By Stephanie Ciccarelli
April 3, 2007
Have you read Rodney Saulsberry's book, "Step Up To The Mic"?
If not, this account from notes taken during Rodney's lecture at VOICE 2007 is an awesome preview of the book.
If you missed the conference or haven't yet read the book...
You've got to read this!
We began the lecture with an entertaining stroll down memory lane, discovering how Rodney Saulsberry, a Detroit native and graduate of the University of Michigan, came to find himself in the world of voice overs.
Rodney's career in the entertainment business started in music on Broadway and then exploded on the small screen with guest starring roles in series including Taxi, Mash, Gimme a Break, 227, Hill Street Blues and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman with a recurring role on the day time soap opera, Capitol. The lecture was accompanied by a video presentation highlighting his on-camera work and voice over work.
Living in prime time, Rodney continued to pursue work in television and film which eventually lead to voice overs and voice acting. Some of Rodney's favorite roles comprise of Joe Robbie Robertson on the hit cartoon series Spider-Man, Chyron in the Animatrix, Ufwapo on Ahhâ€¦Real Monsters, Willy on Xyber 9, and has guest starred on many other Saturday morning cartoons that include Rugrats, Duckman and Static Shock.
The world of commercial voice over and movie trailers came calling. Rodney found that his background as a singer gave him the foundations he needed to find his "signature voice", also known as a money making voice, voicing commercials for Verizon, Twix, Zatarain's, Burger King, and Alpo to name a few.
The lecture was entitled, Step Up To The Mic.
It wasn't merely suggesting the stepping up to the microphone and recording something, not at all. What Rodney meant by this was the overcoming of obstacles in your way as a professional voice talent and how your personal journey, voice acting ability and attitude affects how your career will turn out.
Several times, Rodney emphasized the fact that voice-overs are a journey through life and how everything contributes to your signature voice, something we'll talk about in more detail momentarily.
There were three unique aspects of Rodney's presentation that I would like to share with you:
1. The Analogy of the Tree
2. Movie Trailer Lush Technique
1. The Analogy of the Tree
Imagine that you are the trunk of a tree. This is your 'signature voice'. Everything in your life has lead up to this voice including your training, background, and personality. The tree trunk is strong and robust, just as your signature voice is your most valuable asset where making money in voice overs is concerned.
Simply put, your signature voice is the voice you are hired for most often and makes you the most money. Remember the post asking which voice type you were? Very much like that.
So, if your signature voice is the trunk, what feeds the trunk? The roots, of course!
Rodney described the roots as outside influences.
If you listen to other voice overs and concentrate on what others in your field are doing, you can incorporate parts of what you hear into your signature voice. The roots of your tree keep you nourished and challenge you to continuously improve your craft and diversify.
The roots may also give you inspiration to try out voice overs or voice acting projects that are not within your comfort zone or realm of your signature voice. This is where the branches come in.
Branches are extensions of the tree trunk. Branches are numerous and not as robust as the trunk of the tree itself. Your branches are a mixture of what you hear and incorporate into your offerings as a professional voice talent outside of your signature voice.
For example, if your signature voice is in commercials, your branches may very well include promos, voice acting for animation, telephone voice work or corporate narration. While these voice over styles may not earn the bulk of your income, they certainly add to your bottom line.
Summary: Take all of your unique qualities and make it your signature voice. Your signature voice is what you get paid for.
2. Movie Trailer Lush Technique and Other Reads
The Lush Technique was one of the most popular on the presenter evaluation forms submitted about Rodney's lecture, so listen up!
Lush is a word Rodney uses to describe the pauses or breaths that follow a dramatic trailer read. For instance, if you had the typical line (this is not copy from the lecture - just a sample read):
In a world...(pause)
Where peace had reigned for centuries...(pause)
Two rival nations lost their way...(pause)
Abolishing the treaties signed by ancestors in generations past...(pause)
You get the idea. The "Lush" is all about spacing, timing and intrigue. Essentially, it's Lush that keeps you listening and on the edge of your seat. A very effective technique.
Rodney had several volunteers read dramatic trailers and comedy trailers incorporating techniques discussed.
Comedic trailers require a smile in your voice while dramatic trailers incorporate the Lush technique and a more serious tone.
Real Person Read
Rodney also examined the Real Person read, often a spontaneous, off the cuff delivery that makes people feel like they are listening to a real person and not an actor or an announcer.
To sound more like a Real Person, you might want to look at a USB Snow Ball mic to plug into your lap top computer, aptly named as it is shaped like a snow ball. Its a nice mic because it doesnâ€™t bring out the bass frequency which in turn makes you sound more like a real person.
Some great tips when recording a session or auditioning for a Real Person read were to think of other names and talk directly to real people (do this in your head, not out loud).
For example, you could say:
"What do I want, (Rodney)? I want an adviser who understands that being really successful and really happy..."
Rodney also suggested that you shouldn't memorize the ad copy. Bring a pencil with you instead of a pen to make notes as directors often have more than one interpretation that they have in mind where a given read is concerned.
While in studio or at auditions, donâ€™t feel the need to act with other actors. Stay focused. Another tip that you should observe before getting to the studio is not wearing clothes or jewelry that makes noise. Those condenser microphones are extremely sensitive, so watch out!
Side note from Rodney: The microphone companies have done all of the work and technology has come a long way. You donâ€™t need to spend a lot of money because many microphones nowadays can do the job. Buy things inexpensively. ISDN may eventually be replaced by online options.
I think every voice artist took something different away with them at the conference, however, Rodney's Lush technique was most definitely a hit.
This last portion is all about your attitude and how a positive attitude can affect your career in ways you may have only dreamed of.
You can turbo charge your career by being positive. After all, most things in life are a state of mind to begin with :)
â€¢ You have to love your work to be passionate
â€¢ radiate confidence daily
â€¢ Knowledge is power
â€¢ Nothing changes if nothing changes
Hot Tip: The secret to not being overly concerned about one audition is to get lots of auditions. Donâ€™t worry about one audition - it is not anything you should take personally - learn from the experiences.
Challenges and Stepping Stones
Donâ€™t let the obstacles in front of you keep you down. Pick your friends well. Step over the obstacles to get to your prize.
Watch out for so-called competitive friends. These are people who sometimes donâ€™t have you career or best interest at heart. Step over the rejections and so-called friends. When you step over these challenges you can make them stepping stones to learn from.
Taste your financial success. Build it, see it, taste it.
Lastly, put all of things things together and remember to STRIVE:
Stick to your objectives
Take your time
Renew your faith
Initiate new challenges
Victory is your goal
Excellence will be your reward
Staying positive results in:
â€¢ Feeling less stress
â€¢ Avoiding self-sabotage
â€¢ Having more energy
â€¢ Lets a positive attitude become your brand
Build a positive foundation by:
â€¢ Acquiring the right voice-over nutrients
â€¢ Putting together a team
â€¢ Getting the right coaching
A positive approach to voice-over work in necessary for:
â€¢ Finding an agent
â€¢ Making a demo ( a minute )
â€¢ The CD Demo is still real - people still want it for various reasons.
Overcome Obstacles such as:
â€¢ Difficult Copy
â€¢ Constant Changing of the copy
Work as a team in voice-over sessions by:
â€¢ Contributing ideas
â€¢ Give 110% of your effort and creativity
Useful empowerment exercises such as:
â€¢ Interactive VO exercise
â€¢ The mirror
Here's a question for you: How has a positive attitude helped you in your career?
Several professional voice talent shared their perspectives in Rodney's new book Step Up To The Mic, A Positive Approach to Succeeding in Voice-Overs including Don LaFontaine, Harlan Hogan, Nancy Cartwright, Rob Paulsen and Frank Welker.
I have the book here with me and will be reviewing it on the blog in the coming months!
Above all, NEVER GIVE UP and Be Fearless.
"If you have the audacity to conjure up the tenacity to reach your highest voice-over capacity then I know that there is great success in you."
~ Rodney Saulsberry
I hope you enjoyed this review. Keep your eyes on the blog for more lecture reviews from the VOICE Conference :)
If you attended Rodney's lecture, be sure to leave a comment here for him on the blog!
P.S. Watch Rodney's video presentation from the conference here!
Disclaimer: Several key points and topics in this post, though interpreted and expanded upon, were drawn from Rodney's new book "Step Up to the Mic". Copyright Rodney Saulsberry - all rights reserved.Related Topics: animation, cartoons, comedy, Detroit, hired, ISDN, Microphones, YouTube
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