Thursday, 28 April 2016

The "Guy-Next-Door" "Natural" Voice

In the mid-1980s I was asked (by two of Steven Spielberg's casting agents) to go to the Nelvana Studios in Toronto to audition for one of their upcoming cartoon series. Nelvana was a major player in those days, having made their money from the animated "Raid" insecticide commercials. They were also behind 'The Care Bears' and the movie "Rock 'N Rule" with Susan Roman (whose credits in voice would stretch to the moon and back) voicing the female lead while Debbie Harry (of Blondie) provided her singing.

When I arrived at the studio I was given the breakdown (short piece of script) and a sketch of the character. I studied these and practised a few deliveries before being called.

In the booth I gave the delivery I thought best suited the character based on his look and his choice of words and phrasing. Then came shock number one. The director said, "Just give it to me in your normal voice. Nobody does character voices anymore."

So I gave it to him in my normal voice, even though the voice I had previously delivered wasn't far off my usual vocalizations. (It was a bit more nasal.)

I was so dismayed and downhearted about his "nobody does character voices anymore" comment that I stormed out of the studio without leaving any of my contact information. They had some on file (I think), but I was very much in transition at that time, so reaching me was tricky.

Shock number two would come a few years later.

I was flipping the TV dial when I came across the series. It was the exact scene I had read. The voice they used was identical to the first (character) voice I had given the director. I was flabbergasted.

This brings me to the reason I wrote this blog: the "guy-next-door" voice and "natural" voice reads.

"Guy-next-door" is a vague description at best. Do you mean Wilson (Earl Hindman) from the Home Improvement television series? Are you thinking of the whiny guy or the loud mouth? Just who is this "guy-next-door"?

"Natural" is another quandary for me due to the fact that I regular use a variety of deliveries in my everyday conversations. If the voice fits, I use it. The voices I speak to my wife in differ from the way I speak to my cats. When I'm out shopping or conversing with others, there are any number of vocal tones I will emit given any situation. (The whole reason the casting directors asked me to go to Nelvana is that during the audition for them I was delivering the lines of all the characters in the scene.) That is why there are so many different variations in my commercial voice demos. Each one is my own voice, slightly tweaked to match the material being delivered.

Certainly the voices in my character voice demos are vast exaggerations, and I do not consider them in the realm of the "natural" voice delivery. Character voices are something I've done since the 60s when my parents would return home and I'd deliver messages in the voice of the person who had called.

So help me out. What do you consider the voice of the "guy-next-door"?

Check out all my demos (and ask for a free audition of your project) on my website. Click here for demos and a free audiobook.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Unexplained Paranormal Mysteries

Today on Unexplained Paranormal Mysteries: Ellie Bishop's Pants.

If you have been watching the television program NCIS you will be aware of the character Special Agent Eleanor Bishop, played by Emily Wickersham. Having observed this character for some time I have been struck with the question as to how on earth Ms. Wickersham is able to get into the ultra-skinny pants her character wears.

(Note for the people from the U.K.: When I say "pants" I mean "trousers". There will be no discussion of Ms. Wickersham's under garments. Sorry.)

And for those who don't remember the old joke about the guy wondering how a woman put on her tight pants, here it is:
Guy: How do you get into those pants?
Woman: You start by buying me dinner.

I have postulated the following 12 theories:

1. Ms. Wickersham is actually made by Mattel. Her real name is Matilda Mason and she is a Major. That's right. Emily Wickersham is really Major Mat Mason. That's why she is "bendy and flexible".

2. Ms. Wickersham has removable feet.

3. Ms. Wickersham is a genie. She turns her lower half into smoke and glides into the pants with ease.

4. From a small platform several storeys high, Ms. Wickersham plunges into the pants which are suspended below her on long bungee cords.

5. Cables are attached to Ms. Wickersham's ankles and pulled through the pants. The other end of the cables are attached to a team of Siberian Huskies. When the dogs achieve their top speed, Ms. Wickersham is yanked into the pants.

6. Ms. Wickersham is a mutant with the same abilities as Mystique. Her skin tight pants are so skin tight because they are actually her skin.

7. CGI: The pants are painstakingly animated for every episode.

8. CGI - part 2: Ms. Wickersham's legs are painted green and the pants are keyed in using green screen.

9. Ms. Wickersham is sewn into the pants before filming.

10. Giant claws grip the waist band and cuffs of the pants, stretching them out to four times their size while Ms. Wickersham is gently lowered inside.

11. The pants are painted on with fabric paint.

12. Ms. Wickersham's lower half is dipped in baby oil or butter and she slides into the pants.

There you have it. One of those must be true. Which one gets your vote?

Next time on Unexplained Paranormal Mysteries: How does Emily Wickersham breath, bend her knees or (the ultimate question) sit cross-legged in those pants?