The year 2000 not only gave rise to a new millennium, but to one of the most prolific careers in the world of animation. Voice acting, script adaptation, and VO directing were all swept to a new level of excellence as the great Patrick Seitz stepped into their graces, bringing with him a talent unlike any other. His resume boasts some of the most iconic titles across anime, western animation, and gaming, with ‘Sword Art Online’, ‘Deadman Wonderland’, ‘Steins;Gate’, ‘Monster’, ‘Naruto’, ‘Hellsing’, ‘Summer Wars’, ‘Fire Emblem’, ‘Mortal Kombat’, ‘World of Warcraft’, and ‘League of Legends’ forming the mere tip of an ever growing iceberg. He is a master craftsman of both the professional and personal realms, giving forth a great air of positivity and undeniable intellect to all fortunate enough to meet him, and inspiring thousands with the depth of his humility. While Disney may have had is renaissance in the early 90s, there is no doubt that anime is currently in one of its very own - the Renaissance of the Great Patrick Seitz.
Do you feel that having entered the world of VO almost unintentionally is almost one of the best ways to begin as it can remove some of the pressure/stress of the situation and allow you to really embrace the artistic experience? It just seems a very common method among some of the most prolific voice artists, such as yourself. Do you find this to be common among your contemporaries?
- It certainly worked out for me! Falling into voiceover unintentionally definitely took the pressure off early on, when I was still figuring out up from down. I can't imagine how much more stress that would have put on me, chasing it as an explicit, all-or-nothing goal during those early, fumbling years. Admittedly, I did get to the point however many years into this where I thought, "Hey, this is my job now. And I like it. Let's conduct ourselves in such a way that we can hopefully keep the ball spinning for another 40 or so years, yeah?" I'm sure there are many advantages to specifically pursuing a career in voiceover, especially with regards to having an actual plan of attack (which was never my strong suit), but it does leave open the possibility that one is chasing what they desire rather than what they're suited for.
You have often voiced characters of differing cultures and backgrounds to your own, such as Agil in ‘Sword Art Online’, do you enjoy having the ability to take on such diverse roles or do you feel any hesitancy towards it in regard to the much controversial matter of “whitewashing” roles in the entertainment industry? Do you think this is less of an issue in VO and anime in general?
- When it comes to color-blind casting, I think that voiceover is closer to opera than it is to, say, on-camera work. So long as you have the vocal chops to sound convincing, your actual race is far less of a sticking point, and the acceptance of roles that would open a whole can of worms visually (and rightfully so) aren't nearly so problematic. White guys voice black guys and vice-versa. Hispanic and Asian women voice little boys and magical girls. And we all voice Japanese characters, technically speaking. Thus far, nobody's given me too much grief about my penchant for playing various ethnicities, and I enjoy getting to play a lot of different types of characters. I think it can be done respectfully, certainly.
Many of the themes and characters in anime series are ones not seen in Western animation and often altered for Western audiences, such as the homosexual relationship of Kunzite in Sailor Moon, why do you think that these themes are so much more common in Japanese cartoons compared to Western ones? Do you find it ironic that the West often refers to Japan as being somewhat “repressed” and yet they seem far more open to a variety of themes, content, visuals etc in their entertainment than we are?
- This is me painting with a *very* broad brush, but I think cultures for whom Christianity has been historically predominant often have a much more fraught relationship with all things sexual/physical than those for whom it wasn't. The message, writ large, has been: God's in Heaven; we're on Earth. He is perfect and spirit; we are sinful by our very corporeal nature. And when it comes to sex, even when it's right (e.g. procreation only, within the bonds of marriage, etc.), it's still kinda wrong.
In a similar vein, are there any traits, themes, or stylistic choices from Japanese anime that you would like to see more of in Western animation?
- I wouldn't mind us pursing a greater diversity in the types of stories we tell, a la anime as a whole. :)
As one of the most gifted adaptive writers for anime, and that there are obvious cultural differences between Eastern and Western audiences, do you ever find yourself walking the line between wanting to retain some of the Japanese aspects of a show to open the Western audience to that way of thinking, while also fearing they may not understand it or rejecting the show?
- I think the days of riceballs being whitewashed into doughnuts are over, thankfully. The challenge with concepts or cultural aspects that may be unfamiliar is that you have to contextualize them seamlessly within a moment that wasn't budgeted for that in the original Japanese version, time-wise. Thankfully, for most anime fans watching a particular show, it's not their first rodeo--and a lot of those aspects don't need to be explained to death; as you become more familiar with the genre, those things are demystified by exposure and repetition.
Are you given many parameters from higher ups as to what you can and cannot leave in an adapted piece?
- I can't really think of many examples of having those sorts of decisions dictated from above. For the most part, if something's in the original, it's fair game for the adaptation/localization.
How do you think you studies of the arts, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Masters of Fine Arts in Creative and the Performing Arts Writing, has informed your current work? Do you think taking the scholarly path is of value to all aspiring writers, or have you come across similarly beneficial, but quite different, pathways to the industry?
- Obtaining two creative writing degrees--take that, pragmatism!--ultimately worked out for me, but by no means do I think that's a path one must tread to do what I do. Looking back, I didn't really mesh with the professors who were offering my undergrad fiction courses; Dave Eggers and memoirist fiction were all the rage, and all I wanted to do was write speculative fiction a la the old Twilight Zone episodes. I had the great good fortune to take a screenwriting class with Judy Burns, and enjoyed it so much that I gravitated to a screenwriting specialization when it came time for my MFA studies. That's when I lucked out again, getting to take so many courses with Robin Russin, with whom I really clicked. The scholarly path was kind of a bust for me the first time around, vis-a-vis my interests and what I wanted to do, but I feel like I really hit the jackpot the second time. Almost all of the folks I know who do adaptive writing are actors, and they bring that sense of wordplay and timing and fluency to both sides of the microphone. Those are traits that can be honed, certainly, but I don't think they're anything that can be taught if they're not there in some form to begin with.
As adaptive writing is its own beast, in many respects, compared to the classic screenwriting or fiction writing, what do you think is the best method of honing skills in that area?
- The best way to hone one's adaptive writing skill is to do it, frankly; there aren't a lot of equivalent pursuits that one could put their time into. That said, with the lion's share of its focus on dialogue, playwriting is a pretty good analogue. It doesn't give you an opportunity to flex one's muscles within the limitations of pre-existing lip-flap, though, and wrestling that particular bear is a huge part of what we do.
How does writing for a series differ to your role in adapting films, such as the absolutely brilliant work you have done on ‘Summer Wars’ and ‘Wolf Children’?
- Film adaptation is more of a marathon--you're given about the same amount of time as you'd get to complete a commensurate number of anime episodes, but every tick of the clock sounds more dire. Whereas with anime episodes, you feel like you can budget your time to where you don't need to work on the script every single day (I prefer empty days where I can really dig in for hours on end, personally, as opposed to knocking it out piecemeal), I never feel like that when I'm on an anime film deadline. Every day counts, and I skip one at my own peril. Also, just on a technical level, you have to make sure that your fidelity to the lip-flap is impeccable--especially for characters in the background, where you can hardlysee the flaps--because if a film has the good fortune to get a theatrical release (as have all the recent Hosoda dubs by Funimation, for example), everything's going to be displayed on a screen that puts your iMac to shame.
Throughout you adaptive writing career you have often worked with the incredible J Michael Tatum, in what I have come to affectionately refer to as the “Seitum Write-um Team”, why do you feel that you too work so well together and produce work of such outstanding quality, including ‘Steins; Gate’ and ‘Deadman Wonderland’?
- I think that Tatum and I are a mix of traits and styles, and our commonalities work in our favor just as much as the points at which we're disparate. He brings MIT to the potluck, and I bring the feels. Also, we've been very luck insofar as that we're usually tapped to work on very interesting, high-concept shows (a la Steins;Gate and Deadman Wonderland). It's a lot easier to turn out a good script when you're not having to make the proverbial silk purse out of a sow's ear.
When working in a duo or team, how is the writing allocated? Do you divide certain episode, or write with each other, etc?
- When you're writing with another person (or multiple other people, which is less often the case for me; it's usually Tatum and me) on a project, the writing is assigned on a per-episode basis. Often, the lead writer will adapt the first few episodes, just to set the tone, and from that point onward, they'll alternate episodes with the other person. Sometimes we'll take back-to-back episodes to accommodate the other's schedule, if one of us has a trip or conflict that rears its head early enough to take into consideration. The assumption on multiple-writer projects is that all parties involved will read each other's episodes, to keep characterizations consistent as they move forward.
Do you find that when working on a series, whether as a writer, voice artist, or director etc, you have to distance yourself from the work to a certain extent so that you will not be too personally hurt should the series be cancelled, or simply seen by a smaller audience etc? ‘Monster’ comes to mind in this respect, as it is an incredible series and yet only part of it seemed to make its way to the air.
- Distancing yourself from the work while you're doing it is a death sentence, in terms of quality. You have to love it. You have to let the characters and the music and words and the visuals affect you. Working on a series takes plenty of work and time, however you slice it. Why do it half-assed? Sure, you might have a situation like Monster, where it never gets a fair shot at finding an audience on DVD, but if I'd gone into it thinking that might be a possibility (for the record, I didn't--I expected a full series release), I couldn't have given it my all. You give it your best shot, every single time.
How do you think the changing ways in which audiences are consuming content, such as streaming services and digital downloads, will affect the anime industry? Do you think it is a positive or negative change?
- Overall, the industry is moving a lot more quickly than it used to. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but folks should realize that it takes more work and/or money--sometimes, a lot more work and/or money--to deliver the same quality under an accelerated schedule. As repeated as nauseam by folks in production (anime and otherwise), "You can have it good, cheap, or fast--pick two." Personally, while I like the convenience of streaming (especially on Hulu and Netflix), I hope physical discs never go the way of the dinosaur. I'm old--I wanna hold my collection. Also, for all of their advantages, simul-dubs have led to less geographic diversity in casting, just out of sheer schedule necessity. Like most changes, it's positive in some ways and negative in others. Only time will tell if it's better or worse than the old ways, overall.
How can audiences best support the anime industry? Do you think it has become similar to music now in that the majority of money is made in conventions and things of that nature, rather than the buying of content itself?
- I think putting one's money where their mouth is and ponying up for DVDs and streaming subscriptions will always be the best way to support the industry, cash-wise, but advocacy is important, too. Especially with how easy it is for folks to get their hands on legitimate streaming releases these days, the time has never been better to suggest shows to a friend, or even try to open an uninitiated friend's eyes to the genre through something that's doesn't depend too heavily on unfamiliar tropes. You can show Your Lie in April or Monster to non-anime fans, and it'll resonate. Something like Heaven's Lost Property (and I'm not hating, mind you--I love that show) is a tougher sell.
Do you feel that the majority of voice artists, particularly up and coming ones, are cast in roles that show their full potential or is it more common for them to be placed within a certain wheelhouse of similar roles? In what ways can an artist best display their entire range, and is something like working for a smaller company a way in which you may have the chance to perform a role that is stylistically different to your past ones?
- For new and veteran actors alike, the most common casting is the safest one. If the client knows we're good at a particular thing, chances are that's what they're going to have us do. That said, sometimes we do get cast in fun ways that run counter to expectation, but you generally have to pay your dues first and do a good enough job at those wheelhouse roles that they won't feel like they're taking a massive chance by turning tradition on its head. The best way for an actor to display their range is to persevere in whatever they're chosen to do, and accumulate those chances over the years to surprise directors with unexpected performances (whether large or small).
Do you feel you have personally been able to showcase your full artistic range so far, whether that be in VO, writing, directing etc?
- I don't think anybody ever gets to showcase (or perhaps even be fully cognizant themselves of) their full artistic range, but I think I'm damn lucky that folks keep paying me to be creative in different ways. :)
You have also done multiple roles in video games, and are quite the gamer yourself, are you enjoying the move towards a more story-based mode of gaming either as a voice artist or gamer? What further changes and/or improvements would you like to see in gaming?
- I'm certainly a fan of story-based gaming, but at the end of the day, gameplay is king (which I think actors might sometimes forget, to our collective detriment). Story and character enrich what's there, but if the foundation of the game--the gameplay itself--isn't solid, they're frosting for a mediocre cake. I find myself more and more gravitating towards indie games off the beaten path--stuff like Hand of Fate, Oxenfree, The Flame in the Flood, Child of Light, Ori and the Blind Forest, et cetera. That said, before anyone mistakes me for a hipster, I've put more hours than I care to admit into Overwatch.
You were involved in the stunning animated film ‘Redline’, which is quite possibly one of the last hand drawn animated films to come out of Japan and one that took around seven years to complete, what was it like to be involved in such a substantial project, and do you think that style, and 2D animation in general is a dying art form? Is it an art form you hope will remain, or do you very much welcome the more 3D animated styles?
- Having you ask about Redline reminds me that I need to watch it again; I've seen the film a few times now, but it's so visually bombastic, I'm sure there's plenty I've missed. That was one of those times where I wasn't at all confident in my performance as I was recording, but when I saw the final product, I was pretty darn happy with what I'd done--and so impressed by the ensemble, as a whole. As far as the animation itself, I don't think 2D animation will ever be fully supplanted by CGI, because it's beautiful and (at the risk of sounding like a hipster) artisanal, even if it's more labor-intensive and expensive to do. That's my hope, at least.
Do you find that having worked in several areas of the industry, as a writer, VO director and voice artist yourself, has allowed you to be more effective in each of those areas? For example, do you find you are more able to give creative freedom to other voice artists working from your script as you have enjoyed being given that trust yourself as a VO, compared to other writers who may be more protective of their script?
- I definitely think that working across all three positions has made me more effective. Approaching the same goal (i.e. recording) from different angles helps me learn and improve in ways that I don't necessarily know I would, if I were limited to just acting or just writing or just directing.
Are there any other areas of the arts you would like to be involved in, or be more involved in, in the future?
- I miss doing live theater, but with directing taking up so much time, it's hard to make it happen. And I'd love to get back into my own personal screenwriting projects, but it's tough juggling that time and gumption with the paid work. First-world problems, to be sure, but there are only so many hours in the day.
Do you find you are drawn towards a certain character and/or genre either as an artist or viewer?
- I'm a sucker for redemption stories, personally--both as a writer/actor and viewer alike.
Do you prefer to voice a character that you have had a hand in creating from the ground up, so to speak (such as what you see in video games), or one that is taken from a pre-existing title (as is common in anime series)?
- I don't know that I have a preference; so long as they're significant enough that I can have some fun along the way with fleshing them out, it doesn't matter to me if they're a pre-existing character (i.e. Franky from One Piece) or a character I got to originate (i.e. Garrosh Hellscream from World of Warcraft). If I'm doing my job right, both processes feel the same.
How can fans who either meet you at conventions, on the street, or contact you online help make it a better experience for both of you?
- For folks who meet me in person, I'd beg their indulgence if we've met before and I don't remember them straightaway. As clichéd as it sounds, I do meet an awful lot of people, and it can be tough to keep straight whether it was last year at the same convention, or three years back in another state entirely. Also, if they're a cosplayer, they might look totally different than they did last time. For folks who interact with me online, just be patient with me. I'm usually slammed with work such that I can't immediately reply, but I'm pretty good at getting back to people in the long run. :)