Right, first things first.
Thank you for the cat pee suggestions. Especially Vinegar John in Shotts. Jim said he thought of it first, and told me to pour vinegar on it last week. I don’t think he did but then he says I never listen to a word he says. At least, that’s what I think he said. When I get the magical spray from the geezer in Penshurst I’ll let you know.
Secondly, I do the ‘Heat’ magazine adverts. At least, I did for a long time then they changed the campaign. But now, just when I need it, I may have another batch to do.
Voiceovers are a funny business. Most of the sound studios are centred around Soho, so it’s great if you want to buy fruit from Berwick Street Market or books from Walkers Court. Given that the book store is next to Raymond’s Revue bar, you will understand that the kind of library they stock is not quite to my taste although Ed Baines’ ‘Auburn and Randell’ is just round the corner, so if there’s time you can slip down an oyster.
Having arrived at the studio, there’s always a very lavish couch to sit on. A runner will appear immediately, offering refreshments, fruit, chocolate lollipops. They are a favourite since a dry mouth is fatal when voicing an ad. Listen for dry lips sticking together – they haven’t had a long enough suck.
Punctuality is also de rigeur as time is money. A session lasts for an hour, so all of us voiceover sluts hope that we just slip into the next 60 minutes – double the money.
My problem is that I’m usually in and out before you can say ‘pass me the stopwatch’.
Most adverts just require you to fit as many words into as little time as possible. So, there’s not much acting required. Just a quick mind. It’s three words a second so knowing how to time something is Paramount. Oh, I used to do their promos. God, was that boring!
You never get the script first. You may never know the other actors. You certainly won’t know the director, the producer or the client. And you won’t want to know the 17 hangers on who know as much about voice technique as I do about waxing a bikini line. Ouch!
In my case, I do know the team as I have been associated with ‘Heat’ for seven years. I used to be the white coated professor who said dryly ‘The higher the IQ, the greater the need for gossip’. Interesting that this was before all the other mags came out like ‘Now’, ‘Then’ and ‘Don’t take a picture of me. I don’t want to have my 15 minutes of fame pleeeeeeeese’.
25 years ago I did all the voices for ‘Teddy Dropear’, Anne Wood’s cartoon on TV-AM. She was the brains behind Tinky Winky and the rest of the TeleTubbies which is why she’s a billionare and I’m still voicing ten second ads for hot tubs on local radio in Bognor.
The thing is that we ‘talent’ (as our agents like to call us) are but ten a penny. If you get it right once, they’ll have you back. If you run over, they won’t. There’s very little loyalty in this fab biz of ours. It’s about hard nose selling. If you’ve got it, and it makes a profit, you could be laughing all the way to the bank.
There’s a studio fee, and if you’re lucky, repeats. In the cinema you will get dosh everytime it’s shown. On telly a lttle less whilst on radio it has to be played at least 323 million times before you’ve got enough money to pay your water rates.
My lovely engineer Dave was the runner on Teddy Drop Ear, so he knows me and my voice, and when you have an engineer as good as him, life is simpler. ‘Scramble’ is the name of the studio – the kids there are wonderful. He knew I was out of sorts today but didn’t say anthing. ‘Quiet Storm’ are the production company who make the ads. Trev, the boss, is cool and clever, and Ben, who books me and does pretty much everything else, looks too young to be a daddy, and never gets stressed. If I need to do a voiceover while I’m abroad, Ben organises for me to go to a studio anywhere in the world. Damn clever, these chaps.
Once you have been handed the script, you are sat all alone in a sound booth.
Headphones on. There’s a little TV screen that plays time-coded pictures and a red cue light. You may be told to watch the seconds or listen out for a sound cue, and then wallop, you’re off.
I have mouth ulcers. From stress, says my homeopath. All the sadness is coming out. So it was really hard to suck, let alone say my lines. My poor tongue is the size of a Chow’s.
I think I pulled it off. That’s the voiceover, not my tongue. But if my tongue got in the way, it may be the last voiceover I do for a very long time.
Now, if you listen to all the adverts, you will start to identify the names behind the voices: Julie Walters, Jack Davenport, John Sessions, Hermione Norris. There’s loads of ’em. Miriam Margolis used to be one of the highest paid artistes, buying her houses on the back of creamy caramel chocolate bars. It’s a game innit?
So, there I was in Soho with my mouth all big and hurting and the sun beating down on my squeaky shoes which made my feet swell. By the time I got off the train I was all tearful and blotchy. But I was being bought lunch by Liam from Prospect Pictures and my lovely agent Rob.
Rob bought me a funny table mat with a legend on it that is too rude to write but it had the ‘F’ word on it (nothing to do with Gordon Ramsay!), and Liam presented me with a beautiful marzipan figurine of me made by (Andrew) Nutter.
When I got home, my little pink marzipan hands had dropped off and a red pepper with two miniture potatoes had rolled off the front. The spuds looked like my breasts until I realised that they were still perfectly intact alongside my mole. As always, my Jim fixed it. With a little super glue and patience.
We went to Meze in Soho for lunch. I had two gins, which I never drink, to sooth my hot mouth, and several nibbles of food. I tried to listen to the lovely men talking about stuff but I felt so rough that I fear it all went over me head. And they say that the life of the actor is glamorous.
Coming back on the train, a child cried from London to Tonbridge. If I had had a cudgel, I would have. But I didn’t, so I bought a 7up instead. The ice spilt on the floor and I knocked the plastic mug full of lemonade over my black trousers and squeaky shoes. By the time I reached Jim, who was waiting in the car with Jackson, I was sticky, sickly and in very poor sorts.
Now I wait to hear my dulcet tones dryly snapping on the ‘Heat’ ad. If it isn’t me, you know my gums have let me down. ‘And not for the first time’, shouts Jim.