In this first of a continuing series of interviews with movers, shakers, and fascinating people in the voiceover industry, I had the opportunity to chat with the immensely talented Satauna Howery about her journey as a talent. Satauna has a dynamic, versatile voice that has helped her achieve success in numerous VO genres, including commercial, narration, and character work, among others. She is one of the hottest new talents in the marketplace, with a bright voiceover future. Let’s find out more about this rising star.
JMC: What inspired you to pursue VO as a career?
Satauna: I had thought about doing VO for years. I’d done a smattering of it as a teen when I had my own recording studio in California, and I’d read some content as a volunteer for visually impaired audiences. The idea of choosing VO as a career path would come around every now and again and I’d think, “One of these days I’ll make myself a demo.” When a good friend excitedly told me that she was going to a local studio to have her demo done, I was inspired to finally get off of my “someday seat” and do mine, too. This was terrific fun but also a relief! I realized that what had been holding me back was that I didn’t want to write the copy or do the post production. I just wanted to be the voice and have someone else put the whole thing together!
JMC: Tell me about the steps you took to go from aspiring talent to working professional.
Satauna: I took a while to define my path; but when I finally decided that I was really going to make VO a career, I took consistent, massive action. This started with lining a cardboard box with foam and using a mic I already had with a tabletop stand inside the box to do auditions. Because I have a musical/audio background, I had the software to do auditions and knew enough about using it to edit my work. That said, I’ve learned a lot since then, and my growth in effectively using the technology continues. It’s a process!
I had an account on Voices.com that had been collecting dust for several months. I started auditioning for everything that I thought I could do, and probably a few jobs that I had no business attempting! Within three days, I landed my first gig. That client hired me again a week later.
Shortly thereafter I lost a job opportunity because I didn’t know how to quote it properly. The client loved my voice and I wanted this job so much, but he went with another talent because my price was way too high! This experience drove me to hire a coach. I was having some success and was hungry for information, advice and support from someone who could say, “Been there. Done that. Before you leap off this cliff, you might want to consider some things.”
When my coach pointed out the deficiencies in my audio quality, I went to work to fix them. I was in an upstairs office with laminate floors, loud desktops and chickens outside! I honed my editing skills, bought a new microphone and spent an evening with my husband putting together a 4×6 WhisperRoom sound booth in the basement. I dedicated a laptop to my cause and bought a new interface to go with it—something small and cute that I could travel with if I needed to. I was hooked, totally addicted to this VO thing, and I just ran with it.
JMC: Other than ability, what one skill should every aspiring talent have?
Satauna: Wow, just one? You asked for a skill—not a character trait, so I’d say organization/business sense. Operating a business can be learned, so learn how to do it. People think VO is so neat and sounds like such fun and they’re right! But if you want to move from aspiring talent to consistently working pro, you’ve got to think of it as a business.
JMC: What is one mistake you made in the beginning, and how would you do things differently now?
Satauna: I wouldn’t have given up so easily. I spent a few days auditioning with no results and I decided that it was an awful lot of work for a very small return. I was discouraged for awhile, but the more research I did, the clearer it became that success in this business doesn’t happen overnight.
JMC: What job have you enjoyed the most to date?
Satauna: Oh wow, I tend to enjoy the one I’m currently working on the most. There are so many good ones I could discuss!! I love the character voice jobs. I’ve been a Russian storyteller, a dog, an elf in Santa’s workshop, a princess, a talking baby… I like car jobs, too! I don’t drive but apparently I know how to sell vehicles. I’ve done some high energy explainer videos that have been incredibly fun, and I do enjoy being the sexy, classy lady—because in real life I’m pretty informal, so sexy/classy is a character in its own right.
JMC: What job have you found most challenging?
Satauna: Well, I’m not a trained actress, so while I love the characters I also find them very challenging sometimes. I just finished up a video game where I had to do various vocalizations. For example, the script said “feel pain.” Ok, what kind of pain? Am I close to unconsciousness, being stabbed, or is someone pulling my hair? Sometimes the challenge is figuring out what the client wants since they’re not always present to direct.
Oh, but the first few times I did a phone patch session with a client I was a nervous wreck! Was the equipment going to work right? What if the client asked me to do something I didn’t know how to do?
My first jobs while traveling were a surprise and a scary challenge. I was going to a conference for a week and thought that I’d do auditions in the evenings, so I purchased a VocalBooth2Go. I didn’t do any auditions because I landed a few jobs. The hotel room was noisy, and I was down the hall from a woman who thought putting jingle bells on her dog was cute. This is when knowing how to use one’s tech—and how to request extra blankets and be creative with the sound set-up—can be extremely helpful! I still have plenty to learn.
A real technical challenge for me was my first 1-hour eLearning job. I just didn’t realize how long it would take to edit the content, split up all the files, etc.
JMC: Tell me about your studio.
Satauna: My “studio” is a carpeted room in our finished basement. I still teach a few piano students, so there is a small upright in there along with my WhisperRoom booth. I probably could have made VO work without the booth but I love it! Between my dog and three cats, laminate flooring throughout the upstairs, my teenage daughter and her friends, 30 chickens outside, a sump and a water pump in the basement and the general noises of everyday living, a pre-made booth was the best option. I enjoy having the works pace. When I’m in there, my family knows that they better have a good reason to bother me!
My mic and headset are Sennheiser. My laptop sits outside the booth on a table with my Focusrite iTrak Solo.
JMC: Have you attended any VO events or gatherings? What was your experience like?
Satauna: I had a terrific time at VoiceWorld earlier this year. If Voices.com does it again in 2014, I plan on being there! Overall the sessions were informative and I met so many wonderful people.
JMC: What’s your VO dream job?
Satauna: Anything that pays well that I don’t have to edit!!! I love to just walk into a studio—better yet have my expenses paid to go to some foreign place and just voice!
JMC: . Tell us something about you that most people would find surprising.
Satauna: Well, most of my clients would be surprised to know that I was born blind. I have no sight at all—no lights, no floaters, no shadows, no colors. I read my scripts using a braille display. Braille displays are a blind person’s equivalent of a computer monitor. I use mine with PC’s, Mac’s, my iPhone… I know others who use audio prompters but I love my braille! There is no one right way.
While I don’t hide my blindness, I don’t make a point of discussing it with clients. Most of the time there is no need. Because my scripts are in electronic format, marking them up is easy! There are sometimes challenges, however. I once chose to tell a repeat client that I couldn’t see after she kept sending me scripts with notes that said, “Read the text in green.” Another time, the creator of a Facebook game wanted me to play the game so I could see how my voice was going to fit into it. I had to tell her I couldn’t because the game is completely inaccessible to blind Facebook users.
I couldn’t resist telling my contact from Subaru that I’m blind after he said that when he heard my demo, he thought, “That’s our customer!” Sure! I’ll buy one as soon as they make a driverless model—unless Ferrari beats them to it.
NOTE: To hear Satauna’s demos, visit http://www.voices.com/people/Satauna