Connecting With Failure

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There are few things more inspirational and motivational than reading about people who failed before becoming famous. In some ways, learning of person’s failure can be a therapeutic reminder of how fallible we all are as human beings. So how can we apply this to ourselves when met with our own devastating failure?
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Jersey Actors Unite To Crowdfund New Indie Web-Series

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What is Community Cares?

A comedy-drama web-series inspired by shows like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” about one motivated woman’s unlikely quest to greatness within a dilapidated local TV station.

Community Cares is my latest foray into on-camera acting together with fellow actors and friends from the NJ School of Dramatic Arts.

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Niel Sumter as Ray Campbell. Photo: Kitsune Media

Why & How We Did It

We set out to not only create palpable, quality entertainment for viewers to enjoy, but to continue cultivating our talents in an open creative space. All of us have become very close, stay connected as a network of friends, and have invested much of our combined time, effort, and personal finances to pre-production, scripting, team meetings, catering, location hunting, and, of course, recruiting & scheduling a capable film and sound crew. It has been hard work, and we have something to show for it.

In only three filming sessions, our production crew filmed footage for four 5 to 7-minute episodes deliberately using a single-camera setup. This is fairly crazy and unheard of, but indie bootstrapping like this calls for long days & tight filming schedules that can run late into the night. You can see some of the footage in our trailer.

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Photo: Kitsune Media

Where We Are

Exactly a year later, after committing as a team to produce what is now known as Community Cares, we now we have:

  • Four episodes on deck for post-production,
  • A polished Trailer, showing our commitment to this creative venture, AND
  • Finalized scripts for EIGHT more episodes collecting dust on our producer’s desk.

We are ready and willing to film the rest of what we hope will be only the beginning of a quirky, laugh-out-loud, web-series season with the potential to draw in fans of popular television comedy-dramas like The Office and Parks and Recreation. We have pulled our weight. We know our audience. We promise to deliver.

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Phil Araujo as Jason Quick (foreground) & Sabreen Shareef as Skyler King. Photo: Kitsune Media

To do this, we considered the exciting, yet risky potential of crowdfunding and the successes other webseries have been fortunate to meet. We asked many hard questions and eventually came to a positive consensus. With four episodes already under our belt, plus the experience of operating in a production company-type manner, it seemed like the right time to take the plunge. One question still lingered, however:

Would enough of the internet community care about Community Cares…?

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Photo: Kitsune Media

A Community That Cares

So here we are, having launched our Indiegogo campaign. Our goal is to draw in an interactive, passionate community that will collectively partner with us in completing Community Cares Season 1. We love the ideal freedom to create something unique and edgy for those who choose to support us. The truth is we honestly have done all that we can to push as far as it can go – we are actors and some of us, like me, are still struggling to find consistent work.

This crowdfunding campaign is likely our last option to jumpstart post-production and bring our web-series public. It’s really all or nothing. I wish I could say that we would be able to continue on and find another way, but because of the “equal partners” nature of this endeavor, there’s no way to guarantee that outcome if our campaign fails here.

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Director Ken Scheps intently observing the scene. Photo: Kitsune Media

Lend Us A Hand?

As of publishing this article, 23 days remain in our Indiegogo campaign. If you like what we’re doing, please share this article within your social circles. That would be just as valuable to our cause. The links to our Indiegogo campaign, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube presence are also below for easy access.

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Thank you so much for reading and pledging any support you can offer.

Niel Sumter / Ray Campbell of Community Cares: The Web-Series

Four Lessons Learned From Life and Voice Acting

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Seeing a certain status update on Facebook got me in a reflective mood. I’m sure I am the only unique soul this has happened to.

We have spent so much time looking ahead that it’s when we least expect it that we are hit with nostalgia for the way things used to be. Voice acting and the community I grew up with has changed significantly in such dramatic ways. However, being able to perceive how the ebb and flow of life and being an actor are very much one in the same is valuable in not only protecting ourselves from making the same mistakes again but also encouraging others to not lose hope when things don’t happen the way we expect.

1) Valuing community and connecting with others like ourselves enriches our lives.

Back in 2009 when fandubbing was all the rage, most of us, still amateurs at the time, hid behind our online aliases on YouTube and Voice Acting Alliance. As long as everyone in our community knew us by that name, we retained our reputation and a semblance of influence amidst the rapid influx of wannabes. Needless to say, my personal experiences during were very touch-and-go; everyone was trying to put out the next cool clip and stay ahead of the curve.

However, as YouTube changed its layout and policies year after year, we all realized that connecting through Facebook made our ability to connect and share easier. Before I knew it, the majority of my Friends list had become all the voice acting comrades I had worked with or become close to. We were able to contribute to & participate in each others’ shortcomings and accomplishments rather than only seeking to impress and/or scout. For many of us, it got personal, and I think our lives are a little better for it.

2) You lose some. You gain more.

As voice-over artists/actors/performers, we get used to the transient nature of embodying a role for a set period of time and then letting go when we hear those powerful words “you’re wrapped.” On top of that, you would think that we would be used to the constant disassociation that comes with the business of being told “no” more than “yes” in our personal lives. On the contrary, we often find ourselves clinging to the few things in reality that we believe will last because of the nature of our professional lives.

A friend. A family member. A relationship. A pet. See a pattern?

Many people, not just actors, long for the human connection. They trust that their commitment will be honored because, often times, we give up a part of ourselves to prove that we will honor theirs. I honestly cannot tell you how many close-knit friendships and amazing relationships I have seen end and begin anew with someone unexpected (myself included).

We must take heart that none of us are the same as we were yesterday. Our perspectives & feelings that are finally brought to light that our loving family may not approve of still is worth fighting for. To spare their suffering, a childhood pet is put down because we love them more than they may understand. Though distrusting & disconnecting may seem like the best option to avoid potential pain, the better choice is to embrace the hardships & use them to fortify the unique character role that is ourselves to support others experiencing a similar matter.

3) Use every resource you have available to achieve your goal.

Kevin gave me this one. When I was starting out in voice-over, I learned that reaching out to anyone who I could help or could potentially help me get into a project was okay. However, there has been at least one instance where I had a certain edge & did not exploit it because I felt it would cheapen me as someone serious and hard-working to become a voice actor.

Don’t do that.

Keeping the work flowing isn’t easy, especially as a [voice] actor. We need to use every advantage we have in our arsenal to succeed, save causing physical harm or detriment to another person. Making a list of those we know, who we can help, who maybe can help us, then taking a leap of faith can go a long way in determining whether we nab an elusive audition, meeting that A-list casting director, or be referred by a friend for employment.

My list is done. Still working on getting seen and cast in a breakout role. *hint hint*

4) Pursue it only if you really want it.

In the midst of a personal struggle, I was reminded that if you aren’t inherently driven by your own innermost desire to take hold of what you believe is yours, then there’s a chance it may not be for you. Whether you’re an actor or not, this should make relative sense. The same motivation that binds our platonic friendships and romantic relationships is made of the same stuff that should drive our ambitions.

If you want a job and only have three-fourths of the credentials, apply anyway and be ready to prove you can learn the other one-fourth. If there is something personal that you don’t like about yourself that your heart is telling you needs to change, accept it and work it out gradually. If voice acting is still just your high-school hobby after becoming recognized as an adult, you might want to find something that is worth giving your all towards if you haven’t already.


We all have the power to choose to learn from lessons past. Everything we have accomplished and failed, from the early days of trying to find our footing, to some of us now working on a professional level – it was all worth it. Though we may not see it that way when faced with trials and tribulations, we are constantly changing for better or worse. And it doesn’t hurt to reflect now and then, if only to remind us that we are still capable of moving forward.

What lessons have you learned? Let me know in the comments!

You can also join me on Twitter @nielsumter.

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