Got Audiobook Talent Pt. 5
Posted by: Mary Burkey
Today’s guest is Robin Miles: narrator, audiobook director and founder of Voxpertise, a resource for expertise in the art of audiobook narration. Robin joins Paul Ruben, Johnny Heller, Pat Fraley, and Bettye Zoller Seitz in my series on how audiobook narrators learn skills that lead to success. Here’s what this Audie-award winning powerhouse has to say…
Who is the audience for your workshops & why do you have the expertise to conduct the sessions?
My students come from varied backgrounds (professional and aspiring actors, conservatory students, established professionals in other parts of entertainment and media), but all have a deep desire to break into audiobook narration.
I teach real world artistic and technical approaches to narration, hard-earned from narrating over 200 audiobook myself. I am a member of VASTA (Voice & Speech Trainers Assoc.) where I train conservatory speech faculty in audiobook techniques and stay current with voice training from my colleagues, and was Asst. Professor of Speech at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Theater for two years, teaching accents, Shakespearean verse, audiobook technique and commercials. Teaching speech at a major acting conservatory and directing/producing for several large and small publishers, gives me years of experience bringing actors, celebs and authors to their best performance, identifying student’s strengths and weaknesses and pointing them to what they need to work on to improve.
What range of previous training do you find in participants?
Previous training runs the gamut from currently in an actor training program to professional actors, to pros in entertainment/media (Pro sports team announcer, former PBS announcer, published non-fiction author, a WQXR radio host, and Muppet character actor). However, students must audition before I admit them to most of my classes to ensure that all can keep up with the pace and content of the workshop, and get grouped properly with others of similar ability.
What skills do you focus on and why will this knowledge advance a participant’s career in audiobooks?
I focus on narrating story content and visuals with specificity, creating the relationship with a listener, vocal release of emotions and POV, finding clues to character and scenes, and dialogue technique. (I work on vocal support, and accents as needed/requested.)
These skills are what separate “reading aloud” from “great storytelling” and can be heard (or not) in as little as 25 seconds on a demo recording. This is what keeps people coming back to you for more books: keep them riveted to the story, get your ego out of the way, make details specific, and lever lose the thread of connection to your listener. As a newly inducted Audiofile Magazine Golden Voice, I can say assuredly, it has worked very well for me.
How does the changing world of audiobook creation – digital technology, home studios, economics – impact the focus of your workshops?
Low budgets encourage more home studio recording, which means no director, no engineer; you are alone in the booth. So it is even more important to self-direct. My workshops and coaching have always been to “teach a man to fish”: workshop ear-training helps you hear/feel when you are doing it well, when something is or isnt a fitting. I want you to master the art, not just be “directible”.
I have added a new hybrid class (limited to 5/session) called Demo Bootcamp that is flexible for students budgets and availability. I help select material, coach them privately by phone, Skype or in-person several times, then direct their demo recording, and deliver edited and mastered tracks.
The new thing in all my workshops is that I share Production Support Resource Lists (engineers, studio build consultants, editors, researchers).
Are there any other fun and interesting facts about narrator training that you’d like to share?
On teaching, rather than directing: Know what you are looking for when you spend money for a class or coaching: Direction tells you what choices to make (good for making a demo); teaching prompts you to make your own choices from identifying/sensing clues in the text (good for lifelong career).
Regarding accents: “Less is more. Unless, of course, more is more.” What I means is this: No one wants to hear you “doing” an accent, it should sound natural so they dont recognize that it isnt how you usually sound. We are asked to do less because most people dont sound natural in a foreign accent and publishers dont want to chance it. The story is always the star!
Do you have any upcoming sessions? How can an interested person register?
My workshops start up again this Sept/Oct. Find more information on schedules and studio location at my website, www.voxpertise.com/edu.
Thanks so much for sharing with us about your coaching , Robin. Looking forward to hearing your voice in my ears in your upcoming productions!