Initially, I started looking for a voice-over artist to narrate my book via the ACX platform. I set the budget (as low as possible…) and I got back a handful of auditions from a bunch of very nice actress ladies who made my book sound absolutely awful.
One of them narrated it with an Indian subcontinent accent that made it sound like The Secret Diary was set in Bombay. A few of them were clearly SOOOOO BORRRREDDDD by all the boring stuff about God that they fell unconscious during the audition and were sleep-talking. And the others just sounded kind of bland, and not at all engaging and interesting.
So, I decided to find a recording studio in Jerusalem, and see if I couldn’t do a better (and much cheaper…) job of narrating my book myself. I checked around for an English speaking studio with reasonable rates and I found one, based near Talpiot.
I sent the audiobook requirements in to them, and they told me they could meet them no problem and weren’t charging a fortune, so I got in my car and headed down there.
After getting completely and utterly lost, I finally get to the studio - and it’s in someone’s basement flat in the middle of Arnona.
Hmmm. Not only that, the only person in that basement flat - apart from yours truly - was the truly gifted, apparently completely secular, utterly male studio technician Amit, who lived there.
Things didn’t get off to a good start.
After a quick look around, I realized that me disappearing into some strange secular bloke’s basement apartment was a huge yichud problem, so I asked him to leave the door open. We had a stand-off for a minute - and then he grudgingly agreed to leave half the door open - the top half, that was also a window and had a net, and to leave it shut but not locked.
“The recording studio is in a completely different room!” he told me. “It’s not a problem!”
I was pretty nervous that first session, not least because spending a whole hour talking about heart-felt personal issues and God, God, God with a secular male studio bloke and his 12 electric guitars as my only audience was pretty nerve wracking.
He was there, with his pony tail and his ‘arse’ huge diamond earring in one ear, while I was gently poking fun at ‘arsim’ with their pony tails and huge diamond earrings in one ear… There were a lot of out takes in that particular section, as I kept fluffing the words and praying he wouldn’t get offended.
“Was that OK?’ I asked him.
“Yes!” He reassured me. “I wasn’t listening to anything.” We were both kind of relieved.
The next trip, Amit had a friend in the studio, so we got round the yichud issue that way. The third trip, he had a dog he was ‘babysitting’ so he could leave the front door completely open. He also toned down the earring a bit, to something much more classy.
So, I finished the recording sessions, and then we were up to the editing sessions - which is when I hit another major yichud problem, because now I had to be in the same room for two hours at a go, while we went through the whole thing and Amit fixed it up.
I came home, explained the problem to him, and he instantly came and agreed to work on Amit’s couch, while the recording was being edited.
At this point, I began to feel so sorry for Amit. He’s a really nice, sweet secular guy with really good middot who’s had to listen to 12 hours of a neurotic frum woman with a speech impediment (who knew?!) going on and on about her marriage, and her crises of faith, and her kids, and her financial problems, and of course, God, the Creator of the world.
I’ve been watching him for signs of subliminal stress, but so far he’s coping with it all remarkably well.
In the meantime, I’m going completely bonkers from the sound of my own voice, especially when we hit an out-take and I have to hear myself say ‘what’s the point of it all!’300 times until Amit’s re-mastered the recording.
Gosh, how does my family put up with me?
So, all in all, I’ve discovered two hidden tzaddiks by recording my audio-book. One of them I’m married to, and the other one is probably going to be on a plane to Uman this time next year. (I can’t think why else God arranged for a completely secular guy to be subjected to 12 whole hours of Breslov-inspired Jewish Housewife stuff…)
At least, that’s what I hope. Amit plays a mean electric guitar, and Rabbenu has a way of attracting all the really good Jewish musicians in his direction.