In this podcast interview Lofty Fulton talks about the benefits of creating international voiceover connections, voiceover from an Australian perspective, and becoming a big voice in a small world. We had fun!
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Transcript of conversation with Lofty Fulton
Andy: Well, they say the life of an actor is a pretty cool one, and where better to be than Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood. We’re just down the road from Beverley Hills, sitting under… sitting next to the MGM tower. And right now we’re sitting by the pool side, and I’m joined by Lofty Fulton. Hi Lofty.Lofty: Andy, how you going?
Andy: I’m great, mate. It’s great to meet you. We’ve met online and… in the past, and spoken over the web. But here we are, we’ve both come long distances to meet.
Lofty: We actually get to meet in person. You taking 28 hours to get here. We took 14 hours to get here. We’ve both come long distances to be here in LA for VOICE 2010… and what a great experience. Your first time.
Andy: It’s my first time, and it’s your second time.
Lofty: My second time.
Andy: And we’ll come back to, and it’s a very special experience you had at the end of VOICE 2008, in just a little bit. But first of all, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself. Where your interest in voice acting came from, how you started… a bit of background.
Lofty: Certainly, and we’ve got a pool bar… we’ve got the, what do they call them over here? The guys with… I don’t know what you call them in Turkey or in the UK, but that sound in the background you hear, people, is the gardener going about his business. Down here, poolside, at Beverley Hills. Got to keep the place looking good. My interest in voice overs, to basically start from the ground up, if you like My interest in voice overs actually came about, I started working in radio when I was 17. I basically got out of what we call high school, year 12, down in Australia, and had no real idea what I wanted to do with my life. For those who don’t know, I’m only 4′ 8″, and typically I have what would be called – what is called – dwarfism. So people get an idea of what I look like. My physical opportunities, as far as a career choice goes, were limited. And then my voice broke and my mother, actually, suggested to me, “You should think about getting into radio”. And I didn’t listen to my mum at the time, because being a teenager who knew it all – and for anyone who’s got kids, they’ll understand that… but then it just evolved out of school that I was offered the opportunity to step into the radio industry. I did that for around about ten, eleven years, until I got bored with it. And part of the job of working in radio is learning to read commercials… or that was part of the job description when I was going about it. And I got to this stage of 28 years old, and just went, “You know what? I really can’t see myself saying ‘That’s the brand new song by Madonna’ when I’m 40 years old”. Still spinning CDs as we were using back then.
I was already brain dead by with it by then, anyway, because as you’re aware in radio, by the time everyone finds a favourite song we’ve already played it so many times that we’re sick of hearing it, and it’s worn out in our mind. And that was certainly my experience. But as part and parcel of working in radio, I had to learn how to read commercials. And I was sitting there one day, I just had one of those sort of, I suppose for want of a better term, an epiphany where I just went, “You know what? I’m reading all these commercials in-house for the radio station, as part of my job. And I seem to be able to do it OK. So why don’t I do it for myself?”. And I was working in Northern Australia, in the eastern states, Queensland, which for those in the US, very similar to Florida in its climate, and it’s whole feel about it, if you like. And Sydney is the major market in Australia. And I just threw in the radio job, and went, “I’m going to Sydney to try my hand at voice overs”. And I was told I wouldn’t succeed, and that was 18 years ago. So, the lack of success has been a long time coming.
Andy: Oh, that’s too bad!
Lofty: Yeah. I’m still waiting to fail.
Andy: Sydney’s not a big city, is it?
Lofty: It’S not a big city by, say, UK standards. London, correct me if I’m wrong, London city about…?
Andy: About eight. Eight million.
Lofty: Eight million. OK I thought it was much bigger than that.
Andy: No. Istanbul is 15 million
Lofty: Sydney is around four and a half, but yet it is Australia’s most populous city. And… because we’re only a country of 22 million people. Very large continent, but a country of 22 million people. Four and a half of which live in Sydney, or the Greater Sydney area, and then the other major cities around, and spread throughout the countryside as well.
Andy: OK. So the type of voice over work you do is mainly commercial, or… ?Lofty: I do.. the one thing I don’t do is character voices. How I sound is basically how I sound. I don’t change my voice for characters. I don’t have the skills to sustain it, for want of a better term, and there are too many good character actors out there, so you’d leave them to their bag. So commercials, promos, and basically radio imaging, television promos. Sort of that entire gammut, if you like. You’ve got to… you’ve pretty much got to be a jack of all trades, because our market, quite simply, isn’t big enough for you to just specialise in just, say, “OK. All I am going to do is just read commercials. I do not want to do movie trailers. I do not want to do TV promos. I do not…”. Our market just isn’t big enough. My passion… Also there is, in there there is what we call corporate work, also known in the US market as narration. So pretty much anything except for character reading.
Andy: So it’s a good spectrum. And two years ago you had an interesting experience, because you’d just joined VOiceoverUniverse…
Lofty: I had.
Andy: And just after that… at about that time there was some promotion about VOICE 2008, and that… at the last minute you booked to go to VOICE 2008.
Lofty: Pretty well.
Andy: So what sort of effect has being involved with the international community had for you?
Lofty: It’s had a profound effect, to be perfectly honest. To slightly fill in the gaps, as you quite rightly said, became aware of VoiceoverUniverse though a very dear friend of mine, and colleague, Sharyn Doolan, who is based in Brisbane, Queensland, the place I was speaking about that’s much like Florida. We’ve known each other for years, and she sent me an invite to join VoiceoverUniverse. I got the email, looked at it, and went, “No”. She rang me and said, “Have you done it yet?”. I went, “No”. She said, “Just do it. Get it done”. And so we then were just looking around the site, and saw this banner on there for VOICE 2008, checked it out, and we just went, “Wow. That looks pretty amazing”. Spoke to my partner, Helen, and said, “Hey, honey, take a look at this”, and she said, “You know: you’ve got to go! You’ve got to do this”. Sharyn and I made the decision… this was very late June, the conference was in August. So we’re talking, at best, around at the outside a five week time frame we were dealing with. And so we booked it, got it all sorted. In the interim I met with a fantastic voice actor, and on-screen actor from Australia, by the name of Nick Tate, who has worked successfully for many years in the US market… made him aware that I was coming over. He took a listen to my demo, and got me an introduction with his agent, TGMD – here in Los Angeles. And I met with them on the day before I jumped on the plane to go back to Australia… with them signed. And I also… somebody else I’ve got to acknowledge in all of this is a man by the name Erik Sheppard, who invited me to join his voice agency in New York.
Andy: That’s great.
Lofty: So I got a lot out of coming to 2008, and the international voice over community has had a profound effect on the way do things, now.
Andy: OK. So what tangible results have you seen from that? It’s great belonging to an agency, but how are you able to work with them from Australia?
Lofty: I… once I met with TGMD, I jumped on the plane… Literally we came back to the hotel, picked up our bags, had a glass of champagne, and went, “Wow! That was great”. And then off to the airport. And got home to build a studio at home, which I previously didn’t have.
Andy: You didn’t have one before?
Lofty: No. Back home in Australia we go out to work. It’s… it is not common for home studios. So I had to, all of a sudden, get this huge learning curve happening about what to do, and once again learned while I was here at 2008 how easy it can be.
Andy: So would you recommend to other Australian voice talents that they should have home studios?
Lofty: I would certainly suggest it, because if you want to play in the international market you need a home studio… not to compete with those studios – got to make this clear – not to compete with those studios at home, it is just feasible… the only way you are going to get to play in the international market from Australia, is to have a home studio. Complete with either an ISDN or a Source Connect resource, if not both. But you need a professional studio. Otherwise you just can’t play the game. And the reason being – when you think about it, it makes sense – if you are having to hire a studio each time you need to audition for a job overseas, you’re going to be shelling out a lot of cash before you see any return on it.
Andy: Of course not everyone can afford the ISDN or Source Connect route, and in fact it’s not always available, for instance from…
Andy: In Istanbul it’s not easily accessible. A lot of international work can be done just by the internet.
Lofty: That is indeed true.
Andy: But of course the ideal solution is to have those both. So for international voice work you’ve got your home studio, and so on. It’s lovely to talk about international work, but does it happen?
Lofty: It does happen, probably not with the frequency that I’d like it to happen…
Andy: OK. That can change, it’s early days…
Lofty: That can change. I mean it’s only been two years now.
Andy: It’s early days.
Lofty: And, as you know, you’ve got to have some face time with these people to make things happen. But I picked up a client who I work with on a semi-regular basis through TGMD, and international client. It’s quite interesting, I record from Australia, for my agent in America, for Austria. So I’ve got the whole triple A thing going on. It’s… So, I’ve done that. I was also out shopping, this was pre-Christmas, with Helen, and we were in one of the department stores back home, and the phone rang. It was Ilko my agent here at TGMD saying, “Lofty, can you do a job tonight?”. And it’s like “Yeah, sure. When?”… and we got it all sorted. and quite rightly – to redress the Source Connect/ISDN thing – I don’t use ISDN or Source Connect a lot, this particular client I work for in Austria I do record and send off as an MP3. They trust me to do it.
Andy: It gives you options…
Lofty: It gives you the option, because the last thing that you want to have happen, I suppose, is somebody go, “Yeah, that’s great, we’ll do a link up with you via ISDN”.
Lofty: “I’m sorry, I don’t have an ISDN” or “I don’t have a Source Connect system”. And all of a sudden you’ve got to scramble around, and if it’s a weekend and you’re looking for a studio to work out of, that becomes problematic. But yes, the jobs I have done for TGMD, one was a phone patch. I had… this job that Ilko rang me about was for a client here in the US. They directed me over the phone, and I just sent it off via YouSendIt, which is an FTP.
Lofty: I don’t have my own FTP, something I’ve got to investigate, but I just use YouSendIt, and clients are happy with that. They get an email saying you’ve got a file sitting there…
Andy: There are some great services, YouSendIt, DropBox…
Lofty: All of those.
Andy: And for somebody who maybe doesn’t have a Los Angeles agent… there are certainly many different ways of beginning to build an international business in different ways.
Lofty: That is right, and to revisit that ISDN and Source Connect, in areas where it is not available, you don’t have an option. You do it via file exchange, using the internet, and at the worst – or at the very least – if you can have a phone patch, so a client can monitor if they chose to. They can ring in, you can dial them up through your system, and the phone patches are really relatively inexpensive.
Andy: I’ve heard that some people have even been doing that with Skype.
Lofty: Skype is another great resource, and as you and I both know, the technology that I installed two years ago has probably been superseded in many respects, and two years further down the track, who knows what we’ll be using. But Skype is a great resource. In fact, you’re right, Andy, I had a client in Miami, I’ve got to thank Zurek for this – Zurek, the founder of VoiceoverUnverse – he was talking to a friend of his down in Miami, and this guy had contacted Zurek saying, “I’ve got this job”, and Zurek’s gone, “You need Lofty for that”. And he monitored over Skype while I recorded, and sent the file to him. So…
Andy: That’s fantastic.
Lofty: Yeah, it’s great. I love it. Zurek gave the client my details, the client got in touch with me. He… of course the phone charges between the US and Australia are quite expensive, he said, “Can I monitor over Skype?”. And it was like he listened to the session, directed me over the session. We had video contact with each other.
Andy: That’s fantastic.
Lofty: And I recorded and then sent it off to him.
Andy: The possibilities that are available today are incredible.
Lofty: They are! There are so many possibilities available out there, and – as you know – you’ve got to go looking for them. They’re not going to come to you if you sit on your butt, in your lounge room, going, “I’m waiting for my voice over career to start”. And that’s true of any particular industry. If you are sitting in your lounge room waiting for someone to knock on your front door and say, “I want to give you a job”. Chances are it may not happen.
Andy: And I think the big difference with voice over is that in many industries if you were to call somebody, or email them, they’d just tell you where to go.
Andy: …but with voice over there are… one of the themes here at VOICE 2010 has been community…
Andy: …and one of the incredible things is that people who are perceived as successful and, in another scenario, inaccessible actually are totally accessible, and we’ve been able to meet with these people and talk with them, and they’ve given us their time and insights.
Lofty: Invaluable insights… On that very note, my passion is trailers, and as you know the last general session we had here at VOICE 2010 was to have some of the best, or the best, promo and trailers guys attend, ad give us their insights into the industry.
Andy: And also the Diversity Panel…
Lofty: The Diversity Panel I had the great experience of meeting Dave Fennoy, a very well known promo-trailer man here in LA. I also had the great pleasure of meeting John Garry…
Andy: Who gave me an interview, as well.
Lofty: Yes, and as you know an amazing man, and an amazing voice actor, and a very busy man. Some of the trailer campaigns going around at the moment, John is one of those many voices you will hear. For instance, one that comes to mind immediately is “Date Night”. If you Google John Garry, or go to his website, you will see, you’ll go, “I know that man”. And I had the experience of meeting him. What an amazing talent!
Andy: So John Garry, Joe Cipriano… all these great guys together.
Lofty: Scott Rummell, Ashton Smith, Stew Herrera, and I had the very great privilege – you can’t buy this kind of face time – we had the very great privilege of Scott Rummell joining us at our table at the banquet last night. I got to sit down at the end of VOICE 2010 speaking to probably the best known trailer guy today… in the world. Sitting, shooting the breeze, chewing the fat – as we like to say – and just having the most amazing experience. You, as you said Andy, that is not accessible to us on a daily basis. It’s just not accessible. You don’t just pick up the phone and go, I think I might like to talk to Scott Rummell, or Ashton Smith, or John Garry, or Joe Cip… any of those people. You just don’t do that. But their time here, they were so generous with imparting the knowledge that they wanted to share, and were prepared to share with us.Andy: Many of these, through different forums like VoiceoverUniverse and whatever, they are accessible.
Andy: But certainly actually being here and…
Lofty: …and having one on one time with these people, or even being parked in the same room as they are telling us about what their industry is all about, it’s invaluable.
Andy: The beautiful thing is we can see they’re just ordinary guys like you and me.
Lofty: Yes. Yes.
Andy: Well, actually I’m not ordinary, but…
Lofty: No. You’re extraordinary…
Andy: That has different connotations, Lofty…
Lofty: Oh, I’m sorry…
Andy: Yeah, yeah, but in a positive way.
Lofty: I mean it in the most positive way… as am I. We are both extraordinary human beings. I am extremely modest, as you can probably tell.
Andy: That’s one of my best facets, actually. I’m really proud of that.
Lofty: I think my best quality is my modesty by far.
Andy: Yeah. That’s fantastic.
Lofty: But, Andy, can I also just want to acknowledge you for… we connected through VoiceoverUniverse. You live in Istanbul. I live in the Southern Hemisphere, in that country they call “Down Under”, and we have connected and formed a friendship thanks to VoiceoverUniverse. Thanks to communities like VOICE 2010. Of course I can’t imagine that you and I anytime soon would have gone, “It’s really great to talk to you, let’s jump on a plane and have a coffee somewhere. Let’s pick a middle point”. But this has given us the opportunity to make contact with so many wonderful people. So, if you’re contemplating coming to the next VOICE conference… I would.
Andy: Absolutely. It’s been a great time, and I think that we should mention that sitting here with us is Helen.
Andy: Say “Hi”, Helen.
Hxx: Hi Helen.
Lofty: That is my beautiful. That is the love of my life, people. She keeps me grounded, and she points me in the right directions.Andy: So, it’s fantastic that you’ve come over as well, and that you’re here.
Lofty: Andy, thanks for taking the time to sit down and have a chat.
Andy: And you, too.
Lofty: I really appreciate it.
Andy: Nice meeting you.
Andy: OK. That’s a great slap.
Lofty: That’s great, my man. Thank you.
Andy: Thank you.
About Lofty Fulton
Lofty Fulton is somewhat of an enigma in the world of voice overs.
In his own words, “Standing 4′ 8″ on a good hair day, you could be forgiven for thinking I might be ‘bigger’. I have raised more than a few eyebrows with ‘first time’ clients; but when it comes to getting into the studio the myth of ‘size does matter’ is blown away”.
Working in the Sydney market as a freelance voice actor since 1992, he is represented in Australia by EM Voices. His clients have included the likes of Fox Sports, Universal, Dreamworks, Paramount Pictures and Toyota, to name a few.