An Interview with Rodney Saulsberry
Interviewed By: Geetesh Bajaj
Date Created: August 10th 2004
Last Updated: March 5th 2009
Saulsberry is one of the top voice-over
talents in the United States, and author of the new book, You
Can Bank on Your Voice. For more than a decade the Detroit native
and University of Michigan graduate has given voice to many successful
commercial campaigns, including Toyota Camry, Alpo, Verizon, and
numerous movie trailers such as, How Stella Got Her Groove Back,
Finding Forrester, Tupac Resurrection, Friday and Dumb & Dumberer.
Saulsberry, the voice of Joe Robbie Robertson on the cartoon series
Spider-Man, resides in Agoura, California.
You can learn more about Rodney and his work at rodneysaulsberry.com.
Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself and what led to your involvement with voice-overs.
Rodney: I started out as an actor and throughout my career people would always tell me what a great sounding voice I had and how I should get into voice-overs. I didn't even know what a voice-over was so I researched the field. Then I attended a voice-over workshop. Soon after that I made a demo, got an agent, and pursued a career. I worked very hard perfecting my vocal technique and unique marketing strategies.
I implemented what I coined, "the saturation method." In other words I literally saturated the market with my product-MY DEMO. I also sent out postcards and newsletters to as many employers as possible. After a period of time, I became a brand. The industry knew my product (my voice) and started hiring me. It wasn't long before I was receiving a substantial annual income from voice-overs exclusively. I can't stress enough how important it is to see yourself as a corporation, just like Coca Cola, American Express, or General Motors. What do they do? They advertise over and over and over until you can't help but purchase the product they've saturated you with.
Geetesh: What role can a voice-over play in a typical PowerPoint presentation? What opportunity does the burgeoning Online Rich Media market present to voice-over artists?
Rodney: Voice-over is the most essential part of a PowerPoint presentation. The visual aspects of a presentation are also very important, but the vocal elements of any presentation make it accessible to the visually impaired community as well. There has never been a more opportune time in the communications arena for the voice-over actor. The days of a voice-actor being limited to commercials, animation, promos and trailers are over. Today companies like The Great Voice Company, GM Voices and Worldly Voices, LLC represent talent that specialize in Voice Prompts, Website Voice Imaging, Flash Presentations, Tutorials and Trade Show Videos. In fact, in the middle of writing my book, You Can Bank on Your Voice: Your Guide to a Successful Career in Voice-Overs, I realized that I had to dedicate an entire chapter to these new employment avenues. I titled the chapter, Voice-Over Work Outside the Norm. It is my prediction that companies such as Macromedia Breeze and Solara Media will hire an unprecedented amount of voice talent in 2005.
Geetesh: Can you share some thoughts and ideas about the entire concept of using voice-overs in presentations? Also, what qualities should one look for when choosing a voice-over artist for a presentation?
Rodney: It doesn't matter what the media, voice-overs bring the human factor to a presentation. Schools and universities, sales and marketing meetings, radio imaging and books on tape, all benefit greatly from an excellent quality and professionally produced voice-over presentation. I believe that a visual spokesperson in a video presentation is at the same time being a voice-over artist whenever you hear their voice, but you don't see them on the screen. And so it should follow that all actors and actresses, whether your intentions are to be on camera or off at intermitting times during a presentation, you should take some voice-over classes.
The qualities that an employer should look for when choosing a voice-over artist for a job, depends on what an employer is casting for. If you are casting for a voice prompt, you should look for a personable voice with strong articulation skills. If you are looking for someone to give voice to a training or a tutorial video presentation, you want a voice of authority that sounds knowledgeable and confident without sounding intimidating. On the other hand if you are speaking to a teenage demographic that responds to the latest verbal slangs or urban hip hop terminologies, you have to cast a voice talent that is capable of delivering that colloquial style of talking.
Geetesh: Tell us more about your book You Can Bank on Your Voice and how can it help wannabe voiceover artists.
Rodney: It's a how-to-book about being successful in the voice-over industry. I break it down step by step and tell you what you need to get started in the business. Topics include; How to audition, Finding an agent, and Making a demo CD. The early chapters are great for the beginner. The rest of the book deals with making lots of money, voice-over techniques, marketing strategies, the home studio, managing your money, vocal exercises, and practice scripts.
I sprinkle the book with small excerpts of my own story that relate to a certain lesson I'm teaching. My goal is to let the public know there's an opportunity to make a great living in show business, behind the scenes. An exciting and rewarding career that can be very lucrative. I love my job. How many people can say that? I want to share my joy and knowledge, so I wrote the book. This is my chance to give something back.
Geetesh: Are there any typical situations when a male voice is preferred to the female voice and vice versa? Is there a rule of a thumb by which one can decide to use a male or female voice-over for a presentation?
Rodney: There are certain genres that are specific in their use of male or female talent. But I'd like to think that those specific boundaries are fading, and that males and females can do every kind of voice-over presentation regardless of their sex. Many companies are going against the grain these days and hiring men for presentations that they may not have in the past, and vice versa. It's encouraging.
Geetesh: Why is public speaking so frightening for many people? What steps can a person take to overcome this fear?
Rodney: It's the feeling of no control that is frightening. When you speak in public, the only thing you have control over is yourself, and that's very scary. You can't control the crying infant, the microphone going dead, the impetuous heckler, or the inattentive audience. The only way to overcome this fear is to be thoroughly prepared. If you know your material to an almost memorized degree, you will eliminate a great deal of your anxiety. Once you know that the chances of something going wrong on your part is zero percent, that confidence will carry you through the hours before your speaking engagement, and right on through the program where upon saying your final word you realize that your preparedness conquered all fears!
Geetesh: Is there any trivia you would like to share with us - a particular incident that influenced or inspired or a humorous anecdote?
Rodney: I just want to encourage every voice-over actor out there to take each and every audition very seriously and always put your best foot forward. I auditioned for an Alpo dog food television spot and the clients decided they liked the audition so much, that it became the final spot and one of my biggest money makers. You just never know.