Ultimate story teller, Scott Brick gave me goosebumps relating an incident which was a turning point in his life. From his Hollywood home and studio, here’s his wonderful story or creativity and opportunity.
In conversation with Scott Brick
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Transcript of conversation with Scott Brick
Andy: So here we are just north of Hollywood, California and we’re at the home and studio of Scott Brick. And joined with Scott and Cookie. It’s great to see you again, Scott.
Scott: You as well. Cookie can’t you say “Hi”? Are you going to be anti-social? You aren’t going to say anything? It’s good to have you here. It’s great to see you again… was it two years?
Andy: Two years.
Andy: Two years ago at VOICE 2010, and again this year at VOICE 2012.
Scott: Yeah. Exactly. Nice to have you here. Welcome to the house.
Andy: Thank you. It’s a beautiful house, and it’s kind of funny, it actually feels like a Hollywood house, which is cool. It’s funny that you’re right in the middle of the film industry, and yet you’re the audiobook guy.
Scott: I know. I’m almost across the street from Universal Studios. I actually live on the street where “Eight is Enough” was filmed. All the exteriors were filmed just down the street from me. All these movies and TV shows that have been in production around me, and yet I’m downstairs in my studio recording audiobooks. It’s kind of a nice change of pace.
Andy: That’s cool. Scott, just before we talk about some of your more current projects, and your current work, can I throw you back before you ever got behind the microphone, or before you ever got into a studio. What the heck got you started… got some sort of bug in you to do this?
Scott: At some point in my youth, in my childhood, people would notice – I think it was the fact that I told jokes so often. I actually think that’s a valuable skill to learn, and I always tell my students: learn to tell jokes, because it really helps with storytelling, because you’ve got a beginning, a middle, and an end. And I think if you can do it on the short, on the small micro level, you can do it on the macro level as well. And I did it constantly when I was a kid. And any time I had a chance at a captive audience, and I had a good story that I knew I could affect them with, I took it. I was always the kid would tell ghost stories around the fire at camp. I just… I’m passionate about storytelling, I always have been. That’s why I became an actor; I think to one extent or another, anybody who works in entertainment industry we do this because we want to tell stories. And whether you’re a cinematographer or a set designer, or a makeup technician, we’re all telling stories. With audiobooks it just turns out that this is kind of the most pure form of that. And I think it was that, the fact that I was a story teller as a kid, plus the fact that I just read voraciously… passionate about books. I think… I didn’t spend my youth thinking, “Boy, if only I could do audiobooks one day,” and yet by the time I got here I realised that all of those skills definitely helped me along the way.
Andy: OK. So were you involved in theatre at school?
Scott: Yeah. I got involved in theatre, I guess my freshman year of high school. I did it just for fun. But my intention was to be a comic book artist.
Scott: Yeah. I was going to be a graphic artist, and when I got to be a senior in high school I moved to Huntington Beach, a couple of hours from where I had been living, and we had terrific theatre teacher named Mike Frym, and he had a tour where he would take some of his students to Broadway. And we would… in a week, we’d see eight or ten Broadway shows. And he encouraged me to take this trip. Encouraged me to a great extent. He went out and met my parents, met my family, encouraged everybody – when I told him I couldn’t afford the trip – he convinced my family to give it to me for Christmas that year.
Scott: And I didn’t know why, until finally we got to New York, it was December 1982, and Cats had just opened, so we were literally in the theatre watching Cats in the Winter Garden Theater in New York, and at intermission they allowed you to come up on stage. And he, as everybody is running up to the stage, Mike just kind of nudged me with his elbow and says, “Come on”. So I follow him up there, and he takes me down stage centre, in this Broadway theatre, puts his arm around my shoulder, and with the other arm gestures dramatically out at the crowd, and he says, “This is what I wanted you to come to New York to see. I wanted you to see what life was like from this perspective”.
Andy: You’ve just given me goose bumps!
Scott: Well, I… it was one of those moments. It was a goose bump moment. And I realised at that moment my life was different now. My life changes from now. Everything before now is prelude, is prologue. From this point on my life is different. Right at that moment, my entire life shifted. I said I’m not going to be an artist, I’ll be an actor. But I didn’t really see myself as having the talent, the abilty, anything really all that special. But I trusted that Mike saw what I didn’t. And I said I’ll just trust the third eye, that I can’t quite provide the situation myself. So it’s been… yeah… it’s been different ever since then.
Andy: So, it’s great that you had some milestones in your mind like that, and somebody like Mike, who showed you the way.
Scott: Yeah… it absolutely does.
Andy: That’s very cool. And… so you continued with theatre.
Scott: I continued with theatre. I toured with the Shakespeare company on and off for about ten years. It was called Will and Company, we would do hour long versions of maybe about a dozen of Shakespeare’s plays, or other classics, and…
Andy: I saw “Shakespeare for Dummies” on your bookshelf…
Scott: Yes! Yes! You did! Absolutely! And so yeah, I did stage work and whatever film or TV roles I could get. Even a couple of voiceover jobs, although I wasn’t really pursuing it. But then about ten years after I left college, I was playing baseball with an old friend of mine, Bob Westal – there was a bunch of us who had all gone to UCLA together, and we would get together every Saturday morning and play baseball. And Bob happened to work for Dove Audio, which sadly doesn’t exist anymore, but while he was there, you know, he’d seen me in a number of my stage productions, and told me I would be good. Got me an audition. I booked my first job… And while I was there doing my first two short stories, Dan Musselman was there – it was his last day, and my first day. Dan was leaving Books On Tape… he was leaving Dove Audio to go build a studio for Books On Tape, and become their Executive Producer. And so as I was coming in, he was on his way out. And gave me his card, he said, “I’m going to have my own place. I’m going to make my own narrations. In about a month, why don’t you give me a call?”. And you know, I think by the time – Dove went out of business about a year later, and I think I’d done maybe eight jobs for them – in the twelve years since that happened, I’ve done maybe 350 for Dan. I mean I wonder… I think I’ve done about 600 audiobooks altogether, but about 350, or round about there were just for Dan alone. Books On Tape, Random House Audio. I wonder what my life would be like everyday… And I found his card recently. I have it over here. I was cleaning out my garage, and there was all these old magazines…
Andy: It was in a special place in the garage.
Scott: Yeah! Exactly. I honestly have no idea how it wound up getting into that box, because it was just old magazines. A magazine that I used to write for. And somebody gave me these two boxes, and they said some of your issues might be in here. And I held on to it for years – I don’t know why I did that – I finally just said, “I need this space!” And so I started… I almost just chucked the two boxes, but instead I went through issue by issue. Pulling them out. Pulling them out. Throwing them in the recycling bin. Ink stains all over my hand, you know. Finally I get two issues from the bottom of the box, and there’s a business card. Upside down. And it’s the only thing in this box that wasn’t magazines, and I thought, “Whose business card ? What would this be?” And I flipped it over. It’s Dan Musselman’s card from when he worked at Dove Audio. And I just stared at it, and my girlfriend, and another friend of ours were there helping me get though my stuff, and they saw how still I was. They said “What is it? What is it?” And I said, “It’s my career!”
Scott: Yeah. So, I framed it and we’ve got it over here on the table behind us. I think when Dan retires I’m going to put it in a nice frame, maybe put it in acrylic, and give it to him.
Andy: That’s very cool. And so most of your work, I know, is audiobooks.
Andy: But you’re not just sitting n your booth all day and being a hermit…
Scott: There’s a lot of that!
Andy: OK… You need to spend time there, don’t you…
Andy: …to put the words down on the tape, so to speak. But you also doing many other things: writing, and teaching, and speaking at conferences, and so on. You’re very pro-active, I think.
Scott: Yeah, well… part of it is just… you know there’s such a cliché… in America they always talk about giving back to the industry… and it’s become such a cliché that people kind of roll their eyes when you hear it. I do when I say it. But things are clichéd for a reason. It’s because they’re true. And this industry has been very, very good to me. It’s embraced me. It’s given me a career. It’s given me a home. Literally all the best things that I have in my life are because of audiobooks. So, I’m passionate about speaking at conferences, and talking about the industry. You know, I think 36% or 37% of American people have listened to an audiobook. Which is great. But there’s at least, you know, 63% who haven’t, and we want to expand the conversation we want to get to know them. We want to expose the industry to them. So I go talk at conferences round the country. Talk with librarians, whomever… and…
Andy: It’s one of the fastest growing sectors of production, isn’t it?
Scott: Well, certainly of publishing, it’s the fastest growing. e-books and audiobooks are really the only growing part of publishing at all. Print publishing has been slowly dwindling for a number of years now. But audiobooks are going great guns. But also from a voiceover perspective. From the perspective of people who want to break into the industry as a voice talent. Audiobooks – well I think audiobooks and video games are the two fastest growing aspects of voiceover… categories of voiceover. So I want to help the new narrators coming in. I see it constantly. People come into the studio for classes – I teach with Pat Fraley – when they come in and they sit down for the first time, even if they’re experienced behind the microphone, they’re petrified. They give me that kind of deer in front of the headlights look, that kind of “You know… what am I supposed to do now? How does this work?”. And it’s really simple. It’s like a quote from Alice in Wonderland. “Begin at the beginning. Then go to the end. And stop.”
Scott: You just… you go from Chapter One to the end! But people are nervous because they’ve never done it. So that’s what I try to do.
Andy: They don’t know the rhythm…
Andy: I’m thinking with the audiobook – series of audio books – I’m about to produce, how the heck am I going to juggle all the technical side with the performance side, but that’s something you get in to a rhythm of, of course.
Scott: You do. And it happens through experience. If only there was a way to short cut experience! If I could fake authenticity, I’d be made!
Andy: You’ve quoted one Lloyd Webber, it’s another musical…. Starlight Express…
Andy: Has the line – well, had the line in the original production which I saw in London: “The sad thing about experience is that by the time you’ve got it, it’s just about all you’ve got…”
Scott: That’s true!
Andy: That was the rail cars. OK… Let’s just draw everything together with two questions. First of all, what makes you, Scott Brick, good at audiobooks, and why is that your preferred genre? And do you have anything great coming up that you can share with us?
Scott: As for what makes me good, I kind of blush at that…
Andy: I know, it’s a horrible question! I shouldn’t ask it.
Scott: But, you know, I think the reason that I’ve been really blessed to work so much is every time I work on a book, all I can think about is the context, because you can go about this – and you know from doing voiceovers – you can read things very slavishly as they’re written on the page, or you can try to understand the author’s intent. And we don’t change… we don’t change the words on the page, and yet you have to understand the context in which they are written in order to really bring it to life. And that’s what I try to do in my readings. You can be slavish to punctuation. But if you did an entire book that way you would… you could very conceivably read everything wrong. For instance, the line could be read, “Who do you think you are, anyway?”
Andy: Yes. Which doesn’t make sense.
Scott: Exactly. It’s technically correct, but in context makes no sense whatsoever.
Andy: That was the thing that struck me downstairs, when you were showing me one of the scripts you are working on right now. That you hadn’t marked anything up on it, that you must be living the story.
Scott: I try to. Every narrator really needs to know the story. And I always tell people, you know for new narrators you definitely have to read the book ahead of time. There’s… I will do it to an extent. I want to know what’s happening in the story, and yet I want to be surprised in the way they are. So, I will make sure that I’ve… that, you know… that if it’s a whodunit, I know who done it, but I want to make sure that every action takes place in the book is something I can imagine myself doing as it’s happening, and I’m going to be surprised by it. I try to live through the experience.
Andy: So, You’re creating films in Hollywood in your mind.
Andy: Just not outside.
Scott: Yeah. Exactly.
Andy: And the other part of my question was: what’s coming up?
Scott: What’s coming up? Well, actually there’s a lot of books I’m working on right now. I’m actually juggling three or four at the moment. What really excites me the most is when I get done narrating, and I come up at the end of the day, and I start working on something that I’ve been writing for about a year now. I don’t get to teach as often as I want to, so in order to make myself feel a little less guilty I started writing a book called “Narrating Audiobooks, Brick by Brick”, and it’s basically about how I do it. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. You know from doing voiceover, there’s only the way that we do it. But I want to share the way that I do it in case it is in any way illustrative for students, and hopefully get rid of that deer on the headlights look. They wonder… they’re scared because they don’t know how it’s done. I want to give them this to show them how it’s done. So when they go in they can be a little bit more relaxed, and just let the process flow. And again, maybe they take something that I do… I’m interviewing other narrators to ask how they do it as well… so maybe a new narrator gets something from me, and he gets something from Barbara Rosenblat, and something else from John Lee, but then they go off and they find out what works best for them, and they do it their way.
Andy: And maybe it’s a conglomerate of some or all, or something totally new.
Scott: That would be nice.
Andy: Well, thanks so much for inviting us into your home, Scott. It’s an honour.
Scott: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for being here.
Andy: Pleasure to be here.
Scott: Thanks so much.
Andy: Thank you.
About Scott Brick
Actor, screenwriter and audiobook narrator, Scott Brick definitely gives new meaning to a hyphenate career with credits in film, television, stage and radio.
Born on January 30, 1966 in Santa Barbara, California, Brick studied both acting and writing at UCLA, and joined the ranks of working professionals upon leaving school in 1989. He then spent ten years with the LA-based Will and Company, a traveling Shakespearean company which performed for schools throughout California, in addition to acting in such roles as Cyrano, Hamlet and Macbeth at various playhouses around the country.
Brick went on to become a freelance writer and published articles in magazines such as WIZARD, CREATIVE SCREENWRITING and TOYFARE.
In 2000, he was hired by Morgan Freeman and Revelations Entertainment to adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s classic science-fiction RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA for the big screen.
Also in 2000, Brick ventured into narrating audiobooks and quickly found himself embraced by the audio world. To date he’s won over 50 Earphones Awards for his narrating skills, as well as two Audie Awards for his work on the DUNE saga. After recording 250 titles in his first five years, AUDIOFILE MAGAZINE named Brick “one of the fastest-rising stars in the audiobook galaxy,” and proclaimed him a Golden Voice, but it was the WALL STREET JOURNAL that sealed the moniker with a front-page article in November, 2004. Having now recorded over 600 titles, including such classics as MYSTIC RIVER, FAHRENHEIT 451, IN COLD BLOOD and HELTER SKELTER, Brick has no intention of slowing down. He obviously won’t be happy until he’s recorded every book ever published.
Most recently, he collaborated with famed sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card to adapt a collection of Card’s short stories for the stage, which resulted in the play POSING AS PEOPLE. Brick also completed the production draft of RAMA, set to be directed by David Fincher (SEVEN, ZODIAC).
Brick recently completed his first novel, a modern-day supernatural thriller based on an 18th-century murder in New England. No word on which celebrities will be asked to record the audiobook (but I’m checking my in-box daily – Andy).