New Alexandria voiceover artist gets Hollywood treatment with award nomination
Walking the red carpet, Dana Rizzo wasn’t nervous about her nomination at the same ceremony where actresses Sigourney Weaver and Rosario Dawson were to be honored.
“There’s lights and people are snapping photos, it’s kind of crazy,” said Rizzo of New Alexandria, who was nominated in the “Outstanding Movie Trailer, Best Voiceover” category at the Voice Arts Awards, held Sunday at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, Calif.
But once the ceremony started, reality set in.
“I was more nervous than I thought I was going to be … just because it was such a new experience for me,” she said. “You’re just sitting there and you’re hoping, you’re hoping you’ll win.”
Hers was the ninth of 57 categories, and she had prepared a short list of thank-yous while getting her hair and makeup done.
“In the last five minutes, I got really nervous,” she said. “It was more excited than nervous with the possibility, the prospect
of being able to walk up there and accept an award.”
Her husband, Bert Rizzo, couldn’t make the trip, but they connected through videochat just as her category was announced.
Nominated for the trailer to “Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge,” Rizzo’s voice was up against other actors who narrated trailers for Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” and the sports comedy “Uncle Drew” among others.
When the winner was finally announced, her name wasn’t called — but she got encouraging words from her husband even after their videochat ended.
“‘I’m so proud of you, you’re still a winner to me,’” she said he texted right away. “It was just so sweet, I was trying not to cry.”
Voice of Excela
Now the voice of Excela Health’s radio and TV ads , Rizzo has been growing her voiceover career and talent full-time since November 2014.
She became interested in voice acting while working as a water-quality educator at the Penn State Extension office in Hempfield, producing videos and presentations with narration.
“Dana’s voice has a quality which resonates with the patients that we serve in Westmoreland County,” said Rob Firment, acting vice president of marketing and communications at Excela Health. “It’s got a calming quality to it.”
He said he appreciates Rizzo’s work, which comes from her home recording booth. She often sends him three takes to choose from within hours of receiving a script, and it’s a bonus that she’s based nearby.
“I don’t need to send scripts to New York or Los Angeles, or even Pittsburgh for that matter,” Firment said. “Just like you don’t need to go to Pittsburgh for high-quality health care, I don’t need to go to California for high-quality voiceover talent.”
Doug Cryzter, who produced the Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge film and trailer for which Rizzo was nominated at the Voice Arts Awards , said her talent, combined with her work ethic, are what sets her apart.
“She knows just how to bring you into the story with her voice,” he said. “She lures you into the jungle and you can feel the danger these expedition athletes are experiencing.”
Rizzo didn’t have to go to the rainforest to record the trailer, instead using the soundproof, 7-and-a-half-foot square booth with 8-inch thick walls built by Greensburg-based Earth First Builders.
A small plexiglass window looks out into the basement, and a ventilation system circulates air in the tiny room with her laptop, speakers and script holder. Wires run outside to the computer tower to keep out the sound of its fan.
“If it’s a really crazy day … I come in here and I shut the door” to focus, she said. “It’s my happy place down there.”
At first, Rizzo took classes and got jobs doing outgoing phone messages . A fight against breast cancer in 2013 helped to inspire her career change.
“It was actually one of the big reasons that pushed me toward doing voiceover full-time,” she said. “I wanted to do something that I really loved.”
Now, in addition to her radio and TV work, she has produced voiceovers for several e-learning modules with companies such as Pizza Hut Express and LinkedIn.
If some clients need conversations in their training scenarios, Rizzo will find other voice actors to fill the roles, prep work and post-production.
“That’s one of my goals, to always make my clients’ lives easier so they continue to hire me,” she said.
Stacey Federoff is a freelance reporter.