As many of you may know I’ve been a long time rep of Rafael Ferrer. Along with being the primary driver of my own reputation, Rafael has been one of the only voice performers in the last few decades to be successful in commercials, promos and trailers simultaneously. In fact, he’s been as apt to work for a major advertising agency as a television network or a movie studio. Given how tightly our careers have been intertwined, I realized there were some basic things I never quite asked him so I chose 5 simple questions and I hope you like our quick Q&A. BTW… any parentheses you see are my own comments.
PS: I know you’ve been around the business your whole life but how specifically did you get into VO?
Rafael: About the time I was 21 or 22 my father was coaching a scene studies class at a studio in New York called the Corner Loft where I was hanging out a fair amount. I got to meet Terry Berland (the casting director) who was teaching an on-camera commercials class and signed up. As I worked with her, at one point she said to me, “Have you ever thought about voice-overs?” I was open to anything and she happened to be working on a Bacardi Breezers demo and wanted me to come in. Well, I booked it, and that was my initiation into the world of voice-overs.
PS: Was that your big break and, if not, what do you attribute your big break to?
Rafael: Bacardi Breezers was only a demo and for the next few years I bounced around New York and LA until about the time I was 26 or 27. I was working at Joe Allen’s (the legendary New York bar and restaurant) and struggling a bit when I was sent to a casting session for a new beer – Miller Genuine Draft (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VRZjbjeC5U). I think (the legendary) Roger Sturtevant was running the session and Diane Morrison (founder of SEM&M) sent me on the audition. I booked it and right away it started running and running a lot. A bunch of other casting directors and producers heard the spot and suddenly I was consistently auditioning for voice-overs. From there, I just built one job at a time.
PS: What do you attribute your success to?
(laughs) I call it the Bing Crosby method. I once heard Bing Crosby being interviewed about singing and he said, “it’s like golf. If you tense up the ball doesn’t go where you want it to go so I try to relax and do the copy as I hear it.” My father also made the comment that when you are on stage you have to project all the way to the last row in the theater but voice-over is the exact opposite. It’s more intimate. When you are behind the mic, you need to talk to one person and only one person. So I guess you could say I try to be relaxed and intimate at the same time.
PS: What is the biggest shift you have seen in the industry since you began?
Rafael: Definitely celebrities doing more commercials. I’m old enough to remember when John Gielgud did an on-camera Paul Masson wines (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhZv8aIr55k). Other actors thought it was the end of his career because celebrities just didn’t do commercials. My actor friends were wrong. Celebrities began doing voice-overs first and now they all over the air both on-camera and voice.
PS: You’ve done so much. Is there anything else you specifically want to do in your career?
Rafael: I’ve thought about that a lot. I mentioned my dad taught scene study and acting classes for years and years and I remember the looks on his students’ faces when he made a break through and it was just an amazing experience. When I was younger and having success, I never thought about teaching because my business was so dependent on running around to different studios and casting directors throughout the day. That’s not true anymore. My business is home studio based and I can even work portably if need be so I don’t have the time constraints I used to traveling throughout Manhattan. Given all that, I’m seriously thinking about teaching a class inspired by my dad’s methods and how they translate specifically to voice-over. I’m still putting the finishing touches on what exactly I want it to be but I will let you know when I’m ready and hopefully you give me some feedback yourself.