JV: You’re also doing some coaching, is that right?
Terri: The coaching has come out of the same thing, people asking, “Where do I find a good teacher?” There are great teachers out there, but I’m like, “I know what I’m doing. I’ve directed for years.” I’ve directed a lot of spots, and I have a ball doing it. I take a very small amount of people. I do three, four people a week, a little group. Once in a while I’ll do a class. I think what I’m going to do is a monthly VIP on my website. I haven’t figured out the price yet. I’m going to offer a monthly tutorial, a one to two hour thing. Every single month, they get a different tutorial based on some great aspect of the business. They can also download three or four scripts. Some months I’ll have interviews. They can email me questions. I’ll try to figure out a way to maybe allow people within that one month to call me for a fifteen minute private type of thing.
So that’s something I’m trying to generate on the website. I have not gotten that going yet. I was trying to get the video and the audio done and wait until this book came out, but I’m going to start my emailing process and see whoever wants to join. They’re going to get a pass code. They can just go online, and all through the month, that same tutorial will be up. They can stop it and start it. They can get the scripts, and it will be on different subjects every single month. I go through all the avenues of what you get when you are in a classroom for four or five hundred dollars a month.
JV: Most of our readers are in radio, and we’ve always heard about how coming from radio is a curse in the VO business. How do you address people from radio that want to excel in the voiceover business?
Terri: Hopefully what a lot of people in radio have done is they’ve done a lot of commercials that have come through the station that are nonunion, where a script came in and the DJ reads it. Now here’s the difference. I’ve taught Broadway actors as well just as much as DJ’s, and when you’re playing a DJ, for lack of a better way to say it, you’re still playing a mood. It depends what your sell is as a DJ, as a radio personality. Are you fun, energetic, and enthusiastic? Then that is exactly the mood which will only fit for that particular spec for going into radio or television as a VO person. And by the way, you have to understand, when you’re being that DJ guy, you’re representing who you are for that two hours or however long you’re on the air — low key, calm, cool. There are DJs that are low key, calm, and cool. They’re not all high energy. Low key, calm, cool — that’s a jazz station or whatever it is. If that fits into those specs, then you’re right on the money.
Beyond that, you’ve got to still understand it’s still acting. You still have to understand, “Okay, I’m Tom, I’m a DJ. When I’m doing my DJ thing, I’m in this particular mood, because I’ve got to be hyped up. I’ve got to get everybody excited.” Tom, you’ve got to realize, in that vocal quality that you’re representing to the public is a fun, high, energetic read. That’s that kind of sell that it is. That’s only going to work when Toyota calls for fun, high energy. Now the thing within the voiceover business is understanding all the nuances. It’s very small scales of change. Warm it up. That doesn’t mean do anything else except for knowing exactly how much to warm it up, and that takes practice. It takes auditioning and it takes time and looking at scripts to understand. A lot of people will take a script and just be all over the place with it. I don’t think DJs have any harder of a time. I know a lot of guys that were DJs that are now making a great living in it. The difference is, they just have to look at it as a different aspect of the business. As a DJ, they were just being a DJ at that particular time.
I don’t want to get too specific, but you break it down in a sense into a beginning, middle, and end. It tells a story. I’m playing a pregnant woman. I’m about to give birth. I’m in the car with my husband who’s some fat actor that I’ve never met before. I’ve got a parking ticket on my car. I’m a little tired and I have to go in and be very, very nervous and happy at the same time, and nine months pregnant, and my husband’s just gotten pulled over by a cop. That’s the scene of a stupid radio spot. I have to actively create it. You have to actively be in that mood and do it. So it’s no different for a DJ. It’s no different for a Broadway actor. They just have to know the nuances of how big to get, how small to get, but we make active choices. So if it says, “Warm, trusting, keep it real,” those are specs that are going to naturally pull in the people that fit that vocal quality. But what’s in that? You had a lousy day, you had a great day. I have to all of a sudden get into the quality of warm, trusting, and whatever. I think it’s just a general note that I think they say that the DJs probably overact a little bit and push the words just like people on Broadway do.
But the problem is, people just need to realize it has nothing to do with the voice. The cool quality of the voices come out when you just throw your voice away, when you just pick the mood and throw the words away. It doesn’t matter who it is, even if it’s a guy that’s an attorney and never been in the business. The DJs know the mike technique, and they understand the nuance of the sell, but they’ve got to realize what they’re selling. They’ve got to know what they’re selling.
I listen to AM a lot, and when you hear them do a commercial, they’re not picking a mood. They’re just being Dr. Laura Schlessinger on the air, selling whatever it is, or Howard Stern does the same thing. He’s a DJ guy, and then a spot will come in, and he’s got to talk about it. What he has not done is pick a POV, a point of view, a mood, and every actor, regardless what background you come from, you have to pick a mood and understand, even within your vocal quality, what mood you’re coming from. But there’s a great market out there for DJs or radio people, because they already have so much access to make money in that avenue because they know a lot of people in the business. I’ve worked with a lot of guys that were all radio guys, and really all it is, is getting more specific in their reads, and defining exactly what the product is at that particular moment. It’s a very easy choice.