Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nicole’s Story: The Recording of American Gods Public Post

I was able to locate Nicole Quinn, the Grand Prize winner of the Neil Gaiman Audiobook contest, via Facebook. I had only hoped to hear a few tidbits from her experiences on the day of recording, but to my pleasure and surprise she sent quite a detailed account. She graciously agreed to let me reprint it here in total. – Js. Rapson
I ran into the studio just on time, after a 3 hour drive that normally takes 2 from upstate NY. I was having a hot flash, sheesh, 55 and feeling like a school girl running in sweaty from the play yard. We were all nervous. It’s a risk to add an unknown to 20 carefully cast voices.
In the room – Karen (exec dir), Beth (marketing), Barbara (engineer), and Paula (American Gods director). More would come later.
I had four small parts to read, sweet gems really. I met with Paula Parker, the director, who was, I found out at lunch later, not excited about the contest, and worried that whoever won might be mediocre. She’s a great actor, because I didn’t have a clue.
I wanted to put her at ease quickly, so I told her that I’m a classically trained actor turned writer turned filmmaker ( self-promotion, and yes I did pass out dvds like business cards, which I always forget to carry). I explained that I had rehearsed the sides to the punctuation, but that should she want me to blow through the commas and periods just to let me know.
She smiled, such a lovely smile. I calmed a bit more. We talked about my road to reading on the bookperk site: birth, adoption, boarding school, Berkeley, London, Berkeley again, then on to NY. We talked about my life as an actor, which was, after all, the most important bit in the room. I think I’m a pretty good actor. You have to feel that way to stay in it this long. I got my AEA card in 1978 and my SAG and AFTRA cards in the early 1980s (WAGE in 1993). I belong to a company upstate, and its offshoot Denny Dillon’s Improv Nation. And as my friend Melissa Leo says – “I’d do this naked on a street corner for no money.” I have to agree.
And yes, I did shamelessly name drop famous actors as friends, hoping to bathe my unknownness in stellar light. Its something I’m not proud of, but nerves make my gums flap.
Paula led me to the booth, and just as the door was about to close I remembered I’d brought a plastic bin of sliced apples. I have done some voice work before – computer games (Space Colony and Stonghold 2), and apples are the best way to quickly wet your whistle. Paula was almost beatific at the apples, and so was I, dry-mouth that I am.
We laid down the tracks, the shortest first. Paula gave great direction – attitude, atmosphere, she set the scene. Maybe 3-5 takes on each segment, and we were done with the recording. The relief in the room was palpable.
We waited around for a bit to speak with Neil himself via Skype. He was in England, I think, post Dr. Who airing of his episode. He was charming and I was tongue-tied, having a HUGE professional crush on both he and A.F.P. I love how accessible they are to their fans. The conversation was a bit anti-climactic, and short, I mean I had an audience of engineers and producers, so I reigned in my gush and ….
Then out to lunch with Producers and directors and Harper Audio folks. Tuna Steak Nicoise is what I ate. I think we were all relieved that it worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. Everyone was delightful. They all encouraged me to take a Narrator’s workshop, skill-building, which I have since signed on to do.
We talked about audio books, and Harry Potter, of which Harper exec. Chrissie and I are huge fans. The Audies, the state of the art, etc…
Many warm handshakes later I checked into the Omni Berkshire Hotel (on Harper’s dime) where I jumped on beds, ate junk food and drank very good wine with my 25 year old incredibly gorgeous daughter (who lives in the city) and my hunky husband (who works there).
I’m back in a 1964 Tradewind Airstream, (my office), in the middle of a meadow, now all yellows and soft greens. I can see the tin gambrel roof of the blue barn-home in which I live, cresting the berm. I’m deep in the nightmare world of the novel I’m writing, hoping only to make the one we live in a little less frightening.
ps – I listened to all twenty finalists, and I am honored to be among you.
Keep dreaming, they do come true,
(Nicole Quinn May 19 at 4:39am via Facebook)

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