Imaging In 2018 - Dave Foxx VO

Imaging In 2018 – Dave Foxx VO

Welcome to “Imaging In 2018” a Blog Series which looks at the developments in Radio Imaging and Production, the future and opinions from across the world.

This series covers everything from Creating Audio, Getting Into Radio Imaging, The Future of Radio Imaging and now over the next few posts we will be looking at the Voiceover/Producers relationship.

First off, I wanted to thank everyone who has contributed to the website and series so far. It’s really humbling and literally quite amazing at the time everyone has given up to share their thoughts, views and opinions on Imaging In 2018. It’s getting quite the traction and that is down to the amazing selection of guests who have taken part in this new resource over the coming weeks. Trust me, it won’t end there – I have lots of new posts and topics that I will be posting over the coming months.

Dave Foxx Z100
Dave Foxx in the Z100 Studios a number of years ago.

Dave Foxx

Okay, so I had planned on doing a three-part series with snippets from Voices across the world. However, when I had contacted Dave, the response I received was so detailed and intuitive I just had to create an article dedicated to him (I am sure everyone will understand why!)

Does Dave need an introduction? I don’t think so. However, I will sum him up in a few words. Dave is the Godfather of Imaging and Voiceover and is the most well-known heavy hitters to ever walk this earth. Dave is not just incredibly talented, he is also one of the nicest people you will have meet. He is always helping people and guiding new talent. I think that’s enough for the introduction. I will let Dave get through all the questions!

I met Dave for the first time in 2016 at The Imaging Days 2016. I will never forget the moment he was on stage, talking to hundreds of Imagers, Programme Directors and Producers from across the world and he opened it by saying “I got here for Denzil’s session this morning on purpose, I have been a fan of his work for a while” so, Dave thank you for that and for everything you have done for this industry. Enough from me! Dave – take it away!

1. You have voiced thousands or even millions of pieces of copy - some terrible and some not so bad. But what are the pieces that really stand out for you that ultimately end up on your Reel/Demo for marketing purposes?

Anything that allows me to be self-deprecating. To me, that kind of copy is almost always the funniest and endears my ‘character’ to the audience like nothing else can. I hate it when producers/PDs ask me to sing, but I do it anyway, because it’s embarrassing. I put up with it because I know it works. One of my all time favorite VO jobs sits at the top of my CHR demo. I did it for a client in Connecticut (Jammin107.7) who had a flyaway promotion going on, listing destinations winners could be going to. The last one was Trenton, New Jersey, and I ask the question, “Trenton? Who the hell wants to go to Trenton?” It would be like giving someone a trip to The Pigeons in County Westmeath. That’s all you hear in the demo, but the original promo explained that Ed Sheeran was performing in Trenton, which is actually a quick drive from Philadelphia.
My ROCK demo is full of delightful ‘attitude’ pieces. The PD at KBPI/Denver, Colorado kept telling me to pile on the “‘tude” and I was happy to oblige. Although I am no longer the voice of KBPI, I keep their stuff in my demos because it’s just too perfect for a rock station. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a LOT of work because of what Roger King and others at KBPI produced over the years. A lot of it funny, all of it had (mostly bad) attitude and quite a bit of it made fun of me, as the station voice. This stuff is pure gold. I sincerely wish more CHR and Country PDs would adopt the whole rock attitude; not the sound of the voice, which IS pretty hard-edged, but the complete attitude. It almost ALWAYS works when the big, bad radio announcer makes a jackass of himself.
At the end of my CHR demo there’s a quick clip from a promo that encourages “contest pigs” at Island 106/Panama City Beach, Florida. The PD asked me to do something like hog calling in central Alabama, so I got to put on a gosh-awful southern American accent, close up my sinuses just a bit and grab my throat (internally) to sound like a hog farmer. That was probably a LOT more fun than I’d had in a month of Sundays! Yeehaw!

2. When it comes to scripting - what would you say to the copywriter in making it easier for you to really deliver your best work. (Font size, context, providing audio, live guidance?)

I have one PD at 95-7 The Vibe/Kansas City, Kansas who has obviously read promos or commercials for a living. He breaks the copy down into easily voiced phrases, keeping them apart with ellipses (…) which informs me of his intended edit points for drops, music transitions and other effects. This is MUCH more helpful to me as the VO because I can really keep the continuity of thought going without having to dance around cues for music, pronunciations or other goop. He just gives me the words I need to say in a smooth point A to point B line that helps me ACT my way through the promo. It just makes me a better VO guy. The funny thing is, he regularly goes over his page allotment just about every month, but I don’t really care because his copy is such a joy to read aloud.
I won’t say any PD names or client stations who send me bad copy, but I DO get more than you might think. Run-on sentences are my biggest peeve. (I had one piece recently that was a rather large 14 line paragraph without a single period.) I guess I hate it so much because it forces ME to parse THEIR copy. I have to go through and correct the grammar and punctuation before I can even begin to read it aloud. Quick question: When will people realize that saying, “10am in the morning” is like having a Department of Redundancy Department? I HATE being a grammar Nazi, but some people write (and send) copy without EVER reading it out loud to someone else. Do yourself AND your VO a HUGE favor. Take the extra minute or so and read what you write out loud, while someone else is listening. If you have to stop, at ANY point to figure out what you meant to write, stop right then and fix it, then keep going. Once you get to the end, if you haven’t gone all the way through without stopping, do it again, and here’s why: You really shouldn’t want ME to decide what you meant. I am pretty good at this sort of thing and can usually figure it out, but too often I have to guess what you intended to say and if your writing isn’t clear and concise, I will likely get it wrong. You’re not going to be as happy with the results and I will probably end up losing my gig because “I just don’t GET what you’re trying to do.”
There’s another thing going on here too. There is a HUGE disconnect for most people as they write copy because they don’t understand that writing for the page is a LOT different than writing for the voice. When you write for a website or the printed page, you’ll use words that most people would NEVER use in real life. A perfect example is the word “located or locations.” How many times have you come across copy that says, “with 5 convenient locations,” blah, blah, blah, or, “located at 555 Eat-Me Drive in Babylonia”? I would say that it’s a near 100% possibility that you’ll see at least one every day. Now tell me the last time you ever heard anyone SAY that out in the real world. I’m guessing you’ve never heard that. Ever! It’s not that people are stupid for writing things like that, it’s how they were taught. That’s something they’ve heard on the radio their entire lives. It has become a crutch that everyone uses…especially clients, because it’s something they’ve heard their entire lives TOO.
The real not-so-secret secret is that writers need to write copy as if it were dialogue. I know, it’s usually only one person speaking, but if you can absolutely hear yourself saying (word for word) what you’re writing, to another person, without sounding like you’re reading an elementary school book report, you’re really close to making the copy truly “speak” to the listener. Then, you can know with some certainty that when you give it to me or another PRO-feshunnal pronouncticator, it’ll end up sounding real and genuine to the listener. WINNING!

3. You can write something that looks amazing but when voiced it really just doesn't work. Would you provide feedback or suggest a better way for it to be voiced?

Most of the time, when I get stupid stuff, I just correct it, read it, and move on. When the concept is daring and the fixes seem obvious to me, I will make a quick call and discuss it, pointing out some of the copy weaknesses from my point of view. I’ve had a VERY few PDs get a little torqued about it, but most are happy for the feedback and the care I take in approaching their promo or commercial. The few of people who did NOT appreciate the friendly help, were not clients I worried much about losing anyway. People like that just take WAY too much energy. I much prefer to put that energy into better material. The thing any PD (or writer) needs to remember is that we are on the same team. We both want the same things. We both want to win. The really good clients get it completely and are really glad for the feedback.

Dave Foxx

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