Voiceover Artist’s Circle: Great Success!

It's about 60 miles.

Yesterday was the inaugural edition of the Puget Sound Voiceover Artist’s Circle (PSVAC for short, I think). We met in Sea-Tac, which is fairly central to the region. I’m pretty sure that I had to make the longest trek as I live in Olympia so it was about an hour’s drive. 

There were seven people in attendance besides myself, running the gamut from the brand-new at the biz to folks who are working VO professionals. I was the de facto leader having been the guy who organized the thing, but I tried to make it clear that no matter who books the room and sends out the emails, that this is a group of peers.


After the introductions, J. Christopher Dunn started us off by taking us through an abbreviated version of his daily warmup routine, ranging from light stretching exercises to breathing and facial movements, along with vocal limbering-up. Very good stuff, and while I’ve always warmed up the pipes, I never really gave a lot of consideration to warming up the rest of the bod. Carrie Standish and Jen Gosnell added some warmup tips from their opera background.


We learned some great vocal warmups


From there we moved on to some improv exercises. We did a quick game of “Assassin“, which is less about improv and more about having some fun and warming up. I pulled a bunch of improv games from The Encyclopedia of Improv Games, including this one.

Nuclear bomb explosion

That's some seriously fried chicken

Once we got done running around the room a bit like idiots and losing some of the self-consciousness one naturally feels in a new group of people we did another one that I thought would be interesting: Nuclear Bomb Chicken. The idea is that you are a chicken in a chicken coop/house and that a nuclear bomb will land on the place in 30 seconds. If you react as though you know what’s happening, you “lose” (as much as you can lose an improv game).

The purpose was to demonstrate the difference between character and actor, which is something a lot of novice actors have a problem with. In this case, everyone behaved like a perfectly normal chicken.

Next we did some more “serious” improv- that is to say, actual improv games. Specifically we did a game called “Commercial” where we had to invent a commercial product. We agreed to each come back next time with a 15-second spot for the product and do a read of it to the group.


We had to imagine the stage, the camera and well, pretty much everything

Lastly we did one I thought was fun- “Backwards Interview“. In this game you do an interview backwards, allowing people to throw in some fun bits, like “I had no idea you could make a cow do that” and forcing the other to come up with something to justify that response. We paired off and did this for a bit.

Finally we did some cold group reads of a scene from a Sherlock Holmes novel. There were three characters and a narrator in the scene so we did it twice, with two groups of people. The consensus was that it was interesting but we would probably prefer to try a radio script, so it’s easier to parse. Mr. Dunn offered to bring some scripts for the next one, and I look forward to those.

Next Steps and Goals

We also decided that it would be effective to give each meeting a “focus”. The next one will be audiobooks, so each of us will take a book and select a scene from it, get ready and prepare it, then read it to the group at the next meeting, and have a round of feedback. That is something I’m really looking forward to.

The last portion of the time was spent talking about our goals- we went around the room and each of us picked a goal for the next meeting; something we’ll have accomplished by then. Mine is to have a completed commercial and audiobook demo self-produced by then. I know you’re supposed to use pros to do your demos but I can’t afford it right now and I also want to use that fact to do something else- improve my engineering chops. So in the end I’ll get a pro to cut me a demo but there’s no reason I can’t be doing something and getting better while I save my pennies, so to speak.

The other goals ranged from submitting the first audition to launching a blog. We also had an opportunity to discuss what our indivdual goals were as voiceover artists- my Holy Grail is to be a video game VO, while my more reasonable aspiration in the short term is corporate narrations and audiobooks.

In the end, I consider this group to be an astounding success right from the start. The biggest weakness was that this was something I had never tackled before so in coming up with an agenda I wasn’t totally certain what would work and what wouldn’t. However as a group we were able to decide on what we did and didn’t like as well as other activities we can add to the mix.

I’m truly chuffed, as my British friends would say, about this little group. There are other VO’s interested in attending who were unable to make this one, so I’m also looking forward to the group growing some!

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