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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

UAE's little voices with big ambitions

Dubai's School of LittleVoice (SLV) is a business created by Dubai 92 presenter and voiceover artist Ana Schofield

Ana Schofield,  Dubai 92 presenter and founder of School of LittleVoice. Courtesy David Dunn
Ana Schofield, Dubai 92 presenter and founder of School of LittleVoice. Courtesy David Dunn

If you have heard a UAE radio advert featuring a child, there is a good chance he/she was trained by School of LittleVoice (SLV), a business created by Dubai 92 presenter and voiceover artist Ana Schofield.

The British mother-of-two, who lives in Dubailand, is the global voice for Emirates airline, as well as Yas Waterworld, L’Oreal, Scholl, McDonald’s, ADIB, Dettol and Johnson & Johnson in the UAE, and previously for Harrods store in London. Here Ms Schofeld, 39, who can also be heard announcing stops on London’s famous red buses and two London Underground lines, talks to The National about her career and business.

What prompted you to start School of LittleVoice?

I arrived from London eight years ago. It was very different because London is a mature, competitive market. I kept getting asked if I knew kids for VO [voice over] jobs and quickly realised there was nowhere for the region to access professional child talent. I immediately trained my own children. My little boy was shy so I taught him everything about studios and microphones so he wasn’t nervous; from four years old he was advertising Wild Wadi waterpark and Lifebuoy soap for TV commercials. School of LittleVoice now has 50 professional child voice artists aged four-18.

How does it work?

They’re all extensively trained in studios, on mics, audio acting, who the client is, what a sound engineer does; they speak the audio language used in studios. The course is eight weeks/sessions, consisting of one-on-ones with me, studio sessions, professional photographs and a tailor-made audio show reel. I work around their schedules. The children become part of the SLV Agency and we represent them for all professional work. Other than a new demo to update how they sound - especially as children grow - there are no other costs.

How do you recruit candidates?

I’ve never advertised or marketed the training; everything has been word and mouth. Any child can be a VO artist. I trial all children before accepting them on the programme; most of that is about seeing if the child responds positively and likes and enjoys it. If they don’t I will say no to the parent.

By enrolling their child in a course are parents investing in a potential career path?

Absolutely. I have made a fantastic career out of using my voice. Parents can spend thousands on their child’s education and then it could be training through SLV that launches them into a high-earning career, which, like acting, transcends age; roles change with age. Through Jon Briggs (the voice of Apple's Siri) the London market has started recognising the LittleVoices as premium professionals.

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He now represents them in the UK as I do his talent here in Dubai. The LittleVoices are asked to do singing in radio and TV commercial jingles, acting and presenting. I realised as long as kids understand what’s going on even the shyest can enjoy it. And because they start to get used to the sound of their own voice it naturally builds confidence. Many parents have said their children are more confident; some started excelling in school due to putting their hand up more and answering more questions in class.

What opportunities are available to successful candidates?

Voiceovers are the ‘new cool’; with the success of Pixar and huge A-list actors voicing animated characters, a new breed of acting was born just through voice. I’ve been amazed and delighted by the work LittleVoices have attracted, ranging from Dubai radio commercials to Yas Waterworld’s new 5D movie experience, voiced by a 12-year-old LittleVoice, to Apple TV launching computer games and using a LittleVoice to voice the lead character Bittu the TigerCub. On a normal day LittleVoices lend their voice to radio ads, TV commercials, apps, YouTube advertisements, Dubai Tram information films, phone systems, corporate films for washing powder companies, disinfectants and more.

Is there a growing demand for voiceover artists in the UAE?

Not a ‘growing’ demand but there is a constant demand. Clients like their talent first-hand and tangible, especially children. A voice delivered via email isn’t the same; the client can’t direct emotion or delivery, speed or feeling. UAE and GCC clients are very hands-on with their brands and like to be involved in the representation of it. That’s wonderful for us as voice actors because there’s nothing more fun than doing the job live, being directed, getting it right, impressing the client and hearing your work played out across the UAE or, in the case of Apple TV computer games, globally.

Following the success of LittleVoice you created a school for adult voice talent. Why?

It was more that BigVoice came to me. Adults interested in a career change, frustrated performers or even people who had done VOs but didn’t quite know the ins and outs properly kept asking for extra training. As a result we have a portal for new adult voice talent that studios can tap into. From that I teamed up with Excellent Talent in London and we created Celebrity BigVoice. This houses some UAE household names, like Virgin’s Kris Fade, but also some big UK names from radio and TV that UAE media can hir.