Pat-urday in San Francisco

Now that I’ve had a moment to rest and recover, here’s the lowdown on last Saturday’s workshop.

Pat Fraley titled the event Audition Technique Masters, which probably described everyone in the room other than me. Pat invited agent John Erlendson, principal of San Francisco’s JE Talent, to direct one of the two sessions. Sydney Rainin, a local voice artist best known for her work with Macy’s and Safeway, dropped by for an hour of Q&A at midday.

Paranoid that I am, I arrived at the event location, Polarity Post Production, nearly an hour early. I found convenient parking in a lot literally a stone’s throw from the studio. The extra time gave me an opportunity to decompress from the drive, finish my coffee, read a few pages on my Kindle, and arrive promptly feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

We began the morning with the usual get-acquainted round robin. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of the other 11 participants also study or have studied at Voicetrax. Even though I didn’t know anyone, that commonality made the room feel immediately comfortable. So, for that matter, did Pat, who is every bit as funny and engaging as his reputation (and the audio lessons I’ve downloaded from his site) would suggest. All of the trepidation with which I’d arrived fell away like dandruff.

Our first round in the booth was a brief character piece from an interactive game project. We had several scripts from which to choose. I selected three possibilities, giving myself flexibility in case one or more of my classmates picked the same copy. That proved wise, as one of the first people into the booth went with my first choice, and I observed another student carefully reviewing my second option. That meant I ended up focusing on my third choice. That was fine — I enjoy a challenge.

It’s always fun to hear other people work. Although everyone else in the class outstripped me in experience — most of the others have been pursuing voiceover for several years, and several were working voice pros with agents and actual careers — I didn’t feel intimidated. Once Pat had put a few of my classmates through their paces, I was encouraged to think that I could stand on a reasonably level competitive field with the others. At least, I’d avoid embarrassing myself.

Before my turn in the booth came, we broke for lunch. While we noshed on sandwiches and salad from Il Fornaio (“you deserve a quality lunch,” Pat remarked), John and Sydney joined us to share their insights. I couldn’t think of any questions I wanted to ask, but I enjoyed listening to the responses both of these successful artists offered to others’ inquiries.

After the break, John led us back into the studio to tackle some commercial copy. I really appreciated John’s straightforward, non-technical directing style. As he sent each student into the booth, he asked for three consecutive reads through the copy — basically the same read, without major adjustments in character or interpretation. After the third read, he offered simple direction. What quickly became clear was that by the time the talent had run the copy three times, he or she more often than not had a handle on their basic approach. For there, it was just a matter of refinement. For most, the refinement involved speeding up the tempo of the read so that it flowed naturally.

I had chosen a spot for a well-known amusement park. Since the copy seemed comfortably in my wheelhouse in terms of both vocal character and personality, I didn’t attempt anything fancy. I just focused on delivering the read with the appropriate energy, and keeping my voice within my optimal range.

“How’d you feel about that?” John asked, after I’d run my three reads.

“Pretty good,” I shrugged.

“I think you’re right in the zone. Pick up the tempo about 20 percent, and I think you’ll be there.”

I read the copy a fourth time, propelling myself along more briskly. When I finished, I glanced toward the booth window.

John said simply, “You’re done.”

Okay — that felt solid. (John thinks my natural speaking voice sounds like Seth Rogen. Who knew?)

When John had finished with the 12 of us, Pat slipped back into the director’s chair to complete the character round. My turn came up quickly, so back into the booth I headed. I could hear my game character, described as a friendly, larger-than life auto-racing promoter, clearly in my creative ear, so I attacked the copy with aggressive abandon.

A little too much abandon, as it turned out. Pat sent his associate into the booth to demonstrate the appropriate volume level — probably one-third as loud as I’d been on my first read.

It took me a couple of experimental runs, but the final time through, I remembered at last not to over-project, while maintaining the character I’d adopted. The resulting read sounded less strident and more authentic. I don’t know whether I’d cast me in that particular role, but I was happy with the choices I’d made. (Pat’s planning to distribute the recordings later this week. We’ll see whether my positivity survives on second listen.)

Pat finished the day with some additional tips. We gathered the class for a group photo, then scattered to the four winds. (It wasn’t windy, especially. I just wanted to say that.)

I drove northward out of The City brimming with enthusiasm. All in all, a terrific day. I can scarcely wait for another opportunity to study with Mr. Fraley. With any luck, that chance will come sooner rather than later.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Celebrity voices, Reflection, Strategy, Voice acting, Voiceover, Voicetrax, Workshops

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