Hearing Voices: An Interview with Anime On Location’s Cameron Carlson

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Cameron Carlson (L): Mic in hand

Name: Cameron Carlson

Hometown: Brunswick, Ohio

Profession: Interviewer

Years Involved: Six

The Interview

Will you give a quick overview of “Anime on Location”?

“Anime on Location” is an online content provider that produces video interviews with a wide variety of talent in the anime industry. Our staff has spoken with actors, directors, writers, musicians, podcasters…and even a magician at one point. We mainly travel to conventions in the state of Ohio (Ohayocon, Colossalcon, and Matsuricon to name the big ones) and some of the smaller ones from time to time.

What is your involvement with the project?

I am a correspondent and camera man. I write the questions that will be asked to the voice actor. I also help write the questions for other types of talent. I don’t do it alone. It is a collaborative effort between our founder John Lentini, Alex Gill, Rekio Haru, Hi-Hi Hoshichan and Sarah Lentini. I also get on camera and execute interviews. 

How did your interest in anime develop?

It came pretty early in my life. I use to wake up in the morning and watch Dragon Ball (on WUAB Ch. 43 or WOIO Ch. 19 here in the Cleveland area). I was like, “What is this show? It’s so cool.” It wasn’t like other cartoons. It aired at, I think, five or six in the morning, which is pretty early for a five-year-old to be up.

As I got older, I use to watch Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Gundam Wing. I was a Toonami kid, alas, I only caught a few episodes from time to time as I didn’t have cable for most of my life. I used to watch it during the summers at my father’s home. It wasn’t until college at the University of Akron that I found the anime club and started watching more and more. The show that got me interested beyond those original three was Bleach. Eventually, I fell into the 90’s classics like Trigun and Cowboy Bebop. I was hooked. I had to start watching more. I picked up some movies, too,  like Vampire Hunter D: Blood Lust, and the cult 80’s movie, Akira.

What was the first convention that you attended?

It was this little tiny one in Fairlawn, OH called “A & G Ohio” back in 2008. It was a first-time con. I met some of the crew that ran the show and got some insight about conventions and how they ran. I attended a few panels and met two people that I would end up interviewing later once I had joined Anime on Location, voice actors Spike Spencer (voice of “Shinji Ikari” in Neon Genesis Evangelion) and Mike McFarland (voice of “Master Roshi” on Dragon Ball Z). It was a great to meet them, as I was just really getting to start to understand the industry and how it worked. Unfortunately, that convention had its share of faults and was moved to Cincinnati where it stayed until 2017 when it held its last event.

My next convention was Colossalcon (2008) where I meet some of the bigger players in the anime industry and convention world. It was there that I built relationships with some of the best people that I know.  

How did you become involved with “Anime on Location?”

I became involved with “Anime on Location” back in 2010 thanks to a mutual acquaintance of John Lentini. John was looking for someone help at “Ohayocon” (2010). In 2009, I had volunteered at “Ohayocon” as a gopher and, well, made a name as someone that voice actors like to have work at their autograph lines. So when John heard the actors liked me, he said I could help. I had no clue what it was I was expected to do, I just showed up and got a quick rundown of what was going on. I jumped in head-first and, well, kinda stuck the landing. I still remember my first interview with voice actor and gay rights activist Jamie McGonnigal, the voice of “Barry” in Pokemon. I was so nervous to be talking to him but he helped me through it. After that, I calmed down a bit and got more into it. Occasionally, I go back and re-watch interviews just to get better—also to laugh at the jokes and stories.

What were the growing pains you underwent while you were a novice interviewer?

One of the early issues was trying to come up with things to write. Sometimes it’s easy because we haven’t had the chance to talk to this actor yet, so there is plenty of room to build (an interview). When it’s someone we have a had a few chats with, it starts to get a little tougher. I also had to start thinking about what I was wearing while filming. I have to stay professional on camera, so I had to go out and get a few new shirts (laughs).

Being one of the most popular facets of the convention experience, what is the key to successful cosplay?

Cosplay has really blown up with the advent of social media and websites dedicated to the craft. Actually, I haven’t ventured much into that side of the industry. However, I have talked to cosplayers, and one tip I have learned is to take a sewing class if you can. If you are unable to, there are a lot of great online resources via YouTube and other sites. After that, I know a good cosplay can be made with a little bit of money, time, and creativity. The one other aspect of cosplay is to remember to have FUN–do your thing and just have fun doing it.

From the perspective of an attendee, what makes for a memorable con experience?

It really is what you want to make of it. Some people love to go for panels and workshops to learn things. Panels are often about your favorite show or topic. A workshop can be how to make better props for cosplay or cosplay building. I like going into the dealers’ room and chatting them up about series, conventions, and, yeah, to get a nice wall scroll from time to time. One thing I also like to do is go to the “Artist Alley” and make friends. Other people like to meet the voice actors and have chats and take pictures with them. Some prefer the cosplay side with the photography and videography that goes with it. It truly is what you want to make of it.

What are some cons that you enjoy that may not receive the mainstream coverage they deserve?

When I’m not busy with “Anime on Location,” I like to go to the little college conventions such as “NyanCon” at Lakeland Community College in Mentor, OH, or “ZipCon” at the University of Akron. As for non-college cons that I attend with the show, “Animatic Con” in the Cincinnati-area and the (now defunct) Glass City Con in the Toledo-area are both great.

Why do you feel that anime has such a passionate following in North America?

I think it’s due to the fact that it speaks to a whole range of people. There are great story arcs that some of the characters go on. We grow attached to them, see ourselves in them, and latch on. Anime is also not afraid to tackle some really big topics such as LBGTQ issues. (A good example for that one is Princess Jellyfish, which is wonderful.) Then there are shows about depression, loss, and other aspects of the human condition. Sometimes the hero is not really the good guy. Anime as an art form can be very powerful and moving medium.

There are continual rumors swirling around about the upcoming live-action remake of Akira. Jordan Peele (of “Key and Peele” and “Get Out” fame) is the purported director. What are your thoughts about the project as a whole?

It will be a tough project to pull off, to say the least. Akira is a very deep and layered story, the visuals alone will require some heavy CGI. As we saw with Ghost in the Shell, the mainstream live-action film did not do well. The movie only made $40 million in sales on a budget of $110 million. So, I guess we will just have to wait and see.

To the uninitiated, English-speaking anime voice actors could almost come across as disposable pieces of the overall puzzle, when in reality they have cultivated massive fan bases. Why is this?

The debate of “sub” (“subtitles”)  or “dub” (“dubbed vocals”) is a long one. Back in the early 70’s and 80’s the voice acting was bad due to poor script writing, low budgets, awful editing, and censorship. As the late 90’s and early 2000’s kicked off, people starting seeing more and more anime on cable and broadcast television thanks to programs like Toonami. Anime finally started to stretch its wings, for a lack of better term, here in America. The actors got better, the scripts got better, and budgets increased. The joke is that Dragon Ball Z is what built Funimation into being the number one dubbing studio here in the United States. The actors it brings in are of top quality and well-trained. Most actors that do voice acting for a living worked on stage before ending up behind the mic. Often what makes fans gravitate to the actors is the characters they play and their voice itself. One of my favorites is J. Michael Tatum. He just has that voice that makes you want to listen to him speak all day. 

Is there anyone you have encountered recently that you feel will be the “next big thing” in voice acting?

A place to look for a lot of great talent in voice acting is the website NewGrounds.com. Voice actress Kira Buckland was discovered there when she did work under her Newgrounds name “Rina-chan.” Cristina Vee of Miraculous: Tales of Lady Bug & Cat Noir also started there. Other up-and-coming voice actors to look out for are Akron-native Daman Mills (who got a supportive lead in the hit Yuri on Ice) and Cleveland-area native Amber Lee Connors.

What is next for “Anime on Location” and Cameron Carlson?

What is next for me is that I will continue to work with “Anime on Location” and bring great interviews to fans of the genre. I feel very lucky to get to do this and thankful to John Lentini and “Anime on Location” for taking me on. So stay tuned.

Click HERE to follow Cameron on Twitter.

Click HERE to follow “Anime on Location” on Facebook.

Click HERE to watch over 500 great interviews by Cameron and the rest of the “Anime on Location” staff.

-Ted Zep

 

More Convention Fun

Interview: Horror Host Janet Decay

“Con” Man: An Interview with Dan Gorman

Akron Comicon (2016)

MONSTERFESTMANIA! (2016)

Interview: Tony Isabella

 

 

 

 

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