New VO Atlanta Conference owners J. Michael Collins and Anna Collins with conference founder and former Executive Director Gerald Griffith. (John Florian photos)
VO ATLANTA CONFERENCE
J. Michael And Anna Collins Purchase Rights
To Continue The Annual VO Atlanta Conference
April 4, 2022
By John Florian
The annual VO Atlanta Conference, which was expected to end with the 9th and final edition this past weekend, lives on with the purchase of all rights to the conference by ACE Events, a company formed by well-known voice over industry authorities J. Michael and Anna Collins (pictured). ACE is an abbreviation of Anna Collins Events.
The blockbuster announcement of the purchase was greeted by cheers of relief and approval at the conference's traditional Sunday morning wrap-up in the Grand Salon of the Hilton Atlanta Airport Hotel.
VO Atlanta 2023 will return to the Hilton Atlanta Airport Hotel on March 23-26, 2023, with ticket sales beginning in August this year.
Sunday morning: One of many standing ovations for Gerald Griffith.
A YEAR TO RESOLVE
Founded and organized by its Executive Producer Gerald Griffith in 2013, the conference quickly became the industry's largest, packing scores of educational sessions, networking and social events into four busy days for an international gathering of voice actors (and those investigating a career in voice overs).
Months ago, Griffith announced that the 2022 event would be VO Atlanta's final conference.
And at the Sunday morning wrap session he received many standing ovations for his decade of leadership and inspiration.
Tears welled in Griffith's eyes as he spoke of his conference experiences, including support from the VO community and family - and recently, a "resolve (which was the conference's theme) to personally move beyond this voice over conference.
"It was also resolved," he added, "that J. Michael and Anna Collins would carry on the VO Atlanta conference."
To the new conference owners, he said, "Thank you for stepping forward."
CONTINUING VO ATLANTA
So, what's next for this popular conference?
"Anna and I are looking forward to continuing VO Atlanta in the spirit in which it has always existed," J. Michael Collins tells VoiceOverXtra.
"I will be coordinating the lineup and schedule for future conferences," he explains, "while Anna, in her role as the new CEO of VO Atlanta, will bring her signature first class touch to the logistics and operation of the event.
"We are excited to build upon the legacy Gerald Griffith has created," Collins adds, "and to continue to grow and elevate the conference in order to serve our wonderful community."
Anna Collins, whose career background is the corporate world, said on Sunday, "Thank you, Gerald, for trusting us."
'TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE'
J. Michael Collins says "VO Atlanta is where I found my tribe. It brought this community together from across the world."
Yet he has been a uniting factor in the industry, as well, known for his involvement in many aspects of voice over: as multi award-winning voice actor, coach, demo producer and events organizer.
In addition to VO Atlanta, the Collins' will continue their partnership with the One Voice USA Conference in Dallas this August (registration starts April 4).
"Anna and I are committed to building a tradition of excellence into both of these industry-leading events," J. Michael says, "and to helping foster the growth of careers for voice actors everywhere."
They also host elegant annual Euro VO Retreats.
CELEBRATING THE VO UNICORN
Over the conference's years, a special feature has been honoring an individual who "gives back selflessly, without seeking credit or attention" with the Unicorn Award.
This year's winner: Bev Standing (pictured, receiving the award).
Candidates are nominated by fellow voice actors, and three finalists are chosen who "represent the character and kindness that embody the spirit of the unicorn and give us all something to aspire to."
Along with Standing, finalists were voice actors Humberto Franco and JD Kaye.
Scores of industry individuals and companies donate products and services to the program.
GRIFFITH: 'AN AMAZING JOURNEY'
"It's been an amazing journey," Griffith says of the past 10 years. "One I wouldn't trade for anything."
In a "Thank You" message in this year's conference program, Griffith noted:
Beginning in 2013, conference attendance was approximately 200. By 2019 it had grown to 900. COVID forced cancellation of plans for 2020, and in 2021 VO Atlanta was entirely a virtual experience for some 600 attendees. This year's in-person attendance was approximately 400, plus a virtual audience.
In the conference program, Griffith thanked his large staff of ambassadors, volunteers and assistants - and in particular, his sister Amanda Terry, the Onsite Conference Manager, and earlier conference managers Ron and Susan Minatrea.
The 2022 staff also included Lilian Brooks, Virtual Conference Manager; Stephen George, Asset Manager; Diane Hayes, Ambassador Coordinator; Scott Chambers, VO Atlanta Host; Michele Cobb, Audiobook Academy Director; Cliff Zellman and Dan Friedman, Team Challenge Administrators; and AJ McKay, Conference DJ.
"This chapter is closing for me," Griffith wrote. "But my life's story is still unfolding, and I'm looking forward to making myself available for what's next."
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