Five Minutes With... Voiceover Agent Jessica Felrice
This marks the third episode of a series I started last year, where I get to know some of my favourite people in the Voiceover industry a little better. My first guest is none other than one of my own lovely agents Jessica Felrice. I sat down over Zoom for a virtual coffee with Jessica to find out what the life of a top voiceover agent is really like!
THE LANGUAGE OF IMAGE AND SOUND Jessica, who is a Voiceover and Animation agent at Stewart Talent NY, has been working in the industry for 22 years, starting her journey at The Gersch Agency. Fresh from a BFA in Cinema Studies from NYU, Jessica never set out to be an agent but knew she ‘wanted to do something in entertainment that wasn’t in the film industry’. A temporary role came up through her college alumni department at The Gersch Agency and it was here that she fell in love with the VO agent role. Jessica explains it is her ear ‘for the language of image and sound’, fostered during her time at NYU’s Film school, that drew her into the world of VO.
Fast forward to the post-covid present, the job of an agent is 24/7, with agents like Jessica ‘working all hours’. ‘There’s 20 times the workload than there was before and there’s less money in it’ Jessica tells me. She highlights that this doesn’t come without consequences; there’s a real danger ‘that higher quality agents are going to be burnt out’. On the flipside however, the ‘constant work, constant shift and constant changeover’ does mean that there is always exciting work for agents and voice actors alike.
Today’s voiceover agents are required to wear a LOT of different hats, from casting director to audio engineer. Jessica suggests that it’s important for today’s agents ‘to be able to direct and edit audio at home, to the same level as a casting director’. With the new landscape demanding more and more from agents, it’s also important for actors to have ‘patience and comprehension of the new role that agents are doing’. Likewise, Jessica explains, agents should try to be ‘be patient with actors because a lot of times they are in a vacuum, getting random calls and auditions and some of them don’t ever hear back’.
THE AGENT - TALENT PARTNERSHIP
Often online forums have entire segments dedicated to landing your dream agent but don’t lift the lid on what to do when you actually sign with one. When you join an agency you become part of a team, where talent and agent exist in partnership. I wanted to pick Jessica’s brain on how actors can do their part to ensure this relationship thrives!
Communication is key and Jessica suggests that if actors can ‘make things as simple as possible to allow communication in real time, without expecting or demanding it’, this goes a long way. Jessica, who loves the directing and casting element of her role, explains that sometimes an agent may ‘have feedback or a re-direct’ on your audition. So whatever you do, ‘when you send in a remote audition, don’t disappear! Strategize when you send your auditions and be responsive just in case of redirects’. This not only helps facilitate real time communication with your agent, but also helps preserve that feeling of spontaneity in the audition.
HONESTY AND AUTHENTICITY
Having listened to countless hours of auditions, if anyone knows the secret sauce to a great audition, it’s Jessica! I was curious to know if she thought there was something all great auditions, and great actors, had in common.
‘Actors that are curious, who are great listeners and who are interested in the world and other people…make more interesting choices’ and not only this but they ‘receive and make adjustments better’ Jessica tells me. She goes on to explain that ‘anyone you are in life is going to come through in your voice’ and it’s knowing how to ‘tap into the actors skillset’ whilst remaining ‘authentic’ that makes a performance great.
Authenticity, along with relatability, are two words I’ve noticed more and more in casting specs lately and I’m not alone. Just as the demands on agents have changed, so to have the trends and reads expected from voiceover artists. Jessica cites pharmaceutical commercials as an example. In years gone by, you might catch a deeper and older voice in a spot for a medication, for example. However now, ‘the copy might still be the same, still serious, but the tonality is completely different’ with a voice actor ‘talking, casually as if they were at the bar’. It’s learning how to tap into ‘what your voice naturally does’, that helps to communicate authenticity and honesty to the listening audience.
BEYOND THE BOOTH Not only is Jessica a fabulous agent but a cinema lover through and through - If you are ever in need of movie theatre recommendations – Jessica is your person! As a fellow film lover, I couldn’t help but ask Jessica who she would love to represent for voiceover if she had the chance: ‘A personal Icon to me would be Deborah Shelton, I really like her voice, it’s very specific and textured’ or cult actor of the 80’s and 90’s, ‘Zoe Lund Tamerlis - she had an awesome voice!’
It was great chatting with Jessica and learning more about the world of VO from an agent’s perspective. If you want to find out more about Jessica or Stewart Talent you can check out their website here: https://www.stewarttalent.com/site/about
Let me know who you’d like to hear from next!