Margit Furseth: From Improv to VO
After college she moved to Chicago where she studied and performed improv with Second City and Improv Olympics and honed her voice over skills. Now she’s heard on just about every network; several cable stations and all over the radio. Let’s get schooled!
First, please briefly introduce yourself: I am new to imaging. However I have made my living as a professional VO actor for the last twenty years mainly working in commercial, promo, political, animation and narration areas of voice over in both the Chicago and Los Angeles markets.
What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)? I currently have some TV and radio commercials running along with a few promos on cable. And of course I am always auditioning.
What do you love about working as a freelance VO talent? VO gave me freedom. I was able to raise my kids and spend time with them at home and at their schools. However, since I put in a home studio, it is weird I don’t have the freedom of time I had before all this home studio stuff became necessary to work. “Golden handcuffs” is what I call my situation now with a home studio. I have free time however I have to stay close to home to record copy that comes in throughout the day…so no going to the beach for me, maybe a walk around the Rose Bowl which is only a mile from my home!
How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? I was cast in an on-camera commercial for Chevy in Chicago. A day before the shoot my roommate brought home a stray kitten…I am allergic to cats. I remember the sound guy who was holding the boom mic in the commercial telling me “your voice sounds very sexy.” Yes my allergies had given me this raspy deep voice along with a cold that lasted a week after the shoot. The client loved my voice too (my allergy voice) and hired me to do the regional Chevy TV campaign. Sooo when this happened we had found a home for the kitten. So I put a towel in my friends cat bed for a couple of hours and then slept with it that night. The next morning I had a raspy, deeper voice along with a swollen face. However, they loved it. Then Tidy Bowl was searching for the girl who was the voice of Chevy commercials for their next commercial. Yes you guessed it another night with the cat blanket and my sexy voice was back. How many people can say that they started their voice career not using their real voice? When I moved to LA I made sure that no more “cat blanket” voiceovers were on my demo!
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it? Yes! I take at least one voice over class a year. I used to take classes to be able to listen to myself since at the agency you record and go. However since I record so much out of my home studio I take classes to learn again to rely on my acting and not just my ear when editing. Always learn so much for other actors in the classes… everyone should keep learning for sure.
Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a VO artist? I loved Casey Kasem. Come on Scooby Doo and the American Top 40…huge fan! I kind of get inspired and influenced by the people I audition and work with. Just last week I read a piece of copy at my agency and this VO actor I have know for years, he did this accent I had no idea he could do, I was really impressed.
What is your dream gig? I worked for Play House Disney as their promo announcer and that was kind of a dream come true to work for Disney. However, I think I would love to be the in-house announcer for a game show like Wheel of Fortune. I was a huge fan of game shows when I was a kid. That would be a cool job.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
- 1) First off I have never been told in my entire life (outside a studio) that I have an interesting or cool voice and that I should do voice-overs. However I have made my living in this business for the last twenty years. I say this because having an interesting voice does not guarantee success in the VO business. Being a good actor, training, persistence and brining your authentic self to copy all factor in.
- 2) Don’t skimp on equipment especially your microphone. You will be recording from home. The microphone is like your camera if you were a photographer. I don’t care how great you are with lining up a picture and lighting, if you use a cheap camera your picture will not be great same with the microphone you use. I recommend the Sennhieser 416 shotgun microphone. It is the LA standard you will find in most studios. Also brings out a warm sound in women and directional so cuts external noise when you are recording.
- 3) Don’t skimp on demo. Know your voice. Listen to demos of other actors. Listen to TV and radio and try to pick out people who sound like you, listen to the work they are doing. Ask people whose demos you like where they had theirs produced. A good demo producer will have current copy and hand pick things for your voice type. A good minute nothing more.
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How do you schedule/prioritize your work? I always if I have time just record my auditions as they come in. Even if they are do in a couple of days I get it down ASAP.
Which production system do you use and why? Twisted Wave super easy and you can get as an app on your iphone too!
What gear do you use (microphone, pre-amp, booth, etc)? Like I said I love the Sennheiser 416, also have a TLM 103, Whisper Booth, Musicam Road Warrior LC, Lexicon Alpha, Mackie 802 VLZA and a Mac Air. I also brought in George Whittam who was worth every penny to make sure my system was set up correctly and adjust the sound in my booth.
How has new technology changed the way you work? Even though I used to drive more from studio to studio before home studios: I liked when I left work (agency or studio) that I was really finished with voiceover for the day with no interruptions. With home studios I am always on the clock so I don’t have the freedom that I had before. I like working out of my booth especially on rainy days however I do miss the days of seeing my friends at casting directors and at the agency.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? If I get stuck on a word that I cannot pronounce I will stick my finger in my mouth and say the word three times and then take out my finger and try again it seems to work. Also I try to use the first three takes of anything I record at home unless I really mess up. Similar to what happens at the agency first couple of takes they use. I think if you keep recording something you loose your authentic read. It becomes more about what you “sound” like then what you are saying.
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? I like the Apogee microphone. I am in grad school so sometimes I am at school and can’t get back home for an audition. Now with that Apogee mic and Twisted Wave app on my iPhone I can send in a halfway decent audition in the car just by plugging in the Apogee mic directly into my iPhone and recording…pretty great.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? It was pretty great. My family is in the Midwest so they call me and tell me my commercials or promos are coming up in three hours on what show and what commercial break. One time I heard three commercials in a row that were mine. Still exciting for me!
Favorite TV show of all time? I love Lucy
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be (non-family)? Colin firth, Cher, and Alan Rickman…wow I sound super shallow I should have said Jesus or Lincoln however I really want to meet Collin, Cher and Alan!
What’s your professional wrestling name? Missy Chick. I went to this website that you put your name in and get your professional wrestling name www.wrestlingname.com kind of cool.
Biggest Pet Peeve? Personalized license plates.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Milk duds, sour skittles and movie popcorn.
Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Trek.
Elvis or The Beatles? Beatles.
Dogs or Cats? Dogs.
Where in the world is Carmen San Diego? She is back in San Diego for the winter, Coronado to be exact.