Dream Job: Voiceover Artist
May 16, 2012 (WLS) -- Jim Connors went to BAM Studios in Chicago to make his dream come true. Looking for some advice on how to break into the voiceover business, he drove all the way from Buffalo, New York, armed with nothing but hope.
"I feel blessed to be here," Connors said.
Let's back up and tell you a little about Jim. He's a father of three and a former Marine who had to give up his goal of being a voiceover artist because of family obligations. He'd been on the road trying to make it in the business while his young family struggled to make ends meet back home in Buffalo.
"After a year, I manned up and I quit. I walked away. I went home with no job and no unemployment in a down economy to put the family back together and to be there for my kids," he said.
That's where ABC7 comes in. Jim said he had started watching ABc7 while he was on the road in Chicago, and he still keeps up with us on with the morning show's live video stream on abc7chicago.com. Plus, he follows us on Facebook. That's where he heard about our "Dream Jobs" series idea, and it rekindled his own, long-held but seemingly elusive dream.
"When I look back on the moments in time in my life, whether it be sitting in a trench in the Marine Corps, sweeping a floor, you know, or doing data entry behind a computer, the happiest moments are sitting behind a microphonEe. If it is your heart and soul, sometimes, you can't let it go," he said.
So after his nine-hour drive, we met Jim at the world-class BAM studios where we joined Dave Leffel, one of the most respected vocal coaches in the region. He's also a top-notch recording engineer at BAM and a very successful voiceover artist. You've no doubt heard his voice -- whether you knew it or not.
Dave is also a casting director who often determines whether or not people get the job.
"Just because you have an interesting sounding voice in a room, doesn't mean it's going to sound great behind the mic," he said.
Dave's voiceover classes at the Acting Studio are booked solid for months, but he agreed to give Jim an extended, private lesson.
"Coaching is helping people discover their voice... helping people discover what they can do. Maybe there's things they haven't tried. Maybe there's things they didn't even realize were a possibility," the instructor said.
And with that, they were off -- lessons and tips from a seasoned pro to a man who just wants a break.
Dave's basic message to Jim or anyone else trying to get into this competitive field:
"The voice is the mirror of the mind. If you're nervous, it's going to show. If you don't like what you're saying, it's going to show. If you're not necessarily understanding the script, it's going to show. It's going to come through in your voice," he said.
As for our man Jim...
"Maybe someone sees me and says, 'That pale-skinned, hairy Irish guy is who I'm looking for!'" said Jim.
Jim said he learned so much about voiceover techniques that he is excited to jump back in and test the waters again. He's hoping his new knowledge will give him an edge in the extremely competitive field.
Dave Leffel teaches classes at the Acting Studio Chicago. His classes fill up quickly, but there are other excellent coaches ready to help.
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