Don't worry, be HaPPE.
HaPPE Earth is a brilliant new initiative by sisters Lisa O'Riordan and Mary O'Riordan tackling the problem of plastic waste in healthcare settings - something that came into sharp focus during the pandemic. These ladies saw that problem and swiftly got to work on finding a solution to it.
So, when they asked me to voice their promotional video for their company I was delighted to get involved with such an inspirational pair.
It's a very worthy project, I'm sure you'll agree. And working on such things - that are good for us, and the planet - make me haPPE.
America's tech goddess Kim Komando invited me onto her show to talk about my run-in with #AI as a voice actor, Artificial Intelligence technology as the Gutenberg Press of our time, and what my future holds now.
In short, I'm open to offers!
Thanks for the chat, Kim.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this newsletter laying out the full story on my brush with AI 'theft.' At that point - I thought I'd sort of come to the end of the road with what I could do with the whole thing since I'd signed that dreaded Ursula-esque life 'n' soul crushing contract.
This is turning out to be quite the never-ending story however, as since then a number of international media outlets have taken an interest in it. The whole question of AI, and what it means for the future of humans and human endeavour and creation in our society is a very hot topic right now. So much so that places like The Washington Post and Bloomberg have written about it. Since these articles went live, voice-overs and journalists from around the world have been getting in touch - and tech queen Kim Komando invited me onto her show to talk about my experience (that will be out next week, and will find its way promptly into my next newsletter you'll be very glad to hear!).
Across all industries - well beyond the bubble of voice acting - people are paying attention to what has happened to me and other voice artists who've found themselves in similar situations, like Mike Cooper and Bev Standing. Although this appears to be a discussion about voice-over artists - a niche profession to put it lightly - what it's really about is humanity vs the machine, and the very natural worries that arise when one lives through the rapid development of technology in real time.
During our interview, Kim Komando likened this AI surge to the invention of the Gutenberg press and the powerful cultural shift that took place as a result. AI will - and already is - having huge implications on our society at a pace of change that we've never known before, and across multiple disciplines.
This leaves many of us wondering - what does the future of humanity hold?
If AI is left to run unchecked, without any legal boundaries in place, will it eventually cancel out the work of creatives worldwide? And if art helps to form human society, what sort of a future are we facing into when all of the 'creativity' we encounter may soon be but a shadow of what humans once envisioned and made real? At its extreme end, the next stage of our society could be one devoid of freshness, of the inspired 'new', and of spirit, magic, and soul.
Ultimately, we still have the power to decide what we wish to step into and create. And I for one, will not let that sort of future come to pass. Not on my watch.
If you still fancy the human touch, You know what to do.
A little piece on the human I voiced for the Cabinet of Geniuses.
Coming in HOT.
Did someone say radio was dead?
Well I, for one, certainly don't believe it.
Well, lately, I've been going global as the new station voice of South African radio station HOT102.7FM, along with Las Vegas' finest, Duke Morgan.
HOT 102.7FM have recently made quite the splash across the pond at the New York Radio Awards. And you know what they say, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. 🍎
That's some hearsay I can get behind.
Want to hear more?
I'm not sure if you've heard talk on the social media airwaves about my run in with AI? That is, me discovering that an AI voice site, called Revoicer, had been using my voice under the guise of character 'Olivia,' advertised as a having a 'soft and caring voice, perfect for audiobooks, or even a soft sell.'
See, I'd never authorised Revoicer to use my voice as an AI product - in fact, I'd never even heard of the site.
When I was first informed about this by super pro sound engineer at Mutiny studios, Mark Richards, I was justifiably angry. So much so that I penned an article about it for Voquent's industry blog called Whose Voice is it Anyway? which sparked a big conversation in the VO community about the rapid and frightening advancement of artificial intelligence products, their ethics, and the possibility that they may, sooner than we think, usurp humans from their creative posts.
As a result of this article, I was invited to speak on the matter by a number of journalists in the tech arena, as well as appear on Paul Schmidt's weekly interview series, which was startlingly titled 'AI STOLE MY VOICE!'
At the time of the interview, I was 100 per cent convinced that AI had stolen my voice. I had sought legal counsel in Ireland about it. I was shocked and hurt by the discovery of my voice somewhere I had never even heard of, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. After my interview with Paul Schmidt went live, another flurry of worried VOs got in contact - one of them was voice actor and lawyer, Rob Sciglimpaglia, who famously defended Bev Standing in her successful case against social media giant Tik Tok. He wanted to help me - and I needed help from a lawyer who understood AI, voice work, and could file in the US (where I had finally been informed my enemies were based, albeit under the radar).
Rob was convinced the answer to my problem lay in a little contract I had signed for Microsoft back at the start of lockdown 2020, for a TTS gig that I had auditioned for the previous year. Great, I thought. Now we can get the bad guys. I sent the contract over to him for review, only to be met with a - rather swift - email in return, beginning: 'Oh no, Remie....'
It turns out that back at the start of lockdown, when voice-overs and businesses of all kinds were scrambling to keep their canoes afloat, and I was scrambling to set up my home studio and keep this little career of mine on track, I had effectively done an Ariel, and signed away my voice for all of eternity to big bad Ursula (read: Microsoft). In the near complete shut down of that period, the TTS gig which I had auditioned for through Voices.com in 2019 for an unknown company was one of the first and few jobs that came through my door. When I won the gig I learned it was Microsoft I would be working for, and, not wanting to lose out on more work, I signed the papers without really looking at them, most likely in a state of quiet desperation. Poor, unfortunate soul.
What I was convinced had been the underhanded theft of my voice was actually my own short-sightedness and negligence, leading to places like Revoicer, and Soundly, and wherever else may take the fancy of creating a soft neutral Irish female voice product, making various things and AI entities with my voice (if a Microsoft product is where they got the files). And there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.
Always read the small print is absolutely my take away from this whole affair, even if it is already far too late. (Paul Strikwerda aka Nethervoice wrote about this issue to this tune on his blog - worth a read!)
So where does this leave me and voice-over now, you might ask? Am I like our favourite flame-haired mermaid - simply able to smile, nod, and comb my hair with a fork while someone masquerading as me walks scintillatingly along the shore? Not quite, I generally find forks to be a poor choice of hair maintenance tool. Look, I'm still a voice-over. I will still read things out loud within certain time frames and with as much human emotion as I can muster as long as the good people of this world still prefer a human voice over a robot one. But are my days as a VO numbered? That, only time can tell. In the meantime I may need to explore other career avenues available to me, such as exciting new haircare products that double up as dinnerware (email me if you're interested in purchasing the patent).
If you've gotten all the way through this piece today, I applaud you.
My voice, while I can still sort of call it my own, is available for hire, albeit with an AI rider attached from here on in.
You know the drill. Press 1 for human.
Until next time, toodles!
Nature docs are, as Austin Powers would say, my bag, baby.
So, natur(e)ally I was delighted when Shark Man himself, Dr. Craig O'Connell, asked me to narrate this fascinating film about the lesser known Thresher Shark. A worried-looking fish who is about as cute as the 'frightening' shark can get.
Not only did I love narrating this film - I also learned a lot while doing so. Which is one of those sweet byproducts of work as a voice-over actor.
Have a watch and a listen now on Prime Video and see what you can learn.
We're Going on an Adventure.
Well, I suppose writing, producing, and narrating a children's book was the natural progression for me once I had my first child... as the Tik Tokers say, it's something that just makes sense.
Please find my first foray into children's writing here, Squirt the Squirrel and the Too-Many Acorns: a narrative arc which, as you might glean from the title and cover, is about a squirrel who hordes a few too many nuts for the winter. An arboreal theme heavily inspired by a honeymoon trip to CABÜ in January '22 (a very nice place to stay, might I add).
As this first book is a bit of a test run, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'm still working out some of the finer details - like illustration for one. (On that note - any illustrators who might want to work with me on the next one, come or be sent my way. Just looking for the second coming of Quentin Blake, nothing much).
Please enjoy reading and/or listening to the adventures of Squirt.
And, as always, me, my pen, my voice and/or my home studio are always available for an exciting new adventure, too. So you know, call me.
Until next time, toodles!
What's the Irish for rabbit?
It's a fresh new year, both in the Gregorian and Chinese lunar sense, Mercury and Mars are no longer going backwards in space, and the stodgy haze of the festive period is mere memory.
Well, I thought (sighing heavily), it's time for another newsletter.
Years are weighty things, however; I often think of them like gigantic, etheric wheels. And when a huge wheel comes to a stop, starting it again takes a little bit of effort and time. In much the same way this 2023 has needed a fairly deliberate cranking to get going, or maybe that's just myself.
But there are shoots of newness all the same - I've dusted off my second language/teanga recently for Electric Ireland and Droga 5 - and am now one of the Gaeilgeoirí in chief for their advertisements across television and radio. Keep an ear out for them and we can inevitably argue over the pronunciation of 'fear' together. And, as usual, I've been burrowing away in my home studio for clients far and near (that's the first and last of the rabbit-related puns, I promise).
It may be the Year of the Rabbit, but for me it has very much begun as Bliain an Choinín.
Until next time, slán libh!
I'm especially good at expectorating.
Becoming a parent gives one certain licenses - frequent bad hair days, the decidedly squishier 'mom' bod, the inability to turn up anywhere on time. In my case, it has also allowed me to test out how many of the lyrics I remember of the Disney classics - all under the guise of educating my months old baby, who within a few minutes of the sparkling castle appearing in the sky should infinitely prefer a cardboard box.
But that doesn't stop me watching Beauty and the Beast for the seventeenth time, and being pleasantly surprised that singing along to Be Our Guest doesn't merge murkily with See My Vest, or the more niche, but markedly more helpful, We Are Stressed, which is probably more apt for me nowadays.
One particular BATB number which revolves around the alpha goon, Gaston, has managed to stay deeply embedded in the recesses of my musical memory, a brilliantly inventive takedown of toxic masculinity before it was #trending, and which I have affixed to this post via a link at the bottom (just in case you don't quite remember it).
Perhaps the tongue-twisting, vocab-expanding nature of the classic Disney tunes that I listened to so often as a child was a contributing factor to my career choice today, and my ability to vocally perform with language so technical I don't understand it - like my work teaching students about mathematics for GCSEPod for example (an incredibly ironic appointment if you know me), or the series of tech heavy videos I recently recorded for IBM Think 2022 (a video you will find below).
The honest truth is that because voice-over by its nature covers such a vast range of subjects, some of which are so far flung and particular that you simply can't become an expert on them with the half a day's notice before recording starts, faking it 'til you make it is a very necessary part of the job description, even if it is written in invisible ink. But I have always been especially good at expectorating, even and especially when I had no idea what it meant, and I believe I may have Disney to thank for that.
If you're still confused about how Disney and IBM can be linked within 500 words, or the verb 'expectorate', you can always, call me, and we'll chat about it.
Until next time, toodles!
I'm giving you everything.
You saw it...right? You saw the video?
What video, you say...?
The video. THE video - come on. You know what I'm talking about.
Well if you really don't - you'll see it when you get to the bottom of this post. I've placed it conveniently there so you'll have to read the whole thing to get to it. (Or just scroll there right now if you must).
You scrolled. It's ok, I get it. I would have scrolled too.
I don't know what it is about nostalgic throwbacks to my teenage boy 'n' girl band loving era these days but here I am again with another another 90s-ish themed post.... this time courtesy of The Spice Girls. Which you know, because you scrolled.
There's something about looking backwards to go forward, or going forward and then coming back, then circling around before ending up just where you started... what I'm trying to say, basically, is that video gave me all those gooey teenage feelings of endless possibility - the sort of magic nostalgia that only comes with re-listening to the classic hits of your childhood, or re-watching comfort movies at Christmas.
Which brings me neatly to the most wonderful time of the year, and all it brings - the twinkling lights, the cosy family get togethers, the latest John Lewis ad...
Speaking of ads, and nostalgia, this year like Damn Daniel I'm back at it again on the airwaves for Costa coffee, encouraging listeners to avoid Christmas shopping and treat themselves instead. Pretty sound advice I feel.
This one, for a change, was recorded in my home studio. Something old, something new.
This year also marks the fourth year of my debut novel The Glass Door being out in the world. How time flies when you're anxiously re-checking your Amazon and Goodreads reviews.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end and for sharing another special moment with me over a Costa coffee. And if this email leaves you wanting for more, you can always, call me.
Until next time, toodles!
RM Clarke is a writer and voice-over artist. She has written for various literary mags and anthologies and won awards. She has put her voice to most things she can think of.