I used to act in plays and musicals, took a few theater classes in college. But then my focus turned to academic and creative writing and I moved on.
About a year ago I decided to revisit my interest with voiceover acting – the voices in radio commercials, animated movies, your car’s navigation system, and audio books. I bought the necessary equipment for a home studio: microphone, maximizer, mixer, and a multigate. I had to learn what those things are and do. For me, that was the hardest part. Seriously, I can change the input on my television to get to my DVR and my DVDs, but I didn’t have any real understanding of how it actually worked.
Then I had to find a voiceover teacher. And, I lucked out. The first place I went was a complete scam and one of their ‘marks’ had written a blog post about his experience. I contacted the blogger and he told me about Chuck McKibben. Chuck’s bio is amazing(voiceoverisland.com), but what leaps out is that he was the personal recording engineer and audio producer for Mel Blanc. You know, Bugs Bunny! Daffy Duck! Porky Pig! All of those Looney Tunes characters.
Chuck was INCREDIBLY patient as – over the phone — we hooked the various machines together and set up the software on my laptop, but we couldn’t get a decent recording of my voice. The multigate was broken. So, my voiceover lessons stopped for about four months.
Last Wednesday I drove up to Philadelphia. We looked at websites for audiobooks, one of my primary interests, and listened to demos. Then I used Chuck’s studio to record two commercial practices and an excerpt of one of my own short stories, “Hand-Holding,” published by Third Wednesday in their summer 2012 edition. I’ve posted it on the “Voiceover” page. Give it a listen and please tell me what you think.
Chuck gave this great speech “What’s in it for me?” about finding your character’s motivation and then making your inflections and tone convey that motivation. It was really interesting, as a writer, to hear how an actor needs to decipher motivation based on text. For example, the first audition take was about healthcare. I read it out loud and tried to project a professional, neutral voice. But, no. That’s not the message I’m supposed to be sending. I’m supposed to convey that the listener doesn’t need to worry because they have this health coverage, I’m supposed to be soothing and cheerful, not removed and erudite. OOOHHHH. And….that’s why I need a teacher.
Then, Chuck *read* the phonebook using about ten different emotions and told stories about when he’d worked with actors like Kirk Douglas and Jack Benny and Jack Palance. Remember the guy who did the one-armed pushup at the awards, he asked? Yes, I remember. And then there was another great lesson about how to use breath in your acting.
I filled up six pages in my notebook as my excitement built. This is fun! I felt this way after my workshop at The Gettysburg Review, this finding something you’ve forgotten. Bonus part? A few days ago my new Multigate arrived in the mail. I’ll turn it on at my next lesson. One step closer to producing audiobooks and recording commercials.