Interviews: Dan Gilvezan (7/04)

in Generation One, Interviews


At Botcon 2004 I was fortunate enough to sit down and conduct an interview with Dan Gilvezan, the voice actor who helped bring life to the classic G1 character, Bumblebee. Unfortunately, that interview was lost thanks to a tape recorder malfunction, but Mr. Gilvezan was kind enough to agree to a phone interview. Similar questions to those asked at Botcon were used in this interview. All bold text is the interviewer (Ben Yee) speaking.

Quick Hits:
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Movie: Godfather II
Favorite Song: "The best is yet to come"

1) You've done live action and voice work. What are the hardest and easiest aspects of each? And how do they differ?
Well between on camera and voice over, obviously the easiest thing about voice over is that there is no memorization required. As a matter of fact, there's no bathing required! You know, obviously it's just your voice so you get to stand in front of a microphone and read your material so that for me is a real plus. The older I get, the harder it is to remember things so that's the easy thing about voice over. The hard thing is, it is only your voice and you have to project everything through that medium so you don't have any visual to give the audience. You have to transpose everything into a vocal language and hopefully transmit it that way.

The hardest aspect of the on camera work is getting a job. It's very difficult, and there is so much competition. Certainly there is in the voice over field as well but I'm very well established in the voice over field so that becomes easier. I really have to say the hardest thing about on camera is getting the job. The easiest thing about it, or the best thing about that I think is, most of what I do is television sit-com type work. I have done
some dramatic shows but the sit-com work is very quick. It's done in a week. Usually the schedule is from 10 until 6 unless it's a shooting day and then it goes into the night. So it's a wonderfully easy schedule to adhere to and it's a nice way to make a buck.

2) If you could work with any actor, alive or dead, male and female, who would you work with and why?
Male, Dustin Hoffman. He's been a hero of mine ever since "The Graduate", his versatility is unbelievable. The first time I saw him was in "The Graduate" and he went from that to 'Ratso' Rizzo in "Midnight Cowboy", I mean what kind of actor is that?! So I've worked with people who have worked with him and I would love to work with him.

Female, Nicole Kidman and you can fill in the answer why!

3) Where do you draw your enthusiasm for this line of work?
I'm fortunate in that I'm doing something that I really, really like doing. So many people have jobs that they don't want to. The weekend is their respite and Monday through Friday is the bad time, just to get through it, Wednesday the "hump" day and all that. I'm doing something that I have wanted to do since I was a kid. I gave puppet shows in the backyard to entertain my neighbors. So I've been in entertaining all my life. This is something I really, really enjoy. I feel incredibly fortunate, and that's where the enthusiasm comes from. If you enjoy what you're doing, you'll be enthusiastic about it.

4) What do you do when you have a bad day? How do you draw strength to keep going?
I don't, I stay in bed. You know what? That's part of the technique too. In this business, unlike a lot of other businesses, if you're scheduled to perform, you must perform. "The show must go on" type of thing. In many jobs, you call in and say "I'm sick, I can't make it" and they say "Fine, come in when you can." but in this situation you have to rely a lot on technique, a lot on your past history and a lot of your reserves. You call up your reserves. You rely on technique and you get the job done as best you can.

I remember at the convention you said you weren't allowed to have a bad day.
Yeah, exactly. If you have a bad day, guess what? Keep it to yourself.

I have to admit it impresses me when I see actors such as yourself sit there at a table with two hundred people outside the door. I think it was very gracious of you to give every fan the couple minutes to take the picture etc.
Well, understand that this is...I'm enjoying this as much as they are. It's a great thrill for me to meet the people that have enjoyed my work and who are fans of the show. So that's a real kick for me. This enthusiasm I display at the shows is not manufactured, it's genuine.

5) Have you been contacted regarding the upcoming live action Transformers movie?
I have not. I spoke to him [Tom DeSanto] at the Pasadena Convention briefly and we talked about it a little bit. I was of the opinion that they will use star voices. The same thing that they did in the animated movie. They brought in Robert Stack and Orson Welles and all of these people. My part consisted of a very small scene. I suspect that they will do the same thing for the film version. Although the gentlemen I spoke to [Tom DeSanto] informed me that he's going to attempt, if that happens...first of all he said he's going to attempt to use the original cast, which is heartening. But once again, he doesn't have the final say. So he said, if it turns out the way I suspect it will, they will use celebrity voices. He intends to try and use the members of the voice cast in cameo roles so the people in the know will kind of get a kick out of Peter Cullen, me and maybe John Stephenson (Alpha Trion, Huffer etc.) and others of us in smaller, incidental roles. That's what he intends to do. I can't say whether that's going to happen or not,
but that's what he said.

6) What is the best piece of advice you can give for an aspiring actor either for live action or voice work?
Stick to it. It's incredibly, certainly at the beginning, it's an incredibly daunting proposition. You face incredible odds. It's incredibly difficult, as I said before, to even get a job. You're going to face rejection after rejection after rejection and the best advice I can give you is that if this is honestly what you feel you should be doing, stick to it, don't give up.

I have a 9 to 5 job that I like, but it would be extremely difficult for me to deal with being let go, or dealing with one project ending after another. How did you learn to deal with that? Did that take time to get used to?
Yeah, as my wife says, my career is one long job interview. Very early on you learn to accept the jobs that you don't get and go on to the next thing. We're very much like salesman who make calls on their clients and either make a sale or don't. It's very much the same thing. So if you don't develop, very early on, the facility for moving on to the next thing, you're gonna be crushed. What my wife says is absolutely true, my job is getting the job. Once I have the job, that's like vacation time for me because I enjoy so much of what I do that's like "Oh boy I finally get to do what I like to do! It's taken me fifty tries now!" You have to have a lot of stick-to-it-ness, like any part of the creative field: writing, dancing, singing, music all of those areas are very difficult to get into. Unless you're incredibly lucky early on, without the right attitude you're going to fall by the wayside.

You have to develop a thick skin.
You've gotta develop a thick skin and it helps to be incredibly obsessive with what you do, and I mean that seriously. Many people who are incredibly successful are so single minded in what they're doing that it's almost frightening.

I imagine that if you don't learn to develop that facility it's very easy to become disillusioned and bitter.
Without that drive you're going to find yourself back home in Toronto or Ohio wondering "What happened?!"

BWTF.COM thanks Mr. Gilvezan for his time and enthusiasm. Mr. Gilvezan also appeared at OTFCC the weekend of July 31, 2004.