I was driving home last week from a session at Technisonic, a beautiful post-production studio just west of downtown St. Louis. To be honest, I was exhausted. I had spent almost an hour-and-a half there after being hired through my agent to do a spot for TLC Laser Eye Centers. I (and my agent) thought it was a booking for a whole spot; it was not. When I arrived at the studio, there were already two people present from the company, two from the ad agency handling the account, and two people recording and directing the session. Up on this huge HD screen...was Tiger Woods. After 25 seconds of Tiger praising TLC for helping him win the Masters, and the U.S. Open, and the Colonial, and the NEC World Golf Championship, and the 3 million other tournaments he dominated last year, I was to say, "Call today for your free TLC Lasik consultation." Simple enough, right?
Uh, no. I stopped counting after reading it for the 35th time. The word "today" should be "TOO'day" and not "TUH' day". Make sure "Lasik" is pronounced with an "s" and not a "z". Pause after "today" and "for". End on an "up-note" and not a "down-note". And then there was the word "consultation". For some reason, I simply could not nail the right inflection of this word. Jeff, the very amiable and well-spoken "director" of this session kept coming in to say, "Matt, we're almost there. Give me 5 or 6 more 'takes' and we'll pop it up next to Tiger to see how it fits." Well, after more than 45 minutes, I was getting a bit agitated. Even with a pristine Neumann U87 staring me in the face, I began to lose focus on....what exactly should be focused on. Maybe I needed a Lasik procedure done on my medulla....or my larynx. Something wasn't right. But, finally, somewhere between 'take 23' of "Call today for..." and 'take 12' of "consultation", we arrived at a finished product.
But driving home, I sensed that the client wasn't happy. Hell, I wasn't happy. I didn't like the sound of the finished product. Perhaps they were tired of me reading the same :04 line repeatedly and thought to themselves, "Screw it. I have Cardinals tickets for tonight and it's almost 4:30, so let's pick one and wrap it up." Whatever the case, I was pretty drained. I've read and performed hundreds of commercials and promos, but I've never been so wasted over :04 of copy in my life. Needless to say, when I arrived home, the Raison D'Etre from Dogfish Head was, indeed, blessed relief.
As I sipped this glorious mahogany concoction (yes, it's brewed with beet sugar and green raisins!) I gave some thought to the "keeping it simple" rule...and how far we've strayed from it. I'm as guilty as the next person, of course. Here in voiceover-land, it's not uncommon for us guys and gals to traverse the galaxies in search of the secret "chain", that Holy-Grail-of-microphone-preamp-compressor-limiter satori that will make itself known so as to bring us to vocalic enlightenment. "Gosh", we mutter to ourselves, "if only I could pair up this Focusrite box with this hand-built German tube microphone. Then, I'd be rockin!" Seven or eight-thousand dollars later, we're ususally off on yet another search. It's never-ending. In reality, we should just "be who we are", I suppose. Brian Cooney, who I hear all over HGTV and ESPN and a half-dozen other cable channels, said in an email recently that he simply stopped looking for the perfect chain. He said, "This is me. This is my voice. I perform with it. I'm tired of looking for the perfect microphone and the perfect preamp. I quit trusting gear and started trusting ME."
I like that. I like that alot. I wish that after 'take 43' of the TLC session that I would have had the testicular fortitude to say "Folks, that's it. You have the best I can give you. Use one of those cuts 'cause I , too, have Cards tickets tonight. Nice meeting you. So long." But, I guess it's not in my temperment to go that route. However, it doesn't mean that things have to get so complicated. Better put, I don't have to make things so complicated. Brian is right; sooner or later, you have to trust yourself and just "go with it".
I can't even begin to fathom what must go through the head of Tiger Woods before teeing off. Perhaps I'm surmising that a whole trigonometric equation presents itself to him prior to impact, which then results in a massive 340-yard drive down the middle of the fairway. Or, maybe he just says, "hit the ball". Or maybe he doesn't say anything at all and, like Brian, "just goes with it".
Until I can be "awakened", I'll pop the top on another Raison, soothe my frazzled nerves, and continue to search eBay. Rumor has it there's a Soundelux U99 with only 6 hours left for bidding. Not that I have any money, or anything. Heck, a :04 tag doesn't pay that much.
* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com