That’s Voiceover is an annual Expo brought to us by VO’s philanthropic, power couple Rudy Gaskins and Joan Baker. These two have been a guiding force in the voice over community, reminding us to be inclusive and giving in all aspects of our lives. For this Expo, they put together some of the biggest names, both in front and behind the mic. Voiceover actors, talent agents, producers, branding experts, etc., all on stage to share their knowledge with us. Each year, they have what is called the Audition Spotlight. 2017’s contest the winner was to receive representation with TGMD Talent agency, a Sennheiser MK8 mic, two tickets to next year’s Voice Arts awards show, a promo spot for PIX 11 News in NYC and a chance to be SEEN by these industry giants.
When I saw the facebook post about the That’s Voiceover Audition Spotlight, I thought, “ its time to get out of my comfort zone and put myself out there to be judged”. I had been working with my wonderful promo coach Joyce Castellanos for a few months and was eager to put her great direction and knowledge to work. So, I read the instructions carefully, including the part about auditioning in front of a panel of judges AND a live audience in NYC. Yikes!…. Deep breath, ok, I’ll do it.
After submitting my audition, I never expected to hear anything back except the standard “thank you for submitting” form email. You can imagine my surprise when I received an email from Rudy letting me know that out of 515 applicants, I had made it to the next round of 30! It looks like I was going to NYC’s Times Square!
Once again, as in LA, it was a blast seeing friends in the business and meeting new people. The day was so exciting, and informative. There were panels on Radio Imaging, What Producers Want, Microphone Technique, Branding and much more!
After lunch, we were told for this next round we were going to audition privately and we would be notified when and where to go. There were so many extremely talented people waiting to audition that I was just happy to be in their company. When it was my turn to go, a production assistant led me behind a curtain to the first panel of judges. They were: the last two years winners’ Tim Friedlander and Stephanie Thomas, renowned vocal coach Dave Walsh and …..Nancy Cartwright!!! (a/k/a Bart Simpson!!) I had to get it together and fast! I read my heart out, was given direction, I read a second time, they thanked me and I left. I thought “Well, I’m done! Stick a fork in me”-my inner fan girl was doing cartwheels for Cartwright. Wow, what an experience.
I went back to my seat to watch the next panel “Million Dollar Voices”.
I was so engrossed with the experts on the stage that when they were finished and Joan said “now was the moment we were all waiting for”, my stomach hit the floor. I had completely forgotten that this competition was not over. As she began to read off 6 names, my dear friend, Jean Francois Donaldson was seated next to me and all I wanted at that point was for his name to be called. He is such a good person and an incredibly talented VO artist. When Joan called his name I squeezed his arm and had to put my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming (we had been told to hold our applause until all finalists were called) Then she read the 6th and last name…”Heather Foster!” What ?????? No way!!! I had made it to the final 6 and was going to read live in front of my heroes!!!
We were ushered behind stage and each of us were given a mentor from the million dollar voice panel. I was assigned the beautiful and ridiculously talented Sylvia Villagran. She was so supportive and gave me excellent direction. In what seems like seconds, we were being ushered on stage to begin the live audition in front of a new panel of judges and an audience of hundreds of people.
I wish I could give you an accurate account of what happened after that. I can’t. I do remember every single one of the other contestants were fantastic. I remember thinking each one of them would have worked perfectly in that spot. I vaguely remember managing to walk to the mic, saying my name and performing. Then, judge and VO legend Pat Fraley gave me direction. I read again. Take 2. That’s pretty much all I remember.
I didn’t win the That’s Voiceover Audition Spotlight. and neither did my friend Jean Francois. A very talented lady named Jessica Rothertdeservedly won.
My takeaway from this experience: I believed in myself and put myself out there to be seen. When I was nervous, I kept going. I listened and took the direction that was given. I refused to buckle under the pressure and was authentic under one of the most inauthentic circumstances. Grace under pressure? Well, I don’t know about that. The goal was to get out of my comfort zone -mission accomplished and I was pleasantly surprised.
And yes, that IS the Ameritrade Dude, Jim Conroy, sitting behind me.