Learning the art of Voice Acting for Video Games
By Toni Frutin

I took Dave course last February having had no previous experience of the video game industry. I wanted to add another string to my bow, and this course certainly gave me that. I'm now booking paid jobs and working in a world that this time last year I knew nothing about. There really is nobody better to coach acting in video games, than the legendary Dave Fennoy. He is such a talented actor,  a fascinating guy who knows the industry inside out. 

Finding the real character

There were varying degrees of experience in the room. I was certain I would be the only novice, but as is the way with the Voiceover Network courses, we are all equal no matter how new you are to it. It was essentially an acting class. It wasn't about doing wacky things with your voice (although that came into it too) it was about finding the real character. We got the opportunity to read scripts which he then directed. This could have been daunting, but he had created such a safe and supportive working environment that it was just so much fun. When we got into the studio to record, it gave me a taste of what it would be like to book a big job. It was really exciting!
The weekend wasn't just about the performance side of things though, we got useful information about what should be in our demos, where to look for work and who to approach. He taught us how to deal with auditions, and then if we book, how to approach the job itself. We asked him constant questions and he shared his vast knowledge with us.

Friends

The people I met that weekend on the course I consider my friends now. We are in regular contact, we help each other with voiceover or video game queries all the time. 

Opportunities

I'm working on a really naturalistic piece at the moment which has been incredible. Its a very heart-felt, quiet character and a fairly substantial part. A stark contrast to the high energy and bloodthirsty nature of the previous character I booked. I love the variety of characters I get to play in video games, and I doubt I'd be getting the opportunities I am if I hadn't taken the leap and attended Dave's course. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned video game actor, this course is for you. 

By Toni Frutin

Having trained as an actress over a decade ago, Toni now focuses on voiceover and voice acting. She can be heard most evenings on STV (Scottish Television) where she has been a continuity announcer for the past 8 years. She records a vast array of voice work from her home studio in Glasgow. From corporate readings to video games and everything in between.

Our LA story 
By Lorraine Ansell

One morning in October, as the leaves were falling off the trees, I checked my phone. Messages were pouring in. What on earth was going on? “Well done” and “Amazing news” were just some of the comments. What had happened? I had been nominated for a Society of Voice Arts and Science award. I sat there stunned. What an honour to be recognised by the great and the good in the voice world. When I read the nominees list, I saw some fellow Brit VOs nominated, others said they were coming along. We fast became a force to contend with: we talked about what to do, who to meet, where to stay and - of course - what to wear. LA was calling….

The City Of Angels 

“You have now arrived in LA” What a city! Firstly, it was hot: hide-in-the-shadows hot. Secondly, it was a technicolour smorgasbord of glamour. In some places, gorgeous-looking people sashayed about in fancy restaurants. The warmness of the weather and of the welcome from our American guests was well received by us “Brits”, which included Rachael Naylor, Dian Perry, Lisa Rost-Welling, Katie Flammen, Anna Parker-Naples, Tim Bruce, Ana Clements, Emily Steele, Toni Frutin, Tim Bruce and Natalie Beran (from New Zealand). That night, we got our glad rags on for cocktails with our VO cousins at VO Mastery. We had a fun filled Friday evening with likeminded voices. 

“That’s Voiceover!”

Saturday morning, we were up early and we wanted an All-American pancake style breakfast. However, after wolfing down pancakes, we lost the car! Thankfully we found it and three minutes later we arrived at Gate 3, Warner Bros. Studio. The access-all-areas bracelets were handed to us and we were shuttled through the studios, past “The Big Bang Theory” lot and past the 1960s “Batman” TV series steps…to the Warner Bros. theatre. It was a high-spec theatre with deep plush seats. The lights were dimmed and a familiar voice announced the sessions: Rachael Naylor. We watched a live radio drama; saw a panel talk led by ACX with narrators and producers; we witnessed a live audition for a contract with an agent; and heard million-dollar voices talk about work. 

Not only was it a full day event but a few of us had the chance to meet casting directors, agents and managers in a speed dating session. Before we took our seats in the outdoor street café, we checked our technology and gave each other pep talks: queuing was nerve-wracking. With such a huge opportunity to play our reels to people with over 300 years of cumulative experience, the last thing we wanted was for our tech to go down. At 4pm we began and what followed were almost two hours of reel critiquing and advice. We scribbled notes, shook hands and swapped business cards.   

Let’s get ready to rumble!


Finally the big day arrived: the Voice Arts Awards gala ceremony! We woke up late but the party preparations soon began. In amongst some of us doing auditions and emailing clients, our hotel room was a whirlwind of hair and make-up. Dressed up to the nines, we hit the lot. Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins were our hosts and – wow - they host in high octane style. It was a glitzy affair and lights flashed on and off as we walked the red carpet. At the bar, Puss in Boots – yes Antonio has a voice double – and Porky Pig were having a drink. Further down the Brownstone Street lot, casting directors mingled with advertisers and voices. The conversation and the drinks flowed, new friendships were formed and old ones rekindled. 

We then settled down, ready to watch the show. What a spectacle! The awards categories came and went, a flurry of everyone cheering on their favoured nominee. Acceptance speeches were humble and of course…conversational.  My highlights included an academy award winner on stage, famous voices being honoured and Erin Brockovich making an impassioned speech. More drinks followed the ceremony out in the warmth of the November evening. Laughter drifted high above the trees and over the studios. When the time came to leave, we left the lot and were treated to an impromptu late night studio tour. The party then carried on back at the hotel, pizzas and champagne were dived upon and the evening ended in the early hours of the morning…..

Though none of us won, sitting in that huge auditorium, holding each other’s hands when our names were read out, we still felt like winners. The love for the art of voice over was a wonderful thing to experience. Hanging out in LA was pretty cool, but hanging out with a group of talented voices and friends, well, that was priceless. 


 

By Lorraine Ansell

Lorraine Ansell is a bilingual voice over artist showcasing British RP and Spanish (Latin American) voices in warm, natural and commercial tones.

 

With over 15 years’ experience especially in corporate narration Lorraine has worked with clients spanning many industries from fashion/beauty to human rights. She focuses on bringing scripts to life to engage the target audience, delivering a professional sound.

 


“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

Albert Einstein

 

I know that the quote above is everywhere on every Facebook page and brought out by life coaches daily. I have recently been having to ask myself this very question. 

I used to smile at the first three people

When I was young I was an almost annoyingly happy girl. I was addicted to self-help books and psychologists on talk radio shows telling the world how to be happy and balanced. I used to smile at the first three people I saw every day and of course I always received a return smile which set my expectations for the day. I thought I had it all figured out. Fast forward … quite a few years and it became more and more difficult to even appear happy. I worked for a large Corporate company and the atmosphere was like a daily episode of The Apprentice. People were ugly, they were ugly to themselves and to each other. When I first started I really believed in my credo love and learn from everyone. I genuinely liked people. The problem seemed to be that no one wanted my brand of happy. They weren’t happy and were determined not to be. I’m sure they were very happy outside of that environment but I was hired because they were angry and unhappy. My job was to fix this. I tried for about three years until I slowly started trying to fit in. I still did my occasional voice over jobs or Theatre on the side. I even had a stint in Cabaret and a brief appearance on television and of course there was my true love narrating audio books for the RNIB but always I showed back up to that place day after endless day. For the first few years I told myself I’d get out soon all I had to do was save some money, lose a little weight, start exercising and I’d finally make a move. After a while I stopped pretending. If you even mentioned leaving people would say you were crazy and whisper the all-important word ‘pension’. I was institutionalised and I felt broken. 

Here was my chance, my escape surely the universe was telling me something. 

Fast forward 5 more years and I was made redundant. Everyone in the company acted as if I’d been dealt a death knell they called me in for chats and felt horribly sorry for me. I however felt free. Here was my chance, my escape surely the universe was telling me something. That was two years ago. It soon became clear that the universe must have been telling me to stay home and eat cereal out of the box and watch reruns of Murder She Wrote. Don’t get me wrong I did a tremendous amount in that time. I built a studio. I got a narration coach. I learned and practiced and eventually started booking jobs on ACX. I was officially an Audiobook narrator. I tried to ignore the voice in the back of my head that kept saying ‘but how are you going to pay your mortgage?’. I went on a few voice over jobs through my agent but I actually spent more than I made. 

Everyone always says the voice over industry is the friendliest in the world

Then something happened to change my mind. Everyone always says the voice over industry is the friendliest in the world, that the people are the most helpful on earth. I knew intellectually that I liked people of course I did but my brain had been rewired to expect the worst in the last few years. I had left the Corporate job but I brought ‘Corporate girl’ with me. I would go on the Facebook groups and of course I would notice the tons of support. People would go out of their way to help me and show kindness with no expectation of anything in return. Yet somehow I felt like the outsider that wasn’t going to fit in. I walked around with the feeling that since everyone was such good friends and there are so many people already working in this industry that I’ll never be able to catch up. I remember one day repeating something I’d read on the Facebook group to my coach along the line of ‘Isn’t it true in this industry that people only get the jobs if they know someone’ and his response was ‘so?’. I had to ask myself ‘so what?’ What’s wrong with people wanting to know the people they hire and work with personally? 

Then something happened

Then I started to notice small acts of kindness amongst members of the community. I reached out to fellow narrators and we created a master mind group to support each other and we’ve all become good friends. Then something happened. I was invited to a private group of voice over members that were reaching out and supporting one of the members of the voice over community in the most wonderful way possible. This was a kind, thoughtful, generous group of people that genuinely cared for each other. I found myself logging on to read all the daily posts and as I read them I actually cried right then and there. I felt exactly like the Rusted Tin Man would have felt (if he had actually been given his new heart by the wizard).

The journey didn’t have to be so hard

It was finally very clear to me that although I’d been working so hard for two years often until 3:00 in the morning editing that I’d been trying to do it in a bubble. The journey didn’t have to be so hard. There is a large built in, talented, wonderful group of people that ‘get it’ that have been there, some who are right where I am now. I’ve re-joined The VoiceOver Network. I’ve started smiling at the first three people I see every day and I’ve finally answered that age old question. I believe I live in a friendly universe. 

 

by Daniela Acitelli               

 

Daniela Acitelli is a professional Audiobook Narrator and Voiceover Artist with a Theatre, Film, Cabaret and Circus background.  She is also an official narrator for the RNIB and Listen2aBook publishing. www.danielaacitelli.com

 
POP! GOES THE FILTER: A Blog Noir

by Lisa Rost-Welling

It was a Sunday. 5:30pm. Neighbourhood bar. The joint was packed. There was a jovial buzz in the air not least from those of us recounting a fulfilling, challenging and eye opening weekend’s worth of work. Was it really over? How was everyone feeling? Does anyone want to split a bottle of wine?
 
Thoughts, ideas, questions were swirling in my head. It was a dizzying turning point in my career. Had I really just voiced that many characters? Did I actually manage the ADR? Would I be able to wrap my head around my experience and walk away with a plan? I had, I did, and I would. And I’ll tell you why.

It was a Saturday. 10am. Casual Films. It was one of those rare, warm, breezy London days of summer. Those of us taking part in Dian Perry’s Character Development for Animation and Beyond Workshop corralled our excitement & our backsides into seats around a farm-style table. The kind of table around which you could tell big things happened; like storyboarding, conceptual brainstorming and lunch.
 
 
I, and a few others, had dutifully avoided “milky drinks” but embraced the spirit of the morning and poured a cup of caffeine anyway. It was a weekend for taking chances, after all. You could feel expectation crackling in the air. We were excited. So excited we could taste it. That’s when Dian Perry walked in.

She was the kinda dame that could voice a moody pubescent teen, then voice the no-nonsense grandma that smacked some sense into ‘em. She knew the animation racket inside and out. She was the real deal. “Introduce yourself, tell us why you’re here and what you hope to gain.” This lady pulled no punches. No turning back now.
 
Dian led the introductions, made it look easy. One by one we shared our names, a brief overview of our journeys and the big whys and hopes that had gathered us round that fateful table. The reasons were as motley as the crew and twice as inspired. Me, I was there to see if I had what it takes to voice characters in animation. And get paid to do it. It was a long-held dream and this weekend I was putting it to the test. I had no way of knowing how the chips would fall but there was only one way to find out.

Dian was a practiced hand at the helm; you never saw the sister sweat. With each of us in turn she helped us sculpt and create various character voices from several different angles. If a tactic didn’t work for you, she helped you dig deep until you found your route in. She guided, supported and challenged you. If there was a wall standing in your way, she’d hand you a sledgehammer and tell you to swing hard; all the while helping you clear the bricks to see your way through. We had been nine strangers at the start but it quickly became a safe place to suggest ideas, help each other, and to try and try again.
 


When that first day ended we were all feeling the tingle of possibility. We had learned how to breakdown and build voices, and how to put those steps into regular practice. Maybe it was witchcraft or maybe, just maybe, we were learning. The door to what had seemed like an elusive, exclusive branch of VO was suddenly being jimmied open right before our eyes. We were developing useable skills. But was it too good to be true? After all, tomorrow was going to get... Technical. Was this the beginning of the end? Would it all go up in smoke?

It was Sunday. 10am. Kettles boiling. The gang arrived and took stock. Though the table was as welcoming as an ice cream truck on a hot summer’s day, we had to bid our old friend a reluctant farewell. Today, we were on our feet and in the studio. We warmed up in a character hot seat; putting into practice the foundations we had laid the day before. And then the time came to square up to the mic like the pros Dian expected us to be. Scripts in hand, we voiced character after character, scene after scene; Dian deftly directing a dense deluge of diverse dialogue. No one would face it alone. Not that day. Not on her watch. Characters were springing to life. Close your eyes and you could hear animation franchises sparking in the room. We broke for lunch with the focus of heroes tempting fate. We had no time for what-ifs.

Then it happened. The flying trapeze of the weekend. ADR. Nothing left but to climb the tatty rope ladder to the top, mount the platform and jump. Standing solo at the silver stick, you could cut the tension with a knife. It was now or never. You had the skills, you had the script, you had the gumption. But did you have the guts? Beep, beep, beep…
 
 
And we did. One after another. I watched as talented individuals working in their own unique styles faced the challenge before them, answering their whys and testing their hopes. Not one of them climbed back down that ladder. They all jumped, including me.
 
It was Sunday. 7pm. Glasses empty. We talked game plans, animation reels, and casting types, as the din of evening pub goers filled the room. We set the world to rights and lit the fires of ambition. But all good things must come to an end and I had a train to catch. I had accomplished what I had set out to do and so I walked to the station with a renewed moxie. Would I do it all again? Did I think others should attend? 
 
All I could do was wink with a knowing smile as the train pulled out of the station.
 

Lisa Rost-Welling is an actress, singer and voice artist. Originally hailing from New Jersey, loving pizza & bagels in equal measure, she's been calling London home for a decade. Her trustworthy, friendly tones have lent themselves to corporate animation, narration & American ADR. A new(ish) member of VON, she's now branching out into animation with a knack for character & children's voices. 
 
 
www.lisarostwelling.com"

Details of the next 'Character Development for animation' workshop will be released next week. So watch this space.
I was initially very reluctant to join social media, it took me years to even open a Facebook account. As I grew more familiar with it, I realised my business could really benefit from social media if I understood it, but at the time it felt so unlikely I would ever get my head around the ins and outs of each of the different platforms, so why bother trying?

                Taking myself seriously as a business

In the last 6 months I’ve started to take myself a lot more seriously as a business, and along with that came the realisation that social media was free marketing and I would be a fool to pass up the opportunity of getting my name out to a larger number of people who could potentially throw some work my way. If I wanted to be taken seriously I had to embrace social media and stop hoping that it was going to go away.

                Twitter felt like a minefield    
                          


Initially I thought it was enough to just open a few accounts. I didn’t really think I’d need to be particularly active on them. Twitter felt like a minefield… as did LinkedIn… and Instagram!? I knew Facebook but only for posting photos of my kids, I never really used it professionally.

It all felt a bit overwhelming before the course, but having Rachael and Lotte explain it in The VoiceOver Networks 6 week online 'Social Media' workshop in manageable chunks gave me the confidence to play around with it. It has allowed me to develop my online presence in a way that I feel confident about. Having the contact with the other participants in the course was also really useful, everyone had varying degrees of experience with social media and we all helped each other.

                         

                Getting jobs through social media

In the 4 months since doing the course I have gained over 100 followers on Twitter. I know it’s not all about how many followers you have but considering I was so confused by everything surrounding Twitter, I’m really proud of myself. I have grown my following organically and steadily. Although I had a LinkedIn account I had no idea how to use it. I now actively use it and have had people asking me to quote for jobs through it. These people who would never have known about me are now on my contact list.

                An ever changing industry

I am looking for a voiceover agent at the moment and a deciding factor for me now as to whether I approach a particular agency or not is whether they have an active online presence. I now don’t believe that someone can represent me who doesn’t. I think it looks unprofessional and out of touch within an ever changing industry (I never thought I would ever say that!).

Being more active on social media makes me feel more connected to the industry when I’m not close by geographically or when work is slow to come in. I have a long way to go until I feel that I’ve mastered even one of the platforms but as I often hear in this industry, ‘It’s a marathon not a sprint’.

Guest Blog written By Toni Fruitin

Toni trained as an actress and now specialises in voiceover. She has been a continuity announcer at STV (Scottish Television) for the last eight years, alongside that she records mainly corporate and commercial voiceovers from her home studio in Glasgow.

Contact details: 

Website: www.tonifrutin.com
Facebook: Toni Frutin Voiceover
Twitter : @tonifrutin
LinkedIn: Toni Frutin 
Instagram: Toni Frutin

 

The power of our Voice
On 16th April it’s World Voice Day (WVD), a worldwide annual event that is devoted to the celebration of the phenomenon of voice.
Our voices are our most powerful tools. We can use our voices not just to communicate but to educate, inspire, inform as well as sell products. Voices are a big part of branding for companies too and voices like that of Marcus Bentley (Big Brother) and Dave Lamb (Come Dine with Me) as well as Jon Briggs (the voice of Siri) and Dave Fennoy (voice of Lee Everett in The Walking Dead Video Game) are now integral parts of these shows and companies.

They talk to their audiences and relay information as well as building trust. Picking the right voiceover is a very important job for companies and production companies.

The Voiceover industry is an incredibly exciting industry that is going through some massive changes right now. It used to be the little brother to the acting industry but this has now changed. With people like Kevin Spacey and Samuel L Jackson getting in on the action it’s become a respected industry and profession. Areas of this industry like video games and audiobooks are booming with the video games industry more than doubling the size of the Film Industry and Music Industry together!

However, it is an industry that has been in the shadows for too long and many voice artists feel neglected and ignored and it’s a constant struggle to ensure that standards remain high in both talent and rates.

In an industry that is notoriously well known for being lonely, isolated and competitive, our vision is to make VON feel like a home. A place where industry professionals at any level of their career can feel part of something bigger than themselves and reap the benefits by having a place to come to, to ask for advice, share tips, meet other professionals, get the best training, enroll in workshops with the most passionate of coaches and build their career into any direction they so wish. We also produce a quarterly magazine called ‘The Buzz’ jam packed with industry news and articles written by some of the most respected industry professionals.

It is now easier than ever for people to set up home studios so we want to help make sure that people that do join our growing industry get the best advice and are up to the right standards. This is what VON is all about, building a community that industry professionals can learn from and share.



 
The workshop is over, notes are being packed away and talks of who is going in the same direction as each other are being had as the journeys back home begin. The room looks and feels like the place we have shared and made our working ‘home’ for the last seven hours or so: yoga mats, water bottles, bags, clothing, personal notebooks and handouts are being carefully collected and packed away. I look around at the tired but happy faces and enjoy the sense they share of newly established friends and contacts. I am privileged, once again, to have worked with members of The VoiceOver Network.
 
So this has been the ‘Vocal Intensive’ Workshop. We have worked through various elements including how to look after that ‘key’ communication asset each of us can’t function without: our voice. These elements have been explored under a metaphorical microscope today. Time has been taken to revisit and/or experience for the first time the benefits of working through physical exercise to release tension in shoulders, neck, jaw and tongue-root. The video of what that diaphragmatic muscle actually looks like and how it functions has been discussed, the exercises to create a reliable fitness routine to increase breath support and protect the voice from as deep down as the abdominal ‘SPLAT’ has been practiced in detail. The larynx and the anatomical ‘accompanying cast members’ have been regarded with refreshed understanding. Vocal resonance, optimum pitch and expressive tonal range has been explored. Articulation ‘boot camp’ has traversed a varied terrain to anticipate anything that the next script might throw at us. Importantly, the three ‘non-negotiables’ have been established with practice routines in place now to increase vocal fitness for the next few weeks because some will be returning to explore how everything works together to  deliver the ultimate in vocal performance - the extremes.
 
In over thirty years of voice teaching and coaching, I have watched the demands on actors and artists go from occasional requests to shout or play levels of heightened intensity to pretty much an expected ‘given’ that this is in everyone’s tool kit. It isn’t going away. Computer games, intense scenes in a range of plays and films are an established norm. Writers are writing the stuff. Voice artists and actors are expected to deliver it. It is not to be feared. It is to be prepared for.
 
The word ‘extremes’ can induce varying levels of stress as the nature of the work is anticipated. Ironically the fear might even cause a kind of ‘better avoid it’ attitude. Yet we all know what its like to ‘scratch’ or temporarily damage the voice. Aside from our professional work, it only takes a celebratory night out or half a day supporting our favourite sporting team to know that, within a very short space of time, our voice can suffer.
 
So the progression from the ‘Vocal Intensive’ day onto the ‘Vocal Extremes’ day is designed to look after everyone: from beginner to very experienced artist /actor. While the semantics might be scary (calling, moaning, screaming, shouting, laughing & crying, playing angry and heightened, intense emotions) the journey through the day is well established in those who have used it very successfully. The goal is to keep everyone safe, working from their individual starting point and developing skills to sound like the real deal.
 
There are anecdotes and tales to tell that I will save for another day. Suffice it to say that there are phone calls and requests for help that I deal with on a regular basis, supporting artists who are faced with the seemingly frightening or impossible. It has been my privilege to work with individuals who have had to travel from absolute beginner to leading actors in  West End productions in just a few days before embarking on a contract performing eight shows a week for several months.
 
So the experiment has begun. I want to see members of The VoiceOver Network beginning to make more waves in this industry through the level of skills, creativity and reliability that they produce when asked to work in the extreme end of the vocal spectrum. I want to see them coming back for more where others fell at the first fence because The VoiceOver Network cares enough to support its members in their professional development.
 
Like learning to walk a tight rope (when you have a fear of heights and rubbish balance) there are techniques and safe ways of building the skills. Everyone is different and needs individual guidance and support. The rope will only be raised to the height that each person chooses on the day. Inch by inch. Skill by skill. Everything is to be gained. The ultimate vocal chapter awaits.
 
Let’s bring out the Vocal Warrior in you.

Upcoming Vocal Extreme workshops are on 4th March and 4th June 2016. In order to do an Extreme day you must first participate in the Vocal Intensive workshop, next dates for these are 7th and 27th May 2016. Go here to book yours - Upcoming workshops
 
Blog written by Yvonne Morley