(A Primer On) Compiling “Ten Thousand Hours Of Experience”

Theater Shows Film

Just prior to this monumental period of my life, I had merely dabbled in the world of show biz. My ex-wife’s opinion of what I was doing represented far more than dabbling. A couple of years before, she had asked me pointedly if I didn’t think I was getting a little too old to be an intern. Her question followed directly after she found out Hitchcock didn’t pay interns. As a matter of fact, the man didn’t even speak to us (I do believe the woman was beginning to tire of my antics). Come to think of it, my ex-wife was wrong. It was a great time to intern, be alive, and make the most dominate decision of my life: To follow my heart.

Ten thousand hours of storage begins at birth for all of us. I refer to what enters our brains as storage because, not being a medical man, it’s the easiest way for me to remember what many refer to as “our own personal think tank.” Is it a mental or physical attribute? We’re usually equipped with both. Storage begins for most at or around two years of age.

All things being equal, regardless of the time period, I had not yet arrived as “da harv,” but neither had Walmart. That same year, 1962, Sam Walton opened the First Wal-Mart discount store in Bentonville, Arkansas. All Sam did was become the biggest and most successful retailer in the world. He didn’t begin at the top, and he wasn’t the first to open a store. At the time, the J.C.Penney Company had seventeen hundred stores, and Sears Roebuck & Company boasted seven hundred fifty department stores. Then there were others, like Macy’s, the May Co. and many, many more.

There are those who argue it was much easier to make it back in the old days. I think not. Sears Roebuck began in 1886, and the first J.C.Penney store opened under a different name in 1902.

Today, about fifty years later, some new giants have arisen: Home Depot, Kinko’s, Costco, and of course, the most famous of them all, “SpongeBob.” Few were given any likelihood of having success.

Let’s face it, how many of you would have invested money in a Starbucks coffee shop? I mean… give me a break. They’d have about as much chance of making it as a talking square pants sponge named Bob.

Cost Of Living 1962:
Year-end close of Dow Jones industrial average: 652.
Average cost of a new house: $12,500.00.
Average income per year: $5,556.00.
Average monthly rent: $110.00 per month.
Tuition to Harvard University: $1,520.00.
Average cost of a new car: $3,125.00.
Eggs per dozen: 32 cents.
Gas per gallon: 28 cents.

Folk music was evolving into protest music thanks to young artists like Bob Dylan, and the birth of surfing music by The Beach Boys grew in popularity. Meanwhile, in England, the Beatles were recording the single “Love Me Do.” The new hit on TV for that year was “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and the first of the James Bond movies, “Dr. No,” was an instant success. Some of the other movies released included “Spartacus” and “El Cid.”

In Beverly Hills, on little Santa Monica Blvd., there existed one little theatre group seemingly on every corner. These groups began forming in the forties. Just about every character actor you might think of at one time or another took part in some form of little theater. Most came from locations all over the country, seeking to make it on what we knew as the silver screen.

It was also the era of big time radio broadcasts. During the daytime hours, the soaps prevailed. In the early and late afternoons, all the kid shows came on. The history of film and radio go hand in hand.

New York’s Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway was a respite for most of the actors before coming to Los Angeles (they thought), attempting to break into films. As they arrived, they encountered what actors had been experiencing since time and memoriam: Competition.

It was an absolute certainty: Without radio and little theatre, actors in general found few venues for practicing their craft, let alone making a buck.

On January 1, 1962, NBC broadcast the first coast-to-coast color television presentation of the Rose Bowl football game. Walter Cronkite replaced Douglas Edwards as the anchor for the CBS Evening News. He lasted nineteen years.

But most importantly, 1962 was the official kick off for da harv. I do believe that comes to a total of forty-nine years. Let’s see now… if we count it up, forty-nine years would be 2,548 weeks, and at fifty hours per week it comes to a total of one hundred and twenty seven thousand, four hundred hours of me practicing my craft.

The last nineteen plus years have been devoted entirely to the field of voice over.

I chose 1962 because much of my official academic world schooling had come to an end. Truth be told, and that’s what I’m doing at this moment. My theatrical training began with the subliminal exposure I began experiencing as a child. Anything vaguely resembling a group of people (two or more, sometimes even one) became my audience. They didn’t know it. They were sent to me by a divine power in order to have their way of life improved upon. They all needed me – even those who attempted to push me away. It was all to no avail. Even the Army, in a much earlier time period of my life, recognized I was the guy put on earth to tell people what to do, whether they liked it or not.

I doubt if there are many who may claim fame or accomplishment without fording an endless stream, or taking less than ten thousand hours of their life’s dedication. Admittedly, any thoughts of hours of study were not an occurrence of mine as I embezzled the first moments as they came to me. There were no explanations, because no one close to me was prepared to understand a person toiling without monetary rewards, either gained or offered. In the beginning, I cherished the smallest plaudits more than any man should.

Seeing my name printed on a playbill for the first time was an unequalled event. Stepping forward to begin a show produced by me brought my heartbeat to a crescendo I knew could be heard by those in the back of the house. Sharing the pain with a troupe of my players about to strike a set, the next day reborn and hopeful over an unexpected gig to direct a dream cast. The radio programs, the industrial shows, the films, the commercials, and the thousands upon thousands of actors I have had the pleasure of directing, are all in a special place within my now incomprehensible number of hours at work practicing my craft. But at the very top of my list, and what I would deem as the most rewarding adventure of my lifetime is an easy one for me to choose: It is as an educator where my most treasured plaudits lie.

What I didn’t know then, I do know now. It began during the first twenty-nine years of my life. The physiological brilliance of my father. When he asked if I would give him a hand with something was by far the most important life shaping moment of my young existence. He knew his kid well. I was bursting at the seams to show him my talents as a helper. I don’t remember what he had asked me to help with. It doesn’t matter. The thought of being paid to help someone with whatever they were up to never occurred to me. At eight years of age, I guess I was feeling like a pretty big, big shot. We lived directly across from the schoolyard, so I never ran out of kids to help.

There was this one kid in particular who became a fan of mine. He was a poor soul who was a real klutz. He constantly showed up in the school playground with his shoes untied. When I called it to his attention, he told me how his mother yelled at him for not being able to tie his own shoelaces. I kind of felt sorry for him. I learned how to tie my shoelaces by watching my dad do his own. I told the kid I would tie his shoelaces for him every day until he learned to do it for himself. It turned out to be one of my simpler feats to accomplish. Each day before he was called to return home, we both untied our shoelaces and then as I retied mine, he merely mimicked my every move. By the end of the week, he was functioning on his own. But something else happened: The kid no longer came across as the playground schlep. (Schlep: A person who drags his or her feet in an ungainly fashion would be referred to as a shlep; German origin)

Nothing has changed. A teacher is a helper. A person who is always joining in for a free ride is known as a shlepper. Schleppers rarely make it in acting – a profession where a free ride is almost nonexistent.

Saying “try it this way” to an actor, and then seeing the proverbial light go on is an amazing feeling. Nowadays, many of the actors I run into aren’t wearing shoes that need lacing, so I have resigned myself to helping them improve their acting skills. What I ask our students to do is continually practice their craft. The question comes up quite often. How long do I think it will take for them to make it? There will never be an exact answer for any question with as subjective a nature to it.

I remember seeing Tiger Woods as a child of no more than six years of age come on the Mike Douglas show along with his Dad. He put on a demonstration of his ability to hit a golf ball. Well, by the time Tiger had his ten thousand hours compiled, most golfers were just beginning to play the game.

Questions only you can answer:

1. When did you begin?

2. How much do you work (number of hours) at it each day?

3. Are there things in the way?

4. How badly do you want it?

5. Are you financially able to hold out for an indefinite period?

6. What must you do to avoid being average?

Within my hours of practice, I have experienced many of the lifestyle encumbrances which would keep the average guy from making it in our voice over world. The most important word in the previous sentence would be “average.” Average is a term which, when applied as a description of an actor, translates to “unable to support himself or a family.”

For the answers to all of the above questions, please take a time out, and with not another soul around to disturb your process, answer the six questions presented above. I was honest with you. What I recommend is you be brutally honest with yourself.

da harv’s answers up:

1.When did you begin? Around age eight.

2. How much do you work (number of hours) at it each day? I usually hit it for about ten hours, six days each week.

3. Are there things in the way? Only I get in the way of me!

4. How badly do you want it? To be able to say, “I have helped more actors to win than any other man in history!”

5. Are you financially able to hold out for an indefinite period? I have been for the last twenty-five years.

6. What must you do to avoid being average? Continually seek out my goal to live and make each day of my working life a masterpiece.

Baruch Spinoza (November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677) was a Jewish, Dutch philosopher. He said:

“Fame has also this great drawback, that if we pursue it, we must direct our lives so as to please the fancy of men.”

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