R.A.P. Interview: Marice Tobias

R.A.P.: It's interesting you use those lines because at most stations, copy written in-house is written in the third person.
Marice: Exactly. The DJ is the uninvolved observer. The voice-over performer is the voice of the company.

R.A.P.: Are you suggesting that writing copy that way, as we do in radio, is hurting the delivery?
Marice: I don't know. I mean, stylistically, you've got [spots] running right against those that are saying "we," and they're a little more invitational, a little more personal. And then you have these "sponsor ads." I don't know. I'd like to see a station be brave and try it.

R.A.P.: But stations intentionally write in the third person.
Marice: Yes they do, because the DJ is on every day, and they're reading spots for all the grocery stores in town, not just the one. So, I don't know what the solution is, but I do know what the result is. That individual ad does not have the same kind of connectiveness that the ad delivered by a voice-over performer has. There's just a distance there that's created.

R.A.P.: With your techniques, can a person do a great job on any kind of copy?
Marice: Anything. You can give anything a great read.

R.A.P.: It doesn't have to be some spectacular piece of copy to pull it off?
Marice: No. But it helps. Like anything else, the better it is, the better chance you'll have with it. But, if you know what you're doing, you can help the writing immeasurably. That's one of the reasons a lot of the performers that are working all the time in various cities keep working all the time. They have a knack for bringing something to life, for finding the writer's intent, even though it may have been obliterated by too many re-writes, and the client getting involved, and the legal department getting involved, and having too many copy points and too little time. But a good performer will be able to pick out what the intent is and ride with it.

R.A.P.: You made a reference to "creative blocks." What are those?
Marice: Well, you have to go back to my premise about this work, and that is that the voice is the mirror of the mind, and nowhere else in your personality are you more revealed than in your voice. So, a lot of stuff that's going on for you as a person -- value judgments, issues in your own life, even though you're supposed to be professional and leave all that at the door when you come to work or step into the booth -- so much of this is unconscious and shows up in the work in such subtle ways. It's what I call the most lethal and most subtle aspect of this work because it's going on at such a level that unless you're sensitized to it, you don't know it's showing up.

Performers will call me and say, "I'm doing great reads. My agent loves what I'm doing, but I'm not booking." I know exactly what's going on. They come in, and I have them read. I have an ability to listen to someone read and then tell them what's going on for them personally. It's a gift that I have. I was told by a psychic -- Since I'm from California, it's okay for me to talk about this -- I was told by a psychic a couple of years ago that I am what is called audio-voyant, so that I read off of voices in the same way a clairvoyant reads off of something they hold, and object. I can listen to someone, and I can pretty much tell what it is that's going on for them.

I hit on this years ago when I was listening to someone read a piece of copy. I always listen with my eyes closed, and the only thing that's going on is the delivery of the message. I said to this performer: "Are you vegetarian?" He was astonished, and he said, "How did you pick that up?" I said, "I think it was the way you said the word 'meat'."

R.A.P.: Wow! Hence the name "Voice Shrink."
Marice: Right. So it sometimes gets a little scary what I can pinpoint that's going on for someone, and I can do it very quickly. All I have to do is hear them read a piece of copy. I can also pick it up in conversation, but people tend to be guarded in conversation, especially when they first call me. They're in their very best voice. They're wearing their Sunday best. Yet, when they're reading, they're not really noticing. They're not covering up. They're not controlling it as much, and that's when it shows up.

Amazingly -- not that I'm looking to do this -- I've helped people make some pretty dramatic shifts in their personal lives by virtue of what it is I picked up in a read.

R.A.P.: Do you have any formal education in psychology?
Marice: I have a minor in psychology. It's the same information we all got, but it is an absolute love of mine. I do a lot of reading in that area, but no, I don't have a degree. Therefore, when I get to a point where I realize I'm in way above my head with someone, I will recommend that they go get the kind of counseling they need to get. A couple of times I've said to people, "I can't continue working with you because I can't really hear what's real for you until we get rid of this issue."

I'm very, very circumspect about that. I don't want to take the responsibility. I can't take the responsibility. It's just not what I do. But I can certainly surface something and then suggest what it is that could be productive for them as a person as well as a performer.

R.A.P.: What are some basic tips you have for producing a demo tape?
Marice: I produce tapes very, very differently than most people do. That's because I have a theory -- I seem to have a theory about everything (laughs) -- but my theory is that if you cut a demo tape simply from what you've done, then you're always working from your past. A lot of times, what you've done will keep getting you the same kind of work, but performers get frustrated. Everyone has more to offer than what they've been asked to deliver. For per-formers who want to expand their career, I believe in putting a tape together that reflects what you're capable of doing now, not just what you've done. Now that doesn't mean to put something on there that's a lie. When I go into the studio with someone, I go in because I believe they're now competitive on a national level because that's where the business is going. I also will put things on there they may not have even thought they were capable of doing, but in working with them we found out they were. The first audience for the tape is the performer himself because, a lot of times, what happens is somebody calls and says, "I can't believe it's me." And yet, they know it is them, and they know they can deliver that work consistently. If it's just something they came up with once or twice, it doesn't go on the tape. But if they are consistently capable of that style, that insight, then it goes on the tape because that's what they are capable of, and the community should know that.

The second audience for a tape, in most of the cities I go to, is the agent. Then of course it's the buyers, or as they say in Canada, the "engagers," which I think is a lovely term.

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