Voice Acting hopefuls take the plunge during an organized day trip to Medialocate. Do they have what it takes? BY ANA ISABEL BELTRAN AND NOEMI GONZALEZ

Voiceover artists, those disembodied voices we hear in audio books, commercials and public announcements can conjure laughter, relief, mystery, awe, respect and sadness. In audio books, voiceover artists may make imaginations soar. In commercials, they may sway a consumer’s perception on a bank’s trustworthiness, an insurance company’s reliability or an automobile’s safety. What about movies? Consider this: legions of bilingual Shrek fans swear that the Latin American Spanish version of this movie franchise, dubbed in Mexico, is infinitely funnier in Spanish. Specifically, Latin American fans argue that Eugenio Derbez’s Burro is hands-down funnier than Eddie Murphy’s Donkey. Really? The thing is, funny is in the ear of the beholder. And, for Latin American audiences watching Shrek both at home and abroad, Derbez’s appeal lies in that he delivers more than jokes with strong cultural references Spanish-speaking moviegoers can identify with. He also sounds like many of them. As important as delivering a message that hits the right cultural notes is whether the voice delivering it sounds like home.

Considering the diversity that typifies the US population, American companies are in a continuous search for ways to deliver their message to target markets. Whether it’s commercials, movies or some other medium, a need exists for people who can deliver that message in just the right voice. With the goal of joining the growing number of US voiceover artists who are creating magic for audiences of diverse backgrounds, a group of hopeful and intrepid TIVAs (Translators/Interpreters/Voice Actors) visited the Medialocate studios in Pacific Grove last May 31. Christine Lemor-Drake, the trip’s leader, organized a day trip for nine TIVAs. We departed from different points in the Bay Area: San Jose, Redwood City, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco. Our group of TIVAs, some of whom were completely new to the voiceover industry, represented three languages: Belquis, Abeer and Alex for Arabic; Claudia Lopez, Noemi Gonzalez, Ines Swaney and Ana Isabel Beltran for Spanish; and Dominique Ferguson and Christine Lemor-Drake for French. When we arrived we met with Cindy Brown, Medialocate’s Vendor Manager. Wasting no time, we were directed to the recording studio, where the sight of the recording booth made a few of us slightly queasy–in an exciting, jumping-off-a-plane kind of way.

Diverse performances
After a somewhat quick and quiet introduction, we proceeded to practice our scripts. The Arabic linguists kicked off the recording session. With the exception of Christine and Ines, both of whom have experience in the voiceover industry, we were all beginners. Fortunately, Robin, the sound engineer, made us feel a little bit more relaxed with his gentle and easygoing attitude. Still, it was a nerve-racking moment. And then, when we least expected it, we were already done. Robin agreed to play back the group’s voice samples. Without thinking twice, we all hurried in quietly and crowded the small office, listening to our own and everybody else’s performance. Lo and behold, we sounded like we may just have what it takes to make it in the dubbing industry! Maybe it’s because we put into these samples the same commitment we give those for whom we translate and interpret—that commitment to deliver the message in the clearest and most appropriate way possible—but we did well. To finish our visit, Cindy gave us a quick tour of the studios where we met the rest of the staff. By that time, it was past 2:00 pm and stomachs were grumbling. We said our goodbyes and moved on to find a restaurant. This was no difficult task for Christine who always knows how to get the best deals! We enjoyed a delicious lunch at a restaurant aptly called “Taste.” We happily chatted and got to know each other better while eating, drinking and enjoying the sweet taste of new friendships and the potential of such an exciting twist in our careers.

Returning to Shrek, does it matter which of the voiceover artists is better? No, what matters is that these two actors, along with some other extraordinary voiceover artists—and very talented translators—all over the world, brought entertainment to millions of moviegoers in a way that made Shrek feel like a homemade brand to all. But just imagine, you can make it sound just like home right from a recording studio in San Francisco or Pacific Grove, or many of the other recording studios in Northern California. You may begin the experiment at Medialocate.

Medialocate invites NCTA members to visit their studio and record free voice samples. You may contact Medialocate at: 1200 Piedmont Avenue, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, (831) 655-7500 x 103; (831) 655-7515 – fax AB & NG