R.A.P. Interview: Marice Tobias

R.A.P.: This "new read" sounds a lot like the "half voice" delivery Bob Magruder discussed in a recent interview.
Marice: Yes. Everybody has a way of describing it, but I work much more from the psychology of something rather than the actual technology of it. I don't work technically. When I coach people, I don't have them wear headphones; and privately, we don't work with a microphone. I work on their performance skills, and I work on them developing the same sensitivity to their work as a performer on stage. There's a tremendous difference. Even Bill Young mentioned in an interview once, after I had worked with him and his staff, that just not using the headphones makes such a difference in your delivery because you then have an intimacy and a directness with your audience. Here's the analogy that I use: did you ever have the opportunity to be sitting opposite someone in a restaurant with your back to a mirror, so that as the person is talking to you they can see themselves? You'll get the same effect in that they are so distracted and so enamored with their own reflection that they're really not communicating with you a hundred percent. They're just fascinated, like Narcissus, and it's the same thing with the headphones.

Now, if you have to work with timing, move with a jingle or something like that, obviously you have to wear them, but you wear them while you're doing the work. Also, some of the studios are set up where the only way you can hear the producer is through the headphones, but I encourage you to put them on and take them off so that when you're actually performing, if you don't have to hit cues, take the headphones off. I've gone to the mat with performers all over the country, particularly when we're about to do their [demo] tape, and at the last minute they get very nervous and say, "I really would feel much more secure [with the headphones]." With this one performer in Detroit, I said, "Alright, let's pick one piece of copy we're going to record today, and let's do it both ways, with and without the headphones. You pick which read you think is better, and that's the way we'll go." Invariably, they always pick the read without the headphones. It's always their choice, but I'm certainly not quiet about which way I prefer. It works... like gangbusters.

R.A.P.: In your workshops, do you not work with mikes either?
Marice: We do a little bit of recording in my workshops. I do two seminars right now. The first seminar is either an evening or a full day depending on the city and the size of the group. I do some recording at the beginning of the day or the evening and at the end. That is simply a reference to show these people how quickly they have shifted their read. But the workshop is not getting up, working at a microphone, and having someone say, "Oh, that was good. Very nice. Next." That's not how I run it at all.

R.A.P.: Do you think that, as with the headphones, some people, once they get behind the mike, become mike shy and lessen the effectiveness of their read?
Marice: Yes. They become mike shy, they shift into another voice, or they do something else.

R.A.P.: How do you overcome that?
Marice: I teach them to work with the technique that I show them for a while and not do playback, to just get in relationship to what it feels like. I work with feelings. I work with emotions. Those are our true barometers, our intuition. For a lot of people I work with, it's the first time anyone has demanded that of them, or introduced them to the idea of working any way other than technically and with what it sounds like. This is particularly true with the broadcast back-ground. The broadcast mentality is so different from voice-over. When I work with someone from broadcast they say, "You know, this is like me teaching you to write with the other hand." It's the same, only different; and there's a pull. There's almost a feeling of disloyalty that comes when you help someone make a shift like that. There's a transition period where the old ways are still pulling you, and the news ways are still not that familiar. During that period of time, I ask them not to record themselves because I really want them to have a different relationship with their work. Then, once you hear yourself played back, it's an objective view. It's not like you'll say, "Oh, is that how I did?" You'll know how you did because you'll feel it.

It's very exciting when I'm working with someone from broadcast and, in the middle of a read, they stop themselves and say, "That doesn't feel right." They know I've helped them make the transition.

R.A.P.: It seems that people from broadcast get stuck with that "radio" delivery.
Marice: Yes. We can go all the way back to public speaking which is the way that society informed the masses with information. That was a very oratorical style because it was in the Town Hall or a large auditorium, and masses of people came to hear one speaker. When the shift to broadcast came, the technology was there, but the style remained the same. That's why all those corny reads of the early broadcast days are so charming in their innocence, but they were talking to masses and masses of people. Then, for many years, the entire nation would listen to one voice the same way. There were two networks, the red and the blue. As the proliferation of networks and stations continued, you had much more narrowcasting than the business really acknowledged. It's only very recently that the business realizes that at any one time you're really only talking to one person. That's one of the reasons why I help shift the read. That announcer style, that generic read to everybody and nobody, doesn't connect. Part of that is because our communication style has changed. The human potential movement has put new ways of communicating into our daily life, and our applied art has to reflect that.

I felt that voice-over was sort of the last bastion of the oratorical read, and it wasn't syncing up with the rest of the applied arts. Of course, commercials and MTV are really breaking new ground every day, but I felt the companion there -- voice-over -- was lagging pretty far behind.

What we have now are people talking to people. More so than ever before, you're going to see on scripts, "No announcers please." "Not an announced read." "Guy next door" -- very conversational and very easy going because people don't want to be sold anymore. They want to be informed. They want to be enlightened. They want to feel there's some sort of caring behind the message.

R.A.P.: Do you think this same approach to delivering a message also applies to how a disk jockey says what he or she says on the air?
Marice: Oh yes. Several of my clients work for some of the networks, independents, and some of the cable companies. Even "coming up next" can either communicate or not communicate. I did a session for a client who works for The Family Channel, and his producer sat in while I directed him over phone patch. It was amazing. One of the producers said, "Gee, I now want to watch the movie." Anything you say delivered properly will communicate and communicate much more effectively if the intention is there, rather than it being what I call a mindless read. The mindless read has to do with time. It has to do with getting the information out, and there's no relationship between the performer and the material. A lot of broadcasters traditionally wanted that non-relationship. In the legal field, it's called a fiduciary relationship -- "We're not saying yes; we're not saying no." We're just telling you. It's like a newscaster's read. It's a very journalistic approach to the read.

The way I describe the difference between a broadcast read and a voice-over read is that in a broadcast read you say, "they're having a sale." In a voice-over read you say, "we're having a sale." I think that's the clearest distinction between the two arenas.

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