Thursday, May 11, 2006

Women in Animation

One hardly knows where to begin to review the weekend workshop I attended on Women in Animation, with the incredibly versatile Pat Fraley, the super talented audiobook narrator Hillary Huber, and the whacky and amazing Candi Milo. And as if that were not enough already, we also had a Q & A with casting director Leslie Zaslower of Nickelodeon. The event was organised by Susan Berkley of Great Voice – who took her place in the class with the rest of us students - and it was held at Edge Studio on 7th Avenue in New York. The participants were all from the East Coast if I’m not mistaken – New York, Boston, Maine, Atlanta – possibly Florida too. A few were beginners, the rest of us full time voice artists or on the verge of going full time. Most of us were looking to specialise in character voices and a few were hoping just to increase their flexibility. I have no doubt that all of us will meet our goals, such was the talent in that room and the support each of us received.

We did a lot of work in pairs or trios and had a lot of time in the booth. All of this was devoted to discovering the character voices we had inside us, bringing these voices out and giving them names and personalities and life. We approached this from many different angles – by taking bland copy and reading it in a character voice, by starting with verbal descriptions and producing a character voice, by starting with drawings and spontaneously coming up with a character voice to go with the picture. One of the most surprising discoveries for me was how easy it was to create a voice to go with a visual. I don’t think of myself as a very visual person – words have always meant more to me than pictures, and written directions have always been more effective for me than maps. One of my favorite exercises was when we went into the recording booth with a partner and took turns free-associating in any character voice we chose, and our partner had to match that voice and converse with us. Then we switched roles. A total of 6 voices came out of that exercise.

The afternoon with Candi Milo was heady, breath-taking, and so very rewarding! Candi is a hard-working character voice actor who is currently the voice of Dexter on Dexter’s Laboratory. She plays and has played many other roles in film and television – for a complete list you’ll have to IMDb her (I learned that verb this weekend – although I’ve used the site for a long time I didn’t know it was a verb! ). She worked with each of us individually and although I personally was expecting to “blow it” I managed to put negative thinking out of my head and just go for it. I think that’s the key to success in this business. Not being afraid to make a fool of one’s self. And I’d say the high point of my weekend, if not my whole life, was watching Candi’s jaw drop when I read my first line. Yeah, she liked it. One of the other high points was Pat telling me that I was “really good at being stupid”. Perhaps that requires some context. He had told me earlier in the weekend that his experience with academic types like me (and he could include himself too, as he has an impressive academic background) was that we sometimes get tied-up in right-brain approaches and have a hard time letting go. That we need to let the left brain take over. So he was glad to see after all was said and done that that wasn’t going to be a problem for me.

Pat Fraley is a terrific teacher – he knows how to bring stuff out of people. Good stuff. He gave us just the right mix of “lecture”, how-to, and “now do it yerself”. He is also such fun to watch and listen to. It’s so interesting to see how the voices in his head support him in his life. Character voices are not just for the recording booth, not just for the gig or getting the gig. They are for all time. And life is so much richer for it.

Hillary Huber ran a tight ship, keeping Pat and the rest of us on schedule and offering wonderful insights and suggestions all weekend long. Her specialty is audiobooks and I saw this review of one of the books she narrated for Blackstone: “Hillary Huber's narration is lyrical enough to be set to music”. I will definitely be looking for her books from now on!

Golly, what a weekend. What voices. What people. What a journey of discovery, about other people, about one’s self. Some voices that have been with me most of my life burst their bonds and came out with personalities last weekend. Some fledgling voices took their first steps, and some brand new ones started coming out after I got home. All in all, it was a glorious weekend, so much learned, so many new friends made, goals clarified, plans made – I would not have missed it for anything and hope to work with some of these people again - the instructors AND the 11 other wonderful and talented women who attended as students. At the very least, I know I will stay in touch with them. I want them to be in my life always.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home