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St. John's doctor uses voice acting career to fuel his goal of becoming a practising physician

Dr. Anatol Silotch, a successful voice actor, uses his homemade sound booth in his parents’ basement in St. John’s to voice spots for companies all over the world.
Dr. Anatol Silotch, a successful voice actor, uses his homemade sound booth in his parents’ basement in St. John’s to voice spots for companies all over the world. - Submitted

He’s a doctor who specializes in more than just healing the sick.

As fast as he can say pseudotumor cerebri in his warm and reassuring tone, Dr. Anatol Silotch can transform his voice to sound like a happy Irishman, a posh Brit, a 1950s gangster or a flamboyant European supermodel.

The St. John’s resident is a successful voice artist who has narrated pieces for such well-known international companies as Amazon, Pepsi, Samsung, Corona, Dell, Merrill Lynch and FC Barcelona.

With an array of characters, accents and languages at his command, Silotch has drawn the attention of businesses around the world who hire him to voice audiobooks, business presentations, cartoons, games, impersonations, podcasts, movie trailers, interactive voice responses, radio and TV commercials, broadcasts and live announcements, e-learning material, e-books, medical information, jingles and narrations.

“Ever since I was a kid, I used to love impersonating actors,” the charismatic 28-year-old said during a recent interview at The Telegram.

“My childhood dream at five years old was to become an actor. I wanted to be Jim Carrey. I said to myself, when people are sad they’re going to say, ‘I want to put on a movie with Anatol in it and he’s going to brighten my day.’

“Turned out, I’d brighten their day through medicine instead of movies. But either way, I wanted to make the world a happier place.”

With that enthusiasm, paired with his flair for impersonations and keen ability to interpret the many nuances of the human voice, Silotch is advancing his goal of becoming a practising physician.

Originally from Moldova in eastern Europe, he came to Canada with his family in 1992 when he was 3 1/2 years old.

After attending Gonzaga High School, he graduated from Memorial University with a biochemistry degree in 2011 and moved to the Caribbean island of Dominica in the West Indies to attend medical school at Ross University.

“It was an interesting opportunity because I got to start medicine in a Third World country, so you get back to basics,” he said. “It’s nice to have that ability to reset in life from First World problems.”

He completed his final semesters at various hospitals throughout Miami.

However, before he finished his final year, he ran out of money.

“I actually went in to med school knowing I didn’t have a way to pay for my fourth year,” said Silotch, who had been funded by the Canadian government and, largely, private loans. “But I was bold and young. I told my parents, ‘Don’t worry about it.’”

He ended up borrowing the money through his school, which allowed him to continue with his studies and eventually graduate.

In the meantime, he had very little to live on, and in April 2014 he had to move into a friend’s apartment complex in Little Havana, which had no permit to operate. It had running water, but no electricity.

“It was an interesting time,” he said, laughing.

Four months later, an attending physician he was working with learned of his situation and offered Silotch a room in his house with his family.

“I wasn’t sure what to do because I was always independent,” he said. “But I did and it was only through their will that I finished med school because they gave me food and a roof over my head.”

Silotch graduated in May 2016, but with 43,000 applicants for just over 20,000 spots, he had difficulty landing a residency in a competitive program.

“I needed a job badly,” he said. “I looked anywhere and everywhere in Miami. But the problem was I didn’t have a visa, so I was trying to get sponsorship with my job. That proved to be the biggest roadblock ever. Every lead I had turned into a dead end.”

With bill payments eating away at the last of his funds, he decided to move in with his younger sister, who was attending McGill University in Montreal.

But job hunting wasn’t going well in Montreal, either.

“So, here I am, officially my name is Dr. Silotch and I can’t get a job anywhere — as an assistant, someone to write papers. Nothing,” he said. “It sucked.”

But a movie night with a local singer/songwriter in October 2016 changed everything. After he wowed her with impersonations of the movie characters, she suggested he consider voice acting.

“I didn’t sleep that night, I was researching it so much,” Silotch said.

The next day, he went to Best Buy and bought a microphone, with the intention of returning it after 30 days if he hadn’t landed a job by that time.

Using a discarded cardboard box from a washing machine, Silotch built a sound booth. He lined it with sheets and eventually added acoustic foam inside. He dubbed it Booth 1.0.

“The only problem was, living with my sister, I often had to say, ‘Catherine, sssh!’ and she’d freeze and I’d audition and record something and then she could go back to doing whatever she was doing.”

For the next month, he auditioned for as many voice roles as he could find, and enrolled online at voices.com, a job search website for voice actors with a global user base.

“To become better at something, you have to be completely immersed in it,” he said. “So, I did.”

He initially landed a few small roles on freelance websites, with jobs that paid just $20 each, but it was a start.

A month later, he landed his first major gig with voices.com — a Salt Lake City radio commercial spot for a used car lot.

“I was pretty excited. I got my first big spot on this huge site,” said Silotch, who is fluent in Moldavian, Spanish and French, with some Russian. “I said to myself, this is it!”

By the end of that week, he landed another gig — a live one-hour session with a major U.S. educational company that specializes in online textbook rentals, homework help, tutoring, scholarships and internship matching.

“It was a huge gig,” he said.

Since his sister’s place was too noisy, he transported his sound booth to a friend’s basement across town.

“I became Harry Potter that day, because she had a stairwell to her basement and I made a booth out of that space under her stairwell. I sealed it off with as much blankets as I could, I stuck my Booth 1.0 in there and I sat on a piano chair. I had clothes thrown all over the place to absorb more sound. I was trying to turn it into a studio,” he said.

“I barely had time to review the script because I got stuck in rush-hour traffic and I didn’t even think I was going to make it. Blood pressure 180/110. I was freaking out. It was a scrambled egg of a situation, but I did it.”

He decided to make his voice acting a business, with the goal of using it as a side gig once he landed a residency to supplement his income to pay back his loans.

He still wanted to pursue medicine. After writing his last licensing board exam in Miami, he travelled back to St. John’s for what was supposed to be a two-week visit.

He ended up staying, and when voice acting jobs kept coming, he built Booth 2.0.

Just as he would be on call as a doctor, he would often get calls in the middle of the night from international companies wanting a voice piece immediately.

“I would literally sleep with this phone next to me,” he said. “It was like being on call in the medical field because the phone would ring at 2 o’clock in the middle of the night, I’d get up, turn on my laptop and do a spot and go back to bed.”

By December 2016, he had landed a training program spot for the National Retail Federation, whose members include department stores, specialty, discount, catalogue, internet, independent retailers, chain restaurants and grocery stores.

“I had some really interesting pieces I got to work at. It kind of fulfilled that half of my childhood dream of becoming an actor,” Silotch said.

In September 2017, he gained elite status with voices.com, which earned him more exposure.

In six months, he had auditioned for about 4,000 spots.

“People were actually reaching out to me,” he said. “It was insane.”

That prompted him to build Booth 3.0, a six-by-eight wooden office with five-inch thick walls, in his parents’ basement.

“This is an actual booth. No more cardboard boxes,” he said, laughing. “To buy these booths, it’s over US$9,100. I made it in such a way that it can be disassembled and shipped wherever needed.

“I don’t have to wake up my parents in the middle of the night hearing some animated character.”

His most memorable voicing gig was three promotional spots for the Van Gogh Museum.

“Those spots changed me so much,” he said.

A close second was an advertisement for the professional soccer club FC Barcelona, which also featured world-renowned soccer superstar Lionel Messi.

His favourite voices to perform have always been those of animated characters.

“I’m still a kid at heart. I love doing those because you can really go wild,” he said. “I like to improvise and find your own translation of what you think that character should sound like. (Businesses) are very open to interpretation. Even if you don’t land the job, it’s fun to do.”

Voice gigs for medical products are a breeze for him.

“It’s funny because they’ll often abbreviate things and I’ll end up saying the full words,” he said. “The average voice artist will just say GM, but I’m going to say glioblastoma multiforme. That makes you stand out.”

Silotch says one of the most important aspects of being a voiceover artist is the ability to follow direction.

“Something they really like can be as simple as listening to what they want. If they want a soft, subtle, heartfelt read, you speak like this,” he said, using a soft tone before switching to a deep, loud voice. “THEY DON’T WANT SOMEONE TO COME OUT AND GO CRAZY WITH IT LIKE THIS.”

He said voice acting is like listening to a movie with no video.

“Watching a movie, you can see that sad face. If it’s voicing, you don’t know I’m sad until I start talking. You definitely have to try and find a way to connect with your audience using your voice,” said Silotch, who recalls a few times he’s been in tears voicing emotional narratives.

“But you definitely develop yourself as an actor because you can’t go through a very sombre piece with a smile on your face. You have to get into it.

“It’s about translating an idea into an auditory sensation. … How do I captivate the audience to do that?”

Silotch has applied for numerous residency programs south of the border and will find out in March if he has landed a spot.

He said his voice acting has not only helped advance his medical goals, but has helped him develop a good businesses sense and given him the drive needed to succeed.

“There’s a lot I’ve learned through it and there’s definitely that self-maturing process. Going through these hardships in life changes you, for sure. And it helps you better understand the (patients) who come to you with their own hardships.

“So, I always take pride in the humble beginnings that we had coming to Canada. My parents had nothing, fleeing their country with this little kid on their lap. That definitely makes you grow up a certain way and you get exposed to so much. It moulds you into a certain kind of person.

“I really think I’m blessed because of what happened over the years, and I think it will ultimately make me not only a better person, but a better physician in the end and I’ll get to put it all into practice.”

Until then, Silotch said, he will continue to enjoy voice acting and helping make the world a happier place.

And that may be just what the doctor ordered.

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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