Life Lessons from Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt


Totally dorking out after a masterclass with these amazing people.
I had the pleasure of spending much of a weekend with voice-over actors and geeky celebs Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt. If the names don't sound familiar, the voices probably do. Yuri and Tara do voice-over work, and while some of it is pretty low-key, like in commercials or internal corporate materials, some of it is pretty darn well-known. Yuri and Tara were both in Naruto's English dub. Yuri voiced Sasuke Uchiha and Tara voiced Temari. They also appear in a lot of video games, cartoons, and anime, from Ben 10: Alien Force, to Young Justice, Sunset Overdrive, Prince of Persia (the videogame that inspired the Jake Gyllenhall flick), Soulcalibur IV and V, and more.

Yuri is actually an alum from my school, The College of William and Mary, so he and Tara, his wife and all-around partner in crime were kind enough to visit Williamsburg, Virginia, teach a couple of Master Classes on Voice Acting (I'm in a Voice for Actors class!) and do a Q&A session.

After a delicious and filling breakfast with our celebrity guests.
Tara and Yuri are fantastic people-- they are incredibly hard-workers and the level of productivity they reach while still making room for fun and being real people is super motivating. They had a lot of great voice-over related pieces of advice to talk about, but they also had some really great general pieces of advice for doing life right that they shared over the weekend. If you want to learn more about voice acting from them, they have a great book out called Voice-Over Voice Acting (which they self-published, because you pretty much can't stop these two from doing anything they care about). Here are some great pieces of advice that I picked up over the weekend.

Be good to work with. The world is very competitive nowadays, with more and more people getting formal education, and the internet lowering the bar to enter most fields. On top of that, some people have got nifty advantages-- maybe it's a connection with a potential employer or client, maybe it's the cash to create a more professional (or at least, "on-brand") wardrobe, maybe it's an advanced degree or a degree from a more renowned school. It's really hard to be the absolute top dog at anything. But, as they say, "You can pay for school, but you can't buy class." When people like working with you, they'll want to work with you more. Even if they don't have a place for you at the moment, they'll think of you for other projects. Be professional and be kind. A superbly qualified asshole is not as appealing to work with as a nice, professional, well-qualified person.

A confused mind says "no." As a marketing and psychology student, this really hit home because it takes a concept we talk about a lot, "analysis paralysis" and just puts it in such a sweet, succinct little package. If you give people too many options, or if you try to tell too many stories at once, it's not going to help persuade someone to hire you. It's going to make it hard for them to know what they want from you, and that makes it more likely that they'll pass you up for a more straightforward option that doesn't require so much decision-making brain power. Know which message you want to present to a person-- which may take some research and planning-- and be the most amazing as you can be.

Don't worry about being the "right" person-- be you. Tara and Yuri talked a lot about how you don't have to be "that guy with the movie trailer voice" in order to succeed. A lot of people just want to hear the voices of normal people. There are so many different needs that need to be filled in voice-over and in many other fields, that outside of being a hard-working professional, you don't have to try to fit into a weird mold to be successful. By the same turn, don't take rejection personally-- there are so many different needs out there and you can't be right for every job. Sometimes, even 50 years of additional training wouldn't get you the job because you're not right for it... so just let it go and move on to finding a better fit.

Being "the ___ guy" is not a bad thing. 
A lot of people worry about being "typecast" or being put in a box. We, as humans, are more than just one thing, so it can be hard to deal with being thought of as just one kind of a person. But being thought of as the go-to guy or gal for a particular thing you're really good at is not actually terrible-- it means you are specialized and you're at the top of people's lists for something. And you can keep working on stuff that's outside of the box-- but sometimes working in that box garners a lot of respect and pays the bills, so you can't knock it! Being typecast can sometimes enable you to have the freedom to pursue other things.

Winners are the ones who stay in the game. There are a lot of tough businesses out there and acting certainly is one of them. But one of the reasons why success seems so elusive is because a lot of people quit. There is a horizon you're running towards, and sometimes it seems impossibly far and we quit before we get there-- but if you're the kind of person who needs to be running in that direction, toward that horizon, to be happy, go for it and know that just because others might quit, that doesn't mean that you're not moving closer to your goals or that they're impossible to reach. Sometimes it's just about being in the game long enough for investments to pay off.

Generate your own work. Keep putting stuff out there. Even if work slows down, keep doing cool stuff in your down time, whether it's working on your novel, producing web-shorts, writing a blog, rocking an etsy business, or any other side-hustle. Build your expertise, reputation, and repertoire, and don't wait around for someone the hand you the opportunity to prove yourself.

Fail often. Try something. Finish it. It might suck. Learn from it. Do it better. This is how you grow. Keeping your ideas in the hypothetical makes it impossible to really see the things that need to improve. Ideas are idealized. Move your ideas into reality, because failures are a springboard for something better. Accept failure. Embrace it as a way to become more awesome.

Whatever you want to do, there's a way to do it. Tara really emphasized the benefits of opening yourself up to learning. There are a lot of thoughts you might have and shut down immediately. Somehow it's extremely easy for us to think up a dream and then kill it by immediately tacking on a "but I can't." If someone else has done it before-- writing a book, learning an instrument, designing an app-- that means not only can it be done, but there might even be ways for you to learn from people who've done it before. And if no one has done it before? That means you can make up your own rules, and there's no wrong way to do it.

If you ever get a chance to meet these two, go for it, because they are absolutely fantastic people. I have so much respect for them and pretty much every person who came to the Q&A stayed after to talk to them and get photos-- they were just too cool for school. Totally down to earth, really funny, and driven. Definitely check out their book on voice acting if it's something you're curious about, whether it's technique or the business.

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