Video Made the Squishy Star

explaining anime and my play patterns

I wish I could tell you that my life is full of fun and games and whirlwind evenings of drunken hi-jinks, but in truth I’ve been at home scripting the American Dub for Lost Universe. Check out that link for the flash version of the trailer. That’s pretty cool. ADV is starting to put some cash behind the webpage. Now you can order City Hunter subs online and they’ll just send you all of the episodes as they finish. They haven’t offered this for the dubs yet (since we haven’t shot them) but we’ll start dubbing them in the fall. That means even more City Hunter for me. I’m stoked. I’m finishing the current movie today, which I think will be released this summer.

“What the hell is she talking about?”

  • All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku– I wrote the Americanized Dub Scripts. But what I really want to do is play some of the parts. Unfortunately, it isn’t shot here. I think it’s dubbed in Houston.
  • City Hunter– I’m a voice actor. I play Kaori.
  • Street Fighter II V– I write the Dub scripts. This is only released in the UK.
  • Lost Universe– I write the Americanized Dub scripts. If I had my way, I’d be a voice actor on it, too, but it don’t work that way, you see.

So, that’s what I’m doing at night in my house, lately, trying to finish up the next few episodes of Lost Universe. My neighbors must think I’m taking a Japanese class. I really have only picked up a few phrases here and there. It only takes a few arrigatos before you know what’s going on. Unfortunately I know how to say the Japanese phrases, but I have no idea what they look like. Not that I understand a lick of Kanji anyway.

I try and get away with things in the scripts, too. I don’t know if they even stay in the final versions. Back when I was doing Street Fighter, I had a moment when Bison walks up to Chun Li with these big ol’ arms, because he’s trying to make her his girlfriend. It worked perfectly with the Dr. Evil voice: “Come. Give Bison a hug.” I bet they cut it, but it was worth a shot. It made me laugh, anyway.

It’s a strange job, and it takes many hours, but I really enjoy manipulating the dialogue. It’s an interesting way of writing a script. You already have the actors (in this case, the animated characters) and they have already moved their mouths. You know the storyline. Now you write the words that fit the mouth movements that tell the story in an entertaining way. It teaches me quite a bit about brevity and conservation of words. I also know all sorts of adjectives for “he grunts.” Say I want to write a joke in a place where the characters are just rehashing the plotline again (a very common thing). I know that character A says two lines, one with seven syllables and one with twelve. Character B responds with one line that ends with an open mouth (some sort of vowel). Character A retorts with three syllables and a giggle. That’s the outline for my joke. Then I fill in the words so the timing works and the joke makes sense. It’s like writing comedy backwards. Basically I write the screenplay for the anime, writing character descriptions and scene-by-scene camera angles, so that they cast and shoot the entire episode off the script I’ve written. It requires a great attention to detail and patience that I don’t think I had a few years ago.

Between this gig and Mighty Big TV, I also now can’t watch television without noticing sound errors, inconsistencies, bad dubbing, booms in the shot, and all of that. I used to just enjoy watching television. Now it’s a big hassle if there’s any poor quality at all. It’s like knowing how the magician does his or her tricks. I mostly notice form, now. And I have a great respect for dialogue. Good dialogue, I should say.

So, since all of that counting and line manipulation can get tedious, I often take breaks to check e-mail or channel surf. Last night, however, I had an agenda. I watched VH-1’s “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Lord, I love watching the history of MTV. I’ll watch “I was an MTV VJ” twice in a row. I don’t care. I love “Remote Control,” “The Idiot Box,” “Just Say Julie” and all of that. Love it, love it, love it. And this documentary is on all week long, people.

So last night I was telling Eric about the episode, and I realized that he probably didn’t see MTV when it first came out, since he didn’t have cable. I ended up confessing my long-term love affair with MTV, my recent break-up, and my new-found replacement-love with VH-1. I can barely watch MTV now, but VH-1 loves me for who I am and wants to just make me smile. Officially it is now targeted for my demographic, what with that whole Metallica marathon they’re doing on Mother’s Day.

I started watching MTV when it first aired. I think I found it because of a babysitter who was into it. I was pretty young to understand what I was watching, but I would watch Video Jukebox on HBO, and “Nick Rocks” on Nickelodeon. Once I moved to Palm Springs I was watching my little sister ever day after school, and I spent most of my time watching MTV while we played games or whatever. It made for good dance breaks. We learned all of the steps to the “Thriller” video, which as far as I was concerned, was a revolution in video making.

It was while I was discussing how the MTV obsession matured in Junior High to where I could watch MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, HBO, Showtime and VH-1 and constantly be surrounded by videos that I remembered what I would do when I didn’t like the video was on. Back then when videos were few, most channels would supplement programming with clips of stand-up comics. VH-1 did that all of the time. I think we had also just started getting Ha! and The Comedy Channel back then. So, I’d watch stand-up comics and videos all night long. Every day after school.

I watched “Turkey Television” on Nickelodeon, where I learned about Dana Carvey, and the cleaner parts of Robin Williams. I saw the video for “Fish Heads.” Paula Poundstone and Ellen DeGeneres. HBO offered so many One Night Stands, I still know most of the material for Rita Rudner, Emo Phillips, Judy Tenuda, and others. My parents were big into Gallagher, George Carlin, Louie Anderson, Bill Cosby and Red Skelton. I watched every single Comic Relief. I watched all of the HBO New Year’s Eve comedy marathons. I saw Whoopi Goldberg, Dennis Wolfberg, Richard Lewis, Paul Reiser, Paul Rodriguez, Carol Leifer, Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, David Spade. I watched all of the Young Comedians specials. I loved Jake Johansen and Larry Miller. I’d watch SCTV and the Kids in the Hall, The Young Ones, and the mother of all sketch comedy: Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I would stay up for Saturday Night Live. I knew that I really liked “Bizarre,” but hated “Benny Hill.” And through all of that, I still never understood the appeal of The Three Stooges.

“No wonder you got into comedy,” Eric said.

And I hadn’t really put all of that together before, the amount of music and comedy that I watched as a kid. That was what I’d mimic when I was young. That’s when I started doing voices and learning choreography to videos I liked. I’d try and entertain my friends on the school bus or my parents at dinner by rehashing pieces from some “Evening at the Improv” that I saw the night before. That’s when I started memorizing lines, and understanding timing. I could hear the different rhythms in each comedian, and how they had different ways to get to punchlines. There was the more direct zinger of the punchline, or the sort of sublime rolling over of the punchline and letting the laugh build after the fact. I enjoyed hearing the different voices and the different views. Even when most people were just discussing why women are like this and why men are like that, it was still several ways to say the same joke, and I found that to be fascinating.

Add this to my love of the sitcom, and that’s how you make a pamie.

So here’s my head full of lyrics and video clips and punchlines (One great game that Matt and I played during the Incredibly Long Journey to Aspen was where one of us would tell a joke and the other would name the comedian that the material came from. I don’t know anyone else who could have played that game with me.) and now I take all of these things and declare myself the Pop Cuture Princess. I try and make it all sound very cool that I know all of these things, but the truth was a bit exposed last night when I was rehashing my television habits as a child. I was a fat kid. I was also the perpetual new kid. I didn’t have many friends. When I wasn’t writing stories for myself, I was watching funny people and rock stars. I guess I turned it into something marketable and profitable, but really, it gets a bit depressing to confess.

But you wouldn’t have me any other way, would you?

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