Interview With Valentina: Voice Over, Theater & The Art Scene in Paris
I met Valentina Geczy outside the Lucernaire Theatre in the 6th arrondissement.
It was 4 PM, we ordered small pints of beer and spoke about her creative trifecta - pursuing acting, voice over and theatre work - while living in Paris.
What brought you to Paris?
I came to Paris because I was cast in a show where they wanted young people to do the voice over. Which is rare because it takes a bit more commitment and dedication from the director.
The first time was pretty awful and embarrassing. I remember being in the booth and one girl, who’s the powerhouse of Paris, since she does both English and French dubbing. She read the spot and did it perfectly. It was the kind of talent and execution that inspired me.
So, yeah the first time was awful, but then you just have to get over it. I did that first series commuting from university in England. I’d come to Paris one weekend a month and record my episodes all in one day.
After graduation, I got offered another series and I was casted. That was really what got the ball rolling. I’ve been here a year and a half so far and have worked on 5 or 6 series.
It’s a small market here, especially for something as niche as dubbing in English and animation. I do trailers for cartoons or movies that are usually one off jobs.
Collectively, it’s been a variety of animation work, dubbing for artists and their installations. One in particular was called the Crowd, following groups of people in Manhattan, capturing them with a drone and I was a part of the voice over for that artist’s project here in Paris.
So, in addition to voice overs - you’re an actress as well?
Yes, so I had a role here in an English speaking production. It was about twist endings, where my character was stuffed in a suitcase. It was weird, a bit scary, but overall a great piece to be a part of.
And next month I will be in another production that’s going to be a comedy, so I’m excited for that.
It’s called Shit On Her Doorstep, very Mean Girls-esque. It’s a part of American Sundays, hosted here at the Theatre du Lucernaire, where there is brunch followed by the play. They happen about every 6 weeks.
What’s the theatre scene like in Paris versus the UK/US?
There’s definitely a difference between the two that I’ve noticed. And, it’s truly about the method of the actors.
In France, acting is more of an external expression that you internalize afterward. While with UK/US acting, I find that you’re internalizing from the start and follow with outward expression.
Sort of technical jargon, but essentially the two are unique in their own ways.
Did you speak French before you came here?
Does Duo-ling count? I didn’t know any before I came, but since I’m Italian it helped me a bit with learning. Now, I’d say I’m at a mid-level to high range - you learn quickly while living here. Yet, it still proves to be a tough language.
What has it been like integrating into France, making French friends?
Truthfully, It’s not the easiest. After a year and a half I have a few close friends and obviously I work with French people often.
I think it’s hard because Paris is a small city in the sense that a lot of people have their friends from growing up and stick to that circle. For many, it’s their hometown despite it being an international destination.
Also, there’s a lot of people coming and going - so it can be hard for them to invest time in people who may not be permanently staying here.
I think it’s an old, European way of being - Americans have no problem introducing themselves. But, for me, when I was living in the UK - you don’t introduce yourself, your friends introduce you. It’s as if you’re vouching on behalf of them.
One thing I do like about Paris is that there is a respect for the arts. Here, I feel people are serious about their craft and what they do.
I live up by Lamarc in the 18th arrondissement and it’s cool because up there everyone is an artist. My neighbor is a playwright, I live by my uncle who is an actor - it’s a really cool environment to be around.
How do you find your creative projects?
It’s really word of mouth at this point. There are certain directors who take on more series, so that opens up more opportunities. I also will do trailers, which is less often.
But, I don’t have an agent and I haven’t needed one at this point. I think there’s a lot of opportunity, you just have to be willing to seek it out and work for it.
How do you feel about the creativity scene as a whole in Paris?
My experience thus far has been centered around my work in English speaking productions.
What’s great about the English speaking actors is that it’s a very tight knit group. It isn’t a group that tears you down, there is none of that here.
Something I constantly hear is that people are really happy for each other when they land a role. There is enough work for everyone and if there’s any competition, it’s healthy.
Advice on the future of being a creative
You know every creative industry is changing. So, I think it’s important to know your worth and communicate that you’re a professional who deserves to be compensated professionally and understood artistically.
The truth is no one has the budget for anything, but you have to be able to politely say no if a project doesn’t align with what you need.
In all, I’m excited about the future of my work here in Paris. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.