Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Was Once A Small Time Voice Talent

Small time, it's true, but a voice talent none the less. I had, maybe still have, a very good agent and though I was lazy talent, I was talent none the less. I modeled. I acted. I did production work. And the occasional voice job. The thing I had going for me as a voice talent in this market is a deep female voice, a little bit smoky. It's a strong voice, trained early in theatre classes and parts in plays to carry even in a whisper. The challenge for me was been to bring it down, soften it, sweeten it, warm it up. And oddly, smiling as you speak, does much to warm it up.

I liked voice work the most of all the work I did. Voice auditions were always well scheduled--no waiting like cattle. My agent has a small sound room fully equipped for auditions, so there was no complicated direction to find the location nor miles of freeway travel to be one of a hundred to read for one spot. You don't need to dress up for either an audition or a job. And usually for me it was three read-throughs and the job was done. The pay for voice work is terrific compared to the pay for the rest of my many talents.

Yes, modeling pays well, but there is so much more time invested and it's more work than you'd think. Remember all the famous clips you've seen of models toppling off their platform shoes, slipping on runways and falling down? I have been in shows where the lights hit you directly in the eye and you can't see your feet or the end of the runway, which, if you miss, will land you six feet down to either concrete or the laps of the unfortunates in front row. Three times I have seen models step off like a well dressed Willy Coyote and plunge down to suffer a broken ankle and abject humiliation. And the show does not stop for a second. On we stride toward an uncertain pause and turn, just short of catastrophe. These big shows require fittings, rehearsals and ungodly call times. They require hours in hair and make-up and a lot of standing around and waiting. Then the rush that makes your heart thud with adrenaline.

Acting is much the same in a small market. Auditions are cattle calls even if they've asked for you specifically. Every other actor your age and type will be there. And with acting there are call backs. You get paid for none of this. This is the audition. You can get two or three call backs and still not get the part, so no paycheck.

But with voice work it's one audition and you either get the job or you don't. If you get the job, you have a call time and location. As I said before, the way you look matters not. You show up. You go into the studio. You sit and put the headphones on. Someone checks sound levels. You read your portion of the script. Once this way, once that way, and one for good measure. Thank you. And then you get a big fat check.

All this to say, my voice is still a croak, and I got an email this morning from a man (big time voice talent who now teaches) who might have been a good man for me had he not been a Republican, a chauvinist, and a man who once said his role model was John Wayne. I wrote a chapter about him in the novel. Then it ended up on the cutting room floor. But now it could be a short story.