Mountain climbers set up a base camp at an intermediate point on a mountain range so they can rest, eat, and prepare for their next ascent at a base camp. As my improv mentor Diana Brown taught me, artists should also establish a creative base camp by celebrating their achievements and learnings. That way, when the going gets rough or life happens, you will always have that base to fall back on.
So, what do I have in my creative base camp for the first half of 2023?
I hope this post can help you think about your own creative base camp and especially how you celebrate your milestones. I would love to hear about your recent successes or what has helped you this year in your audiobook or creative career. Please leave me a line in the comments so I can celebrate with you! Thank you for reading.
Listen to the replay / Ecoutez la rediffusion!
Élisabeth Lagelée narratrice de livres audio à San Francisco (radiofrance.fr)
So here we are, a fresh New Year full of promise and soon to be forgotten resolutions is upon us! I hope you all spent some great holidays with your friends and loved ones.
2017 was definitely fun but challenging as I embarked on this voice acting journey. Luckily I met some wonderful mentors and friends that helped me kick things off!
Some 2017 stats :
+ 40 auditions.
+ 30 audiobooks (23 already available on Audible).
+ 100 hours of finished recording.
I have also recorded TV ads, IVR systems, eLearning modules, one fantastic video game trailer and taken part in a swashbuckling TV pilot read! Check out all the videos and voice samples in my portfolio.
Here are the key takeaways that I am focusing on for 2018:
Reading a book or ad goes beyond enunciation techniques and vocal warmups. It’s about making clear and strong character voice choices.
For example in the With Myth Wildfire series by Alexandria Clarke, I had to find unique voices for over 10 different female characters. The easiest way to do this – just like in an improv scene – is to “cheat”, i.e. base your characters on people you know. For example, Adrienne was a delightful mix of twisted and femme fatale and always brought to mind Charlize Theron in "Snow White and the Huntsman". On the other hand her daughter Nora had a pure yet sparkling quality which I associate with Kirsten Dunst in a role like "Marie-Antoinette".
One of the biggest challenges for any audiobook reader is consistency – both of audio levels and character voices – especially on long projects.
On the technical side, the most useful tool in my belt is my setup which has graduated to include some sweet new headphones that make every single little mistake pop out crystal clear as well as a piano bench which help keep my posture straight and level during long recording sessions. On the acting side, commiting to character voices can be tricky when the character’s appearances are few and widespread throughout a story – like the nasty inspector in the French adaptation of Once Gone by Blake Pierce. Once again, associating the character with a person you know is my most useful tip to keep track of things.
Rhythm and pacing are key to an enjoyable listen. I took this very literally in my first audiobook project – With Summers Songs by Janice Cole Hopkins – where I added music to keep with the story’s musical thread.
Even when stories are not as musically inclined, I've always noticed that the rhythm of the voice makes a huge difference in my attention and retention of a story. For example, marking a clear tone change at the beginning of a paragraph helps to better follow the structure of a story. The same goes for properly “closing” your sentences (finishing in a downward tone for sentences other than questions). Chapter ends are also interesting depending on whether you want to give a cliff-hanger feeling or if there is a sense of finality in the text.
Probably the most important thing to producing a good audiobook is to care about the content, no matter whether you are reading a book summary, some puppy dog training techniques... or playing a runaway alien on a mission to save humanity.
To quote my improv teachers: “believe It and they will see it”
Finally some audiobook recommendations from other narrators which I really enjoyed (and learned from):
Would love to hear from you ! Have you listened to any of my audiobooks or come across my voice on a voice messaging system? Remember, the first book on Audible is free :)
I tend to go for jobs that give me more than just a paycheck at the end of the month. During my marketing years in Paris for SHIGETA I learned the benefits of aromatherapy and massages with the masseuse goddess herself, Chico Shigeta. But since I started voice acting and especially long-form narrations, I've discovered a whole new realm of practices essential to this career and with the lucky side-effect of benefiting my overall health. Below are the top 5 most helpful practices I'm taking away from this career so far.
If there was only 1 mantra for voice actors I believe it would be hydration. It's amazing the amount of water you go through during recording sessions! The one in my profile pic - recording the role of Yvette for an exciting video-game set during the French Revolution - was a 1.5 liter / hour ratio. Besides the fact that your body and cells just needs regular water replenishment (especially in a hot and airless recording box...), proper hydration is essential to keeping those vocal cords supple and reducing annoying mouth noises.
Exit the salty and spicy, hello light and digestible. This doesn't mean you should starve yourself - stomachs can get very vocal as well - but just that you should pay more attention to how some types of food impact your performance. I do my recordings in the morning and my go to breakfast is a bowl of fruits with nuts. Dairy is known to be a big no no... but I'm French so can't totally get rid of that one.
3. Dental hygiene
No I did not start brushing my teeth when I started into voice acting. What I did do is start brushing more often during the day. I've found this to be the most effective tool against mouth noises (them again!).
4. Daily workout
Sirens, keys, tongue twisters ("red leather, yellow leather")... you name it. These are all part my morning vocal workout to get the best enunciation and sound. I also stretch for about 10 minutes just to get the blood flowing and keep a good posture. No matter how good you are, hunched shoulders are going to make your character sound defeated (I actually use this for some teenager roles in an ongoing project). I've learned I sound most energetic when my head is nice and straight with a slight upward tilt.
Actually breathing is kind of a controversial subject in the audiobook world. Should you hear your breaths? Should you erase them? After much trial and error as well as many hours spent listening to veteran narrators, I have decided to embrace them. One, I am not a robot and it just sounds more natural to hear some breathing. Two, if you are trying to avoid them, you either have to stop breathing - again, I am not a robot - or erase the breaths out of your recordings which is incredibly tedious and time-consuming. Now, with each book I work on, I am increasing my breathing capacity and refining my pace and flow... while also toning my abs! Love this job )
So what do you think? Would the "Voice over Detox" make it to the NY Times bestselling list?