Melissa Exelberth was heard providing traffic reports on numerous radio stations, including WCBS 880 and WINS, during a 16-year run at Shadow Traffic (today’s Total Traffic). The accomplished voice-over artist, who left the former Westwood One company in 2008, is now making a splash being seen in her first feature film.
Exelberth has a part, including a moment of dialogue in Oz: The Great and Powerful. Although mixed reviews accompanied the film’s arrival last weekend, the movie opened with more than 80 million dollars at the box office.
She got the chance to see the yellow brick road first hand because of her voice work in the pre-production with director Sam Raimi.
“That just led to my getting to say a few words on-camera in the movie,” Exerberth tells FishbowlNY. “It was kind of one of those things that evolved from the voice-work that I did earlier.”
Her pre-production work on Oz dates back to early 2011. But the on-camera acting experience was once-in-a-lifetime.
“Even though I come from a production background, I had never, ever worked on anything of this scale,” Exelberth says. “It was huge.”
She says upwards of 1,000 people worked at any given time on the movie, which was filmed at new studios in Michigan.
“The sets were all built, it wasn’t all CGI…You were actually standing on real sets. My scene was at Glenda’s castle, and I was standing on the actual yellow brick road,” Exelberth laughs. “When we’d take little breaks, I’d be sitting on the steps with everybody else.”
But before sitting on-set, Exelberth was fitted for her costume.
“It was kind of a whirlwind for me on that first day,” Exelberth says. “I walked in and wardrobe grabbed me, pulled out this big hoop. Then they grabbed this skirt to put over it.”
It was off to hair and makeup next. Photos would follow, so the ensemble could be precisely recreated.
“It was long hours, but it very, very cool.”
Even cooler was Raimi gave the gifted voice actor the chance to speak in his film, the prequel to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. As is the nature of movie making, even one line needed multiple takes of her “really cool line.”
“You rehearse it, and then you do your lines,” Exelberth recalls. “Then they break down and move everything to a different angle. And you do everything again.”
Since leaving Shadow/Metro in 2008, Exelberth has made the art of voice-overs her full-time gig. She isn’t looking for the face time but wouldn’t say no to another on-screen appearance.
“Absolutely, I would definitely do it again, because it’s fun.”
It didn’t hurt that she was on-set with some of the films’ stars — James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams.
“It was like one big family,” Exelberth recalls.
Exelberth saw that extended “family” at a screening in Los Angeles last week. She’s looking forward to taking her mom, sister, and niece to see the film. Another treat for Exelberth, one of her scenes gets a split-second shot in the movie’s trailer.
“At the screening I was watching for everybody I knew and listening for things that were there. When I go back to see the movie, I going to see it for pure entertainment value.”