Bob Gillen on Storytelling

Month: February 2014

Alan Duggan’s Web Series ‘Claddagh’

Thanks to Tom Murphy at for sharing this interview with Alan Duggan.

IFM recently caught up with Irish-born actor/writer Alan Duggan to talk about his career, and his new web series ‘Claddagh.’

IFM: First off Alan, give us a bit of background and information about yourself. You’re originally from Ireland, but now live in Vancouver?

Alan Duggan

Actor/writer Alan Duggan

I’m originally from Northern Ireland, roughly fifty miles South of Belfast. I grew up in a family of five, two brothers and two sisters. My father was from the South of Ireland and my mother from the North. I grew up playing Gaelic Football, though had a passion for football (soccer). I ended up playing semi-pro for 5 years. I moved to Canada in my early twenties. I currently live in Montreal, though I travel around the country for career opportunities.

IFM: Tell us how you first got involved in acting.

Acting was a gut reaction. I was sitting in my living room in November 2003 watching TV and I realised that that’s where I should be, on the TV.

IFM: What aspect do you enjoy most about acting and performing? And which do you prefer, film/TV or on-stage acting?

I love the fact that I get to play any character in the world from criminal to a priest to a dad, and then return to my real life. I enjoy the stage and relish the instant gratification, though I love film/TV. I feel I’m built for that side of the industry.

IFM: You’ve moved into writing and directing too. How was the transition, and what were some of the challenges you faced?

From the second I started acting I began writing. It was like they came hand in hand, for me anyway. And I get to write about what I know. I had no interest in directing until I was on set of my own project. I found that I had a knack for it.  Especially when you know what you want. The biggest thing I found was dealing with actors and their sensitive side. Knowing how to talk to them so their egos aren’t bruised. Stroking their ego gets you what you want out of them.

IFM: Do you think taking on the dual role as writer/director has made you a better performer? If so, in what areas?

I feel that as an actor you should be open at all times to any situation. You don’t know what you’re going to get from the other actor. As from a director/writer stand point, if it’s your own project you know what you what from the performer, though stay open as some of the best work just happens.

IFM: Moving onto ‘Claddagh’. Briefly describe the series and how the idea for it came about.


Irish web series ‘Claddagh’

‘Claddagh’ (Love, Loyalty and Friendship) is about Irish James McGovern, a gambling entrepreneur living in Belfast. He  receives a phone call from his uncle Frank (the Irish GodFather in Montreal) that his father, priest Fr. Kearney, has been murdered. James has to return to Montreal to bury his father.

He receives news from his uncle all is not well. As both his father and his uncle are both IRA Commanding Officers. Someone has found out where his father was hiding. James has no interests until he receives a recorded will from his father in the form of a DVD that leads him on an unknown journey. Will he be able to become a solider of Claddagh? They say write what you know.

IFM: You take on a number of roles with the series including co-writer. How long was the writing process, and how many drafts did you go through before you believed you were ready to shoot?

I’ve been writing ‘Claddagh’ since 2004. I had written five one-hour episodes for TV, then I got a friend (Anthony Mancina) involved to write with me. So we took everything I had written and took little pieces from each episode and wrote a pilot. We shopped that for a while with no success. We then we wrote the project for the internet. So all in all two drafts and roughly six years from writing till shooting.

IFM: Where was ‘Claddagh’ shot and what was the crew and your fellow actors like to work with?

Claddagh’ was shot in and around the streets of Montreal. The cast and crew were awesome. Everyone pulled together to get the project done. Whatever was needed was done without question. There’s so many people that deserve praise for their effort on this project, from pre-production to post production.

IFM: What are your hopes for the future of the series?

I predict that somewhere down the road that we will get picked up by a Network.  Viewers already are asking for it to be on a Network. So it has great potential.

IFM: And finally, and what does 2013 have in store for you?

2013 has started well so far. So great auditions for several TV shows. We’ve started working on writing Season Three of ‘Claddagh.’  I’m also presenting an award at the Wasaga Beach Film Festival 26th January. So 2013 has gotten off to a great start!



Claddagh on YouTube

Claddagh on Facebook



Voicing the Story

“I warm up on the subway en route to a gig,” says voiceover artist Debbie Irwin, “and engage with people in the elevator on my way up to the studio – to put a smile on other people’s faces, which makes me feel good, and is a great vibe to bring into the recording session.”

Debbie Irwin

Voiceover Artist Debbie Irwin

New York City-based Debbie Irwin is the voice of The Statue of Liberty on the landmark’s audio tour as well as the Telly Award winning video for LA’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “I often refer to my ‘sound’ as intelligent and elegant. My voice is better suited for audio tours of museums, cities, real estate, corporate explainer videos and medical narrations than car commercials or talking toys.”

A Standout Voice

What makes her voice sought after by clients? “The more I pondered (this question), I realized that… I bring strong life experience to my work. Having lived in Italy and Mexico as a kid, pushed by my parents to excel academically, pursuing my dream of being an actress in NYC, having a passion for the visual arts, working at the Guggenheim, being a broker on Wall Street, leaving Wall Street for Sesame Street when I decided to have kids and raise my family, then coming back to my original passion, acting, but in the form of voiceovers… All of these experiences infuse my work.

“There’s probably no one thing that makes me effective,” says Irwin, “but rather a combination of factors that come into play when one is successful in this business:

  • What you sound like
  • What you do with your voice
  • How you interpret copy
  • How you to take direction
  • Having acting training
  • Knowing how to be professional before/during/after the job
  • Being a positive person that people enjoy being around
  • Being considerate of other people’s time
  • Staying in touch
  • Making other people look good
  • Expressing gratitude to people throughout the process – no matter what their job may be – receptionist or company owner

How A Voice Is Perceived

“Knowing where you fit and what your type is,” says Irwin, “can be very hard for actors to assess… and one of the best ways to figure that out is by seeing what kind of work you’re being hired to do. Take a look at the specs (character notes/voice qualities/adjectives) listed on scripts that have been sent to you by an agent or casting director who knows your work, and you’ll understand how your sound is perceived.

“Here are some very common specs for projects I’m asked to audition for: professional, warm, confident, strong yet comforting, real, trusting, believable, knowledgeable, intelligent, worldly, sophisticated, cultured, empathetic, smart, conversational, mature.”

Telling The Story

Asked how she gets past the words, the script, to tell the story the client wants told, Irwin says, “I don’t think you want to get past the words, you want to inhabit them! And there are so many clues for how to tell the story in the words themselves.

“Everybody’s role in the creative process is important – the writer’s words which need to be respected, the creative director’s vision for the overall look and feel of the piece, the sound designer’s insights for the music which supports the story, and so on. The voice is one piece of the rich tapestry.”

Irwin says, “One of my coaches, Joan Baker, told me that before I stepped up to the mic, I had to read the script twenty times! While this was overwhelming at first (and to this day, truth be told), there’s something fascinating that happens over the course of reading the script over and over.

“Your brain first needs to recognize the words, then become familiar with them, and only after a while does the emotional self begin to seep into the text, generating context. Some teachers focus on knowing who you are and whom you’re talking to. Others focus on knowing your general attitude in the script. Some have you break down the copy so you understand its structure – like a piece of music… A/B/A.

“Conflict/Solution/Resolution… All of these techniques come into play, and with enough experience, become second nature.”

Debbie Irwin

Debbie Irwin: “Your words, my voice”

Working With Directors

Irwin frequently works on documentary, web commercials, explainer videos and medical animation projects. What’s her secret to working effectively with directors? “The most effective way to work with people,” she says, “is to be prepared. Gather as much information about the project as you can ahead of time: the script, the storyboard (which is an illustration of the story) or rough cut (an unfinished video illustration of the story), samples of your work they like, or examples of someone else’s that they don’t like, learn what the client’s thoughts are for the sound they imagine hearing in their heads – the tone, the tempo, who the audience is, who your character is, and how they want their message communicated.

“Having ideas for different ways to present the material is important because sometimes a client doesn’t know how to express what they want until they hear it. Know your material going in… not memorized, but be really comfortable with the words, the arc of the story, where you want to focus/pause/paint colors.

“My scripts are always marked up with notes to enhance and guide my delivery. Also, I tend to be detail oriented, so if I notice an error or inconsistency in the script, I’ll raise that as a question at the beginning of the session, and usually clients are grateful for the level of attention I’ve paid to their work.

“Then, you have to be prepared to throw all that away, since you don’t know what might happen in the session. Maybe they have a completely different idea of how the script should be read, or who the audience is, or perhaps the timing is such that you don’t have a choice but to speed through the lines (in as calm a way as possible), to fit the words to the picture. Sometimes the script changes while you’re in the session, so you’re starting anew.

“That’s why I never stop training because there’s always more to learn, and it’s easy for some tools to become dull if they don’t get sharpened regularly.”

The Voiceover Studio

“My studio is in my home in lower Manhattan,” says Irwin. “I live near Ground Zero (and yes, was there that day).

“My preference is to go to a studio here in NYC, or in nearby New Jersey or Connecticut, and be with a studio engineer, writer, creative director, producer, client, or any combination. It’s a richer experience all the way around.

“Being in NYC, I’m lucky because there are tons of studios here – which means that I may just as often record outside my home as in my home. Clients are all over the world (California, Dubai, Ireland, Israel, Iceland, etc.) but we can all get connected rather easily through Skype, Viber, IpDTL, Source Connect, ISDN, Phone Patch, and more. Half of my work I record from home, and of that, I’d say twenty percent is with connective technologies so my clients can be in the session with me.”

Debbie Irwin in studio

Debbie Irwin in studio

Voiceover Studio Gear

“As for microphones, I’ve been experimenting of late,” Irwin says. “The Neumann TLM 103, one of the best, has been my mainstay for years, but at the suggestion of some of my colleagues, I’ve been working with the AKG Perception 220 and I think it’s giving me a richer sound. Microphones sound different depending on who’s speaking into them and the environment that they’re in. It’s hard to recommend one over another, since it’s a very site-specific and person-specific relationship!


Neumann TLM 103, AKG Perception 220

Computers & Software

MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Source Connect, ProTools LE8, Twisted Wave

Special Equipment:

Focusrite Scarlett Interface, MicroPort Pro, Mbox, Mbox Mini, Phone Patch, IPDTL, (ISDN and Source Connect accessible)

Delivery Methods

MP3, .WAV, AIFF, FTP, CD (although I can’t remember the last time someone asked for a CD!)

The Voice of Voicemail

In closing, Irwin says, “I’m also the voice of many companies’ IVR systems (Interactive Voice Response) – you know the ones… when you just want to talk to a real person but are stuck in the ‘Press 2 for sales’ circle of frustration.” The next time you’re caught up in a voicemail loop, smile. The voice you hear may be Debbie Irwin!

Listen to samples of Debbie Irwin’s voiceover work:

Debbie Irwin’s website  

Samples of Debbie Irwin’s audio work 

Debbie Irwin YouTube videos     

Debbie Irwin voiceovers on SoundCloud 

 Medical Video Reel

Medical Audio Reel

Contact Debbie Irwin at:




Creating Story: Live From Daryl’s House

A black SUV pulls up to a farm-style complex in upstate New York. Out steps a man in a long black coat, signature long red beard, a red do rag under a worn, comfortable felt hat, and sunglasses. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons walks forward to shake hands with his host, Daryl Hall. After a few words of conversation, the two are jamming inside Hall’s expansive music room.

Picture of Billy Gibbons and Daryl Hall

Billy Gibbons and Daryl Hall
credit Daryl Hall site

So begins episode 63 of the online Live From Daryl’s House.

And yes, this is Daryl Hall from the 1980s Hall and Oates duo. Hall has become an online storyteller. His episodes deliver a consistent, tight story format: a half-hour mix of live jams, conversation, cooking and dining.

The jam room, large by any standard, is packed with musicians, gear, and camera guys. The barn-like room features mementos, a Little Milton poster on the wall, an imposing chandelier, and rugs underfoot. Microphones everywhere. The camera work and editing are exciting, dynamic, well-executed.

The focus is the music. Jamming at its best. This episode with Billy Gibbons includes ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” and Hall and Oates’s “Bank on Your Love”.  The audio on each episode is clear, clean. Despite the crowd of musicians and gear, none of the instruments bleed together. No instruments eat up vocals. And Gibbons says of the efficient set-up Hall provides, “Hit it and quit it.”

Gibbons talks of working one night with B.B. King. After asking if Gibbons would mind switching guitars for part of the performance, King noted that the strings on Gibbons’s guitar were heavy gauge. “These strings are kind of heavy,” he said. Gibbons replied that he used them to get the deep, rich blues sound. “Why are you working so hard?” King came back. Gibbons has used lighter strings since.

Daryl Hall

Daryl Hall: credit Daryl Hall site

Between songs, Gibbons whips up a huge bowl of his Renegade Guacamole, with help from caterer Mexican Radio. The episode ends with more conversation and a communal meal around Hall’s long table.

Hall has been doing this for over five years. The sixty-three episodes include Rob Thomas, Sharon Jones, KT Tunstall, Shelby Lynne, CeeLo Green, and Allen Stone. Every episode is a new, fresh story.


© 2020 creating story

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑