7?s With Rudy Gaskins
Rudy Gaskins is: a Chairman, a CEO, an Emmy Award-winning creative director, a humanitarian, and a family man. He’s a man with the gift of a great voice that he positively uses for bettering our voiceover community. And yes, we think he makes time to sleep but the jury is still out on that one. Luckily we were able to ask him a few questions about his experience and awesome organizations.
1) You have an extensive background in various fields of entertainment. In your experience, how important is the role of a VO talent in those fields? I can’t tell you how much I love this question. The “voiceover,” of course, is one of many ingredients stirred into the creative process – the collaboration. What’s key about the voiceover is the broader concept of voice. Whether you’re developing marketing, fine art or entertainment, it’s the voice of your work that you’re actively discovering and hoping to express faithfully. Whatever the medium, the creative’s goal is to provoke action, feeling, and thoughtfulness. From the inception of a project to its final presentation, the writers, producers, animators, audio engineers, etc., all have a role in faithfully portraying the authenticity of the original concept – the voice or ultimate message of the project. So what we ask of the voice actor, usually in the trimester of a project, is to tap into the project’s voice as it has evolved up until that point. And, like the other collaborators, the voice actor’s role is to join in rendering a faithful outcome, even as he or she is now evolving that outcome as a result of introducing his or her own sensibilities. The voiceover couldn’t be more important.
2) What was it like working with legends like Jonathan Demme, Brian DePalma, Milos Forman, Spike Lee, and Alan Pakula? Fun, exciting, magical, titillating, amazing, intimidating, humbling, and elevating. Spike was actually two years ahead of me back at NYU so I worked with him as a student and a professional. I worked with all these folks in the editing phases of their films. It’s all about finishing and it’s where everything comes together. Amazingly, after all the scripting, casting, staging and filming, it’s not until the editing room that you truly know what you have to work with and the director’s vision adapts accordingly. It’s not settling. It’s just the nature of the creative process and managing the unknowns. The editing phase is where the director, like a painter, finally sees all the colors available on his palette. And one of the most dependable colors on the director’s palette is voiceover. Working with head sound designers taught me how skillfully and powerfully voices can be layered into a film, through looping and general background ambience, to more fully express the story and bring the movie to life in ways that couldn’t possibly be created live on a production set. I was amazed to find that it was in fact, a whole other art form with which a director had to be well versed. Sound effects ( birds, cars, gun shots…etc.) also play a key role here, but many sound effects are human sounds and you need voice actors who are skilled at reproducing them.
3) As the current CCO of Push Creative Advertising and the former VP of creative services for Court TV, one might call you a “master brander.” What strategies go into your branding process? The best branding process begins with knowing your audience. You find the most genuine way to have them share their inner most aspirations and you listen like your life depends on it. In this way, you can give then give them the experience they’re looking for. If you’re successful, their sense of your product will be that it delivers a fulfilling experience. Branding is an action word. The needs of the audience change over time, other brands create competition, technology evolves, life circumstances change and things become obsolete. Branding suddenly turns to brand management and strategizing gets complicated. This is especially true where livelihoods or businesses are at stake. Thoughtful research into the ever-changing psyche of your audience will allow you to know their aspirations, challenges and fears and therefore allow you to speak in their voice. By the way, speaking in the voice of your audience is the primary benchmark for selecting a voice actor. Beyond the audience, the brander has to come to terms with the resources at his disposal. You can’t run down every brilliant idea that come into your mind. Every idea has a budget. Not only do you have to conceive a brand strategy that delivers on your business objectives, you have to literally design it, produce it, package it, ship it, market and advertise it. You must do all this against the same sweeping changes that impact your audience.
4) The Society of Voice Arts and Sciences (SOVAS™) has become a fixture in our world. How does the organization benefit VO talents? Ultimately, SOVAS™ is a vehicle for upward mobility. It benefits VO talents, as well as the many collaborators who actually create jobs and hire VO talent. It also allows service priders and buyers to position themselves in a favorable light in front of their constituents. SOVAS™ provides a forum and a means for setting best-in-class standards of performance, creativity and respect for the craft of voice acting and of content creation and marketing. What we all express through doing our best work is essential to being personally fulfilled as human beings. Voice acting is not just reading well or speaking in dulcet tones. Voiceover acting is a highly skilled craft that often rises to the level of artistry. If you’re not pursuing the best you can be then what are you doing? If you won’t celebrate your own life and work then who will? SOVAS™ does two key things: The first is providing education through our That’s Voiceover!™ Career Expo, where we create advanced networking engagement, interactive workshops, highly relevant presentations and motivational competitions – all in the context of real-world job creation. The second thing is acknowledgement through the Voice Arts® Awards. It’s equally important because it sets the bar for how we value ourselves and our work. It tells the world that we respect and value our abilities and it invites the world to celebrate with us. How SOVAS™ benefits the VO acting community, (including the content creators, agents and buyers) will only be fully realized when these players take ownership through full participation. SOVAS is not a product for sale. It’s a forum and an instrument for participants to exploit in every positive way. Remember, SOVAS™ is a nonprofit organization that will outlive its founders. It’s not about the founders. It belongs to the VO community through their support, participation and involvement. What I’m saying is that SOVAS™ can do as much for the VO Community as the community’s imagination and positive support does to fuel its existence.
**If you would like to attend either of these amazing events (which we totally think you should) this year, the SOVAS Career Expo or the SOVAS Voice Arts Awards, click here for tickets and use the code “benz2016” for a 15% discount off tickets to either event!!!***
5) Film actors have the Oscars, TV actors have the Emmys, and now Voice actors have The Voice Arts Awards. What is The Voice Arts Awards about? Ultimately it’s about self-respect, honor, perseverance and humility. It’s about taking ownership of what you do with your life and honoring your work. It’s about sharing the value of your work with the world and the people closest to you. It’s not about being better than the next person. It’s about being your best.
6) I see you have Honda on board as a sponsor. How did that come about? Timing was everything. The auto industry does extraordinary work when it comes to advertising and marketing, and we wanted to explore the possibility of isolating the unique approach they take in creating a voice for their brands. We first decided on the auto category at the 2015 awards show. We invited Ed Loh, Editor In Chief of Motor Trend Magazine, to announce this new category at last year’s awards gala. As it turns out, Honda is launching an incredible hydrogen-based, clean energy vehicle called the Clarity Series and it coincides with our goal to highlight the auto category. Equally important, is that we believe in clean energy and giving voice to this very important movement. In partnership with Honda, we have created the inaugural Honda Environmental Voice Award which will be presented at this year’s Gala, in honor of an individual whose championing of clean energy and environmental preservation has had a positive global impact. Honda is a leader in this regard.
7) What can we expect from this year’s award show? First, we’ve added Radio Imaging to the award categories. We also added several Japanese Categories for animation and commercials. Radio imaging will also play a role in the educational panels during That’s Voiceover!™. Honestly, we’re still figuring out a bunch of things and it’s all very exciting. This is our third year and we are fielding many requests that would outstrip our resources if we tried to fulfill them all. Attendees can count on continuing growth in our efforts to inspire dreams and success, to train and educate, to create job opportunities and to celebrate our work at the highest possible level. Perhaps the most significant additions is in a philosophical context, in that we have recognized the opportunity to go further than looking at the voice as a vehicle for art, entertainment and marketing. We are actively embracing the human voice for its power to impact the larger world by who we are and what we say. As such, and in partnership with Lonnie Ali and the Muhammad Ali Center, SOVAS™ will introduce the inaugural Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor™. This award will acknowledge an individual whose voice has impacted the world through activism, humanitarianism, self-sacrifice or all of the above.
*Bonus Question* What has been the most rewarding part of your career? The most rewarding part of my career is how it transformed into a lifelong adventure with my life partner, Joan Baker, with whom I take every step, face every challenge and choose every untraveled road. My career and my life with Joan are one in the same and everything flows from it. SOVAS™ means the world to us because it is a manifestation of our wanting to bring something good into the world that is big enough for everyone and gives everyone a voice. Just recently, we were honored by Sue Zizza, President and Co-chair of the prestigious National Audio Theatre Festivals (NATF), for the work we’re doing with SOVAS™. The presentation took place during NATF’s annual HEARNow Festival in Kansas City, MO., where they mount four days of amazing audio theater by some of the world’s most profound voice actors, narrators and sound designers. It was a totally amazing event and we can’t thank them enough for taking note of our efforts.
Rudy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rudy.gaskins.1
SOVAS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sovaas/
Rudy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rgaskins1
SOVAS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/voiceartsaward
SOVAS on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/societyvoicearts/