Friday, 9 March 2012

Welcome one and all to another little instalment from the studio that kicks serious vocal ass! This week Chris and I were very excited to meet Dexter Fletcher.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels was something of a cult movie from my uni days and you were likely to have your head flushed down the toilet if you weren’t watching Press Gang during those golden school years.

Dexter is a born and bred Londoner and has been larking around in films since childhood. He played Baby Face in Bugsy Malone back in 1976, the boy who frees The Elephant Man from the freak show, and Al Pacino's son in the Goldcrest-wrecking Revolution.

In the aforementioned Press Gang Dexter became very popular playing the character of Spike, both on TV and girls bedroom walls!

Lock Stock was the film that propelled him back into the big time, and his part in Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy the following year cemented his return.

Some of you may also remember Dexter for his role as presenter for the now defunct Channel 4 show GamesMaster in 1993.

Dexter recalls presenting GamesMaster was 'very unforgiving' and 'quite intimidating'. So it seems even big Hollywood stars can have a case of the wobbles.

Apart from the film work, presenting, and TV appearances, Dexter has a fair bit of voice over work under his belt. He has been the voice for McDonald's television adverts and (feigning a US accent) is the narrator of The Game audio book written by Neil Strauss. He also narrated the Five series Airforce Afghanistan.

So we come to what Dexter really wanted to talk to us about – his big project of the moment which is likely to jettison him into the archives as not only a great actor and superb voice artist, but as writer and director of a pretty awesome movie.

Yes folks - the child actor, with the awe-inspiring American accent, turned cockney geezer character actor for hire, .....has pulled it out of the bag. Huzzah!

Wild Bill is certainly funny, but also smacks with emotional impact and depth.

In fact Dexter’s directorial debut is a complete charmer with a very likeable central performance from Charlie Creed-Miles as 'Wild' Bill Hayward.

Released from prison after an eight-year sentence, Bill returns to a South London estate planning to stay out of trouble, serve out his parole and then head to Scotland. But he cannot easily escape his history with the dodgy geezers and dangerous drug dealers on the estate, or his obligations to fifteen-year-old Dean (Will Poulter) and his younger brother Jimmy (Sammy Williams).

So how will Dexter draw in the punters and manage to convince us that this isn’t just another London gangster sub-genre:

‘Lock, Stock was a fairly career-defining film for me. So of course if you say one of the guys from that film has done a film set in the East End, and there’s some snappy dialogue, it’s a bit funny, there’s some gangsters in it – well of course, the boxes are all ticked! But to a certain degree that actually helped me get the initial interest of getting the film made. I’ll admit I was kind of canny, exploitative even, in thinking ‘what’s gonna get me my opportunity to direct? What’s gonna get me that meeting?’ And I’m just lucky that the producers I got to read it saw what the bigger picture was and realised that yes, it is ticking those boxes but really we’re looking at a very different kind of thing here, and they still allowed me to pursue that. If I’d just said “I want to do a family drama about a father and son”, they would have just said “yeeah, right!”’

Nick, Andy Stanson, and Chris were all privy to the obvious excitement coming from Dexter as he chatted about the release of his film in the Green Room - and who can blame him – Wild Bill has already had rave reviews from tough critics and proves that Baby Face has finally become a critically acclaimed man!

Regular readers of the A1 VOX Blog may remember us having a very fun session with David Walliams. He visited A1 VOX having just completed his swim of the Thames and raising £1 million for Sport Relief.

The comic, turned charity hero, came into our humble studio to lend his voice to BT’s Speaking Clock.

I can now tell you that this has gone live, and for the next five weeks David will join Chris Moyles, Girls Aloud singer Kimberley Walsh, Gary Barlow and presenter Fearne Cotton to give the nation the time of day.

All the above, (with the exception of Gary Barlow), recorded their pieces at A1 VOX the year before last and we feel proud to have done our bit towards the cause.

David said ‘I was relieved to hear that BT only wanted my voice this time around and not for me to take on another grueling challenge’.

So what can you do to help raise money – simply by ringing 123 from a BT landline until April 9th is what.

Callers can also take part in a daily prize draw to win a limited edition David Walliams clock and not a kerfuffle in sight.

The star added: ‘For the duration of the competition, every time you call to hear my dulcet tones, BT will donate 10p to Sport Relief 2012 – it’s as easy as 123.’


The Great Gatsby at Wilton's Music Hall 20 April 2012

Starring A1 VOX’s dapper big shot himself………Mr Nick Chambers

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. adapted by Peter Joucla, designed by Lucy Wilkinson.

Published in 1925, a year before the catastrophic collapse of the American stock markets, Fitzgerald’s novel graphically portrays a society being destroyed by money and dishonesty, an American Dream of happiness and individualism degenerating into the mere pursuit of wealth.

This particular production is an adaptation of the book for the stage and will be filled with live jazz music from the twenties, recreating the glitz and decadence of the period.

"It takes two to make an accident." But I doubt Joucia and Wilkinson will put a foot wrong in this daring project.

The rooms at the front of Wilton’s will be converted into various places, inspired by the book, before the show from 6pm, during the interval, and after the show until 11pm, with live singing and dancing to boot.

"I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited--they went there." And don’t you wait to be invited – get involved people!

Audiences will be encouraged to stay and enjoy the whole experience. There will even be period food, merchandise and dressing up accessories to keep the 20’s vibe alive.

So from Fat Sams Grand Slam to Wilton Music Halls very own version of the Speakeasy.

I for one am tres tres excited about this whole project as I simply adore the roaring 20’s – flapper girls, bootlegers, and moonshine in teapots – what an era! To have one of our own starring in it completes the magic and I think that the A1 VOX’ers will be coming out in full force to support Nick as he sashays his way through what is sure to be a once in a lifetime theatrical experience! Darn Tooting!

For more information and to buy tickets, call the box office on 020 7702 2789.

Next week I will be chatting to Philippa Starns and Fenella Fudge to give you the low down on all that VoxTraining has to offer. Ta-Ra for now.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

This week saw the return of Joe Mcfadden and Gyles Brandreth to A1 VOX.

Gyles was his usual cheery self and Joe cut quite a dashing figure – probably due to his recent on stage role as eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Chris has been recording some bits and pieces for a highly confidential project that I would love to tell you about but would have to cull all your vocal chords, so my lips are sealed!

As for Charles - any early birds out there might have caught him chewing the cud with Vanessa Feltz as he took to the Radio 2 airwaves last week. He was also driving the desk for Moira Stewart, so a long old shift, and blooming early starts for our man in the field, Mr Nove.

I simply don’t know how he does it?! Up with the lark and then speaking to the country with precise diction and free wheeling chat with Vanessa…….the mere thought sends shivers down my spine, but it is certainly a job that Charles loves and there is no doubt about it, Charles is one of the best in the business.

It was for this very reason that Charles found himself being interviewed by friend and esteemed showbiz colleague - Mr Lewis Mcleod, on 'Speak Up' for BBC Radio Scotland.

(Unfortunately at the time of this Blog going to press the interview had been up for its 7 day period and may therefore only be found in the BBC archives at a later date)

The topic of the show was all things voice over and the interview entertained anyone with fingers in audio pies and quenched the thirst of newbie audio goons thinking of becoming a V/O themselves.

So it was a case of audio geeks unite as Lewis interviewed our own legendary Mr Charles, then Simon Grenall, (aka, the very famous meerkat), and last but by no means least, Peter Dickson - the right hand human boom-box to Simon Cowell's X Factor.

Lewis himself has a huge repertoire when it comes to voicing. He can pretty much turn his vocals to any character and accent going.

He quizzes Charles on how you go about becoming a ‘voice’, the pitfalls and dangers of joining the industry, and how we here at A1 VOX train people through our sister company Voxtraining.

If I had a pound for every time somebody calls A1 and says that their aunt Maude suggested they get into the biz as they have an exceptional voice, I would be one rich lady.

“The industry is very competitive so clear off and forget all about it”

That is definitely not what I say to people enquiring about our courses but this is what Charles says in much jest during the interview.

What he goes on to explain is that to make a real commitment to the world of voice over any prospective punter needs to be armed with all the information in order to fully understand the nature of the business.

As Charles points out having a good voice is only one part of what constitutes being a professional voice artist, and in actual fact.... not really the biggest part.

Charles’ Checklist

Before taking the plunge and jacking in your 9-5 to take up the vocal mantel here is a quick fire list of things to consider:

Can you amend your delivery?

Can you finely tune and add or shave seconds as requested?

Can you take direction?

Can you maintain a character/accent over a two hour session?

Can you maintain enthusiasm even after 100 takes of saying the same thing?

Can you ensure that the client has full confidence in you?

Do you know how to behave in a session?

Can you decipher what the client really wants even if they don’t seem able to communicate it to you in words?

Being a voice over takes a lot of patience.

Over the years I myself have been privy to many a session.

There will often be one voice artist in the booth, three clients in the studio, and another couple calling in on the phone. The voice artist has to keep their cool when they are getting conflicting direction from all angles. They have to use their voice, and more importantly - their brain, to take everything that is thrown at them and deliver the goods.

It is a myth that anyone can go into the booth and read from a script – well anybody can do that of course, but the end result won’t be a patch on what a pro can produce.

We have had some clients that bring people in from their office as they say…yes you’ve guessed it…..'he/she has got a really good voice'. They get in the booth, they clam up, they can only read the piece in one particular way, and good voice or not, the outcome has as much life as a piece of wood.

The client then admits defeat and usually ends up paying for another studio session with a professional voice artist.

But it is not all caution, doom, and gloom as there is a pretty penny to be made if you persevere. Established voices do very well out of the industry especially if they carve a particular niche for themselves. Brian Blessed, who often visits us at A1 VOX, has an instantly recognisable voice – you think ruddy loud and proud – you think Blessed!

Here at A1 VOX we run a one day Introduction to Voice Over course each month. We also create demo show reels for experienced and established voice artists that want to freshen up their reel, or for people that are attempting to break into the business and need a demo to get themselves a voice agent.

We will be discussing both of these courses in blog detail over the weeks to come.

So for now look over the checklist. If you are still saying ‘hell yeah – I wanna get me some of that vocal pie’ then read all A1 VOX has to offer to get you started on your path to talking for money in a blog coming to you soon.



Faberge present The Big Egg Hunt.

For forty days and forty nights London will be transfixed by the most astounding and exhilarating egg hunt it has ever seen.

Each corner will hold a secret treasure for you to discover and it is all in the name of charidee!!!!!

Elephant Family and Action for Children are the two charities behind the exciting event. You may remember the painted elephants that made an appearance in London and in this blog last year…well this is the second brainwave from the charities whose boundless passion and vision has brought them together to raise money that they both so urgently need.

Many a special egg lays hidden and with online competitions bringing hunters together – are you up to the challenge?

I was - so I hit the pavement and managed to snap these groovy little pieces on my jaunt around Carnaby Street.

It certainly is a jolly idea and has even made headlines when the egg-cellent Post Box design below was stolen and subsequently retrieved – the egg of some people eh!