Vol 10 No 6  December 10, 2018

By Johnny Heller


When we look back on 2018, and we will because invariably someone will say – “Remember that time you were running to an APAC Mixer and you fell and broke your ankle and your purse opened and all of your cocaine spilled out onto the street and when the EMTs came to help you, they discovered an illegal gun and the cops arrested you for possession and further investigation revealed that you were a Chechen hit man and you got sentenced to hard time in prison? Remember that?”
And you’ll say, “No. No I don’t.”
And someone will say – “Sure you do! It was in ….2018!’
And you’ll say, “Oh yeah! I do remember that. Hell of a year.”

And it was.

Here are some highlights:

  1. I hosted a fantastic workshop with my dear friend Scott Brick in LA on the Business of Audiobooks. It was so important, I think, to the audiobook actor that we will be repeating in NYC on March 3, 2019.
  2. I recorded over 50 titles this year! including NOIR by Christopher Moore for Harper – one of the biggest projects of the year (at least for me). And now Mr. Moore is my friend. I won’t list all the fine books I got to do this year because I am likely to leave one or two out and the author would find out about it and that would be a bad thing. (And I think I just accidentally shared an important lesson with you.)
  3. The Johnny Heller 4th Annual Splendiferous Narrator Workshop was a smashing success (unless you guys were all lying to me!)
  4. The 3rd Annual New England Narrator Retreat was sold out and an amazingly swell time (and no one can tell me otherwise – it was just marvelous.)
  5. Sean Pratt and I got invited back to London by Rachael Naylor of VON to teach Audiobook narration to the Brits – (they’re pretty good at English accents over there)
  6. My dear friend Tom Dheere and I got to present at MAVO 2018 for Val Kelly and it was a fabulous time.
  7. I went on the road a lot for Recorded Books to promote the audiobook industry and eat at great restaurants.
  8. I had a wonderful Birthday week because of Jo Anna Perrin and my friends.
  9. Jo Anna and I got to do some dual narration gigs.
  10. The Democrats, led by women, took the House of Representatives by a huge margin and that’s all for politics in this piece – unless I do some more later.

And that’s all for that sort of thing. I don’t want this to become one of those Christmas card letters you get from people you don’t know well who share all the family’s successes and throw in few pet and great Aunt deaths while they’re at it: “Wonderful year my friends! Except for Aunt Mildred who got decapitated by an old fan belt on her Dodge Dart. Lester told her not to lean in too close, but she didn’t listen (always hard headed -Mildred) and that belt snapped off and sliced through her neck like a Ginsu through an over-ripe tomato. And, speaking of hard heads, hers went flying right out the garage door and hit Mr. Fogelson, Lester and Mildred’s neighbor, right in the crotch and he doubled over like…. well, like a fella who got hit in the balls by a flying hard head! Billy had his I-Phone out and he videotaped the whole thing and we sent it off to America’s Funniest Home Videos and they said we might’ve won some real money but that all the blood and such made it a little hard for kids to watch.
We don’t really agree – I mean kids today watch all kinds of bloody things what with Walking Dead, and Nightmare on Halloween Street 12 and SAW 18 and Harry Pot and the Half Bloody Whatsit and what-not on the TV and movie theaters. When you think on it, and we have, you put a little music behind it to time with Mildred’s head zipping along and you’ve basically got a Disney Musical number. That’s what we think.
Anyhoo, the kids are doing much better now that Charlie got put down. He used to growl something ferocious and chase them around the house and he bit Selma’s thumb clear off. (We put the thumb in some ice but then Billy poured Mr. Pibb over it, not knowing the thumb was in there and even though it got attached pretty good after all, Selma is sure sucking her thumb a lot now and she’s nearly 18 so it looks odd. But that Mr. Pibb sure tastes good I guess.)  The point is, the kids seem much happier without Charlie and the dog is in a better mood too. Charlie was certainly more trouble than he was worth and I’m not even sure he was officially related to us – except he had the family forehead wart so maybe – but I guess it’s fair to say he won’t be missed and as soon as the basement room is aired out – which should be sometime in 2030, I’m thinking about turning it into a place to house my road-kill animal collection. Milly says I need to get em stuffed first but they don’t seem to be moving much right now so I’m not sure I see the point.
I guess that’s all the news for now, so we wish you a very Merry Christmas. (I know some folks don’t like saying that these days, but we celebrate it and don’t mind saying so and to be honest, if it weren’t for Christ, we wouldn’t have any reason for Christmas bonuses and ugly sweaters and that’s just the way I feel.)”

Aren’t you glad I don’t send those things?

And now a few things of actual import to the Audiobook/VO community:

  1. When you are asked to do a book or a project, you can say “no”. Yep. Remember those days when you were in acting class and you’d pretty much take any job for any amount including no money at all just for a chance to perform? I think back to those “romantic” times of poverty and hunger and recall that I would likely have said “yes” to a role in a snuff film had it been offered. (we didn’t have the internet then, so I wouldn’t have known what a snuff film was!  Now, of course, I know what it is and would only consider a recurring role.)
    You can say “No”.  Here’s how – “I’m sorry. I really appreciate the offer, but I am fully booked. If you have any projects in (whatever date works for you), please keep me in mind.” Or – “Thanks for thinking of me. I can’t do the job for the rate you are offering. Is there any wriggle room in the budget? My PFH rate for my other clients is substantially more than your offer.” (Then you can negotiate or not depending on what the response is.)
    Just understand that if you say NO then you aren’t getting that job. If you will regret not having it, don’t say NO.

If you want a better rate, be prepared to turn down jobs that don’t meet your minimum.  And never, ever sell yourself cheaply. Let the bottom feeders on Fiver and other crap sites get the lousy jobs and bring down the value of the industry. If you will go a job for $5.00, guess how much you are worth?
(here’s a hint: $5.00. You are worth $5.00.)

  1. Not every job you get needs to be bragged about. Social media is a swell place to meet and share and to celebrate. But do not gloat. Every job you get is a job that another actor didn’t. It’s fine to be happy and to share that but recognize that for every response that says: “how wonderful!” there will be 55 non-responses that say: “bite me.” Share but try to be cognizant of your fellow actors who are having a harder go of it. If they aren’t talented, they will leave the business soon anyway or join Fiver. Meantime be a good role model while you book everything in sight.
  2. Share what you can about what you know. It’s helpful and it’s appreciated. But if you haven’t done a lot of work in the industry, recognize that you have experiences but not experience. There’s a difference.
  3. Realize that awards and kudos are wonderful and very exciting but the only way to measure success is to keep booking paying work – hopefully with repeat clients. I know many fantastic VO people who never won a Sovas or an Audie or a Grammy or even a Participation Award or Perfect Attendance Award. Every award that celebrates you and your craft is great. But it isn’t what makes you a successful actor.

I guess that’s enough to wind up For the Hell of It for 2018. I’m sorry I didn’t post more of these – but I was busy…winning awards and bragging on Facebook!

In all seriousness, thanks to each of you who read this, who support me and cheer me and challenge me to be better.  This business has brought me the best friends I could ask for and I will always do my best to embrace our community. Happy Holidays. May your New Year be blessed beyond your dreams.


Comments (6)

  • Jennifer M. Dixon Reply

    Thanks for all you do Johnny ,especially for the Laughs! May you and the lovely Joanna Perrin have a Happy Healthy Holiday Season and 2019 too ????????????

    December 10, 2018 at 10:03 am
  • Petrea Burchard Reply

    Thanks, Johnny. I needed this today, especially those last few bits. Happy holidays.

    December 10, 2018 at 11:24 am
  • Holly Adams Reply

    Thanks for this–thoughtful and funny AS USUAL!! You rock.

    December 10, 2018 at 2:07 pm
  • Nila B. Hagood Reply

    Nailed all my unspoken thoughts, addressed all my insecurities, gave me strength to keep going. Bless and thank you. Honored to know you and appreciate your honesty and delightful sarcasm.

    December 10, 2018 at 11:45 pm
  • Nila B. Reply

    Nailed all my unspoken thoughts, addressed all my insecurities, gave me strength to keep going. Bless and thank you. Honored to know you and appreciate your honesty and delightful sarcasm.

    December 10, 2018 at 11:47 pm
  • Charles Galco Reply

    Wonderful stuff!

    December 11, 2018 at 6:25 pm

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