Interview with WILDsound Performer Becky Shrimpton

It’s something I always look forward to. When I get an e-mail asking if I can come and read, it’s always a really exciting moment – I usually respond with a lot of exclamation points. Something I really appreciate is a sense of community that’s present. I’ve met some really great actors and really great people who I’ve gone on to work with in other projects.

– Becky Shrimpton, on performing at the WILDsound Festival.

To date, Becky Shrimpton has narrated 5 movies that WILDsound has produced from the festival. She is also the resident voice over artist for the Video Pitch Logline series, and has also performed at 6 festival readings. Matthew Toffolo sat down with Becky for an interview:

Matthew: You’ve performed over 80 video story pitches at our festival. Is there one story that stands out for you?

Becky: There was a pitch for a Lewis and Clarke feature that seemed really interesting. The author had a really fresh take on a historical story. It was clearly well researched, but entirely avoided a lot of the pitfalls that historical dramas can take – dullness, dryness, or overzealousness.

Matthew: In the WILDsound Festival world, you are most known for your voice over work in the animation feature film ‘Diamond and the Fosters’. You became Diamond (the foster child who finds love and family) in that film. Was there something about that story that related to you?

Becky: I loved that story so much. I think we all understand the feeling of being an outsider needing a family and acclimatizing to our surroundings. I left home when I was 18 to move to Vancouver and although I’m close to my family, being on your own right off the bat can be an alienating experience. I lived in England for a bit and moved to Toronto when I was 27. Every time is a new place, a new home, a new set of rules. Family is where you find it and the roots are what keep you from getting lost.

Matthew: How have you think you’ve grown as an actor since you began until present day?

Becky: It’s incredibly difficult to narrate. People think that all you have to do is read the words in a coherent manner, but there’s so much more to it. When you get a character to read, there’s a voice present you can develop. With narration, the text is extremely dry, so to make it interesting you have to develop a voice. It’s important to analyze the story and break it down so you can make sure that you’re part of the story, not just imparting it. That’s a skill I really feel has been helped by what I do with Wildsound.

Matthew: Which artists would you love to work with?

Becky: That’s a very big list. I try to learn from every artist I get to work with so I’m just grateful to work with anyone.

Okay fine. Emma Thompson.

Matthew: What has been your favourite role you’ve ever played?

Becky: I got the opportunity to play Electra in a pretty unique production. I’m known for my comedy, so to get to dive into a role that’s so devoid of humor, that’s really the pinnacle of human suffering was a remarkable challenge. I’d love to play it again.

Matthew: What movie have you seen the most in your life?

Becky: I think I’ve seen the Shining over 30 times. It’s one of those films the more you watch it, the more you see. Although I did watch the documentary Room 237 and did think…okay…that’s a bit much.

Matthew: How old were you when you started getting interested in acting?

Becky: I’ve been acting since I was six years old. I did some work as a child which was a lot of fun. When I was eleven or twelve I did a kids TV show where I played a shop lifter and I got to go into a store and shove candy bars into a back pack – take after take. Then I got to take them home and eat them. That solidified things for me. In acting you get to do things you could never do in real life and get away with it. I think of acting as a calling, like being a priest or a nun. You know it’s what you’re supposed to do and you can’t do anything else.

Matthew: Do you have other passions besides acting?

Becky: I foster dogs and I love to work with rescue dogs. There’s something very zen about really having to take the time to communicate with an animal – especially if they’ve been through something traumatic. We so rarely take the time to not only get our point across, but to try and understand what’s happening with the other creature that it’s a nice perspective shift.

I also play the ukulele and sing. Again, it’s about turning your brain off and surrendering to the activity. The minute you start to think about what your hands are doing it’s game over.

Matthew:What has been the biggest surprise in your acting career so far?

Becky: I started out as a theatre actor. I have a BFA from UBC in acting and I thought I would be on stage for most of my career. When I discovered voice over and that just clicked for me, my whole career shifted and doors opened that I didn’t even know existed. It’s a whole new skill and a whole new passion. I still occasionally do theatre. I’ll be appearing in a Fringe show here in Toronto July 2-12 called One Good Marriage. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Matthew: Any suggestions to new actors starting out in the business?

Becky: Get your business in order. You can have all the passion and the talent in the world, but unless you know yourself as a product and what you’re selling – it’s going to be a rough road to make a living in this industry. There’s too many other people who look like you, sound like you and do what you do. Knowing exactly what you bring to the table and how to market that with the right agent, headshots, demo, networking events, etc. is what will set you apart. And make sure you have something to sell. Always be in classes that challenge you and know what you need to work on to get better.

I also work as a coach for on-camera actors who want to start working in voice over. Part of that training is creating a demo that really sells you.

You can find out more about my services at http://www.beckyshrimpton.com

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