Today’s guest blog is from long time and active Stage 32 member, Amy Ulrich. Amy is an actress, spokesperson, host, voice over artist and singer. Being raised in the heart of Hollywood she saw first hand what it takes to make it in the entertainment industry.
Amy has voiced characters on FX’s Chozen as well as Eleanor Roosevelt’s narration for the documentary, The Quiet Philanthropist: The Edith Gaylord Story, which will be released later this year. She also voiced her first audio book, Tango’s Edge, through connections she made here on Stage 32.
Amy is a shining example of how being prepared, taking the time to network, and endlessly working toward the next goal nets the desired results.
I thank her for this contribution to the Stage 32 Blog.
Journey, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another.” As a human being, I have I have lived all over the United States. As a voice over artist, I have traveled much further, been exposed to new cultures, learned quite a bit and met and collaborated with people around the globe. It’s been an incredible journey so far, most of it unexpected!
From day one, I have been a communicating machine. My voice has been an instrument well used, be it talking or singing too much, to which I’m sure my friends and family can attest. So, logically, when I began my college career just a few, ahem, years ago, I dove in as a vocal major. After taking years and years of voice lessons, and having sung the National Anthem at the LA Tennis Open a few years in a row, I thought getting my voice in gear and going to Broadway…well, that was exactly how my future was going to pan out. Oh, the ignorance of ‘knowing it all’ as a teen…
I learned quickly that being a voice major is extremely demanding, taking up every extra minute rehearsing, working and exercising my ‘instrument’. Being in college, I was exposed to other opportunities that started to peak my interest, and by the end of my sophomore year, I changed my voice major to a voice minor, and ended up majoring in Telecommunication Arts (Radio/TV). This new path provided me the opportunity to host my own show on the university’s public television station. That was my first true venture into on-camera work, and I adored it. But alas, I didn’t want to forget my voice as a means of performance.
In the years to follow, I would hear voice-overs on the radio, TV, in movies, in trailers, in PSA’s, and I was always wondering how one ventured into the voice over world. I knew I loved using my voice to perform, and I had thought, “Hey, I could do that!” Opportunities came my way, and I jumped at each and every chance. For example, the company my husband was working for was doing a viral campaign for Gillette, and they needed a female rapper. While I sing, I didn’t consider myself a rapper, but I do know beats! I offered myself up for the gig, and we recorded it in our bathroom, as the whole gist of that recording was that it actually wasn’t supposed to sound like a professional. Perfect, since I was just starting out! I then auditioned for “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play”, in which the actors perform as if they are putting on a radio play from the 1940’s. I put myself out there, took a chance, and before I knew it, I was acting out and voicing three characters for the play, all ranging in age from 10 years to 50 years old. It was a blast!
From an acting and just taking chances standpoint, I was also lead in an independent film, acted in a few short films and industrials and was spokesperson and host for Redplum. But it took me years, until I became a mother, for me to really dive in and make voice over, specifically, a priority.
At this time, I was living in Washington DC, and I was looking for part time work, so that I could still have the flexibility to be at home with my daughter as much as possible. I was going on commercial, theatrical and print auditions all the time and working administratively for a company part time, during my daughter’s naps and after she went to sleep at night, so as to have extra income and stay viable in the ‘working world’. Balancing it all has never been easy, but what’s the fun in easy?
One day, I decided to purchase a microphone. I’m not sure what exactly got me to do it, except for the fact that it had always been something I wanted to do. I called a friend who would years later hire me for voice work on his own animated show. He had recorded music from home, and I knew he’d be a good resource when it came to advice on what type of mic I should purchase. He mentioned Blue’s Snowball Microphone, and it ended up being a great starter mic. Forever curious and resourceful, and having taken editing courses back in college, I found free editing software (I think it was Garageband), and I just started playing around. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t good. I was learning, and we all stumble in the learning process, don’t we?
The administrative work I was doing part time was for a company that produced its own video content, be it travel-related or how-to’s, and part of my job was to review voice over recordings that others had done, making sure they matched the original script, that everything was pronounced correctly. I realized quickly that I shouldn’t just be doing the admin work, but that I could and should offer up my own voice over services to the company for which I had been working administratively for a short while. Low and behold, they took me up on my offer, and before I knew it, I was recording narration for them!
Solely because I took a chance and gave it a shot, I was working as a voice over artist. I still had much to learn, and to be honest, I still do to this day. But the door had opened, and without hesitating, I walked in and took charge.
My next step was an actual workshop, to see what it really takes to make it in voice over. Go figure, right? Usually it’s the workshop or course taken that will prepare you for working in that field. I did it backwards, but knowing I had a lot to learn, I asked a fellow actor at a commercial audition about where she took voice over classes and was pushed in what ended up to be the right direction. I took one workshop in commercial voice over techniques, then another in narration, and yet another in animation, and I continue to take classes and workshops today.
Being a singer is a great deal different than being a voice over artist. Anyone who thinks, ‘Oh, I can sing. I should go into voice over,” should think twice. The only thing I really held onto in terms of singing that applies to voice over work is the breathing. Knowing how to properly breathe and when to take breaths in order to convey your meaning is imperative.
Upon my return to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, I wanted the chance to step up my voice over game. I did some research, purchased a better microphone and transformed a closet into a perfectly fabulous home voice over studio. I also discovered the Don LaFontaine VO Lab, which provided a free orientation to their lab. It’s a tremendous resource for any voice over artist in need of professional studio time. Via my connection with that lab, I was sent an audition opportunity via a site called Audiobook Creation Exchange. While I had never thought about narrating audiobooks before, once again, I just dove in and gave it a chance. No, I didn’t get that job, but just a couple of months later, after a few more ACX auditions, I was sent an offer by a romance novelist to narrate her book, Tango’s Edge.
To say that narrating an audiobook takes a lot of time is an understatement. Tango’s Edge ended up, after editing, being a 15 hour book. It took about 3-4 times that to record it, and although I knew I had the ability to edit and master my recordings, I didn’t necessarily have the time, and I wanted my first audiobook to be done properly, with nothing left to chance. I was still making time as a mom, wife, and auditioning for commercial, theatrical and print gigs…and sometimes booking, as well, go figure! I also had to learn about serious accents, so I studied up on Russian and Irish accents and culture. Where did the characters come from? What were the cultures like? I was learning more about other cultures, all because of narrating an audiobook. So very cool!
I had signed up for Stage 32 just after returning to LA, and I decided to post the fact that I needed an audio mixer on the Jobs Postings board. Low and behold, after a few people reached out, I connected successfully with Daniel Angell, an audio mixer and engineer from the UK, a place I have never been but always wanted to. He’s extremely talented, and after he agreed to my rate, we were in business! With the help of Dropbox, ACX, and Stage 32, we successfully produced a full-length audiobook! And on a side note, the author loved every single second! I had reached out to a couple of other audio mixers here in LA, but in the end, there always had been some sort of complication. Stage 32 helped me make a connection I never thought possible, and now that I’m connected to other audiobook narrators, I have made sure to mention Stage 32 as an outstanding and exemplary resource. It’s a new world out there, with so much technology at our fingertips, and we made it happen by utilizing what’s offered.
Since the audiobook, I have continued with my voice over career, having done commercial and industrial narrations, character work for a documentary coming out this year in which I play Eleanor Roosevelt in a reenactment, character work also for a show on FX called Chozen, and I now have voice over representation.
I continue to take workshops and pick the brains of those voice over artists in LA with whom I meet or connect. I believe in trying to be as patient as possible, networking as much as you can, relying on your own resources, marketing yourself, taking chances and always keeping an eye out for opportunities. It’s all about the hustle, and I can’t wait to see where my voice over journey will continue to take me!
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Amy welcomes remarks or questions in the Comments section below.
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