What is the title of your book?
“The Art of Voice Acting, Third Edition: The Craft and Business of Performing for Voice-Over.”
Tell me about it.
“The book is really a guide. The first thing I do is define what voiceover really is. It’s not just talking or reading a script. It’s acting. Take a commercial as an example. We take a script that is written by an advertising agency, and we interpret it and bring it to life, so that a message can be effectively communicated to the listening audience. There is nothing compelling about the words, but as actors, we incorporate emotion, attitude, and energy into those words. We provide an interpretation that the listener can relate to and connect with. What makes voiceover the most difficult sort of performing is that all we get is the script. In stage, television, and film, the actors get time and text to help them internalize a role. Voice actors walk into the studio and the producer hands them a script. They’re lucky if they get five minutes to study it, and then they have to deliver in an effective and compelling manner as quickly as possible, because studio time is expensive. And then, besides the craft, my book also covers the business end of voice acting — it’s a very independent, freelance, almost isolated kind of work. We have to do our own marketing.”
How did you come to write this book?
“For 25 years, I worked for NBC 7/39 as a director of newscasts. I was also the audio supervisor, and I worked with voice talent on a daily basis. In 1997, I took a Learning Annex class in which the teacher said, ‘If you want to make money in voiceover, you have to be in L.A. and you have to be in the union.’ I thought, ‘Then why am I here? I’m in San Diego for a reason; I don’t want to live in L.A.’ I had a friend who put events together for the Learning Annex, and I asked if I could teach a class. I put together really comprehensive notes, and they started to take on a life of their own. They served as the basis for the first edition of the book.”
Tell me about your writing habits.
“I usually write at night, when it’s quiet. When I write, it’s like I’m channeling something else — from a different part of my brain. I don’t write first, then go back and edit. I compose in my head, and it comes out into the computer the way I want it to sound. If it doesn’t, I’ll fix it right then. Later, I’ll go back and tweak, but a lot of what I write is very close to the finished product.”
Is the book connected to your day job?
“There are several components to what I do. I’m a voice actor — I’ve done local IKEA commercials and training videos, but most of my work airs in other cities. I’m also a CEO and partner with Voice Acting, LLC, which is my company with partner Penny Abshire. We provide coaching and training services for voice actors. And I do full production work with ad agencies.”
What do you hate about San Diego?
“I’ll spin that question in a different direction. I grew up in L.A., attended San Diego State, and then went back to L.A. A year and a half later, I was back in San Diego. It’s like night and day compared to the L.A. rat race. There, you have the Peter Principle: people get to their level of greatest incompetence and that is where they have their job. Down in San Diego, people know what they’re doing.”
Name: James Alburger | Occupation: Voice Actor, Coach, Producer
Neighborhood: Rancho Peñasquitos | Where interviewed: His home