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Getting to Know SOVAS™ and The Voice Arts® Awards | An Interview With Rudy Gaskins

There are a lot of questions floating around in the Voice Over Community about SOVAS™ and The Voice Arts® Awards. This is something I became acutely aware of last year when I announced my nomination. It was greeted with congratulatory messages from some, and it was greeted with a great deal of confusion and even disappointment by others.

I was surprised. I couldn’t think of any reason why something like this was a bad thing. But I certainly listened to all the different opinions.

Now that the submission window has opened for the 2017 Awards, I wanted to take advantage of the platform this blog affords me to help get some questions answered and hopefully deepen the understanding of SOVAS™ and the The Voice Arts® Awards. So I went straight to the source. To Rudy Gaskins. Mr Gaskins is the CEO and Chairman of the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences

The following is my interview with him.

Rudy Gaskins & Joan Baker | Creators & Co-Founders of the Voice Arts™ Awards

Getting to Know SOVAS™ and The Voice Arts® Awards

Hello, Marc. Thanks for inviting me to talk about the Voice Arts® Awards. I’m, glad you’re a fan of the program, and I congratulate you on your 2016 nomination.

I’m also glad that you raise with me some questions you’ve received about the Awards. We know those questions are out there, and some people might be hesitating to join in until some of the confusion is cleared up.

In these trying times of national and global discourse, honest and open public dialogue is more 
important than ever. And especially when a new kid on the block appears and, like SOVAS™, proposes to honor outstanding achievement in an industry that has not done this with its people before.

So, of course people should ask who is behind this effort, what are their motives, and what are the reasons that the operation is set up the way it is.

Even more so when the effort is billed as an invitation to voice actors, worldwide, to join us in the effort to lift all of us to greater heights.

Q: Talk about the decision to create the Voice Arts® Award.

We were inspired to do this. Joan [Baker] has been steeped in voiceover for decades, wrote a bestselling book on the topic, and since I’ve joined in with her we have been offering training programs around the country for years. Then the light bulb went off. We noticed more and more the wondrous work being done by voice actors and all the cheering, applauding and encouraging we were doing privately, in our workshops, no longer seemed enough.

We felt how much a whole industry deserved to be cheered, applauded and encouraged. And along with highlighting the artistry and dedication of voice actors. celebrate in a way that can be shared widely by all who are so dedicated to this work to enjoy and join in.

And then the vision grew on its own.

At the heart of the finest work in voiceover is precisely that, the heart. The love of people in this industry, yet to entertain but also to educate, further the kind of business that genuinely serves wholesome purposes and needs, and fosters global communication in a humanitarian spirit.

Then, of course, there are the deeply moving individual stories we have come to hear and be moved by. People who have risen from disabilities to make new careers in voice acting, others who’ve paid for their family homes, children’s college, medical treatment for ailing loved ones. Along with so many amazing characters created by and among voice actors so naturally talented and dedicated, often bringing us to laugh as well as cheer them on, through bad times as well as the good.

Debbe Hirata 2016 Winner

Q: Why does voice over need this?

Each of us as human beings is unique, our own person. But who we become emerges in our relationships, families, communities workplaces and world. And we can’t help emphasizing in ourselves what others pick up and echo back to us. Infants and children and people of all ages thrive when seen, heard, and appreciated for the unique and invaluable spark each one is.

And so appreciation, a word that means “enhance in value” and acknowledgment a fancy word for what we know as a nod, a salute, a profound thanks, of course contribute to fostering the best in each other.

So these awards are to appreciate, nod, salute and foster what people in the industry who vote for these awards deem to be the best coming through our fellow actors and content creators.

Q: Who created / is responsible for these awards?

Joan Baker and I are the co-founders of the Voice Arts® Awards. We conceived it, put it down on paper, and invested tens of thousands of dollars of our own money. We developed a mission statement, incorporated as a nonprofit, designed the statuette, (in conjunction with the same company that designed the Oscar), developed an operating strategy, manufacturing and delivery chain, web site and a live event strategy.

When you create something, you are responsible for it. When you ask people to invest themselves in your ideas, you become responsible to them too. That’s why I appreciate that you had me on to do this interview. You’re doing a service to your readers.

Our hope is that, in time, others will take responsibility for this franchise, as has been the case with other awards program that have lasted many decades.

Q: How are nominations and winners determined?

Industry experts take on the role of jurors. They review and rate the work on a numeric scale. The voting system is based on a computer algorithm that allows only those works that achieve a certain standing to move into contention for nomination.

The top 5 scores become nominees.

You cannot nominate yourself, merely by entering. That’s a common misunderstanding. Truth be told, it’s also an idea that some have purposely planted to belittle the integrity of the program.

First, every entry would become a nominee if all you had to do was enter. Nominees emerge from the judging process. Only the jurors can determine the nominees and winners. Our jury process is typical of most awards programs, where nominees precede the naming of winners.

Winners, are determined based on the highest score among the nominees. Sometimes, there’s a tie. In those cases, we use a tie breaking system, whereby each juror has preselected their “best of” choice in each category in which they judge. If the result is still not conclusive, we have another round of juror review.

Christian Lanz 2016 Winner

Q: Why is there a fee? Do people buy a nomination?

In this day and age, starting and running a not for profit entity is more difficult and expensive than ever. For SOVAS to be viable it needs to pay its own way.

SOVAS is a business. Fees are a function of commerce. Expenses and services need to be paid for by those taking part in the process. And none of it happens unless highly talented, highly experienced professionals work long hours, behind the scenes, to bring this program to life.

As for people being able to buy nomination, I answered that earlier. Of course SOVAS is not set up that way. Just ask the entrants who did not become nominees.

Q: Is this (or will it become) “just another Hollywood Awards Show?” Or will it be for the VO community as a whole?

SOVAS is already for the VO community as a whole. Invitations to submit applications go out far and wide through all the major media known to people in our industry.

Jurors are selected by, and also involve the whole industry.

As for where all of this is headed, we have been learning the very demanding lesson every day of just how difficult it can be to create a vehicle for appreciation and acknowledgment that reaches our entire industry. We can direct just so much, for the truth is that the future of this effort rests ultimately with the people who choose to take part.

We are doing our best to cultivate a global program that will inspire, celebrate in loving joy so as to foster abundance and ever greater heights of creative achievement in this work.

This is what we’re calling out to people in the VO community to join in and nurture together. When I see winners take the stage, with beaming faces, smiling through tears, crying through words, I am confident that the message will spread loud and long.

My hope for the Voice Arts® Awards is that the recognition we help create and the standards we set in the process contribute to the broader efforts of the entertainment and media industries.

Q: What kind of long term goals exist for the Voice Arts® Awards?

The long-term goal is to see the Voice Arts® Awards thrive, long after the current board members leave as its administrators, and to see it continue to bring joy, prosperity, inspiration, and the pursuit of excellence for as long as there is voice acting.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Speaking directly to the voice actor, and as a guy who is married to, and devoted to, a voice actor, I have the utmost most respect for the work you do. I have hired hundreds of voice actors in my years, as a producer and TV network executive and ad agency owner.

I’ve seen the magic voice actors bring to scripts, almost always bringing out colors and layers that enhance the final product.

I’ve been celebrating you for all those years, and appreciating your light and your plight.

The Voice Arts® Awards is a wonderful way to celebrate you, and I take great joy in that. It is a way for everyone to celebrate your work, and your value to the entertainment industry. It is a way for you to celebrate yourself and to ignite a fire in your belly to reach for your very best.

You can’t fuel success with negativity. You can’t be negative about the success of others and hope to gain any for yourself.

The Voice Arts® Awards is not about being better than someone else. It’s about being your best.

I invite you to embrace it!

James Earl Jones Voice Arts® Icon Winner with Don Lemon

Voice Arts® Awards Submissions

If you’d like to find out more about the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences™, or if you’d like to submit your own voice over work for consideration for the Voice Arts® Awards please visit

I’d like to personally thank Mr Gaskins for taking the time to answer the preceding questions. They’re the ones that came to me the most from people who seemed to be confused about the organization and the awards.

My hope is that through his sharing, a greater understanding will exist within the Voice Over Community.

This has been created for us, to acknowledge and celebrate our work and craft. I stand with Mr Gaskins in encouraging you to embrace it.