Interview with Nicole Shostak
Peter: [Testing mic, not realising Nicole is on the call yet] Testing. Testing, testing. Oh, wrong channel… Testing, testing, testing, testing. Oh! I say, that’s clever! Testing, testing, testing, testing, testing, testing…
Peter: Oh! Hello! Hey, can you hear me?
Nicole: Yeah, I can hear you!
Peter: Phew! I literally got a new audio interface so I’m using it for the first time and you just caught me.
Nicole: Oh, nice!
Peter: So I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the others we’ve done on the site…
Nicole: I was literally just having a read because yeah I haven’t done that many interviews, so I was just seeing what the vibe was.
Peter: Chill. The vibe is chill. The place to start, I guess, is ‘OMG, you do all the things.’ I’ve been looking at your IMDB page and you obviously have a lot of energy and a lot of talents.
Nicole: I’ve been flipping around a little bit. I’m actually trained to do on-camera work or theatrical work, so the onscreen stuff’s taken a while and then voiceover has been a little thing bubbling in the background for me over the last five to six years. And I have a Green Card so I was going back and forth to America and I was so lucky to get an agent over there. It was just a timing thing where there was a certain agency in LA who were looking for international voices, including Australian. At the time I dind’t have a studio. I did not have a microphone, none of that stuff. And they started sending me so many auditions and tapes.
Peter: And you attended Upright Citizens Brigade classes over there?
Nicole: Yeah! Well, improv is very handy in voiceover acting and in life as well. I also tried out sketch writing, which was hard. It’s a very different beast and I don’t think I was in the head space at the time to be pursuing writing, but it was really interesting to be in that environment and getting into a different head space about how to write sketches and things.
Peter: So there’s always a part in these interviews where basically, because everyone who does this has audio gear of some type kind and is either a geek or just has to know about it for work, I gotta ask: what kind of gear do you have? I guess you had to stock up pretty quickly once you started getting these overseas voiceover gigs.
Nicole: Yeah. Well, it was a process. I started with a USB mic because I was like, ‘Anything’s better than my iPhone, right?’ And it wasn’t until COVID hit that I was like, ‘Well now’s the time to really up my game in terms of getting a designated space. It didn’t have too much, um, interference and getting some, some gear. So I just got a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface, and then I got what I’m still working with at the moment, which is a Rode NT1, which is a really great microphone for not a lot of money. And that’s when I also started researching Source-Connect because if I were to book a session in America, how was I going to be able to do it? So my gear’s kind of basic because I hop around a little bit. I was literally just in Queensland three weeks ago doing an onscreen role and I took my gear with me and I was able to set it up in the wardrobe in the quarantine hotel. But my home studio’s fully padded out and then I have the Rose NT1 – which I love, but I’d love to upgrade though, which I’ll probably be doing in the next six months.
Peter: I’m kind of fascinated by how COVID prompted people to upgrade all their gear because there are all these work opportunities that didn’t exist, in place of the ones that are on hold. In the electric guitar industry, Fender sold more guitars last year than they ever have in any year before because people were like, ‘What am I going to do now?’ I’m at home, I’m either going to start learning or I’m going to get better gear or it’s just been a massive gear fest.
Nicole: Yeah. I remember shopping for the gear that I was getting, and I think within a week or two weeks they were sold out those products. I was like, ‘Oh, thank God I bought them at that time.’ Cause I think a lot of agencies were saying to their actors, particularly in Australia, ‘Hey guys, you need to get a home set up if you want to keep working through the pandemic.’ But working on Source-Connect has forced me to be a geek. I have done some editing before that, but it’s definitely opened my mind to the kind of technologies out there that I can use. I use Adobe Creative Cloud a little bit as well for a little bit of editing on the side and that helps with my understanding of editing audio, but I’m by no means an expert. I’m a little bit of like, oh, I know a little bit of this and a little bit of that and you know, seems to work out.
Peter: Being multi-lingual must give you a bit of an advantage in the industry.
Nicole: It helps. I’m not fluent in Russian but I spent three or four months in St Petersburg during my acting training as study abroad. And my background is Polish, but my dad does speak some Russian and grew up speaking Hebrew and Polish, so I had like a real interest in learning about Russia and the Slavic countries. So I went over there and was forced to speak, and I did do language studies a little bit before and after. And it sort of came about when I got the agency in LA that with video games that are looking for a lot of Russian-sounding characters or accents. So they found out that I spoke some Russian and then I ended up putting a sample down of me doing a little speech from something from Chekov. And then I got a role to do an airport announcement for Call Of Duty. So I’m not fluent but I’m still good enough and can read, it takes a little bit of finessing and practicing before I get in front of the mic, which is cool cause it’s a nice workout for me to, to use those skills in that part of my brain. And it’s kind of liberating to speak in another language, especially when you speak so much in English. It sort of makes you feel more playful or confident.
Peter: Tell me about doing Reading Eggs e-learning stuff!
Nicole: That was my sort of early voiceover days and it was really fun. That was like story book telling, you know, Reggie does this and Reggie does that, and it was very light and playful little online segments for kids. That was also around the time I did my first animation job, which was playing a little boy, about eight years old, nine years old in Heidi. And he was a goat herd. I haven’t done much educational stuff since: it’s been more like promo, video game, retail. But I have done audio books recently and that was a new experience for me. It was challenging. It was a lesson in delivering things more slowly because I tended to rush, and reading and speaking and sort of allowing that to go in your brain to process it and then deliver it as a story is definitely a skill and it’s so very different to the retail stuff. You get into the swing of it after a while and you start to enjoy the pace of it because it’s much slower and it’s just a workout for your brain reading for three, four hours.
Peter: How do you maintain your voice for that kind of work?
Nicole: The first audio book I did, I found my posture had a big effect. I had to be constantly moving, not just sitting in one spot or my voice would tire. But the amazing thing with being behind the mic is that you don’t have to push as much. And that’s what I noticed with theater: you’re always projecting your voice, but the audio book stuff, you could definitely make the most of being softer at times and coming closer to the mic and drawing the reader in. But it’s a lot of hot teas and water and dropping the tension, because if you’re tense for three, four hours, it’s going to end up affecting the work. So you have to be mindful of how much tension you’re holding. And I think the listener will pick up on that as well.
Peter: So what have you got going on for the rest of the year?
Nicole: Well I just did that onscreen job and then I have a few voiceover regulars bubbling in Sydney, but things have sort of slowed down in terms of going to the studio. I auditioned for some cool stuff right before the pandemic so I’m still waiting to see which ones might manifest or might not. I am going to the States later in the year in order to keep that segment alive, the video game work and as part of having a Green Card. So I’ll be planning that travel and that’s quite a bit of quite a bit of work, leaving Australia at this point: you have to get an exemption and stuff.
Peter: And a bit of stress, I imagine, Like there’s always in the back of your mind, like, ‘Oh, who’s got it?’
Nicole: It was, yeah. I mean, it was crazy going over there last year. I was there October, November, the time of the election and Halloween, before it got quite bad. So I was fortunate to be there in a time that felt relatively safe. But I think with Source-Connect, it’s just gives you confidence that you’re not missing out on a job wherever you are. If I go over there, I can still record for Australia over there. If I’m here in Australia, I can still be in the mix over there.
Peter: Well that’s nearly our time up. Anything else you’d like to say?
Nicole: Oh yeah I wanted to mention how I actually learned about Source-Connect, and it is going to sound like a bit of a plug, but it’s weird: I did these courses in LA at Real Voice LA maybe one and a half, two years ago when I was over there, and I saw they were doing like a Q&A master class with Robert Marshall and I was like, ‘Maybe I should just join this master class. It’s 20 bucks and I’ll be learning from the guy that designed this stuff.’ So that was like a three hour Q&A that I audited. The guy from Real Voice was just interviewing him. And then it just all flowed from there researching how to do it. So that was, that was definitely a big help!
Peter: Yeah. Thanks so much for your time. This has been fun.
US VO profile: http://www.sbvtalent.com/talent/nicole-shostak
AUS VO profile: http://www.sjmanagement.com.au/actor/Nicole-Shostak/
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