Today I’ve been thinking about commercials. I had an appointment to record a voice reel. I woke up in the morning and immediately listened to a load of adverts – slow on my research but better late than never. They’re not easy listening, adverts, but they are interesting to listen to mindfully when you’re thinking about craft. I brought up a few from my old school mate Cumberbatch. He’s the voice of Jaguar. He has very deftly and effortlessly voiced some insanely technical info vids. I don’t really know what torque is, but he talks about it as if it’s a thing we all should care deeply about.
Mel and May and Lucy pottered around the flat having tea and eggs while I listened to people with voices like mine expounding the wonders of luxury items and insurance companies and skincare products and all of these things that small sections of high earning humans sink their lives into.
Eventually I headed out to Islington, to a little house on a lovely East/West residential street. You ring the top bell, where an actor has tacked a little laminate with the name of his studio by the buzzer.
Inside it is a well appointed comfortable home, and he has a little enclosed stairwell area upstairs. It’s isolated from traffic and airplane noise, surrounded by heavy ancient delightful curtains and visible soundproofing. It’s for recording actors doing reels, and he probably gets himself doing fuck knows what in there too. It’s a pretty effective deadzone considering its in London. It’s much better than the corridor space and towels I improvise in my flat while Pickle shouts and the sirens blare. I like these home studios, hacked together in noisy cities by dreamers.
I went there to say lots of words into a very good mic. Now it’s down to him to make me sound the best version of myself. But isn’t it always? The editors and the stage managers? I know what I’m doing but they can knock it up a degree. I paid a lot of money but I reckon it’ll pay for itself pretty quickly as I’ve got a saleable voice and this’ll be a calling card going forward. All I need is one gig out of this and it’s paid for.
I had to bite my tongue a lot though. I’m instinctively dubious of anyone who asks me to conform. This guy knows the game though. His advice comes from a well practiced, living place. “Know your market.” is part of his message. And he hears enough voices to know what may or may not sell. I strangely trust him, which is rare for me when I find someone peddling services to actors. It’s usually done by broke people who did something once with X and went to Y place that we’ve heard of with Z. They’re selling subjective advice to equally frustrated broke people for the price of rent. If you’re the same personality type as them you’ll probably benefit. And you might make a friend.
After an afternoon with this fellow, I feel I have genuinely learnt loads about expectations, about delivery and technique. Maybe he’s a great teacher, or maybe he’s the same personality type as me. Without even hearing the finished product, I’m immediately satisfied that I’ve got my money’s worth. And I’d never normally say that, particularly as he’s not fucking around with his price tag. There goes Aldi Halloween.
Sure, he didn’t let me speak to myself in a million accents, which I like to do in the comfort of my own home. He kept everything very vanilla, very close to my natural delivery. But he surprised me, taught me, worked with me, augmented me and challenged me. And maybe – dare I say it – maybe being who I am is enough. After hundreds of miles. Hi.