This past weekend at MCM London Comic Con, talented voice actors Yuri Lowenthal (Sasuke in Naruto) and Tara Platt (Tamari in Naruto) took to the main stage in front of an eager crowd to show off their new convention and voice actor based mockumentary Con Artists. We were lucky enough to be able sit down with them at the show and chat about getting the balance right for the film, their best and worst experiences at conventions, the reception for the film within the voice acting community and more.
Laura: Could you both start off by introducing yourselves and telling our readers what they might know you for at conventions?
Yuri: Hi, I’m Yuri Lowenthal and I’m an actor, known mainly for my voice type things, roles in video games and cartoons, various things like that. Popular titles I’ve done include the Prince of Persia game series, Sasuke in Naruto and Ben 10.
Tara: Hi I’m Tara Platt, I do a lot of voice over work as well and I’m also a character in many of the shows that Yuri’s in. In Naruto I play Tamari, I’m Katarina in the League of Legends video game, I’ve been on Legion of Superheroes as Dream Girl and in Ben 10 I play several roles.
Laura: Could you tell us a little about your new film together Con Artists?
Tara: Sure. We just finished working on a mockumentary feature film called Con Artists and I think one of the things that’s fun about Con Artists is that it’s a nice hybrid between a true documentary with actual documentary footage of interviewing fans and guests at conventions, and a mockumentary with all these fake scripted scenes to add humour. I like to think of it as if Christopher Guest was a voice actor at conventions, this is the film he would make
Yuri: That’s what we were shooting for at the very least.
Laura: What sort of time scale was the film made over and what was the process like for you both?
Yuri: We shot the movie over the course of a year at all the conventions we went to, I think it was 11 that year, which is the most I think we’ve ever done in a year.
Tara: I think we did pretty much a convention a month that year.
Yuri: Yeah, we shot it then and we went through editing it and started to think, “Maybe we need a little something here and there,” because with a mockumentary you can keep on shooting things down the line as they occur to you.
Tara: We ended up shooting the ending three times because we didn’t like that it just wasn’t hitting where we wanted to hit. That took us almost another year and a half because we shot something, then edited in and it didn’t quite work so we tried something else and we put that in and it didn’t work. It took an amount of time but our friend Boris Keivsky who’s the director, a documentary filmmaker, actor and a friend of ours, he travelled to the conventions with us and shot the footage there.
Yuri: It was interesting because usually going into a movie we’ll have a script of exactly what we’re shooting, whereas with this movie we started shooting at conventions without really knowing what the story would be yet. I found that took a lot longer because we had to figure it all out as we went rather than just knowing from the start.
Laura: Was there any point during filming at those conventions where you suddenly realised what direction you wanted for the story in the film?
Tara: Interesting question.
Yuri: I think it was things that we saw and the people we encountered as we were going, the things that we found funny about the convention scene and voice actors at conventions that really helped bring that together.
Tara: Also, we know so many voice actors that work with us in the same circuit that work on the same shows and they would tell us stories that happened to them at conventions or things that they had seen that couldn’t help but colour what we were continuing to do with the film. We took that and had to mush it around and added things until it was something that was our own. There was a little bit of that, but I’m trying to think if there was a particular moment that did it.
I know that there’s something in the movie that we started to make part of our direction, but we realised it wasn’t really the kind of story that we wanted to tell, so there is a scene in the movie that appears but then nothing else really happens. I’m trying not to do any spoilers, so it’s “a scene about a thing”. I’m trying to use very vague terms, but we realised that wasn’t really the direction we wanted to go because we’re trying to play these diva’d up crazy versions of ourselves and there’s only so much that you can do and also really want to do. We’re playing Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt but we’re not playing Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt. It’s a very tricky line to walk.
Laura: Considering some of the scenes in the film are interviews with actual attendees at conventions, were there any difficulties in getting the tone of the film right so that it didn’t come off as laughing at those not in on the joke?
Tara: What we tried to do was be highly respectful of everyone that was involved in filming during the interview process, any of the fans and any of the people at conventions, we treated them as if we were doing a straight documentary because we really wanted to know what their thoughts and experiences were. We’re never making fun of them. I think the way you win there is by making fun of yourself.
Yuri: As long as we were just making ourselves look ridiculous as it was sort of our idea, then we knew that we were okay. Plus, I grew up going to conventions and we love the world of conventions so the thinking was never “Hey, we want to make fun of people who go to conventions,” because we love it too much.
Tara: I also think that the way that you win is that as well as making fun of yourself, you’re also the one that has to fall down a notch. The fans can’t be the ones to be poked fun at and be the butt of the joke, you have to be the joke. I think that’s how you get the balance.
Laura: Have any of your friends within the voice acting community who are not directly involved in the film given you any feedback yet on what they think of the idea behind Con Artists?
Tara: The ones we know who’ve seen it say it’s really good and that gives us a confidence boost thinking, “Okay that’s good, we’re doing it right on that front.”
Yuri: Yeah, they know that world too. When we did the cast and crew screening, some of the people who weren’t involved in the film but are voice actor friends of ours were there for that screening and they enjoyed it, they seemed to think it was a lot of fun.
Tara: That’s why we’re so excited about having been able to show it here in London because we got to see what people who are just the fans think of it.
Yuri: We’ve never shown it to the fans before MCM.
Tara: Yes and we’re really excited to hear what people thought of it. I really hope they get that it’s a comedy and that we’re both not actually really like that. I would never actually say, “Go get me real water.” I’m a nice person but that’s not what I play myself here as.
Laura: Sticking with the topic of conventions, have either of you ever had any really memorable experiences meeting fans at shows, either positive or negative?
Yuri: They’re mostly positive I’d say. You heard stories of, “Urgh, this one fan chased me up to my hotel room and was waiting with a knife,” or whatever…
Tara: Well, usually it’s hugs not knives; they just won’t leave you alone.
Yuri: Right and that’s never happened to us. They’re generally really positive, there’s lots of fans crafting all sorts of things.
Tara: Yeah, they make these beautiful artworks and gift them to you. We do get things like, once I had this guy jump on me and it scared the daylight out of me.
Yuri: Glomping really can be an issue if you’re not expecting it.
Tara: And he was a big guy, so yeah, I got genuinely hurt by that, it was a painful experience. It’s one of those things where it’s all well and good to run across the hall and tackle a friend of yours if they know that it’s coming and you’re friends with them, but to do that to someone who isn’t expecting it and doesn’t know you, it can be utterly terrifying. I thought that I was being taken out.
Yuri: I once had, things like this happen from time to time, in an autograph line I had a fan come up and say, “Hey, I just wanna let you know that I’m a big fan of Sasuke on Naruto.” I said thank you and they said, “I was introduced to that show at a really dark time in my life when I was thinking of killing myself and I really keyed into Sasuke dealing with his own darkness and it really helped bring me out of it,” and my tears started welling up and I just had to give him a really big hug because often we do this job and we’re just in a booth making funny voices. I sometimes think, “Shouldn’t I be building wells in Africa or something worthwhile,” and you know, somebody says something like that and you realise and remember that entertainment can be really important to people. That’s really a super positive thing that happened.
Tara: We’ve also gotten to meet some really amazing people around the world. One of the things that’s fantastic about what we do is that we get to go to conventions and meet the fans. We’ve gone to London, we’ve gone to Australia, we’ve gone to Dubai, we’ve just gone to amazing locations in the world that, as much as we love them, we might not have just travelled to on our own. That’s a pretty penny and it’s just nice to go and get to see that the fans all have this similarity across the world. Getting to see that they’re all fans of this particular thing, it just somehow kind of makes the world smaller because there’s this international community of people that like Pokémon, or like Assassins Creed, or whatever. You realise that it doesn’t really matter where in the world people are, there’s this connected community and that’s a gift that we get to experience.
Yuri: When I was a kid growing up, liking this stuff was not always well looked on. Those communities were very small and disconnected.
Tara: Exactly, the Japanese culture was only just really starting to get introduced into America as far as anime and Robotech culture and stuff like that. Now you can walk down the street and see Pokémon in the ‘regular’ store window, you don’t have to go to a specialist store.
Yuri: They’ve got anime clubs in high schools and things like that; that was not a thing when I was growing up.
Tara: Now you can go and get a degree for voice acting. When we started there was no courses like that, we had to figure it out ourselves and take classes with the kind of person who offers classes in their backyard. It wasn’t this wide spread thing, even though people had been doing voice acting for a while, it wasn’t really understood as a career or a job path that you could really sustain. It’s interesting to see how much things shift and change.
Laura: If anyone missed seeing the film this weekend at MCM London Comic Con, when can they see it themselves or find out more?
Tara: I wish I had a good answer for that. There’s a website called ConArtistsmovie.com, we’re going to put all the updates on there. We’re hoping to work out a distribution deal soon so as soon as we figure that stuff out we can let people know it will be on VOD or places where you can buy it.
Yuri: This is the hard part about talking about it, getting people excited. We just can’t wait for them to see it.
Tara: Honestly I think at conventions is the perfect place to screen it. We’d love to go on the road and do a roadshow tour with it. I think this is really the right location because you get to show it direct to the fans.
There you have it. Did you get to see Con Artists at the show? If so, we’d love to hear to hear what you thought of it in the comments below.
Photo by Kay Ibrahim.