Lain's Log

Find Your Voice!!

February 9/12.

Tuesday's Find Your Voice class with Jason Deline turned out to be great! We had two weeks to come up with five different character voices, complete with moods and situations attached. Everyone agreed it was a tough assignment, but I was pretty astounded to hear what this talented gang came up with! Jason tossed us plenty of curve balls to shake up the studio experience!

(left to right) Suli Ahmed, Brittney Scott, me (teacher's pet - ha ha!) teacher/voice actor Jason Deline, Diana Galligan, Meryle Trouble, Chris Truax - Photo by audio engineer Dave Clark - (thanks Dave! It was terrific working with you!)

Brave Chris was first up! He surprised me with the range of his character voices and the way he took direction from Jason. We were asked to name each character. Not sure of all the spellings, but Chris did
a deep-voiced guy named "Yugie-ish", then a deeper and older character, "Caibaish", next - Brooklyn, (sort of a NY- flavoured character but with an urban and country twang!), "Dr. Japanese" (Japanese accent) and "Screech" - a screechy, crazy, psychotic guy! Jason got Chris to "mix the characters" - asking him to make this guy sound dumber, or another one, rougher and to "Work it through out loud." We all watched him behind the studio glass and marvelled at the way he rolled with all the suggestions. Really good job and he set the bar for the rest of us to follow.

Meryle was next. She wasn't feeling well. Had quite a cold, but didn't let that stop her from showing off her voices. Jason spoke to us all about how tough it is to sustain a character voice over a long period of time and said we need to explore the range of emotions we can hit with each one.

As usual, Meryle made us laugh. She began with "Old Iya",  Jewish old lady. Jason then said he liked her, but, "Now I want to hear her 20 years younger, before the emphysema!" (she did it perfectly). She went on to do "Flat Moustache" - British sound with an arc of anger. Jason wanted her to add more of a Liverpool tough edge/factory worker sound. Damned if she didn't do it immediately! Character 3? "Broad Columbia". Jason asked to hear that one "a little smarter, more low key, then a little more film noir and in control/in charge," then "drop the Betty Boop and add more Katherine Hepburn!" Again, she did it.
#4 - "Countryish" - a country waitress. (Jason named her "Polly"), and then asked her to change it up and make her sound really MEAN.
Don't think Meryle did a 5th character, but the four she did - just terrific!

Third up? Diana. She did a voice called "Red" and another, "Zip". Jason wanted her to meld them into one. I think it was, "angry and fearful, in control, but I don't really know what I'm doing". How she managed that, I'll never know. She also performed "Tada", "Kara" and "Sal". Jason tossed her ideas - "Make that guy bigger, dumber, more sure of himself, the voice of authority, make it more like - 'Friends, Romans and Countrymen! Lend me your ear'!, try a whispered aside, use more diction, add some strong pauses". Diana took it all in stride and showed us lots of range. (by this point, I was really getting nervous!)

Suli was fourth. When he first came into class, he told me this assignment was tough and he was afraid, "Every voice is just ME." He tried to change it up by giving each character a different emotion or feeling. He did "Youseff", a happy type of dude who got more delusional as he went along. Jason wanted him to build the character's voice up till he got "crazy excited, " then encouraged  him to "Lose your mind!" Fun to watch Suli accomplish this feat! Then, he did "Riaz". I instantly wrote in my notes, "Depressed." Then Suli explained the guy was depressed, because he's in the hospital. I thought it was cool that he got the emotion of depression across to us instantly. Jason wanted him to blend happy dude and depressed guy! (because, he says, NO character has just ONE emotion). Character 3 - "Glon", a man who was drained and out of breath after a very long run, then, #4 - "Seeoire", a scared guy. Jason requested Suli make him sound a little higher and more like an innocent teenager. Finally "Linard" - aggravated man. Jason asked that he make the character sound gruffer. I really enjoyed hearing Suli run the gamut of emotions!

Brittney (who as far as I know, has had very little voice experience) knocked it out of the park in my opinion. The script she'd been given included a couple of rather lame jokes. I forget the name of her first character, but Jason asked her to play it as "This is the funniest joke in the world, and laugh like crazy." She did it! She performed characters named "Switzy" and "Rasix" - sort of a scary person, then "Mappy", a countryish character with lots of laughter and finally "Stama" who was scared to death! (She was VERY funny in this role!) Jason asked her to keep that level of fear but "go OVER THE TOP" with it. She launched into that and I was laughing so hard. Brilliant stuff. Jason threw her lots more ideas - Make Mappy more Southern, or try that younger, and do that southern character more evil, or make that person old, add a nervous laugh, and make it sound like that character doesn't get the joke! I predict big things for Brittney. She's really very good.

Guess who was last up? You got it. Yikes! Gak! Egad! I went in without contact lenses or prescription glasses or reading glasses. Thought it might help just to have the copy up close so I could read it more clearly, and it did. Character #1 - my GP, "Bernice" (mixed in with a bit of Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H*!), a pure, sing-songy voice, laced with concern and thoughtfulness. Character #2 - Snuggle (the dryer sheet TV commercial bear with the tiny little high-pitched voice), next, The Nutty Professor (ala Jerry Lewis), goofy, nerdy, gravelly, tight, pinched voice, then Marilyn Monroe, all breathy, sweet, innocent and earnest, (my script contained the word garbage. Jason told me the consensus from behind the glass was that I even made the word GARBAGE sound sexy!! - LOVE that!), next character - Gladys Kravitz, (from the old TV series Bewitched). Grating voice, all flustered and confused. Then finally, William Shatner! (I wanted to drop him, since I couldn't quite get it, but went for it anyway). Tried to make him confident, overly-dramatic, speaking haltingly in all the wrong places, over-emphasizing the wrong words.
Since I was so concentrated on doing these voices, I can't recall now a single thing Jason asked me to do!
Whew, glad that's over! But it was really fun.

As for Jason, he seemed quite pleased with the calibre of the work. He spoke to us afterwards about how to get work, the ways to get into ACTRA (not easy), how to go about marketing ourselves, methods of putting together a portfolio and lots of other great information about the voice-over biz. He also scheduled all of the dates and times to record our demos. I'm first up at 6 p.m. on February 21st.

Everyone thanked Jason for a fantastic course. We all agreed we'd like to get together and hear each other's demos at some point, when they're all done. Three of us record on the 21st and the other three on the 28th.

Jason encouraged us all by saying, "There's no time like the present. Talk to people who can help make this happen for you."

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