Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sean Astin talks about Voiceover Acting

Sean's current profile pic on Twitter. Recording TMNT.
On Saturday, Gulf News Tabloid posted an article about Friday's press conference at the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai. In it, they selectively quoted Sean Astin's comments about voiceover acting, making it appear as if he disapproved of the craft.

A small kerfuffle arose on Twitter, with some fans and fellow voice actors appalled that Sean would make such a comment. Others rose to his defense. When Sean saw the article, he demanded an immediate retraction and apology. The quote was removed from the article. (No apology has yet been issued.)

To clear up any confusion, Sean granted an interview to Gamevoices, a web site for video game voiceover actors which is reproduced (with added images) below:

"Sean Astin talks to Gamevoices about Dubai Comic Con and Voice Acting"

Sean Astin: First, I had a blast at the Con, I hope I keep coming back as it grows...

Oddly enough, the Press Conference was one of the highlights, specifically because the Voice Over Animation discussion became a very comfortable relaxed and, more than usual, in depth sharing about the VO craft.

I actually found it really enjoyable and felt I made a cool contribution to the talk. Every Voice Performer has had the experience of someone, usually a fan, ask them if they also do any "Real" acting. It is an annoying little dynamic that exists, where we want to be gracious and yell from the rooftops Voice Over Acting IS "Real" Acting. I have always said so. My father is a hugely successful actor, teaching Drama at Johns Hopkins University and has enjoyed the craft of VO Acting immensely. This is the culture I was raised in.

I fought for years, hundreds of auditions trying to break into the VO world. It has always been a passion for me. So, to have an article put out a banner that I state otherwise was outrageous. In another time, it would be no big deal, but the VO community is very close and I have enjoyed developing relationships with lots of talented folks. The internet can be an indiscriminate ink stain, free from nuance when it comes to the reputation injuring articles. Now, as I reflect on my part of the discussion, I realize that I was using hyperbolic language to humorously make my point.

But, I began the answer by saying that VO work was the same as other acting work for me, in terms of my satisfaction and in how I value the craft. To omit the portion of the quote where I state that SOME PEOPLE might say that (now joking) VO acting is a crime...etc can only be a purposeful or incompetent act. The whole thrust of the 20 minute free flowing exchange was a celebration of the craft. That is why I demand a retraction, not just a removal...while I very much appreciate the swift removal...but also an apology. I want the apology so that I can point to it in the future when it is bound to come up again. I would hope that the report wouldn't want to injure my reputation, but it has the potential to do that. 

Gamevoices: You flew home from Dubai on Saturday night through a bit of a Twitter storm, tell us what happened, as it played out for you.

SA: A colleague of mine reached out to let me know that the story broke and that people were tweeting angrily about it. Several fans of mine rushed to my defense. I instantly began tweeting my objection to what was written. The Convention immediately took action and requested that my concerns be addressed. I think that one of the big successes coming out of the Con was the quantity of high quality press that came to cover this fast growing great event. The fact that they moved quickly to address a problem is further evidence that they are ready for the big time Fantasy Sci/Fi Fan oriented entertainment. As a guest, I feel secure knowing that they want me to have a fun, effective & fair experience.

Recording Ribbit the frog for upcoming feature film.
Gamveoices: And obviously as you've said on many occasions you love Voice work?

SA: I so do! I love that a drawing of anything can be placed in front of me, a human, an animal, a creature, inanimate objects, anything the imagination can conjure, and I can link not just my voice, but my spirit and personality and my passion for performance to it and help bring it to life. It is thrilling to sit with my children and watch them enjoy a cartoon or video game and excitedly say, Daddy that's YOU!!!

Gamevoices: A great many of your fans and fellow voice actors who have worked with you in the past came to 'defend your honour', that at least must have made you feel better.

SA: I rely so much, as we all should, on the love and affection that our friends and family show us. My fans and twitter "loyals" as I refer to them, are tireless advocates not just of the acting work I do but also the charity and political stuff I get up to. I knew that @seanastinfan [now @LindaofNote] would quickly make all pertinent data available to the twittersphere, which is an invaluable contribution to facilitating greater understanding during things like this, whether people agree, disagree or are just curious to have easy access to articles, posts, tweets etc...I really appreciate her interest in doing that. And yes, I friend once told me that reputations are hard to build and easy to lose, so it makes me feel relieved, grateful and happy that people tried to help so quickly.

Gamevoices: I guess lots of actors generally, not just voice actors will find themselves misquoted or misrepresented in the press and media, what advice do you have for them?

SA: It's funny, because I've reacted so intensely to this, which is rare if not unprecedented for me, but I advise folks not to overreact and to take everything with a grain of salt. In this instance I feel like I'm finally making a home in an industry that is rightly competitive and I want to protect it. 

That said, doing things out of anger is rarely useful, so I try to temper what I say and to whom and when... I guess the right thing to say is, do your best, create value and don't beat yourself up.

Gamevoices: You were in Dubai attending the second Comic Con meeting LOTR fans how was that?

SA: I loved meeting the fans. It felt special to be well relieved in a Muslim country. I was nervous that I might say something offensive on accident, but everyone was gracious and lovely. I would say that in Dubai I met people whose culture and religion were proud and clear. I would also say that the fans had very much in common with fans I've met all over the world. They were touched by the same humanity and affected deeply by the emotions, story and passion of the filmmakers and actors. It was wonderful to sign autographs, take pictures, share about family and answer heartfelt questions throughout!

Gamevoices: I'm guessing that LOTR was your first video game voice did you have any idea of what the experience would be like? Do you remember any of your first day?

SA: I've done lots of video games, Kingdom Hearts might be the first.  I love playing video games which I think gives me a cool place to work from when recording them.

Gamevoices: What was the last video game you voiced?

SA: I just did some TMNT VO work, both for toys & a video game. It's great because  I feel so comfortable with Raphael now that I can really have fun and mess around during the sessions.

Gamevoices: Have you ever thought to create your own video game? What would it be about?

SA: Oohhh, all I can say is, stay tuned!!! [See this!]

Recording Special Agent Oso
Gamevoices: You obviously lead a very busy life but do you get time to play video games yourself?

 SA: I love RTS games like Age of Empires, but lately it's all Mario Cart with the Kids...

Gamevoices: Is there a franchise that you'd like to appear in?

SA: Game of Thrones, maybe...

Gamevoices: What are your tips for aspiring voice actors.

SA: I would say that I know hundreds of people with GREAT Voices or who can "do" tons of voices. This is a great foundation. I would simply say that it is a genuine skill, one that takes time to hone, and that is, to recognize that the industry usually looks for a specific type of performance. Figuring out how to achieve that, and how to click seamlessly into the professional environment, not too nervous, respectful of the rhythms, when to chat, where to stand, how to listen and hear and adjust to direction, to have a "take" on a character but be willing to change instantly...these are the mechanics of starting a career. The getting of a job or agent and that kind of stuff, man I don't know it's hard as heck. But if you want it and work for can happen...

Gamevoices: Many thanks again for agreeing to do this interview.

SA: No, thank you John. I'm happy to have the chance to dig deeper. Who knows, maybe it was a blessing :-))

* Gamevoices has apologized to Sean, as have a number of his colleagues for taking the report at face value and reposting the sensationalized headlines on social media. A lesson learned for all I think.