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Conversations with Jai Santiago

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jai Santiago.

Hi Jai, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I found voiceover (or it found me) because I was searching for something more to help me with my stage fright – or fear of speaking in front of people. I’d spent years in digital marketing working for a well-known global hotel brand and over the years growing into capacities that had me speaking at conferences in front of audiences, leading round-table discussions and the like. And it seemed that this exposure would only increase, so I began doing things like Toastmasters, and then Speakeasy – working on speaking, presenting – taping myself and watching it back, tweaking deliveries… but I just didn’t feel like those things were doing the trick – that was when I found Atlanta Voiceover Studio. AVS totally opened my eyes to a world I knew NOTHING about, but I quickly found that I LOVED it.

Being able to feel at ease and comfortable with the isolation a booth provides you – was a game-changer for me, personally. It was one of the first times that I truly felt like I was just being myself. As I got more into VO – an actor friend of mine had been trying to talk me into getting in front of the camera and I just didn’t want any part of it. For a shy guy like me… the booth was my safe place – and I was good with that. Long story short – I caved, and started acting, training – and I did what I feel like most new talent does when starting out (acting) – I did a cpl of projects working as background talent which just made me want to do more with lines and scene work.

Once I kind of got into some sort of a rhythm, I got this wild idea to take some of my non-fiction writing that I’d done at Stanford and turn them into visual projects. This idea spun my first short film, The Mask I Wear – which had a decent run on the festival circuit. Next up for me will be another self-penned short film which has been written, re-written, and re-worked from my stint at Stanford.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It definitely has NOT been all smooth sailing that’s for sure. It’s one thing to working in corporate America and take classes after work and on weekends whenever you’re able to squeeze the time in – then try piling on unexpected family medical emergencies – in the last four years, I’ve become the point person for all of my family (both parents, and a brother) whenever anything happens medically and/or financially. Simultaneously I’ve had to juggle being front-center and present for my mom during her bout with cancer, trying to manage my dad’s declining health due to ALS and my brother’s mental illness – and my family doesn’t live close to me – it’s quite a hike. At the time they were all residing under the same roof but when it rained it poured. My mom was admitted for care in one county when I was trying to transition my dad into long-term care in another county – different from where my brother was being admitted into a psyche ward for observation in yet a different county. I was doing all of this while trying to sustain a 9-5, take classes and train – while auditioning. To say it was a lot doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. And I still deal with some of it to this day. My mom’s in remission now, but my dad is still deteriorating before our eyes and my brother’s mental health ebbs and flows. All of that to say – being signed to and working with multiple agents – finding balance can be tough, but you know what, I’ve been very blessed and fortunate. In an industry like this, when you have someone show interest or take a chance on you (knowing you’re a work in-progress), you don’t forget that person.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’m a voiceover artist and actor. I’ve produced and released the first of a few self-penned short films, The Mask I Wear, which had its time on the festival circuit. I began writing in a non-fiction course at Stanford and what started out to be sort of an unloading of “weight” evolved into therapy that I wanted to continue to evolve into something more visual. Everything that I’ve written comes from my personal experiences – the naivety, vulnerability and even some air of callousness unfold throughout.

On the voiceover front – the coolest thing that someone has ever told me… a buddy of mine in Kansas City, MO had called me – I missed the call for whatever reason, but he left me a msg talking about how he heard this guy talking on the radio while he was cleaning his apartment and the voice made him stop because it sounded like the guy was talking to him – he said he thought about it afterward and said that he could swear that the guy sounded like me – that was when he called me. A few ppl have said that lately and it never gets old. We laugh about it because it seems so foreign.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Oh yes… Covid-19 changed everything for me and like most – I was learning on the fly due to trial and error. So, I went from doing self-tapes at a location to doing them at home which had me learning to work with my own camera and lighting equipment. Same with voice work – we live in a tiny little bungalow sandwiched between homes and seemed like no amount of padding my office closet was doing the work – so I had to level up, and invest in a recording booth – which seemed like a lot at the time – but has helped immensely!

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Image Credits
Josh Stringer

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