Guardian.co.uk Spotlights BBC VO Narrators

08.17.2010

Guardian.co.uk has a feature article with photos highlighting BBC VO narrators Tom Baker, Dave Lamb, Marcus Bentley, and Michael Buerk.

Here’s an excerpt:

There is no silencing the cacophony of show-stealing narrators on television at the moment. They didn’t use to draw attention to themselves – traditionally, narrators were sombre, quintessentially BBC voices that wouldn’t have sounded out of place commentating on a particularly dispiriting public information film. Now, they’re often the star of the show.

Click here to continue reading the article.


Voice Actor Spotlight: Jay Jennings

08.17.2010

Jay Jennings was mentored by Daws Butler, who felt Jay had the talent to do many of the classic Hanna-Barbera voices “spot on.” A meeting with Hanna-Barbera executives in Studio City was arranged so Daws could vouch for Jay’s talent, but before the meeting could take place Daws passed away and none of what he had hoped for Jay transpired. Unfortunately, Jay doesn’t have any photographs of himself with Daws, because they always went straight to work at Daws’ home studio in his garage and never posed for one.

Jay with Steve Allen

Jay Jennings’ speaking voice has been compared to a young Orson Welles, so to say he has been blessed vocally would be an understatement. Jay’s voice-over jobs have mostly been indie work: college radio station IDs, commercials, public service announcements, narrations, some horror movie trailers, and of course, his cartoon voices.

Jay is also a celebrity impressionist and has been fortunate enough throughout his career to be have been trained by two legendary entertainers: Frank Gorshin (The Riddler on the ’60s cult classic, Batman) and Steve Allen. Jay Jennings is now a film director and L.A. historian, and still does voiceovers. He is also known as “The Knott’s Guy” having written two books about Southern California’s oldest theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm.

Voice Actors in the News is pleased to present an interview with Jennings conducted by blog staffer Doreen Mulman:

DM: How old were you when you developed an interest in doing voices?

JJ: My love for doing voices probably started when I was very young. I instantly felt a connection to all the cartoons I watched on Saturday mornings such as Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss, Bullwinkle, Daffy Duck, and Tom Slick, to name but a few. I always tried to impersonate them during the week and at school. I also loved TV variety shows of the early 1970’s where voices and impressions were on display, such as The Jonathan Winters Show, The Red Skelton Show, and The Kopykats.

Interestingly enough, one of the first record albums I ever listened to was Rich Little’s Broadway, where I first learned to impersonate the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and President Nixon. As I got older and my voice matured, I was able to mimic voices and mannerisms by watching a lot of old movies on TV and listening to impressionists like Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Will Jordan, Fred Travalena, and George Kirby.

DM: How did you meet Daws Butler?

JJ: My mother, who once worked for the head of the William Morris Agency, was always on the look-out for agents and mentors to help me hone my acting and voice talent. She called in a few favors and arranged an initial meeting with Daws Butler at his studio in 1982. In fact, he was the first person to tell me that my speaking voice sounded very much like a young Orson Welles (on the radio).

During that first meeting, I was in complete awe knowing I was in the presence of the man whose cartoon voices I grew up with. He asked me if I did anything special with my voice. I replied, “Matter of fact, I can do most of your voices.” He replied, “Oh really? Well, let’s see what you can do.” With that, I rattled off my versions of Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss, Hokey Wolf, Super Snooper, Mr. Jinx, and a few others. Daws grinned and said, “You know something, Jay? You have a great ear. I’d like to train you to make them even better.” So over the next five years, I was mentored by Daws to carry on his cartoon voice legacy after he retired. I’d say we had about twenty sessions in his studio. It was definitely magical.

In 1987, while Daws and I were preparing for an upcoming meeting at Hanna-Barbera headquarters in Studio City, California, Daws’ health took a turn for the worse and he passed away less than a year later, so we never got to meet with Hanna-Barbera’s head of voice talent. I then turned my sights mostly to filmmaking, as my voicework kind of took a backseat over the next 20 years.

Listen to Jay’s Hanna-Barbera Voice Reel:

DM: Were your sessions with Daws one-on-one or were other students of his (such as Nancy Cartwright) present?

JJ: My sessions with Daws were all one-on-one, which Daws decided after our first meeting. He was very impressed with the fact that I could do a lot of his cartoon voices before ever being trained by him, so his goal was to help me perfect them and to excel in reading cartoon and commercial “copy” for auditions and future voice jobs.

DM: Was Daws a fun person to be with? Considering his profession one might expect him to be a bit of an imp with a silly sense of humor, or did you find him to be more serious individual? Are there any anecdotes of your times with him that might illustrate?

JJ: Daws, to me, was like a gentle grandfather figure, whose laugh was very childlike and innocent. He was serious when you were trying to read copy or learn something new and we would repeat it over and over until I got it right. “He would say, “No, try that again with more enthusiasm. Good, now try it again while breathing out slowly.” Daws knew every technique in the book when it came to teaching acting, voices, and breathing properly while recording in the studio, which by the way, was my favorite part of our sessions, going into the recording booth and making magic with our voices.

By far, the most memorable session that we had in his studio was the time Daws suggested that we both take turns performing all the classic Hanna-Barbera voices as if we were at a big Hollywood party, commenting on the food and scenery. In essence, I would imitate Quickdraw McGraw, Lippy the Lion, and Snagglepuss, while Daws would answer back as Yogi Bear, Wally Gator, and Elroy Jetson. Unfortunately, I never asked Daws for a copy of this recording since I was too blown away at the time to realize the significance of this once-in-a-lifetime collaboration.

DM: Could you describe some of the teaching techniques Daws Butler, Frank Gorshin, and Steve Allen used when you were being mentored?

JJ: The main thing Daws pressed upon me during our sessions together, no matter what vocal technique we were working on, was to have correct pronunciation, cadence, and the right vocal audio level, not to mention, to have proper lip, mouth and teeth manipulation, which in turn, would make it easier to perform certain voices (i.e. an old man, a little boy, a British aristocrat, a gangster, or an Old West sheriff).

Jay with Frank Gorshin

I met Frank Gorshin at an autograph show in Hollywood, California in the early 2000’s. He took a liking to me after I told him I was a big fan and a celebrity impressionist myself. During our half dozen meetings, Frank taught me the importance of facial expressions and contorting my face and lips when doing an impression. Frank was an extremely nice and cordial man.

I met Steve Allen in 1990 while I was hosting a cable TV show in Beverly Hills. In the three meetings we had, Steve taught me the importance of sketch comedy and how to be generally funny, and how to make an audience laugh. He said, “You must always have a punch line that knocks the audience dead with laughter, otherwise you’ll simply drown, which is a comedian’s worst nightmare.”

DM: Which celebrities do you like to impersonate?

JJ: My favorite celebrities to impersonate are obviously the classic stars of yesteryear, such as Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Vincent Price, George Burns, Jack Benny, Ed Sullivan, Charles Bronson, George C. Scott, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, and countless others.

DM: What physical preparation do you find helps your throat/tongue/vocal cords to duplicate voices best? For example, warm/cold liquids, lemon, honey, gargling, clearing your sinuses, etc.

JJ: Before every voice session with Daws, he would offer me some hot chocolate to soothe my throat and voice and I’ve stuck with that vocal preparation ever since. If hot cocoa isn’t available, I find that hot tea with honey works very well.

DM: Are you still interested in a career in voice-overs?

JJ: I’ve been a film director since 1989 and it’s basically what I’m known for. I’ve made a name for myself in the amusement park genre by writing two books about Knott’s Berry Farm. With that said, it’s safe to say that I’ve never stopped working on my voice over endeavors, as I still perform the occasional narration, movie trailer, radio spot, and cartoon voice, always making myself available if called upon.

Watch Jay in a TV Appearance about Knott’s Berry Farm:

Thank you for your time and use of your photographs, Jay.  Voice Actors in the News wishes you much success in all that you do.

~ Doreen Mulman, Staff Contributor
Voice Actors in the News

Jay Jennings may be contacted at: jenningsfilms@gmail.com


Featured Voices: Jeff Bordner

02.07.2010

Continued Super Bowl Sunday voice-related coverage…

Salt Lake City’s KSL.com has an interview with Jeff Bordner, who won the audition as the announcer for Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl VI.

“I love what I do. My work is play,” he tells KSL.com. “My commute consists of a cup of coffee and negotiating the steps downstairs in my power suit, which is my bathrobe.”

Bordner, who also voices promos for ESPN, NBC, CBS and FOX, says of the VO industry: “I don’t know of another business that is this competitive. I’m very fortunate and I’m very blessed. Every type of voice brings with it some kind of positive thing, some kind of hook that advertisers are looking for. Whether it’s comedic or intense, or whether it’s just a regular guy. I’ve learned it’s not the voice, it’s the performance. You are voice acting. It is acting.”

You can learn more about Bordner’s work on his official site: NationalVoiceover.com.

Bordner replaces the late Harry Kalas, who served as announcer for Puppy Bowls I-V. Kalas, who passed away April 13, 2009, was the beloved voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and narrator for NFL Films. Look for a memorial tribute to Kalas here in April, 2010.

Related post: 2.07.2010 — Super Bowl Sunday VO


Featured Voices: Yolanda Vega

02.05.2010

TimesUnion.com has a 3-page interview with Yolanda Vega, voice of the New York Lottery for 20 years.

The article also mentions that she earns $85,000 per year, working full time as both voice and spokesperson for the state making promotional appearances and “deflecting criticism of the lottery.”


Featured Voices: Dan and Mandy Nelson

02.01.2010

WBJournal.com has an interview with voice talent Mandy Nelson, voice of Travelocity’s phone system. She shares her career with husband Dan is also a voice talent and a sound engineer.

Nelson says that voiceover gigs for internet video have caused a “major shift in the type of work that she does”:

The move to video took Nelson and others in her industry by surprise. The voice talent industry has done its fair share of hand wringing, wondering what the technological shift will do to their business.

“We were all wondering, ‘What’s going to happen to us?’ People don’t want to pay for commercials anymore,” she said.

While ad spending may be down, the thirst for promotion has only grown stronger. But now, companies are creating their own promotional videos and are hosting them on their web sites and YouTube instead of using more traditional media.

Nelson is also one of 80 individuals and voice talents involved in recording audio of U.S. health care legislation for HearTheBill.org.

[On a related note, I have been asked to participate with HearTheBill.org and plan to get involved soon. I would encourage other voice talents reading this to volunteer as well. – CC]

Dan and Mandy were also interviewed recently by ThePulseMag.com and their work, their background and how they met, and the article includes photos of the duo in the studio as well. For more details about this husband/wife voice acting partnership, visit their website: dandysound.com.


Featured Voices: Roger Steffens

01.28.2010

When I first began the “Featured Voices” series here, my intention was to spotlight lesser-known and largely unrecognized voice talents interviewed or otherwise featured in the media.

These tend to be “human interest” pieces published through regional news media, and the ones I most enjoy reading are those for whom voiceover represents merely a portion of what they do and who they are.

Such is Roger Steffens, who has amassed an enormous volume of voice work as narrator for many film, TV and audiobook productions, one of which won an Oscar for “Best Documentary” in 1978, The Flight of the Gossamer Condor. He was the “corporate voice” for Time Warner Audio Books between 1996-2003, and is the exhibit voice for several noted exhibits and museums (Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Biosphere II, Getty Museum, Museum of Tolerance, Weisenthal Center). Furthermore, he’s voiced commercials and industrials for such high-profile clients as IBM, General Motors, AT&T, Boeing and Fox Broadcasting.

And still this is only a fraction of what Steffens has accomplished in his career. According to his resume, he “wears many hats [as] actor, author, lecturer, editor, photographer, reggae archivist, broadcaster, director and producer.”

Steffens’ passion is Reggae music and the life’s work of Reggae legend Bob Marley. He’s the founder of the “Roger Steffens’ Reggae Archives” which includes “over 300,000 titles on tape, record and CD, and the world’s most extensive collection of Marley/reggae memorabilia.” Steffens also tours and lectures internationally as the curator of “The World of Reggae featuring Bob Marley” — a 6,000-piece exhibition celebrating the music legend.

For much more on the man and his passion than I can possibly summarize here, I invite you to visit Steffens’ ReggaeSupersite.com.

And although this article in Hawaii’s Big Island Weekly is mostly a copy/paste of Steffens’ bio on his website, it does include a brief interview with Steffens on his upcoming appearance at Bob Fest and Ag Fair on Sunday, Feb. 7 in Hilo, HI.


Featured Voices: Lainie Frasier

01.11.2010

Voice actor and instructor Lainie Frasier (voice of Tails in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie) explains via Statesman.com that “voiceover work is all about practice” and offers other info on how to break into voice acting.

Lainie teaches workshops in the Austin, TX area. Learn more about her work at her official site: LFVoiceWorks.com.

For other of this blog’s archived tips and advice on voice acting, Click Here.


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