7 ?s with Jessica Wachsman-Selznick
Taking the “blah” out of “blah blah blah.” Whether it’s the friendly, energetic sound of the girl next door, a pensive, introspective read, or anything in between, Jess will easily give you the perfect voice for your project that is anything but blah. Jess is known and hired for her enormous vocal range, professionalism, great sense of timing, comedy and ad-libbing. Jessica’s voice has been featured in hundreds of TV and radio commercials, video games, feature films, radio stations, websites, animated projects, telephone greetings, cartoon – you name it.
1) How did you get your start in voiceover?
My voiceover start really began when i was a producer in New York City ad agencies. An agency copywriter asked me to do a voiceover for a client pitch, and really liked what I did with it. Then, another agency creative asked me to do one the following week, and somehow, before long, it got wings, and I had to quit production to do voiceovers full time.
2) What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio?
It was an absolute thrill…to be honest, I still get a real rush from it, even all these years later. Anytime I hear myself on a new spot for the first time, I freeze and hold my breath until it’s over, and then feel giddy for the rest of the day. It really never gets old.
3) What’s your favorite thing about working in the industry?
I get to be creative every single day. Voicing a zebra… Or a space alien… Or a scrambled egg… (Yes, that happened) What could be more fun? But even for straightforward narration-type spots, which one might think don’t involve much creativity, every choice I make – from the tone of voice that I use, to subtle inflections and differences between the different takes, to the variations in speed and pitch I might try – it ALL feels creative to me. Every different voiceover project feels like its own new adventure.
4) You were on track to being a psychologist before dropping out of grad school. So what made you go from reading the DSM to reading voice-over copy?
I realized after a year of graduate school that despite my great respect and enjoyment of the field of psychology, I just simply couldn’t see myself being a psychologist for the rest of my life. It didn’t make me feel…excited. So, I jumped ship, and decided to figure out what WOULD make me happy, knowing that I could always return to graduate school if I couldn’t figure things out. Luckily, that didn’t have to happen. I quickly was hired at a reputable New York City advertising agency, and that’s where voiceovers and I found each other.
5) Speaking of psychologists, have you ever considered seeing one for your addiction to the Muppets?
Ha! Can’t we all use a little therapy for something or other? The Muppets are the best! Growing up, I was utterly enamored by them – their voices, their whimsy, their humor, their unique and completely different personalities… Recently, my nephew and I started doing the Manha Mahna theme song. He’ll say “hit it!” and I’ll go “Mahna Manha” and we will take it from there. I play the part of Mahna Mahna, and he plays The Snowths. We even managed to incorporate it into our Passover Seder this year…it was hilarious.
6) How often do you find yourself using character voices in the real world?
Ehhhr, admittedly, just about every day…Luckily, my husband loves it, and will even join in. We have a whole lot of ridiculous “shtick”. We’ve been repeatedly told we should take it on the road.
7) How has technology impacted the way you work?
It is mind-blowing how technology has changed over the last ten years Everything has gotten better, smaller, easier, more accessible, more transportable, more user-friendly…if I go on vacation, I can take my recording gear with me and make myself a little makeshift studio wherever I am. I went to Thailand with a friend, and she was amazed at how I was able to carry my gear on my back, and set up a great-sounding recording space in our little hotel room. I have brought my mobile setup all over the world -England, Iceland, Thailand, Mexico, Caribbean Islands, France, Canada, Czech Republic, etc…it’s amazing how technology has made it totally feasible to create a recording space just about anywhere.
Not to mention Source Connect, ISDN, IPDTL, etc – the field has completely changed, and now it’s so easy and affordable to record remotely with a client on the other side of the world. It’s really unbelievable. I can’t even imagine where technology will have led us in ANOTHER ten years.
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