Tuning In With Jessica Gee
What radio VO work have you done in the past? I have worked doing Radio VO in probably every market across the country. I also work internationally.
What are you up to presently? Presently, I have major product campaigns on Radio/TV/Internet. I do imaging for stations in Idaho, Dallas and Greece, Africa and Dubai.
What do you love about working as a freelance VO talent? I’ve been doing it since I was 15. I feel so lucky and grateful everyday that I can wake up in my jammies, wash my face, put on my bunny slippers and take 20 steps out to my studio. Some days, I’m done by 8 or 9am with sessions and have the rest of the day to do auditions or work with clients. I also love going out and seeing clients, having outside sessions directed by amazing people and cutting it up with old business friends.
How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? I started at 15. I lived in LA and couldn’t drive, so my parents agreed to let me go on the bus down Sunset Blvd. to Hollywood. It was such a bad neighborhood, but I didn’t care. I took lessons with Tom Clay. He was a good one and worked all the time. He got me started. But the one who really encouraged me from an early age was my friend and practically family, Hal Smith. He played Otis the drunk on the Andy Griffith Show. He and my dad were great friends and on Saturday mornings, he would come to my Dad’s soda fountain inside of his pharmacy for breakfast. He would do endless voices for my ears only and I thought he was a cartoon. He inspired me and taught me how to mimic. I like to think of Hal as my earthly angel. My first gig was probably doing some incidental voices on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and then doing some ADR on Matlock or Father Dowling Mysteries. My first radio gig was interning at KCRW in Santa Monica. I was 16….but looked 18. I then became a jock in Santa Barbara for the school station and then a popular local station. I moved to New York City and started to do major commercial campaigns. But, I longed to do more animation and came back home in 1995.
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it? I have had so many voice coaches. I believe that you never stop learning and having someone “work you” is absolutely critical. This year alone, I have taken about 9 classes. It’s important to learn flexibility and how to get in the heads of your producers and directors. It’s an acquired skill for sure.
Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a VO artist? Well, major props to Hal Smith first and foremost; there’s also my first teacher Tom Clay for being so supportive of me, Sue Blu for seeing and hearing me, my working pro husband Grant George for making me go back into the studio for one more read and being all about “chemistry”, and so many other incredible people along the way. Even the bad ones have taught me a thing or two, sometimes about what NOT to do.
What is your dream gig? My dream gig has always been to be the character lead in a long time cartoon series that people fall in love with. Bart has had his day in the sun. I also love being the voice of networks.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry? Take classes. Don’t sign up for services if you don’t have the experience – you’ll shoot yourself in the foot. Did I say, take classes? And a great branding of your product is incredibly important too.
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? I am in the studio by 5 or 6am Monday – Friday. I come back out to wake my kids and get them ready for school and then I’m back in the studio until 2. These days, I like to take a little break away from the studio in the afternoon because I see clients for my therapy and life-coaching practice in the evening (yep, I do that too…not because I need the money, but because it is wonderfully challenging and amazing to watch people grow).
How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? It soaks up a major part of my day. I have sessions to do everyday and those take priority, then comes the auditions and I try to turn everything around in record time.
How do you market your services to potential clients? Wow, this is BIG. I was known as one of the shameless self-promoters about 15 years ago. I did this with one of my best male friends and we upped our work by ½. Now, visits to casting places are few and far between and my partner in promoting is my husband, Grant George. We believe in creative marketing and do major marketing campaigns about 5 times per year together. I don’t know that many people who are open to more than one person marketing themselves at a time, but we work so much together and have won awards for our partner work. We are known as America’s top husband and wife voiceover team. It looks so big on paper. It’s pretty awesome. We just feel blessed.
Which production system do you use and why? We use easy things. We have ProTools, but we use Audacity for our auditions. It’s simple. Clients want to hear authenticity so adding the bells and whistles isn’t necessary. Let them do that on their end.
What are your favorite plugins? What gear do you use? We have a whisper room inside of another room that is padded with Roxul Sound Proofing. We have GoBo’s, corner and wall baffles. Sound is very important for us and we go crazy when we hear garbage trucks. We use a Neumann TLM 103 for our studio here and for travel an Apogee.
How has new technology changed the way you work? Well, it makes it easy and fast to send things in, but getting direction has become mute. It pulls out the middle-man. On another level, it has taken the “center” out of the business so anyone with a mic and editing system can call themselves VO talent and submit their work. I’m not fond of this dilution, but I play hard and always try to get ahead of it. I like the old days where we sat in a lobby at our agencies and talked. But, I can produce work so much faster than I used to by having a home studio. I was one of the first talents to put ISDN into my home.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? I like to think that people hire me because of my versatility and sound of my voice. It should come to the client raw and let them do their magic with it. I love hearing what Radio Stations do to my voice. Those guys are amazingly talented with sound and always produce things I could have never imagined. In terms of technique, keep it real and intimate. Listen back to yourself and see if you are talking to one person or just delivering copy.
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? Given the opportunity (and cash) I would cherry out my studio! Have a tech-geek come in and make it the best studio it could be. I’m constantly adding new things to update it. It’s a bad habit. In terms of giving myself time, I’m all about having people help me market, produce, update my sites, and edit for me. Handing over that type of work has been incredible. I thought I would be spending too much to do so, but in the end, I have given myself much more time to make money.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? When I first receive interest from a station, I turn it on and listen for hours. I want to know the style they do and what they want done differently. I like to work the first few times with the production director at the station so I can deliver exactly what they want to hear. Each station is different and being able to immediately slip into their vibe is important, but that comes with some studying. As soon as I get to know the station, I take a couple of liberties but I always have an alternate.