Sybil Johnson (Interview)

What a treat! Sybil Johnson is joining us at Gamerati today for an interview. What a talented young lady! We are excited to spend a little time getting to know her, and getting some great insights! Join us as we learn more about Sybil. You can see more of her work here:

1. What first drew you to this line of work?
I’ve always enjoyed acting and performing, since fourth grade when I was obsessed with the accents in My Fair Lady. I started college as a theatre major, but then I took a broadcasting class and got hooked on life behind the mic. For years I worked in radio, did theatre on the side, and recorded a ton of commercials for free for the radio station. One day I realized I could get paid for acting in commercials, and that’s when I started to pursue voice acting as its own discipline, which opened all the doors to do video narration, phone systems, video games, audiobooks, learning courses and more.

2. What do you see as the hardest part of your job?
Capturing exactly what the client has in mind is tricky because sometimes they don’t have the words to express what they want. Sometimes they don’t even know! When you audition, you bring your own interpretation to their direction, which could be as simple as “conversational” or as complex as “a nice balance of approachability and gravitas, with range from thoughtful to warm to playful. Celebrity references would be Elizabeth Shue, Patricia Clarkson, Julia Roberts or a young Scarlett Johannson.” (That is from an actual two-sentence commercial audition.) This indecision can happen even after you book the job and the client wants to direct the recording session. You have to be prepared to give them everything you’ve got until they hear exactly what they want and to be gracious and enthusiastic even on the 25th take. But I love a challenge, so I try to have fun with it when it happens.

3. What do you enjoy the most?
From a performance aspect, when I nail the script perfectly in a live session and the client is thrilled. It’s the closest thing to live theatre and getting that immediate feedback from the audience. For every script, you are creating a character, even if it’s an announcer or narrator. You must find that truth your character believes is worth sharing to everyone listening, even if it’s about terms and conditions that may apply. In order to nail it, you have to be prepared. I love it when everything clicks, and I know exactly who this character is, who I’m talking to and what motivates me. You can really hear and feel the difference between that and reading the lines with a “nice voice.”

4. Do you have a favorite role so far? How did you find out about it?
I have really enjoyed voicing a series of How To videos for Lowe’s. I was cast through my agent from one of my demos and I’ve been doing it for the past few years. I’ve learned how to do so many things around the house from these videos, yet I’m the instructor!

5. What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m an avid fiction reader. I enjoy fantasy and sci-fi, as well as historical fiction. The best is a mash-up like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or the Glamourist Histories series. I especially enjoy the very narrow niche of faith-based fantasy/sci-fi and have been enjoying the Nanostealth books by Vikki Kestell.

I also enjoy board games, although I’ve played a lot more Candyland than Carcassonne since my daughter was born. I’m one of those people who brings ten games to a party and is sad when we only play one, even if it took 90 minutes to finish.

6. Is there a role that you have taken that you did not enjoy as much as you thought you would?
No, I’ve learned to have fun with every role – even little one-line, un-named characters. As far as anything objectionable, thankfully, we can read the material in advance most of the time before proceeding with the project.

7. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Get plenty of coaching and industry training to help you understand the business and hone your craft. It’s quite competitive, and you want to put your best foot forward and avoid common pitfalls.

8. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’d love to have a shelf full of awards and cases of shows, games, and audiobooks I’ve voiced. If the AI have decided human voices are worth keeping around, of course.

9. Growing up, what was your favorite thing to do?
Riding bikes and climbing trees with my BFF Angie and playing my ColecoVision (Donkey Kong Jr and Q*bert were my favorites).

10. Do you have a favorite quote?
This is by the author Annie Dillard, and though it’s about writing, it can be applied to any creative endeavor:

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” ― Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


Written by Rebecca Hill