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VO Atlanta by Karis Pentecost

In 2018, whilst at a VOND event in Central London, I found myself in the midst of a gaggle of voice actors, talking about this incredible voice over conference in America, VO Atlanta. What was this? Why did they all look so hyped? Well I didn’t care what it was, anything that made a group of grownups that excited, had me sold from the start. I wanted to feel like that. I wanted to feel THAT excited about something! So after awkwardly muscling in on their conversation, I marched over to Rachael Naylor (who I barely knew at the time) and said

“I’m coming!”

“Ummm ok sure” she said “Where’s that now?”, looking confused

“In 2019, I WILL go to VO Atlanta” and with a slightly startled, scared but excited look in her eyes, she said

“Yes! Ok! Great! Do it! Just go for it!”

And so THAT is what I did!

karispentecostVoAtlanta

Full of excitement, nerves, anticipation and hunger, I boarded the plane to Atlanta, Georgia. I knew the conference would be a place that I could learn and educate myself about different areas of the industry but it turned out to be so much more than that. Networking and creating opportunities is such an integral part of building and sustaining our careers and by getting out of your booth, out of your comfort zone and surrounding yourself with members of the voice over community from all over the world, is never going to be anything other than positive! I adore my fellow Brits, but there is something about the Americans that will always make networking and socialising so much easier than here at home in the UK. Their natural openness, smiling faces, desire to learn about you and where you’re from, meant that I never felt alone, in fact, being at VO Atlanta just felt like I’d come home. Any nerves I had were put at ease the minute I was greeted by the beaming face of one of the conference ambassadors at the reception desk.

“Hey! Welcome to Vo Atlanta. Here’s everything you need to know, here’s your programme, here’s your goody bag, want to sign up to our talent screening tomorrow? “

errrrm yes! I don’t know anything about it yet but yep, sure, why not!” Sieze the day and all that!

The programme at VO Atlanta is packed full of sessions that cover a whole array of areas in VO. There are actually so many, that I found it was best to make myself a schedule. Here in the UK, I currently work in Commercials, Promo and Radio but I didn’t really know anything about those parts of the industry in the US and had no American contacts, so I took myself off to sessions where I could learn more and speak to US agents, demo producers and American voice actors. By the end of each day, your head wants to explode because you have taken in so much information.

From listening to the superb keynote from Kay Bess, to my wonderful X Session with Heather Dame at Atlas Talent, to learning about Imaging from Eric Romanowski and Video Game Casting with Randall Ryan, to the awesome 80’s party on the final evening of the conference, VO Atlanta was everything and more.

If you’re looking to attend the conference for the first time then make sure you seize every opportunity to speak to fellow voice actors, producers, writers, sound engineers, actors and speakers. It is likely, even if you haven’t travelled half way across the world as I did, that you’ve travelled a fair few hours and you’re not going to be surrounded by this community for maybe another year, so don’t sit back. Make friends. Go to X Sessions that are held by producers or agents that you want to connect with. Get to know people. Listen to their stories. Be open. Be present. If there is a talent screening, go! If there is a social drink, join in! If there is a dinner party, go eat! Since attending, I am now in talks with two American agents, a video gaming casting director, am putting everything in place to gain my 01 Visa to work in the US and have made shed loads of new friends. Life is short and so is VO Atlanta….so do not waste a second!

By Karis Pentecost

A LONDON BASED BRITISH VOICE OVER ARTIST WITH 10 YEARS EXPERIENCE IN COMMERCIALS, RADIO & CORPORATE NARRATION.

In 2018, whilst at a VOND event in Central London, I found myself in the midst of a gaggle of voice actors, talking about this incredible voice over conference in America, VO Atlanta. What was this? Why did they all look so hyped? Well I didn’t care what it was, anything that made a group of grownups that excited, had me sold from the start. I wanted to feel like that. I wanted to feel THAT excited about something!

Be In Your Talent Without Arrogance

How did you first get into voice acting?

My parents both majored in theatre with a radio minor. Mom went off to do repertory theatre and voice overs, Dad went from acting and directing, to opening up an advertising agency.

Growing up around theatre folks, it was natural I would follow into the arts and the footsteps of my voice over folks.

I think if I had said, “I’d like to be a lawyer or a doctor”, my parents would’ve thought I was crazy. In my family it was always best to major in the arts with a backup of mime and juggling.

I went to Emerson College for two years and finished my theatre degree at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. When thinking about jobs, I thought “I wonder if I should have my Dad make me a demo reel and I could do voice overs as a side hustle before breaking into Broadway”. He did!

Back to NYC and I was dating a lovely young man whose mom was NYC’s biggest voice over coach and demo producer, Alice Whitfield. I had the HUGE blessing of having a one on one coach/mentor for months. We’d coach in the a.m. and then I’d run to Macys in midtown Manhattan to the Chanel counter to spritz people with perfume.

I remember the days in NYC when I ran all over town, to casting agencies, big advertising agencies and occasionally you’d read at your agent’s office. It was exhausting and exhilarating, especially as I added Improv in the mix at Gotham City aka The Groundlings East.

I was absolutely obsessed with crazy characters (imitating everyone!) and moved out to LA to do animation voice over and sitcom television. I took whatever animation classes and “meet the casting directors’ nights” LA had to offer. My voiceover world quickly expanded into animation as well.

 

 

You’ve had lots of amazing roles in some very well-known animated series/movies. Do you have a favourite?

Every role has held such a special place in my heart and career. From my first series as tough and feisty Lieutenant Felina Feral in Hanna Barbera’s Swat Kats, being cast to voice opposite Seth MacFarlane’s Larry and Steve (the pre Family Guy short), The Boss in the popular Metal Gear Solid video game series, to Marvel’s 1994 Fantastic Four, playing Sue Richards The Invisible Woman.

Family Guy and SpongeBob Squarepants happened in the same year, 1999. Who knew that would change my life forever - Diane Simmons The Anchor Woman, is homage to my mom, while Pearl Krabs is the most fun, spazziest girl who’s still 16!!

Working on Wall-E, Monster’s University, CarsToons, Inside Out, Bonnie’s Mom in Toy Story 3 & 4 and hundreds of other crazy ladies, teenagers and critters, have all challenged and enhanced my acting and improv skills and has also been some of the most rewarding, fun and beautiful chapters in my life. No favorites, all so wonderful. I feel so GRATEFUL – and old - as I write this! LOL

 

How did you get the role of ‘Pearl’ in SpongeBob Squarepants and what is it like to play her?

In the audition description, she was larger than everyone else under the sea. I knew she had to have this low voice but still be a teenager, where she was kind of lovably spoiled. I just tried to make her like a girl that goes to the mall and then give her a big sound. I always try to give somebody a little something like a laugh. She ended up with a laugh and a cry that are now built into the character 20 years and going strong.

I loved playing Pearl because she's a flirt and she's a daddy's girl and she's just excited about life. If any of my characters were the most like me, it's her. Just goofy and happy and pom poms, you know, trying to cheer everybody else up. I'm not as spoiled as Pearl, but I adore playing her.

We get to all go in together as a group unless you're just doing pickup lines, so every time I have the most ridiculous time, I'm so grateful and it's so fun. They're writing more and more for the women on the show so that's exciting as we go into our 20th year.

 

What was is like to work as the voice of the mother in Toy Story 4?

Very emotional and very fun because it's very natural. It's hard not to get a little awestruck when I've gone up to Pixar, or when I go onto the Disney stage, but it's really neat. You're improvising eight hours a day, then sometimes you will get these roles that come up out of the big group of sessions. It's really exciting to know that as the character of Andy went off to college, everyone was like, "What's going to happen at the end of Toy Story 3. The journey continues in Toy Story 4 so it's been an absolute honour.

 

How has the industry changed since you first started?

There's such an influx of people, they want things now. And faster.

The reads, at least over here in the U.S. - the real read, the non-announced read - is to be more relatable, to give hope, to get hope, to inspire, to be inspired, more storytelling in nature. Even the promos and animation are a little bit pulled back.

Just like the trends and the sounds change, so does what the clients want and how they want it.

Take private coachings, get into an improv class, take classes.

There's a huge influx of non-union. As a union girl, I grew up with my mom, the SAG-AFTRA president in the Washington, D.C. Local, and I did my homework in the back while she would chair a meeting. So when people go non-union and work off the card, they're undercutting their fellows.

 

What advice would you give those wanting to work in animation?

Classes, improv, explore and remember all the characters in your own life. Anyone that's deeply ingrained. Accents you do really well, you should really showcase those on your demo and then when you're auditioning, if you don't do them well, make them a hybrid, fun, weird thing. I really encourage people to draw on and keep a note, like an actual note card, of all of the accents you do well or poorly, so that you can draw on those when you get a script.

 

How do you look after your voice?

I vocalise every single day. I warm up, and I warm down. I take voice lessons. I no longer have anything minty or eucalyptus. All the things that have menthol eucalyptus completely dry your throat out. You want your mouth and throat to be lubed up, so nothing that dries it out, not even tea. Entertainer's Secret (a glycerin spray), Grether's Pastilles are great, I like the actual throat tea because it has slippery elm and licorice root in it. It's a good reason to have like hard candies, anything that just the thought of it makes you salivate. I steam and I will even bring hot water to a session and just put my nose over it like if you have a cold. It will just open up those sinus passages. You want them moist and the hot water keeps the swelling down. You especially want to warm down your voice after a session. In the morning hydrate with almost a litre of water and hydrate throughout the day, because the minute you become thirsty, you're already dehydrated. I have one cup of coffee in the morning and that is it.

 

How important would you say training is for voiceover artists?

It's everything. You have to be a good actor. You're not just like, "Oh I have a cool voice, I should get into voiceovers." I hear that every day, and it makes me crazy. You have to know how to relate to somebody in the scene. Get back into a good acting class because for your demo or for a scene on audition, we need to hear the relationship. How do you feel about them? You can add on emotions and triggers.

 

What do you enjoy in your free time?

I love rescuing animals. I love not eating them. I do anything for animals that I can. I advocate for women's rights, animal rights. I just try to go volunteer because this business is very narcissistic and it just is. Take care of you first so you have reserves to call upon to be there for other people.

 

Do you have any inspirational quotes or mantras that motivate you?

Be in your talent without arrogance. It's humble things, go find something creative, find a hobby, find recreations. Find a way to flesh out your full, rich life.

 

Lori Alan

Actress, Producer, Coach

www.lorialan.com

What advice would you give those wanting to work in animation?

Classes, improv, explore and remember all the characters in your own life. Anyone that's deeply ingrained. Accents you do really well, you should really showcase those on your demo and then when you're auditioning, if you don't do them well, make them a hybrid, fun, weird thing. I really encourage people to draw on and keep a note, like an actual note card, of all of the accents you do well or poorly, so that you can draw on those when you get a script.

The Psychology of Narration

The Psychology of Narration

Setting the Dials for Intuitive Reads

You’re walking down the street and thinking ‘Bend knee, move leg forward, straighten leg, set foot down heel first, lean forward, lift the other leg…’ Of course not. You would fall over (and possibly be stopped by a beat cop and given a sobriety test). Walking, for the most part, is automatic. All you have to do is decide a few things before you set off (such as direction, speed and terrain) and the rest pretty much happens by itself. If you constantly thought about the mechanisms that allow you to stroll down the road while you’re strolling down the road, then you could be in serious trouble.

It’s the same with narration. There are preparatory choices and decisions to be made, of course, but the purest communication, the most connected communication comes from the heart. When we get stuck in our heads during a read, for example ‘How am I sounding?’, ‘Should the pitch go up or down here?’ or ‘Where the hell should I breathe in this mile-long paragraph?’ we end up pulling together a performance that seems inexplicably shallow. The listener probably won’t know why, but the message just doesn’t feel right. We’ve all been at a cocktail party, talking to someone who’s wearing the ‘I’m listening’ face and nodding politely, but we can sense that they’re scanning the room with their peripheral vision, looking for someone more interesting to talk to. How can we tell? Their face, body and voice seem to be doing all the right things, but somehow we just know they’re not really there with us. We can feel it. We’re a clever species (ok, that’s sometimes debatable) but we do have ways of sensing when the energy isn’t quite right.

Like everything in the perceivable Universe, vocal communication is vibration. If we don’t generate the right frequency within the body, it won’t transmit through the voice and, subsequently, won’t be there to reach the listener.

Okay, so how do we take this grand notion of Universal vibration and apply it to our little ole’ narration reads? I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with decisions made in the head and add some funky dials:

Intention Graphic  Pace Graphic  Formality Graphic

 

Intention

Think of intention as the verb. What are you trying to achieve with this communication? How do you want the message to be received? Are you informing, convincing, guiding, explaining, seducing? Intention is the leading head decision (the head head decision?) as it forms the foundation of the message. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re communicating, your read probably won’t hit the mark.

Pace

Pace is important, and must be considered, but you needn’t think too hard about it as it usually takes its cue from the intention and the visuals. If the intention is seducing, for example, it’s unlikely that you’ll be speed reading. If the visuals are of racing jet skis, then a slow-as-molasses delivery probably won’t be the best choice.

Formality

Is the narration aimed at toddlers learning their first words or is it for a film presentation to Oncologists about a new cancer treatment? Setting your Formality dial informs your reads in ways you won’t even have to think about. Just know who you’re talking to.


Ok, so now that you’ve done all your ‘thinky-think’ and dialed it in with Intention, Pace and Formality, it’s time to lose your mind. Literally. Visualize all your heady choices dropping down into your heart area and generate the feeling of the intention. If your spine tingles during the read, chances are the listeners’ spines will tingle too. Everything. Is. Vibration.

Set your narration dials, feel your way into the message and get ready to create more intuitive and connected narration reads.

 

Dian Perry is a US voice artist, teacher and coach based in the UK.

Visit DianPerry.com for more info.

 

QUOTES:

“the most connected communication comes from the heart.”

“we do have ways of sensing when the energy isn’t quite right.”

“If you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re communicating, your read probably won’t hit the mark”

"know who you’re talking to.”

“Everything. Is. Vibration.”

Like everything in the perceivable Universe, vocal communication is vibration. If we don’t generate the right frequency within the body, it won’t transmit through the voice and, subsequently, won’t be there to reach the listener.

Okay, so how do we take this grand notion of Universal vibration and apply it to our little ole’ narration reads? I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with decisions made in the head and add some funky dials.

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