December 19, 2023:
Well this has certainly been a long time coming.
Waaay back on July 26 of this year I received a Voice 123 audition for a TTS job for a Chinese company looking for a character voice (can’t give specifics, but think of a cross between the 2 most famous doofus TV cartoon dads ever and you’ll be in the ballpark). Since characters are now definitely in my wheelhouse, gave it a shot, found a voice I thought might not be exactly what they were looking for, but it still felt right, so sent it in. Nothing but crickets until 6 weeks later in late August when received an email from an LA-based producer who said they would like me to do a callback along with a sound check on my home sound booth.
Never heard of sound booth check before, so called Voicetrax office, spoke to Vicki, who assured me it was definitely legit and promising, so did as requested by the producer and heard nothing back again. Great to have made callback cut, but once again it was the sounds of silence, so shrugged shoulders and continued on with life.
Flash forward to early November and received another email from same producer telling me the company thought my voice was perfect for their TTS. I decided to follow my usual standards of not arguing with someone when they were right, and provided them with the other sound booth check they requested. One of the booth tests did not meet their exacting standards, but they were more than happy to pay for me to go into a local recording studio and record there. Sure, no problem!
Right before Thanksgiving sent me a contract and said wanted to arrange the recording session right after Thanksgiving or the week after, and what was my schedule? Told them my schedule was open and I would make myself available when they let me know the day and time the studio was booked. Silence blackout again for 3 weeks to last week, and received a call from the producer early one evening to check on my availability for end of last week or early this week. Had one tour job booked last Thursday that could not get out of, so agreed the studio would be booked for 4 hours yesterday (Monday) and 3 more hours today if was unable to complete recording on first day.
Arrived at local studio yesterday, and here’s where things got, let’s call it interesting. The audio audition provided back to me for reference purposes was not the same ones I did for the doofus dad. Turns out I had, as best I can recall, sometime in September auditioned for another TTS wanting an old-time baseball announcer character. For that I pulled out my Harry Caray impression (best known as the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 50s and 60s and for the Chicago Cubs in the 80s and 90s, and which was NOT Will Ferrell’s SNL impression), and sent that off, thinking it was one of the most way over the top things I had ever done, but what did I have to lose?
Again, nothing but crickets until early November when the same LA-based producer emailed me saying the Chinese company thought it was the perfect voice for their TTS (no callback, I was the voice they wanted, period). Which also explains why they wanted another sound booth test as they were a different Chinese company using same local producer. So, different voice, different TTS project, unknown and unseen script, and the producer wanted to know if it would be a problem? What problem, I replied in the exact baseball announcer voice they wanted. (BTW, producer told me I was still one of the finalists for the doofus dad TTS, so in the back of my mind figured if I knocked this one out of the park that might give me a better shot at being the only finalist for the other TTS gig, but will have to wait and see on that one.)
Went into the booth, spent the first 15-20 minutes on a Zoom call with the LA-based producer and the Chinese company’s producer, going over exactly what the Chinese producer wanted – 50 pages containing 1000+ lines of dialogue, none of which were related to baseball or which had any relationship to any of the other lines, just a jumbled, rambling non-sequential collection of lines of dialogue expected to be laid down with this high-energy baseball announcer’s voice finding one key word in each line to be taken over the top and then bring the rest of the line back to “normal.”
Laid down the first 8 lines to establish a baseline, which was approved by the Chinese producer, then expected to self-direct “only” 850 lines of the dialogue (up to 10,000 words) of the 1,000+ lines in the script. (Hmmm, self-directing, where have I heard that one before?) Fortunately had an excellent recording engineer backing me up to let me know when I didn’t catch things myself (and yes, did pick up plenty of miscues on my own) to go back and pickup a line. Incidentally, the LA-based producer, the manager of the recording studio, and the recording engineer all told me separately that the script was hands-down the most complex and difficult script they had ever seen or dealt with in all their years of experience (between 25 to 36 years for each of them). What could possibly go wrong?
Not too much, as it turned out. Spent 3-1/2 hours (with a couple of breaks) on Monday laying down 613 lines until reached point of diminishing returns with blurring eyesight and lowered energy requiring too many pickups. Recording engineer sent off what we had laid down to producer for review, and returned to finish project this afternoon. At today’s session the recording engineer had been told by producer what we had done day before was absolutely spot-on and to continue finishing up the job in the same fashion. So we did.
90 minutes later everything (including an extra 40 lines of dialogue to cover any mistakes we may have missed the 1st or 2nd day and hopefully eliminate the need for a callback session) was completed and sent off to the producers. In addition, the recording engineer told me at the finish that if the producers weren’t blown away with my performance on this job and willing to put me near the top of their list for talent to cast, they would be idiots. Seems they do a lot of work for Chinese and other foreign corporations, so fingers crossed.
So, lessons learned from all this: First, as Sam has so quaintly expressed it before, be ready to “eff” on a dime. If a producer asks if you can do something, the answer without a second of hesitation should always be absolutely, unconditionally yes. Second, don’t question whether your voice was right for the job or not – that’s the producer’s decision. However, believe it wasn’t my character voice per se that landed the job, but what I did with it. When I first read the audition lines realized they were funny and clever enough by themselves, but they would really come alive if read as the character, talking to a specific person in a specific situation with a specific point of view, thinking about what had just occurred and what would come after.
This is something that may have come up before in a few of the VT classes I’ve had, and in checking my notes, it seems to be something related to or called “acting.” Sam and Vicki and Chuck and Roni and all other instructors may have mentioned it at least once or twice (A DAY IN EVERY SINGLE CLASS). Seems very likely that was what the company and producers liked as opposed to just the voice. Going with that theory, whether correct or not.
Third, practice patience. It’s said that patience is a virtue, and I’ve never ever been accused of being virtuous, but if I can pull it off so can anyone else. Was totally surprised to hear from the company, not once, but twice. Even more surprised to figure out when the time arrived that this job came to me without requiring a callback, something I’m fairly certain is an abnormality in this industry. Well, no one has ever accused me of being really normal, either, so I’ll take it and, again, not argue with anyone when they’re right.
As a kind of side bonus for my efforts, the producer has, over the course of the last few weeks, already sent me 3 more auditions (outside of Voice 123) and I hope/expect will continue to send me more. Haven’t landed any of those 3 auditions (at least not yet), but it’s nice to know I made good enough of an impression to have him looking favorably in my direction. Also, coincidently, got the contract almost 1 year to the day since first started auditioning with Voice 123.
Have come close with other auditions – another producer responded to another character audition by letting me know they were “blown away” by my audition, but had decided to go in a different direction, but would I please audition for all their future projects? Was I going to say no? Of course not! Keep those doors and contacts open and in good standing, cause never know where next job will come from. In summation, do your best to be a professional and you will hopefully be treated as a profession by others in return. Kind of a what you-put-out-comes-back-to-you philosophy.
Feel like I’ve gone on waaaay too long here, but would be totally remiss without acknowledging everyone who helped me arrive at this point. First of all, a huge shout out to Patti Gribow who first introduced me to Sam and VoiceTrax and got me started on this whole incredible journey. Wonderful human being and talented in so many different ways, and I know she was trying to get my wife (they were Dean Martin Golddiggers together and roommates and best friends for the past 50 years) to get involved, but Peg was not interested and my interest was piqued, so here I am now.
Second, cannot thank Sam and Vicki and Chuck and Roni and Sirenetta and Frank and Thom and Brian and Peter (Coyote) and Aaron and Kevin and Anna and Devin and Melissa H. and I know I’m forgetting a few others, but HUGE thank you to all the instructors and staff that have supported and encouraged and corrected and kept me moving in the right direction to achieve whatever this is that I have achieved in the last 22 months. Lastly, endless thank yous to each and every Traxer with whom I have shared a class, many of you multiple times. I have learned so very much from each and every one of you as well, and would certainly not have come as long a way as I have without your mutual support and encouragement.
Oh, one last thing before I end this seemingly endless electronic gushing – I was fearless, too. Makes a difference. Try it, you’ll like it.
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