Last week, I shared All I Need To Know About Voice-overs I Learned From Star Trek, Volume 1. This post is is about the same thing, so it is Volume 2. See how that works? Keep up with me here; like all of my writing, this is pretty intellectual stuff.
There are two volumes because once I started researching well-known quotes from Star Trek, it became apparent that I could either write the longest post I had ever written (and that is saying a LOT) in order to get the best quotes in, or I could split it up into two posts. There are also only two volumes because I could have written a third and a fourth without even trying, but I have decided to have pity on you and not indulge myself further. You’re welcome. If you haven’t read the first one, please do! I will wait here until you return.
Hum dee dumm dee dummm… *checks watch*
Now that everyone has reassembled, let me preface this by reassuring you that Star Trek does indeed have a lot to do with voice-overs. Most people have overlooked it, but if you look carefully and read between the lines as I have done, it becomes obvious that many of the lessons in the show were specifically aimed at us in the voice-over community. To make it easy on you, I have taken it upon myself to reveal this hidden subtext and bring it to your attention to the betterment of all voice-over kind. Again, you’re welcome. Ready?
“Things are only impossible until they’re not.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation (TNG), When The Bough Breaks
Captain Picard is hoping to keep everyone new to VO from being discouraged and overwhelmed. If you really want to do voice-overs, then work hard, stick with it, and try not to compare yourself to people who are further along the road than you are. If you do these things, you will improve and grow over time. One day you will wake up and realize that the things you used to think were impossible are now things you do every day.
As an example, Brad Hyland says I can get my auditions—evaluation, interpretation, performance, recording, editing and all—down to about 8 minutes each. It seems impossible to me, but I will keep plugging away at it in the hopes that he and Captain Picard are right.
“Fear is the true enemy. The only enemy.” — Commander William T. Riker, TNG, The Last Outpost
Will and I have bonded over this. Well, this and bourbon. And poker. The point I am trying to make is he has fears just like the rest of us which try to keep him from being the best voice actor he can be. If you watch him, you will see that he covers for his fear with bluster, bravado and over-acting. That’s okay! The important thing is that he doesn’t let his fear stop him. It isn’t always pretty, but Riker does what he has to do. Just look at him sending those cold emails from his station on the bridge when the captain isn’t looking!
“I am pleased to see that we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.” Surak, Star Trek The Original Series (TOS), The Savage Curtain
Don’t let Surak’s typically Vulcan apparent lack of emotion about voice-overs confuse you. He is very enthusiastic on the inside. He knows that the people in the voice-over community are a garden of many delights. So many voices, so many perspectives. So many life experiences, cultures, languages, accents, shapes and sizes. How deep and varied and valuable is the treasure that is our community! Surak knows we are greater together than we are alone. Turns out, his job as ambassador for the planet Vulcan is just an excuse to travel the galaxy attending all the VO conferences!
“Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard, TNG, Inner Light
Captain Picard just keeps throwing down voice-over gems of wisdom! He knows from experience that today’s most reliable clients and the income they provide could be gone tomorrow. We are wise to seize the day, making the most of the opportunities we have, especially in marketing and auditioning. Every opportunity is precious. Did you ever wonder what the Captain is doing when he goes to his ready room? Marketing!
“You can use logic to justify almost anything. That’s its power. And its flaw.” Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager (VOY), Prime Factors
Janeway knew that logic is a tool that can be used in either a positive or negative way. When I was a child, I used to adhere to logic as my way of navigating a world I didn’t understand very well. As I matured, I learned that logic is limiting by itself. In life and in voice-over, it is only in allowing my inner feelings to come forth that I truly connect with others, whether personally or when reading a script. Logic is a fortress. Emotion is a bridge.
“If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard, TNG, Encounter at Farpoint
This guy understands a lot about voice-over, doesn’t he? Once he retires from captaining a Starship, he could easily transition into being a voice-over coach. Picard is already one of my primary mentors, so this is the attitude I try to emulate. Unless the job specifically calls for something else, I know my best bet is to be myself, sound like myself, emote like myself. If I then get rejected (not booked), so be it. At least I gave it my very best shot, and I can always be proud of that. Thanks for the great example, Cap’n P!
“Our species can only survive if we have obstacles to overcome . . . Without them to strengthen us, we will weaken and die.” Captain James T. Kirk, TOS, Metamorphosis
Kirk has obviously worked his way through many roadblocks on his way to voice-over success. Keep this in mind when you are in your next booking slump, lose a great client, or life sidetracks you from your VO dreams. Overcoming obstacles is every bit as much of our voice-over training as performance coaching is. Embrace the challenges. You aren’t receiving a foundation for your business, you are building one. Building is hard, and takes time.
“There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it’s just a matter of finding it.”–Captain Jean-Luc Picard, TNG, Attached
When Captain Picard said this, I’m pretty sure he had voice-over marketing in mind. Cold emails? Cold calls? LinkedIn? Local business groups? Who do I contact? What do I say? Where are the answers which are best for me? I don’t have all this nailed down for myself yet, but I am convinced it is a puzzle with a solution. The solution won’t be the same for everyone, but it is out there. There are some great business and marketing coaches available. Seek them out!
“They used to say that if Man was meant to fly, he’d have wings. But he did fly. He discovered he had to.” James T. Kirk, TOS, Return to Tomorrow
Kirk might be slathering on the melodrama a bit too thick, but he made me wonder how many of my peers also had people in their lives who told them to quit dreaming, be responsible, be practical, to get a real job. I am big on the idea of being responsible to those who need you to provide for them. I did it for almost all of my life and I don’t regret it. There was, however, a part of me that always wanted, no, needed to fly. To be creative. To portray. To make. To express the unique things that are me. Voice-over gives me that long-awaited opportunity. This is one of my foundational “why’s”. Sounds like it is Kirk’s too.
“In critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see.” Mr. Spock, TOS, The Tholian Web
Vulcans are not easy to read. Most people think Spock was criticizing the willful ignorance of humanity when he said this, but I am convinced he was passing on a pearl of voice-over wisdom. The truth is, we have ultimate control over our own minds. If Spock is right and we have the power to see what we want to see, that can be a great gift! I can make a deliberate choice to see the positive in a bad situation. I can choose to look at the good things that are ahead, despite the bad things I may be going through. Not to deny reality, but to focus my heart and mind on those things I can control, which will bear fruit on my VO journey. Powerful stuff, Mr. Spock!
“Now, I don’t pretend to tell you how to find happiness and love, when every day is a struggle to survive. But I do insist that you do survive, because the days and the years ahead are worth living for! ” Edith Keeler, TOS, The City on the Edge of Forever
Edith was a social worker (and probably voice talent)in New York in the 1920’s who oddly looked a lot like actress Joan Collins. She may have only appeared in one episode, but she killed it with this quote. Keep going on your voice-over journey. Keep trying. never stop learning. Sometimes the greatest triumph is just to survive. Don’t quit. The days and years ahead are worth living for.
There you have it! The voice-over wisdom secretly hidden within Star Trek and revealed here for the first time. I hope you have gained something valuable from this expose, even if it is just a smile to brighten your day.
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I love these, buddy! I think perhaps my mostest favoritest is this one:
“Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”
This phrase, of course, comes from plagiarizibg my wife’s writing and words, since she was born AFTER Star Trek but as you know those Trekkers are capable of time travel via a nifty slingshot around the sun, so, you know. My wife once said, “Everything is the past has led to now, and I’m in love with now.” BRILLIANT!!! Better than any Star Trek Cap’n, old or new.
I also love one quote that you have apparently overlooked, and so I will be filing the proper complaint with the Blogger Authorities:
“First order of business: survival.”
In Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, Dr. McCoy says “how can you think of food at a time like this???” which begets Kirk’s insightful reply. As someone who is very fond of eating – a lot – I often think of this phrase every time I stuff a custard-filled donut in my mouth. This of course has nothing to do with voiceovers, but then again I am not known for conformity. By the way “custard-filled donut” in the original Klingon is “ngaQ”, which is also one of my favorite phrases.
So live long, and prosper, my friend! And have a ngaQ on me! I hope to one day somehow gain access to your 87 original unabridged volumes of this blog series, if you’ll let me.
NgaQ is actually Klingon for “locked” or “secure”. In a military context, it can denote support. I’ll see your report to the Blogger Authorities and raise you a complaint to the Klingon High Command, Language Misuse Department.
Love the direction you’ve taken in this Jon – isn’t it amazing how our world view shifts (and boldly goes) into new territory when the lens we look at it through is VO.
Thanks for reading, Kim! I had fun with this one… right up until Lisa told me she has never seen Star Trek and I realized I may have been speaking above the heads of younger generations! She did seem to enjoy it though.