Tag Archives: acting

We Are Pleased to Announce…

Last month, ACX and Audible Studios teamed up to kick off 2015 with an open casting call to find the voices for two Roxanne Conrad titles: Copper Moon and Exile, Texas. We received over 1,000 auditions, and it was no easy task for Audible Studios’ producers to select just two actors.

But two great actors did stand above the rest, and we’ll wait no longer to congratulate Kelley Hazen and Jamieson K Price for winning the coveted narration contracts! Let’s meet our winners.

Kelley Hazen

Kelley is an Audible Approved Producer who works out of Los Angeles and saw audiobook narration as a natural extension of her acting career. Author Roxanne Conrad raved:

Kelley just leaped out of my headphones with this story, and absolutely everything worked for me … the pacing, her voice, the great voice work that differentiated the characters so completely. I just loved the work.

We spoke with Kelly to get to know the voice behind the upcoming Copper Moon audiobook.

ACX: What compelled you to audition for Copper Moon?

Kelley HazenKelley Hazen: I was intrigued with the Copper Moon storyline immediately; I love music and the idea of possession and spirits. After I read the material provided for the audition I wanted to know more, I wanted to know where the story would go. If it is a story I want to pursue as a reader, I know I will enjoy narrating it.

From the business side, earning/winning an ACX/Audible Studios Open Casting Call title was the next ‘goal’ in my business plan. To work directly with Audible Studios is a great opportunity and I’m really excited about it.

ACX: What inspired your winning audition?

KH: Roxanne Conrad’s smart, funny writing inspired my read. She has a definite rhythm, a cadence to her writing. I knew I needed to embody that in my read. My impression from the audition material was that the winning narrator would be the one who most accurately captured Roxanne’s very specific ‘sound’. There is humor drawn directly from the popular culture, jokes that could only be delivered one way. I practiced those to make sure I had the  correct rhythm. I marked up the script I read from quite a bit – like a piece of music. And I wasn’t afraid while I was recording to go back and re-record to get something just right.

ACX: What advice do you have for those new to voice acting or audiobook narration?

KH:The most important elements in your audio chain are your ears. Hone your listening skills. It’s important to ‘hear’ the author – not just word-to-word, but as an entity, as a total expression. What is the overall milieu they seek to create through their story as it comes to life through your sound? Listen to the quality of your voice. It should be a sound the listener will want to cozy up to for ten or more hours. Listen to the sound of your studio to make sure your recordings are exemplary and your background is silent and worth a listener’s time and money. And most of all, listen for your own authenticity and organic connection to the story.

Listen to Kelley’s winning audition below.

Jamieson K Price

Jamieson describes himself as a “Los Angeles-based actor who has worked around the country on stage, screen, and microphone.” According to Audible Studios Production Manger Kat Lambrix,

Jamieson has a great voice for storytelling, and he gave both of the characters in the audition script the perfect voices and intonations. His pace is just right, and his voice draws you in to the story, wanting to hear more.

Jamieson K Price Photo 1Jamieson joined us to share the story behind his voice acting career.

ACX: How did you get into voice acting?

Jamieson K Price: I was performing in a play right after I finished grad school, and my leading lady was dubbing anime. She brought me into the recording studio and the director felt I had promise. That progressed to working with other directors and in other studios, which led to voice-acting in video games. At the same time I was starting a family and reading aloud to my children, which was wonderful practice. The voice acting provided a flexibility that fit in well with being a parent so I have really concentrated my acting there for the last ten years or so.

ACX: So you’ve done voice over work, but not audiobooks. What made you audition for Exile, Texas?

JKP: I have been interested in doing audiobooks for several years now, but haven’t really focused on it. I love reading, and the challenge of bringing words to life aloud is much of what we do as actors. The tone, the feel of the prose in my mouth, the life I could see in the characters, that was what really compelled me to give it a try.

ACX: How did you prepare to deliver this performance?

JKP: I read the copy and let it sink in, thought about the characters, then did a couple of reads to hear how it sounded. I let it rest for a few days, but continued to turn it over in my mind. Then I came back and recorded several more reads using different intentions and characteristics for the two voices to see what sounded most true. On my final read I tried to just relax, not push anything, and let the story tell itself, kind of get out of my own way. That read sounded honest and had the ring of truth, so I submitted it.

ACX: What advice do you have for those starting out in the VO/Audiobook business?

JKP: Take acting classes! It’s essential to being able to quickly access your emotions and expressing truth. We are all such unique individuals but all too often who we are becomes inhibited as we get older. Acting classes allow you to exercise your imagination, explore all the myriad parts of your personality and awaken truths you never knew you had.

Thanks, Jamieson. Check out his winning audition below.

ACX Storytellers: Anna Parker-Naples

ACX Producer Anna Parker-Naples was a classically trained actress with a career on the rise. But when family and health concerns threatened to derail her dream, she turned to voice acting as a way to continue to getting work and making use of her acting skills. Now she’s an accomplished audiobook producer with nearly thirty titles under her belt in less than two years. Read on to learn how she turned a challenging situation’s silver lining into a fulfilling new career.

The Silver Lining: Audiobooks

My path into audiobook narration and production has been unusual. You never know what life will throw your way, and I am a firm believer that in every cloud there is a silver lining. For me, it turned out audiobooks were just that.

APN_StudioI trained in London with The Actors Company as an actress, and worked predominantly in theatre, touring nationally and internationally including performing at the RSC’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre, until I took a break to have children. My third pregnancy was very difficult, and I found myself in a wheelchair, not knowing if I would ever walk again. I had worked on occasional high-profile short-form voice overs during my acting career, (including work for Aardman Animations and the UK’s main children’s television channels, CBeebies and CiTV) and an audio producer friend mentioned that since technology had changed so dramatically in the past few years, many voice actors could now work from home to create professional quality audio. It was a light-bulb moment for me. I knew I could make a success of voice over work and perform that way even if I remained in a wheelchair for the rest of my days.

My lovely husband set about building me a booth, and I set about learning everything I could about the voice over industry – how to record and edit, how to promote myself, and all that jazz. I found I was quickly establishing myself as one of the leading young British female voice over artists, creating commercial and corporate audio for many top international brands. And most importantly, my health recovered. I think chiefly because I had work that I could be passionate about and could put positive energy into.

As my kids grew, I realised that I would one day want to return to acting, and thought that audiobook narration would be a great way to cross that bridge. After submitting a reel, and rigorous auditions, I was selected to narrate for the UK charity the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and soon found that I fell in love with narrating audiobooks. I discovered that it is an art form in itself, and that performing in this field provides a tremendous amount of creative satisfaction. As a narrator, you get to paint the whole picture yourself – you are all the characters and often the engineer and APN Coverdirector as well, so it feels like your creative baby, which is so different from stage and screen work. I also found it so much more gratifying than the short form VO commercial work I was doing, as I could really get my teeth into telling a story. This narration business seemed like a great fit for me, and I quickly went on to work for other mainstream audiobook producers in the UK, and have now completed 28 titles in just under 18 months.

Since March of 2014 I have completed 11 audiobooks through ACX, with 4 more on the way.  I love the creativity narration allows me, and the freedom I have to pick and choose which titles I get involved with when I use ACX.  I specialize in Young Adult, Historical Fiction and Romance, and there are some great stories for me on the site. I have a young family, and working from home means I am always there for school pick-ups and can still bring to life some fascinating characters and tell absorbing stories. At the start of my acting career, this would not have seemed an obvious choice to me, but I am delighted to have found my way to being an audiobook narrator.

Check out Anna’s ACX profile here.

ACX Storytellers: Wendy Lindstrom & Julia Motyka

Wendy Lindstrom’s previous post on the blog, Writing For Audio, was such a success that we’ve asked her back. This time, she speaks with the narrator of her popular Grayson series, Julia Motyka. Read on to find out about Julia’s emotional connection to Wendy’s characters and how her career on stage informs her audiobook work.

Wendy Lindstrom: The inflections in your voice and the ways in which you approach each character’s dialogue are just wonderful. What is your process for bringing a character to life within a book?

Julia: I come to the world of audiobooks from the world of theater, so I find that I approach each book I narrate very much as I would a play, or one person show. As I read the book for the first time, I create a spread sheet of every character which contains their age, physical features and a few key descriptive words about their personality. I note whether the character has an accent of any kind or is described vocally in any way as well. After having read the book once, I look back both at the primary scenes a character takes part in and also at my description sheet.

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“Grayson” series narrator Julia Motyka

Most often, what happens next is a bit of a mystery- even to me! I sit quietly for a little while and kind of meditate on each character. I know it sounds silly, but I start to feel what it would feel like to be them, in my body; How they carry themselves, where they speak from (are they more intellectual or sentimental), etc. When I have a feeling for the essence of the character, I try on a little bit of their dialogue. If that feels ‘right’, I try a little bit more.

I don’t rehearse the entire book- that would take WAY too long, and besides, it would take a lot of the fun of the spontaneity out of the recording process, but I do try to get as fully ‘inside’ each character as possible before recording so that, as I read their dialogue, I feel fully invested in who they are are where they’re each coming from.

Which scene(s) in Shades of Honor/The Grayson Brothers Series did you most enjoy recreating and why?

Julia:  There were so many!! Truly! But, if I have to choose… [Spoiler Alert!] I’d say the scene(s) surrounding Evelyn’s father William Tucker’s death. I became very fond of that character and felt a particular affinity for him. I have a very close relationship with my father (both of my parents, actually) and spent several years caring for him when he was in ailing health in my late teens and early twenties, so that provided an added connection for me within that material.

727tpe4761sf5cg11374614520830I also felt the writing in that section to be particularly evocative and very moving. I had to stop narrating in the booth more than once to blow my nose and dab at my eyes! It’s always the best when the investment in a given set of circumstances and characters becomes overwhelming to that degree. It makes me feel like I’m doing justice to great writing!

Can you describe a typical day in the studio during the recording of Shades of Honor/The Grayson Brothers Series? For instance, what happens the day of recording, and how long are your days in the studio?

Julia:  A typical day of recording for me is pretty simple. I’m generally in the studio for about 5 hours per session (some people prefer a 6 or 4 hour session, but 5 is my preference). I generally take about 5-10 minutes every 60-90 minutes to use the restroom, rest my voice, and/or eat a snack.

On the actual day of recording I get up pretty early, do about an hour of yoga, have a good breakfast, and steam my voice (Keeping your chords well hydrated is of paramount importance! If I’m recording a lot in a given week I’ll likely be steaming my voice at least 2x per day for about 20 minutes each time). Before I leave home, I warm my voice up a little bit – everyone is different, but I do little articulation exercises and sometimes even little vocaleases to get my voice as pliable as possible. I also look over the pages I’m hoping to record that day, reminding myself of any new characters that may be emerging in the book, and perhaps running through a couple of voices to make sure I have easy access to them.

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ACX Author Wendy Lindstrom

What one piece of advice would you share with those who would love to do what you do for a living?

Julia:  I LOVE what I do and feel so lucky to get to do it but people often think it’s MUCH easier than it is!! If you’re interested in narrating audiobooks, find a book you like and choose a chapter. Then record yourself reading it out-loud while sitting COMPLETELY STILL! Stop and go back every time you make a mistake, have to clear your throat, or swallow. If you still enjoy it (like I said, I LOVE it, but it’s not for everyone), listen back and see if you like what you hear. If you’re still giving yourself the thumbs up, consider putting a demo together and creating an ACX profile! The book world is booming with opportunity! Go get ’em!

Julia can be found on via Brick Shop Audiobooks’ ACX profile or at her website, www.juliamotyka.com.

What did you learn from Julia’s interview? Leave a comment and let us know!

ACX Studio Gear Series: Home Studio Setup – Part 2

Today, we’re wrapping up our continuing series on home studio setup with a look at studio construction. We’ve polled ACX users who’ve set up home or professional studios, as well as members of the Audible Studios teams for their expert tips on constructing your own studio (and managing your time and work once you’re up and running!).

ACX: What did you learn from setting up your own studio?

Peter A. Rohan: I learned that it’s important to know my enemy.  In this instance, I had two. The first was an unacceptable amount of noise when I recorded (aka a high noise floor), and the second was excessive room reflection. I had too many reflective surfaces, the sound waves were bouncing off of every wall, and my New York City apartment was too noisy to record in. After a lot of trial and error (and money spent), I chose to build my own vocal booth.

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Brick Shop Audiobooks: It’s important to establish your budget and do your best not to go over that. You need to be focused on your art, not your credit card bills.

Peter A. Rohan: Right. With minimal construction skills and a much lower budget, I was able to construct a vocal booth that gave me much better results than any of the available pre-fabricated options. The most important decision I made was to build it myself. My initial investment was about one-fifth the price of the cheapest sound booth that I could find for purchase.

ACX: What advice do you have for an actor looking to set up a home studio?

Darren Vermaas, Audible Studios Post-Production Associate: Treat your recording space. A lot of people think they simply set up a microphone and go. In reality, no matter how nice your microphone, preamp, and DAW are, and how fantastic your voice sounds, it will all go downhill if your room does not have some treatment. That means putting up some sort of sound absorbing materials to stop room reverberation and early reflections.  When someone listens back to your audio, you don’t want them to be able to visualize the room you’re sitting in. Treating a room can be as simple as hanging up a bunch of packing blankets and creating a makeshift vocal booth, or as extreme as purchasing professional, application specific sound absorbing panels. There are also products like this Reflexion Filter that will do a lot to minimize sound reflection.

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Rob Granniss, Brick Shop AudiobooksAgreed. You’ve got to start with treating your space. There’s no point in getting high-end audio equipment that can hear a pin drop if you have 18 wheelers passing by every 5 minutes. Some of my favorite cost-effective treatments are bookshelves loaded with books, which provide a great refraction pattern and nice dense absorption; hanging moving blankets; and raising the floor if necessary with tires (lay them flat – think of a box of a dozen donuts to visualize it) with some kind of wood flooring on top. It may be hideous on the outside, but draping the blankets on top and making a “door” with the blankets can close you off pretty well and is a good place to start.

ACX: What about once a studio is up and running? How can actors set themselves up for success?

Brick Shop Audiobooks: We found that it’s important to grow naturally. We started with 1 or 2 books a month, working nights and weekends on projects. When we began getting more work, we took time off our day jobs and then eventually moved into a dedicated space. We’ve been constructing more recording booths and editing stations as our production has increased. Staggering it out as we have, we didn’t end up with a large debt hanging over us during the beginning by borrowing a lot from a bank and working just to pay interest.

Darren Vermaas: Distractions are a work killer!  Working out of your home is convenient, but can also be a huge distraction. If you can get out of your areas of distraction, you will get a lot more done. Disconnect your WiFi if you don’t need it while you work. Facebook will be there when you’re done recording. Don’t edit on a comfy couch because if you’re like me, you’ll want to take a quick 15 minute nap and get back to it later. Last but not least, don’t wait until the last minute. You’re your own boss so there is less pressure, but don’t take advantage of your own time.

Brick Shop Audiobooks: Another lesson is that audiobook production, as all businesses, is about people and communicating respectfully. Much of our day is filled with correspondence to make sure authors, narrators, and our engineers know what’s happening in production, and that their needs, whether artistic or schedule-related, are being addressed. The more attention you pay to this, the fewer problems you’ll deal with later down the line.

ACX: Thanks for the killer advice, folks!

Have you set up your own studio? What did you learn in the process?

APE This: ACX and Guy Kawasaki Launch Open Casting Call

ACX and Audible Studios are proud to announce our latest open casting opportunity! Audible studios is seeking a dynamic narrator to perform Guy Kawasaki’s inspiring and comprehensive guide to self publishing, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. All actors are invited to participate by recording their read of the audition script and uploading it to ACX. Audible Studios and Mr. Kawasaki will select the winning audition and Audible will produce the audiobook immediately upon announcing the chosen actor.

Guy Kapeawasaki is the author of eleven other books, including The Art of the Start and Enchantment, and is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web.

“I’m happy to be creating an opportunity to encourage entrepreneurial actors. I’m continually amazed at how many great actors are embracing this burgeoning art form and I can’t wait to listen to all the auditions that come in.” Said Mr. Kawasaki.

The audition text for APE can be found at www.acx.com/ape. In order to upload an audition you’ll simply need to create an ACX account. Auditions are open Monday July 22 – Monday July 29 at 5:00PM ET. After submitting your read of APE, browse our 2,900 + additional titles and find your next audiobook gig.  We can’t wait to hear your voice!

Do you think you have the perfect voice for Guy Kawasaki’s APE? Tell us why in the comments!