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Hey, Answerman! - A Little Help From My Friends

by Brian Hanson,

Hey, everyone! Welcome to Hey, Answerman!

Since I'm a bit crunched for time, let's just do this thing and dispense some wisdom!

Hey Anwserman, I was wondering if you can help.

For some insane reason, I've decided to try my hand at hosting my first ever own panel - note the words "first ever".

Now don't get me wrong, I've got the basic premise of the panel set up - the panel itself will be about introducing new and relatively unknown manga titles - the problem is that again, as this is my first time, I can't help but wonder if there's anything I've missed or need to be aware of - is there anything akin to an "idiots guide to panel hosting"?

Also is there any tips or advice you could give me? [other than "don't suck!"]

Ah, cool! Hosting a panel is a lot of fun, and I'd recommend it if you've got the skills and the courage to address a crowd of people. And really, it's not that hard.

Here's the nice thing about hosting a panel; all of us, at some point or another, have suffered through an endless slog of dull, boring hosts at panels. It happens. Not everyone's got the chops to whip a crowd into a frenzy or speak in a rapturous manner. And that's fine, because not every panel NEEDS to be a stand-up routine or a TED talk. So! Aside from the aforementioned "not sucking," here's a few tips I'll give out to you, and all other first-time panel hosters (hostesses?)

By far, I think the most important lesson I can impart will be: things will screw up. And that's fine! Murphy's Law affects nearly every part of our daily life, so just be honest with yourself and understand that no matter how dynamic and cool you think your Powerpoint presentation is, or how many cool video clips and images you've assembled, technology will fail you. There's not anything you can do to really prepare against the entropy of it all, but definitely take the time to make sure everything you're bringing with you, be it a laptop or a projector or a video, works perfectly before you start up the panel. And even then, stuff might break. So just be aware of it, don't make a big deal about it if it happens, and move on.

Insofar as the general tone and tenor of your panel, well... think about you. Think about what your strengths are. Do you have a commanding presence and a booming, stentorian voice? Or maybe you're a bit shy and you like to lighten the mood with a few jokes? Do you have any interesting or notable friends who might have a few noteworthy things to say about your topic? Pick what you are good at, and pick what you can conceivably accomplish over the course of a 45-minute panel, and start from there. Don't write your script first and then figure out how you're going to present it - that's where all of those boring, lifeless panels come from. Keep in mind that a "panel" isn't a "lecture hall," and people are coming in of their own volition. And more importantly, they're free to leave. Your goal is to, presumably, make some sort of impression on these people so that they go outside and then seek out whatever it was you were telling them about. They can't really do that if they start nodding off halfway through.

So, once you've figured out the tone of the thing, you make sure to write everything down. Never hurts to be over-prepared for these things. Don't end up writing the equivalent of a Tolstoy novel or anything, because you've gotta keep your panel to your time limit or risk being trounced out by jack-booted con security, but another mistake you often see in lesser panel hosts is this notion that they can just "wing it" out there by the grace of their own natural charm and talent. And, uh, sure, you can do that if you're Billy Crystal or a member of Second City, but... you're not. Feel free to go off of your script if you've got the confidence to do so and still be entertaining, but that's no excuse not to write the hell out of an airtight script.

The last part is... have fun! Seriously! You're addressing an audience of your fellow nerds and peers, so relish it! As long as you're having a good time, nobody (except the most ardent of assholes, but you can ignore them) are going to call you out for not hosting the panel good enough. Have fun with it! As human beings, we're all pretty hard-wired to sense the strange energy around us, and we can all tell if we're looking at somebody who is tense and terrified, or alive and excited. You don't have to be the best performer in the world, so long as you're having a good time, and so is everyone else!

That's about it, so go out there and have a blast!

Oh and I guess also make sure that you do your research really well and don't list something like Ranma 1/2 under the purview of "Undiscovered Manga" or something. I could keep going but I'll stop now.

Dear Answerman,

In all the fuss made in the comments for last week's column, a question occured to me that might be worth exploring.

Now, I agree that buying items new is obviously a good thing for American anime companies, since they like to do things like 'make a profit' and 'be able to accurately track sales numbers, so as to better determine demand.' These are things that go without saying. But what happens when you buy a new item for a nonexistant company? Say I go poking around RightStuf or the shelves at a store like FYE or Frye's and I decide to buy a brand new copy of some ADV boxset or a volume of a series licenced by Geneon or even some long forgotten OVA from Central Park Media, sitting on those shelves unwanted and unbought until that point. Now, obviously some percentage of that price goes back to the store that sells it, and how much depends on the specific store, whether it's an actual, physical location or a website, and whether those items were still close to normal price or slashed practically to nothing. But where does the rest of that money go? Does any of it go back to a parent company (like Geneon-Japan or BEI) or even to a related spinoff company (like Section 23, in the case of an ADV product)? Does it go to whatever company or bank with which a distributor filed for bankruptcy? Or does it just float about in some sort of financial purgatory?

Having worked in retail as long as I have, that's an interesting question I never had to consider. I wasn't sure. I sent an email to Justin Sevakis about it, which I will now present to you with the power of Conceptual Art. Which takes the form of these following words.

Whenever an item arrives at a store, technically, that item has already been paid for. The supplier, licensor, and publishers have already been paid their "due" in order to have the item stocked and ready for purchase. Then, theoretically, you buy it, which pays for the money that the retailer paid the publisher, as well as the other things they earn from marking up the price, and a little tiny sliver of profit.

Now, if those items don't sell, retailers (usually) have the option to return them to the publisher and get a refund, usually in the form of a credit towards future purchases and things of that nature. Which coincidentally is one of the reasons Geneon folded as quickly as they did; a rash of MASSIVE returns in rapid succession essentially killed whatever hope they had. So now Geneon's dead, and you can't return them anymore. Bogus. So you either keep 'em on the shelf or in the warehouse, hoping that some day somebody might be amenable towards buying Papuwa on DVD for full MSRP.

Either way, the publishers in this case already got their money for their product. (Well, hopefully. A few noxious retailers have skimped out on payment and stiffed a few of these now-dead companies, but that's rare.) So, why bother, right? Justin put it pretty succinctly:

Buying it now would tell that retailer, "hey, anime still sells! Keep buying it!" Which, in this day and age, is probably a good thing.

And the other thing is - that DVD is out-of-print now! Maybe it'll be rare in a few years and worth a lot of money! Either way, that's basically your last chance to own a brand-new copy on DVD. Smoke 'em if you got 'em, I'd say.

I'm sure you're no stranger to inquiries from people who aspire to make a career out of the industry in some way, and I'm sure voice actors are no stranger to those questions and people either. But from watching their various panels on YouTube, it seems that whenever someone raises a question somehow relating to them wanting to be part of the industry and how to get there, the special guest on the receiving end usually makes some sort of warning that voice actors don't get paid very handsomely. Not that we mind, but it makes me curious.

Now as a musical theatre student I'm more than aware that asking someone in any part of the theatre business their specific wages is beyond rude and disrespectful. But I was wondering what the general idea was for voice actors and their paychecks. Are they paid by the hour? By show? Does the cash vary with the size of the role? Or does it all vary by the company?

Indeed. "Hey mister poor actor! How little do you earn for your skill and talent?" Doesn't always come off as respectful. But, hey, who better to field this question than prominent voice-actor extraordinaire, Kyle Hebert?

Voice actors are freelance talent. No steady paycheck or guaranteed hours. Given its competitive nature, we audition more than we actually work (though there are a select handful that work all the time, which we strive for). The pay varies depending on the project. National commercials can have paydays in the thousands or more, after residuals. Local/regional commercials can pay several hundred dollars on a flat buyout without residuals. Ironically, while dubbing is the hardest type of voice work, it also pays the lowest. The current standard rate for anime dubbing in Los Angeles is $64.25 an hour with a 2 hour minimum (which is nice, because even if your session is 5 minutes, you still get paid for two hours). There is a concerted effort to raise that to $75 an hour/2 hour minimum. If you are only booked for one 2 hour session in a month or longer, you quickly see why voice actors can't live on anime work. Our demos are circulated among numerous casting outlets so we can hopefully be on the short list of go-to actors on projects. Having an agent helps in the realm of acquiring auditions, though actors do have to hustle and network regardless. Video games currently tend to pay what breaks down to typically $200 an hour (I can only speak for LA). There are always projects that pay less or sometimes even more. Union projects standardize flat rates, whereas with non union, clients certainly do their fair share of low balling. As to why a client chooses union or non isn't necessarily about money. Sometimes clients want to avoid paperwork, dealing with residuals (none for anime or games), or contributing to an actor's pension/health. We aren't paid per role. When we are cast on a project, we usually are asked to do up to several bit part characters. Even those with main roles tend to do bit parts as well. It all comes down to budgets. Why hire 10 actors to voice 10 roles when you can hire 2 or 3?

Given the advances in technology, many voice over pros are able to do recording from home and garner clients either through networking or pay-to-play sites like Voice123 or Voices.com, where auditions are sent to inboxes of thousands of talent worldwide. On hold messaging, audio books, corporate narration/training, and e-learning are projects that also vary wildly in pay. Sometimes per word, sometimes flat rate, sometimes hourly.

Me again! I just wanted to point out that the money sucks and the hours are pretty low, so that means if you're pretty set on being a voice talent, and this essentially applies to virtually every talent, you need to really make sure that you're so dedicated to this career that you'll be willing to work for peanuts. Nothing worth doing is supposed to be easy, so make sure you're emotionally fortified to put up with the several years' worth of poverty that'll come from pursuing a career in acting of any sort.

Harsh realities and lofty speeches - they are my peanut butter and chocolate.

Ah, I do believe it is time for Hey, Answerfans! Last week, while procrastinating my moving duties until today, my head was abuzz with that DIY spirit - and that led to last week's official query:

Now, occasionally, I'll think of a question that I feel is really interesting. And, more importantly, positive! Perhaps the easiest thing I could do for Answerfans every week would be to post a question where everyone can bitch and moan, because who doesn't like to do that? We all gotta vent, and that's fine - I certainly don't avoid it, and I use it pretty often to spark a discussion here.

And then you get to questions like the one I asked, which lands with a wet thud. Or, should I say, I have to dig deep through my spam-filled inbox to find the only two responses I have, instead of spending time sorting through dozens of responses and making lots of Sophie's Choices to get to the best and/or most interesting ones. It comes and goes, I guess. Not every Answerfans segment can be like last week's, which had tons of great writing from all over the world. Maybe it's karma? Who knows.

Either way, here's our two responses this week. To begin, George brings up the 500-pound gorilla, which seems a little light for a gorilla, now that I think about it:

Hey Answerman,

I do think Kickstarter would be useful for "brand-new" (i.e. never before licensed, not necessarily recent) licenses. DMP's licensing of Tezuka's Barbara shows that fans will be willing to "pitch in" if it means that a title gets brought over, all the more if it's something that is either not fansubbed/scanlated or if it's simply a smaller-name title, even if it's from a name as big as Tezuka. I especially see it being potentially great for stuff that have fervent fanbases but at the same time aren't "mainstream" enough for companies to normally consider licensing; stuff like Go Nagai titles (Shin Mazinger, Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, or Koutetsushin Jeeg, specifically), mech anime (super robots, specifically), Masami Kurumada titles (Saint Seiya, Fuuma no Kojirou, B't X, & Ring ni Kakero 1, at least I'd buy them all)... But there's one title I know that people will bring up when it comes to Kickstarter potentially allowing niche animes to come over: Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

LoGH is probably the 500-pound gorilla when it comes to the fans thinking about kickstarting anime licenses. LoGH is considered one of the true "masterpieces" of anime, but it's age & length have always been an issue when it comes to bringing it over. Could Kickstarter be Legend of the Galactic Heroes potential hope for North American licensing? Who knows, but it would certainly be interesting to see someone actually try it out.

Next, Rednal makes a pretty common sense argument that hasn't really been tried very often:

I do believe there are ways to use things like Kickstarter for anime projects. In fact, part of me wonders if it might not be a better idea to do this; for example, while most shows are made available through services like Crunchyroll and, newly, NicoNico, we're still fairly iffy on the DVDs. Frankly, I don't want to see companies that release anime losing out when they print DVD's. If we had something were things would be released on DVD if enough people essentially pre-ordered it to be sure of a reasonable profit, then I think companies might be able to better judge which series would actually get a physical release, and which would remain online. At the very least, I think it would be worth trying with a test project or two.

So, special thanks to George and Rednal for their reactions! Thanks guys!

And then we focus on next week. And next week... I'm actually putting Hey, Answerfans! on a break this time. Not out of a sense of heartbreak or disappointment, but more because I have a train to catch in a couple of hours, I'm physically and mentally exhausted from all the moving and packing and stuff, and that would probably lead to a lame question along the lines of "what is your favorite anime sword" or something.

Until next week, then! Have fun everybody, and make sure to send me all your questions and florid prose over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! Good day, everyone!

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