Netherlands

Have I Got News For You!

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Career, Dutch, Freelancing, International, Personal, Promotion, VO Atlanta 30 Comments

Paul Strikwerda

If you’re a follower of this blog you’re probably wondering why you keep seeing stories in some strange European language. Frankly, it started as a one-off thing for my Dutch friends and colleagues.

Because I’ve been away from home for twenty years, most people had no idea what had happened to me. I literally disappeared off the map when I left the Netherlands with my entire life packed up in two suitcases and a plastic bag.

Yes, people… I am one of those immigrants who came to your country in search of a better life, ready to steal your jobs and marry your women. You better watch out!

A DUTCH TREAT

Anyway, I wanted to let my fellow-Netherlanders know what I’d been up to since I left my motherland, and that’s why I started writing in Dutch. I had to talk myself into it though, because I wasn’t sure if I still had it in me. Most of my thoughts are in English, I speak English all day long, and ninety percent of what I read and write is in English. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself penning pieces in Denglish.

After my first Dutch article was published, it became clear I had no reason to be worried. Over three hundred people read the story of my exodus and liked it. I didn’t think there were even three hundred voice actors in Holland. Better still, people wanted me to keep on writing, and that’s what I did. So far, there are six chapters and there’s more to come. 

Now, here’s the thing. I have no way to ensure that my Dutch stories will only go to my Dutch subscribers. So, if English is your preferred language I hope you will do me a favor. Just ignore the blog posts in Dutch and wait for a new English story on Thursday. If you’re Dutch, you are in luck because you get two articles for the price of one!

CHANGING COURSE

With that out of the way I’d like to share some news with you. I am in the process of realigning my business with new and exciting plans that are in part based on what I am physically and mentally able to accomplish. You probably remember that the stroke I had in March of last year has forced me to seriously slow down and rethink my priorities.

My mind would love to continue as if nothing has happened, but my body disagrees. A permanent tremor in one of my vocal folds limits the time I am able to record voice-overs. My voice tires much faster, and no amount of vocal exercises has changed that. Mind you: this does not mean I can’t do any recordings.

As I speak, I am learning to do more with less. Fortunately, my clients and my agents completely understand, so they’re not sending me 600-page novels, or auditions for video games that require dying a thousand agonizing deaths.

KEEPING MY PRESENCE

Just because my vocal folds are taking a bit of a back seat doesn’t mean I have lost my voice completely. In Holland we say: “Onkruid vergaat niet,” meaning “Weeds don’t die.” I can assure you that I will continue to have a voice in our community.

At VO Atlanta (March 26 – 29, 2020), I’ll be leading a 3-hour workshop called Boosting Your Business with a Blog, and I’ll do a presentation on The Incredible Power of Language.

I am working on a second book, and I will continue to write this blog with a double dose of truthiness and snarcasm. If things go according to plan, 50% of my business is going to be devoted to content creation, 20% to speaking, and 30% to helping others succeed.

Here’s an example of that last category. Some of my Dutch colleagues want to spread their professional wings, and try their luck abroad. These folks need a tour guide who’s been there and done that.

In the coming months I’ll be coaching some of Holland’s top-tier talent and taking them to VO Atlanta. I’d like you to get to know them, and that’s why I’ll be interviewing each one of them for this blog. Stay tuned, these folks will knock your socks off!

ONLINE ACTIVITIES

All of the above means that I have to have a website that reflects this shift in focus. That’s why I am working with the splendid team at voiceactorwebsites on a complete overhaul of the Nethervoice site. According to Joe Davis who heads voiceactorwebsites, Nethervoice.com is already the number one individual voice-over site on the interweb, and I am going to strengthen that position even more.

Expect a site that truly showcases my writings, featuring a clean, sophisticated design, and a new, simpler way to subscribe. Of course it is going to load super fast and it’s 100% mobile-friendly. Because I’m pretty picky, all of this is going to take a while to accomplish, but it will be worth waiting for!

Thanks for your continued support and patience during this time of transition.

It means the world to me!

Tot de volgende keer.

Till next time!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet: Subscribe, Share & Retweet

Send to Kindle

Een Rampjaar

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Dutch, Personal Leave a comment

I’m in a bit of a pickle, and I only have myself to blame.

A few weeks ago I started blogging in Dutch, and some of my English speaking friends have been wondering why they’re receiving articles they can’t read.

Let me assure you: it’s only temporary. I just don’t have a way to send my Dutch contributions to my Dutch speaking subscribers only. There will be a new story in English each week. Just skip this post and read my article about a lucrative side hustle: emceeing live events!

ELF SEPTEMBER

Het was najaar 2001. Amerika was net opgeschrikt door de brute terroristische aanslagen op het World Trade Center en het Pentagon. Passagiers van vlucht 93 wisten nipt een aanslag op Washington, D.C. te voorkomen. Familie en vrienden uit Nederland belden me paniekerig op omdat ze gehoord hadden dat er een gekaapt vliegtuig in Pennsylvania was neergestort.

In de dagen na nine-eleven liepen opeens overal geüniformeerde mannetjes met machinegeweren rond. Ouders knuffelden elkaar en hun kinderen bij elk afscheid met hernieuwde intensiteit. De restaurants waren leeg want het voelde ongepast om lekker uit eten te gaan.

Terwijl de natie in nationale rouw was gedompeld begon ik aan een nieuw hoofdstuk in mijn carrière. Een hoofdstuk dat begon in een oud verbouwd pakhuis, vlakbij de haven van Amerika’s eerste hoofdstad, Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love.

Het was de eerste woensdag van de maand. Geen gehaktdag, maar de maandelijkse open casting call bij Mike Lemon. Ze noemen het terecht een Cattle Call, omdat de gangen van het castingbureau zwart zagen van de mensen die allemaal hun kunstjes kwamen tonen. Jongleurs, buiksprekers, hip hop dansers, coloratuur sopranen, fotomodellen…. en een verdwaalde Nederlander met een omroepverleden.

Iedereen die zich inschreef kreeg een nummer en daarna begon het lange wachten. Opgefokte ouders met jengelende kinderen gingen aan mij voorbij. Puisterige pubers warmden zich ongegeneerd op. En ik vroeg me af wat ik daar in hemelsnaam deed, zonder goocheltrucs of danspasjes.

MIJN SCREENTEST

“Mister Strick-Word-Aah?” klonk het uit een hoek. Ik werd in een donkere kamer geleid met een camera en een fel licht.

“Strick-Word-Aah, what kind of name is that?” vroeg iemand in het duister.

“It’s Dutch. I’m from Holland.”

“Poland? I though you were Dutch?” zei de stem.

“Holland as in the Netherlands,” antwoordde ik.

“Ah, the Netherlands. Why didn’t you say so? I know the Netherlands. Clogs. Tulips. Windmills. The people are very tall and everybody speaks English. I like the Netherlands!”

Hij ging verder:

“So, let’s see what you got for us today. Stand in front of the camera, state your name, and tell us about yourself.”

Na amper twee zinnen onderbrak hij me.

“You don’t sound like you’re from the Netherlands. You sound like you’re from England, but not quite… Interesting. Give me two seconds.”

Hij draaide zich om en riep “Get me Joanne.”

Twee minuten later kwam er een struise vrouw binnenlopen.

“Joanne, I want you to meet Paul. He’s from Holland. Paul, meet Joanne, our voice-over director. The two of you should talk.”

“Mike, Manoj is on the phone,” fluisterde Joanne. “He says it’s urgent.”

Manoj is de “M” in M. Night Shyamalan, de maker van The Sixth Sense (“I see dead people!”) voor wie Mike Lemon alle casting deed.

Joanne wandelde me van het donker in het licht naar een kamer die van de vloer tot aan het plafond gevuld was met cassettebandjes.

“That’s all my talent,” zei Joanne met een brede lach. “I represent over a thousand voices but I’ve never had someone from the Netherlands. What’s your story?”

Een paar koppen koffie later had ik het gevoel dat ik met een oude vriendin aan tafel zat. Joanne Joella had net als ik een radio achtergrond. Ze was adjunct professor in het theater department van een locale universiteit. Bekende en onbekende acteurs huurden haar in als stemmen- en dialect coach. Haar persoonlijkheid was wat ze hier “larger than life” noemen. Joviaal, aanstekelijk uitbundig, en lekker luidruchtig.

Die middag gingen we aan het werk met allerlei scripts. “I want to know how well you can take direction,” zei ze. “You can have the best voice in the world, but if you can’t follow instructions you’re never going to make it.”

De paar uur die ik met haar spendeerde was een masterclass in stem acteren, en pas later besefte ik dat ik ook auditie aan het doen was. De middag vloog om, en toen het tijd was om te vertrekken zei Joanne: “I think I might have something for you. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Toen ik Mike Lemon Casting verliet besefte ik dat ik opeens een echte Amerikaanse agent had.

Wow!

My first headshot

UIT DE ILLEGALITEIT

Een week later ging ik terug naar Philadelphia voor de opname van mijn eerste commercial, een radioreclame voor Hersheypark, het pretpark van een bekende chocoladefabriek. Een maand later lag er een vette cheque bij mij in de brievenbus, dik verdiend door een Hollandse kaaskop zonder werkvergunning.

Houston, we’ve got a problem. 

De snelste manier om legaal in de Verenigde Staten te kunnen werken, was om Amerikaans staatsburger te worden. Dat was alleen na 9/11 een stuk moeilijker geworden. De procedure kon jaren duren, zelfs voor iemand uit een neutraal land als Nederland.

“I see only one solution,” zei mijn partner.

“What might that be?” wilde ik weten. 

“We’ve got to get married. They can’t deny you citizenship once we’ve tied the knot.”

Eerlijk gezegd was ik nog helemaal niet aan trouwen toe. Aan de andere kant wilde ik graag voice-overs blijven opnemen. Ik was het oberen zat, en de kans die me bij Mike Lemon geboden werd was een dream come true.

“Ik wil er eerst een nachtje over slapen,” zei ik. “This is too important.”

Het werd een slapeloze nacht van wikken en wegen, van voors en van tegens. Hoe meer ik er over nadacht, hoe minder zeker ik van mijn zaak was. 

Maar toen de zon eindelijk opkwam, wist ik wat ik wilde.

En zo nam ik de beste en slechtste beslissing van m’n leven.

wordt vervolgd

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

 

Send to Kindle

Feeling Like A Fake

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Personal 31 Comments

Waterlily in Longwood Gardens. Picture credit: Paul StrikwerdaYou know me, don’t you?

I love pretty much every aspect of my job as a voice-over.

I love the variety, the challenges, the cool colleagues, and the interesting scripts.

Yet, like in any job, there are things I struggle with. Number one on that list is the fact that I sometimes feel like a fake, and it’s awful. 

Now, in this line of work there are two kinds of fake. The FUN fake, and the FRUSTRATING fake.

The FUN fake I can totally live with.

When a client asked me to record a promo for a Beatles revival show on Broadway, I was over the moon because I could use my fake British accent. When I had to play a seven-year old boy for and educational computer game, I embraced the challenge to be childish. 

You see, part of what attracts me to this work is the fact that I can play so many different characters in so many ways. Better still: I get paid for pretending to be someone else! It’s something people usually get arrested for (but when they’re really good at it, they get a shiny statuette or a star on a boulevard). 

The FRUSTRATING fake needs a little more introduction, because it’s not exclusively related to the acting part of my job.

TERRIBLE NEWS

Recently, I received some very bad news about a family member I was very close to: my dad. He lives in Holland, and I have written about him in the past, so you may remember he had two incurable diseases: Cancer and ALS. 

On January 9th my dad and I Skyped for seven minutes. He was already in a hospice, and his body was breaking down rapidly. His mind was still as sharp as a razor, but he could hardly breathe, and the pain had become unbearable. During that conversation, he told me that he had decided to die the next day, at 10:00 a.m.

Imagine hearing that from a person you love. How would you respond to that?

Many people on this planet believe that we have no right to determine the moment of our own death. It’s up to G-d, the devil, fate, or a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We don’t let our pets suffer needlessly, but when it comes to human beings, many come to an agonizing end because we confuse kindness with killing.

My dad was consistently clear about what he wanted. Should his suffering become unendurable, and there was no prospect of improvement, he saw no need to lengthen his life. “Quality is what matters,” he used to say. “Not quantity.”

I realize The Netherlands has a certain reputation when it comes to euthanasia, but that’s largely based on misinformation and ignorance. Let me assure you that Dutch law doesn’t make it easy to die with dignity. Strict guidelines need to be followed by the patient, and by medical professionals. Otherwise doctors end up in jail.

ACCEPTING THE INEVITABLE

On the morning of Saturday, January 10th, my father passed away quickly, and peacefully.

Even though I had prepared myself for that moment, it wasn’t easy to accept that he was gone. Death is devastatingly definite. What’s even harder to deal with, is that most of the rest of the world doesn’t know, and doesn’t care. It’s business as usual.

Clients keep calling. Auditions keep coming. And even though I was overcome by emotions, I had to be professional.

That’s where the FRUSTRATING fake comes in.

In one area of my life I had to pretend that nothing had happened. If a script required me to sound happy-go-lucky, I would sound cheerful, and upbeat. If a client tried to push my buttons, I would keep my cool, and not overreact. If a colleague would make an insensitive remark, I would contain myself, and not respond.

Here’s one thing I learned: It takes a lot of energy to deal with conflicting emotions. They co-exist, and yet they can’t be in the same space together at the same time.

The only way to handle this, is to make sure that there’s plenty of room for sadness, loss and mourning or whatever is bringing you down, just not during working hours.

Clients don’t pay you to deal with your emotions in their time. Your job is to focus on them, and on the script in front of you. 

ESCAPING THE PAIN

However, there’s a downside to focusing on the jobs at hand. 

Too many people decide to flee from their emotions by burying themselves in piles of work, or by engaging in more destructive distractions. If you’re one of those people, you know that this coping strategy will eventually catch up with you. Repressed emotions often have a nasty way of presenting themselves. Eventually, the lid will fly off the pressure cooker, creating a big mess in the kitchen.

Another way of dealing with sad situations, is to rationalize emotions, allowing them not to affect you that much. You tell yourself that you must be strong at all times; that wearing your heart on your sleeve is a sign of weakness.

It’s tough to be a voice-over with a stiff upper lip! Proper enunciation becomes a problem.

UPS AND DOWNS

The trouble is that people who don’t allow room for the lows in their life, often have a hard time experiencing the highs as well. It’s like taking away strong colors from a picture, or the bass and treble from a moving piece of music.

Not acknowledging your true feelings at an appropriate time creates internal tension, and robs you of experiencing the richness of life in all its ups and downs. Not sharing these feelings with others, robs your friends and family of a chance to really get to know you, and to be there for you.

There is no light without darkness. Going through the anger, pain, sadness and desperation, will help you understand yourself better, and to be more compassionate towards others.

Actors use life experiences to create characters, and to give depth to their performance. These experiences help them to become less fake, and more human.

GOOD FRIENDS

Here’s what I like to suggest if you’re feeling down.

Embrace your emotions like good friends that are trying to tell you something important. Acknowledge them. Listen to them. Kindly ask them to leave when you need to get to work. 

I know that’s easier said than done, and it’s not always a solution.

When your feelings are about to overwhelm you, and you can’t take it anymore, don’t sweep them under the carpet. Don’t fake that you are fine.

Take a break from work. You probably won’t be at your best anyway.

Clients are a lot more understanding when you let them know what’s going on. You don’t have to go into details, as long as you tell them this is serious, and you need a little more time.

And if you like, let your thoughts and feelings pour out of your pen, as I’m doing right now. It will take a weight off your shoulders. 

Allow yourself to be comforted by the people who are near and dear to you. Give them a chance to take care of you. I know you would do the same for them.

Find a space where you can be safe, and be yourself.

After all, you never have to fake it for true friends.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet.

Send to Kindle

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!