Filmmakers Global Network ::
Community Spotlight with Ethan Ahlin
Filmmaker, Voice Actor
I am working on an animation that I co-created with my business partner. I am writing the scripts for it and creating the animation myself. I also have my own company called, Ahlin One Productions, where I work with writers, authors, and filmmakers to turn their writings into radio plays. I add voice over, SFX, and music to the productions that I create. Great for presentations. I am also working on a ghost show all by myself. It’s a reality TV paranormal show where I hunt for all things paranormal. I also delve into the history of each place searching out relics, old castles, sunken cities, etc., to find the truth. It’s a Destination Truth meets Expedition Unknown. I have interests from a few networks and Tourism BC in Canada. I want to partner up with a production team to help me bring this to life.
I am always open to inspiration, but a lot of my inspiration comes from my dreams. As soon as I wake up, I write down what I experienced in my dreams. Every filmmaker must go through this, but once I become inspired to an idea, I work with what I have to bring it to life. For example, I may not have tons of money for a huge production so if my dreams were ‘zombie’ related, I won’t be able to afford makeup, visual effects, etc., so I will use what I have and try to make that work. One of my projects is another fictional horror project that I’m working on about Salem witches returning from the dead to wreak havoc on old Salem. I can’t put money into actors, visual effects to re-create old Salem or any period piece, no costumes, no crew, just me. So, I have to re-organize what I can do and what I can create. I live out on a huge property with mountains and valleys, so I have a great location to shoot. I also have a camera that I can use for found footage, and even though I don’t have actors, I break the project down to just me. At this point, I can see where I’m going at this point. I have the creepy ambiance at night as there are literally no lights on where I live at night, so it helps to get my creative juices flowing. There is an old windmill nearby that rotates and makes a creaky noise as it does. I have my voice over audio skills to help create ghostly noises to import them into the video in post-production. All these things help me to really create something special and help me to realize, you really don’t need a crew, visual effects or even money to create anything. Use your environment, use what you have, and you will see that what you have is far greater than any visual effect or cheesy acting that will just ruin the project anyway.
Challenge & Solution:
I remember when I first started creating this horror project. I had all the inspiration and all the gung-ho attitude to create, but I had no money and no crew to help me. Because I was already working with studios that were partnered with Disney and Nickelodeon for my animation, I thought it may help me to reach out to have them help me create this magic. I was asking for tips, tricks and even money to make this happen. I spoke to producer after producer, but I kept hitting brick walls as each of them came back with the infamous line, “Sorry, no money to help you, but I love the project and want to see it happen.” Okay, then, if someone loves the project and wants to see it happen then why not produce money? Simple right? Nope, not so simple. No one cares more about your project than you do. There is a major trust issue that happens between investor or even producer to filmmaker.
After yanking my hair out and realizing that my project may not happen, I found various production companies wanted to join up with my project, and I thought, well, finally I found someone that wants to help. Again, brick wall. They began to ask how much money is invested so far, if I have distribution, and even asking if I had a final project to show. Yikes, what a nightmare. I didn’t have any of these things in place, and now I was really struggling. After long days turning into weeks turning into months and even years pass, I realized that again, no one cares about your project than you do. I discovered that bigger studios and even producers want to join up with a project that’s already going and has a track record.
Why? Because there it is again, trust.
So many filmmakers have great ideas but can’t flush them out from inspiration mode to paper mode, and if you can’t get it down on paper, forget the big screen. I realized that a director’s point of view is different from a filmmaker’s point of view. Now I know what you are thinking, ‘But Ethan, a filmmaker is a director’. Nope. A filmmaker writes, a director creates it into the real world. What looks great on paper doesn’t mean that it’s going to look great on the big screen. For instance, the filmmaker writes, ‘The dragon swoops down and burns everything to ash.’ Okay, great line, but how to re-create that it in the real world, is a huge challenge. How to create the dragon? Money. How to create the burning ash? More money. At this point the director says, ‘We have to find a visual effects savvy team to create this based on the filmmaker’s writings; we have to then make it convincing and because it’s all ‘visual effects’, where does the film crew come in?’ You see?
These are the challenges that I face every time I create a project. Is it re-creatable. is it within a reasonable budget, and why work on this guy’s stuff when I can create my own? My solution? I find what I can create, and I create it. No money, no crew, no headaches of wishy-washy investors and producers who want this, that and the other thing to be in place before they can get involved. Just me and my inspiration. I look at what I have at my disposal whether it’s a camera, ambiance, actors (if they are available and good) and I get to work. I want to create my fantasy project as well, but that’s not realistic. I also have other big productions that I want to do, but again, not realistic with no money or crew.
So, my advice is, work with what you have, and make it good. Don’t involve cheesy effects and acting, as that will ruin the project. Make it short and sweet. The best projects out there are short and sweet. No dialogue, very little to no money, and it’s a great starting project for people like me. When I work on my horror project about Salem witches for example, in one scene there are witches surrounding him and following him as he runs through the woods to get away. Yes, very Blair Witch, but it works, it’s what is popular, and it’s easy with found footage. I find a spot to run, grab my camera, have family members or friends standing in the dark of the woods, and that’s it. You see a quick glimpse of them standing there or walking towards him as he runs frantically. No special effects, no money, no acting even. Just short and sweet. These are all things that I use to help me get through my challenges. Don’t just do it, do it right. It’s your project and as such, it’s your inspiration. Again, don’t let cheesy acting and effects ruin it, because it will. Check out this film as it is a horror project, and it’s short and sweet with no lines. It’s a masterpiece. This is great inspiration right here. It’s called, Lights Out, by David Sandberg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adap4rzlM2I.
3 Voice Over Acting Tips
#1 My advice is, Practice Practice Practice.
#2 Know your voice and your range.
Practice making a sound with your voice going up in tone and down in tone. When your voice starts breaking as you go up or down, you know that is outside of your range. This range is where your voice will be at its strongest and most accurate. Some people have lower voices while others have higher voices so knowing your range and what your voice can reach, down or up, is a good practice.
#3 Know your style.
It’s always a good practice to know what kind of style your voice is. Not all voice actors can do every voice. Some narrators can only do just that, narration, while cartoon voice actors can’t do radio voices. Listen to voice actors out there in today’s projects, listen to how they utilize their own voice. They aren’t changing it, altering it or even pitching it to be different, they are just at the style that they are. Well what does that mean, ‘they are just at the style that they are’? It’s like the old saying, Be who you are and in this case, let your voice be an original. To use a celebrity reference, Rob Paulsen has always used his own voice whether it’s Yakko to Carl Weezer from Jimmy Neutron, he has his own style and his voice is original in that way. Don’t do impersonations, do your own voice. Find your own style, know what range you can hit and be original. Casting directors love it when you use your own voice whether it’s a narration or a cartoon, it’s you. Don’t try to be like other voice actors and sound like them, be you. There is no better practice than finding you. I can’t tell you how to find you, that’s your own journey to take.