Voicetrax class with Samantha ParisThe business of the voice-over has taken directions the founder of a Sausalito studio and academy never imagined when she started it 20 years ago.

A successful voice actress at the time, Samantha Paris had experience doing voices for cartoon characters, commercials and film narratives in Los Angeles, but she never imagined she would offer the range of classes that she does at Voicetrax San Francisco Inc., based in Sausalito.

Voicetrax’s curriculum includes more than 100 workshops and seminars for students at all levels, as well as individual coaching. Its clients include news anchors and trial attorneys who want to improve their presentations, as well as professional voice actors.

Classes cover acting, narration, dialogue, animation and audition techniques. But newer classes have been developed to meet modern-day needs that were created largely by advances in technology. For instance, Paris has introduced a directing class because agents increasingly expect actors to be able to audition from home – without a director.

“Technology is pulling me,” Paris said. “I have to stay on top of it. There are more voice-over opportunities than ever before.”

New business has come in the form of multimedia, podcasts, telephone prompts, Web voice work, walking tour guides and audiobooks. Paris, 47, has been a voice actor for 32 years and admits she has run the business living on the edge.

“It’s my life. It’s my passion,” Paris said. “Your business plan is you’re going to wake up every day and do what you love.”

Paris said although hers is the only such business in Marin, she is aware of two other similar businesses in San Francisco.

When Paris moved from Los Angeles to Sausalito 20 years ago, only a handful of actors in San Francisco were doing voice-over work. That surprised her because many of the scripts she read in Los Angeles were from advertising agencies in the Bay Area.

As she picked up work and got to know people in the industry, she found that the Bay Area did not have a large pool of voice-over artists, so the agencies sent scripts directly to Los Angeles.

Before long, students were coming to her for coaching, and Voicetrax was established in a hall closet in her home. As the business grew, Paris added a casting service after local producers were asking for talent.

“It signaled a huge shift in the ad agencies’ attitude toward the Bay Area talent pool,” Paris said. “It showed that they were becoming more open to the idea of hiring locally for their high-profile campaigns.”

Chuck Kourouklis started with Voicetrax as a student and now works in the studio. He said voice acting can be more tricky than performing on a stage because the actor must connect with an audience without physical gestures.

There is more to voice acting than training, he said.

“You need to learn how to act and learn the process of seeking representation and getting auditions,” Kourouklis said.

Source: Marin Independent Journal

Image: Samantha Paris directs students while teaching a class at Voicetrax in Sausalito. Her voice-over training program is celebrating its 20th anniversary. (IJ photo/Jeff Vendsel)

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