Multi-talented voice over artist Jacqui Fehl shares her insights into the voiceover business and how she got started.
1. How long have you been in the voice over business and what got you started?
I’ve been working as a professional voiceover talent for about 15 years. I always knew that I wanted to be an actress, so after graduating college I moved to Los Angeles. I decided that I could learn about the business from the inside so I got a job as an assistant to a young agent at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills. Working in the bustling commercial and voiceover department, I was able learn from those already successful at their craft. We handled celebrities as well as unknown union actors and I enjoyed getting to know them as I submitted, scheduled and hustled to get them auditions and jobs. (I have total respect for all the agents and schedulers and folks who now work on my behalf. Truly, I have walked in your shoes!)
When the time came to move up in the company, I decided to dedicate my time and effort to pursuing my craft full-time. I was fortunate to be able to take some incredible classes – and with William Morris now representing me as an actor, I jumped in!
2. How would you characterize your style, sound, or signature read?
My favorite thing to do is characters…the wackier the better! My goal was to have a character demo so diverse that those listening would question if it was just one person doing all those voices. From “cartoony” kid voices to 80 year old grannies, I want to do them all!
As for straight announcer, or my “real” voice, I would say that my style is warm, friendly, approachable and hopefully a little hip with a sense of humor.
Jacqui Fehl provides the voice over for St. Thomas Heart Hospital
3. Have you had any interesting, unique, funny or scary experiences while voicing that you can recall?
I hate to sound corny, but each session is interesting and unique. That’s one of the many reasons I love doing what I do. No two sessions are ever exactly the same. I love working with other actors and I really enjoy the chemistry that happens when directors, writers, and actors collaborate. One particularly fun session was with a regular writer/director Tim and one of my favorite male voice talents Lindsay Ayliffe. We had been working with Tim for years on various projects. He was a very loyal client and would write some of the funniest and creative scripts I had ever come across. Well a few years back – maybe 6 or 7 years ago while we were just chatting during a session (which happened often) I told him about a character name that my childhood friend and I had created when we were kids. This character started out as Anita Henrietta Chanburgerdowski. We would continue to add last names over the years until she eventually became: Anita Henrietta ChanburgerdowskimeisterhomersonstienbaumskyhagendorfO’blatowitznerskywookerellischbeindelmerfud. We memorized it and could rattle it off in unison. Laughing, Tim said that one day he would write a spot for this character. ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Remember, ya only have 59 seconds, her name can take a large chunk of that.’ Years later, Tim emailed me and asked me to send him an MP3 of me saying the name as fast as I could. Incredulous, I recorded a blazing fast rendition. It took a few months, but Tim came back with not one, but a series of hysterical commercials for this character and her sidekick brilliantly interpreted, as always, by Lindsay. Each spot had the character introduce herself as well as her website, which was her name, with a dot-com. Unbelievably, as a creative team, each spot came in at 59 seconds. Amazing!
4. Do you have any heroes, mentors or others in the business that you look up to or have influenced you?
So many people have and continue to influence me. Each time I work another actor, I learn something new. I think if I had to name a few, it would be Mel Blanc and Susan Blu (a wonderful director, teacher, voice actress and casting director). When I was a newbie in Los Angeles, she not only produced my animation/character demo, but she coached, mentored and hired me for my first episode on an established animated series. I will always be grateful to her for getting me started and encouraging me to stretch and take risks. In a town of really BIG fish, she was kind to me when I was a minnow.
5. What is the best advice you can offer people who are just getting started?
Nowadays, it takes more than just a good voice to “make it” in this business. You must be able to read yet sound like you’re not reading. Sell, but sound like you’re not selling. Don’t rely on a smooth or quirky voice alone. While that may land you a job or two, longevity in this business requires the ability to act, to take direction, and to be a team player. Be flexible and adaptable. Adhering to the ‘proper etiquette’ is important too. If a client wants to make small talk – do it. If a client is pressed for time – don’t make small talk. If you feel a script needs editing, offer a suggestion – but don’t push it. It’s not about you. It’s about pleasing the client. The obvious holds true as well – be on time, be prepared, be friendly.
Jacqui Fehl tags this spot for Connecticut Lottery
6. What would you be doing if you were not a voiceover talent?
Just more of what I already do. In addition to being a mother, I’m a mixed media artist and I sing and play harmonica with my husband in a band, Carolina Rex (which you can find at http://carolinarex.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/CarolinaRexBand). If I wasn’t voicing, I’d probably produce a lot more art and play a lot more gigs.
7. What is the most important thing you’ve learned since you started in this industry?
The most important thing I’ve learned since starting in this industry is that you need more than just a good voice and that in the end, this is a service business. It’s not about what I like – it’s about pleasing the client. Wait. That’s two important things. Is that okay?
8. Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes. 2 and 17. I’d like to add them. I think it’s 19.