On this week’s #ImagingIn2019, we welcome Donna Frank. Donna is one of the most highly respected Voiceover Artists in the industry today. Her work can be heard on countless stations and is the voice of Howard Stern on SiriusXM.
I have been following her work for the past number of years and I am a massive fan. I even got to work with her on SiriusXM’s Venus channel a few months back.
Welcome Donna Frank to ImagingIn2019!
1. How did you get started in the Voiceover World?
Unofficially, I started recording fake commercials and radio shows as kid in my little Fisher Price tape recorder. They came out bad. Officially, while doing the morning show for the greatest alternative station of all time, WEQX, I got a call from my first client, the Albany Symphony Orchestra to come voice an ad for them at a big studio in Albany. It came out good.
The experience was fantastic. I was hooked. Voice over fits my personality. I’m not a huge crowd person. I like intimate settings like recording studios. I enjoy focusing intently on anything I am creating. I fall in love with it, I have to, there’s no other way. It becomes the only thing to me.
2. Who are your idols and people you look for inspiration from?
Where do I start? I like people who follow the principal that the harder your work, the luckier you get. People who have a sort of magic about them that comes from focused ambition. Prince. Tom Brady. Howard Stern. Barak Obama. In the field of voice over, Randy Thomas. Her resume is amazing. When she graciously accepted my fangirl Facebook friend request a few years ago, I couldn’t believe it.
3. What is your opinion on Vocal Coaches – have you used one in the past and are they worth it?
This is probably not a popular answer, but I have not. At this point, having gotten this far bumbling forward on my own, I’d be afraid of messing with whatever made me naturally marketable. But, I am perpetually interested in growth. Maybe someday I will look to a coach to see if there is a way to sharpen the saw, without breaking it.
4. What makes a killer demo for a voiceover? (Different styles/something creative that makes it different?
Do not limit yourself. It’s radio – theater of the mind. My first demo was not of any work I had actually done. My agent and I rented studio time and she sat there and ripped ad pages out of a magazine and had me read them the way I felt they should sound. We produced a demo from that. It was all malarky, but sounded fantastic and big time and incorporated a lot more range than if I worked with the small amount of stuff I’d actually done. Sometimes you’ve got to show people what you CAN do, not what you’ve actually DONE.
5. You voice lots of radio stations, and I’m sure the copy can get repetitive. How do you keep it fresh, especially when you’re saying the same phrases or reading copy for the same collective contests all the time?
Hmmm. Repetitive copy. That’s not usually happening in any of my markets at this point.
Of every single station I’m working with, they have their own personality, no one is phoning it in. For example, all of my copy for The Howard Stern Show has been the antithesis of repetitive – every script is an invention in and of itself, and never the same as the day before.
With so many of my stations, it’s a team effort – the relationships I have with the program director and production director leaks into the product. I’ve noticed good PDs and production directors aren’t giving repetitive copy. For example, my team at AMP in Boston: TJ and Nick and all…they are amazing…we ‘created’ a voice out of me that is singular to their station and I didn’t know I had. “Read it like you just don’t give a s***,” they insisted. So I did, and the read, no matter what the copy, pops on the air. We call it channelling “April Ludgate.” I love it.
I have a fun relationships with my Production Directors Wade Taylor in Toronto and Roger Keeler in Denver, and that leaks into the final product too. It’s so silly, but I look forward to opening their fun quick emails and scripts every day, it keeps things loose and authentic and there’s no pressure and that translates into my work at the mic. It’s like that with a lot of my PD’s and production directors and I could tell you stories about all of them. I’m in a good place right now and love them all.
But circling back, when repetitive or boring copy has come to me in the past…the buck stops here. It’s up to me to breath life in it, that’s why they hire me. The sound I give all of my stations… I’m obsessed with it. I’m not going to send it if it sounds boring, how embarrassing that would be! Sounds waves are out there FOREVER and these are MINE. I’ll be damned before I let them suck. I always want it to be the best thing anyone’s ever heard, and I keep at it until I hear that spark from my voice go into the copy. I don’t sent it back until I hear the spark.