Join Voice Over Expert Pat Fraley in his podcast lesson, “Anatomy of a Character Voice Demo.” Hear the process of an actual character voice over demo being produced including the selection and creation of evocative characters, appropriate music, and doing what’s needful in a timely way.
Transcript of Anatomy of a Character Voice Demo
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It has never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
This week, Voices.com is pleased to present Pat Fraley.
Pat Fraley: Hi. This is Pat Fraley and this is kind of an anatomy of a character voice demo. The talent by the way is Pamela Chollet. Our goal was to produce a character voice or animation demo comprising of about a dozen evocative, unique and developed characters.
The first step was to have Pamela start recording her characters at home and one by one, send them to me via e-mail in MP3 files. She would slate in character in record. I told her not to worry about being clever. We’ll deal with scene and dialog later. I would listen to her efforts and e-mail her notes on adjusting the characters. I would give her notes on the various characters hopefully to advance her efforts. Sometimes, the characters were not evocative enough. They were characters that I had kind of heard before and they needed to be her own swing on them making them more unique.
Sometimes, the characters lack development and as much as they weren’t motivated and the acting was weak or they didn’t have an agenda meaning a pervasive condition or agenda like fame, attention, being naive. I guess it averaged out to be about two exchanges on each character.
Here’s a recording of what she did at home on a character she named Fontaine Belford, an aging actress.
Pamela Chollet: Darling, it’s Fontaine, Fontaine Belford. And I’m about to give you the greatest single audition ever given anywhere by anyone. Your emotions will go up, down, in, out and beyond with my stunning array of incredibly perfect choices. I will weep, dance, love and walk as every man and as no man. Acting, above acting. Fission, baby. Fission! I will flare. I will sear. I will be on fire. Line.
Pat Fraley: After she accumulated her 15 to 18 characters, it came time to write the scene or dialog piece. This is a critical stage. Eighty percent of all character work for animation is comedy-driven. So we had to be funny, very funny, not just cute or humorous. Like one of my mentors Bob Holt used to tell me, it’s not good enough to make them laugh. You got to make them bleed from the ear.
Most often, the demos I hear are just not funny. They’re on the way to funny but they’re not and part of the importance of writing is selecting a location or the perfect location in situation for the character, the perfect scene and focus on whom the character is speaking to. They had to be brief so we could end up with about a dozen characters in a one-minute plus demo. When we were close to the dialog we wanted, we went to the studio and started recording. Really, we only recorded a few of the characters because the MP3 she sent me were so clean and she’s very clever, which is unusual. And so, she was coming up with funny lines that we could use. That was out of the ordinary. By the time we had accumulated the characters, we were in a position also to see an emerging style to them.
With Pamela’s unique low, dusty voice and her sort of bent sense of humor, it was a no-brainer to focus on those characters she did best and where she would be hired, femme fatales, old broads, quirky characters and a couple that were totally outside that range to show the potential of range. For the character Fontaine, we decided we would use that as the first character on her demo and be responding to the announcer who slates her name.
I like the sound of an upper class Brit introducing character voice demos. The contrast between stuffy and silly works well to my ear. I was tapped to do the announcer for her like this.
We recorded her line in the studio. Here’s how I directed her.
What you want to do is back off the mic and, “No,” like you – and I go, “Pamela Chollet!” Right? “Pamela Chollet” And you go, “No, just Pamela. Like Cher!” Like you have the idea about Cher before you say it and then I want you to do it once where you go, “No. Pamela! Like Cher.” That’s when it comes to – you know what I mean? Two different way – I think – just give me a one two three.
Pamela Chollet: No, just Pamela, like Cher. No! Just Pamela, like Cher! No, just Pamela! Like Cher.
Pat Fraley: Give me, “Like Cher,” a couple of those.
Pamela Chollet: Like Cher! Like Cher. Like Cher.
Pat Fraley: Very good. I was on the button.
Pamela Chollet: Like Cher.
Pat Fraley: After editing the lines, these are the raw takes married.
Pamela Chollet: No! Just Pamela! Like Cher.
Pat Fraley: Now, it was a matter of music and sound effects. I wanted old school, corny acting music. I found this.
Pat Fraley: Then, just as a concept really, we liked the idea of placing her in a stuffy apartment with a nasty little rat dog in her lap. Here’s the dog.
Pat Fraley: Here’s the mixed snippet.
Pat Fraley: Pamela Chollet.
Pamela Chollet: No! Just Pamela! Like Cher.
Pat Fraley: We repeated this process for the rest of the demo. I decided in post-production to put some characters on the phone, some with music behind them, some dry without sound effects, some with sound effects to place them in an actual scene. Here’s the final result.
Pat Fraley: Pamela Chollet.
Pamela Chollet: No! Just Pamela! Like Cher!
It’s Mary. Just Mary.
I guess that’s when he hit me. When I woke up, he was running my head through the check-out then trying to get a price on me.
The hounds are nipping at our heels. But tonight, we dance.
And all I remember after that was seeing my ten pudgy fingers pulling and twisting and gouging out the candies and just shoving them in my mouth.
Did that hurt? Oh, blood. Eek! I may have to sit down and put my head between my knees.
And welcome back to our show. The show that is all about you.
Let me tell you. There’s more laughs than computers and machines.
I am big. It’s the microphones that got small. [laughs]
Pat Fraley: Know that all performers have a different journey on their demo. Some have more characters available to begin with. Some need more time accumulating their list. Some are more facile with coming up with comedic lines. Some need guidance in establishing their style. It’s all a matter of doing what’s needful in a timely way. I hope you found this helpful. And thanks for listening.
Julie-Ann Dean: To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voiceover Experts show notes at Podcasts.Voices.com/VoiceoverExperts. Remember to stay subscribed.
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Julie-Ann Dean: This has been a Voices.com production.
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Your Instructor this week:
Patrick Fraley has created voices for over 4,000 characters, placing him among the top ten performers of all time to be cast in animation. He has produced dozens of award-winning audiobooks, such as, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Very Easy Death, and The Light in The Piazza. Pat produced and performed all 100 voices on the award winning audiobook, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which People Magazine hailed as, “The best yet of this evergreen.” Patrick teaches events, workshops, and seminars on various aspects of voice over across the country, and has created a variety of instructional books and CDs, all available at PatFraley.com. He is a member of The Voice and Speech Trainers of America, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Professional Acting from Cornell University.