Media Parents TALENT, Pauline Cavilla “The Tube Lady” talks about her work.
To put it simply, I am a gob on a stick. Give me a script and I will read it out loud. When I was at school my reports always said Pauline should talk more. My husband and children probably wouldn’t agree!
My work is in two parts… first my two day a week job as an Audio Describer for Red Bee Media – we write scripts detailing what’s going on in the quiet bits of television programmes to enable blind and partially sighted people to enjoy TV.
My other work is as a voiceover artist. Over the past few years I have voiced the announcements for stations on the London Underground, television commercials and on-hold information. Stand on the platforms at White City, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus and you’ll hear me. I always want to grin madly because it’s me everyone’s hearing, and they don’t know it! I am also a freelance continuity announcer for British Forces Television, and I write articles for a local parenting magazine.
I grew up in Gloucestershire and got my break into television after a stint as a local radio journalist for the BBC in Shropshire – I came up to London to be a continuity announcer for BBC1 and BBC2.
My highlight so far is the work for London Underground, my all time low is really a general thing about accents. When I trained to be a radio journalist I got rid of my accent and while I don’t speak with a posh RP accent, I pronounce things properly. This apparently, is not popular. It seems that most television companies want people with accents – even the BBC World Service went down the local accent route! I take pride in my clear, warm and friendly voice, and I do get annoyed when yet again, people only want voices with accents.
Since having my two children my career has changed quite a bit. It did take a while to get used to. First of all the thorny subject of childcare had to be tackled. Working shifts and ad hoc days means a childminder is my only hope, and it took me five childminders to finally find a good one who is available at the drop of a hat, and I pray she doesn’t want to move!
It’s also not as simple as a quick yes to a prospective employer. I have to check with my childminder to see if she’s available, and then I have to see if my husband can do the school run in the morning (if I have to be somewhere early). Having said that, this morning once I’d got back from the school run, I recorded some on-hold messages and two radio commercials in my home studio, and I still had the time to write this before heading out again.
As an Audio Describer I work on things like EastEnders – if there is a long quiet scene with Phil silently creeping into a room and stealing something, I explain where he is, what he’s doing, and whether anything else important is happening – perhaps someone there didn’t see him, or perhaps he was picking up something pivotal to the plot. My Audio Describer work at Red Bee is really parent friendly. There is no problem if I have to ring in because one of the children is ill, I can swap shifts around if I’m desperate, and despite working shifts, it’s easy to not work Christmas Day. Holidays can be tricky though as only two people are allowed off at once and we have lots of parents in the department, so I booked this year’s in January!
Now the children are at school full time, it’s getting a lot easier to take on work – when I can find it! Ideally I’d like to narrate a documentary series because I have a clear warm and friendly voice, and my background in broadcast journalism means I’m used to reading a variety of long scripts, from hard news to soft and silly. Because I don’t have a strong accent I think my voice is fairly unobtrusive… there’s nothing worse than ending up listening to the way a narrator is talking rather than actually listening to the words (maybe this is just me because I’m in that line of work!). I’d also like to record more commercials, simply because they tend to just take an hour or two to record and it means I can fit them in during school hours and I don’t have to fork out for the childminder.
My next task is getting some new business cards printed. For the first time since having children, I’m actually in the position of being able to hand them out, so I really ought to have ones with my email address and website on. Oh how modern!
If you want to warm up your voice and raise money for Save the Children in Japan, please join us for karaoke at Century on Friday April 15th. This event is being organised by Exec Producer Katherine Parsons, and entrance is only £10. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you’re interested.