Morgan Meadows was alone in her apartment smiling and crying simultaneously. She had just gotten the phone call that made all her dreams come true. A $100,000 voice-over contract was hers.
Meadows, a 22-year-old rising senior at VCU, heard about Studio Center’s Next Great Voice Talent competition from a friend and applied, figuring she had nothing to lose.
The competition attracts people from around the country who compete to have their voice featured in dozens of nationwide commercials.
“It’s like the American Idol of voice-over work,” Meadows said.
Studio Center is the largest creator, recorder and producer of commercial media production for television and radio in the U.S. Studio Center has clients in all 50 states and 23 countries around the world, producing more than 15,000 radio and television commercials each year. Some of Studio Center’s clients include Audi, Jiffy Lube, Western Union and McDonalds.
Auditions were held at Studio Center’s five locations across the country — Virginia Beach, Richmond, New York City, Las Vegas and Santa Monica, Calif. from January to March. This year about 800 people auditioned. Open calls were held for two days and judges picked 20 contestants from each city. From there, two contestants were picked from each city, leaving 10 total. In April, the final round was then held in Virginia Beach, a few weeks later, Meadows got the call that she had won.
During the first few rounds, each contestant had about four minutes to read two commercial scripts. The judges wore headsets in another room so they could judge the contestants purely on their voice. Each contestant read the same two scripts.
“They were really different to see how versatile your voice can be, how you determine the script, and I remember there being a lot of tongue twisters,” Meadows said. “There were a lot of things to try to trip you up.”
For her original audition, Meadows remembers reading a script about having a heart attack; the other was for a furniture store.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, so I was just like, I’ll be open minded, I’ll try to think positive,” Meadows said. “But they didn’t give me a reason to be nervous.”
Studio Center’s CEO and one of the judges, William “Woody” Prettyman, said Meadows won the contest because her delivery stood out. He said she has a very clear voice and enunciates well. He thinks she could be a star.
The Charlottesville native has acted since she was in high school. Meadows said she was in about 14 musical productions, improv club and choir.
Meadows says she always knew she wanted to pursue acting, but she didn’t seriously consider it until high school.
“(VCU) was my first choice for a theatre program,” Meadows said. “I liked that it was in-state, but I also liked that the program was conservatory style, so you got really hands-on, intense training to becoming an actor, but it’s B.F.A. and B.A. geared, so you get your gen eds … it’s really focused in the arts, but it’s well-rounded.”
David Toney, an assistant professor in VCU’s theatre department, has known Meadows since he taught her last year. Toney describes Meadows as an insightful actress who’s in touch with her instincts. He was pleased when he heard she won the voice-over contract.
“Morgan has an immense amount of talent and she is an excellent human being,” Toney said. “I simply thought she deserves it.”
Meadows said she has always been interested in doing voice-over work. She said her family and friends have always encouraged her to pursue voice acting because of the silly character voices she likes to do.
“I’ve done acting for a long time and I’ve always been a singer, but I’ve always wanted to get into voice acting because I am passionate about a lot of things voice (related),” Meadows said.
Meadows has done voice-over work for a National Geographic web series and locally for Hooters.
Her Studio Center contract is open-ended, meaning she can work for the company for as long as it takes to make $100,000 in voice-over work for national commercials. She already has plans for the money.
“First and foremost, I would love to pay off my student loans. To just not be in debt would be an amazing way to start my post-grad life,” Meadows said.
Meadows is currently acting in a show called “bare: a pop opera” at the Richmond Triangle Players and she wants to participate in another show on the VCU Mainstage this fall.
After she graduates in the spring, Meadows wants to continue doing voice-acting and working with Studio Center for as long as she can.
“I hope to do (voice-acting) forever. As I grow and get older and my voice changes, my demographic will be different, just as an actor,” Meadows said. “I’m not going to be playing the same roles I’m playing now when I’m 40 or 50 or 60. It’ll change and alter just like I do and that’s something that’s so beautiful about performance work and that’s something I hope to keep doing.”