From Texas to Normandy, the itinerary of an actress
Hello all, below is an article that I’ve translated from Espérance le Mag. Be sure to check out their website and facebook page !
Behind her microphone, headphones over her ears, & her eyes fixed on the computer screen. Stephanie listens to a sample of audio that she just recorded for a voice over audition.
She rerecords some of the text in English that she was asked to interpret, arranges this version with a previous one.
"The client finds that my accent is too American in my first recording. He asked me to do a second version" explains the young woman.
With dexterity, Stephanie reduces "mouth noise", decreases pauses and makes some other corrections. The imperfections are so light that they would go unnoticed for most of us. After one final check, Stephanie sends the audio file by email. The whole process didn’t take more than 30 minutes.
It's been six months since the young woman from Texas became a "voice over" entrepreneur and set up a recording studio at home. In France, we speak more readily of "dubbing", grouping the different types of recordings made by actors remaining invisible on the screen. Common active areas in the field are: online courses, presentations (videos, powerpoint ...), telephone messages, dubbing films and series (a very closed niche) but also videos for the internet…
"I always wanted to be an actress," says Stephanie. A dream that the young woman put on hold when she arrived in France in 2010.
"EAT, PRAY, LOVE"
Stephanie was born in Texas but then she grew up in Ohio. She studied cinema and theater,
especially in San Diego, a city she discovers thanks to her twin sister who resided there for a while. "I went to see my sister and I told her, there's no snow here, I'm moving out!" Laughs the young woman.
"One day, it was in 2008 I read the book,"Eat, Pray, Love" written by Elizabeth Gilbert. Elizabeth Gilbert takes a trip to Italy. I wanted to do the same thing and I typed "work, Italy" on my Internet search bar. The first result was a job for acting in English. For me it was a sign!"The young woman had only a few days to prepare and send her application ... which was retained.
For nine months, Stephanie worked in a theater troupe that gave performances in English in front of students throughout Italy. 300 performances later, the young woman returned to the United States. But she made a decisive encounter in Italy, that of Luc, a French actor. Stephanie and Luc found themselves alternating between France and the United States.
Not a word of French
"I loved France and we decided to settle together near Paris, Stephanie remembers.
It was in 2010, I did not speak a word of French. The first year was very hard, also because of cultural differences. At that time, I couldn’t see how I could become an actress, so I let that dream go."
Despite the language barrier, Stephanie quickly found a job with International SOS in Levallois-Perret. The company offers international health and safety services. Stephanie’s asset was that she was a native English speaker. "But my manager quickly told me that my French was terrible and that if I did not improve, I was fired within six months! I found it hard to hear but I progressed" resumes Stephanie.
The young lady stayed in that company for six years. Despite the difficulties encountered, her love for France remains intact. So much so that she obtained the French nationality in 2018, which she is very proud of.
"When my daughter was born, we decided to move to Normandy, near Luc's parents. With our two jobs, it was very difficult to watch Sophia."
Stephanie resigned from International SOS at the beginning of 2016 and immediately found a position as an Event Project Manager at Tam-Tam organization based in le Neubourg. The company is specialized in the organization of events, mainly in the agricultural sector.
« I learned a lot working with tam-tam, especially about the agricultural world, explains Stephanie. I was also an interpreter for SPACE (International Livestock Show). That's where I saw a cow milking robot for the first time and was very excited to see so much technology. "
"I left Tam-Tam in December 2017, thanks to this experience, I felt ready to start my business. Since the age of 16, I wanted to become an entrepreneur. At that time, I was employed and I made pretzels. I calculated the profitability of the production, what the owner earned and I compared it with my salary!".
The idea of being an actress resurfaced. "One day, Luc told me that someone was ooking for an English speaking voice over actress." Stephanie did some research that convinced her that an opportunity exists. "I found a company in this field who agreed to welcome me so that I could shadow and observe. And I liked it". Stephanie also carried out training and internships to acquire and perfect the skills needed for her project.
Voice over work requires varied interpretation techniques and excellent command of your voice. The intonation and the speed are different depending on whether you’re recording a phone message, a promotional video, or an audio book ... Even accents can be worked on. As for repeated recordings, they put the body to the test. Vocal warm ups, breathing technique, and stress management are essential.
"During my internships, everyone encouraged me and told me that there were requests in France for American voices like mine" recalls the young entrepreneur. "That’s when I realized that my difference was a benefit. When I arrived in France nine years ago, I was almost ashamed of my accent”
But Stephanie also must master a technological environment: know, for example, how to stand in front of a microphone in a studio.
"I also wanted to install my own recording studio at home. Explains Stephanie. So I also learned how to use recording software. It's part of my job that I really like."
This is a way to offer clients a finished "product", an undeniable additional asset.
"In some cases, I’m selected and I go to Paris to record in studios, other times I do it myself at home."
"To find clients, I call companies to ask them if I could provide a service they may need. No one is using the phone anymore but it still works great! Stephanie notes. I also subscribe to a casting website. Each registered actor can send a demo and propose his or her price. But the competition is very strong and I have few returns for the moment.”
Stephanie has already recorded many projects, mainly in English, for online training organizations, presentation videos.... She even recorded two tutorial videos Lancôme and dubbed a voice in a documentary "The mystery of the Holy Lance" (Pernel Media).
"I even had the opportunity to translate a video on a neuroscience conference into English! I became a specialist on the subject, teases Stephanie. I also translated and voiced a video for MyGO."
"I would like very much to record audio books. I like the idea of sharing a story with someone who does not have time to read. I'm doing this for the first time with "Cobalt" written by CG Blade. It's a lot of preparation work: read the book, referencing the dialogues, decide on the voice of each character, and record a reference for each one..."
All of these projects require energy and optimism, two qualities that Stephanie is not lacking. We just have to see the path that she has traveled these past few months to be convinced.
Time to eat!
Stephanie adapted to cultural differences when she arrived in France. But they were also fun. "My grandparents came to visit us. Whenever we were invited to someone’s house, the meals lasted four hours! We are not used to sitting so long at the dinner table. At the end of their stay, when we went to see someone, my grandparents said to me "say, we do not have to stay and eat do we ?! ".
On the web:
Laetitia Brémont is a French journalist and writer that founded Espérance le Mag
The original article in French can be found here: Du Texas à la Normandie, itinéraire d’une actrice
Stephanie Matard is an English voice over actress that lives and works in Europe, France to be exact. Stephanie is a female actress with an American accent.