Cindy Akers

What is your name and your current occupation?
Cindy Akers Animation Casting director and Dialogue Director

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Probably the weirdest job was doing surveillance for a private investigator. It was a college job, but I didn’t last long. I just didn’t feel right about reporting people’s activities without knowing the “full story”!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
League of Super Evil is among the top shows I am currently directing for Nerd Corps, great show! I’ve been really fortunate to work on so many great shows these past few years to name a few…Twisted Whiskers, Rate A for Awesome, Hero: 108, Geronimo Stilton, Zeke’s Pad, Edgar & Ellen. I’ve also worked on several Zhu Zhu Pet films this past year and am currently working on GloE Plush toys for the same company, very sweet properties. Oh yeah…also Little Tikes and Play Mobile. All features direct to DVD. I’m a lucky girl…keep pretty busy!

How did you become interested in animation?
Always loved it. Got my start with a fabulous voice director, Susan Blu. I was working as a commercial voice casting director at the Voice Casters in Burbank and moonlighted by engineering Sue’s workshops at night to make extra money. I fell head over heels in love with the whole process. She was a great teacher and very generous with me. She hired me as her assistant director and there was no looking back. I’ve been doing it ever since. It has been 24 years now and I still pinch myself with every new job, can’t believe I get to call this my work!

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Michigan but raised from age of three in Los Angeles. I moved to British Columbia, Canada 10 years ago. So I started my career in L.A. as I mentioned and then came up to Vancouver and had to start all over. I called Susan Blu immediately and told her I was going to get my resume out on the streets, however, didn’t want to contact anyone in Canada who she worked with so as not to step on her toes. She gave me her blessings and a list of names to call. Two days later, the phone rang and a producer for a Mega Bloks Dragons The Metal Ages film contacted me and said Susan had given him my name. I’ve been working in Vancouver non-stop ever since. So see, it always pays to do the “right thing”!

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Well there are a couple of different days to describe:  Casting day….This involves seeing a different actor for an assortment of roles every 10 to 15 minutes for what seems like an eternity! Casting days are long and can be very frustrating as it’s sort of a game of telephone. Rarely are the clients at the casting. I’m typically going off of audition sides with a visual, a synopsis of the show and a phone conversation with the show director and producer. The day can go from 9 am and with editing selects end late into the evening. In a perfect world it would be far better to have the decision makers present for the auditions as many actors could give them exactly what they want. The problem is often the powers that be don’t exactly know what they want. It’s a “we’ll know it when we hear it” type of thing. If they were present we could play more and fine tune during the casting process. Oh well…that isn’t how it works.  Directing day…Sessions are typically 4 hours long for a cartoon episode. I pride myself on never going into over time, which makes for happy producers. I’ve written in the action walla and any additional lines to be certain that the animators will have more than everything they need. I’m usually in the studio with the show director, line producer, sometimes the writers, a production assistant and one or two engineers. The cast is on the other side of the “glass” and we create what is essentially a radio play. My job is to create an atmosphere where everyone can be their most creative. I must be certain that the animators, writers, producers, etc are getting what they need from the actors and that the actors are being given a supportive atmosphere to do their best work. I like to stay open to the surprises that the actors bring to the roles. We may all have a certain line read in our head and often the surprises are better, so I pride myself on not line reading actors. I listen for them staying true to the voice, their timing, clarity, playing levels to give lots to animate to and to the contrasts and pacing they create with one another. Actors really respond best (as we all do!) to being treated with respect and feeling safe so they can play. I try and throw a good party.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The actual recording sessions, working with the crew and actors, playing. It’s a blast.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Probably the casting process for the reasons I explained above. I enjoy auditioning the actors, just feel it is done in a way that isn’t the most creative and productive.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I work with my lap top for script preparation and a talk back button in the studio…..big shot, huh?! The studios use Pro Tools.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Probably right now it is the economy. Budgets seem to be coming in lower, etc…you know the life of a freelancer!

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Most of the shows I’ve worked on have done pretty well….so I can’t complain about what I have on my resume. As far as working with talent, I must say animation actors are amazing. I am constantly in awe of what they can do. Certainly a greatness that I am constantly aware of being privileged to be around.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
In life?! Or in the biz? No big hardships to talk about in the business, I’ve been pretty fortunate and have enjoyed it tremendously. As for my life, I’ve had my share just like everyone else, won’t bore you with that stuff.

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Well my other passion is traveling. My husband, voice actor, Jan Rabson and I take our two sons (ages 13 & 14) traveling each year. We’ve taken them to Thailand, Viet Nam, Laos and Cuba in the past few years. All very much off the beaten path and we are typically gone for four to six weeks. I would love a way to do some sort of family travel show to encourage others to take their kids and get them out there in the world. No all inclusive resorts, but into the real world. It has been such a joy to watch our kids navigate out of their safety zone. I think the world would benefit greatly from more families doing this sort of travel.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I snort when I laugh.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Follow your passion. I didn’t find my career until I was 30 at a time when most would have told a person it was too late to start over!

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