The New Orleans Voice Talent Foundation:
Growing, Vibrant, Hosting Aug. 18-19 Seminar
July 22, 2012
By John Florian
(VOXtra) - We love New Orleans ... Dixieland jazz, oysters, Mardi Gras ... and the growing and vibrant New Orleans Voice Talent Foundation.
Just three years old but already with hundreds of members, this community of voice actors is a model of how seasoned talents and newcomers alike can help and enjoy each other.
Coming soon is the NOLA Voice Talent's Annual Seminar, on the weekend of Aug. 18-19, 2012, led by the organization and Bettye Zoller and her team at VoicesVoices.com. So it seems a good time to catch up with the organization's super-busy founder, Stephen James (pictured), to learn more about this non-profit organization - how it is helping voice actors to succeed, and its work to benefit the New Orleans community ...
Stephen, your website indicates a highly professional organization. What is NOLA Voice Talent, and how does it benefit voice actors?
The NOLA Voice Talent Foundation celebrates its third anniversary in August and was formed initially simply to provide an affordable workshop resource so that voice talent in the New Orleans area could practice their craft with others.
I had enjoyed such a weekly workshop when I lived in Las Vegas and, as there was nothing similar in New Orleans, and with the encouragement of some fellow voice actors, I decided to create one here.
From then on, it seemed to take on a life of its own.
What do you mean?
Within six months we had presented our first live radio-on-stage production and the workshops program was extended to incorporate bi-weekly workshops also in Baton Rouge.
So, in short, the Foundation provides affordable opportunities and resources to voice talent and to performers, not only in southern Louisiana but also further afield.
About your members - how many do you have now? And at what stage of career are they?
The Foundation currently has around 220 members - and this is growing. Performers, whether voice actors or other in genres, can join at no charge.
While our workshop fees are only nominal, some members have requested an annual subscription opportunity, whereby they need only to pay once a year. So we devised additional benefits for subscription members, such as discounts from vendors and off-NOLA Voice Talent events, for example.
Members range from established performers - both stage-and-screen actors and voice talent - to pure novices who are interested in taking voice over seriously and who wish to progress in the best possible way.
While these are, of course, mainly from New Orleans and southern Louisiana, we also have members from across the U.S. and even a couple from overseas, who all wish to support the Foundation and to gain from its resources in some way.
And you sponsor many events. Can you tell me about them?
The first event we held was a radio-play production of the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life – and this turned out to be the first of a series of annual productions the Foundation presents, specifically to benefit the New Orleans region.
We have also provided weekly summer workshops free-of-charge for urban teens and, of course, we provide an affordable annual weekend voice over seminar, which now attracts delegates from across the country.
In particular, what's this year's Aug 18-19 Annual Seminar all about?
This year’s seminar is organized in conjunction with VoicesVoices.com and celebrates NOLA Voice Talent’s third anniversary. The seminar is led by one of the country’s leading female voice talents, Bettye Zoller, along with myself, and this year’s seminar has the main theme of audiobooks which, incidentally, presents a huge market opportunity for voice talent.
The seminar also features leading lights from the voice over fraternity in southern Louisiana, including Roy Bunales, Patrick Bonin, and agent Dr Rebecca Hale, as well as VoicesVoices faculty member Michael Kelly on home studio, and David Hanks, who will advise us on accent reduction.
The seminar take place over two days, Saturday and Sunday, in a state-of-the-art building at the University of New Orleans. And we wind up with a closing night party at an antebellum home in the Garden District.
The seminars have proven to be very successful for well-established as well as novice participants. And this year’s event has already received enrollments from people across the country.
What specifically will attendees learn at the Seminar this year?
We're providing essential and comprehensive insight into all aspects of the voice over business, from voice over techniques to marketing your voice.
All students will be able to experience practical working at the microphone and the plethora of information topics covered will include:
We also provide a discount to Subscription Members of NOLA Voice Talent and to SAG/AFTRA members, as well as to students in full-time education.
Incidentally, you can get full details of the seminar as well as a link to book direct online.
For details and enrollment, please click here, visit www.VoicesVoices.com, or call 214-638-TALK (8255).And what about you personally, Stephen? We'd like to know more about you - your career and specialties.
My education and background is in English, the arts, and education, while my lifelong career has been in marketing communications and training.
I still run a PR and marketing communications consultancy in New Orleans and, having been involved in media for so long, I soon became familiar with voice over and was involved in my first voice over project way back in the mid-70s!
So you're a working voice talent , too.
Yes. After I moved to America from my native England in 1997, I began to take voice over as a serious career option and, happily, I have worked for a number of magnificent clients, and have commercials, narrations, and even video games under my belt.
I have also had the good fortune of being approached by screen actors for voice coaching and have coached many students in voice over and even produced their demos.
A few years ago I launched a specialist voice over agency in response to requests from some of my colleagues, and I recently formed a production company to encapsulate demo production, audiobooks, and theatrical productions - one of which is the formation of a professional comedy troupe, The GooNOLAS, which is an homage to both British and American comedy of the 50s and 60s, performed in radio-on-stage style.
A follow-up question could be, 'Where do you find time for all that?' - but I'll assume you're highly disciplined to accomplish it all. Is there anything else that I have not asked you?
Sure. Some people have asked me, "Why do I do it, and what’s in it for me?”
Well, the answer to both parts of the question is simple: pure enjoyment and the wish to help people in any way I can.
The voice over profession seems to be different from many others in that we are not necessarily competing against each other. We are in a marketplace where we can be competing with each other and where we can all help each other to achieve our goals and individual success because of each other rather than in spite of each other.
I have met some of the most wonderful friends through working in voice over, and I thoroughly enjoy seeing my students and colleagues achieve success in this field.
For more about the NOLA Voice Talent Foundation and its activities, please visit: www.nolavoicetalent.org.
And for more about Stephen James:
Theatrical Troupe: www.thegoonolas.com
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