Brian Sommer- A life
An Epic life can spring from humble beginnings (not mine of course. I just had that thought in my head and wanted to share it… let’s move on). The winters in Oslo during the early ‘60s were no place for a lady. But my mother was a strong woman. She was studying macramé at the “Holy Sisters of the Blessed Event Tonsil wash Emporium and Whoopie Parlor.” The night she met my father was the stuff novels are made of. He was part of a prison break from an off-shore penal colony for the criminally amused. He broke into her apartment. She didn’t speak Dutch. I was conceived. At age 3, I was sent to work at the canneries along the seaports licking labels. When the herring famine struck, I was sold as ballast to a sea captain named Gustav O’ Banyon. I spent the next 37 years at sea never reaching land. Turns out O’Banyon had been part of the prison break… wait a minute, that’s not my story (to quote Nathan Lane in “The Producers”… ”Leo’s taken everything, even my past!!!”)
Ok, if James Lipton had me on the stage, I would have to honestly answer him this way… I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. My early interests in voice over can be traced to the “Radio Theater Hour” on the old KSFO in the early ‘70’s. It seems that when ever the family took a trip, we would be listening to those great radio shows on the way home at night, “Inner Sanctum”, “Jack Benny”, “Sgt. Preston”, “Lights Out” and on and on. They were most certainly “theater of the mind” (and I had an active one at that age).
The ability of those actors to create such colorful, almost tangible environments with just their voice was fascinating to me. The sweeping vistas, spooky castles, and neighborhood stores I created in my mind based on their performances out matched those I would see on a TV or Movie screen. But to be sure, the one that clinched my appetite to get into the business myself, was Paul Frees’ narration on the old Adventure thru inner space attraction at Disneyland . There was so much passion and emotion in that for me as a kid. Such immediacy and danger was portrayed to the listener by just his voice. The ride itself was fairly dark and void of any major special effects. The rider was there in the dark, with Mr. Frees in his ear. It was incredible. For an actor to convey such emotion without the aid of visual effects just floors me. I hope that current and future generations will not loose the ability to appreciate that kind of fantasy… with their eyes closed.
So, half way through another career, I finally decided to jump into the voiceover pool. I enrolled in Voicetrax in San Francisco (voiceover academy). I met a wonderful lady, Samantha Paris (accomplished voice over actress and founder of Voicetrax). For two years I studied under her expert tutelage along with some very talented instructors. A lot of laughs were shared, and a lot of lessons were learned. I am pleased to say that I signed with the Stars Agency in San Francisco and have been doing voice over ever since. It is truly a labor of love. Getting in the booth and making magic is a day at the candy store for me.