FOR THE HELL OF IT Vol 6 No 2
by Johnny Heller
May 2, 2014
So you’re coming to New York City for APAC…or the Audies! …or maybe just to get a nice lean corned beef on hot rye with a pickle and some kosher mustard and maybe a cream soda…..mmmmmm.
Why aren’t you here yet?
In the interest of community relations and all around good guy-ness, I am going to tell you all about APAC so you will be prepared and able to fully enjoy yourselves while visiting the Big Apple.
First off – what the hell is APAC? Well, many think the letters stand for: “ACTORS PAYING ALOT o CASH” . And while this is true, they actually stand for: AUDIO PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION CONVENTION. It’s sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association and it’s a convention so— APAC. Clever – no?
It’s a chance to learn things you didn’t already know and/or validate stuff you already suspected you knew but weren’t sure about. It’s also a chance to meet some people you’ve only heard of from FaceBook rants. Because APAC is also open to fans of the industry, here’s what usually happens in my experience: I’m standing with Peter Berkrot. A group of fan attendees will come up to us.
Fans: Are you Peter Berkrot and Johnny Heller?
Fans: Ooh! Would you mind? (they hand us their cameras)
Fans: Okay…wait a sec…there! Karen White! Hilary Huber! Scott Brick! Dion Graham! Robert Fass! Tavia Gilbert! C’mere!
The other narrators gather and pose with the fans.
Fans: Okay! Take the pictures!
Us: Do you want a shot with us?
Fans: Uh. Ummm. Gosh — we really didn’t bring enough film…thanks though! (they leave)
Me: Those were digital cameras you know. No film.
Berkrot: Yeah. Shut up.
At APAC you can learn things about how to be an audio book narrator or a better audio book narrator than you once were. You will meet the “big” names in the audiobook world – -people who are still not making a living but you want to emulate anyway because you haven’t yet learned that there really isn’t a lot of loot for the actor in this game.
You’ll meet all the audiobook producers and guess what? — and this is the greatest thing – they are happy to meet you right back! They are approachable, personable and gracious. You want to meet them and they want to meet you because it’s possible that you will all work together one day.
This year the APAC is divided into 3 sections. Joint sessions. Business Track. Performance Track. Even if you are a performer, you can go to a Business Track session and vice versa. In fact you probably should peek in on one or two of those and make sure the producers aren’t having long discussions about how to pay you less money. You can also raise your hand and ask a question of the assembled panel – something like: “Why the hell haven’t you hired me yet? People say I have a nice voice ….” That should ensure more work for the rest of us.
Sadly the “Joint Sessions” aren’t what Peter Berkrot and I hoped they’d be…although we might implement some executive decisions and change that. They are sessions of interest to everyone — which they really would be if they actually were joint sessions. But they aren’t .
Here’s what the APA schedule has to say:
APAC starts very early in the morning at 8AM. 8 -freakin- AM! There’s a breakfast of some sort and Director Diagnostics – where you can work on your craft with a notable audiobook narrator who will give you valuable tips. Still. It’s 8AM.
At 9AM there is a speech by the delightful Michele Cobb who will tell everyone what’s in store for the coming year. If you go, let me know because, again, it’s 9AM.
At 9:45 AM- 10 AM is a scheduled 15 minute break so the people who came at 8AM can get a nice nap in. At 10 AM is the keynote speech from Alan Iny about thinking outside the box. An example of outside the box thinking would be you thinking that I’m gonna get there by 10AM to hear this speech – but I will be awake by then – so there’s that. I don’t know Mr. Iny but I have high hopes of hearing good things about his speech much later on in the day.
At 11AM- 11:15AM is another chance to grab some shut eye. However, I must point out, that many people use these little breaks to chat and network and make connections and be professional. If you want to nap and still look professional, put some fake eyeballs over your eyes so no one will know you’re sleeping. Actually, it’s 11 AM so you probably won’t need this break to nap and you can use it to wonder why it’s 80 degrees outside and about 52 degrees in the Javits Center and why didn’t you bring that nice sweater you thought about bringing but didn’t cuz it was so hot out? If you’re really cold, and you will be, curl up next to someone with obvious fake eyeballs and steal their body heat.
At 11:15 is a joint session called: “Raising Awareness Together: How Publishers and Narrators Collaborate on Promotion.” While I’ve always felt the word “collaborate” to be a bit nefarious, I think it promises to be an interesting panel. There will be a discussion among the wonderful panelists and then a Q& A at the end. This joint session leads right into the most important session of the day.
12:15PM – 1:15PM LUNCH
This is when I like to show up.
Here’s the thing – there are a bunch of huge round tables and you sit down with people and eat lunch. It’s okay to sit with a friend or two but try to sit with some people you don’t know so you can meet them. One year I sat next to some guy who just ate. He never said a word. It’s an audio convention! A convention full of yammerers, yakkers and chatterboxes and this nob says nothing. What a tool. Don’t be that guy. (I usually try to sit next to Rene Raudman or Chris Dukehart cuz I think they’re pretty.)
Also remember that the same sandwiches on one side of the room are the exact same type of sandwiches as on the other. Don’t dilly dallly about which table you should get your sandwich from. Just grab a couple of tasty ones and have at it. And they are good sandwiches. I don’t know if they are vegan because I’m still not sure how that works but I know some are vegetarian. And they have cookies too. It’s a pretty good spread.
If you find that you don’t like your table mates -or they don’t like you, you can move to another table but be discreet. According to Miss Manners Guide to Eating at Big Ass Conventions, it is not polite to stand up and say: “God! what a bunch of insufferable asshats! For the love of God! – stop talking with your mouths full! In fact, just stop talking!”
Of course, if you wish to make a scene and be remembered, try to shift the focus away from yourself. I recommend slamming your fists on the table and loudly proclaiming this: “What!? You people think Donald Sterling is a hero!? I cannot sit here with you any longer! Are there any real Americans in the room? May I dine with you?” That way everyone thinks that the rest of the people at your table are jerkwads and they won’t know that you are one too until you go and sit with them and prove it.
If you’re shy and are worried about starting a conversation with the producers you need to meet, here are some opening lines sure to garner a response:
“Hi! Are you Bryan Barney? So….ummm, listen, don’t you think it’s weird that medical science has done so much but they still haven’t come up with a way to cure herpes? Do you have any projects for me?”
“Mike Charzuk! Nice to meet you! Wanna see my appendix scar?”
“Kat Lambrix – a pleasure! How did Gary Sinise grow his legs back after Forest Gump? Man, that’s acting huh?”
“Hilary Rose! Lemme ask you – can you tell that I put my thong on backwards today? It’s really uncomfortable. How’s your sandwich?”
And before you know it, lunch is over. Time for the afternoon sessions.
The afternoon sessions are divided into the Business Track and the Performance Track. The first sessions start at 1:15PM- 2:00PM – followed by a 15 minute break. The first business track session features the return of keynote speaker Alan Ivy. I just don’t know anything about him but his resume interests me and I would go see him except the 1st Performance Track Session is a panel I am moderating so I better show up to that.
1:15PM – 2:00PM SPEED DATING OR NARRATOR ROUNDTABLE
Speed Dating is where narrators go into a room ( and there is a selection process to be one of the narrators who gets to do this and I don’t know the rules) where producers sit at tables and the narrators spend about 5-10 minutes with them until a bell rings and then they move on to the next producer. Just like speed dating. Last year I got to meet 3 producers I had never met and they all told me that they were excited to meet me and that they would call me. None did. See? Just like speed dating!
Narrator Roundtable is billed as a free flowing conversation moderated by me and featuring Paul Ruben, Carol Monda, Stephen McLaughlin, Nicola Barber and Lisa Renee Pitts but it won’t be because we only have 45 minutes and we all have different but important points to make and no time to make them and have a discussion and I’m supposed to lead the thing but I fully expect to be confused by Paul Ruben and entranced by the dulcet tones of Nicola Barber so I’ve no idea what will happen. It promises to be fun and attendees should learn a thing or two. I hope to do a Q & A but if we don’t have enough time and you have questions, find us during the break and ask us.
2:00PM – 2:15PM Break — time to use the loo and to ask questions you didn’t get to earlier and maybe try to reconnect with all the people you offended at lunch.
2:15PM – 3:00PM Business Track : PUBLISHERS ROUNDTABLE – I’ve no idea but I think it’s a chance for publishers from Penguin/Random House, Blackstone, Post Hypnotic, Harper and Gildan to put each other down and brag and stuff. I expect it to be a lot like Fight Club. I wanna go.
Performance Track: PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITIES FOR NARRATORS. Any panel that features Jeffrey Kafer, Scott Brick, Karen White, Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir (the prettiest damn name I ever heard) is a must attend for me!
Note I said that I wanted to attend both sessions. So I will. You don’t have to stay in just one session – you can stay in one for a bit and then check out the other. Don’t announce: “Man this is much better than the one Kafer is on! That one sucks!” It’s simply not done – according to Miss Manners.
At 3:00PM – 3:20PM there is a break and then at 3:20PM -4:05 – more sessions. Business track – ADVANCED SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS – where Morgan Baden will tell people not to post photos of their junk on the company website. (Actually I don’t know Morgan Baden but I bet that she’d back me up on that.) Performer track – two choices: HOME STUDIO WORKFLOW with Paul Fowlie, Hilary Huber, Don Hagen and Zach Herries or NARRATOR SELF PROMOTION TECHNIQUES with Erin Blakemore, Robert Fass, Tara Sands and Tom Dheere. I don’t want to tell you which one interests me the most because I don’t want to influence your decision. Hint: I loves me some Huber but Robert Fass is one of my best friends and Tom Dheere is a genius so…. of course!– I’ll go find Berkrot for a joint session.
4:05PM-4:15PM Break! A much needed chance to get some coffee, look over the exciting day and figure out where everyone is going to meet later on and why no one told you about the plans before now. Were they going to ditch you? Didn’t they care? (answers: Yep and Nope.)
4:15PM- 5:15PM Business Track – 2 concurrent sessions – CHILDRENS AUDIO with Kristen McLean or USEFUL APPS with Salina Yoon. I can’t attend either. As I will be busy with –
Performance track – LISTENING LOUNGE hosted by me. This is my 4th or 5th year emceeing this swell event. It used to be a single event stretching out for a leisurely 90-minutes with the top narrators in the industry reading excerpts from their work to the delight of the convention audience. It was pretty much perfect. So, of course, they changed it. Now it’s only 60 minutes so we have fewer narrators and competitive concurrent sessions. It’s as though a Congressional committee got involved here. Still it will be great. In an effort to allow different narrators the chance to show their stuff, I try to open it up to a few narrators who haven’t been featured in the past (although a few favorites are always back!) also I kicked out that British hack Simon Vance … actually he can’t come this year…so he actually kicked me out.
Here’s the cast: Dion Graham, Therese Plummer, Carol Monda, Scott Brick, Coleen Marlo, Katy Kelgren, Robert Fass and Suzanne Toren. Due to time constraints, I won’t be doing a piece but I will be taking up a lot of time just chatting away so I figure every narrator should be able to just about get through the title of their selection before I’ll have to pull them from the stage.
Finally 5:15PM -6:30PM COCKTAIL RECEPTION
The perfect end to the day. 100s of people dying for a drink and only 2 bars. So look forward to long lines and the curious tendency of certain people to stand right at the bar like it was an actual bar and not a wheeled table with some booze bottles on it that everyone else is trying to get a chance to visit. It isn’t a bar. No reason to hang out. Get your booze and move on so that other people can experience the joy of a gin and tonic in a plastic tumbler the way God intended after a long convention.
SOME NOTES ON ETIQUETTE AND PROCEDURE:
1. BUSINESS CARDS. Do not emulate the Japanese custom of handling troubles by cutting open your stomach and bleeding out until your pal cuts your head off but do emulate their very wise custom of giving and taking business cards. I advise against going around and gathering up business cards from everyone like it’s a damn scavenger hunt. Meet someone, get a feel (don’t cop a feel though) and then politely ask for their card. I suggest you make a note on the card after the person moves on so you remember who they were. You ‘re going to have a lot of cards and no idea who is who otherwise. So make a note like: “damn , shoulda copped a feel”. Hand out your card in a similar fashion. Don’t pass them out like flyers for a car wash. Be smart about this.
2. BEHAVIOR. It’s true that I goof off a lot but I do have a rule of thumb in business settings – treat others the way I would like to be treated. Here’s a producer I would like to meet. Hmmmm. How would I like to be greeted if the roles were reversed? Answer that and then do it. Remember, you have one chance to create a first impression. This is especially important if you happen to be an ass. You know you are an ass. Everyone who knows you knows you are an ass. However, the producer you want to meet may not know it. Don’t tell them! Hide your assiness — knowing full well it will reveal itself in time — hopefully it won’t come into play until they’ve already made the mistake of hiring you.
3. DRESS. This is a business meeting but it is not a necessarily a suit and tie affair. Business casual attire is called for and do bring a jacket. Speedos and flip flops are discouraged unless you have the feet for flip flops. Nobody except obese Germans on Floridian vacations should ever wear speedos.
4. LOCATION. The Javits Center is conveniently located to be a long walk from anywhere in the city. A cab is called for. Depending on where you’re staying, a Sherpa may be called for. However, if you want to do it easily and inexpensively, take a subway to 34th street and then transfer to the westbound 34th Street bus which will take you right to the Javits Center. When you get to the ugly monstrosity that is the Javits you will note that as you face the edifice there will be a left side of the building – conveniently to your left and a right side of the building – on your right. Enter the building through any door. The APAC Convention is downstairs on the right hand side. Everything else is for the BEA (book expo) which is worth a visit if you have a free day. Getting home/hotel after the convention is a complete SNAFU. There aren’t enough buses or cabs or Sherpas and it’s rush hour so you may have a long and hot walk on your hands….although it would be easier if you stayed on your feet.
5. SNACKS -all over the convention center. If you get to the APAC registration you will have passed a Starbucks stand that never seems to open. If you go the other way (to the south or left) there is a big snack concession area in the middle of the building on the ground floor and another -usually open – Starbucks way the hell on the other side. It’s a long walk so bring a snack. Also note that there are about 100 hot dog vendors outside the center. There’s nothing like a NY dirty water dog to quench that hunger pang and leave you with mystery meat breath and a 70/30 chance of ptomaine – all for about 2 bucks! Feast!
And now…..THE PARTIES:
1. APA MIXER
The first party of an official nature is the APA Mixer on May 27. The APA is a member event and you need to be a member to attend OR a guest of a member. (However this the biggest APA mixer of the year and I’ve been told that they may not be allowing guests due to space limitations).
It costs $20 to attend this shindig even if you are a member. And what do you get for this $20? A name tag and entrance to the party. Oh wait -there’s more. The APA has had their last few mixers on the East side and the place is great! These mixers always have free food but usually it’s all fried gunk that one should only view from a safe distance and never, under any circumstances, eat. (Of course it gets eaten anyway as many APA mixer attendees are actors and well…) But at this place! The food is really good.
It’s a cash bar but it’s not outrageously priced. Unless you’re not living in Manhattan. If you live elsewhere, the prices will cause your sphincter to clench like a bad oyster. So be prepared. Also be prepared for a nice casual beginning to the party followed by a raucous noisy -you can’t hear yourself think -middle and a muddled confusing ending where you can’t recall if you paid your bill or left your credit card or where you’re staying. So it’s fun. Everyone is there and they all try not to get too toasted so they can show up at APAC at 8AM.
That’s not right.
2. After APAC PARTY
The only one I know of requires an invitation so I’m not going to talk much about it except to say that it is a fabulous time. One of my favorite events of the week. If you are invited, you know. If you aren’t, I am very sorry …but I cannot break my vow of secrecy. I never got into the Skull and Bones and even the Boy Scouts kicked me out ( I beat up the Scoutmasters idiot child..but only because he was hideously cruel to animals so it was worth it. Stupid Scouts. Almost an Eagle too. Damn it – where was I? …oh yeah!) so I don’t want to mess this up.
If you aren’t in on this – make some plans with your new found APAC pals and go somewhere. See a show! Go to a fabulous restaurant. If you have the time – take the free Staten Island Ferry from the bottom of Manhattan to Staten Island – they have really cheap beer on the ferry and it goes right by the Statue of Liberty. And the free ferry is free! Get off in Staten Island and turn right back around and come back on the ferry. Don’t hang around the Staten Island Ferry side of the Staten Island Ferry. Just don’t.
3. THE AUDIES.
This is the Oscars of our industry where judges do their best to give Audies to people who have already won Oscars. It’s a posh affair that runs around $400 a person. For that, you get to see people dressed up really nicely. I think everyone looks smashing! And it’s an open bar so pretty soon everyone looks just smashed! And why not! It’s like Prom for grownups. There is excellent food and splendid conversation and, if I have anything to do with it, a quick presentation of awards. There’s a featured MC – this year it’s YA novelist Libba Bray. She opens the ceremony and then various narrators are called on to name the nominees and winners in each category. Hilary Huber and I get to do the Erotica and Romance winners which should be interesting as I’m not sure anyone uses their real name.
Personally, I am honored to be named for Solo Narration – Male. I hope I beat out the movie stars but I dunno. Either way, after the ceremony, there’s more food and drinks and then…
4. THE NAUDIES
Back in the day, there used to be awesome Audies After Party. Last year I was informed that there would be no such party anymore. Since I wasn’t nominated for an Audie last year (some sort of system glitch – my name got confused with Simon Vance’s) my friends Jeffrey Kafer and Melissa Exelberth and I got together and put together the Naudies. It is short for “Not the Audies”. Since so many narrators and producers were in town and not all of them were willing to blow 400 smackers and throw on a tux or a gown and go to watch other people get awards that they pined for themselves, we needed to have a party. So we did.
The Naudies served as a before, during and after party the night of the Audies. We dressed in loud shirts and brazen attire and partied from about 7pm to 4am. It was great. After the Audies ended, the attendees flocked to the Naudies and it was such a good time we now are sponsoring to 2nd Annual Naudies ( to be followed by the 3rd, 4th and so on….)
The Naudies are free to attend. They’re at Mustang Harrys at 352 7th Ave (28th Street). You have to buy your own drinks and there is full menu of fine food. (We arrange the space – we can’t afford to pay for everything — we work in the audiobook industry for Pete’s Sake! )
If you only attend one party this year – then you really need to get out more – but this should be one to consider. I will be at the Audies this year so I will not arrive at the Naudies until after the awards ceremony.
So. There’s your wrap up on the APAC/Audies week Events. I hope to see you in New York in May!
Because of the length of today’s blog, I am dispensing with my normal News blurbs –except to say – “hey! how bout that Donald Sterling guy huh? I’m sorry about your cancer but you are still a tool.” AND – to the Oklahoma prison execution squad — you know how when you make a fist a bunch of times, little blue things start to show up on your arms? – those are veins. There. I just saved you 51 minutes. Shame on you.