So, let me tell you about my first time. In the Studio, that is (shame on you).
First off, you're probably supposed to have done some training prior to going into the studio - me? I figure, 'hey, I can do this, I can wing it!'. OK, actually it was more like "I can do this!" and "WTF am I doing?! I'm going to look like an idiot". So, yeah, mixed messages....
You see, there was this opportunity to work in and (to me, more importantly) see a professional grade home studio. Look, I'm not building a Beach- or Propeller-grade studio in my home.....like, ever..... So seeing this set up was really important. I wanted to be able to have that reality-check moment of "Yeah, doable..." versus "You're delusional." Problem was, this was supposed to be for people who kinda knew what they were doing.....
So, I'm stressing out, trying to find copy to work with (ok, that's not really a problem - 'cause it's like the 'kid-in-the-candy-store' problem - but still, I wanted to make a favourable impression. These are sound engineers and other professional voice talent that I will run across again (Calgary ain't big, folks)). But then! THEN! they send copy for the session. And it's 'your choice' of 15 different commercial spots. I can talk about Target or nail colour or fitness apps or Lean Cuisine or Ikea or......
I start twitching: first off, I'm not a 'seller' (right, right, beggars can't be choosers, but....!); second off, I'm a writer, and the first thing I wanted to do was re-write the copy. Which I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to do. To amuse myself, I do read-thrus in front of my boys (ages 9 & 12), but I don't preface this with any context. The more I read, the more their heads get that "WTF?" tilt. Finally, one asks: "Mommy? What are you reading? It's awful." I'm inclined to agree. It's no different, mind you, from what you hear on TV, streaming internet or radio, but when you're up-close-and-personal with it, well.....it just feels different.
I explain, they laugh at me, and life goes on.
But, you see, this was my first mistake.
What I didn't do was really try and engage with the text. And if there's ANYTHING I know from my years in Voice work it's this: always unpack the text first. Connect it with your mind, body and voice (even when you think it's terrible). And I didn't.
Off I merrily go to the studio. I ask approximately a billion questions (eternal thanks to the engineer for not side-eyeing me...), and get progressively more nervous as the other talent come in, greeting each other, talking about projects. I'm actually starting to feel pukey. I don't do failure particularly gracefully, I regret to say.
We discuss who goes first - I ask to go last, and state, straight-up, that I'm clueless. WOW. What an amazing feeling. Seriously. So, I watch and listen manically to the other takes, absorbing (it feels) through my actual pores. I can't believe how engaged I am - I have spent my educational life (and, if you've seen my credentials, you know that's the VAST MAJORITY of my life - self-inflicted sad face) bored senseless. Education-as-a-means-to-an-end. Party time.
But this is different. I am truly there.
My turn. I tell everyone I think I'm going to puke, but that I'll give them warning. Into the isolation booth I go. First impression? "Oh my god." Second impression? "AWESOME!!!!" The engineer asks for my level, I give one, and we're off to the races. I do my first take (for those interested, I chose 'Target' - go big or go home). I finish, and he tells me that I have the perfect "Announcer" voice - immaculate articulation, etc., etc.
But this isn't actually a compliment.
Of course, if I was doing CBC or BBC 40 years ago, I'd have that shit nailed down cold. But today is not yesterday (profound, I know), and my skills, while exactly what are needed for live voice performance, are not what are needed for Voice Acting....in Target commercials....(or others, it seems). So, he gives me coaching, and I do another take. And another. And anooootttthhhherrrrrr. Six takes, I think, in total. I'm 'talking to my mother-in-law', 'talking to society ladies', 'talking at an intimate luncheon with society ladies', you name it. Second-to-last take is 'it'. I hear the playbacks, and I cringe.....sure, hearing my voice recorded is somewhat odd, but hearing all these (obviously, nervous and newbie) takes publicly, well.....outside the comfort zone would be an understatement.
Another batch of turns, and I roll around again. This time, I'm doing a fitness app (go ahead, friends, family and colleagues - laugh - I know I did). I have to do 'sexy lady in black velvet dress whispering in the ear of the hottest dude at the party', 'fitness fanatic', 'talking to professional who likes gadgets', and - get this - SAM ELLIOTT. To say it was bad is.......well.....vastly understating reality.
I finished, thanked everyone, went home...and got the .wav files the next day. Well, my family had a good laugh - ONCE THEY REALISED IT WAS ME! My husband kept saying, "yeah, but when do we hear you?" and I'm like, "dude, that IS me," and he's all, "but that sounds like a professional!" I will admit that last bit made me feel a little less like a complete twit.
There you have it - the good, the bad....and lots of the ugly. I'm actually looking forward to my next session, rather than devising ways to quit (which would be my default).
Imagine my shock when I sit down to write a post, thinking "Oh, I'm behind, it's about time", and check the date of my last post. Guess what? IT WAS EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO! That's tantamount to a blog-walk-of-shame.
I am going to attempt a more regular blog presence (that's what they all say, I know....), but I have something quite big going on, and I thought the Studio Blog might a good way to chronicle the journey.
What is this 'quite big'-ness I speak of? Well, I've decided to move into Voice Over/Voice Acting. To be clear: we're not talking video games, cartoons or commercials - where my heart is, and always has been, is literature. In particular, I'm moving into long-form narration - so, think audiobooks - fiction and nonfiction (I actually have a deep love for nonfiction narration - not enough people can make nonfiction fun and engaging! Nonfiction for the masses!!).
Despite nearly 25 years in the 'Voice' industry, I am effectively a newbie. Sure, I did some studio work, like, 20 years ago, and sure, I've been mic'd on many an occasion, but given the way the digital industries have exploded, we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. So here I am, entering my dotage (not really, but you get the idea), learning brand new things. Like, what cardioid patterns of directionality are (hint: has to do with mic voice pickup). I'm learning things like 'popping' and 'slates' and 'windscreens' and new recording programs, like 'Audacity'. I'm joining new FB groups and reading their archives; I'm attending workshops, and working in a variety of professional studios. I'm even building my own professional studio (sorry - I just can't Auralex a closet and be done with it - I'm too old for that, and they might just find my rotting corpse in there one unfortunate day).
I'm finding that so very, very much of my training and experience is invaluable in this new field/industry - from the business aspects, to the text analysis, to the vocal performance details. I can (and do already) 'talk the talk', and I'm working hard to be able to 'walk the walk'. It's rather stumbly right now ;-).
And so it begins - a new adventure (because I can't ever stand still), one that has me genuinely excited and nervous and...and...and....makes me feel young again (despite the lies my mirrors tell me). Let's see what's out there.
Hello! My name is Donna, and Raconteur is my Studio. Words are my passion - especially beautiful, powerful words, beautifully and powerfully shared. I never planned to be a Spoken Arts instructor, but I was lucky enough to have fallen into the work 23+ years ago - and I have never really looked back.