A new career sounds good to Stephen Gresser. The Scottsdale resident hopes year No. 7 in his quest to be a full-time actor and voiceover talent is a lucky one.
To Gresser, who works as a flight instructor, investment manager, computer consultant and helps his real estate agent wife, nothing would be better than to use his golden tones fulltime in his adopted state — he moved here in 1980 from Buffalo.
But, the 41-year-old Gresser isn’t willing to relocate his wife and three children to California, where there are many opportunities, unless he has a full-time job lined up.
Gresser prefers working in Arizona and thinks the film industry, which hasn’t used the state much in the recent past, will return because of recent tax incentives. With it, Gresser said there will be more opportunities for his talents.
“It’s hard to do voice work in Arizona,” Gresser said. “There aren’t a lot of auditions for local things. There’s a network and people usually get called, rather than getting jobs on their own. I’m trying. I’ve done a lot of self-promotion at this point.”
Gresser’s résumé has some impressive entries, such as being background talent on a “Frasier” television episode called “Bully for Martin” — “I was behind Kelsey Grammer when the credits rolled,” Gresser said — a loan manager in the film “Wild Seven,” a taxi driver and announcer in the movie “420,” and did commercials for Albertsons, Lowe’s, Mazda and Fort McDowell Casino.
He speaks Spanish and can do German, French and Middle Eastern accents.
Gresser knows the business is highly competitive. “I might go for an audition for PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and nail it, but I’m competing nationally,” he said. “There is work if you want to do it for free, but I don’t see a lot of purpose in doing that. Hopefully, things will change in Arizona.”
Gresser got his start in voice work in 2000, reading news for Sun Sounds Radio of Arizona, a service for those who can’t read because of disabilities.
Gresser also took speaking classes and was able to find some work. He said commercials pay $400 to $1,000, depending on the job.
“People would always say ‘You have a perfect voice for radio,’” Gresser said. “It’s really all hit-and-miss. I’d like to make a career of it, but I won’t move to L.A.”
Being natural is Gresser’s secret to voiceover work.
He said firms aren’t looking for announcer voices, rather someone who speaks clearly and doesn’t sound like he’s reading from a script.
“Just having a good voice isn’t enough,” Gresser said.
“You have to know how to use it. You have to do it just like you’re having a conversation with someone. It can’t be like you’re acting,” he said.
Gresser admits if he had an opportunity for a full-time acting or announcing gig in places such as Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, he would go.
“Don’t give up,” Gresser said. “If you have an opportunity for a job in one of those places, go. But, don’t go just looking for a job. If I had started doing this when I was younger, I might have moved to L.A. (without a job) and just taken a chance. Not now.”