I used to work in radio. This isn’t necessarily a good thing in today’s VO world. I’ve spent the last year trying to lose that radio sound in my voice because it isn’t really in demand in the VO market these days. A key person in helping me find the “real” in my voice has been Marice Tobias. Me, Bob Souer and 10 other other talented VO artists found ourselves at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle several weekends ago for a promo/trailer seminar with Marice. Bob has made several entries about that in his blog, so check it out for his thoughts on the weekend. Seminars with Marice (I’ve taken three) are never a passive experience, internally or externally. You are up at the microphone working on scripts in front of your peers, all of them working VO professionals at the same level or above where you are. It can make grown men and women shake in their boots. Many of us go back to our hotel rooms on Saturday night and cry.
Marice often says the time spent with her is only a small part of the process. She can point you in the right direction, but you have to do the work if you want to improve. For me, working with her has been a self-excavation. I have the notes from our first private session over a year ago, and they aren’t pretty. “Formal, cool, information-driven, let’s get to the bottom line” read. That makes sense, as I spent three years as a news director in radio. It’s the read that booked me a lot of business and medical narration, so I was successful in those areas. But I didn’t have access to high level commercial reads, I didn’t have the right dress for the party, as Marice would say. It was all business all the time. Working with Marice changed that, but I had to basically take apart the way I had been doing VO and put it back together again. It is sometimes a painful process, becoming real.
So what is the result of all this deep work for the last year and a half? Last week I booked 2 national commercials for General Mills YoPlus. One was a national cable, the other was national broadcast, both SAG. I had the dress, the shoes and the accessories to wear to the party, and as a bonus it was BIG FUN. Perhaps I could have booked this job a year ago, but I know I wouldn’t have been as confident. I now have the skills to do these jobs, and it feels great.
As part of the seminar, we all had to write and deliver a monologue at the mic on Sunday afternoon. It was a revealing exercise. In my hotel room on Saturday night, after a day in the studio where I came face-to-face with my vast shortcomings in even coming CLOSE to a trailer read, I thought of a story I used read to my boys called the Velveteen Rabbit. It’s about a stuffed rabbit and about his longing to become “REAL”. The Skin Horse, an older, wiser character in the story, tells the Velveteen Rabbit; “‘Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you.”
Being real in life and in voiceover, is a becoming, a peeling away, a grounding in that which makes us all One and speaking from that place of Oneness. It is a privilege to be in this conversation and to do this work.