No one was more surprised than me at becoming a voice actor — it’s not something I’d ever considered. What strange set of circumstances could lead a retired 64-year-old IT guy to try voice acting?
The tale begins with Buffy. My wife and I were introduced to Buffy the Vampire Slayer by some younger folk, and we became instant addicts. So much so we we bought the box set of Buffy, then Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible, and Dollhouse.
I also discovered Buffy Between the Lines. Like Spike at Halloween, all I could think was, “This is just … neat!” How on earth, I wondered, did these amazing young people do all this?
In a nutshell: creativity, energy, love of Joss’s work, love of story telling, talent, cooperation, drive, and very hard work. Remarkable people from all over the globe, using the Internet to freely donate their talents and time to create a fan-based audio drama of remarkable quality and freshness.
When I heard that Between the Lines Studios was holding auditions for the upcoming Angel Between the Lines, I thought heck, even auditioning would be fun, so I tried out for General Cast, never expecting to be considered. When an email arrived welcoming me to the cast, I had an Oz moment: “Huh!”
My first assignment was to shout “To Lorne!” as part of a group. Next I got a few lines as a dying demon. In another episode, I played a New York-born “gansta.” I also had the opportunity to narrate a couple of wonderful fanfic stories for one of Tabz’s other Joss-related podcasts, Strangely Literal.
My largest part has been the character of Johannes Cordner in P.G. Holyfield’s “Exit Strategy” (Tales from Wolfram & Hart). I studied the story to understand the nuances of Johannes’s state of mind as he speaks: confident, irritated, amused, impatient, whatever, so I could try to get the delivery right.
I practiced the lines several different ways before recording them. The drill is to record each line or set of lines three times, giving them a different inflection and emphasis each time so the producers can choose the delivery they think best fits the scene.
Every assignment has a tight schedule and recorded lines are delivered to the producers and sound specialists at a common upload site. There’s a strict naming convention, and the MP3 files must fit the specification listed in the guidelines made available to all cast members. Some lines are recorded solo while others are recorded in group mode, via Skype, with one of the experienced cast members or crew acting as director, helping with microphone placement, spotting fluffed lines, checking pacing, and offering tips on delivery.
While there’s a lot of preparation and work involved in recording even a minor character for an episode, the excitement and satisfaction you feel on hearing a completed podcast is fantastic. You think to yourself, “I was part of that,” working with all those shiny people. Yes, Spike, this is just … neat!
[Gene Wilburn is a writer and photographer living near Toronto. His website is located at genewilburn.com]