R.A.P. Interview: Marice Tobias

R.A.P.: Have female voices made any inroads into the voice-over business outside of "super-sexy" and "bimbette?"
Marice: Yes. The inroads are quite dramatic. I think one of the biggest bonuses for women is Lindsay Wagner doing Ford, showing that a woman can not only do it, but can, year after year, maintain the identity of a professional car company. And some of the most magnificent voice-over work I've heard recently -- unfortunately, she passed away - was done by Coleen DuHurst for Amtrak. It's probably one of the best reads I've ever heard. And recently, out here particularly -- I don't know if it's national yet -- Linda Hunt is doing some exquisite work. She's an actress. She's the tiny person who was in "The Year of Living Dangerously." She's doing an absolutely magnificent job, and quite a few of my women clients are doing very well.

I have one client that's doing a lot of work for CBS' late night programming, and this is a first. She's very young. She has a very sultry voice, but it's still the first time that a woman has been used in that daypart.

R.A.P.: A lot of our female readers will be glad to hear that less emphasis is being put on "super-sexy" as the primary female delivery.
Marice: It's like anything else; it's breaking through the chauvinism and the judgments about what that represents. I've always been curious about the idea of the voice of authority being male, in terms of broadcast, TV commercials and radio spots, when in reality, the voice of authority that we grow up hearing most of our lives is a female voice.

R.A.P.: When someone from radio approaches a talent agent or client in the voice-over business, does their radio background have much of a negative effect?
Marice: Unfortunately, it does. Unless the performer has done some work before he puts that demo tape together, chances are he'll be dismissed the minute they hear the weight of the voice.

R.A.P.: Once this "radio" person had done the work on their voice and demo, should any reference to an association with radio be deleted from the conversation, résumé, etc.?
Marice: No. Hearing is believing. So many of my clients who are successful do have the broadcast background. There are pluses and minuses for everyone's background. The plus for the broadcast background is the comfort and ease in the studio, the modulation of the voice, and the ability to say vast amounts of words in minuscule amounts of time. These are all skills that are invaluable. They lack the acting skills. They lack the "relatedness" skills. They lack what the actor has.

The actor, on the other hand, has the relatedness, has the depth, but doesn't have the booth skill. The person who I think has moved the fastest is someone with a music background, someone coming from jingle singing or a related area. They have the ear. They deal with copy in terms of lyrics. They're not as inhibited as the broadcaster. They're not as overblown as the stage actor. They're a happy medium. The one thing with them is to make sure their reads aren't too slick.

So, with each area that I work with, I have particular attention that I give, given their background.

R.A.P.: Once the beginner voice-over talent finally gets an audition, what can they do at the audition to help their chances of getting the job?
Marice: Number one is not to deal with it as an audition. It's a performance. Take it seriously and prepare properly.

R.A.P.: Most Production Directors are directing talent every day. Can you give use any tips that will help make the talent sound better?
Marice: First of all, give the performer a chance to really, thoroughly read the material before they deliver it. You'd be surprised how many people don't do this because broadcast is a "rip and read" mentality. Everybody thinks that's the way it's supposed to be. You're "showing" something. But ultimately, when it's on the air, we don't know if you read it at all or you read it for ten minutes, but certainly the result will let us know.

R.A.P.: Before rolling tape, should the talent read the copy to themselves or out loud?
Marice: They should read it to themselves first. Then they should read it out loud, and they should feel comfortable with it.

Also, there is a tendency to over-direct, to tell a performer too much at any one point in time. This is especially true in recording sessions where there are too many people from the ad agency in the booth. You look over and see the performer's eyes are rotating in his head. After the five minutes of direction they just got, they have no idea which way to go.

R.A.P.: What should the director listen for when the talent is reading the copy?
Marice: First of all, they have to come in with an idea themselves, and that comes from the intention of the material. So they have to do some prep work also. Where are we going with this? What is it we want the audience to get? Prepare so that both of you are working for the same intention.

R.A.P.: You have a great deal of experience writing copy. How has commercial copy changed over the years?
Marice: We're becoming a much more visual society, and therefore, all our communication is infinitely more visual. You'll see [TV] spots on the air that have no voice-over at all, which I think in the long run is not a very smart thing because not everybody sits there glued to the TV while the commercial is on. If the person isn't watching the spot, you're losing your audience at that point.

But generally, in terms of copy and communication, everything is much more visual -- leaner, cleaner, more specific, not as much verbiage.

R.A.P.: More theatre of the mind?
Marice: Yes. And if radio copy could just keep that in mind, they would go a long way towards really delivering the message. But a lot of times the sponsor is involved in it, and the sponsor is coming from a point of view of "the more the merrier," in terms of words. They're also spending "X" amount of dollars, and they keep loading up the benefits in the spot. That obliterates the impact of the idea. There's a point of no return in copy where the person listening can absorb just so much material, and then you're just bludgeoning the audience with words.

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