Voiceover Training

Today I have an exciting announcement:  I have a page on ScottishVoiceOvers.com, featuring my face and my voice, saying things!  It’s almost (but not quite) like having an agent, and I’m incredibly thrilled about it.

I’ve mentioned here before that I love reading out loud.  When we were driving across the United States, one of the things I would do to while away the hours was read classic travel stories – the most apt, of course, being Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  So in August, when the opportunity arose to do a five-day intensive Radio and Voiceover class at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I took it.

The five days felt a little like having a voice boot camp.  Typically the mornings would involve working on our voices, before getting an ‘assignment’ to work on before spending the afternoon in the professional-standard studios.

Prior to the class, I assumed that I would enjoy the audio book sessions the most.  But it’s funny… when you’re just reading to yourself, or to a loved one who enjoys your company, it doesn’t really matter how often you stumble.  You just carry along without a care in the world, not really noticing that you said ‘marfy’ instead of ‘marshy’.  It doesn’t matter much when you hiccup in the middle of an epic fight scene.  Don’t know how to pronounce ‘penguin’?  Who cares!  Make it up!

But when you’re in a studio you can’t just make it up.  (Unless you’re Benedict Cumberbatch apparently.)  You’re sitting in front of a thick glass window with many, many eyes on you, and you can’t hear what they’re saying until you muck it up and they buzz into your ear and tell you to do it again.  And again.  And again.  And that word didn’t quite sound right… and didn’t that character sound a bit more Irish the last time you made up a voice for him?  Didn’t you pronounce that made-up sci-fi word with a hard g last time?  Just try it again.  (And again. And again…)

One of our tutors told us a story about a an audio book she did with multiple characters with long, unpronounceable names.  Each was from a different Northern or Eastern European country.  She needed to retain separate accents AND separate for Estonian, Latvian, Russian and Polish characters, most of whom were men, before reverting to her own Scottish accent for the narration.  After a few days in the studio I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed with someone.

Our main teacher was Donald Pirie, who aside from being a really prolific voice over artist himself turned out to be a very cool guy.  I really enjoyed working with him, and after the class, he encouraged all of us to go and get professional voicereels sorted out.  Of course, about three days after the end of our course I was getting onto a plane to travel America for three months, so I put it off.

When I came back, though, I emailed Donald and he was awesome – just as encouraging as before.  One of the things I had always assumed was that actors with voicereels were simply stitching them together from adverts they’d been hired to do.  As it turns out this is not true!  I was free to pick anything I liked to say, and the wonderful guys at Pacific Audio would patiently record me.

Oh yeaaah... I'm not sure why we decided to take a photo with so many chairs in it.  Professional-class studios!  Full of chairs!

The chairs are vital for ambience.

Now that I’ve got the reel, all (!!) I need to do is get it out there, as much and as often as I can, and hope that someone bites.  It’s reassuring to have a little piece of professionally-recorded proof: look!  I am a person who can do these things!  Fingers crossed it all gathers momentum from here…!


Guess Who’s Back?

With any luck, this year is my year: the Year of the Drama School.

From rehearsal room...

From rehearsal room…

Since actors (and acting students) don’t usually have the most stable or financially-comfortable of lives, I decided to spend the last few months of 2014 travelling the USA. Immigrant Girlfriend and hit up 23 states, 20 national parks, eight gracious and lovely host families, seven bears, four tarantulas, two Thanksgiving dinners and more bison and elk than you could shake a stick at… Basically it was awesome.

... to the big wide world!  (I'm even wearing the same shirt, for authenticity.)

… to the big wide world! (I’m even wearing the same shirt, for authenticity.)

In 2014 I took a nine month acting class at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, took a class in Radio and Voiceover technique, got my level one certificate in British Sign Language, had my first voicereel made, and was in three productions in Glasgow. I applied for four drama schools. This year I’m hoping for bigger and better, and I’ll be blogging along the way.

What do you guys have planned for 2015?

Audition Four: Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Guildhall School of Music and Drama is unique in the UK for offering an MA Acting programme that lasts three years.  It follows the traditional drama training structure exactly, and simply asks for a higher standard of academic work from its MA students, who take the same classes, act in the same productions and write the same assignments.  It also auditions its BA and MA applicants together, and allows you to audition for both programmes at once.

I want to begin this by saying that I auditioned for Guildhall in 2011 and found it to be an extremely rewarding experience.  I felt like there was a really high level of care and interest on the part of the panel members, I enjoyed the physical exercises and I felt a lot of affinity with the school’s emphasis on honesty and simplicity.  I’ve been recommending people to audition there ever since, on the basis that if nothing else, it felt like a really supportive place to explore doing something slightly different with your speeches.

Maybe that was the problem – maybe I came into this audition with too-high expectations.  Auditions are awful experiences and should be anticipated as such.

Sense of proportion?  What sense of proportion?

Sense of proportion? What sense of proportion?

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Audition Three (and a bit): RCS Round Two

The afternoon audition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland continued to feel warm and personal: as if the panel were genuinely interested in each auditionee.

There were three components to this round – almost identical to the OSD second round.

  1. A group workshop
  2. A revisit of the monologues
  3. A sight-reading test

First we had the group session.  Six of us had been culled from that morning; there were three members of the audition panel.  It was an extremely favourable ratio.  We introduced ourselves in a circle and were asked to recall as much as we could about one another, proving once again the importance of being open and attentive to others over trying to seem interesting and impressive in and of yourself.  Which is lucky, because I’m pretty boring.

This is the sort of thing you get when you Google my job title.

Proof: this is the sort of thing you get when you Google my job title.

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Audition Three: RCS Round One

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, aware that it seems geographically remote to many people, tries to pack as much as it can into a single day. I’m sure that this is great if you’re from Cornwall but when you’re there six days a week anyway it becomes a little exhausting.

I know the RCS pretty well.  IG has worked there for two years.  I attended a weekly course from October to June.  And, in January, I started working there full-time in the Academic and Administrative Support office.  So auditioning was an interesting experience.  When I went to sign in, the student helper automatically stepped aside to let me past: support staff in universities often become invisible to students.  (Could be a useful superpower!)  Colleagues gave me surprised looks.  I felt a little embarrassed and tried cling to the fact that I was FOLLOWING MY DREAMS, which did not make me feel childish at all.

I will, Andy Samberg! You're my hero!

I will, Andy Samberg! You’re my hero!

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Audition Two: LAMDA

There are three basic conversations at drama school auditions:

  1. What speeches are you doing?  (I’m not sure why people keep asking this: almost inevitably you’ll nod knowingly at the Shakespeare and try not to feel too ignorant when you’ve never heard of the other one.)
  2. Where else are you applying?
  3. Have you had any of your auditions yet?

It was during the re-runs of Conversation Number Three that I picked up my main impression of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts: that’s where they play mind games.  ‘They don’t make eye contact’, someone said, to murmurs of agreement. Someone else told me that a friend of theirs was auditioned under a bright spotlight so he couldn’t see the auditioners.  A girl in Oxford told me that the panel spilled a glass of water during her speech.  On purpose! To test her!!

So I was a little nervous about this one.

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Not A Review: One Man, Two Guvnors, and Some Audience Participation

Last Tuesday I went to see the National Theatre tour of One Man, Two Guvnors, showing at the Kings Theatre Glasgow.   As it happened, so did almost everyone from my work – staff and students – as that afternoon we’d all received an email offering free tickets as a ‘graduation treat’.  It was a bit like going to a giant works night out, except you had to sit in silence and not look at each other for most of it.  (Best works night out or BEST works night out?)

National Theatre Production or Eastenders Reunion: you decide!

National Theatre Production or Eastenders Reunion: you decide!

So apart from having a good evening,  this show set me off thinking about audience participation.  It’s not a review of the show but it WILL go into some pretty spoiler-ific detail, so if you’re planning on going I’d recommend backspacing out now.


You’re sure you want to go on?


You won’t be upset about me ruining the show for you?


Because IG reads a lot of plays, and had already read the playscript of this before we went to see it, and the bits I’m talking about were not necessarily in that script.


Okay then.

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