5 Questions for a Professional Voice-Over Talent – Pat Fraley

Today’s 5 Questions for a Professional Voice Over Talent are answered by Pat Fraley, a professional voice-over talent based in Hollywood, California.

1. The beginning: When did you know you wanted to be a voiceover talent; how did your career begin (please include what year it started) and then when did your passion for voiceover develop into something professional?

Peter, I began my voice over career in 1974 at the age of 25. The passion for voice over was and is the passion I have always had for performing and teaching. I had that passion from the git-go. Can’t remember not loving performance, whether it was amusing my classmates in school and on the playground or performing out of my garage for the neighbor kids for a nickel a show.

I knew I wanted to pursue voice over after my first job doing a bad Jimmy Cagney impression on a radio commercial for a drapery store in Adelaide, South Australia. I was working at a repertory theatre over there, and an advertising agency called the theatre asking if one the actors could do a James Cagney impression. They said, “Ah yeah, we have a Yank in the company.” Australian all think American’s sit around in bars and do impressions. I went to the studio and did my best, which was pretty marginal. They paid me in cash. $75. I was making $70. per week at the theatre. Hmmm. They said, “Ah yeah, we like you.” I said, “Why?” They said, “You’re so beeg. We can’t get the other actors to be that beeg.” By beeg, of course, they were referring for my penchant for exaggerating. I was off and running. I was like the crocodile in “Peter Pan.” I began looking for Captain Hook’s other hand.

2. What is the one thing you know now that you wish someone had told you when you first started out in voiceover?

During my career, I could have used a lot of advise, as experience in not the best teacher, it’s the slowest. There is so much from which I would have benefited, but one thing comes to mind: “Don’t try to turn humor into comedy. I used to think that humor was comedy that’s wasn’t real funny. No. Humor is a different genre than comedy. It is a catalyst to make emotions connect with a message, hence, very good for commercials. Comedy is amusement. “amuse,” in Greek, means “not think.” Not a good medium for commercials. I spent the first 20 years of my career in auditions trying to punch up humorous commercial copy so it would be funnier. I didn’t book. They don’t want the audience to laugh and forget, they want the audience to smile and remember.

3. What do you see as the biggest professional or personal obstacle you face that impacts your voiceover business and how are youworking to overcome it?

Laziness. Not updating my agent and my promotional tools (demos and website). I’m redoing my commercial demo to represent my personal style. My previous commercial demo was produced in 1914.

4. What personal trait or professional tool has helped you succeed the most in your career so far?

Of the four pillars of business – Advertising, Marketing, Promotion and Public Relations, I have leaned heavily on Public Relations. Public Relations is about establishing personal relationships and loyalty with clients/customers. I am now the King of Mercy Castings. I get called at home. “Pat, would you like to work?” “Yes, (sniff, snivel). Thank you very much.”

5. In your development as a voice over performer, who has been the one particular individual or what has been the one piece of performance advice (maybe a key performance trick, etc.) that you felt has had the most impact on your actual voice over performance and why?

Chuck Blore, the most awarded producer/writer in advertising ever and one of my mentors once told me that performance is “Truth and Tricks.” Truth in performance, gets all the press, but you need tricks to get the audience’s attention every so often. Risk being clever. Just don’t get caught by being too clever, too often.

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