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  1. At a time when gender balance is a topic thoroughly in the spotlight throughout the media, I felt I would delve into the history of women in advertising and showcase the true power of the female voice.

    Advertising is a key part of our popular culture and having spent years writing and narrating copy for the likes of L'Oreal and YSL it make me reflect on just how far has the female voice come in this industry. Here I take a brief look back at the evolution of the female voice in advertising and note some of the reasons why a female Voice Over (VO) may be more suitable for your media campaigns.

    A history of women’s voice in advertising 

    female-ads

    Gender roles in our society have changed dramatically since the 1950s, and so too have our adverts. The progress that has been made in media concerning the portrayal of women and gender equality, mirrors how society has developed over the past 60 years. 

    In 1972, English author John Berger famously summed up the roles of men and women in media by stating, “Men act and women appear.”  It was often the case that women were simply in the frame to sell a product, but not to speak. This was supported by Jean Kilbourne’s 1979 documentary film series “Killing Us Softly” which shed further light on to gender bias in advertising.  Having produced periodic, in-depth research Killbourne noted that in most cases female actors were just used for their appearance to showcase the product and they were never given a voice, or at best only played a supporting role to the male lead. And when they did have a speaking part, either as a voice over actor (VOA) or even a leading on-screen role, it was only to sell products that were specifically targeted to women, such as skin-care and beauty products, or cleaning supplies.

    Where once men dominated 91% of voiceovers in the mid 70s, by 1998 that number had dropped to 80%, illustrating a growing, albeit steady, step toward gender parity. This was at a time when as women’s voices became louder off-screen, so too were their voices louder on-screen. Big name companies such as Apple and Nike were making big strides to closing the gender gap, and their attempts showed in their campaigns. Gender roles had changed from what they were in the 50’s and this was beginning to be reflected in the advertisements of this time.

    In the adverts of today, when you consider the voice over industry, gender awareness is now coming to the forefront. The way audiences consume media, and the audiences themselves, has changed significantly, and this has placed more scrutiny on the images and voices that represent, or fail to represent, them. Now female voice over artists are specifically hired to cover a wide range of gender-neutral products and services that were once exclusively covered by men, including the likes of cars, banks, airlines and technology.

    Since the time that TV and radio advertisements began, it’s long been held that a man’s voice somehow “cuts through” to the audience better than a woman’s, but now more than ever before, big industries are turning to the power of the female voice over to sell their products, and it’s proof that many of the adages no longer apply.

    Benefits of using a Female Voice Over?

    A Female Voice can Target a Wider Audience

    A study in the Journal of Advertising looking at the effects of male and female voices in ads, found that although the voice over gender didn’t matter for male-oriented or neutral products, the gender did matter for female oriented products. That means, that a female voice can be effective for male-associated products, but a male voice is rarely suitable for those targeting a female audience.

    The Trust Factor

    A feeling of trust can happen within an instant, even after just a single word is spoken in fact. Psychologist Phil McAleer produced a study with the University of Glasgow and found that female voices were considered the most trustworthy.  Because females tend to be the more nurturing gender by nature, their voices are generally softer, sound more compassionate, understanding, and overall less aggressive.  This is often why there’s now a very current trend for female voice overs to produce content for the likes of life or car insurance, banking and even car advertisements.

    The Unexpected can Generate a Response

    Historically, male voices have been chosen for male-dominated audiences and female voices for those containing more women. But, as I noted above, the trend for gender norms is changing for today’s society. By using a female voice in a typically male-dominated setting (and vice versa), this can give the audience an unexpected surprise and generate a greater response to the advertisement. 

    lorraine

    Having spent over 15 years working as a marketing, comms and PR writer as well as professional female voice over artist for various large companies and organisations, I have witnessed first-hand the rise of the female voice in TV and radio ads. I have written copy for adverts and press releases over the years and although there are great benefits for choosing a female voice for your campaigns, the bottom line is not always down to the gender of your VOA, but rather that you have a professional, experienced actor who reaches your target audience—this lends the ad more credibility, and therefore more persuasion. 

    Be persuasive with every element you have, visual and aural. 

  2. UK audio dramas 2018

    In recent years I’ve found myself becoming increasingly more excited by the resurgence of audio dramaI am a voice over artist after all!  Far from old-time radio dramas or those tired story tapes we had as children, this modern, on-the-go entertainment offers well produced, expertly acted, and downright addictive stories from the classic to the contemporary.

    Last year I played the part of Maria Thorpe in Audible Original Drama Northanger Abbey alongside the brilliantly talented Emma Thompson, Lily Cole and Eleanor Tomlinson. It was a wonderfully creative experience putting a new spin on an old classic, and only heightened my excitement for the future of audio dramas.

    Northanger-abbey-image

    Available to download and listen to almost instantly, audio dramas represent all flavours of fiction. What’s great is the infinite possibilities of the forms stories can take in this medium, particularly as the audio drama movement is only just beginning.

    If you are yet to get stuck into these fiction podcasts, here are a few of the top UK audio dramas I recommend you check out this year.

    1.    Black Eyed Girls—Katie Hims

    Winning BBC’s Best Audio Drama Series 2018, Katie Hims’ audio drama Black Eyed Girls is a beautifully touching, emotional story. This poignant drama follows the lives of separated twins who spend over 60 years searching for each other.  One of radios most cherished writers, Katie Hims has created yet another breath-taking script which has been accompanied with wonderful acting.

     2.    The Sky is Wider—Linda Marshall Griffiths

    Winner of the prestigious Best Single Drama award at the 2017 BBC Audio Drama Awards, The Sky is Wider explores the neurology and ethics surrounding the treatment of a patient with minimal consciousness.  Written by Linda Marshall Griffiths, it was developed in consultation with Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, Anil Seth, to create a very current, stimulating and deeply moving radio play.

    dan-dare-the-audio-adventures-image

     3.    Dan Dare: The Audio Adventures— Andrew Sewell, B7 Media

    If you’re looking for a truly exciting series of sci-fi adventure then you just have to check out the adventures of Dan Dare. Under the expert direction of Andrew Sewell, this audio drama series shapes and transforms the original stories of this heroic action figure by bringing together a sensational script, an all-round electric cast (most notably Ed Stoppard as Dare, Heida Reed as Peabody and Geoff McGivern as Digby) and fabulous music (by Imram Ahmad) to deliver pure audio greatness.

     4.    Neverwhere—Neil Gaiman, adapted by Dirk Maggs

    Ok, so this adaptation may be a few years old now, but if you’re new to audio dramas it is a great story to start you off.  Neverwhere is a six-part dramatisation of Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel, which follows the story of protagonist Richard Mayhew on a journey through ‘London Below’, a bizarre, and much more dangerous version of the real London we all know on the surface. Featuring an all-star cast including James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, and Benedict Cumberbatch, this is not to be missed.

     5.    Midnight’s Children—Salman Rushdie, adapted by Ayeesha Menon

    Heralded as ‘radio drama of the year’, this is a fantastic serialisation of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 best-selling novel Midnight’s Children. The story follows the life of Saleem Sinai who was born on the stroke of midnight the day his subcontinent was partitioned by religion into India and Pakistan. Ayeesha Menon has created a dazzling dramatization of this realist masterpiece with a superb cast.

     6.    Life Lines—Al Smith

    This tense drama goes behind the scenes of an ambulance control centre where we’re introduced to ambulance call handler Carrie. Each time the phone rings it’s a matter of life or death. A truly gripping series, Life Lines conveys the story through a magnificent script and a cast that really captures the enormity of each phone call.

  3. Much like TV and film, video games offer their audience an effective means to get close to challenging and current issues or subject matter, usually through the leading characters.  It is for this reason that BAFTA has long recognised the profound social impact of video games and championed the power this creative industry holds.

    Video games use storytelling to transport the audience to new realms, new feelings, and new adventures within a digital medium.  The stories themselves come to life through characters that are portrayed by carefully selected Voiceover Artists who add authenticity and depth to the experience.

    As I prepare to attend the BAFTA 2018 awards as part of the BAFTA Crew Games programme, I wanted to look at some of my favourite female voice actors in videos games to see how they’ve used their skills to bring new characters to life.

    IMG_7552

    Cortana, Halo (Jen Taylor)

    First seen in Halo: Combat Evolved, Cortana is a smart, female Artificial Intelligence voiced by Jen Taylor. As a predominant theatre actor Jen prepares for her roles by recognising the emotion portrayed by the characters.

    At video game event E3, Jen said “A lot of video games require us to think and act in the moment…it was fun to [get to play Cortana], it felt more like a Greek drama to get to those highs and those lows. I was excited to get to explore the emotional side of this non-human character.”

    As such an iconic video game personality, Cortana became the inspiration behind Microsoft's intelligent personal assistant of the same name, also voiced by Jen.

    Lara Croft, Tomb Raider (2013, Camilla Luddington)

    Lara Croft has long been a household name in both the Film and Gaming industries since the early 2000’s but the exploration of the Lara Croft character wasn’t truly captured until 2013 when the video game series was re-booted in style.  A big part of this was down to the mesmerising performance of Camilla Luddington who was motion-captured for the game and gave her voice to this fierce adventurer. A tense script, energetic action sequences and a pitch-perfect voiceover helped flesh Lara into a strong leading lady with real substance.

    Joyce Price, Life is Strange (Cissy Jones)

    The iconic Joyce Price is a strong, independent supporting character in the adventure video game series Life is Strange and is voiced by the memorable BAFTA winner Cissy Jones.

    With a whole range of video game credits under her belt, it’s likely that you would have heard Cissy in a number of other games, too, whether you realised it or not. As well as bringing Joyce Price to life, Cissy is also the lead actress in Firewatch, the voice of Katjaa in Telltale’s Walking Dead: Season 1, and Shel, the Guard, and Howe’s Intercom in Season 2, as well as having voiced many other supporting roles.

    Watching her scoop the BAFTA Games award for Best Performer last year was an incredible moment, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

    IMG_7555

    Elena Fisher, Uncharted (Emily Rose)

    Emily Rose supplies both the voice and motion capture for Elena Fisher in the best-selling video game franchise Uncharted.

    Not only is Emily a fantastic on-screen actor but she is also an accomplished voice-over having performed in all four Uncharted games of the series. Explaining how she works with the producers to make her character sound more realistic Emily said in an interview, “we found there was a lot of value in putting all the actors in the recording booth together, rather than recording our voice-overs individually, so we were able to improvise with each other and collaborate on the dialogue as we went along.” 

    Faith Connors, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst (Faye Kingslee)

    Faith Connors is the daredevil main protagonist of Mirrors Edge: Catalyst, voiced by Faye Kingslee.

    Video games have this great way of engendering empathy by allowing the gamer to experience the life of other people first hand. Developers placed Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst in a first-person perspective in part to connect the player with the character.

    In this video game series, Faye really captures the grit and determination of the powerful Faith Connors, and manages to transport the audience to a whole new world. In an interview Faye said, “Voiceover acting is very artistic. What I love about this industry is that there are so many avenues for creative expression.” In Mirrors Edge: Catalyst you can truly tell how much fun she had voicing this character.

    Ellie, The Last of Us (Ashley Johnson)

    Ashley Johnson claimed a BAFTA win for Best Performance after providing motion capture and voicing Ellie in video game The Last of Us.  She was instantly cast for the role due to her “strong and independent nature”, and was subsequently used in auditions to find actors suitable for the position of Joel, who is a main character alongside Ellie.

    “I've been doing voice overs since I was very young but The Last of Us was my first videogame and the first time I had done motion capture.  I would definitely do it again.” Ashley explained in an interview with The Independent.  Her BAFTA win is credit to her versatility as an actor and artist.

     

    BAFTA Games Awards 2018 Voice over talent

  4. Over the past year I have listened to over 2000 different voices, cast around 300 of them and recorded and edited them for clients in my role as both sound engineer and audio director. Being a voiceover talent is endlessly helpful in these sessions. 

    Voiceover audio engineer

    Being able to wear multiple hats is a great advantage because in this way I can fully appreciate the aims for each element that goes into producing great audio content for an audio production from a corporate video, an advert or an IVR message. 

    I am lucky to spend the day talking for a living but a key part of my work is spent listening as well. All the voices I spend the day listening to I also cast them for various projects. Then I often get to record them and direct the sessions. This past year I have gathered all the tips and tricks to ensure you are cast as a voice and deliver a good session;

    1. Reel - Have your voice at the start of the reel as soon as possible. When casting from a long list of voices, the longer the musical intro, the more likely I am to skip that reel and go to the next. I want to here your set of pipes not the composers. If you have real work on your reel, cut down and out any overly long audio that is not you. 
    2. Bespoke demo - When asked for bespoke demo, record and name the file exactly as the demo instructions have stated. A file that doesn’t conform to the naming instructions will often be deleted because if that isn’t saved correctly, will the same go for the session? Send it in quickly! First come first serve in many cases. 

    3. Read the copy - you’ve been cast, the job is booked and now you are in the booth. After spending my formative years, writing copy for L’Oreal I have written and seen my fair share of good and interesting copy. The copy is often being tweaked until the last moment. However once you get the copy read it out loud at least twice just to get your mouth and vocal cords used to the shape of them. In session, I can always tell if the voiceover artist has read it out loud or not or worse still not read the script at all! The clients I work with also can so ensure you arrive to the session with a read through already locked into your chops. If you get the script there and then read it out loud, there and then. Worry not about feeling awkward or embarrassed in front of clients, you need to articulate the copy so you sound great when I hit record.

    4. Breathe - breathe and breathe some more! If you are serious about being a voice, you need to learn about and love your breathing mechanism. Ensure that you develop your breathing, develop a deep understanding of your diaphragm. Take classes, work the exercises as if it is a gym class. When you get long copy, you should be able to either deliver effortlessly or break it down with breathing spots which not only work for the copy but also in places that the audio engineer can easily edit. Sloppy breathing, half breathes mean you will tire easily, the copy will not be read with the correct flow and the session will take longer making it inefficient. A loss of flow means a loss of intention and structure. If you are nervous breathing correctly will ensure cleaner calmer reads. 

    5. Listen - Many inexperienced voices are so eager to read the copy they forget to read the copy vocally and authentically. It is as if it is an inconvenience and if they read it quickly the session will end sooner. Listen to the client, the director and sound engineer. Yes your role as a voiceover is to talk. But a huge part of the job is actually to listen. What did they say about the pace? The tone? The cadence? What words must I hit? What should I not hit? Should it be a tickle or full upward inflection. 

     Be ready, be steady, be vocal.

    Lorraine Ansell FVO at work

  5. Important steps to follow when beginning your career as a voice actor following on from the previous post.

    A talented voice actor or narrator is a tremendous asset to any creative business. In the age of worldwide pushbutton entertainment, the opportunities for good presenters, female voice over, character voices and voice effects in the UK and abroad have never been greater. Numerous amateurs have found careers in the voice acting field, and for some, their big break wasn’t the result of an unlikely encounter with a big corporation or production company.

    There are many aspiring voice actors across the web. Some have online portfolios, whereas others do spoken word content, such as podcasts, character demos or dramatic performances. The audiobook field is also growing substantially, with applications such as Audible easily downloadable onto people’s smartphones. But being ready and willing to put in the hard work is just the first step for someone wondering how to become a voice actor. Then it’s a matter of getting your craft to the level it needs to be and finding reliable opportunities for work.  If you've made the decision to advance your career in this exciting field, here are some things to consider.

    Recording Studio

    Quality Equipment

    Nothing fatigues an audience faster than sub-standard audio quality. When setting up a home studio or seeking out a studio for your voice over, you must ensure the microphone is of the highest quality, and spend time making adjustments to your sound setup to make sure your recordings are undistorted and free of background noise. You need to be certain your audio hardware is capturing your voice at the correct timbre, and that you are producing audio data that provides the best fidelity when played back on the various devices used by consumers in the 21st century, particularly mobile.

    Sufficient quality microphones can be found at a reasonable price online and there are various tutorials you can follow to learn how to correctly install accessories. A suspension boom, also known as a microphone arm stand, must be strong and sturdy for maximum stability during a reading, and a pop filter is essential for reducing mouth noises for a clean read. Take your time with these steps, because every opportunity you have depends entirely on the quality of the product you can deliver that is a result of the  microphone, your audio hardware and how you use them both.

     

    Create a Demo Reel and Portfolio

    Once you are able to produce the best quality audio possible, you will need to produce a demo reel and portfolio so that prospective clients can sample your work before hiring you. This is often the most difficult step for a new voiceover artist learning how to do voice overs.

    It is here you will likely need to make a decision as to what type of voiceover work you want to pursue. A portfolio with a broad range of work demos will be far less effective than one with ten demos focused in the same category. For example, if you want to record audiobooks, you will be more successful with numerous examples of that type of recording than you would be including cartoon voices and commercial announcer demos.

    Offer your demo work in as many popular formats as you can, across multiple platforms and be  certain to include your general contact information along with your web address in each demo. You never know where those recordings will end up and the last thing you want is for a potential opportunity to be wasted because you are unidentifiable and uncontactable.

     

    Protect Your Rights

    Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, anything you record that is regarded as original, and exhibits a degree of labour, skill or judgement is automatically copyrighted to you. If you work for someone else or sign a contract as a freelancer or contributor be certain you reach an agreement regarding the disposition of that copyright, as your work's commercial value depends on it. For the most part, you should be willing to license your work to your clients in exchange for payment. But, if clients insist on buying all the rights to your works, make sure you are adequately compensated.

     

    Many people want to get into voice acting, so it can be a challenging industry to break in to. By taking professional steps in the appropriate order, you have a much better chance of not only finding lucrative work, but also of establishing a successful career. The key is making certain you produce to the highest quality, choose the most suited niche you can and always protect the value of your works.

    Keep Voicing! 

  6. Welcome 2018! Many people take stock at this point of the year and opt to change their lifestyles and explore their skills and talents they may have. Are you thinking about a change? Is voiceover something you feel drawn to and want to explore further? Fantastic - it is a magical job that I love and brings me great joy and peace as well as letting me play with emotions, characters and voices. One day you could be a hotel receptionist in an audio book or a small boy in an audio drama or simply reading out line after line of phone numbers or directions. If that sounds appealing then you are in for a treat. 

    Many people come and ask me how to become a voice over artist. As the wonderfully talented actor and voice of Yoda, Frank Oz said as the omnipresent character, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Being a successful voice over artist takes time, patience, talent, luck, persistence and resilience with a lot of doing and being.  

    Aim high

    When people ask me how they can be a voice over talent. I feel that the correct question is what do I need to become a voice talent. Needing all of the above words as well as some basic knowledge will serve you very well in your vocal journey. Through out the year I shall cover them in more detail but for a start here are a few items to get you on your way.

    Talent aside being a successful voice over artist requires hardware and software for the artistic, creative side as well as for the business management side. In no particular order, the below five areas highlight basic areas for where you will need to invest in and develop further.  

    1. Recording studio - many voices work from home in their own recording studio. Conduct your own research, learn and appreciate how you will need to use your space you already have to create your own studio. 
    2. Vocal practice - working long hours or on sessions that may wear you and your voice out happens a lot so invest in finding good exercises and how to manage your voice. Understand your voice and what it can do and look after it. Dancers and musicians look after themselves, their bodies and their instruments. As a voice over artist that is what you will need to do especially if you choose some vocally taxing voice over genres. Recognise if you need help and coaching and seek out coaches that suit you and what your goals are as a voice. 
    3. Voice Reels - once you are ready to record then go professional. Invest time and money to work with someone who has a track record in delivering excellent reels that book work and are aurally successful.  
    4. Technological appreciation - even if you are unsure about the technological side of things learn. From microphones to recording software there is a huge amount of information out there for you to choose from.  
    5. Business acumen - being a voice over artist is much more than just sitting and waiting for the agent to send you jobs. A lot of success is made by being proactive, having a full marketing complement to your business goals, being knowledgeable about rates, financial terms and knowing what you need to make it work for you. 

     Have a wonderful 2018 - may it be beautifully bountiful for you

    Happy New Year 2018

  7. November is more than just magical fireworks and gunpowder. It is all about plotting. With Christmas right around the corner, the New Year beckons and it is time for some magical planning for the voice over year ahead. This year I have been given an extra boost to my plan for 2018 by the wonderful team behind That’s Voiceover, Joan and Rudy Gaskins. They worked some incredible magic for a New York Style high octane spectacular for voiceovers. Thank you for making my female voiceover dreams come true! 

    Nancy Cartwright and Lorraine Ansell female voice talent together in NYC 2017

    Their show was incredible with a line up of audio drama played out with live sound effects to having animation heroine, Nancy Cartwright being honoured - yes, the voice of Bart Simpson! There are many great voicing moments throughout the weekend. A star studded gala event with the good and great gods and goddesses of global voiceovers. These talented voices gathering to celebrate the beauty of the voice. I was lucky to be a finalist and honoured to be one of the amazing nominees at this event. Having your name up huge with other amazing talent is a huge motivator.

    Outstanding e-learning best female voiceover

    What was clear is that planning and having a strong vision was key to the success of these talented people. Bob Bergen told a story, his plan to meet his hero Mel Blanc. A plan that involved phone books, a tall tale or two and dedication and ambition that led him to see his hero. That is just one of many examples of how to reach your dreams, you have to commit and act to make them happen. The main theme of the weekend was a comment stating that this is all there is. This is all there is. Yes, when you love voiceovers, when you have such a passion for this amazing industry, then yes, this is all there is. A lot of luck, a lot of talent and most of all, a lot of planned action. 

    Which brings me back to planning. Planning for the year ahead is important. To reach your dreams and live in them, set goals and work out how to reach them.  How best to do that? This is where the coloured pens and sheets of paper come in. I love to get creative, get messy and get thinking. I fill my sheets with ideas, information, wants, needs and anything else that pops into my head. Then I break those all down and work out what I need to do monthly to do that. The key for me is to explore ever more creative avenues. I have a good think about what big dream voiceover work I want to get involved with and start mapping it all out. 

    Here is my top 5 list of how to plan and get ahead:

    1. Make time: carve out a whole day if needs be, find some mental and environmental solitude, commit fully and explore. Turn off the phone, social media, emails and sit down to actually think, free of noise and drama. 
    2. Get ready: What medium do you prefer to brainstorm ideas with? I love my pot of coloured pens and pencils, sheets of paper and some dance music to set the mood. I have plenty of water with me, good food and the intention that something magical will appear.
    3. Get steady: breathe and take a moment and then….
    4. Go: Write all the ideas down. Avoid censoring yourself, just get it all down on paper and then like a great artist, step back and have a real look at what you have come up with.
    5. ACTION; As Nancy Cartwright said, yes luck but you need to put a whole lot of action in. 

    So now, after bubbling with excitement and a new found motivation for next year, what will be on my voiceover plate for 2018? I have so many voiceover ideas already, what shall it be next year? Commercial spots? Great games? Audacious audio dramas? Big dreams? Yes to all those and more please! 

    Plan, prepare, play.

     

    Dare to Dream

  8. Speaking and telling stories in voice over form is great and I love it. I love everything about this artistic voiceover industry; from the creativeness seeds planted at the beginning to the unleasing of the spoken word. The joy I experience when I encounter a vast white plain with black ants hurriedly arranged about the landscape that I have to vocalise is truly wonderful. However to conjure up that magic, there is one crucial ingredient that makes the difference between a good read and THE read. A sprinkling of this or a huge dollop can bring words and characters to life in ways that give them their own life and identity. I was lucky to be reminded of this at a voiceover conference in September. I was given the amazing opportunity to read in front of not one but two Disney Casting Directors! 

    Disney voiceover Lorraine Ansell animation

    What an opportunity! I was in the “Finding Nemo" Group and never have I felt such honour and thrill yet absolute fear. Not only to read in front of these Casting Directors who have seen it all and heard it all but to read animation sides in front of colleagues and friends with decades of experience. However and yes as this is Disney, magic happened. Cue the Fantasia theme because did we all go on one amazing Magical Castle of a journey. On day one with our group we were a little shell shocked (getting up early on a weekend and heading into London will do that to you). We read animation sides cold in front of Sarah Sherman who then commented with feedback and direction and we read again. I went first! I read for a character that I should have felt at ease with as I do this type of character a lot. A pre-teen who love magic and can fly! Whether it was the nerves, the room, the ambience but I felt my read was ok. Just ok. Despite me understanding all the guidance and feedback I hadn’t felt this character. I hadn't explored her needs. Fair enough it was a cold read for us all but I know what Sarah meant when she told me to go big. Something to work on. Fast forward that evening and with copious silliness during karaoke (I am always ready and always rumbling) our group gelled like only schools of fish can. 

    Day Two arrived and after an emotional and humanity inspiring talk by Damian Mark Smyth I felt a shift and we had this. As he says, ‘You are one thought away from a new experience." We knew what it was about. We all read animation sides for Arron Drown and maybe it was the space, the change of character or this magic ingredient but the whole room aced it. Disney Style. I read an animation side for a 6 year old fish stuck in her very own fish bowl. With seven different emotional states I took this fish for the ride of her life - which being in a fish bowl is quite something. When you make a whole room laugh not once but twice with your reads, you know you got this. Why? Because I let loose that magic ingredient. Simply, it was vulnerability. This state of being exposed of being judged emotionally is the magic dust for making the good great. Once you allow yourself that luxury and awareness, then, that is then the real magic happens. 

    To be vulnerable is to see yourself, know yourself and shower yourself with love and respect. Opening that door on vulnerability is the trick to unlocking that magical potential inside.  

    Top tips to encourage vulnerability;

    1. Be courageous - there is no right and wrong, just commit to that moment and be.
    2. KISS - Keep it short and simple. perfect moments that flow are made of instant actions and being that have no long drawn out thought processes behind it.
    3. Imagination - Open up to the vulnerability of the moment to let in imagination and exude real magic
    4. Breathe - Always breathe - it is a grand thing
    5. Simply Be - take all of the above and search for that magic and let it be. 

    Disney’s Frozen was right, letting go is the ultimate feeling of freedom. That moment when you feel and are a 6 year old fish in a fish bowl saving the world….the feeling of complete vulnerability, is the moment you fly. Thank you to "Finding Nemo" and everyone else that weekend who opened up and showed their own vulnerabilities. We became richer voices because of it. 

    You are one thought away

  9. Breathing is simple, you breathe in and out thousands of times a day and night. But are you breathing properly? To breathe properly is to actively acknowledge that breath in and out and knowing how to use your breath in a myriad of situations. It is important in daily life and as a voiceover artist it becomes a crucial part of your tool kit.

    Breathing is more than the two step process of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. This magical inhalation and exhalation process powers us. It has been shown to reduce stress hormones and dials down cortisol. For everyday life breathing mindfully can help us and for acting an awareness of breathing patterns can open doors to different characters and their state of mind.

    Breathing process

    Have you every practised breathing mindfully? When we go through everyday life we get caught up in the minutiae and tend to shallow breathe. Then when we look at our phones, type, or concentrate we tend to micro breathe, holding our breath more so than if we are simply walking to put the kettle on. By breathing improperly we risk being lesser versions of ourselves, in effect not getting enough oxygen into our bodies. Tensing up in a similar way during a voiceover session can also lead to tensing of the voice and the performance falters.

    How do we breathe? While we start breathing from the moment we are born, like many things we can practice to make it perfect. Being completely concious of the process and what you are trying to achieve enables you to breathe much more deeply. For performance whether for voiceover or presenting to people the extra breath may allow you to bring much more to the table. 

    To achieve best practice in breathing, try the following steps:

    1. Physical release work – this will help you release tension enabling you to more deeply breathe. Find a quiet moment, free of distractions and shake out the tension from your body. Check your postural alignment and centre yourself by standing with your feet hip width apart, straight unlocked legs and pull yourself up with an invisible elastic.
    2. Corseting – This is one of my favourite breathing exercises, not just for voiceover work but for everyday lift. Thanks to the wonderful voice coach Yvonne Morley who teaches this exercise, it really delivers. This negative state exercise makes your tummy soften, releasing the tension and drawing more of the breath in lower down. Have a go yourself. Place your hands on your lower abdomen, imagine wearing a corset, tightening those tummy muscles then release or Corset off. Practice putting the Corset on and then Corset off daily. When in a stressful situation you can quickly Corset off to encourage the breath.
    3.  Pause – when we deliver information, whether in a presentation or a character we need to develop story telling skills. Your audience needs to receive information in chunks and then they will need a chance to take on board the information. Pausing allows for that and more importantly, allows for you to take a moment to check in with yourself and breathe deeply again.
    4. Inspire – we inspire every day! The process of breathing in and being mentally stimulated have the same name! Flashes of inspiration can hit us to create all sorts of ideas. How interesting that the process of taking in much needed oxygen shares the name.

    These steps will enable you to become mindful, think more clearly and reflect on you and your needs. Inspire, breathe, be. 

    Inspire Breathe Be Lorraine Ansell voiceovers

     

    Top tip

  10. It has been a busy past few months in terms of character creation. I have been lucky enough to participate in not one but two courses on character creation. Having the ability to understand a character, develop it fully and do this in a blink of an eye is an incredible asset for any actor. As a British voice over it is something that I am very proud and honoured to say that I invest in myself so that clients know that I work hard at my art.

    In March I was on the amazing Dian Perry Character animation course. Dian is an incredibly talented and funny artist and watching her work is pure joy. So when a place on her course came up, I jumped at the chance.  There were so many acting gems and my favourite part was having to ADR an animated cartoon series. Best quote of the day was “If all the elements are the body then the rhythm is the soul”

    Rhythm

    Then in April, I booked straight onto Stephane Cornicard’s course. He is a well-known voice actor and director and I have been lucky enough to work with him and be directed by him. He has also been in a Bond film which is amazing. I love working with him and watching him in action is magical. So over a course of two days, we played, acted, and developed, over and over again with some lightening quick rounds of accent/language improvisation. You know you have truly let go when you can talk to a fellow actor in their own made up language, be a super hero’s sidekick, a policewoman Vampire and play a Bishop at the trial of Joan d’Arc. Stephane was great at getting up to examine character creation by “defining things by their opposites”.

    Pure Gold

    Apart from loving to learn and exercise my acting muscles, I do these workshops for fun. They are incredibly liberating and when performed right, you just feel the flow and are completely in the moment. Pure Gold. However I do this to be ready, to polish my craft, layer myself and understand how to layer characters and develop. I do them because I am inspired to improve myself because with hard work, practice and dedication comes amazing things.

    Bafta w Cissy and Rachael

    Last week, I saw how hard work, dedication, practice and patience saw an amazingly talented voice over artist win at the Bafta Games Awards. Female voice over artist, Cissy Jones is an acting inspiration, and many many congratulations for a well-deserved Bafta. Such a humble person who gave such a unifying speech to the voice over community, Cissy has not had a conventional route into voicing and yet has shone through with such magnificent talent that she inspires me daily! She also let me hold her Bafta. I was lucky to meet Nolan North and Troy Baker, such amazingly talented people and funny as well – the voice over dream team! Now, time for me to dream big! 

    Dream Team BFTAS