Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.

Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Gobs on Sticks meets… Trish Bertram

Posted by MikeCooper on March 2, 2009

Trish Bertram is a British voice talent who has been in the business for many years. Her voice is immediately recognisable to TV viewers and radio listeners all over Britain from her work on TV networks as an announcer and promo voice, and for her extensive work in the corporate sector. She’s been around long enough to see plenty of changes, not least the trend towards artists setting up their own studios and working from home, which is something she now does herself.

She’s a great friend and has always inspired and encouraged me as I moved towards a full time career in voiceovers. So, I asked her to share some insights into how she views the business as we go forward.

GoS: Hi Trish, thanks for playing! I’m midway through writing a series of blog posts on how to get started in voiceovers. So this seems like a good time to ask – how did you get started?

TB: I started as a live TV continuity announcer. I always wondered who the people were doing the links between the programmes on TV… then my friend and flatmate from college got herself one of those jobs at Westward TV in the early 80s and wrote to me suggesting I had a go too. So I made a home made tape on a little cassette recorder and sent it round to various TV stations asking to be considered. Considering my only microphone experience had been doing tannoy calls as a theatre stage manager, looking back my naivety was quite staggering! Anyway, I was lucky as LWT [London Weekend Television] took a chance on me. My friend at Westward grew up to be one of our most well known tv presenters by the way – Fern Britton – but we both started out as theatre stage managers.

GoS: What kinds of projects do you work on now, and has that changed over the years?

TB: Yes, one area of my work is radio station imaging and these days I can supply imaging updates from my home studio via email as opposed to always having to go to an outside studio. You and I also write and record continunity links for a TV channel and email them off to their transmission base, which I don’t think either of us would have envisaged happening a few years ago when we spent all those long shifts together in transmission! I have also come to realise that the whole world is now a marketplace for voiceovers – which wouldn’t have happened with out the rise of the internet or without the availibilty of reasonably priced but quite sophisticated kit that one can now set up at home.

GoS: The internet’s certainly changed the playing field, you’re right, and being able to work at home would have been unthinkable even when I started in TV. That said, there are loads of different kinds of work for Voice Actors. What’s your favourite kind of work, and why?

TB: I don’t really have a favourite – as every area of work brings it’s own challenges and it’s the variety I like. (Although we all dream of being the voice of the one tag line on a global big brand commercial that pays £££! It’s not happened yet… but you never know!)

GoS: Yes, good luck with that – lunch will be on you, you realise? Meanwhile, what’s your biggest gig to date?

TB: Bill Gates gave a presentation to the United Nations about four years ago when he was donating computers and software to the Third World. I was chosen as the voice of the video that accompanied him, explaining the initiative. When I was rung by the production company they said “it’s a job for Bill” I replied, “Bill Who?” Did I feel dumb when they told me! My biggest live job was for The Asian Games in Doha in 2006. I was the live stadium announcer for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The TV audience was estimated as around 3.8 billion across the world, so it was a bit daunting!

GoS: Yes, that’s certainly a couple more than you’d have got with LWT! International stuff brings a different dimension, but what about the voice industry itself? Do you think there are differences between how it works here in the UK and other countries like, for example, the US?

TB: Having researched many US voiceover sites, directories and forums I am impressed by the way our transatlantic VO cousins market them selves and “sell their wares”. Another difference is cultural… for example the “big voice of God” style for TV and film promos and trailers is still  popular in the US, whereas we seem to be moving away from that style over here. There’s no right or wrong but once again the rise of the “cybervoice” way of working means that we have to consider other countries’ cultural requirements – for example, when submitting demos.

GoS: Good points. I also think there’s a difference in the culture of auditioning, which seems to play a bigger part in a VO’s life Stateside than it does here. Plenty for a newcomer to get their head around though, isn’t there? So, what do you think is the biggest challenge to someone wanting to get into the business at this point in time?

TB: On the one hand there is a whole cyberworld out there now so, in theory, more opportunities for everyone. On the other hand it also means that there is much more competition! So if you are new to the business you have to do a lot of flag waving! Get yourself a good demo made, launch a website, join some business and social networking sites, email prospective clients, join some voice directories and forums, pick up the phone, and immerse yourself in it all. (Something you are really good at, Mike!) One person who has been an inspiration to both of us is our fellow voice Philip Banks who has been brilliant at developing his own online presence (and generous enough to give us his advice).

GoS: Yes, Philip’s certainly a bit of an act to follow online isn’t he? So there’s plenty we can do for ourselves with the power of the internet. How important is having an agent, then?

TB: Not overly important these days I think. An agent can find you work where you don’t have any particular contacts yourself – but should never be relied on for your whole income. Voices go in and out of fashion, and agents can put you forward for projects while you are “voice du jour”, but there will be quiet times where you have to be proactive yourself. Having said that, an agent can give you the credibility factor and also deal with any contractual issues that may be more complicated than a straightforward fee. (For instance if your voice is going to be used across territories or for a cross media campaign.)

GoS: OK, I’m not going to tell the world how old you are, but you have been at this for over twenty-five years now. What’s changed in the business in that time?

TB: Definitely the technology. The rise of the internet has opened up a whole world of  opportunities for being a “cybervoice”. I had reached a time in my career where it was a question of keep up or get left behind. It’s still a brave new world for me – but thanks to you and other fellow voices I have been dragged kicking and screaming into voice cyberspace! Now I think I should have done it years ago!

GoS: And how do you see the role of the voice directories like Voice123 and Voices.com? Do you use them?

TB: I am monitoring various friends’ experiences of these but have dipped a toe in and have joined the US site VOPlanet and the European directory Bodalgo. It’s early days for me yet so we’ll see. But it seems to me that they are a good way of marketing British voices to other territories. And in theory you just need one job from a voice directory to recoup the joining fee.

GoS: Yep, as long as the “voice seeker” is paying decent rates. That’s a whole other discussion though! Finally, Trish, what are your aims for this next phase of your career?

TB: Develop my ‘cyber’ career! I am learning a lot from younger voices like yourself and am also listening hard to changing voice styles. Like Madonna – the key to survival takes a certain amount of reinvention! One inspiration was the great Patrick Allen who, thanks to E4, was still socking it to us all at 80!

GoS: There’s hope on the tellybox for us all, then 🙂 Thanks, Trish!

Trish Bertram is my fellow voice on movie channel Film24 (Sky Digital channel 157) and regularly voices station imaging for the BBC Local Radio network and promos for QVC, among other things. Find out more about Trish at www.TrishBertram.com.

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