Interview: Voice actor Jon Bailey from Honest Trailers at MomoCon 2015 pt 1

Chances are you know who Jon Bailey is, but just don’t realize it. Not only has Bailey been doing voice over and voice acting work in movie trailers, video games (most notably as the Council Spokesperson in the XCOM franchise), and animation for several years, he is well known as the “Epic Voice” of Honest Trailers on YouTube.

At MomoCon 2015, Bailey took time out of his day to sit with TAM and talk about Honest Trailers, his own YouTube channel, and his career in voice acting.

This is a two-part interview! To read part two, click here.

Jon Bailey poses with XCOM cosplayer Brian Mead at MomoCon 2015

Jon Bailey poses with XCOM cosplayer Brian Mead at MomoCon 2015


How has MomoCon been for you?

So far it has been good! Nobody crazy that tried to get hair follicles to clone me or anything like that.

So, you seem to have a pretty sizable fan-base now. Has your popularity because of the Honest Trailers been a surprise to you?

YES! It really was. Honestly, I thought the job was just another YouTube request, because I had my own YouTube channel and people would contact me when they would find me and say “You’re really good with this… could you help me with that…” I usually, if I had the time would say “yeah, sure.” When Screen Junkies contacted me, I thought it was the same thing. To be honest, I didn’t even look at the views to see how popular they were, and they were already pretty popular back then. In the millions of views. To me that was pretty good. Now, the views are insane! I think the Frozen one has like 24 million plus. They get like three million a week and just continue to grow. It just continues to get bigger and bigger and bigger… now we have our own official San Diego Comic Con panel this year!

I always thought, if I did get on a Comic Con panel, which I’d always wanted to do, it would be on a voice actor panel. I’ve been doing this stuff for six years, and I’m already on a Comic Con panel. I mean, the size of the crowd in that Honest Trailers MomoCon panel that we just did shocked me. I thought, “It’s Sunday morning… it’s 11 a.m… people are hungover and were up all night…” but yet, they packed the room! It was freaking amazing!

When you do your work with the Honest Trailers team(s), do you have a contract with them?

No, it’s just job to job. We fly by the seat of our pants… kind of a “bro code.”

 

As a voice over artist, are you a part of the Screen Actor’s Guild?

Yes.

Do you need to be a part of guild in order to do what you do?

For YouTube? No, because it’s basically a collaboration. The way I kind of do it, because I improvise a bit, it’s kind of like helping write with the script. I have my YouTube channel, they have their channel, so they link to me in video descriptions, and they’ve annotated me before, so it helps grow my own channel on the side. So, it’s like a back and forth kind of thing. If it was an “official voice-over” job, they probably wouldn’t want to do it because it would be too expensive.

It’s weird with the multimedia stuff because they are still working on how to work out residuals and is it technically voice over work or is it on camera work? I don’t know all the legalities and all the issues of how that works. It’s not something I auditioned for because it was just like “oh, this guy seems to be cool, let’s work with him and make videos together.”

Now, for real trailers, those jobs go through the Screen Actor’s Guild. If you’re doing non-union trailers then A) you’re probably getting ripped off and B) someone is doing something they’re not supposed to be doing. The only downside to doing movie trailers, there are no residuals in that type of work, whereas in animation and even in most commercials, as long as it’s running you get paid some kind of residual. So, yeah, those are the kind of jobs you want to get, the kind that continue to pay. I’ve only got a handful of residual jobs. I did one for Jimmy Kimmel and every time someone decides to download that episode or anytime that episode re-airs over breaks, I get paid a little money. But, the longer it’s on the air, the smaller those checks will get. A lot of the biggest voice actors live off of the residuals if they’re not currently working.

There was a movie that came out a couple of years ago about trailer voice-over actors called In a World. What was your opinion of it? Was it an accurate representation of the business?

It was very, very close to the truth. I mean, obviously they put a lot of movie elements in it to make it a romantic comedy story instead of a straight up reflection of the business, but it’s absolutely true. There are very few women in promo work. You might hear women voice overs on Oxygen or Lifetime or some of the kid’s stuff like in the movie, but yeah it’s actually 100% true. It’s not fair at all. In any part of the business, there’s so much more work for men than for women.

One of the other voice actor MomoCon guests and I were talking about that last night. She said that for every 20 male roles, there’s like two or three for the women. It seems like the handful that are getting hired are from one little group, so the others, who aren’t a part of that group have to work three times as hard to book anything.

The cool thing about that movie is that I know a few of those people, and they actually are playing who they are in real life. Marc Graue is in a scene where there is a big party. He’s the guy with the glasses and a ponytail. He’s actually a voice actor and director and he works out of Marc Graue Studio in Los Angeles. The voice of CBS, Joe Cipriano was in that group, playing himself. Fred Melamed, the guy who plays the retiring voice actor, really is a voice actor in real life. They used a lot of voice actors for the film, which is cool I think.

In terms of vocal work, what has been the most difficult job that you have ever done?

Oh boy. When I worked on the very first XCOM game. There was a character called The Elder, the final boss at the end. His voice required two separate voices to record. I had to literally read all of his lines twice in two different voices. I had just left a convention in Dallas and my voice was in really bad shape.  All I had was that one Sunday to go from Dallas to Los Angeles to rest and then we recorded on Monday.

Click the PLAY button below to hear the rest of Bailey’s answer to this question:

 

Are there specific tricks or exercises that you do to maintain your voice health?

Click the PLAY button below to hear Bailey’s answer to this question:


To read part two of the TAM interview with Jon Bailey, click here.

Interview: Voice actor Jon Bailey from Honest Trailers at MomoCon 2015 pt 2

This is a two-part interview! To read part one, click here.

Chances are you know who Jon Bailey is, but just don’t realize it. Not only has Bailey been doing voice over and voice acting work in movie trailers, video games (most notably as the Council Spokesperson in the XCOM franchise) and animation for several years, he is well known as the “Epic Voice” of Honest Trailers on YouTube.

At MomoCon 2015, Bailey took time out of his day to sit with TAM and talk about Honest Trailers, his own YouTube channel, and his career in voice acting.

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Do you ever worry that any of the satire videos you do might cost you work from the movie and gaming industries?

That was a concern, and I’ve tried very hard, and the bigger Honest Trailers gets, the harder it’s going to be to differentiate the Honest Trailers from my career. Honest Trailers is not part of my career. It’s part of my YouTube thing that I am trying to make into… maybe a backup job. You can make some good money from YouTube. Anybody that is averaging over a million views per video is going to make some decent money.

I have my own YouTube channel that I’m trying to grow where I do movie reviews in the movie trailer voice, because that makes perfect sense. I do this thing called imitation gaming where I talk like a character who is playing their own game, like John Madden playing Madden NFL. I thought those were unique concepts, because while I am not a great gamer, I can do voices, and it’s a funny excuse to do impressions. It’s entertaining, and that’s what the point of YouTube is: to be entertained. I mean, sometimes it’s informational, but mostly it’s entertainment. I do some voice over tips because people ask me a lot of questions and then I don’t have to worry about FAQ’s anymore. I just have them check out a playlist and their question is answered.

So, I saw the Honest Trailers as a way to grow my channel. Right now I only have 74,000 subscribers, and while most people think that’s really good, Honest Trailers has 5 million. I don’t compare myself to those guys, but that’s the direction I need to go. So, anytime I can collaborate with any other YouTube channels to grow my own channel, I consider that not a part of my voice over career, even if it is voice related. It’s really me trying to grow my YouTube channel as a source of income. It’s still fun for me though, and hopefully it will remain that way.

But, back to the original question, I have to keep the YouTube and the voice-over work separate, because of my representation and the union. Also, I don’t want people to lump in Honest Trailers with my main career because I don’t want people to think that I’m not a real voice actor and that I just do the “fake” movie trailer voice. If you listen to my real work vs. my Honest Trailers work, you can hear the difference. The Honest Trailers voice has become his own character. He’s not just a narrator anymore. He’s this guy who has emotions and gets mad when the movie’s bad; he questions things in the movie and breaks character a lot.

My first manager thought that I should be branded as the Honest Trailers voice, but I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want movie studios to see me as “oh, he’s THAT guy.” I mean, other than a comedy or two, that won’t work. It’s a gimmick, really. It’s funny, but it’s not the best way to sell a movie. The point of a real movie trailer is to get people to go see the film, so I have to convince people that it is the best movie ever made.

Knock on wood, the satire hasn’t affected my career. Most of the people I’ve worked with have known and thought it was really funny.

 

 

So, what projects do you have that you’re really excited about?

I’m so excited, but I can’t say a thing about them. All I can say is that if you do love to hate the council guy from XCOM, then keep an eye and ear out. (EDITORS NOTE – The day after this interview, the new XCOM trailer was released on to the internet, and you can hear Jon Bailey a couple of times throughout the trailer, but his big moment comes toward the end of the video above.)

Also, there is a new sequel video game that I contributed a lot to. Fingers crossed, it is supposed to be announced at E3.

(EDITORS NOTE: This interview took place before E3, so Bailey couldn’t tell us the specifics about this project. During our interview he never mentioned the name of the property. Make sure to follow Jon Bailey on Facebook for more updates on this upcoming project!”

I’m not the lead role, but being a part of it is definitely something to add to my resume. My character gets to interact with the players more than normal in games. Usually in games, with this kind of character you hear a little bit from them, but all the game you’ll be hearing from my character, which is really cool. For me, it was another chance to expand my acting chops and get to do some really fun work.

There is nothing more fun than getting killed by a bunch of stuff or getting attacked in the games. They call those “barks” and “efforts.” In “efforts” it’s grunts and strains, and in “barks,” you’re yelling things like “MEDIC” or “GRENADE!” Anything you have to yell is considered a “bark.” We rocked through about 130 of those. With the other lines, we would do three or four of those at a time, because all I have is a list of lines and I am relying on the director to tell me what’s going on to make it make sense and how I should say it or how I should act. With the “barks,” it’s easy… bad things are happening.

When we talked to Crispin Freeman (see our interview here), he mentioned that most times you don’t know anything about your character…

Nope. Not a clue. There’s usually not a picture or anything. And if we don’t know anything about the franchise, then it’s even more difficult. But, in this game, the guys really wanted believable, normal voices because it really helps the player adapt and get into it. With my character, they said my voice really matched the character and that while I didn’t know what he looked like, they knew what was going on and it was perfect. “Trust us.”

The one thing I have learned about games is that usually you have to speak in a slower speed because they have to time it with the subtitles. Most games have subtitles, which is why they talk at an unusual speed. They have to make sure the audio fits into the time it takes you to read the subtitles. This time they were cool about speaking at a normal human speed. They wanted it to be a little more believable so a little bit quicker was fine. Usually I get asked to slow down because I am so used to doing fifteen second trailers. They give me a minute’s worth of information to squeeze into fifteen seconds. That is very difficult to do and I end up sounding like the guy at the end of the car commercials thats reading all the legal jargon.


Follow John Bailey on Facebook and check out his YouTube channel!

Interview: Voice acting veteran Crispin Freeman at MomoCon

Crispin Freeman has been a voice actor since 1997 and has over 200 acting credits on his resume, and has voiced some of the most iconic anime and video game characters that have graced our screens. A small sample of his characters include Alucard from “Hellsing X” to Zelgadis from “Slayers,” and Legolas in assorted “Lord of the Rings” video games. Freeman also uses his scholarship in mythology to explore the storytelling in film, television and animation on his website Mythology & Meaning.

This weekend at MomoCon 2015 in Atlanta Freeman took time to talk to the press about his career, the voice acting industry, gender equality in animation, and the difficulties of acting in a video game. TAM was there to document the interview and ask some of our own questions.

How do you feel about the portrayal of female characters in animation? Japanese animation (anime) in particular?

It’s a very big topic, and I actually do an entire presentation on female hero journeys as a part of my mythology scholarship that I do at conventions, academic conferences, and film festivals. What I have found is that in Japanese Animation, there are certain female hero journeys that are available to women that are not usually done in America. Specifically, what I am referring to is the sort of magical-girl archetype. The idea of a woman having her own magical powers is usually problematic in American storytelling. In fact, there was a very big deal made in the original Avatar series that what they are doing is not “magic,” but rather, “bending.”

That being said, Japanese culture can be rather chauvinistic, especially for an industrialized nation. So, whereas in America, we essentially aspire to this notion of gender equality, we don’t get there by a long-shot in terms of our storytelling either in Hollywood or in animation and comics. Fortunately, these kinds of topics are now much more publicized, which I think is good. I think awareness is going to change this. But, there’s also going to have to be some institutional changes so that we don’t still have all of these issues, like the fact that Black Widow isn’t included in the Avengers merchandise when they’re showing a picture of all the Avengers. That is ridiculous. It’s 2015. Can’t we get over this already? It is still an issue, because there is still an extreme lack of parity on the subject.

How did you get into the voice acting career?

Well, if you want the gory details and a blow by blow account of how I got into voice acting, I actually have a podcast on voice acting called “Voice Acting Mastery” at voiceactingmastery.com. Episode 4 and 5, I actually go into ALL the details about how I got in. But, in a nutshell, I was working as a theatrical actor in New York City. I was getting my Masters in Fine Arts at Columbia University, but I had always been a fan of animation, ever since I was young, and specifically, Japanese Animation had always been my favorite. There was a studio in New York that was dubbing Japanese Animation into English, and a friend of mine who had worked for them suggested I contact them. I sent them a copy of a radio play that I was working on at Columbia University, even though that was totally the wrong thing to send because it is not really a demo. They took pity on me, I guess. I was able to audition for some anime shows, and that’s how I started doing voice work, which I was doing on the side.

Then I realized that I was getting more excited about working on the animation stuff than working in theater. That’s when I decided that I needed to move to Los Angeles to get to a bigger marketplace and pursue voice acting full time.

How has the growth of movie, television, video games and animation production in Atlanta affected what you do for a living? Have there been any ripples in the voice acting industry?

Well, I’m not that aware of what’s been happening in terms of Atlanta and its business. To be perfectly honest, many times if it is a game project, gaming companies will come to Los Angeles to record voice actors because they want to access that talent pool in Los Angeles. I may not always be aware that the game company may be based out of Atlanta. So, maybe it is having an effect and I am just not paying close enough attention.

Because everything moves at such a fast pace, especially with games where everything is so secretive, it’s so difficult to figure out who I am working for, what the project is, even what the name of my character is in real life.

I just found out that with a game I have been working on for years, they have been telling me what my character’s name was, and that’s not actually the character’s name in the game. So, even if it was coming from Atlanta, there are so many different non-disclosures and secrecy that I may not even know. So, I guess I am blissfully unaware.

How has that secrecy affected your process, when you are not given the full story of what it is that you’re trying to portray?

It’s quite frustrating! As voice actors, we want to do the best job possible, and the way to do the best job possible as an actor, is to have as much detail and information as possible. But, that is exactly what they don’t want to give us. So, it can be really frustrating. It feels like you train all your life to be a Formula One race-car driver, and then they ask you to drive the golf course, but you KNOW that that’s not what they want. You know that they want you to race at 200 mph, but you can’t if you don’t know the course. So, it is frustrating.

I understand that on their side, they are worried about people poaching their ideas, and they are worried about how to market their product. I get all that, but we’re supposed to be their collaborators. We’re supposed to be the people working with them. So, on some level, while I have some sympathy with them, it sure makes our job as voice actors a lot more difficult. I wish there was some way that they would feel a lot more trusting to give us the information we need to help their project be that much better. That’s really what it comes down to. We want to make their project better, and the more information we have, the better we can make it.

With the expansion of new technologies as well as new niche markets, have you found yourself being offered opportunities in any of those new media forms?

It’s interesting. The fact that recording equipment has become relatively inexpensive has certainly democratized the voice-over industry in a way. It’s not dissimilar from what happened when the Macintosh was invented in the 1980’s with desktop publishing. Suddenly everyone could do desktop publishing. Now you can buy a professional quality microphone for two, three hundred dollars and if you can treat the space in your home with enough acoustical foam and sound isolation, you can have a decent sounding booth to do professional work in. So that means that voice-over is more accessible to more people than ever before.

However, that doesn’t necessarily change the production pipeline for certain things like animation and video games. Especially with character based voice-over because everyone has to be recorded on the same equipment, almost all of the time. So, that means that everyone has to come to the same studio. So, Disney and Warner Brothers aren’t really changing the way they do stuff just because you can buy a $300 microphone and record from home. They still need you to come to the lot to do stuff. But, when it comes to promos for companies, industrial narration and things like audiobooks, that kind of stuff is certainly open to people being able to work from home. There’s all sorts of independent video games now that are taking advantage of the fact that there is this talent pool that has their own recording equipment at home. So, that has expanded the eco-system, shall we say? But, the big-ticket stuff still tends to get done the same way. We may audition from home, but we still have to record at the studio.

What is the guild / union situation with professional voice acting, and is it something that independent artists and developers can tap into in order to acquire talent for their projects?

The Screen Actor’s Guild just recently combined with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the guild is now called SAG-AFTRA. The guild covers all media for union actors from television to film to new media. Anyone who wants to use union actors, they need to be signatories with the union and pay them union minimum rates and pay into pension and health and all that stuff. That all gets technical if they want to do that.

There are certainly independent video game developers who are maybe not interested or maybe don’t have the budget to work with the union talent quite yet. But, in my opinion, I think the cost of working with union talent is pretty minimal compared to the quality of what you get. It depends on how people want to work on projects.