This post is the eighth in the series of interviews I’m conducting with people I think you need to meet, people who have valuable and important comments about voiceover work; although in this case you probably already know my guest by his excellent work both on camera and behind the mic for many high profile clients.
My first question: Rodney, from listening to the first part of your presentation at VOICE 2007 and reading about you here and there, I get the impression that your first desire was to be an actor. That voiceover work grew out of that or became a part of that. So, where did your desire to act come from?
Rodney: You’re right. I started out as an actor and a singer. My desire to act came from my love of television as a kid growing up in the Midwest. Along the way, I kept hearing about this exciting end of the industry called voiceovers. I was often told that I had a great voice and that I should get into the voiceover field. I made a voiceover demo and it literally changed my life. You never know what your true calling in life is until it smacks you right in the face.
My second question: I’ve long believed that where we grow up has a powerful influence on our view of the world, so take us back to your childhood. Where was that and what was life like?
Rodney: I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, the home of the Motown Sound. My father was a professional singer, so music had a great influence on my childhood. I started performing around the house for anyone who would listen at a very young age. My parents always encouraged me and supported me. I give them total credit for the confidence instilled in me to do whatever I wanted to do in life. That is still my mantra today.
My third question: When you’re talking about performing and voiceover work and the like, you spend a lot of time on our attitude or approach to life; not just work. Why is that so important to you?
Rodney: Your attitude is everything. No matter how talented you are or how much energy you put into this industry, if the energy is negative, at the end of the day, you will not succeed. When you are positive you make others around you feel better. When you’re in between jobs for a long period of time, if you think positive and show patience, your luck will change.
Follow-up question: So, someone who is unhappy with having a “day job” because they haven’t yet made the transition to full-time voiceover work, could actually be working against what he or she hopes to accomplish?
Rodney: Absolutely. Think about being upset with someone in your life. The longer you hold on to the grudge, the longer you waddle in negativity. As soon as you forgive and release the negative tension in your mind and heart, you feel one hundred percent better. If you are unhappy in your current job, how could you ever happily pursue a full time voiceover career? It’s hard to achieve anything in a state of negativity. I do my best work when I’m happy.
My fourth question: Is there a role (or character type) you wish you could play, but haven’t yet been able to?
Rodney: No, there is no role that I wish I could play. The beauty of the business is the unknown. I feel that every role and character type will eventually cross my path. I will relish in the newness of it. I welcome the challenges.
My fifth question: How do you handle rejection?
Rodney: I handle it like most, I’m not happy about it. However, I concentrate on getting a lot of auditions so I’m not overly worried about any particular one of them.
My sixth question: What are some keys to doing well with auditions? Especially voiceover auditions, as distinct from an on-camera audition, for example.
Rodney: The key to doing well in a voiceover audition is the ability to be “free.” When you establish a condition of complete freedom in your mind, you open yourself up to the ability to do anything that is required. Now you are a piece of clay that the casting director can mold into whatever they need you to be.
My seventh question: After an audition, do you have any exercises you practice to ensure you don’t obsess over whether you were cast?
Rodney: There are some exercises that I do that are covered in my new book, Step Up to the Mic, but here is a shortcut approach, MOVE ON. Busy bees don’t have time to fret over lost honey. If you are diligently working hard to find more auditions, submit your demos and be the best voiceover actor that you can be, abundance will appear in your life in more ways then you could ever imagine. If you are really about the advancement of your career, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you do get cast for something, because you forgot you ever auditioned for it.
My eighth question: At the bottom of our interview, I’m going to feature your post to YouTube of the tongue twisters. Do you actually use these pieces before a session? How did you get started with that?
Rodney: Yes, I do. I also use them in my teleclasses and workshops that I teach. I come from a singing background and I believe that reading a script and the voiceover industry in general is analogous to music. As a singer, I always vocalized before I sang. I believe that a voiceover artist should do the same, so I wrote these tongue twisters.
Follow-up question: I’m very interested to know more about how your musical background intersects with your voiceover work. For example, my major in college was music — vocal performance specifically (I wanted to become an opera singer back then) and I’ve found that so much of that training is valuable. Phrasing, tone placement, breath control, and so on. Can you expand on that?
Rodney: I started out as music major at the University of Michigan. I too had a dream of becoming an opera singer at one point in my college years. I’m so grateful for my time at the School of Music where I learned to breath, support my voice with my diaphragm and interpret a song. Every technique and concept without exception that I learned from my music teachers, apply when executing the performance of a voiceover script. I believe that reading a piece of copy is like singing a song. If I want the copy to be expressive, I add more melody to my read. In other words, I go up and down and back up again on different lines. I vary my inflections on certain words. If I want the copy to be flat with much less expression, I’m less colorful; my read is straight without much variance in each line. I call this action, mono-tone. You see, it always comes back to music.
My ninth and last question: You teach as well as act and I notice that you don’t charge nearly as much as you could for many of your classes. And certainly during VOICE 2007 in Las Vegas, you were very generous with your time. What’s the basis of your willingness to be so open and accessible?
Rodney: My desire to help others is as important to me as getting voiceover work for myself. I truly derive a lot of pleasure from watching other people grow and be successful. Especially those who have studied with me. Yes, my classes are less then some and more than others. I arrived at the cost of my classes by asking myself one question, what price point would be fair and affordable to the most people? I wake up every morning trying to figure out what I can give, who I can help. I am always trying to be the best servant that I can be. I believe that you’re not worthy of receiving anything until you give first!
My thanks to Rodney Saulsberry for taking time out of his very business schedule to provide such thoughtful answers to these questions. Remember that you have opportunities to study with Rodney not only in person, but over the telephone as well. I wish Rodney much continued success not only professionally but personally as well.
Now, here is that YouTube video I promised. If you can get your mind and your mouth around these exercises, you’re way ahead of me.