The woman of 1000 voices, dialectologist, celebrity coach & researcher, playwright, performer, and virtuoso fiddle player is now a VO Boss Guest! Eliza Jane Schneider sits down with Anne and Gabby to talk about her huge successes in the VO world, how she got her love of sound, her world travels and her proprietary looping method that teaches a dialect in minutes!
*Stick around after the outro for an extra special story on how Eliza became a dialectologist.*
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
Dialect Masterclass has free training options!
Don’t get discouraged. It took Eliza a LONG time to “make it”
Her Advanced Character Acting Class is offered once every 10 years and 2018 is the year!
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
VO: Today’s voiceover talent is more than just a pretty voice. Today’s voiceover talent has to be a boss, a VO BOSS. Set yourself up with business owner strategies and success with your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with some of the strongest voices in our industry. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS.
Anne: Before we get started on today’s episode, we want to share some bossolutions. We have a fantastic new product for you guys called the BOSS Blast. Now the BOSS Blast allows us to send a marketing campaign specifically to a target market audience.
Gabby: It’s amazing, and Anne and I have both done it. We’ve tested it on ourselves of course. This thing is amazing. Custom list. We have up to 90,000 available opted in contacts that are basically willing and ready to receive emails from you.
Anne: So it’s not like you have to worry about being thought of as spam, because these people have already opted into this list. This is a great way for you guys to get more clients.
Gabby: Just go to voboss.com, go to the shop tab, and click on BOSS Blast so you can get your boss on.
Anne: Welcome, everybody, to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my lovely cohost, BFF bosstie, bestie, Gabby Nistico. Hey, Gabby.
Anne: You know, I am really excited about our very, very special guest today. She is known as the woman of 1000 voices, and here is my favorite word of the day. She is a dialectologist. [laughs] Celebrity coach and researcher.
Gabby: I’m in love.
Anne: She has recorded over 7000 authentic dialects. She is a playwright, a performer, and a virtuoso fiddle player, which I think is amazing. So welcome to our VO BOSS podcast Eliza Jane Schneider. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Eliza: Oh, it is my pleasure, my pleasure. I’m coming to you from the KPFK radio studios in Los Angeles today.
Eliza: And I actually just ran into another violinist in the hallway, Shankar, L. Shankar, who was like my idol when I was 12 years old.
Eliza: He was Peter Gabriel’s violinist, and it was the first time my little Suzuki self had ever seen an electric violin being played.
Gabby: Oh wow.
Eliza: It was awesome. It took over the whole arena, this incredible swath of sound, so I just ran into him in the hallway. He gave me his number, oh my God. Aaah!
Anne: You know, I have seen you come onto the scene with a force in the last year or so, which has just been incredible, and I, I have just been kind of fangirling you for a while now. So tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and how you got started in this industry.
Eliza: Yeah, it’s one of those things. They say, an overnight sensation takes 10 years, and I think these days it’s more like 20. [laughs] You know, like —
Eliza: These people who are purported to have “made it.” It took a really, really, really, really, really long time, but I have loved every second of it. You know, my favorite thing is the researching. I have just — I went to Singapore last summer to present my voice matching looping method that I use to basically teach almost everything that I teach,
Dialects, accents, character voices. And Singapore was the final country in the world, the final English speaking country for me to go personally and record people in. Because I was on a mission when I was 20 to go and record all of the dialects of spoken English in the world. And I started with America. I went across America in an ambulance, just because it had AC outlets, and I found it under cargo vans in the L.A. — I kind of think she found me.
Eliza: And I could plug in my recording gear, and I could plug in my wok and cook Thai food in Mississippi, which I envisioned they might not have, and I was correct about that.
Eliza: And yeah, and I could hang my houseplants on the IV hooks, which was homey.
Eliza: And I was a bit of an escape artist journey — a gypsy of old. I think it has something to do with being raised on a Chippewa reservation, and the Ojibwe tribe is a very much a nomadic people, and I was sort of raised by these elders in my daycare, Ojibwe woman while my mom was being an attorney. My mom was an attorney trying to protect the Ojibwe tribe from the federal government. [laughs]
Eliza: That worked.
Anne: That’s a story.
Eliza: But no, yeah, so, so last summer I went to Singapore. It was the last English-speaking country in the world where I still had yet to record dialects, and so now I have over 7000 interviews that my 35 to 40 some odd minions, who are students of mine, who are all on some kind of a program with me, they are also helping me upload all this research to the dialect database. So it is really fun for them too because it kind of saves them the gas money, you know. They get to go on these take –
Anne: To say the least.
Eliza: Journeys around the world.
Gabby: How, how –
Gabby: How did that start? You have got to like take us back. Like how in the world did this become your life?
Eliza: Well, I mean, my dad was a drama teacher and a math teacher. So the sort of art and science of things is always somewhat integrated. I was a Suzuki violin kid from like age seven, and that’s an ear training method, and it’s about immersion. So I’ve merged dialects, accents, language, music, and it is all sounds to me. And it’s just a huge part of my identity. It’s how I, It’s how I interact with the world, and so um it’s just kind of who I am. It’s not really a choice.
Eliza: But I, but I did know that when I went to — I went to Northwestern University’s national high school institute for, you know, all the egotistical, “I’m the best actress in the world” kids who got the lead in their high school play, you know. And I realized that I was just one of many. And they had a dialect elective, umm, and I realized there wasn’t any material available back then — it was the early 1990’s — for actors that wasn’t — well, there was David Allen Stern imitating people. It was him doing all the accents, and it was on cassette. This is pre-Internet, so I just made it my business to go and get, gather source material from people who had never set foot outside of their hometowns. And I’ve just had a fascination with sound from a very early age.
Anne: So I imagine, I imagine that that’s absolutely where you start, obviously with the dialects, is teaching in that vein of listening, I’m assuming, to, to these different dialects and trying to, to form a foundation there?
Eliza: Yeah, so it starts with immersion, and then I have this looping method that’s a sort of proprietary kind of thing that I’ve developed. And it’s the thing that all the voice teachers at the VASTA conference last summer in Singapore, the international voice teachers were all excited about it. And it was really fun for me because here’s this dialect coach or teacher from, you know, Australia, and I’m teaching her a Nigerian dialect. And it literally took me minutes to teach her what she would take six months to teach her students in an academic program. I went there expecting like two old white guys with long beards like drooling in a corner talking about something that happened in the great vowel shift like 200 years ago.
Eliza: I had a few prejudices about academia, you could say.
Eliza: Because when I first started this research, I was at UCLA studying world arts and cultures, and they told me, oh, America doesn’t really have a culture. We study Third World countries here like China and Africa. And I was just sitting there thinking, OK, Africa’s not a country.
[gabby and anne laugh]
Eliza: I’ve just had some issues with academia from early on, so this is, this last summer like 20 years later, I’m like, OK. I’m just gonna present what I’ve learned and come up with here and see what you guys think. And it really was, it was like, it was embraced, and the people who were there were, you know, Tibetan throat singing professors, umm you know there was Singlish. There’s like four different kinds of Singlish because they’ve got those four different mother tongues. They’ve got Tamil, which is a South Indian language, and Malay, and anyways –
Eliza: It was sort of a phonemic, phonetic stream to be out there listening to all that stuff. There is so many things you learn about the stuff if you are obsessed like I am, like you know the fact that the tones of the Chinese — of Mandarin are what’s behind what I always used to perceive as that kind of mosquito quality to the Chinese opera. You know, the [imitating singing] [laughs] It’s so, it used to sound to me like Gizmo from gremlins. [does impression] You know? But really, it’s just a slowed down, exaggerated sort of puppetry version of their speech, and the tones in their speech. I just love the intersection with music and tonal languages. The one I’m coaching tonight is Ibibio, which is a 7000-year-old language.
Gabby: Oh my gosh.
Eliza: And there’s — it’s a play called “Her Portmanteau” and umm Mfoniso, the playwright, is just freaking amazing, and they go in and out of the Ibibio language. And [in accent] you know, that Nigerian sound, the Ibibio sound, sometimes it comes like a waterfall, and it just [out of accent] keeps going. Right? It’s so musical and it’s so dynamic, and it’s so much fun. So this, this kind of thing has always fascinated me, but I realized when I first left on my first research trip that I couldn’t go out into the world and become the expert on everybody else before I knew anything about my own country’s sounds, as begrudging I was about hanging out in America for too long back then and I was — I have since fallen in love with the people in this country um just by virtue of doing the research and being invited into so many homes, and you know, seeing myself in the, in the eyes of people whom I was raised to fear and loathe. You know, like Republicans and stuff. I like them now.
[Anne and Gabby laugh]
Anne: I love how you said, how you set out in the world to become the expert. And that is such a, I think, a, a great foundation to a great business. I love that you’re so in love and passionate about what you do. And I guess I question would be, so, at what point — the research, you know, you’ve probably – I can’t say it’s ever been finalized, but you did ever — you did a lot of research. So now what do you do to make that a part of your business, right? So how did you –?
Eliza: OK, so I’ve got this website. It’s dialectdatabase.com, and it’s totally incomplete.
Eliza: And so you know, if you go there and you see any problems with it, email me
and help me fix them. But um but basically I have 7000, a little more than that, interviews that I’m putting out as a reference for actors, and so that is a tool that we use, so umm it’s, it’s something that I hope will be like the go-to site for people. And it is, for a lot of my, my umm director friends now. I’m often hired to coach a director before they have to go in and direct a session with actors from, you know, or the actors have to sound like they are from various places in South Africa or, you know, Sri Lanka, or maybe they’ll
have a back to back. You know, so I’ll have to coach. I’ll have to coach a director on what to listen for in their sessions. So this, this research, this behemoth 25 years of research, like I don’t even know of a doctorate program that requires 25 years of research. I think –
[Anne and Gabby laugh]
Eliza: But I’m putting this stuff up so that we can access it quickly because I think one of the big rifts between what they call the practitioners like us, the voice actors who are also, maybe we have a business, maybe we are teaching, but — and academia, where actors go to get trained to do this stuff, is the luxury of time. We just don’t have it. You know, so when we are, when we’re, when a casting director or a director has to figure out what you can do, they don’t have time to listen to 500 demos, and they don’t have time to listen to your entire demo necessarily. So that’s part of what I’m doing in my character — my advanced character acting class right now, which is also an online class, which I actually — I only teach this like once every 10 years. It’s running now this year.
Eliza: And I, I bring in my director friends who, who actually, literally say to me in the booth, “you know, I’d love to meet new people. I’m tired of working with the same five people all the time.” You know, over at Disney character voices or whatever. I’m like, “are you serious,” because I have very strong memories of being that newbie who’s like, “I just want to meet somebody! When am I gonna get a general? How can I show these people what I have got?” You know? And so I, I take a lot of pleasure in introducing the very talented group of students that I now have two these directors and people who can give them work.
Gabby: This whole thing, it’s just so fascinating to me on so many levels. And I wish we had more time to pick your brain on numerous topics. But I want to get your take really quickly on neutrality in voiceover, neutrality of speech. Do you even — is it a thing? Does it even exist, or –
Eliza: Oh God, it’s a huge thing because it doesn’t exist. It’s a construct, right?
Eliza: No matter where you are, there’s a sort of constructed upgrading of your speech or neutralizing of your speech. And I mean, personally, I, I think it’s, you know, taking the soul out of things. It is sort of like the opposite of what an actor wants to do and make things sound authentic. Everybody comes from somewhere. My own idiolect is comprised of certain sounds from upstate New York. I say water instead of warter. I say wah, give me a glass of water. I’m exaggerating a little bit. But then I also, I have some Minnesota sounds. Sometimes I say “oht and aboht” and I don’t realize I’m doing it.
Gabby: Well, I love that you’re talking about that, you know, honoring where we are from and just that. I have always felt for so many years, voiceover was just stripped down, and now I think finally we’re at a place where different dialects, different regional quirks, accents are being accepted, and I think it’s great.
Anne: And embraced.
Eliza: Embraced. For sure. Yeah. And um you were asking me how I started to use this research to base my business. I have — my class is dialectmasterclass.com. And so what I’ve managed to do is take — I put up these modules that are these kind of evergreen, you know, lifetime access modules that you can just go when you have that audition. You can go in, and you can go as deeply as you wish. You know, if you only have five minutes, you can get those sound substitutions really quickly and just listen to a native speaker in this class. Or if you have the time to spend eight weeks in the class getting feedback from me and practicing what we call springboards. So I have my students memorize. You know, voice actors are reticent to do such things, but once they do, they’re grateful. I have been memorize springboards in different dialects, so if they have to do a tidewater, non-rhotic southern accent, they’ve got in their head, well, [in dialect] is that an ambulance you’re driving? [laughs] I think that’s just wonderful. Who happens to be one of my interviews, and then they can change it and make it, you know, younger or whatever.
[out of dialect] but it’s in their head. You know, they grab it, and a springboard off of it into the improvisation and into their lines.
Gabby: There is a laundry list of voice actors that are clamoring to work with you. And uhh you know, you’re their dream coach, basically. And when I saw the video you did recently for St. Patrick’s Day, I was just enamored. I was like, I love this woman. I don’t know her. I absolutely love her, I adore her, I love everything about this. [laughs]
Eliza: Ohh thank you. That’s so sweet.
Anne: And I think too it’s a, it’s a testament too to you know, all those years of research that you did, and now — and I’ve seen a bunch of videos that you have created, and I think it’s fantastic to get yourself out there um online so people know about you. And I actually, I know you’re so busy now, I wanted to um ask, on behalf of the listeners, because I know they’re gonna want to know, do you also do private coaching?
Eliza: A lot more rarely these days, but yeah. Um, so now that I’ve completed the English-speaking world, I’m all about the Asian sounds and various weird esoteric
— I’m going to Iceland and sort of regions — rural regions of France this summer to record more dialects and — but yeah. I do, I do private coaching on occasion. It’s, it’s more expensive than I think is fair, but — [laughs] what can I do? I don’t have a lot of time.
Anne: Exactly. I think the best thing too if people want to, you know, learn from you is to probably go to your — that master class that you have.
Anne: And how can people access you in that class?
Eliza: Oh it’s just, go to dialectmasterclass.com. If you click on the free training in the top left corner, you’ll get a sense of what the flow of my classes are like. And you know, you’ll see whether it’s right for you, and if you decide to come on in, you can, you can purchase the modules only. And it’s really affordable right now. It hasn’t gone up. I keep threatening to raise the price, but I never do.
Eliza: Because I’m — as Jerry quickly here at KPFK described, I’m a broken hippie. So I got that — we got that going for us, people. Um and then the other, the other one, the umm, the more advanced classes where I give you feedback every week, and you, you know, submit your samples and, and — those are, those are the people I’ve been sort of
grooming to go into the advanced character acting. So I have an advanced character acting class and a working Pro character acting class that meets on Tuesdays. And I, I meet with these people during the week. And you know, we become friends, and very often, you know, these are people that end up on, in the dialect database going into my research with me, and umm you know, finding the good stuff and gold-mining. So it’s, it’s a great group of people. It’s just an incredible group of very smart people with great ears and a lot of talent. And that’s my class.
Anne: Well, it sounds fantastic. Eliza, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.
Eliza: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you.
Anne: And I, I think — I want another podcast.
Eliza: Oh yeah.
Gabby: My gosh.
Eliza: Well, there is so much more to talk about, and I do tend to kind of go on tangents.
Anne: How can people get in touch with you again? Master class?
Eliza: Oh, dialectmasterclass.com. Click the free training in the upper left-hand corner, and then you can also just email email@example.com with any questions that you have, or, you know, if you want to get involved in the character acting class. There’s a new set of those coming up. Umm, we’re going to be running them quarterly, and so we’re flipping back and forth between animation, inviting my animation director friends in, and the video games and interactive directors are coming in to listen to my people.
Anne: I’d like to give a big shout out to our sponsor, ipDTL, for our quality connection and recording. And you too can record like a boss and find out more at ipdtl.com.
Gabby: And for all things BOSS, check out voboss.com. We will see you guys next week. Have a great one.
Anne: Have a great one. Bye-bye.
Eliza: Bye, guys.
Gabby: Pleasure meeting you.
VO: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.
Gabby: Really quick, do you have time to tell us the story about dialectologist?
Eliza: So, when I did the South Park voices, I had used my looping method. That’s when I developed the looping method was because I had one week to nail eight female voices. [each said in character’s voice] Wendy, Shelley, Principal Victoria, Stan’s mom, Kenny’s mom, [normal voice] Mrs. Crabtree I won’t do because she screams from her throat,
and your occasional — oh, the mayor. But yeah, so I, I had to do these all really quickly, develop the looping method, and um, and then I got a pre-nodule on my vocal cords because I was being very technical, which I teach my students to come at it the opposite way, you know, to go from the emotions first, and then go into all this technicality, and tweaking the tone, and pitch, and lilt, and timbre, and all these other aspects of the music of the dialect or the character voice. And so I developed a pre-nodule, which I had to be silent for six weeks.
Eliza: So I’m silent, and I refuse to be in Los Angeles when I can’t talk, so I was running around on one of my research trips, and I was in London at a university college interviewing John Wells, who is — who wrote the three-volume survey of the British regional dialects.
Eliza: But he said to me — I wrote down on this piece of paper because I was writing everything on a pad of paper because I couldn’t speak. And I wrote down, “I’m a dialectician,” and, and he just looks right at me, and just imagine the spit coming out of this guy’s mouth.
Eliza: So it’s [in dialect] “you’re not a dialectician! You don’t study dialectics! You’re a dialectologist!”
Oh my goodness, dialectologist.