract folks were able to take the original audio and match it more closely to my reference audio.

Theater Presentations:

Part of my job as a product manager for my company is to be a public face at events like GDC, so I did about ten theater presentations over the few days of the show. I totally dig emcee gigs, so I enjoyed the chance to present to the masses and do some carnival-style barking to fill our theater when attendance was low.

I also got the chance to practice my actor listening chops in a new way. I was co-presenting with a Swedish licensee for one of the presentations, and we did the presentation differently every time. I reacted well off of him, because I knew my part cold, but listened to what he had to say, and responded accordingly (and freshly) each time. That was an unexpected opportunity to practice my madd acting skilz.

Pole Dancing:

The GDC Microsoft XNA party started out far too slowly. When this kind of thing happens, I have a tendency to work to make something happen. Sometimes that manifests in different ways.

Turns out the party venue had mini stages with brass poles on the third floor (no, I don't know why).

Regardless, since things were moving slowly on the entertainment front, a co-worker turned to me at one point and said, "I bet you won't pole dance for twenty dollars."

He then proceeded to pull out $40, then $60, at which point I stopped the bidding war, pocketed the money, strode across the dance floor (after a brief hug with the technical director of a huge entertainment company), hopped up on the stage, and shook, shimmied, and spun around the pole like the pretty, pretty man I am.

I then hopped down, handed his money back to him, and ordered a drink.

Because, sober as I was (and as much as I like money), the truth is he had me at "I bet you won't" and "pole dance". I didn't feel good taking his money.

I'd already decided I'd do it without any additional incentive.

Over think it? No. Be scared or embarrassed? Why?

"I bet you won't" to me as an actor is like saying "don't" to a two-year-old -- it goads me into action.

I'm an actor. Bring on the pole.

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