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Behind the Sound: The Ad Bringing Speech Impediment to Our Screens



Jungle’s sound designer Alex Wilson-Thame takes us behind the scenes of STAMMA’s impactful spot, ‘Help Put Us On Bloody TV’, shedding light on the lack of diverse voices in the media

Behind the Sound: The Ad Bringing Speech Impediment to Our Screens

As part of their latest campaign, UK charity STAMMA has released a spot highlighting the need for more diverse voices on television. Featuring a speech-impaired voice actor, the ad urges viewers to sign the petition and help get more stammering voices on TV.

Managing to intertwine the campaign's serious motif with elements of humour, Jungle Studios sound designer Alex Wilson-Thame is interviewed by LBB on the voice casting process and importance of sound within the spot.

LBB> What were your initial creative thoughts when the client approached you with the brief?

Alex Wilson-Thame> Honestly, I was so pleased when Daniel Liakh (director) and Joseph Walker (producer) started the conversation with me about this project. It sounded bonkers on paper but they had me at: “SO, we start with penis rockets...” It was great to see that STAMMA was willing to make something so out of the ordinary in terms of promotional material!

There was a fine balance between not making it sound too dark, whilst adding funny little sound bites to create more depth in the scenes. What’s more, everything had to work together to make sure dialogue was at the forefront, cutting a fine balance between SFX, VO and the very delectable music track re-arranged by ‘Tock’ out in Kiev.


LBB> Voiceover plays a prominent role in this ad. How did you go about the voice casting process, finding the right fit - and how did you land on the final choice?

Alex> The voiceover, Paul, is a long-standing member of STAMMA. His tone and delivery were just perfect for the film - it was humble and honest. It was also his first time ever doing a voiceover but hopefully due to his performance and the petition it won’t be his last!


LBB> Did you need to approach the voiceover work any differently due to the nature of the ad?

Alex> Not at all, we just let Paul read. We are so used to over-processed and overly ‘perfect’ voiceovers on all media that we consume, that it was nice to allow breathing room for ‘imperfections’. And more so, not as a parody or ironically, but a genuine performance as a whole take, rather than a thousand versions of the same line, only to end up with Take 1 or Take 2.


LBB> How did you approach the balance between doing the cause justice while incorporating moments of entertainment and humour? 

Alex> Due to the nature of this piece and how accepting STAMMA was as a client, the team really let everyone spread their wings, so the humour was in the bag from the off! But to strike that moment of serious amongst the entertaining, I feel that’s really captured in the VO’s performance. Although the script is ‘out there’, due to the unique nature of hearing Paul’s voice on the film, I feel it really draws you in and makes you pay attention to the message of the piece.


LBB> Have you ever worked with diverse voice talent with speech impediments such as this before?

Alex> Before working on this film sadly I have to say that, similar to Paul (voiceover), this was in fact my first time working with a voice artist with a stammer. So that screams to me how under-represented people with stammers are in the media.

I believe that for brands to be accessible for all people, there needs to be an expansion of diversity in every regard when it comes to VO and casting - which as of late is happening more and more, so that’s positive movement, and hopefully this film gives more food for thought.


LBB> What were some of the creative or technical challenges you encountered sound wise? 

Alex> Creating the sound of the lighter fluid bottle towards the end, without making the foley booth a fire hazard was a challenge - I had to find a specific bottle that sounded like I wanted it to… This turned out to be Tesco’s Finest Balsamic Vinegar. 

Although, after a few shakes of it, the booth stank and things got a bit sticky, so we had to decant the vinegar and replace it with a much more nos- friendly liquid - water. 

Also, a very specific white bread brand really helped get that ‘claggy’ wet chewing sound (it didn’t do my minimal carb daily intake any favours though!).


LBB> Looking at the finished product, what would you say you are most proud of? 

Alex> That it actually happened! It was great that STAMMA was so accepting towards whatever we made, I love how weird and wonderful it is.


LBB> What was your favourite thing about working on this brief?

Alex> Firstly, it’s great to work on something that is truly aimed for good and to make a difference. Secondly, the team involved were a dream so I couldn’t ask for more in a project!


LBB> As well as being an informative advert for the public, has creating this film built your own awareness?

Alex> I have to say it has. I definitely gained more of an understanding of hurdles and conceptions just from chatting and working with the director in the sessions, which was enlightening and humbling.


LBB> How do you hope to see diversity in voice casting improve in the coming years?

Alex> Well, I certainly hope to see VOs from all walks of life through my studio’s doors. I think the more of these campaigns that are willing to show diversity in their casting of voices and not class it as a ‘risk’, can only improve things. Don’t worry you’ll still be able to sell your cars and your chocolate bars!

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Jungle Studios, Wed, 17 Nov 2021 11:22:00 GMT