DAVE SABASTIAN WILLIAMS
By Art Lynch
Voice Over as a Profession
“Your tape should say ‘this is what I’ve done’ not ‘this is what I want to do’” believes Los Angeles based national voice over and broadcast artist David Sabastian Williams. His voice is familiar as the former spokesperson for Apple Computer and as the current voice of Builders Emporium, among others.
“You have to sound as good as you will become after doing this ten thousand times! You have to sound that way the moment you audition.”
This is not a Catch 22, as many might think, since amateur and beginners can take voice workshops and pay for the production of tapes, which will fool an agent or potential client. “But they must sound convincing, as good as the real thing, national commercials, industrials and animation tapes.”
Be a Professional
Known to Los Angeles and national radio listeners as “Dave Sabastian”, Williams says that if you want to make a living with your voice, you have to commit to the profession.
“If you cut corners at all, you are barking up the wrong tree...take workshops, read out loud for an hour each day, take a tape recorder wherever you go and tape record yourself. Experiment. Practice using your voice as an instrument.”
First Step: Be Ready.
“First of all, treat this as a business. It is a business. Real money is being spent on your talent, on the writers talent, on production facilities and time and on the final air or distribution of your voice over product. Believe me, it is a business. And if this is your business, you must be willing to invest in the training and the tools.”
Williams is one of many qualified voice instructors, or “voice doctors” in industry terms. He offers workshop opportunities and individual instruction through his company “Dave and Dave”.
“Just as with any form of acting, you have to understand the industry and be ready to provide a professional performance before you walk in the door. This means study, practice and study some more.”
An instructor himself, Williams will take other instructors classes “to keep on top of the industry and in practice.”
“All workshops are breading grounds for information, even if you know what your are doing going in. There is always another angle, another trend or the eventual leads on jobs.”
The Demo Reel.
The next step is to have a professional demo reel. This does not mean a reel recorded in a recording studio or at a radio station. Ideally it means a reel of actual national commercials or at least a reel of voice work produced by the same professionals who produce real commercials and industrials.
“Try to make each track sound like it comes from a different producer. One may have music, another effects or the sound of your voice may be different.”
“A pro will make each segment of your demo sound different, by moving or changing the microphone, adjusting the controls, creating a different background or texture.”
“Go in and record your voice, then leave and let the professional engineers do what they have to do.”
“Leave them wanting more.” A commercial demo real should be only one or two minutes of “great stuff”. A character reel should show your three or four best character voices. An industrial reel can go as long as 20 minutes as long as it is not 20 minutes of the same old stuff.
“Do not mix tapes.” Willliams
Except for the rare individual who excels in all areas, most of the time it is best to “find out where you fit in, who you are as a voice artist, and concentrate on one or two areas.”
“If you don’t have an agent, then they look at you as if you just fell off the turnip truck!”
Step three, at least in Los Angeles, is to secure and agent. Los Angeles based advertising agencies and production companies will not accept your tape, unless it comes through an agent. In some other markets the best approach may be to send your tapes, unsolicited, directly to producers.
Voice agents are easier to land than theatrical agents, because they survive on the quality and quantity of voices they can provide.
“To use a sports analogy, they have to have a deep bench.”
When they review your tape, agents listen for four basic things:
1. Does it sound real? Is this person a real person? Does their voice communicate emotion, ideas, concepts, and words?
2. Do they have talent? Each agent’s perception on this one is different, but they all have to make this judgment and make it quickly.
3. Have they ever made money? Catch 22 once again, but if your tape or reel sounds as if it is composed of national commercial work, it is possible to get past this objection.
4. Do they fill a niche? This means does your voice fit into a slot open on the players roster, a need for that particular agent. You may be the next Orson Wells, but if they already have four other Orsons, they will not add you to their client list.
Breaking Down the Script.
“Read everything on the page, study the script and what it is saying. Pay attention to the title given to the script, to the product, to the length and to the different voices implied through the written page.”
“When you are handed a script, do not read anything out loud until you have answered the hidden questions in that script.”
• What are they trying to say?
• Who am I to say these words?
• Who am I talking to?
• Where am I?
• Where is my audience?
• Am I withholding information?
Work on the script and before you ever open your mouth, know how you are going to read each word, phrase, and idea.
“Say the words as written, remember that the ad agency and client have had to live with this piece of copy for weeks or even months.”
Next, be ready for an open to change. This could come in the form of word changes or directions. Never record a change until after you had the opportunity to rehearse it first!
How to Get Hired Again
“Be shape-able, mold-able, adore-able. Take direction, do your best and always be the professional.”
Williams suggest learning the engineers name and making them your friend. This is as simple as doing what they tell you when they tell you to do it and avoiding making their job harder.
“The engineer is the one who will make you sound good. They also have the ear of the director and the client.”
He also suggests learning the names of as many people “in the booth” as you can.
Use first names in communication; unless it is obvious they are being formal. Send ‘thank you’ notes, when applicable.