Cecelia is one of Melbourne’s most loved voice artists with a voice that is natural, warm and very versatile. She’s brought mice, cats, aliens and many other cartoon characters to life in popular kid’s TV animated series, narrated TV shows in a British accent and is constantly busy with radio ads, TVCs and corporate video VO work.
With an audio production background she has a great understanding of both the performance and technical sides of working in the studio. Alongside VO work Cecelia keeps her finger in the radio world by hosting the podcast ‘The Wellness Collective’ on PodcastOne.
Listen to the full episodes in our Podcast:
Interview Part 1
Mike Aiton: Hello, and welcome to Source Elements, On the Mic, with Mike Aiton, and today my special guest is Cecilia Ramsdale from Melbourne in Australia, hi Cecilia. How are you today?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Hello Mike, I’m good, how are you?
Mike Aiton: Very well, thank you. How’s life down in Melbourne today? Has it been a warm day?
Cecilia Ramsdale: The wonderful thing about living in Melbourne, I don’t know if you know this, but we have four seasons in one day very regularly. So this morning, we had sunshine, 21 degrees. And then at certain stages in the day, we had hail, rain, and it felt like a mini-tornado came through. So you know, it’s never dull, that’s for sure.
Mike Aiton: Perfect. Are you predominantly a freelance worker? Or are you predominantly employed by one particular agency?
Cecilia Ramsdale: No, I am predominantly a freelance worker. I worked in radio for quite a long time in a permanent sort of way. But along the way, I was doing voiceovers as well as it. And I had an agent and then at some point in time, a while ago now, probably 10 plus years ago, I decided to throw in the radio stuff, and just do freelancing, which was risky but so far, so good, I’m still here. I mix it up, though, so my main thing is voiceovers. But I’ve started to do some casual radio producing again, and I hosted a podcast for six years called the ‘Wellness Collective’ which I say, hosted because our last one that I am part of goes to air this week, is released this week. So I decided I wanted to change things up in that direction but yeah, freelancing. Yep, that’s what I do.
Mike Aiton: Okay, do you have your own studio?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I do. And I really laugh when people love putting photos of their studios up on their social media and stuff because mine is literally half of the cupboard in my bedroom. One half is full of my dresses and the other half has my microphone and interface set up. And it works really well. So it’s not very picture-worthy, though. So I do find that, I try not to do booth selfies very often because it’s very non-glamorous.
Mike Aiton: There is beauty in anonymity sometimes.
Cecilia Ramsdale: There is, absolutely keeps the dream alive, yeah.
Mike Aiton: How would people get hold of you if they wanted to get hold of you? Do you have an agent or?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I do have an agent in Australia, they’re called EM Voices. But I also have my website, which is CeciliaRamsdalevoice.com. Not sure if you can hear my children and the cat in the background, probably. We’re living in lockdown still, so everyone’s on top of each other. It’s a family affair.
Mike Aiton: I like the cut of your gin. Okay, as a sort of warm-up thing, we’re going to do our little quick-fire question sort of routine, which I like to call, which flavor source?”
Cecilia Ramsdale: Right
Mike Aiton: It’s quickfire questions and you literally get three to five seconds and that’s it. If you can’t answer just say pass, but it’s just a bit of fun.
Cecilia Ramsdale: It’s a bit of better pressure Mike, okay,
Mike Aiton: And enables our listeners to get to know you or get an impression of you quickly. So favorite biscuit or cookie?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, I like chocolate hobnob.
Mike Aiton: You’re a woman on to my heart, it’s an elegant choice.
Cecilia Ramsdale: The ones without the chocolate though, they’re not as good. [inaudible 00:03:27].
Mike Aiton: Yes, the combination is where it’s at, it’s larger than life. Okay, favorite book?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Favorite book at the moment is ‘Rodham’ by Curtis Sittenfeld, it’s about Hillary Clinton, if she’d not married Bill Clinton, it’s a novel, it’s good. Oh, and I’ve got another one that’s more voice-related. Can I say two
Mike Aiton: You certainly can.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Okay, the other one is ‘Breath’ by James Nestor. It’s a book that’s all about how we breathe and how most of us in the western world are doing it wrong and how we could be doing it so much better in many, many ways. Mainly, it’s about using your nose more.
Mike Aiton: I’ll add it to the list of things. I don’t do correctly, okay.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, I know, that’s the thing.
Mike Aiton: Are you Mac or PC?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Mac
Mike Aiton: Okay?
Cecilia Ramsdale: All the way everything.
Mike Aiton: Do you prefer starter or pudding?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Starter, savory over sweet.
Mike Aiton: Analog or digital recording?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Analog.
Mike Aiton: Okay, interesting.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Can’t do it anymore but no, I do like it.
Mike Aiton: Vinyl or CD for listening?
Cecilia Ramsdale: You know, in the 90s, my husband was a DJ so we have quite a bit of vinyl, but it’s very specific vinyl. And my dad was into soul in the 70s so I’ve got a bit of that but I would say CDs because I’ve got my CD collection up on the shelf that I really like to listen to because I like looking at the colored spines that reminds me of different times. Look I just don’t listen off Spotify because it doesn’t have the same quality.
Mike Aiton: No, okay. Do you have a favorite music recording?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Pass.
Mike Aiton: Okay, do you play a musical instrument?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I played the flute at school but not anymore?
Mike Aiton: Okay better than playing the fool. Do you have a favorite microphone for voice? Given any budget what would you buy? If I gave you an unlimited budget?
Cecilia Ramsdale: See, if I had an unlimited budget, I would go to someone else to get them to buy it because I have never been interested in the tech side of things, I just like it to work.
Mike Aiton: It’s a tool, okay. What’s your DAW of choice?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I use a Steinberg UR 22 which seems to do the job. Like I say I like to be able to go in and press record and know it’s all going to come together and it does.
Mike Aiton: Which software?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I record actually using Osen audio, which is a free recording software, which is kind of weird, but then I edit on Pro Tools. It’s just the way I’ve got the setup. I don’t have the Pro Tools on my laptop because I like using the big sound. I’m very technically non-minded so I like things to be in a very kind of clunky fashion, which I’m sure for people that love tech just go, “What are you doing?” But it’s fine, it works for me and I don’t have to think about it.
Mike Aiton: That’s what’s interesting, it’s what makes you tick.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: That’s where it’s interesting, if everyone just says Pro Tools, wake me up when it’s over.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. Well, I used to record onto a zoom like the hard disk recorder, used to record onto that. And then I’d take the- I can’t even remember the word.
Mike Aiton: SD card.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Thank you.
Mike Aiton: Lucky, I’m here.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Lucky you’re here. So the SD card, stick it in my Mac on the desktop, load it into Pro Tools, edit it up, do all that, send it away. And then I discovered Osen audio and I just love it because it’s a really simple interface. Years ago when I was doing radio I learned on cool edit, which I think got bought out by Adobe.
Mike Aiton: I remember Cool Edit Pro.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I loved it, loved it, really easy to use. And so this Osen one is very similar, so I find it really straightforward.
Mike Aiton: It’s quite interesting how people from radio backgrounds sometimes have quite different sort of- Sadie was very popular. In the BBC, in the world of radio and the TV people well in the UK were mainly weaned on AMS audio files, very different, very expensive, but-
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, I think that’s what you learn on.
Mike Aiton: What’s the most recent music that you bought?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, that I bought?
Yes. It’s a hard question this because for a lot of people-
Cecilia Ramsdale: It is, isn’t it?
Mike Aiton: They don’t buy music anymore.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I really wish I could. In fact, there’s a couple of really good secondhand music stores in Melbourne that remain open for a while, but as soon as they are open, I’d like to go and update my collection. What was the last thing I ought? Oh, it was actually like a late-night tales Jamiroquai album, which was like $5. It was in the bargain bin, but yeah, it was it’s good, I actually like something that’s got a mix of things on it, so that you can find new music like soundtracks and stuff like that.
Mike Aiton: What’s the most recent software that you bought?
Cecilia Ramsdale: The most recent software? Oh, I think was Minecraft for my son. Does that count? It’s a game?
Mike Aiton: Sure does. Who’s one of the most famous people you’ve ever met?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, weird. Al Yankovic?
Mike Aiton: Oh, yes. I remember, him, eat it, the famous eat it song.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes, yeah. And Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is that their names? The guys from Shaun of the Dead, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Oh, yeah I like Simon Pegg he’s a hoot.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, I worked on a radio show years ago and it was a very popular one. I was working on it as a producer. And we used to get a like all of the touring artists that were coming through would come on to it. So yeah, we met a lot of people through that. Oh, I know actually the best famous person I think I’ve ever met was the guy from The Simpsons. Who’s not Hank Azaria. [inaudible 00:09:38]
Mike Aiton: Okay, cool.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yep, yeah.
Mike Aiton: He’s pretty big, we’ll give you that one.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Well, as a voice person, he’s pretty good.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. Okay, mountains or beaches for holidays?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Beaches, can’t wait.
Mike Aiton: I know the feeling preferred weekend would be a city break or countryside?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Countryside.
Mike Aiton: Okay. Do you have a most hated colloquial phrase?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes. There’s been so many lately, hasn’t there?
Mike Aiton: Yes.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, no, you’ve got this. That’s my least favorite thing to hear anyone say. And it’s mostly because the country that we live in has been separated into sections. So succinctly in the last 18 months, two years, when one part of the country would be in lockdown, we’d get messages from everybody around the country going, “you’ve got this.” And I’d say, “Have we now? All right, thank you, it’s really helpful.”
Mike Aiton: It’s very kind of you, thank you very much, yeah.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, thanks. And circle back. What’s yours?
Mike Aiton: Mine is people who say anyways, because there’s no plural of anyway.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, well, if you want to talk about that, if you come to Australia, and you go to Queensland, they’re mad for a bit of you’s.
Mike Aiton: Oh, no.
Cecilia Ramsdale: And not the sheep. So like you’re in a cafe and someone says, have you’s been served yet? That kind of thing.
Mike Aiton: Oh, I’m sorry that enables me to get a haddock and slap them in the face. It’s a beatable offense by the grammar police.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: Which famous person alive or dead would you most enjoy a night out with?
Cecilia Ramsdale: How do you pick one?
Mike Aiton: Give me a couple quickly.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, Damon Albarn from Blur, he would be pretty good. And yeah, I don’t know maybe just him. Oh, no, no, no, no, Ted Lasso. Actually, the whole cast from Ted Lasso, so I’m obsessed with them at the moment.
Mike Aiton: Okay, that’s a show I haven’t seen but a lot of people have said I have to check it out. Who would you most like to record with or work with?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I would love to work on a really big animation. So I know most of the cast these days are well-known people. But one of the Pixar Animations, something like that, I think would be extraordinary to do.
Mike Aiton: Like cars or something of that ilk? Or Nemo?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Which I probably know every single line of by heart.
Cecilia Ramsdale: There’s quite a few Australians in Nemo.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, they were our two most watch films when my son was a certain age because-
Cecilia Ramsdale: I was going to say you’re showing your age because those two are quite old now.
Mike Aiton: I am but they’re probably called classics now.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Probably.
Mike Aiton: I’m surprised they’re not in black and white. Alright, how did you start? What’s your background into the career?
Cecilia Ramsdale: So I fell into doing voice work, I think it was probably always what I was destined to do. I was one of those kids that would meet someone and imitate them straightaway, like just trying to work out how to make the sounds that they were making. So my dad is from Blackburn, Lancashire. And in the 80s, we went to Blackburn, Lancashire.
Mike Aiton: I wondered where the Ramsdale came from because it’s a very classic English name.
Cecilia Ramsdale: It is, yes. So half my family’s from over there and we went there. And I’d spent most of the time we were in England, just imitating people. So I have like, I’ve always had an ear for voices and sounds and characters and stuff. So then I really wanted to work in radio so I went down that path. And while I was working in radio, I just did tons of voiceovers because I was working for a regional station, and there wasn’t that many of us.
Mike Aiton: So it was all hands on deck?
All hands on deck and sharing it between the other stations that we were kind of related to as well. So, day in day out, I would do between 10 and 20 ad reads each day for 18 months, or however long it was that I was working there. I just got a lot of what do you say, like training hours in front of the microphone without any pressure. So I think I was really lucky like I look at people starting out now and I think, gosh, to try and launch a voiceover career without having that opportunity to just make a complete hash of things and to really work out what you can actually do, you know, to play-
Mike Aiton: It’s like a safe and safe environment to experiment?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Absolutely, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Because not much was expected of you and if you could do better than was expected then that was taken as a benefit.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Absolutely yeah. And then I’m a city girl and I wanted to move home to the city. So I ended up getting a job, just a casual job in one of the big radio stations, which makes it sound very easy. It wasn’t that easy, but it was probably not as hard as I thought it would be. But when I got there, they said, “Oh, you should go and get an agent.” I said, “Okay, I’ll go and get an agent.” So I approached- the first agent I approached took me on. So, I think I was kind of naive but also lucky in that naivety.
Mike Aiton: That was his fault.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, yeah. You know, because then I’d heard of people that couldn’t get an agent. I’m like, “What do you mean, you just send them your thing and they take you on? What are you talking about?” So between working at the radio station and having the agent then over probably about a three or four year period, my work grew to be probably equal in the amount I was earning to the job I had at the radio station as well. So yeah, it grew pretty quickly but I never took it for granted.
Mike Aiton: Sort of organically in a way?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Sort of yeah organically, yeah, definitely. Oh, and before that, I lived in London for a while and I did a shift and a bunch of voiceovers for a hospital radio station in Paddington, PHR, Paddington hospital radio.
Mike Aiton: No marmalade.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Good old hospital radio. No, no, marmalade, no.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. We’ve all been in hospital radio somewhere along our lines.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I know. I love that.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, it’s to blame.
Cecilia Ramsdale: And I wonder if those voiceovers I did all those years ago are still floating around somewhere on some tape or something? Maybe?
Mike Aiton: So yes, sometimes I love that phrase of it’s great the Internet wasn’t invented when we were young.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh gosh, I know, I know.
Mike Aiton: How cursed are the youngsters these days?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think luckily, they’re more sensible than us. Yeah, so I’ve changed agents a few times over 18 years, or however long it’s been. And that’s been good to just sort of find the people who are in your corner and look for the kind of work that you’re interested in, that kind of stuff.
Mike Aiton: Okay. I’ll come back to agents slightly if I may.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Sure.
Mike Aiton: What do you enjoy the most in your job?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think I am at a point now where I know what my voice can do. So I don’t ever step into something with too much trepidation. I mean, I have had those jobs where you just think, I have no idea what I’m going to do with this pile of words they’ve just handed me and the direction that they’ve given me that makes things all go in different directions. I don’t know what I’m doing.
Mike Aiton: You read it quicker, but slower so it sounds slow but you’re reading the words fast.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Can you make it- yeah, that’s exactly it. So I love now that if I’m faced with something, I’ve got enough tricks in my bag that I can bring it together really quickly and work out what the script needs quickly and I’m confident that I can do that. So for example, I had one a couple of weeks ago, which I was using Source-Connect to talk to a client in Brisbane, so that was really good. And it was a TV commercial, which we had done last year and they wanted to fix something up. And then they said, “Oh, we’ve got this other part”, which is so there were probiotic, they were like cartoon probiotics and there were four different ones and they all had like a different- one was like a superhero, one with a cowboy and anyway, this one was a spaceman. I can’t remember exactly but it was four different sorts of characters. And they said, “Just quickly, can you read this?” And each one had a line and then there was like a narrator bit. And I said sure. So I looked at it and I was like, oh, one was like Lady Gaga. So immediately I just went, “Oh Lady Gaga, probiotic, just what everyone needs.” So I quickly went through it and I went, “Okay, so the cowboy is going to sound like this. The Lady Gaga one’s going to sound like this, the Spaceman is going to sound like this in my mind. And I just, like went through and nailed it and they were blown away. I’m like, well, that’s okay, that’s the fun, it’s fun, it’s got to be fun.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. And it must be rewarding when your instinct in your first choice is applauded?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Absolutely, yeah.
Mike Aiton: That’s like a jazz improviser who nails the chord changes on the fly?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Absolutely. Because we all have a little dash of imposter syndrome, don’t we? So it’s nice to be able to push that aside a little bit every now and then.
Mike Aiton: I just have a healthy dose of denial.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, that’s good, too, yeah that gets you through yeah.
Mike Aiton: How would you describe your job to those who know the industry well?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, I thought you were going to say to those who don’t because you know what I say to people who don’t?
Mike Aiton: Well, I was going to ask both.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, okay I won’t fudge that then.
Mike Aiton: Well, answer both at once.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Alright. Well, the people who don’t know, when you meet someone and they say, what do you do? I hate that question because I feel like it just opens a can of worms. So it depends on the context and the mood I’m in. Sometimes I say I just talk into a stick, and they’re like, that doesn’t make any sense. Okay, good. But then yes, if you say you’re a voice actor, or a voice artist, or voiceover artist, or whatever you want to say, the first thing people say is, “Oh, what have I heard you on?” Okay, right. So then you have to think about what’s the most likely thing they can identify? And then they’ll go, “Oh okay, great” and move on. And I say that like, in a nice way, it’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. But I feel like it’s because there aren’t that many of us around if you’re standing in a group of people, and all of a sudden you say you’re a voice actor, all the attention comes to you. So it depends on whether you want to then be the center of attention? Or if you just want to quickly go,” Oh, no, well, yeah, it’s great. I love it, and I get to do blah, blah, blah, but let’s just leave it there.” Now, what was the second part of your question about the professional sense?
Mike Aiton: It’s just how would you describe it to those who do know the industry well? You would just say you’re a voice actor?
Cecilia Ramsdale: No I would say I’m a voice actor, a voice artist, or I do voiceovers I say. I think it just depends.
Mike Aiton: It’s interesting because some people gravitate more towards one, other people gravitate more towards the other depending on I think, whether they do tend to do more characterizations, or if they’re more of a sort of, like an Andrew Sachs, if you know Manuel?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: From faulty tires, he’s a classic, classic narrator but he’s so talented.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, I think it depends on who you’re speaking to. I think if you say if you’re a voiceover artist, people go, “Oh okay, I understand what that is.” If you say I’m a voice artist, they might be like, “I don’t really- what does that mean? What is that?” And also I do almost all of it so one size doesn’t necessarily cover all the different aspects.
Mike Aiton: No, just shredding a paradox isn’t it? But neither, yeah.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: Yes. What would you like me to be today?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes. Well, I’m an audiobook narrator today. Okay. I’ll put that hat on. Voiceover artist, okay, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Okay. What would you like to do more of and indeed, less of in your career?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I would really like a regular TV commercial that just rocks along every month. Wouldn’t we all?
Mike Aiton: The get out of bed mortgage pay
Cecilia Ramsdale: Absolutely one of those. I’ve been, I think I’ve been really lucky. But I’ve also been active in pursuing the things I’ve been interested in. So when I was interested in getting into doing animation, I went and I did extra acting lessons to get myself some more skills to work out how to create characters. And a few years ago, I was really interested in starting to do book narrations. And I hadn’t- I’d never done one. So I’d been a voice actor for 15 years and never done a book. So I was like, “Well, that’s the next step, I’d really like to do that. So how do I get into that?” So I went down that route of looking.
Mike Aiton: It’s almost an academic sort of form of self-activated academic research that you do for anything that you want to push into a new direction?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I do. Yeah.
Mike Aiton: You’re activating your own research?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I do. Because, well, I think I’m interested in all of it and I realized a long time ago, that unless you put your hand up, and you say, “Hey, I want to do that, can I have a go?” People don’t think to ask you, so. And there’s a way to do that without coming across as being pushy, or annoying, or what have you. Because so much of my work is about relationships because you need to be good to work with. And someone told me years ago that you’re only as good as the last job you do as a voice actor. And I’ve seen people in studios that have just behaved in ways that I’ve just gone, “Really, I wouldn’t hire you again.” And I’m not saying I’m perfect there have been times where I’ve stuffed it up but I have always looked at it that way.
Mike Aiton: We can stuff up but you don’t need to flounce?
Cecilia Ramsdale: No, don’t turn up late, don’t turn up looking like you’ve got your pajamas on, you’re professional, you’re being paid a lot of money to do this and to turn up and to not argue with the director like just do as you’re told and do a good job, it’s not that hard.
Mike Aiton: Okay, so talking of directors, how do you take direction or critique?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Well, as I said, I think relationships are really important. So when you’re working with someone that you’ve worked with a couple of times before, that stuff’s easy, because it’s a group activity. It might be that you’re working with a director or a writer and a producer and the producer says, well, you’re doing a 30 second not a 32 seconds. So, that’s the direction they’re giving you, you have to bring it in, make your read a bit faster, that’s fine. And then it might be that the writer says, “Oh, the way, you said that word was a bit funny”, or I think it depends on who it is. But you also have to remember that they’re not having a go at you and we all do things that aren’t quite right. I mean, I have worked with a certain person in the past, who I don’t think is even in the game anymore, he was a writer, and he was pedantic about every word. And that got boring because, in the end, you don’t get a good result, because you end up with this disjointed kind of bunch of words that don’t flow, that don’t have any feeling to them.
Mike Aiton: Each word in isolation is perfect, but it doesn’t flow.
Cecilia Ramsdale: It doesn’t flow that’s right. So you’ve got to look at it as a whole. And in fact, I had this situation recently, where I was doing an audiobook, and a friend of mine, who’s an audio producer was producing it for me. And she came back to me and she said, “How do you say body language? Is that right? You’re saying it body language? I would say body language with that G in the middle more pronounced, body language? How do you say body language?” And I was like, okay, alright, so this is just a point of difference so let’s have a think about it. So I went through, and then I realized that this word was going to be through the book a lot. So that was a problem if we were going to redo it. And I thought about and I said, no, that’s just the way I say it and I think it’s okay, because it’s in a book, it’s not in a 15 second- it’s just the way it’s said- like, it doesn’t need to be over-pronounced.
Mike Aiton: In a book, yes, your personality comes across and who you are is part of the story to a degree, isn’t it?
Cecilia Ramsdale: It’s in the flow.
Mike Aiton: And you’re putting across your way of telling a story.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. Yeah.
Mike Aiton: Because I have that same thing when people say the word garage, and I say garage. And other people say, garage in England and other people say garage.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: I don’t think- God knows what the Americans say. Sorry, America.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. And some words are like that, where it just comes down to personal preference. But I think getting back to your point of how do you take direction? Sometimes it’s hard, but you have to remember that, they’re just trying to get the best result and you’re the vehicle for them to get the result they’re looking for. I did a session the other day, and the director who I have worked with a bunch of times before, and he’s a lovely guy. I did a read and he went, “Hmm, that was weird”, and I just laughed. I was like, “Yeah, it was weird, I’ll do one that’s less weird, alright, let’s go.” So he didn’t need to be specific, he was just like, no, that one just wasn’t quite right for whatever reason, can’t put my finger on it. And the way he said it was, that was weird. And I wasn’t offended by that but it can be quite tricky.
Mike Aiton: Sure. We have the thing in sound where someone will say, “Hmm, that sounds funny.” And then they go, “Yeah, funny as unusual, comedic?”, like how when you say, I have a pain doctor, and they want to go, is it sharp? Is it stabbing? Is it constant? Is it dull? What frequency is the pain? On the level of what you know, what you’re having is someone who can’t articulate what they want and they’re saying can I have it different? Same again, but different?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. And I think sound is very difficult for people to articulate verbally, as in to describe, it’s very difficult. And unless you work in it all the time, and you’ve got the words and even then I mean, if someone says to you are the tone is a bit flat, that you might not really understand how to fix that, or adjust it so that it’s not. So yeah, it’s a work in progress but I think really the most important thing with direction is that you listen to it, and you try to adjust what you’re doing to what they’ve said.
Mike Aiton: Yes, it’s an interesting line and a fine line between hearing what they say, understanding what they mean, and then giving them what they actually need, rather than what they’re asking for. We often have that, “Could you make the music a bit louder?” What they mean is the sound effects are too quiet. The music doesn’t need to be louder, if you make music louder, you can’t hear the dialogue anymore. So it’s about interpreting what the director is actually asking for.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: It’s always fascinating.
Cecilia Ramsdale: And I think sometimes too- it’s really fascinating. And I think sometimes too, they just need to know that you’ve taken that on board. So I often now I’m just honest and say, alright, well, let’s just give it a go and see what happens. And as long as you change something that’s usually enough.
Mike Aiton: Because then they can hone in on what you change and go, no, not that- yeah, at least go okay tick that off at least, it wasn’t that, yeah.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. And I’ve got a secret too if something isn’t quite working, and they’re like, not sure why, but this isn’t- this lines just a bit funny. This is my secret. If you add something that makes it sound more human around the words, it nails it every time. So if it’s a sigh or a, laugh, or a smile.
Mike Aiton: Like you just did?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: You made a mouth click then but it to me instantly said there’s a sense of-
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes, thinking.
Mike Aiton: I instantly got what you meant.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. And if you said add a thinking sound, people would be like, “Oh, I don’t know, what are you talking about?” But that stuff around the words, rather than just launching in at the words is what makes all the difference every single time.
Mike Aiton: Thank you for sharing that. And I’ll share one back with you actually, it’s quite cool.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: I was mixing once with a famous BAFTA-winning director and he said, “It’s really good, Mike. It’s really good but it needs an FMP.” And I looked at him and said, “Hey man, I’m really sorry but I’ve been doing this for quite a while but I have to confess hands up. I have no idea what an FMP means.” And he says, “You need to let your audience think, it’s a f**k me pause. And I instantly got what he meant and that stayed with me, an FMP. Yes, let’s have an FMP there that duh-duh moment.
Cecilia Ramsdale: But pause is a really interesting thing too because people just don’t expect it. So it’s so powerful to just stop in the middle of what you’re saying because the rhythms change the meaning and you go, “Oh, what’s happening? The craft.”
Mike Aiton: I often find with inexperienced voiceover artists, to get emphasis they try and shout.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: And that emphasis comes from pause. I think the most important thing that I was saying was at the beginning of the sentence.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, exactly.
Mike Aiton: So at loudness and volume can come from timing as much as actual physical volume.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Hmm, yeah. Look, see this is the stuff I love. You see, I do some coaching and when I get new people, I just get right into the nitty-gritty. And I think they must leave and go, “Well, I don’t know what she was talking about.” But for me, I’m like, I can see what you’re doing and if you just look at this tiny word, and if you do this, and if you do that, and if you sigh before you say it, we can cut that off, but it’ll give it that same feeling. There’s so much to it, not just picking up the words and reading them.
Mike Aiton: There’s a story I can share with you where I was working on a drama. And I’d given it my all I just had used every idea I had in the book to make the scene work, it was a tricky scene. And I got the director in, he was often in the voice booth making phone calls. And I got him back in and said, “Have a, listen, I think I’ve nailed it.” And he said, “Okay, hit play.” And then “It’s not quite right, Mike, something’s missing. I’m not quite sure what.” So I said, “Oh, okay. See this fader here, the DFA fader, push that up. And when you think the scenes working, just hold it there because the faders were automated, they’ve got little motors on them. And at the end of the scene let go and it’ll go and it’ll glide back to where it was. And he did and he watched and he went, “Yep, that’s it, it’s working now. And then at the end of the scene, he let go of the fade and it glided back. And he went, “Oh that’s so much better, thank you.” I never told him the DFA stands for does fuck all. He just needed to believe in the scene.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: Rather than believe it wasn’t working he needed to believe it did work.
Yeah. Isn’t that incredible?
Mike Aiton: It’s a very dangerous game to play. But there’s many sound engineers who’ve been said-
Cecilia Ramsdale: This is the last thing in your book, I get it.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. It’s one of those things where you know that you’re sitting in a room of creatives and they go, one frame forward and one frame back and just you hit the LED lights that does nothing and go and then play it back again and go, is that better? And they go “Oh, yeah, it’s really working now.”
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes, well, I think there’s only so much our brains can deal with.
Mike Aiton: Indeed.
And I always say that too about doing voiceovers. If you do overdo it, the best one’s going to be the first or second take because I always say it’s like a paint palette. So you’ve got all the beautiful colors-
Mike Aiton: Instinct?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Instinct. And you’ve got these beautiful colors and the first pass you sort of mush them together with your brush, and then the second you mush them again. And then if you keep going you keep mushing the colors and colors then you end up with brown. So it doesn’t get better, it gets worse. So you better if it’s not working, you stop, you walk away, you do something else, you read a different line and you come back and do it again and it’ll be better every time.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, I very much agree. Okay, so do you like it when sound engineers chip in?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I so do, I love it. You know why? Because of all the things you’ve just described because you’re the one that knows how it will come together. So I much prefer it if the sound engineer says, “Oh can you just give me that line, again, maybe just a little bit quicker, or maybe just stretch out that word a little bit”, because they can visualize how this piece is going to be in its entirety. And I used to work in radio as a sound engineer, they’re not really sound engineers in radio. Well, I wasn’t, there are-
Mike Aiton: Self-recording producer?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I was more than kind of dog’s body that did all the bits and pieces that no one else really wants to do. But that’s fine because that’s how I learned to use pro tools. But doing that gave me a really good understanding of editing voice and finding edit points. So when I am voicing something, I mentally know where the edit points are anyway, if I have to go back and redo something, I can figure out where it would be good to go from, which is going to edit together. So that’s really helpful because I think that’s the other thing too. If you’re not familiar with that side of it, and you’re just reading, you might start a line in the wrong place and you can’t edit it because the words have run together and that kind of thing. But no, I think the sound engineers are- they’re gods, I love them. And, I’ve worked with so many, and they are just wonderful people. I mean, mostly guys, I would say it’s not that many ladies.
Mike Aiton: Shame, yeah.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. But really, like they’re wonderful people. And I think it’s also because they get to be creative behind the scenes, they don’t have to do the being at the front doing all the talking.
Mike Aiton: No. But having said that the one thing as a sound engineer that I sometimes find amusing, but also grating in the same way is when a voice talent walks into the room, and they split their fantasies especially when I’m doing short form. And they walk in and they walk in as Mr. Promo. And they go, “Hi, how are you? Welcome to me. Hi. Next week, it’s six. Let me tell you about the one when I was with.” Shut up, go into the booth, do your warm-up exercises and then can we have a joke when we’re having coffee? And sometimes they don’t know when to stop being funny.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I love that you said that.
Mike Aiton: And they can be so larger than life but it’s can be too much.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. I think it’s also because it’s a solitary existence for a lot of voiceover people. I remember years ago doing a job and that’s exactly what happened. So it was me and a guy who is a bit older than me and he was one of the guys that was around in the 80s and did a lot of work. And the stories from the 80s were, I don’t know what it was like in England but the myth I don’t know how much truth there is to it but was that there was a handful of people that did it.
Mike Aiton: A lot of it is probably Apocrypha.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Because before the internet and everything, mobile phones, there was this group that would just go and sort of hang out on the couches in the studios or the radio stations and wait to be called in, because that was the way it was done. So he was one of those old school guys and he turned up and he exactly did that. He just walked in and was in character and loud and I was like, oh my god just be normal. Everyone’s pleased to see you but you don’t have to perform the minute you walk in the door. We’re all here to do a job and we’re doing it together.
Mike Aiton: No, save it for the microphone.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes, very funny.
Mike Aiton: Not being able to switch off I sometimes think I’m going to have trouble with you because you’re going to want to not listen to the director behind me and you’re going to want to do it your way because you’re pushing your personality out too hard.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: And sometimes that I think can be, is if you’ve got that in reserve that you can draw on. I think it’s fantastic. And we all love a good story and we will love some humor but it mustn’t dominate.
Cecilia Ramsdale: No.
Mike Aiton: It’s kind of like when the tonics louder than the gin.
Cecilia Ramsdale: No you bring up a good point. So I think also that being able to listen is as important as being able to speak when it comes to voiceovers. And that’s exactly why- I mean even sometimes when I’ve been in sessions where you’ll do the recording, and then the voice actor will like give the direction about, “Oh no, I should have done this and no, she came into early and just shush. This is the bit where you shush, you just wait until they tell you to do it again. You don’t have to give your opinion because they don’t care, they don’t want your opinion. They just want you to do it when they say can you do it, so that’s all you need to do.
Mike Aiton: Yes, you’re paid to perform not to tell me how good you were or weren’t
Cecilia Ramsdale: Or weren’t, yeah.
Mike Aiton: So essentially that segues nicely into my next question. What sort of personal qualities do you think are best suited to your job?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think, getting on with people, as I said, relationships are really important. Especially like for me, in Melbourne, having worked in radio, I would say, I probably know, 80% of the people in the industry. Well, maybe not the people in the advertising, but the guys in the studios and the producers, and so many people in radio. So if you’re good to work with, if you can be quick, efficient, good to work with, friendly, and produce a good result, where they don’t have to come back to you and get you to do it again, or you’re difficult to work with or you’re not available or any of those things, that’s probably the biggest thing. Because most people who are churning out commercials, especially if their radio commercials, they just want it to be done. They don’t want the drama, who’s got time for the drama, no one’s interested in it. And I completely get that. So I feel really lucky that I do know all these wonderful people and my job lets me go and spend time with them in a voice booth. And yeah, I think also be creative and don’t take yourself too seriously. I mean, what an amazing job to have but be grateful and be thankful. And I can’t imagine myself retiring any day in the future. I was thinking about that the other day, I thought, I hope when I’m 70, I can still sound like I’m 35.
Mike Aiton: Well, if you think Morgan Freeman, I think wouldn’t mind me saying he’s no spring chicken yet he seems to be never short of work, you know?
Cecilia Ramsdale: No. Well, that’s right, so I think that’s the main thing.
Mike Aiton: There’s room for all sorts.
Cecilia Ramsdale: And I think also, too, you have to be consistently backing yourself. So I mean, I do have a couple of friends who have dabbled in voiceover, and then they just haven’t had the drive to sort of push it. So they haven’t gone looking for work outside of their agents, or they haven’t- like last year, I invested in a website and got it professionally made and it was great. I felt pride in the work I’d done over the years, I put it all in one place. I felt like I looked more professional. And all of a sudden I mean, it was a lot of effort and money to put it together but I think it was worthwhile. So you have to feed it you can’t just sit back and expect the jobs to come rolling in because it doesn’t work that way.
Mike Aiton: No. Someone has said to me before, that, I think was very wise advice. And he said it to me as I was thinking about going freelance. And he said being freelance is 95% sales and 5% talent. Would you agree with that statement?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I don’t know about those numbers?
Mike Aiton: But it’s the sentiment of the numbers.
Cecilia Ramsdale: But yes, I agree with the statement. Yes, it is. Yes, a big part of it is sales and not in a salesy way, I guess too, it’s just, I hate talking about personal brand and all that kind of stuff because I feel it’s a bit overwhelming, but you just need to be true to who you are, I think. And I think that’s also getting older like if I look at myself, 15 years ago, I probably would have been horrified with some of the things I do and say these days, but I don’t care anymore. Because I’m happy to do- happy to be who I am and happy to do what I do. And if people think I’m silly, well, whatever doesn’t matter to me.
Mike Aiton: Sorry about that.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah.
Interview Part 2
Mike Aiton: How do you think learning in the industry has changed now, for better or for worse?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, that’s interesting. Okay, so interesting.
Mike Aiton: Because you’re like me part of that generation that found your way through that sort of quite near what I call the neoclassical route but those routes are stopped. I was the last sound trainee the BBC ever took on and I’m 55 now in television.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Really?
Mike Aiton: Yeah, I’m 55 now.
Cecilia Ramsdale: It’s such a shame isn’t it.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. People say how did you get into the BBC? And I go, “Well, I found my way.” And kind of if you need to ask the question, you’ll never know the answer without wanting to be spiteful. You’ll find your own way.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think you were and you probably did back then too, you really have to want it. And there have been certain things that I’ve done along the way that or that I’ve wanted to do that haven’t come- like haven’t worked out the way I thought they would. Like I wanted to be a radio presenter, and I was terrible at it, really bad at talking to myself in a room. You know, with a script I’m fine and with someone else like the banter, I’m good at that but sitting there by myself and saying, Oh, another INXS song coming up soon like I was just awful at it. And so but I had to have a go to find out and so I did. But no, I think the problem-
Mike Aiton: So you weren’t afraid of failure?
Cecilia Ramsdale: No, no, no. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?
Mike Aiton: And you can recognize failure?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: There’s a lovely sentiment I once read that said, Success is the ability to recognize failure.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes. Well, also, if it doesn’t feel good, you’re not going to want to keep doing it. Like that’s getting down to the basics of it. But no, so I went to university and I studied a particular course, that was all about commercial radio and that’s how I got into radio. So I did do study to sort of get there. I did work my way up from there and-
Mike Aiton: I did chemistry, and got into the BBC.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, there you go, that works science. It is science?
Mike Aiton: It is.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I went to get some specific training on accent and voice when I started doing voiceovers. And I realized if I wanted to do character work and animation that I was going to have to improve in certain aspects. And like I said, at the beginning, I love doing accents but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just kind of listened and mimic. So I wanted something that was a bit more, I don’t know, like a formal or something I could fall back on notes and what have you. So for a long time, I worked with a voice coach to do that specifically. And then I did some acting lessons, again, for that just- but it wasn’t anything sort of formal and it wasn’t voiceover related, it was just broader. But these days there’s so many- I mean, even I run like a voiceover workshop for beginners a couple of times a year and we run it in a professional studio. And that’s the point of difference I feel for the one that I run with this guy, Andy Wells. Who, again, he’s a little bit older than me, and came through radio and was an audio producer and then started doing voiceovers that way. So he’s been in a more organic sort of route as well. So we try to impart the idea of this is what it’s like to work in a studio with someone directing you. These are the pressures, this is how you behave, this is what’s expected of you. So all that kind of old-school stuff through the workshop. But there’s so many online things and there’s so many people that want to take your money.
Mike Aiton: Yes, yeah indeed. How does the youngster now or the new persons differentiate between the wheat and the chaff?
Cecilia Ramsdale: It’s really hard.
Mike Aiton: Because my hobby is playing the guitar, well one of them and there’s everyone and their dog has got a course promising to unlock the fretboard in three minutes. And, I happen to like jazz and I know that after 15 years of studying the cello at school and things I gave that up after a while and taught myself guitar. But music theory takes years to learn, jazz takes even more. Wes Montgomery didn’t wake up one morning knowing how to play jazz, it was a lifetime of study and hard work.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: And there’s no substitute for those 10,000 hours. But there’s a lot of people who promise.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, and I think that’s the difficulty, isn’t it?
Mike Aiton: Take my three-day filmmaking course you can learn how to do voiceovers in five minutes, right.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. Look, it’s really difficult. I think even the starting out is difficult now. I mean, it’s easier in some ways, because you can set yourself up at home, and with a decent room, you can sound pretty good. And you can buy a microphone, that’s okay to start with then you can start auditioning for things and get yourself a few jobs, and then you’re sort of up and running. And then you can build upon that and build upon that. So that’s sort of the way you have to do it these days. But then I read this great blog post the other day, it was a British voiceover actually and he’d written this thing. And he said, we in the voice-over community, we’re very friendly people and we want people to succeed around us and we are always welcoming and encouraging. But you have to be realistic with people, you have to say to them, don’t think that you’re going to set yourself up and the jobs are just going to come rolling in. It can take you 2/3/4 years to establish yourself and that’s going back to the relationships thing, but it’s also navigating, who does what, where and how much you’re worth, and what you can charge. Like there’s so many levels to it, which I didn’t have to do any of that starting out.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, so those same challenges are still there, they haven’t changed, the industry has changed to a degree.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: But do you find that a lot of the newcomers have a little bit like the sort of the YouTube aspirational thing where in the same way, with music everyone thinks you know what, Lady Gaga and sting make bucket loads of money and everyone else earns nothing. And, I’ve always found the creative world is to a large degree always like that. It’s always triangular and pyramidal and the people at the top do well and everyone else is scrambling at the bottom it is hard.
Cecilia Ramsdale: It is hard.
Mike Aiton: And I wonder if the youngsters have unrealistic expectations because of the YouTube phenomenon and the sensation of likes?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think it’s slightly different. I think a lot of younger people want to get into it now because they’re into gaming. So they want to do gaming voices, rather than commercial voices. So I think we come across, when we run the workshops, we come across a lot of people that are game-oriented, so they want to make the characters for games. It’s quite interesting because I have only ever done a few voices for video games because it is like a parallel universe to what I’ve done over the years.
Mike Aiton: Yes, I’ve never mixed sounds for games I’ve done plenty of TV and film but not games.
Cecilia Ramsdale: It is it’s like this other universe that just runs along next to us and you have to work out which gate to open to kind of look in there and try and work out what’s happening. So I think for the younger generation, and a lot of that is it’s a much smaller pool of people in that, you might have a game developer that’s only two or three people and they’re looking for voices to voice the characters in their game. So they’ll advertise their auditions on Twitter, or through a couple of other websites that are specifically aimed at people who are gamers. So they’ve got this whole community that they talk to each other, and then they share and they’ve got people who do the casting. So it doesn’t run the way the old school voice-over way has always run. So it’s really interesting. I, as I said, I sort of dabble but I find that it’s, it takes a lot of brain space to navigate and I don’t have much time to do that at the moment. But maybe when I’m 70.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, it’s a bit like the- you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince and you haven’t got time to kiss that many frogs.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. But then again, you know, coming back to relationships, before we move on, I did do one voice for a guy who’s an Australian developer a while ago, six months ago or so. And it was literally one line for like a PA system saying, evacuate the building. And he sent me an email the other day, and he said, “Oh, my PA systems back, can you do another couple of lines for me? Do you mind? I said, “No sure.” So I did that, sent it over and he was like, “Oh, and I’ve got this other character, would you be interested in doing that? I said, “Okay, sure.” So it’s just like planting seeds here, there and everywhere. And I do love the fact that it’s opened up with the internet, and you can do that yourself, you’re not reliant upon if you’ve got an agent to do all of that work for you. Because I used to get very frustrated when I felt like I’d been cornered into doing, you know, certain sorts of jobs, a lot of radio ads, but then there would be none. And I couldn’t do anything about it. But now because you can, I’ve got clients in the US and clients in the UK and people all in between.
Mike Aiton: Yes, it’s like what I would call the vertical tranche of work where you can get locked into a scene of doing, certain style of working, and it’s quite hard to break across into a different scene and start straddling and swimming up and down that stream is because I’m only in my stream, and it keeps me busy.
Cecilia Ramsdale: And people can only see you in one way, that’s interesting, too.
Mike Aiton: Yes. And that’s for me personally a disadvantage in that my skill is I’m an all-rounder, yeah, do most things but I’m not an expert at anything.
Mike Aiton: And for some people, jack of all trades is a great strength, for other people. It can be a curse because we want the Paganini for this one, you’re not the Paganini. No, but I can do a good impression for a bar or two.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, yeah, that’s always been a difficulty with radio as well.
Mike Aiton: But anyway, what nuggets did you learn early on in your career that have stayed with you?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Probably the idea that you’re only as good as your last job. So don’t go in there and be an idiot. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s, I do remember my first job out of uni, my manager sitting me down and saying that you need to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Okay, alright. So finish off what you start. And just be good to work with, don’t be difficult. It’s, I do find that really strange and I think it’s an ego thing that maybe you get a lot of people that think it’s very-
Mike Aiton: The artistic persona?
Cecilia Ramsdale: This glamorous, amazing thing, and no, just be good to work with.
Mike Aiton: I’m not going in front of the microphones unless I had blue m&ms.
Cecilia Ramsdale: And even just kind of understanding and this is one thing we sort of tried to do with our people when we do our workshops as well in the studio, is the etiquette of it. With so much more online now there’s less of that as a problem but you need to know whose role is who’s and to appreciate you that, and I think that’s really important. And even things like, we always say- I feel like such an old fuddy-duddy. But if you’re sitting in the studio and someone’s performing or someone’s reading a script, then you don’t talk while they’re doing it, you listen. And then if there’s a discussion point at the end, then you can discuss it, but you give everyone the space. And if you’re working, you need to be able to hear what’s going on. So just things like that, you know.
Mike Aiton: On the point interesting that of etiquette, do you prefer open or closed talkback between takes?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Closed.
Mike Aiton: I’m of the generation where I was brought up where talkback was always closed and the producer only talks to you when he wants to, and presses a button. The younger generation are much used to, the second you stop record, the talk back’s open and everyone can hear everything.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, yeah, no.
Mike Aiton: But I’ve always thought that never allows that little moment for the director to turn around and go, do you think that was shit? No, I do too.
Cecilia Ramsdale: No, no, I want to talk back on as soon as it’s finished. There is nothing worse than standing in a soundless booth with headphones on and knowing that the people on the other side of the glass are talking about you, it’s not good, you need to know what they’re saying, you know. And it’s quite funny, because, as always, if that happens, then they press the talk back, and they have to repeat what they just said. So it’s just, yeah, as soon as you stop talking, you need the talk back on and then you can hear what their reaction is. And usually, it’s not even what they’re saying but it’s the way they’ve reacted to what you’ve done that you can pick up on as well.
Mike Aiton: Okay, changing tack slightly. Studio chairs, is sitting the new smoking? Are you a stander or a sitter?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I only sit for books, I only stand if it’s anything, I was going to say normal. Anything that’s not going to take you 20 hours, stand up.
Mike Aiton: Is that a breathing thing?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, I think well, I always did stand up so it was just a habit thing. But then the more I learned and then reading that book, James Nestor book about breath, and also reading all of the voice books like Patsy Rodenburg, and all of the books that are about how to connect with your breath, and your voice and all of that, all of them say stand because you have then better connection with your whole body and your breathing apparatus. So you do a much better job if you’re standing. But yeah, if you were doing it for a very long time, it’s very hard to stand for that entire time. And you sort of get into your groove when you do an audiobook as well. You find a rhythm and a comfortable sort of spot and you just lean into that.
Mike Aiton: I’ve always imagined- it’s obviously not- I’m the other side of the glass, always. But if you’re reading a book, it’s almost like you should be in a comfortable armchair sort of thing, there’s that sense of fire side ness?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you’re uncomfortable, it comes through you can hear that.
Mike Aiton: Okay, so let’s now briefly touch on the subject of the pandemic and remote working. So how has the pandemic affected your work?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Well, yes, it’s been interesting, hasn’t it? I was very lucky that I had a very rudimentary setup at home anyway. Now it’s slightly less rudimentary, still in my cupboard, but that’s fine. So I was ready to go. I didn’t have Source-Connect set up so I did have to do that. But that was the only thing and that was fine once I worked out how to make it work. It’s been like a godsend really, to be able to connect with people even the closest one I have done is I’d say it would be about a kilometer from my house. I did a studio session because we were not allowed to be in the same place. So we did that a little while ago.
Mike Aiton: You can almost do that with cans and string.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I know, pretty funny. Yeah. So I felt very lucky because everything that I was doing, I was narrating a TV show at the time that just moved to online. That was the biggest thing that I was worried about how we were going to do that. I have done all kinds of jobs.
Mike Aiton: What percentage of your work would you say is remote? Is it 100% now because you’re in lockdown?
Cecilia Ramsdale: 100%.
Mike Aiton: And how do you see working post-pandemic? Do you think there will ever be- well if indeed there will ever be a post-pandemic but do you see more people now attuned to the concept and the relaxation of remote working?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think it’s interesting for the big studios. I know that say, six years ago, six, seven years ago, I remember looking at setting up something at home because I had two small children and live about an hour away from most of where the studios were so I was looking at that as an option. And I remember having a conversation with one of the big studios, the guy who owned it, and he was like, “Oh, we would never, never hire anyone that’s got their own home studio.” So that’s just off, you’d be off the table. I was like, “Okay, well, that’s interesting.” As it turns out, I do work with them now from home and it’s fine. But I think for those businesses that have invested heavily in these beautiful, amazing studios that can do Dolby sound, and all of the stuff that mostly for post, like it’s hard for them, obviously. But I think for voiceover, we’re so lucky because we can do what we need to do, mostly. And I’ve got a really good sound where I am because it’s got double glazing in the room, it’s all heavily insulated. So that the sound that they get is as good just about as if I was there. So I think we’re really, as an industry, we’re really lucky, like my husband’s a freelance cameraman, and his work basically evaporated overnight. So he wasn’t allowed to go out and shoot things. So it’s been really interesting to see the difference because my work ramped up because then the interesting thing- I keep saying interesting, but it is interesting.
Mike Aiton: Does he like your zoom meetings to make you look fantastic?
Cecilia Ramsdale: He did for a couple, yeah. So interestingly, he does a lot of work with this production company and when COVID came along last year, they did this wonderful shift, where they have animators that work for them. So they started doing instead of going out and shooting things, they were doing animations for their clients, and I was voicing them. So they’d send over the animation and the script, and I’d just make sure the timing matched as well as I could, and send it back. So the work that he was doing sort of shifted more into my corner. So it was quite strange but.
Mike Aiton: But you could absorb it yeah?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Sort of, I didn’t get paid as much as he would for the day but still, it was good that we could still continue that sort of work. And a lot of the work changed too last year. So a lot of the advertising that was happening disappeared, because you know, when advertising, travel, or new cars, or restaurants or experiences, any of that stuff was sort of gone but it became messaging. So I don’t know if you noticed that?
Mike Aiton: Yeah, there aren’t many adverts for respirators are there?
Cecilia Ramsdale: No, no, but then all of a sudden became a lot of ads that weren’t ads. So they weren’t advertising a particular product. But they became, we’re here for you during this really difficult time, you might not be ready to buy a new car but when you are, we’re here for you. Like that kind of stuff, it was really fascinating to see how the industry shifted.
Mike Aiton: The empathy style got huge.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, it did, yeah.
Mike Aiton: How do you find working remotely personally?
Cecilia Ramsdale: There are pros and cons. I do have two small children so they’ve become very good at when I say right, I’m going to go up and record something, they know that they need to give me some space and they’re quiet. And they’ve done some voiceovers themselves from home so that’s been really handy as well.
Mike Aiton: I like that, earning their keep.
Cecilia Ramsdale: They are earning, I’m putting it away for them in their little fund that they don’t know about. It’s been really good because like I said, I’m an hour by car in traffic from most of the studios. So for the vast majority of my time living where I live, like for the last 10 years, and having small children I- and quite often jobs would come late like you’d get a call to say, “Oh, can you go and record this thing in two hours?” And I’d be like, “Okay, yep.” So I’d spend two hours in the car, be in the studio for sometimes five minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour, maybe an hour max, spend twice as long getting there and home as doing the job and so-
Mike Aiton: It’s inefficient?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, yeah, it’s completely inefficient. So I think a mix is good though. And I find doing audiobooks at home really hard, I think you need to get out of the space. But to be able to just even you know, someone will ring or send me an email and just say, “When you get a chance, can you just read this line for me?” And I literally just pick up my laptop, walk up to my bedroom, plug it in, close all the doors and curtains, record it, send it off, it’s gone. Like it’s done, it’s instant and that’s amazing. So lucky, blessed.
Mike Aiton: At Source Elements we’ve had a philosophy that when you’re apart, making things together helps us feel connected as human beings and creates a bond. Have you found that?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes. I mean, I do miss it. Like I said, well I’ve said many times, that relationships are such a big part of what we do. And so I do miss that opportunity to just sit and not be mom and not be the boring person at home and be able to go out and be myself and wear lipstick and, talk to these people that I’ve known for years, that I’ve worked with, that I have in-jokes and all that stuff. You miss all of that stuff, of course, you do. So yeah, definitely. The other thing I like to do if I’m not using like a direct- if I’m just recording something to send, I often just talk to the person in the recording, in between takes. So I’ll just send them the file and it will have me going. “Okay, so I’m just having a script, and I think I need to do it this way. So I’ll have a go and if that’s not quite right, just let me know.” And so I’ve had a few people send me emails back saying, “That’s hilarious.” I’m like, “Well, it’s like your there.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. I can go to your chat even if it was one way, yeah. Helps your personality come across that’s great I think.
Cecilia Ramsdale: And again, why would you take yourself too seriously?
Mike Aiton: Indeed. You’re predominantly using Source-Connect for your workflow?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think it’s a mix, it depends on the studio. So the radio stations here don’t seem to be on board with Source-Connect so I don’t really use it for them but most of the main studios do so that’s really great. The thing though, I love is I do some work with some guys called Pro-Com in the States, they’re in North Carolina, I think. And I use it with them so that blows my mind every single time I get on with them. And I’m talking to this American guy in his studio on the other side of the world. It’s, the day before, I’m existing in, which always blows their mind, which I love.
Mike Aiton: You kind of have a second hand here, have tomorrow, have my second hand.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I don’t think you can ever get your head around the time difference thing. And it’s crystal clear like it’s amazing. As I said, I’ve worked with studios in Sydney, so that’s what 1200 kilometers away. Brisbane, that’s another 1800 kilometers or something. I was a slow adapter for Source-Connect but now I’m glad I got on board because it’s- again, it’s also one of those things like I was saying with the website, I think if you have Source-Connect Standard, at least, people go, okay, you’re serious, you’ve got this, you understand.
Mike Aiton: Yeah, it’s kind of- I always think of it as analogy-wise, as if you were driving from London to Edinburgh every day, yes, you could cycle it. But if you were going to go every day, you’d want a seven-series BMW and do it in comfort. And know that your car is reliable and trustworthy.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah absolutely, I like that analogy, that’s good. I’m just trying to think of how many jobs that I would do? Yeah, I’d say maybe 50/50. I’m doing on tomorrow too by the way.
Mike Aiton: Great to hear. What advice would you pass on to someone who is trying this sort of workflow for the first time?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I would say, just spend a bit of time making sure you’re getting it set up. So just get it set up on your computer, work out how it’s all going to fit together with your interface and your mic. And once you’ve done that, you just go in and hit go. Spend some time in the beginning and it’s all ready to rock. And I would also say too that, every time the invoice comes in on a monthly basis, I’m like, okay. And then I’ll get a job, like the next day and I’m like, “Okay, well, that paid for itself, that’s good.” Next month, same thing happens. So you know, put it out into the universe.
Mike Aiton: Are there any potential pitfalls to avoid you would say to anyone who’s trying this as a new workflow?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, look, the only thing that I really struggled with, and I think we’ve established a bit of a Luddite is that you have to have the iLok license. So I remember sitting, it was a nice day, nice afternoon, had a glass of wine, sitting outside, trying to get it sorted out on my computer. And I really struggled to get the iLok licensed to talk to the Source-Connect account that I had made. And I’m sure that was something that I’d done where I’d set it up with a different password or whatever. But that was the only thing that I would say you need to look at, just make it straightforward for yourself by going through the process and watching the YouTube videos. Because once you set it up, it’s easy but that getting it to talk to the two parts was the bit that made me go, “Oh, gosh, why is this not happening?”
Mike Aiton: Have you had to use support at all?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes, in the beginning, I did, yeah.
Mike Aiton: How was your experience?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Good. I mean, I think it was just when the pandemic was hitting, so they were pretty snowed under, but no they were great. They got back to me really quickly, and I can’t remember exactly, but I got it sorted out pretty quickly. So my husband laughs and says I have computer kryptonite, so something’s going to go wrong. It’s usually me pressing the wrong buttons and then he comes over and just goes [makes sound] and it works, so yeah.
Mike Aiton: What is your recipe for your success do you think? What’s your top ingredient?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think loving it, I just wouldn’t want to do anything else. I mean, I do other things which I love as well. But if someone said to me tomorrow, you can’t do voiceovers anymore, I would just be devastated. And I think it’s because it’s always different like I’ll get an email to say that you’ve got- like I’ve got a job tomorrow where I’m using Source-Connect, and I’ve got to do a 30 second commercial and a 60 second commercial for an electricity company.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. Or I’ve got to be a soap bubble?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, well, you don’t know.
Mike Aiton: Or Lady Gaga.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, Lady Gaga, or I had to do one a little while ago for the Navy, which was a VR for new trainees on submarines. And I had to be a character who was a marine biologist, and I had to like talk to the character and to other people in the crew. And I was like, “Oh my god, this is amazing. I’ve never been on a submarine.” But the sound engineer had the sounds of the submarine, like playing for me to give me the atmosphere of it. I was like, “What kind of a job is this? This is amazing.”
Mike Aiton: It’s playtime, creativity.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, exactly, play, yeah. And even tomorrow, when I’ve got these, like these commercials, well, radio commercials are pretty bog-standard, mostly, but I’m really looking forward to it. Because I love this brand, I love working with the guy who’s the creative on it he’s really fun. And I don’t know what these ads are going to be. So that’s the other thing you walk in, and it’s like, okay, what have we got? Alright, let’s work out how we make that work, the challenge.
Mike Aiton: Okay, it’s interesting, because that’s a common theme. Everyone says it’s the variety in the challenge, it seems to be what people seem to enjoy the most.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah.
Mike Aiton: Okay, what would be the one thing you would like our listeners to take away from our conversation today?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Hmm. I would say that if you want-
Mike Aiton: Apart from how marvelous Source-Connect is, of course?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes, well, it is. I would say trust yourself, okay. So this sounds really corny and like a self-help book, but really like you’re the only version of you. And what I mean by that is, I think, when you really want to do something and be part of something, and I have seen this with people who are starting out, they listen to every demo of every person, they take every course, they watch every online video, and so they get immersed, and then they get into the tech and which microphone should I buy? And this one’s $1,000. And so they go down this rabbit hole, and they sort of talk themselves out of doing it because they don’t think they’re good enough. I would say just don’t do that, just work out what’s interesting to you and do that.
Mike Aiton: That’s very interesting. Because as a pathetic guitar player, which is why I’m on this side of the glass.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I’m sure you’re not.
Mike Aiton: No, trust me, you’re very kind.
Cecilia Ramsdale: You’re better than me, I can’t play at all.
Mike Aiton: A lot of guitar players try and mimic other guitar players and that is a pathway to learning. But you can end up being a second-rate copy of Keith Richards or a copy of, you concentrate on that one particular person style. And people like that never develop their own style, they’ll never have their own voice. And I think there can be a great danger of if you need to absorb from other people but then you need to take that bit of him, that bit of that, that bit of Joe Pass, that bit of Pat Metheny, that bit of John Schofield, that bit of Eric Clapton, and you need to kind of put it together and give it the you factor.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, absolutely. And if you just listened to Keith Richards, and you idolized him, you would think, well, I’m never going to be that good so I just won’t try.
Mike Aiton: And why does anyone ever have a bottom E string on their guitar, because he only plays with five strings on his guitar, famously.
Cecilia Ramsdale: There you go. And also, he’s like, 170 years old so he’s been playing guitar for 150 years. So that’s a lot of time to be getting some-
Mike Aiton: Yeah, he ought to be good at it by now, yeah.
Cecilia Ramsdale: That’s right. Well, this is and that’s the same thing with voice people. It’s like, you can’t listen to someone’s demo and go, “Oh, gosh, they’re so good, I’m never going to be that good.” Well, they might have been doing it for 15 years.
Mike Aiton: Maybe that’s all they do is that one thing.
Cecilia Ramsdale: That’s right.
Mike Aiton: Now, can I ask you a slightly difficult question?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I might pass but go on.
Mike Aiton: I’m almost slightly loath to ask it but okay I kind of think I have to. Is it more difficult being a woman in your career than being a man? And I’m slightly loathe to ask that because whenever I book someone or want to work with someone, I never think of are they a man or a woman? I always think they applied, they have those skills and that’s what I want. And I don’t tend to like to have to view someone’s sexual identity as relevant. Yeah, why do I care about the gender? I don’t but it is an issue for a lot of people. And I wondered, have you encountered any problems along the way? Have we got any advice for anyone or any thoughts about this as a subject?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Well, it is an interesting question, and no, I have no problem answering it. So I would say that a lot of the time, it depends on the fashion, the fashion of what’s going on. So it also depends on the context. Here in Melbourne, but also in the other states, because they’re all owned by the same company, we have radio stations- we’re a company that will own two radio stations, one that’s skewed to a female audience and one that’s skewed to a male audience. If you stop and you listen to the ad breaks on those radio stations, you quite often get the same client. But they will have ads voiced by a male for the male station and a female for the female station. So it’s really interesting because they are identifying that their audience is more likely to purchase something if they’re listening to this male station if it’s a male selling it to them, rather than female and vice versa. So that’s the way they’re looking at it. So, in terms of that, there’s been a lot of times where I’ve come in, and I’ve done the female version of something, which kind of seems a bit arbitrary and strange, but it depends on the client, depends on the product. It depends- a lot of the time, people aren’t sure whether they want a male or-
Mike Aiton: And have they asked you to mimic the male version in a female way? Or do they allow you the ability to be you?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, usually they just give you the script and say, “Okay, this is the version that we’re going with.” So, and if you understand the station, that kind of makes sense, anyway. But interestingly, I would say that the voice of authority is still usually male. But I think there’s a shift in that now. And Andy, who I mentioned before, that I do their voiceover workshops with, he was saying that he thinks there’s a lot more work available for females than males these days, which I think is interesting. So, and he works as an audio producer as well and he does a lot of castings. So he was saying that, in his observation, that’s what he’s seen. So I mean, advertising is different to other things sure. But, no, I think there’s a big shift. And even going back to the games castings quite often now, they will, especially games that are being made in the States, they’ll say, looking for a person of color, or someone that’s from an LGBTQ, or someone who identifies as non-binary. Well, I can tell you, when I first started out, that was not happening, no one would have- everyone would have gone, “What? What are you talking about?” And even in advertising I don’t think that’s kind of- that’s more for characters I think to try and- if there’s those characters that identify in that way, they try to get people who also identify in that way, and I think that’s a good thing. Yeah, why not? Because the days of putting on a dodgy French accent are kind of few and far between now I think.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. My son when he came home from school once and when he was at primary school said, “Daddy, we had a French lesson today.” So I said, “Great. What did you learn Matthew?” And he said, “I went up to the teacher and said, what does [makes sound] mean?” Because it’s the way we always mock French ski instructors.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes of course. And did she have an answer?
Mike Aiton: No, she was very confused.
Cecilia Ramsdale: That’s very funny.
Mike Aiton: Okay. Now also another slightly difficult question, maybe. How do you feel about rates in the industry? Have you found them rising, lowering? Are they fair?
Cecilia Ramsdale: So I’m glad you asked that question.
Mike Aiton: It was always a point of contention.
Cecilia Ramsdale: I think that people need to charge the appropriate rate. And I think it’s a race to the bottom for everyone if you start going on Fiverr and charging 20 bucks a script. I just think it does no one any good. And yeah, you might make 20 bucks but was it worth it? Because the next time that client comes to you, they’re going to expect you to do it for 20 bucks. Sometimes you do look at what you get paid for something and you go, wow, I didn’t work for long and that’s a big check. But it’s about the usage and the fact that as soon as you walk out of there, they can use that, it’s completely out of your hands. So the fact that there are industry set rates, I think is really important. And also not everyone can do it. You know, I think there’s this misconception when people are starting out or people that think it’s not worth anything. And they will- I mean, I do know of some sort of lower-end players, I don’t want to give too much away, but I know someone- I know a bunch of people that have used these sort of lower-end online things. And by the time they’ve had things reread a few times because what they got in the first place was rubbish, it’s ended up costing them what it would have cost to go and get a professional anyway.
Mike Aiton: Yes, there’s a lovely quote, if you think professionals are expensive try hiring an amateur.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Exactly, yeah. So no I’m very passionate about the rates being adequate, yeah.
Mike Aiton: I see a great parallel. Another hobby of mine is photography and there’s a great parallel where everyone who’s got an iPhone thinks they’re a photographer?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, gosh, yeah, no, they’re not, yeah.
Mike Aiton: And the definition of a professional photographer, and you know, I find if I’m interviewing anyone for a magazine piece or anything, I have to go away and in any lighting condition, be able to capture a nice portrait that’s printable, up to A4 size in a magazine that’s going to look good, the clients going to be happy with, that the magazines going to be happy with. And that takes a certain amount of skill. Okay, I’m not David Bailey but effectively, that’s what you’re paying for is his skill and skill, being able to deliver a professional product.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah. And this is the problem that creatives have. So no, I think it’s really important. And yeah, some of those online things, Fiverr, particularly just even the name of it does my head and I’m like, no, just get off that, don’t be on that, that’s not, yeah.
Mike Aiton: Is Australia like America, where there are union jobs and non-union jobs?
No, we have a union that sets the rates for advertising. So they’re what TV radio commercials and online commercials, but it’s mainly commercials that they set it for, then anything that’s sort of out of that scope, the agents sort of set a fee that they all agree around. So you know, corporate sort of fees, videos, that kind of thing. And so that gets negotiated, the rate gets negotiated with the Advertising Council every couple of years I think so. And I think it’s about so for up to five radio commercials it’s $365 for one hour, and up to three months usage. So that’s the kind of one that you get the most when it comes to radio. Well, I do anyway.
Mike Aiton: You’ve mentioned that you have an agent, and you’ve had several agents along your pathway.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes.
Mike Aiton: What percentage of work do you find comes self-generated? Or does everything you get go via your agent to make sure that you’re looked after?
Cecilia Ramsdale: I would say, probably 90% of my voice work is through my agent. Yeah, so it’s always been the bigger part for me. Although I have started doing sort of a little bit more outside of that, and I have a really, again, great relationship with my current agent. And it’s really good because she’s happy for me to kind of go looking elsewhere for jobs. And she said, as long as you feel that you’re getting paid appropriately, and where you think I fit into the scheme, then let’s discuss that which is great because I don’t feel like I’m sort of going behind her back or any of that kind of weird stuff.
Mike Aiton: Does she has an open relationship rather than a closed one?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes, we have an open relationship.
Mike Aiton: Sorry for want of a better term, sorry. I don’t mean to be inappropriate.
Cecilia Ramsdale: No, no, that’s very funny. So for example, I’m about to host a podcast series for a client, and it’s a commercial podcast. So it’s basically about their industry, they’re a building company, so it’s about how to build your first home sort of thing. So I haven’t started that because I’ve got to wait till we’re out of lockdown. But when they first came to me, and they said, “How much would you charge for this?” I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I have no idea.” And so I spoke to my agent was like, “Look, I’ve got this thing, what do you think?” And so she sort of together, we worked it out what we thought was a fair amount, which seemed like a lot, but it is a commercial partnership sort of thing. So I went to them and I said, “Well, this is this is what we’re thinking.” And they came back after a little while and said, “Yeah, sure, they want you to do it, they love you.” And so I went back to my agent, I was like, “Okay, so do you want to handle this from here on in?” She was like, “Yeah, sure, great.” But you know, there was no, it was great because it was a real negotiation. So that can be really difficult.
Mike Aiton: Yeah. So ultimately, it was an easy negotiation.
Cecilia Ramsdale: It was.
Mike Aiton: And that’s the kind of way it should be?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yes. But I find, having an agent, I know, there’s some people that don’t want one or they’ve been in the industry for a long time and don’t feel like they need it. Or they haven’t had the opportunity to have one for whatever reason. Like I have a great friend who is a great voiceover, has been in radio for a long time. But he’s really- he doesn’t have an agent because he sounds very radio. So a lot of the agents like [makes sound] now everyone wants the conversation sort of read so he doesn’t really fit the stereotype at the moment. So it’s a shame because he just- that’s the way it goes.
Mike Aiton: Like ignoring someone who’s talented, even though it’s 98 degrees in the city today.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Yeah, so.
Mike Aiton: It’s hot, hot, hot. Okay. Last question, what would you like as your audio epitaph?
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, gosh, she was talking till the end.
Mike Aiton: Thank you, that’s perfect. I think we should wrap it up there. Cecelia, thank you very much it’s been-
Cecilia Ramsdale: Absolutely.
Mike Aiton: I thoroughly enjoyed talking to you.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, great, thank you, likewise.
Mike Aiton: It’s been fun sharing a lot of stories together and chewing over the voice card of life. Brilliant, thank you ever so much. I really, really appreciate it.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Oh, no problem.
Mike Aiton: It’s been fun. I’m sorry to have occupied all your evening. Please send my apologies to your husband.
Cecilia Ramsdale: Okay, bye.
Mike Aiton: Okay, cheers. Bye