Samantha Paris reveals tricks of the voice acting trade

Veteran voice-over teacher Samantha Paris is planning an extraordinary promotional event for her memoir “Finding the Bunny” at the Books Inc. in the Marina district this week.

The founder of Voicetrax, the Bay Area’s largest training center for voice actors, is bringing along some of her students to perform excerpts from the volume in a session in which she’ll weave in clips from its accompanying work-in-progress audiobook.

“It will have 80 different voices. I’m using my students and we’re going to act out the whole book,” says Paris, adding that she believes it will be the only audiobook of its kind.

Years in the making, “Finding the Bunny” uniquely combines autobiography, inspiration and career tips for aspiring voice actors.

Paris says she wrote it for two reasons: to share her life philosophies (“I wanted to force myself to turn my unconscious teaching philosophies into conscious ones”) and as a love letter to some 10,000 students she has coached over 30 years.

“They are my life; I wanted them to know who their founder was,” she says.

The book covers her journey from being a successful young actress in Southern California (advertisements, “Highway to Heaven” and a voice in the cartoon “Jem and the Holograms” were among her jobs) to a solo move to Mill Valley in 1988 (“I felt like a fish out of water in Los Angeles and I had always wanted to live in the Bay Area”) to unwittingly starting up a business after her ex-husband, with whom she’s still friends, told someone she was a voice acting teacher (when she wasn’t).

She told the prospective student she charged $55 for 55 minutes, and the next thing she knew, she was renting a small studio space in Sausalito.

Now she’s at the helm of an organization with a remarkable success rate, with dozens of “guest director” professionals assisting her in leading a variety of workshops, seminars and classes. She says 90 percent of those who study for three years get paying jobs in commercials, video games and more.

“The Bay Area is a wonderful place to start; there’s a ton of work here, and not just films, but anywhere you hear a voice coming out of a computer,” she says.

Paris believes that any voice acting student who is determined and dedicated can be successful professionally (“talent can be learned”), although many pupils sign up simply to become more confident and comfortable speakers in their work or daily life. Her classes are often therapeutic.

“One word that isn’t sincere and the mic picks it up,” says Paris, adding that if people can say “Pepsi or pork or panty liners are on sale now” and can be authentic, it helps them actually be more authentic in their lives.

Her book’s title “Finding the Bunny” refers to that authenticity, and goes back to her childhood, when she was about 8 or 9. As her older brother took the centerfolds out of their dad’s Playboy magazines, she would become engrossed in trying to find the hidden bunny logo on the covers.

“Finding the bunny is a metaphor for finding your purpose,” says Paris — something it took her awhile to do.

Despite her success as an instructor and entrepreneur and the energy she spent fighting the urge to go back to the vocation of her childhood, she says, at last she realized: “Stop acting. You’re supposed to be teaching. Ultimately, my bunny was to teach.”

IF YOU GO

Samantha Paris
Where: Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. July 12
Admission: Free
Contact: www.booksinc.net


BOOK NOTES
Finding the Bunny
Written by: Samantha Paris
Published by: Voice Haven Productions
Pages: 283
Price: $16.95

Leslie Katz
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Leslie Katz

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