I want to work in animation. I want to be counted amongst the likes of Billy West and Tress MacNeille. My ultimate goal is to be cast as a feature voice in a Pixar film. To that end, I train hard and I train with the best. At the end of February, I flew into Burbank for an all day workshop with some of the most skilled voice actors and casting directors in the biz. I had the pleasure of learning from Kat Cressida, Ned Lott, and Ben Hoppe. It was nine hours of intense crash-course training for the animation aspect of the voiceover biz and I loved every second of it. If you wish to pursue animation voiceover and you want a feel for the work in Los Angeles (which is where all the good animation VO is), you’ll want to check out this workshop.
Kat started us off with some tips about bringing emotions into the copy. She pointed out that we are constantly experiencing a range of emotions from minute-to-minute in our daily lives and we must express those emotions in our auditions and work. She gave us a brief script, no more than 5 lines, and challenged us to express at least 5 – 6 emotions in our time at the mic. Whaaa? I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this until I started really examining the copy. And then it seemed like emotions were popping off the page! After we had a couple of minutes to go over our copy, Kat was ready to throw us in the booth. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in a class or workshop: no one wants to volunteer to go first. Kat called us on our reluctance and gave us a real gift. She told us that we should always strive to go first because the later in the day, the less time the director has to work with you. Maybe the schedule is running behind, maybe the director is just tired from auditioning actors all day, but the longer you wait, the less time you get. Well, you can bet we were all fighting to get into the booth after that knowledge bomb!
I wish I could say I rocked my time at the mic, but I was battling some nerves which just paralyzed my throat. Okay, not paralyzed, but they didn’t help. I was in a little awe of Kat. My first experience with Kat was listening to her as Dee Dee on Dexter’s Laboratory. If you’re not familiar with this show, check it out on Cartoon Network–it rocks! I’ve watched each episode so many times I can practically quote them to you line-for-line. I can even remember the old promos CN used to run (Dee Dee saying, “Time for a nice sit” as she sits on Dexter’s head. I don’t know why but that cracked me up so much!) As if that’s not enough for me to go all “fan girl”, in addition to Kat’s many video game credits, she’s also a recurring villain on FX’s Archer (currently my fave primetime animated show)!! The woman is a gaaawwwd to me, so it was hard to keep my sh*t together while I was working with her. But all that aside, I really learned so much from her. She taught so many things about acting that I’ve been struggling with and needed to hear.
After just a couple of hours with Kat, Ned Lott took over the class. While Ned is just as talented, I was less intimidated because I’d worked with him last November at Voice One. He likes to challenge his students so I knew what to expect. He threw character copy after copy at us, sending us into the booth alone, in pairs, and in groups, so we could get the feel of interactive recording. I think my low-point was when I tried to do Donald Duck’s voice (epic fail) and my high-point was when Ned cast me as Mikey from Monster’s Inc. and I came off sounding like Mae West. During my time with Ned, I did a generic New York accent, the Mae West thing, and ended with an Australian accent on some copy from Finding Nemo. Put me through my paces indeed!
We broke for lunch, which the workshop provided and we all wolfed down, before going back in with Ben Hoppe. Ben taught us all about voice matching in a unique way that I’ve never been taught before. Ben started off talking about musicality and gave us some musical pieces to listen to over and over again. We discussed these pieces and learned to discern rhythm and melody, as well as tone and tempo. When honing a voice match, he taught us to listen to the voice as if it were music or a foreign language. We had to forget the words and concentrate on the sounds. This was a very challenging exercise. He also taught us that we need to listen so much longer than we think we do. He gave us 20 minutes to work with voice match files and told us he expected us to spend at least 10 of them just listening. After our 20 minutes was up, I won a spirited round of rock-paper-scissors to be the first actor in the booth. By this time, my nerves had dissipated and I was ready to work and show Ben what I could do! I think I acquitted myself well and I know I learned a lot during my time with him. Voice matching is not easy but it is a skill that one can master and I know I’ll enjoy spending some more time with it.
This workshop was incredible and I walked out with some valuable gems. By the end of the day, I was exhausted but in the best kind of way. My head is still swimming as I process all the bits of knowledge I gained and I look forward to implementing the skills I learned in my auditions and bookings. I’d recommend this workshop to anyone who’s looking to learn more about voice acting for animation. It’s worth every penny and then some!