Voice Over Community Building in the Booth and on Zoom

Siobhan O'Loughlin

Spring is here, which often means hope and possibility as tulips are planted in tree pits all across the streets of New York City. I definitely feel a glimmer of hope and possibility this Spring, while simultaneously honoring the fact that Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on our lives in the voice over community.

For many, this is an anniversary of personal grief over loved ones lost during the pandemic. For all of us, we are grieving for the way our lives once were, and great uncertainty over what the future holds. These reflections are sincere and profound, and all of us here at Edge Studio offer our prayers and words of comfort to all members of the voice over community suffering in this extremely difficult time.

For me, thinking of my community in times of sorrow and joy is not only something I naturally do, but it’s my job here at Edge. I’m the social media and voice over community relations manager at the Studio, or, in other words, a soft-hearted-extrovert. It’s okay, I said it! A week before Edge Studio started working remotely, Edge Studio’s founder, David Goldberg, and I did an impromptu Facebook live hour together. I asked him fun questions while we sat side by side in the same room(!!!) giving shoutouts to friends who popped up and talked about voice over.

When David and Andrew Warner, our Managing Director, made the decision for the Edge staff to work remotely, I was heartbroken. Number one, I was dismayed that I couldn’t pop my head into studio B and tell our lead engineer, Kevin, how great his hair looked in between recording sessions. I couldn’t laugh with Susanne over coffee first thing in the morning. I was going to miss seeing our students coming in for training. I’d miss seeing new production clients come in for a record. I was going to miss holding networking events and mixers in our studio. Before the pandemic, Edge was proudly offering free mixers with food and bevvies to the local voice over community. It was important for us to offer a space for folks to foster friendship, to ask each other questions, and for our fresh-faced, totally green friends to step into the booth for the first time in their lives. I was heartbroken to know that we’d have to cancel any upcoming in-person events.

Of course, none of us knew how long this would last. Remember when we thought we’d only be locked inside for a few weeks, or a month at most? As soon as I understood that we were in this for the long haul, I asked David and Andrew right away if they’d be willing or interested to host another virtual session with David and I talking about voice over, only this time, I asked if we could do it on our Zoom account. OH YES, my friends. I was zooming before Zoom was all we knew. I was a Zoom Queen before Zoom Fatigue was a thing. Edge Studio ALREADY HAD a Zoom Account! Did you know we were a leading authority or WHAT?

And thus began our first Zoom call, free and open to the voice over community, on March 26th, 2020. We had almost 90 people on our first call, which was exciting and overwhelming. I know it might be hard to believe, but I am a work in progress. I was still learning how to use Zoom as a facilitator–how to make sure everyone was on mute, how to best utilize the co-hosting functions. David and I enjoyed this session so much that we immediately talked about offering one again. That’s when David said, “Why don’t we just offer these sessions as long as lockdown lasts? It’s the least we can do. I love seeing everyone.” This made my sensitive-extroverted heart swell, and so we did. We hosted more #AMAs.

As I write this, we are about to host our 30th session, which means almost 60 weeks of making space to goof around with David and our plethora of incredible Edge Studio Coaches as guest stars, all while answering honest questions from hundreds of friends from the voice over community. It has been my pleasure to host these sessions. It has been a gift to share space with people I never would have met otherwise. It’s been a fun experiment to encourage the dialog, to maximize the communal space with our cameras on and our bookshelves, fashion sense, and home studios on display.

It’s been fun, it’s been meaningful, and moreover, it’s been necessary. Jacob Stern’s essay in The Atlantic, This is Not a Normal Mental Health Disorder, explores the confusing experience of living during a global pandemic, and how all of our unknown factors make it difficult to be resilient. If there’s one thing we know for sure, though, it’s that hopelessness is much better managed when you are not alone.

Alone has changed meaning for me. I have lived alone for almost the entire year of the pandemic. In The Before Times, I wasn’t a gamer or a person in chat rooms or someone who wants to organize digital hangouts. But that changed radically for me when I understood that I *needed* to organize digital hangouts. It was for my health. And it made sense that we maintain that energy, that memorable friendliness, the warmth of one human to another, even online, here at Edge Studio.

I posit that you can have meaningful interactions over Zoom. I have had them for a year with each and every person that has chosen to grace our zoom room at our Ask Me Anything sessions. Voice actors are solitary people, it’s true. We work from home anyway. We perfect our booths and obsess over sibilance and are very often physically alone. But we used to host these in-studio mixers because we know that there is power in the voice over community when we come together. There is strength in connection, in fostering friendships, in learning about another person’s process and journey. In asking someone about their specialties and strengths. In hearing them open to you about their weaknesses.

That is the power that we hope to continue to foster and facilitate at our first ever Digital Spring Mixer, which I am so very excited to invite you all to. It’s a free event, open to all in the voice over community, and will be a warm, friendly, inviting space to voice actors of all levels of experience and all across the world. We are so looking forward to hosting you on Thurday, April 29th, from 8:00-10:00pm ET so we can grow and learn and share our space together.  “See” you soon!