I have wanted to take a class with Pat Fraley and Hillary Huber ever since I met them in 2003 at the Audio Publishers Association Convention in Chicago. I finally got my chance this past weekend (6-7 May) in New York City, when I attended the 2-day Women in Animation Master Event. What an amazing, motivational, intense and downright FUN time!Before I talk about the class, I wanted to mention that Drew and I spent Friday as a play day in New York. We first went to see my friend Jeff Berman, who owns SoundHound, a premier New York audio production facility. Jeff gave us the grand tour of his magnificent operation, and I can tell you it would be every voice talent’s and director’s dream to work there! The studios are a striking blend of muted colors mixed with several natural textures so that they are an aesthetic delight to behold. You feel such a sense of tranquility from the moment you walk out of the elevator and into his space. It’s no wonder that people were busily working in every suite when we were there.
Attendance at the Women in Animation class was limited to 12 participants, and I signed up as soon as I received the e-mail from my coach Susan Berkley. Pat has given voice to thousands of characters in cartoons, movies and audiobooks. When Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, wanted a coach, Pat Fraley is the person who helped her. Hillary uses her character voices in audiobooks, where subtlety is key. They were the perfect complimentary team to each other.
Spending 16 hours over the weekend in Pat’s workshop was like being at a premier comedy club; we were laughing the whole time! However, while the subject matter was fun, all of the attendees were intent on getting as much from the sessions as possible. In fact, we even had homework prior to our meeting! We each received copies of Pat’s 2-CD set Cartoon Voice! and were instructed to listen to them at least once before the workshop convened.
It’s easy to do a silly voice. However, being able to replicate that voice on command and being able to think and feel like the character would is a skill set that takes some time and practice to master. In audition situations, you don’t have the time to come up with a new voice on the spot. You need to be ready to go with a voice that fits the description or picture but make it SEEM like you just thought of it.
Pat said numerous times throughout the workshop that we should be goal-oriented in the class. He wanted us to walk away with usable skills and be on our way to creating character voices that are, to quote Pat, evocative, unique and fully developed. We learned about character archetypes and the elements of a character voice. By analyzing the script, you can determine the archetype being served by the lines, and you may already have developed a voice that fits the archetype. In many cases, the class exercises caused us to invent the basic voice that could be further developed.
We each had the exciting opportunity to work one-on-one in the booth with the incredible and wildly energetic animation voice actor Candi Milo. Under her excellent and fast-paced direction, I discovered that I can do a pretty good voice for a little boy, especially since I naturally have a lower pitch and speak with the right cadence. I was thrilled to have this voice emerge because the market continuously demands women who can perform young boy voices.
In addition to some new voices, I found new uses for some of my existing characters, primarily developed in the audiobooks that I have completed. I was delighted to learn from Hillary that my snobbish old woman character named Aunt Freddy in the 2 audiobooks that I have completed could be parlayed into a mean old woman archetype just by the way I chose to deliver the lines.
Leslie Zaslower, who casts talent for Nickelodeon, enthusiastically spoke to us for an hour and graciously answered a wide berth of questions. Among other things, she explained the production process and gave us advice on structuring our demos. I introduced myself to her and asked how I might get my agents to send auditions to me for roles with little boys’ voices. You better believe that I will follow her suggestions!
All of my fellow participants are extremely talented and funny ladies! I was impressed to see a couple of newcomers in the class. It takes courage to take the plunge and actually DO SOMETHING about following your dreams. I thoroughly enjoyed the warm camaraderie through the whole weekend and feel that I made some wonderful lasting friendships. I’m looking forward to making a new demo and applying my new skills as often as possible!