[VA Life] Now Voice This 4!

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This year was… massively successful for me, in a lot of ways. Ways that I could never even begin to describe.

Let me tell you a little story.

I wasn’t always into using my voice. In fact, for the longest time, writing, voice acting… they were terrifying for me. I didn’t know how to accept that I had a way to express myself. And then, the year I turned fourteen, my doors got kicked in. I discovered old stories in my closet, hidden away like a treasure trove. And I discovered my love of anime… and my overwhelming desire to bring myself to life.

I wanted to use my voice, and share it with others. I never imagined that this evasive and shy girl born in Chicago, Illinois, where passions run low, and crime runs high, could stand up and try to be as creative as possible.

Today, I’m sharing part of me. And a part of others that used their voices to achieve something so much more than themselves.

I discovered “Now Voice This!” late last year for the first time, when the winter session was occurring. I believe it was during the third round. I was blown away by the entries, and incredibly thrilled when ElieMonty won the event, as I’d listened to her singing for many years prior. It seemed like a dream that people I’d admired for longer than I’d been doing voice work myself were achieving their own.

This year, I was brave enough to try. I’d had the fortune of participating in Bang Zoom’s live auditions at Anime Central. What was stopping me from trying again? I was excited. I wanted to support my friends, and to push myself outside of my box.

I didn’t make it past round one.

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Honestly, for the first few hours, I was incredibly hurt. I thought that I stood a chance, and I felt like I could have tried so much harder. I watched as my friends and those that I really looked up to progressed into round two, and I hated that I wasn’t joining them.

I was one of 900+ that didn’t move on. And then, that overwhelming fact sunk in. I was one of many, and I couldn’t let that deter me from wanting to try again next time. I wanted to believe that I had a skill in voice work. I couldn’t let myself be anything less than better for when next time comes.

The fun thing about the competition, you discover along the way your strengths, your weaknesses, and you do it just to have fun, not because you want to push others down. The VA community is one of the more… open ones that I’ve had the experience of joining. There was so much support to go around during the contest, good, bad, depressive, elated… and I’m honored to be among so many talented people. Me, the girl that was scared to speak, scared to use her own voice to stand strong.

And you know what? I had some great things come out of it for myself. Wanna know something funny? I had an idea of stepping into my normal grounds, and doing an impression as Kairi from Kingdom Hearts. But it felt too easy. Too safe. And so, I chose to scream into my microphone instead, and play as Kagura Sohma from Fruits Basket. I had someone that I’ve admired for YEARS as a VA tell me directly that he thought I did great, and that he’d love to work with me (You’re the best, Phil!)

Even more amazing, I’ve noticed my flow of voice work in terms of being cast begin to increase since I first decided to participate in NVT4! I got better. Somehow. Decently quick. And it’s scary.

There are so many words that I could put into my experience this year. And maybe next time when I compete, I’ll get further. And then I’ll write another article on it. But why tell you MY stories when you can hear more than just mine?

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I wanted to ask other competitors what they thought of this year, and I was really fortunate to have some people reach out to me with their responses! It’s amazing to hear perspective from every shade of the rounds from first all the way to the finals!

Be sure to check everyone out! I’ve linked their Twitter handles too!

Ken_Rou/Sho Otsuka: For me, being able to go all the way to the semi-finals was an extremely validating experience. I was contemplating on not joining since I was getting a bit depressed about the lack of work I was getting, but this experience has told me that, even in the eyes of professionals, I’m capable of delivering good performances. It was a lot of food for thought when making scenarios based on the prompts too. I can’t thank Chuck enough for giving us this kind of opportunity.

B-L-A-C-K: For NVT4 – Personally, I believe everyone strove for greatness at every round. Obviously, not everyone of people were gonna pass through Round 1. It stung for many, upset some – but definitely ignited more flames & passions in all the applicants to go towards their next level. Round 2 was immensely diverse in versatility. There was no shortage of ingenuity around each entry & all the avenues of support. Round 3 – definitely solidified why voice-acting is such an exquisite passion for many & really touched a lot of hearts to make the industry re-invigorated in a way not many have felt in awhile. And lastly – Round 4 was like a gigantic clash of artistry where although there was 1 official winner, I feel like every entry. Every participant. And every dreamer won this competition from each bracket – as we all are striving for higher feats in the NVT5.

Ashley N. Woods: How I thought everyone did… I was REALLY surprised at the entries this time around. I feel like the entries just keep getting better and better. It’s really cool seeing what other people come up with. You worry that maybe your idea might be too obvious, but there’s always a huge variety of ways the prompt is interpreted, and I loved every video I saw. This time, there were 24 finalists, and they were ALL amazing! I feel like there were a lot of people that didn’t make it to Round 4 that were still finalist material. Many, many people! You just aren’t really sure how the judges will respond to what you’ve created. I think we’ll see some of those people in the finalist round next time in NVT5!

How I thought I did… I also participated in NVT1, where I got to be a finalist then too, but I don’t think I could have been a finalist again this time if I hadn’t grown since then, because of the amazing quality of the entries this time. I try to do something fun but challenging to me each round. I want to learn how to do something each time if I can, or improve something I already know how to do. I’m nervous around a camera, so I usually film myself for Round 1, because that’s challenging to me. During Round 2, I challenged myself by using multiple voices, and trying voices I’d never used before. For Round 3, I got an idea for a movie, and wrote a trailer and sang in character, all of those for the first time. My Round 4 entry was really hard to do, because the ideas I was trying to convey with the writing, voice acting, sound effects, music, and perspective shifts were more complicated than anything I’ve ever tried to put together. Putting pressure on myself to do something new each time is a little stressful. You don’t have much time to put it together, and you don’t know if it’ll turn out well, but I think most people feel that way when they’re making their entries! Overall, I think my writing and editing skills improved by participating, so that’s a win to me! Etc… I love meeting new people during this contest, and getting reaquainted with people I haven’t been able to speak to in a while. Everyone is supporting each other, it doesn’t matter that we’re competing. Really you’re just trying to win against yourself anyway, doing something despite being nervous, despite the time limit to submit, despite not knowing if your idea is going to work, and putting forth your best effort.

D. Tyler Fultz: My experience w/ NVT4… I took a poll among my friends and the votes had it–I did an impression of Joseph Joestar that people seemed to really enjoy. What made me most proud was that Ben Diskin, Joseph’s English VA, actually liked it enough to play along with it. Sadly, didn’t make it past Round 2 in spite of the HUGE crunch-work I had to do in order to get it in on time (seriously, I only had 25 minutes to submit it before deadline and I finished it in 10).

HollyberryVA: NowVoiceThis! 4 for me was definitely my best one yet, and I’m pretty sure many others will say the same. The creativity and quality of the entries this time around were fantastic, the caliber just keeps getting higher! As a personal achievement, I made it all the way to the third round! This was my third time entering, and each time I’ve gotten one round further than before. Perhaps in a couple more NVT rounds I’ll claim the winner’s spot, but I’m very pleased with what I was able to accomplish. My second round entry is the one I’m most proud of, since I was able to step a bit out of my comfort zone and add in background music and sound effects, which I’d never done before.

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I’ve got one more surprise! I  was actually able to get commentary from this year’s winner, Cosmic Cosmo! She went into full details about her experience in the competition, and I’m honored to share it here!

Check out the winning entry right before you read, right here!

Well. I first heard about this contest through a few voice acting friends in a Persona 5 project when I kept hearing “NVT” over and over. and I was like. What are you all even talking about.

And then I heard it was a contest and I thought I’d join for fun too since they were doing it. I would describe myself as an amateur voice actor. I only picked it up as a hobby in late April when I signed up with Casting Call, though I have been singing forever and also been in several plays. I’m an artist especially, so I didn’t think I was going to win at all. Not when professionals who’ve been doing it for years were probably entering. Plus the fact that there were 1200 people.

I like doing kiddy voices or animal character voices best. So I first entered with a Kid Midoriya and Kid Bakugo impression of them talking back and forth, and I passed!

This was definitely a whole learning experience, testing out what would work and what wouldn’t. I’d say something I tried to keep consistent is showcasing the various voices and emotions I could express. And another thing, I always tried to keep a story element in there. I’ve always been interested in behind the scene stuff for movies where people are first making the story and storyboarding it, so I took a course on storyboarding, and I would definitely say it helped me to be more creative and even faster at getting things out.

My second entry, I drew a visual for the audio, and the third was only an animatic because I didn’t have time to color and such. But then I realized I kind of liked it as an animatic rather than one still picture. Despite winning, I would say I’m still an amateur. I’m still learning things every day.

I’d say my biggest tip is just to try your very best! That’s what I did. Especially in my last entry, I tried to express as much of myself as I could, because who knows if I’d ever get a chance like that again? I like to sing, act, draw, and think of creative stories, and so I meshed them all into one entry to present as “me.”

Every round I passed was a happy victory for me, but I think especially after round 3 when I heard I was picked top 24, that’s when I started to get spazzingly excited like I could have an actual chance of winning. I try to stay low-key, but when I watched that stream that announced the 24 and heard my name, I ran to my house to tell my family. During Round 4, I hardly ever stopped working on my entry. Even today I was working till the last minute and I was the last one to turn my entry in from the others.

We were all invited to a special zoom chat with Chuck Huber and we chatted for a bit, and even though I had made it to top 24, I felt so out of place, like a chihuahua in a group of great danes. Not that I felt bad, but I just felt everyone there had a lot more experience than me. Me and my brother were watching the stream and anytime I won a vote we jumped up in non-belief. Round vote, Full audience vote.

Then the dreaded bag pick. I actually said to some friends that I think I’d rather just not get picked and know I just wasn’t what they were looking for rather than get into the bag, knowing I was fully capable, and just lose by chance of pick. I was hiding behind a chair (lol) hoping I would be picked but knowing deep in my heart it would probably be one of the other two. So when I actually saw and heard my name called, me and my brothers were screaming and leaping and I ran to my dad and called my mom afterwards, who was watching on Facebook. And I didn’t know Chuck and the other judge were going to start talking to me, so once he asked what I felt I panicked and I was like “guys get out of my room shush! XD” and I just didn’t really have much to say.

I’m just super super shocked even still. I’m going to be studying more on voice acting because… I don’t want to disappoint them at the studio when I don’t know what I’m doing! XD

The best I can describe the way I felt and feel is that I’m in an alternate universe that I think I shouldn’t be in lol. Very excited to what comes out of this! My number 1 dream is to work behind animated films or cartoons, whether that’s voice acting or storyboarding. And so I’m just super blown away that this is actually happening!! Super thankful. Very much in disbelief. Especially because recently I’ve been kind of down wondering if my life is even going anywhere. I’m so glad I get this chance, and like everything I do, I will try my best to make something awesome come out of this!

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I’m so exceedingly proud of every single person that mustered up the courage to compete in this contest! I think that everyone did an amazing job, and I’ll continue to share my supports as much as I can!

Never stop trying. Never stop using your voice. For every single one of you, keep moving forward, live your dreams. Seek out your best you.

And let’s all get to that next step, together!

Massive thanks to Chuck Huber, Amber Lee Connors, Sound Cadence, and everyone that helped to make this competition so fun! I can’t wait to see what happens in the next one!

In the meantime… think I’m gonna rest up. Then swing right back into training myself a little more at this! Gotta prep for my next mission!

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