Blog Archives

Talent Spotlight: Susie Berneis

It is always a pleasure and gives us a great sense of pride when we hear about the professional advances our students have made. We recently asked Susie some questions to let us know a little more about her success:

Q: What inspired you to want to get into voiceovers?

A:  I was a big fan as a kid of programs like You Are There, Victory at Sea, etc. I loved Alexander Scourby’s voice and thought he had the very best job in the world. When I started college at the University of Michigan in 1968, I planned on studying theatre and I wanted to learn how to be a voiceover talent—but the times being what they were, I was actively discouraged by my advisors. “Now, dearie, that’s a MAN’s job and a UNION job and your eventual husband won’t want you to travel that much.” My own feminism hadn’t blossomed yet so I meekly accepted their opinions as truth. Many years later (like about five years ago), I was chatting with a friend who is a very experienced sound engineer with a theatrical background like mine. I said I’d always wanted to record and that I loved audiobooks. Next thing I knew, he and I were recording public domain material and trying to market it on CDs. Not so successfully, I fear—too many costs, too many CDs rolling around, but we got a nibble from a company that was licensing such works online and we started selling our works through this site. Then Audible.com came along and, whoopee! We were audiobook artists, but I still had the voiceover bug.

Q: Who was your instructor at Such A Voice & what about that person made them a good fit for you?

A: Nick Kaiser was my instructor and we hit it off immediately! We had a lot of common experiences, being of the same generation and our personalities just meshed. Nick told me that my theatrical background meant that I already had a head start on a lot of voiceover hopefuls and encouraged me—for the first time in my life!!—to release my inner ham and have fun with VO. He also was a strong force against the old voices from my past and kept gently urging me on, letting me know I could do this and finally live my dream. He’s my best cheerleader!

Q: What do you see as your own VO strengths and why you will continue to succeed at this?

A: I love, love, love narration and will continue to seek out audiobook opportunities. I’ve got a million accents and characters in my repertoire, all just waiting to bust out. I’ve also learned that I enjoy commercial work—my first VO job, which kind of walked into my office while I was still getting coaching from Nick, was a website promo for a machine vision company so I got my feet wet early. Since then, I’ve done audio for some physical therapy videos produced by a young friend and have a monthly gig with an English as a Second Language testing company. All of this was just from personal contact and a little bit of networking. Then I landed my first job through Voice 123, using only my narration demo. It’s the first one that came my way through an audition, using the wonderful demos produced by Tom Force (the Michigan radio maestro) and Marshall Block (a great engineer with a rock and roll history that is nothing short of incredible). The client is in Montpellier, France.

Q: What did you take away from Such A Voice that will be the most beneficial to your career?

A: Confidence, confidence, confidence. I always thought I had a good voice but Nick, Tom and Marshall told me I had a GREAT voice so I’m feeling that there’s nothing in the VO area I can’t try. I’m not as swift with recording myself but I’m trying hard and I have some wonderful friends who are helping me. I learned that there are people who love to help you achieve whatever you dream of and I’d like to pass that along to other people like me.

 Q: What advice would you give to aspiring voice talent?

A: My best advice is don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it! If you’ve got a voice, get good training (there’s this company called Such A Voice that I can’t say enough good things about!) and practice, practice, practice. Do community theatre. Record yourself. Just get out there and do it and don’t waste a huge portion of your life letting someone else’s outmoded ideas hold you back!!

Congratulations Susie, we are thrilled that you shared this experience with us!

My Story: Michael Slemmer

The_Voice_of_Authority-_formated[1]VO work for The Voice of Authority (my “brand”) has continued on a steady and varied pace. I recently had a very interesting experience with a new client. The story begins with a lesson I learned in sales and marketing a long time ago (and one that SAV rightly promotes too): push every button, pull every lever to make yourself known to your market as you try to reach prospects. In this case it was my joining (for only $10!) – New England Actors. Although most of their gigs are for on-camera actors, they do accept voice actors also. The real value I saw, however, was gaining access to their list of audio/video production firms (cloaked until you joined). Cold calling this list of 14 firms has so far resulted in two jobs with 2 different firms, and likely repeat work from both.

Visual ConceptsThe second job, for a production shop called Visual Concepts, is the subject of my experience. I cold called the principal in March and then emailed a link to my SAV personal page and sent demo MP3s. I followed up with him in April, but there was nothing doing. Last week though, I got a call from him saying that he had a client that wanted my voice for a product overview to be introduced in July at a big Las Vegas trade show, to 500 doctors. The product is a kidney dialysis machine made by UltraCare. I won this by ‘electronic audition’ – Visual Concepts presented my narration demo, along with demos of five others to UltraCare, and I was chosen.

I expected to record and FTP the file on my own, as I usually do with jobs like this. But – as both Visual Concepts and UltraCare are local to my office and home studio, my surprise came when the producer said he wanted to come to direct me live. Then, a day later, the end-client at UltraCare, who’d said he wanted to be live by phone patch, announced that he too wanted to be in-studio! While I’ve done studio auditions, this was the first one in my studio. A mad dash ensued to clean my office, remove our dogs and cats, and otherwise “up” the professional image.

I got the scripts an hour in advance, and learned there was ‘politics’ involved – three scripts representing the view of different “factions”. With both men sitting nearby, I read all three and also helped them with some re-writes. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but their direction was minimal as they liked the reads. We were done in a little over an hour, and the best part was that I wasn’t tasked with any edits! The video is in post-production now, so I don’t have access to it yet. Overall, while there were a few ‘curve balls’ thrown along the way, it was a positive learning experience. My sense is that Visual Concepts will be sending me more work.