The Thread in the Voiceover Community

I arrive at the Tropicana Hotel for WoVoCon. The temperature outside was upwards of 110 degrees and my skin was quite dry. I was shlepping my computer, my bag for the conference, and some snacks. The princess in me is not used to schlepping anything and my inner monologue was embarrassingly kvetchy. I walked through the smokey casino, up the escalators, and back to the conference center. This area was a very different place because this is where the voice talent was! From newbies with associate memberships to professionals who knew each other for years, we all greet each other with big hugs. I met people I have only corresponded with online and I am overjoyed in an instant. No more kvetch-only smiles through and through. Meeting the likes of Diana Birdsall, Samuel Fleming, Michelle Blenker, Kim Handysides and her daughter Lisa… all true delight. Getting to talk to Dustin Ebaugh who is always so helpful actually face to face in person. Later dressed in my tropical party outfit, I stood with my lei around my neck and spoke to Dan Lenard at length. Being in the same room as David Rosenthal with whom I have both studied and worked- I was nothing short of elated. The list goes on and on and on. To talk to Jody Krangle, break bread with J. Michael and Armin Heirstetter… and to say that the connection goes beyond the immediate knowledge that we all work in voiceover. There is a thrill and excitement to this level of human connection and I am quite clear that the voiceover community is very special. But, how do you keep these warm sentiments going when you the adrenaline of the conference dissipates??

Whippany, New Jersey, Sometime in 2012

Several years ago now I found myself seated at a table at a UJA of Metro West Women’s Lunch. In truth, I went to the lunch out of obligation as a close friend was one of the organizers and most of my girl friends were going. I was, however, immediately drawn in by the presentation. The speaker was Laura Schroff, author of Angels on Earth, a book about the power of connections that people make. Laura shared the story of her life, beginning in 1986 when she met 11 year old Maurice Mazych, a homeless boy in New York City. I remember Laura saying that Maurice was different because he did not ask for money. He was hungry and she knew he really needed food. Having lived in Manhattan for 9 years, I was touched that what began as Laura feeding a hungry child blossomed into a life-long relationship. Schroff tied this back to the Chinese proverb about the thread that binds as all, and this concept resonated with me deeply.

For me, I felt the strands of this thread, never before identified but always present, tangled throughout the web of my world. I am super bubbly and have always talked to everyone but I feel like I connect with people. When Laura suddenly put a label on it, everything had more meaning. When my adult life took new shape as part of the voiceover community, this thread continued to weave and wrap in new directions. Fred Frees was one of the early connections I had the privilege of making. Fred was my very first character coach and we worked together online for many months. When my family came out to LA, I even met Fred and his wife. Besides his brilliance and creativity, Fred is the essence of our world in voiceover as he is caring and kind and works on his craft tirelessly. Fred explains “Growing up with people in the industry was just natural for me, and being with them today enhances that feeling.”Despite the fact that Fred has a deep family history in voiceover and historic connections, Fred works day and night like those of us who chose this path and knows the industry ups and downs from every perspective. When Fred created the Voice Peddler Interviews Family, it is clear that he is doing what Laura Schroff does in her book, he is fleshing out the power of connections in our voiceover community.

Whether you were born into the industry or this was your chosen path as it was mine, it is clear that there is a unique niche in the entertainment industry. While grueling auditions are a certain part of our reality, so is the support and the sharing for fellow talent. According to J.Michael Collins, voice actor and coach working in the community for more than 20 years, “The VO community is remarkable in that we willingly share our strategies and tactics with one another, and don’t feel the need to desperately guard our piece of the pie. It is unique among entertainment industry genres in the closeness and selflessness of the community.” It is a common occurrence that people new in the field seek guidance from established talent, and this is typically given with genuine support. When I got my start I spoke to my friend Marie Hoffman and she was so generous with both her time and her advice. I remember when I met Anthony Gettig at a conference in the Midwest last fall, and he told me that the rising tide in the harbor lifts us all. He later told me that this was a common axiom used by Faffers, and that too made me smile. And I can tell you that it was Anthony who sat next to me in a session at WoVo Con and played with my Twisted Wave settings and I was overjoyed. I recently reached out to Pierre Maubouche in France for help pricing a job and he did so as if we were long time friends. The kindness of talents like Marie, Anthony, and Pierre epitomizes the VO community.

The connections in voiceover run deep. Dan Lenard, whose VO career began decades ago, explains “You’ll hear it from all corners of the acting and voice acting community, but there is no question that those in the voice industry have a common thread of trying to make our business a better place for all. Even more amazing is the wonderful lifelong friendships we develop though our commonality and common commitment. Its like no other business. Do photographers, graphic artists, web masters and other freelance professionals have this type of community?” Whether you are looking at a Facebook group or conference photos, or pictures from a BBQ, the VO community is a tight knit group. How many people do you know who would visit a friend on a layover at the airport and bring bagels to them? It happened in voiceover, just ask Uncle Roy. Or ask Uncle Roy about late night calls for sound booth emergencies… those happen too. And in how many fields do people open their homes to out of town guests? This is the unique reality of the voiceover community.

Indeed, the voiceover community is a very special place, with threads very long and tangled. As Juliette Gray says, “When I discovered voiceover I knew I was home.” Now with the addition of the Voice Peddler Interviews Family, we have another way to get to know each other more. As Fred says, why join a group and do nothing? When thinking of the power of connections, those words are really loaded. We all have to think about content and context all day every day. This group is different and we have a real opportunity here to benefit from each other, so let’s see how long this thread is!