Lucy Cooper

Member Profile | Lisa Graydon

Member Profile | Lisa Graydon

In this member profile, we asked Lisa Graydon, a voice-over artist and vocalist to share her story and discover that, in her case, voiceover work is a real family affair!

How did you get into voiceover work?

A number of years ago I was in a recording studio in Soho, London, singing children’s songs for a well-known company.

At the end of my singing session, the producer realised they’d missed some lines for the voice artists who had been there in the morning.  They wondered if I could try and voice the princess, seeing as I was singing her songs.

I did, and then also voiced a goat and a couple of villagers, and without realising it, my voiceover career started…!

Fast forward to now, and I‘ve voiced hundreds of commercials, radio ads, corporate explainers, and sponsorship campaigns.

Why do you enjoy animation and games work so much?

I’m a regular ‘looper’ for films and love ADR, but my biggest passion is voicing for animation and games.  In both, I can help the director ‘create’ the voice of whatever character is put before me. I feel confident, excited, and it’s where I probably feel most at home.

Playing with ideas for characters is immense fun.  Sometimes, my job is to try and match the voice the animator/producer was hearing in their head when they started the project.  Other times, I’m asked how I think they might sound from a detailed animatic or a single drawing.

In both animation and games, the scope and range of characters can be mind-blowing!  I’ve played a cloud, a scientist, a special ops leader, an American boy, an evil advisor, a mother cat, an old woman, chickens, a French warrior and many others.  My roles have required me to shout, whisper, cry, bully, laugh maniacally and even just mutter.

I invariably use all areas of my voice to produce a sound that will suit the character.  Sometimes a session is like a workout!

You have to leave your inhibitions at the studio door, but for some reason (despite being an ‘extravert introvert’) I have no problem there…

Recording feels like a wonderful, fun collaboration.  Being part of a creative, appreciative team, all with the same purpose in mind – to make the end result sound amazing for the project.

How and why did you build your home studio?

When our son, Alex, was six years old, he was chosen to voice the relaunch of Timmy Time for Aardman Animations.  With 78 episodes to record after a full day at school each week, I decided it was the perfect time to build a professional home studio with a large booth.

We are 25 minutes away from Central London studios, but I realised that a home studio would allow me to be inside the booth to direct him and that he could literally walk into the session after a snack rather than a commute.

It took a week to draw up plans, and after much advice and many phone calls, my carpenter and I built the booth in 5 days.  It weighs half a ton and takes up half the room so we had the joists checked by a structural engineer and then strengthened…!

Every episode of Timmy Time was recorded in my booth, with Aardman patching in.

What is it like directing children?

Inside the booth, I stand slightly behind and to the side of the children, and we work through scripts and auditions.  Sometimes the client watches via zoom, other times we work alone and send the finished .wav files.

How I direct depends on the age of the child and how they prefer support.

Initially, with Alex I would say a line and he would repeat it, but very quickly he found he could read ahead himself.  A child’s first instinct is always far better than them copying an adult – there’s an innocence to the read if they choose their tone themselves, naturally.

Later on he found it really helpful if I silently gesticulated with my hands – ie ‘Up’ for energy/tone up, down with hand and energy drops/tone drops etc.  We always stop for a quick drink, a short chat or joke, and to ensure he understands the script and do silly mouth exercises before recording and laugh a lot to keep things fresh.

My daughter, Maya, (now 16), is a studio veteran! She has been doing voice work since she was 5, and is extremely comfortable in a voice/vocal booth.
It’s what she chose for her work experience (a week at Soho Square Studios, London). She has an ear for accents to the point that she can be a ‘one-take wonder’.

How do you prepare for voice work?

When you voice, whatever the job, it’s best to start by warming up the face and mouth.  I like to do exaggerated chewing movements, say ‘wow!’ and make circles with my tongue.  I drink warm (not hot or chilled) water – and I’m always amazed at the amount I get through during a session…

I normally receive the script before the session, so I print it out and make notes with a pencil. I highlight my lines when necessary. I also have the script on the screen inside the booth.

I use the script to warm up before the session starts and to familiarise myself with it. I always check the pronunciation of an unusual name or word.

What do you use to record your work?

If I’m being directed remotely over Skype or Zoom etc, I hit record as soon as the client connects with me, so I can relax about that part.  I work on Logic Pro and only record what the mic picks up, so clients comments can’t be heard – unless they’re laughing very loudly and there’s headphone ’spill’ (I love finding those moments when I’m editing up a file!). When I run off the file, I just edit out any mistakes and all chat.

Even if the client is recording their end (for instance via Source Connect or Cleanfeed), I record as well my end as a backup – unless, for NDA reasons, they ask me not to.

For animation and game characters, I like to have the picture or a still from the animatic somewhere on my screen, to keep the character present in my mind as I voice.

Tell us about your non-voiceover work?

My husband James and I also have a recording studio at the bottom of the garden. This is where we write, record and produce music and vocals for commercials, film and TV, events, or for other artists.

As well as being a composer and producer, James coaches actors like Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams (Eurovision), Gwilym Lee and Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and, at present, the stars of a new Danny Boyle project.  We’ve often had chauffeurs waiting outside the house, and a range of incredible actors walking down our garden path to the studio…!

What have you gained from joining Animated Women?

When I joined Animated Women I found a support system that made me believe I could achieve a lot more, and cope with what was already on my plate. I also found a great group of women who really inspired me – with their generosity and talent, their humour, passion and unapologetic ambition.

What have you learned during Lockdown?

Like so many others during this past year, I’ve realised I need to manage a lot in a week!  I’m a singer and voice artist.  I’ve taught myself to be an engineer and editor and I run my own business – invoicing, quoting, networking and promoting myself.  I’m also a mother, a teacher (I was homeschooling my son pre-lockdown, so at least I was used to it), a wife and to top it off, I foster rescue puppies.…

The last year has drummed in that it’s important to celebrate all the little ways we succeed and the goals we reach.  I recently won Voice Artist Of The Year 2020 and Best Demo 2020 (self-produced!) after 14 nominations.  I signed to a great new exclusive agent (Damn Good Voices) and am managing to keep my studio running smoothly and reliably through a pandemic.  I’m proud of these things.

So what if the washing machine still needs to go on and I forgot to post a birthday card?  We’re only human…

Let’s all take in the little ‘wins’ we’ve had – however small.  Start each day by making the bed really well….

Lisa Graydon is a member of AWUK. You can find out more about her and her work at https://www.lisagraydon.com/

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Profiles, 0 comments
Life in Lockdown 3.0 | VFX Chair | Lou Hussey

Life in Lockdown 3.0 | VFX Chair | Lou Hussey

Life in Lockdown 3.0

As I write this, it is the 2nd weekend of 2021, and we are Lockdown again.  The news is unremittingly tough in terms of the impact that the pandemic is having on all of our lives and whether it is our families, our health or our jobs, everyone of us is now touched by the virus in some way.   It is certainly going to be a while before we are back in anything like ‘normal times’.

I have been working at home since last March and it does seem inconceivable that it will likely be some weeks, if not months before we are able to back together in person.   As someone that naturally loves being with other people, feeling part of a team and enjoys the buzz and chaos of office life, I have found the move to WFH really very tough at times.  Sitting in a room on my own, talking to colleagues, friends and family over video calls is not my preferred way of being, but we have all had to adjust.   

One of my major concerns over the last few months is how to best support our more junior staff who may be living and working in small flats, possibly spending many hours a day in the same room that they also sleep in.  The discipline to separate work and life can be much more difficult if you don’t have room to shut the work away.    

Much of the learning that we all do, is actually very informal and comes from hearing people talking around us and being able to nudge the person on the next desk to ask how to do something.    On top of that, some of the best ideas can come about from simply bumping into someone in the corridor or the kitchen while making that morning coffee.   

In addition, there are the challenges for parents with children that need home-schooling, or whose usual support networks and childcare facilities may be unavailable.  For those families, the difficulties of working from home while ensuring their children are educated and entertained is incredibly tough.

As companies, we all need to be working very much harder to make sure that all of our teams feel included, that they feel engaged and that they feel connected (not just technically!). There are no easy answers but as long as we are all working together to find some solutions to enable this strange time to be manageable, that is the best we can do.

I have been lucky enough to be able to continue with my hobbies for the most part.  In 2018, I had my first swim in my local Lido as a bit of a New Year’s bet with myself.  Having enjoyed it, I ended up continuing to swim most weeks over 2018 & 2019, and in January 2020, I decided to set myself the challenge of completing 50K in the pool over the course of the year – and then Covid…..!  The pool was open on & off, following government guidelines, and at times I gave up on the plan. In early December, the pool was open again, and I still had around 15k to do, and I pushed myself and on 23rd December, I was thrilled (and knackered) but had done my 50K,  and raised around £700 for my local food bank, so the effort felt very worthwhile.

Early morning at the Lido

Early morning at the Lido

In addition, I have been doing Pilates classes online with my local Pilates Studio, and I have clarinet lessons, also online.  So my weeks are fairly structured outside of work, which I have found really helpful in preventing me from just sinking into endless Netflix shows – not that I don’t also do that from time to time!

Animated Women has been busier than ever, and I really treasure the friends I have made through it, as well as being incredibly proud of the events and activities that we managed to put on over 2020, thanks to the hard work of the Board, our Advisors, and our Volunteers.    Our newsletter still comes out regularly, Networking events moved to Zoom, which has worked better than we could have imagined, our Achieve programme and workshops have been full and have been really appreciated by the participants and we have now launched our Mentoring Scheme which is so exciting.

I think what AWUK has shown me in the last year, is that having a support network, people you can have a chat to and a cry, moan or laugh with, and a common aim that we are working to together has been the best of fun, and the best of distractions in what was a very tough year.

So my advice is, if you are struggling, and we all have times when we will, then ask for help – whether that is from old friends or new, you will find a welcoming ear, or comforting shoulder, as we are all going through the same thing in an extraordinary period.  We don’t all need to come out the other side knowing how to bake Sourdough Bread, having learnt another language or being able to do a Yoga headstand but we do need to make sure we are looking after ourselves and staying in touch with our friends, in whatever way works for us.

So stay safe, take care and keep in touch!

Louise Hussey is our VFX Chair

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Lockdown, 0 comments
Animated Women UK launches Mentorship Programme

Animated Women UK launches Mentorship Programme

AWUK reveals a new mentorship programme for its members in the VFX and animation industries, pairing seasoned professionals with emerging female talent. 

Animated Women UK is pleased to announce a mentorship programme in partnership with Disney UK & Ireland for its members. 

This mentorship programme will focus on fostering connection and engagement with female veterans of the VFX and Animation industries, pairing them with the next generation of female talent.  

AWUK members who are interested in participating in the mentorship programme will be asked to fill out a questionnaire describing their industry experience. 

Powered through the Prospela professional network website, mentors will be paired with a mentee seeking advice and support.  

Through the use of a chat channel on the Prospela website, mentors and mentees will be able to exchange communication when it suits them best and in their own time.  

We have a great team of Mentors engaged and ready to start a meaningful mentorship with keen mentees.  Could this be you?  We hope so!

Louise Hussey, Co-Chair, VFX, Animated Women UK, commented: “AWUK is very excited to be offering a mentor scheme, and have been able to do so by Disney’s sponsorship. We love the way that this scheme, hosted by Prospela, and pioneered by Access VFX works. It enables communication through a digital platform that allows for Mentors to be able to respond as and when their schedules allow.  In these times, support and help are welcomed by us all, so please do sign up!”

For more information, or to apply, visit http://www.animatedwomenuk.com/mentoring/.

Annual membership of Animated Women UK costs just £30.

http://www.animatedwomenuk.com/membership/

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Mentoring, News, 0 comments
AWUK’s F*CK UP NIGHT | Inglorious WTF moments shared 

AWUK’s F*CK UP NIGHT | Inglorious WTF moments shared 

You’re not alone: inglorious WTF moments shared 
December started with a bang and an irreverent look at life, work, and everything in between in our F*CK UP and networking event. 
F*CK UP nights are becoming a global phenomenon and on 1st December we elected to host our own in celebration of mistakes, fumbles, WTF moments, and those occasions where you see your career going into free-fall in front of your very eyes.  
You know the kind of thing… viruses distributed to the entire company, internal emails going to clients, lapses in judgement. Those moments that are so toe-curlingly awful you wonder if you’ll ever recover. 
Hosted by AWUK co-Chairs Louise Hussey and Beth Parker, it was great to see so many new faces as 69 women (including 8 from Scanline VFX – thank you ladies) got together on Zoom to share their experiences and talk about ways to get something positive from f*ck ups and failures.
Dara McGarry

Dara McGarry

The evening kicked off with three courageous speakers, Dara McGarry, Operations Manager, DNEG Feature Animation, Sue Lyster, Executive in Charge, ILM London and Sarah Fell, Director of Original Series, EMEA Kids for WarnerMedia, who kindly agreed to talk about their most inglorious moments. 
We learned that failure and mistakes are a part of creativity, of aiming high and in some cases taking risks. Their ‘mistakes’ and failures had taught them important lessons about themselves, other people, and how after making a mistake they sought to channel that experience into something new and more constructive. And, that this didn’t necessarily happen overnight but came with time and a willingness to learn and grow. 
Topics of discussion ranged from imposter syndrome and how to deal with big personalities to exam failure, lack of confidence to voice opinions, and an acknowledgement that even some of the best careers have not been planned.
What was said about the event: 
This is my first time at one of these events and it’s been really insightful. Thank you so much everyone! 🙂
Thank you!!! It was SO MUCH FUN!
Thanks for being so frank and honest everyone!
Once you admit it you can all get on with solving the problem 🙂
Thank you everyone, lovely to speak to everyone in my breakout groups, and thanks Dara, Sue and Sarah for sharing your stories <3
Admitting a mistake allows you to regroup and reassess, to move forward.
Can definitely relate to the feeling of pinning your worth to your academic achievements, and how the bad grades tend to stay in your memory a while longer. Really helps to hear that story, thank you!
Everyone is so afraid of f*cking up that no one stops the f*ck up!
Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences, stories and tips! 🙂
Thanks to all 3 speakers. 100% agree – trust your gut (always)!
Whether you find yourself f*cking up once or multiple times, know that f*ck ups happen to everyone, it’s part of the journey. Remind yourself that this moment is just a moment, and it does not represent all your endeavours now or in the future.
Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraid to fail.  Michelle Obama.  

 

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, 0 comments
Lizzie Hicks | Achieve Alumni in Lockdown

Lizzie Hicks | Achieve Alumni in Lockdown

Lizzie Hicks is a Creative Producer at Blue-Zoo and attended the Helen North Achieve Programme in 2018. Continuing our series of blogs on different experiences of lockdown, we asked Lizzie to share her’s. 2020 has definitely been eventful for her as, on top of everything else, she became a mother for the first time just before lockdown.

Over to Lizzie…

I always thought I’d be a teacher. A lot of the women in my family are teachers, so I just kind of assumed that’s what I’d do. I figured I’d be ok at it and it seemed to be a good job if you wanted to have a family. Then when I was 15 I went to a careers fair, learned about the course at Bournemouth and everything changed. I switched my A-level choices so I could study a subject that I had always loved – animation!

Skip forward 10 years and I have now been working at Blue-Zoo since I graduated. It all started with a 4-week placement as a generalist which I got through a family friend… cue several years of imposter syndrome. I bounced between the short-form services department and series animation as an animator, generalist and animation director. Then, after a few years, I was offered a brand new role to the company as a Creative Producer in our commercial department where I was now a senior member of staff.

Alongside this lovely career path I had also met someone (at work which is pretty common I think in this industry) who I dated, wedded and began thinking about the next stage of our life with. This was when I enrolled in the Helen North Achieve Programme. I had a new role to figure out. How could I maintain a career I loved, and start a family?

It was brilliant meeting other women from the industry, but I was particularly interested in those who had kids. I picked their brains; what they did right, what they wished they knew. Ultimately I realised you just have to work out how to manage it in a way you feel comfortable, and for me, that meant anticipating my worries and insecurities and having open conversations about them. Luckily Blue-Zoo, and especially my line managers, had always been incredibly supportive with work-life balance as well as appreciating my candour.

I discussed my insecurities with them of leaving the company for 6 months to a year; the idea that things could change while I was gone and that I wouldn’t know about it, having someone come in and cover me, worrying that the team would suffer without me, or worse, they wouldn’t miss me at all. All I had known for 10+ years was this. I had no idea how I would feel leaving or coming back. I also picked the brains of the women in the company who had returned to work after having children, as well as hitting up a long term client of ours who is pretty senior at one of the worlds biggest broadcasters and content creators. I know she has a fantastic work ethic as well as a family, so I tentatively sent her an email asking if perhaps I could ask her about it all. She was more than happy to talk, which was amazing. All of this was before I was even pregnant haha.

It was then the summer of 2019, I had somehow wangled it so I was going to Annecy with work and then a week later to New York to meet potential new clients (as well as tagging on a little holiday with the husband at the end). Both trips were great, working hard in the day and having a lovely ol’ time in the evenings socialising and sightseeing. I came home and I was shattered. And also (it turned out) 8 weeks pregnant.

Keeping it schtum from work was very tricky as over the years both of us have made some very good friends there, but felt great when we finally decided to tell people. I knew they had recently improved the maternity policy at Blue-Zoo for anyone who had been there for longer than a year. However, as a long term member of staff, I really wanted to talk to the directors about a possible extension of both maternity and paternity leave based on how long you’d been employed. I decided the best course of action was to mention it in person to my line manager and the company director I am closest to before formally emailing all the company directors with HR. It was fantastic. They were open to it and added some weeks if you had been at the company for more than 5 years, so both I and Dane benefited, which was great.

I also had a part to play in hiring my cover, which I really enjoyed and appreciated. I looked through the applicants as well as doing the 1st round of interviews with my line manager. Then subsequent interviews were done with people my cover would have to work with.

Cover hired and there was a 3-week handover. On the 3rd week, I felt confident enough to say ‘this week I will just watch you do my job?’ She was up for it and it was brill. There were a few moments of biting my tongue. Wanting to say ‘that’s not exactly how I would do it’. I had to let go of control and I knew I was leaving my role in good hands. My worries were calmed, I left work a week before my due date feeling super prepared and ready for my next adventure.

 

I was super lucky with my pregnancy and birth and 3 days after the due date, Riley was here! Yes…it wasn’t enough to marry someone in the industry, her name was taken from a Pixar film! I have to say it was quite a whirlwind, but again something that I learnt from the course is that there is a lot to be said for women supporting women… and also that there are women out there like me! Being naturally a woman who has often been friends with men more, I always felt I wasn’t a “girl’s girl”. The idea of ‘mummy friends’ made me want to curl up a little.

However, I have to say for the 1st few weeks, my antenatal WhatsApp group of mums was a godsend. Knowing you can send a message at 3 am asking advice and often you will get a reply was amazing – even if it was just the comfort of knowing someone else was awake as well. I loved how many of them spoke about how important their work was to them and how some were keen to go back to work. It was really refreshing when I had always felt there was generally a choice and separation between motherhood and work. Also, although we are all a little different in our approaches, amazingly the general consensus of the group was ‘happy mum, happy baby’* which is definitely a good mantra to go by. Love or hate breastfeeding? Your baby will be happy either way, don’t beat yourself up. *Though this doesn’t mean if your baby is being a little oike it’s your fault… babies are weird little roller coasters, developing and growing all over the place they can literally change every day.

All in all, I was loving leave and looking forward to hanging out with my new friends, pissing people off in coffee shops with my buggy, but Dane had only gone back to work for a week when everything started to shut down in the first wave of lockdown. This damn pandemic… it’s certainly had its positives, Dane is around a lot and I obviously don’t feel like I am missing out on the Friday night pubs as no one is going. Also as Dane is a director for the comms team, I’m basically in their catch ups every morning, so I still feel incredibly connected and in many ways feel very confident about going back to work. Each week I do have various wobbles, but also have the most amazing ups as well. Feels very strange that this might not be over by the time I am due to go back to work, so I may have the pandemic still to navigate as well as the usual balance of how many days a week to go back and how to feel like I’m a good parent and good at my job. The world is a different place, but I am really looking forward to the challenges ahead, both with my lovely daughter and in my career.

And because I haven’t been able to go out and show her off to the world, I’ve included some pics of the bundle of fun. Lizzie x

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Achieve Programme, Lockdown, 0 comments