Saturday, November 16, 2013

Women of Influence: Presents Michelle Ruff


Have you ever wondered how you get a job as a voiceover actor/actress? I know I have. My curiosity and research led me to Michelle Ruff, one of the most highly recognized voiceover talents, specifically in anime and video games. Michelle has been creating unique and memorable voices for quite some time now and some of her credits include: Lupin The 3rd, Akira, Jade Cocoon, Wild Arms, Street Fighter, Cardcaptor Sakura, The Oblongs, Cowboy Bebop, Xenosaga, Digimon, Dynasty Warriors, Star Ocean, Ghost In The Shell, Gungrave, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Naruto, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, Sonic Generations, Saints Row: The Third, and most recently Jill Valentine in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. WOW, I know and that’s just a few of her credits. 

Ruff’s credits continue to grow exponentially and they are hard to keep up with, however her success is not by any means a fluke or luck. On the contrary she is a testament to God given talent, hard work, and most of all a humility which for a star of her caliber could be understood if she were pompous about all her accomplishments. Thankfully she is quite the opposite and allowed GMEG to sit with her briefly to ask some pertinent questions about her experience in entertainment as a Female voiceover actor.

Michelle, thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule to sit with us and answer our questions. 

Tell us a little bit of who you are? What you do? Who you’ve worked with? How did you get into the business?  

You’re welcome!  Gotta pay it forward.  I’m a voice over artist originally from Second City and Improv Olympic in Chicago. I’ve worked with so many people, honestly I don’t remember who I worked with yesterday.  

How about most memorable people? One of my first commercial jobs was with the original Fred Flinstone in studio together for a Post Hollyrock Cocoa Pebbles spot with Barney Rubble on phone patch from the East coast. A moment I’ll never forget. Nicest celebrity director I’ve worked with was Jada Pinkett Smith. Favorite animation studio to work at, Dreamworks Animation Campus and all the lovely directors and producers there.   

I originally started doing voice overs back in Michigan.  I was studying at Michigan State (GO SPARTANS!!!!) behind the scenes in TV and Radio production.  I was working as an office manager/talent agent at a place called C.L Adams model and talent agency.  Well, C.L., my boss got a call one day for a radio spot audition and he told me I should go audition.  After much resistance, I went. A week later I was driving in the car with my then roommate and I heard my voice on the radio! They lifted my audition and used it for the actual radio spot without ever actually booking me! So C.L. called and got me paid, etc…and that was my first radio spot. From there, the rest is history. And what a history it has been. 

2.  What experience/advice has had the most impact on your career?

I had an acting manager here in L.A. tell me that I’ll never get anywhere being so fragile and that being a victim is not attractive. That despite not acting on camera, I was doing voice over acting, I needed to start caring about how I looked and showing up to jobs and auditions put together because people notice. You know what?  She was right. Great advice if you want the part you have to look the part. Something I have learned myself in all walks of life.

3. Did you set goals before reaching certain milestones?

I did. When I first started in the business in L.A., I made it a goal to network with everyone I auditioned with and worked with.    I took an internship and worked for free for a long time, which I think is the foundation of why I’m successful today. I met so many people who had an opportunity to see me work and in turn hired me and still hire me. I asked lots of questions. People are really wonderful in the voice over community.  I had a few really amazing talented people take me under their wing as mentors. Another great piece of advice NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK as well as ask questions and seek mentoring. It seems you’re humility early on continues to pay dividends.    

4. Can you explain some of the misconceptions you hear from young actors striving to break into voice over acting?

A lot of people want to break into voice overs including a lot of people who aren’t even actors or remotely in the same field. The biggest misconception is that to do a voice over you just go into a booth and use your voice in front of a microphone. The business has changed. There used to be a lot more room for “announcers” but nowadays, clients want real actors. 

They want someone to sell their products, do commercials and do their cartoon characters and video game characters who actually have acting chops. In other words study the craft of acting in all its facets. Success comes with putting in the work, anyone striving to become successful at voiceover acting is no different-put in the time and learn.

5. Are there any specific book(s) or articles you would recommend to aspiring voice over actors?

Hmmm. I haven’t read any books or articles specifically. A company I do cartoons for did a video called “Adventures in Voice Acting” which I was interviewed for. I’ve heard it’s really helpful for those looking to break in to the voice over world. Thank you for that resource and those aspiring actors don’t forget acting classes. Learn your craft.

6. Do you have a favorite quote(s) or mantra you live by?

There are a few….
Hello, I’m fabulous.
Thank you for my continued financial success as an actress. 
Thank you for my creative focus. 
Somebody’s doing it…why not me? 
I just want to be invited to the party.  If I suck, then you don’t have to invite me back. 

7. What advice would you give young women thinking about entering the voice over field as a profession? 

Study acting. Take Improvisation classes. Don’t ever let anyone tell you, you can’t do it. Because if you really want to, you can! Be easy to work with. Return your phone calls ASAP and treat it as a “business”. It’s a fine line because we’re artists but as artists we have to sell our commodity, which is ourselves.  

Don’t take things personally…you have to have a thick skin to do a million auditions and only book one job.  That’s a lot of rejection. Keep it moving and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Network, Network, Network!!!! Priceless information, thank you.

8. Who would benefit from your services/talent? 

Anyone who needs a real, honest believable voice for their product. 
Anyone who needs a character voice for a video game or cartoon.
Anyone who needs someone to come in and do real young believable kid voices. 
Anyone who’s check won’t bounce…Just kidding!!!!

Thank you for your honesty & insight, just two more questions on a lighter note…
9. If you could only use one cuss/curse word for the rest of your life, which would it be and why? 

Shit!  It’s fun to say and it can be used in so many different and interesting ways. 

10. If you could have a superpower or be a superhero for a day; who/what would it be and why? 

Hmmmm.  Is this a trick question?  This is actually an application for the Miss America Pageant…isn’t it. You almost had me. Sneaky. Good no answer because you would reveal your true identity as Superwoman, oops did I say that?

Michelle thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to sit with us and giving some insight to those individuals looking to break into the voiceover business as well as your sincere and sound advice. 
It goes without saying you are in every sense of the word a Woman of Influence and we wish you nothing but continued success in all your personal and professional ventures.  



If you are interested in booking Michelle or want to learn more about her current or future work please visit: 
http://voiceofmichelleruff.com/

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Women of Influence: 10 Burning Questions with Annette Torres






When I initially thought of the series of Influencers I felt it was important to start with Women of Influence, especially in entertainment. Women in my opinion are not given their due for all the major contributions they make in society and I felt it was only fitting for us to begin with someone who embodies Influence. The person I selected for my first woman of Influence is Annette Torres. Annette is part of a band called Las Cafeteras, they are widely recognized as one of the most influential Latino bands and as noted by the latest Huffington Post article are 1 of 10 Latino musicians to keep an eye out for. There is no doubt I am a big fan of Annette and her band mates, Las Cafeteras.  Four years ago I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the band and they instantly captivated me with their unique sound, unbound energy and profound message of equality for all. 

The band combines the vibrant energy of Son Jarocho music with an edgy LA-alternative sound & political message. Their pounding Afro-Mexican rhythms, stomping zapateado dancing, & uplifting lyrics tell stories of everyday people searching for love & fighting for justice in the concrete jungle. This alt-son group re-mixes traditional sounds, adding Afro-Caribbean Marimbol, Native American Drum & Flute, Cajon, Hip Hop, English & Spanglish to Jarocho instruments like Jarana & Requinto Guitars, Donkey Jaw-Bone, & the Tarima (stomp box). 

I am pleased to introduce, Ms. Annette Torres.   

1.  Annette thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule to sit with us. Tell us a little bit of who you are? What you do? Who you’ve worked with?
My name is Annette Torres, born in East Los Angeles, raised in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.  I am currently managing & booking for Las Cafeteras as well as play marimbol in the band.
I have worked with some great bands in Los Angeles and nationwide. To name a few we have worked with CafĂ© Tacuba’s Ruben Albarran (Hoppo!), Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Culture Clash, Lila Downs, Ozomatli, Aterciopelados, Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine), La Santa Cecilia, Fool’s Gold, Pilar Diaz, Ollin, Pachamama, He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, Adanowsky, Quetzal & many more.
 
2.  Those are some great bands, it’s obvious you and your band mates have put in the hard work. Keeping hard work in mind, what experience/advice has had the most impact on your career?
So many people have given me advice throughout my years, but I feel the best advice has been to follow my heart and intuition, and keep doing what I am doing.  If at the end of the day I am smiling, then I am on the right path.  

3. Great advice, Smiling is a great goal to strive for in any venture. Speaking of goals, did you set goals before reaching certain milestones?
Yes.  One of my goals was to obtain a college degree, which I did in Communications at Cal State Los Angeles. It was very important to me to obtain this degree, because I am a child of immigrant parents. My parents crossed the Mexican border for survival reasons. Unfortunately my parent’s dreams didn’t include higher education, only hard work and survival. I want to change this mentality in my family, and push education as being a viable and crucial opportunity for generations to come.  

I didn’t choose music, music chose me. Growing up I never considered becoming a musician, because we could not afford music classes due to lack of money.  I never dreamt I would be where I am now opening for Juanes and playing with the LA Philharmonic. These experiences have been gifts given to me by my higher power.  My goal with music is to be able to use it as a tool to empower communities all over the world. 
   
4. Education and empowering people through music, truly a Woman of Influence. Can you explain some of the misconceptions you hear from young artists/bands who are trying to break into the music industry?
I hear some musicians saying that they have to either change their music, or change their name to fit the mainstream public/media. I say be original, and never change to please other people. 

5. Be original and uncompromising in your art/music, not much more to add to that. Are there any specific book(s) or articles you would recommend to aspiring artists?
I read a lot of spiritual books. I feel that artists need to learn to stay grounded while going into this industry. There is a lot of rejection, compromises with band members, and competition from other artists. If one as an artist stays grounded, then none of this will be taken personally, and you will have more of a chance to stay mentally healthy. A book can only teach you so much.  Most of what I have learned has been by asking advice from others, or learning from my mistakes while attempting to do it on my way.  I have messed up a lot, and that has been a perfect lesson to doing it right the next time around. 

6. Overall, experience is the best teacher. Do you have a favorite quote(s) or mantra you live by?
“Thoughts Become Things.” I live by this quote because it is so true.  My life is a direct reflection on how I feel about myself.  Everything in my life, good or bad has been created by my thoughts.  I am the director in my own life, and so the only one that is held responsible for my decision is, me. 

7. There is no doubt your thoughts have become great things in your musical experiences. What advice would you give young women thinking about entering the music field as a profession?
Music to me is like medicine.  If music is what you want to pursue for the rest of your life, or at least for the moment, do it.  Never let anyone get in the way of your dreams, or inflict fear in your choice to become a musician.  Don’t compromise your self-worth to get ahead in this business.  You can get there on your own. Money will come slowly for some, but surely for most.  

8. Who would benefit from your services/talent?
My hope is that everyone benefits from what I am doing.  I am a single mother, so I am always rooting for single mother’s to follow their heart and keep doing what they love to do.  Women in general are my focus, because we have a voice, and our stories are very significant.  We don’t always get to tell or share our experiences, and it is something that we are missing in this world.  

Thank you for your honesty & insight, just two more questions on a lighter note…

9. If you could only use one cuss/curse word for the rest of your life, which would it be and why? Glad this question was asked now, and not a few years ago when I use to cuss quite a bit. Shit! This word to me is just to express a feeling like when I hit myself, or someone tells me something exciting.  It is non-offensive, and I can get away with it most of the time.

10. If you could have a superpower or be a superhero for a day; who/what would it be and why?  Having this much power is too much pressure. Not sure if I would want the responsibility.  Ok how about have the ability to travel through space and time of my choosing.


Annette, words cannot express our gratitude to you for taking the time to sit with us and answering some important questions for individuals looking to get into the entertainment business. You are the epitome of a Woman of Influence.

Thank you so much for your absolute honesty and for opening your heart completely as well as sharing your wisdom as an industry professional.





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