Friday, September 25, 2009

Look Who's Talking!

The Unseen Faces Behind the Mic
By Maria Alina Co

(Published in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, September 20, 2009)

Without voices, it must be an awfully dull world. Can you imagine Naruto fighting Sasuke without dialogue, or endless static on your favorite radio station?

That would be such a bummer, right?

That’s because voice gives emotion, color, and spark to what we see on the screen. They render clarity to the story unfolding before us. However the voice-over talents in cartoons and radio are often faceless and nameless. They hide in the dark, in a manner of speaking.

That’s why we’re putting the finest voice actors in the limelight this time. And guess what, they’re not only talented and already making waves in the industry, but they’re also very young and personable.

Playing while working

At only 13 yrs. old, Kat-Kat Tolentino has voice-acted and dubbed for over nine TV programs.

She was only eight when she auditioned for the first time. “I used to tag along my Dad in ABS-CBN for his dubbing sessions. It was fun watching the shows on TV, so I told Papa I wanted to try it out.” Her father, Neil Tolentino, is a Dubbing Writer and Director for Hero TV. “My first audition, I cried. My Papa said I wasn’t good enough. I flunked.”

The next year Kat-Kat landed a lead role as Shahaku in the anime Three-Eyed One. “Among all the shows I dubbed, this is my favorite. It was my lucky project since I had more after it. Plus it was very challenging since Shahaku was a little boy.”

Sweet and girly, it’s hard to imagine Kat-Kat as a young magical boy with a third eye. But she does it by being in character. Dreaming of taking Theater Arts or Music someday, Kat-Kat manages to juggle her school and dubbing career. “It’s really fun because it’s just like playing with your friends and making voices. The best part is you get to earn money at the same time. Like me, I’m only 13 but I bought my own cell phone and I get to help out in the family budget.”

Dubbing Contest Champions

For Jill Fernandez and Ed Jaluag, it took talent and a lot of guts to join dubbing contests like Hataw Hanep Hero.

“Imagine dubbing in front of a huge crowd! It was an exhilarating experience,” quipped 18-year old Jill. Luckily, she bested 600 contestants and bagged the prize—a scholarship in Creativoices where she honed her voice-acting skills.

After graduation, Creativoices Owner and the Voice Master Pocholo Gonzales cast Jill as leads for Bokura Ga Ita and Negima, both anime series that aired on Hero TV. The rest is history. Currently, she is the voice behind Lemon Angels’ Tomo on Hero and Boys Over Flowers’ Ha Jae Gyeong on ABS-CBN. “I enjoy what I’m doing. I like the shows and the bonds I form with my fellow dubbers.”

For Ed, a 24-year old Video Editor, winning the fourth Hataw Hanep Hero saved him from resigning his job. “I was into Theater in high school. At work, I got bored not being able to express myself.”

A toy-collector and a cosplayer, Ed was naturally drawn to dubbing. After finishing the workshop, Ed landed one of the lead roles and a total of 25 minor roles in ABS-CBN’s KimPossible.

A Nice Voice

“People used to always say I had a nice voice, and so I thought I was a natural to get into the voice-acting industry.”

But it was only when Albert joined the workshop that he realized he still had so much to learn. 20-year old Albert is a student DJ in RX 93.1’s Radio1. He is also the President of the Society of Young Voice Artists of the Philippines (SYVAP), an organization that aims to promote voice acting as an art and career. Jill and Ed are among the 200 members of SYVAP.

“I continue to learn in SYVAP and realized there’s much more to voice acting-- from dubbing to DJ-ing, hosting events, reciting poetry, storytelling and radio dramas. A voice actor is anyone who expresses himself creatively through his voice.”

Founded by Pocholo Gonzales, SYVAP serves as a venue for aspiring voice artists to hone their craft through volunteerism and teamwork.

“The secret to being a good voice actor is to treat it as an art. Then if you’re good, the money will just come,” Gonzales said.

Living Their Dreams

Voice acting is a tough craft, but a lot of fun, especially when you’re passionate about it.

“When I dub, I forget all about my problems because I’m not myself but rather the character I am dubbing. I can become an anime, a super hero or a beautiful Korean, whatever the role requires,” Jill shared.

For Albert, one just has to believe in himself. “Being a voice actor really boosted my self esteem. I have become self-confident. I just love being heard and I want to share this to others.”

Ed added, “I love dubbing. I can do this every day of my life and will never feel like I’ve worked a day.”

*To know more about SYVAP, email for more details.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Loving It UP!

UP in the Ratings and in my Top Film Faves
Directed by: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson

Article By Maria Alina Co

I’m not much a fan of animations, never have been. I’m the type who goes for drama, suspense, horror, or light-hearted comedies or romances, shot in live action. But once in a while, when I catch an animation movie trailer with a promising storyline, I make it a point to watch it in the big screen, all the more to appreciate the colors and the 3D motion graphics.

Shrek II’s ironic parallelism between the medieval age and contemporary culture made it a cinematic gem. Coraline, a story about a girl who finds an eerily familiar world through a small door, is on my list simply because I love Neil Gaiman’s dark children’s story novel. I laud Wall-E’s director and producers for coming up with a futuristic story for the first time.

But after watching Walt Disney and Pixar’s latest feature film, for me, I would have to say UP takes home the grand prize. Hands down to the filmmakers of UP!

Like most commercial animation films, UP follows the formula—protagonist is a loser who suffer from a loss, despair or insecurity, but after protagonist meets one friend after another, most of the time reluctant of the friendship at first but eventually gains or earns the friend’s confidence, protagonist realizes his/her wrongdoings and overcomes his/her obstacles. In the end, together they fight the forces of evil and get his/her happy ending.

We all love losers, yes? For why would you root for someone who appears to be content and flawless? That would be a boring film, right?

In UP, Carl is a grumpy 78-year old widower, living in a conservative house in the middle of a commercially developing, bustling street. Lonely for the company of his love, his late wife Ellie, Carl stubbornly refuses to sell his property to the real estate giants and surrender to living in a retirement home. Instead, Carl chooses to fulfill his and Ellie’s lifelong dream—to live in a lost land called Paradise Falls.

Reminiscent of the cartoon TV series Flying House, without the time-warping effect and minus the gospel stories, Carl ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies up up and away to have the greatest adventure of his life. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare accidentally hitches a ride— the chubby Wilderness Explorer boy named Russell. Together, the most unlikely pair embarks on a journey to South America, where they find truth and discover friendship in a lost world.

Like any animation film, humor plays a significant part in its success and you’d find UP not lacking in comic antics and banters. Russell’s innocent and bubbly ways would win any kid or adult’s heart. He is clumsy, awkward, but ultimately as loveable and honest as any kid we know. On the other hand, Carl is just like our wrinkled and grouchy grandpas, irritable to kids’ restless ways and yet ironically funny.

But take away all the comic banters, talking dogs, even the colorful animation fest, we are left with a simple story about an old man who takes a second wind at life. I applaud the makers of UP who, their general audience being kids, dare to tackle the aged life. Kids and young adults can certainly learn lessons from our old folks.

When he and Ellie were younger, they dreamed of being wilderness explorers, living great adventures. But as reality’s daily grind sunk in, they lost hold of that dream, like a hand letting go of a balloon, floating away, disappearing behind the mist of clouds. How many of us adults have let our dreams go? Never mind if it was intentional, or perhaps, just for the moment, keeping them like pressed flowers on scrapbooks and diaries, hiding them in dusty shelves? While we eternally hope to get back on them once we're done with our mundane duties.

Like Carl, some of us open these scrapbooks and realize it might not be too late. Take another shot. Begin a new adventure. Go for your dream.

Even if it means doing a radical and unimaginable thing such as tying balloons to a house and flying away. And it is this simple, yet honest premise that won my love for UP.

UP is reminiscent of the rainy day I went home after watching Amelie in UP Film Center. A light-hearted feeling, a renewed vigor, where I see the world in a more colorful, albeit hopeful perspective.