The day started with a workshop in voice acting by Swasey. This was the most informative panel I’d seen all weekend (perhaps to the exclusion of the wig thing, that honestly was eye-opening) and there was so much that happened in that one hour that I don’t even know where to start.
So whatever, screw transitions. Here was something I didn’t know about matching lip flaps in dubbing: the actors aren’t necessarily watching the animation and actively trying to match up with what they see. It’s the script writers who have already done the work for them. They looked at the animation and wrote the lines such that they just will match up. As long as the director keeps tabs on how much time a line takes up, it’s going to look just fine. There’s so much more leeway with animation than live-action dubbing that it’s not as big a deal as you might think. This is me editorializing but if you’re really paying attention to anime in Japanese, you’ll notice that there are far fewer lip flaps than syllables already. But it doesn’t look unnatural or out of place, so it’s fine if the English incarnation isn’t exact either.
According to Swasey, Funimation primarily uses the “beep” method of recording lines where Sentai uses “chase”. In both methods the preceding line is played for the actor, but in one a series of beeps counts down to when the actor starts speaking. In “chase” the actor speaks immediately after the previous line ends. That sounds intrinsically more fluid and conversational, so I’m not sure what the advantage is to the “beep” method. But they must both have their merits or they wouldn’t both still be around.
The best way to make a good demo reel is to keep it short—he suggested a tight 90 seconds—and to put your best reads right at the beginning. Reminds me of a book on submitting manuscripts for publishing: wow them in the first five pages (or first 30 seconds) and you have a much better shot at getting work. Casting directors are busy, so they don’t have time for your chaff. Protip, if you have a weaker piece, stick it at the end of your demo “because they’re never going to hear it anyway”.
He stressed the importance of sounding real and genuine, no matter the context—animation, audiobooks, commercials, whatever. It’s not so much a matter of building a repertoire of characters and “voices” (we can’t all be Billy Wests, right?), but discovering the range within your own voice and polishing it. (Landa and Tipton shared very similar advice in their “Women” panel.) You’ll be a more believable voice actor if you’re just being yourself. Nobody has a voice exactly like yours, and no matter who you are, there is some director out there who “wants your voice”. You just have to seek them out. Swasey said the “work” in voice acting is just in finding a job. The job is the reward for your hard work.
After that I ducked into Ayres’ “It Gets Better” panel, which was already under way by the time Swasey’s workshop let out. I feel awful for missing half of it because it was full of very heartfelt and frankly beautiful discussion. I’m only familiar with It Gets Better as an initiative to combat suicide in LGBT teens, but what I heard focused more on mental illness and bullying in general. Ayres and a few of his friends shared stories of their own struggles with mental illness and surrounding communities that are unsupportive or just don’t understand. A very brave lady in the audience shared some stories of her own struggle with social anxiety, and how coming to conventions like this has shaped her into a more comfortable and much happier person. I definitely cried a couple times during this thing and felt really privileged to have heard these people talk about difficult times in their lives, as well as about the wonderful people who helped them through to the other side. “There are no strong people with good pasts.” But it gets better!
Sunday was my last chance to get autographs, so next was a great deal of waiting in line. Ayres ended up being late (stuck in traffic—and let me tell you, Indy drivers are no joke) so we were mostly all filtered through Swasey’s line by the time Ayres arrived. Swasey is very kind but also very professional and impersonal. But it could just be that he was sitting in Ayres’ shadow because that guy is a goddamn treasure. He made legitimate, genuine conversation with every single person who came up for an autograph. With me he was very pleased that my copy of Welcome to the NHK actually had Yamazaki (his character) on the cover, apparently some of them don’t. I was impressed to hear that he really knows his stuff about Japanese seiyū as well. He likes to watch both the original and the dub since the performers can turn the same story into very different shows. (Bleach is a great example of this. Both voice tracks are excellent; Morita and Bosch both have valid interpretations of Ichigo, but they are so distinct as to set a completely different tone for the rest of the show.) Somehow Ishida Akira came up and we kind of squeed over how the man is a god of voice acting and also still a sweet human being. Moral of the story is, Greg Ayres is a delight and absolutely go meet him if you get the chance.
To wrap up the weekend I caught the tail end of a panel on acting by Tipton, joined later by Landa. I saw mostly advice on how to polish your professional image, useful for not only entertainment but any industry. Have a good handshake, write grammatically standard emails, be polite, don’t take things personally and just keep trying, etc. Not getting a role doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad actor; it just means you weren’t right for that role. Again this echoed a theme throughout the weekend, that you have your own strengths and it’s better to submit to them rather than continually strive for something that doesn’t come naturally. Then Tipton told some rather horrifying stories about acting coaches and directors that bordered on abuse and I was like GRRL STAND UP FOR YOSELF.
There were fewer attendees than on Saturday, and I was busy with events all afternoon, so I had no downtime for people watching. But I did see my Gintama buddy again at the last panel. And you know what? He was a fucking rockstar that day too.
So like. I’m starting to see why there are people who go to tons of conventions every year. Because thinking about going back to work where no one cares about this stuff is excruciating. The convention space not only normalizes something that is niche, but constructs a whole world where it is celebrated. And yeah, that’s the point, but I mean it in a more profound sense. Even though there are regular hotel guests who are probably appalled at the insanity going on around the grounds, the fans are still allowed a comfortable space not to feel scrutinized. Because we outnumber them! There really is safety in numbers—nerds like myself are often painfully shy, and in a safe zone like this, we can all let loose and be finally ourselves, be unabashedly excited about things that we have to explain to most people around us. These people just get it. So even though I only know a handful of series really well, I loved the atmosphere and fuck yeah I’ll be doing this again. Except next time, I’m bringing friends.