No that long ago if you were to reveal to someone...a complete stranger, a friend or even your mother that you "did voiceovers" for a living, the response you were likely to evoke might range from curiosity to confusion:"My son the voiceover...whatever that is". Voiceover was a unique, niche occupation...or, at least, avocation. But in the new millenium "doing voiceover" is in that
unique niche akin to being a burger flipper at McDonald's. Your favorite search engine will confirm that there are tens of thousands of men and women of all persuasions who claim to be God's gift to all your voiceover needs. And with all those agency producers named Jason casting in their own image...it opens the wonderful world of vo to a slew of adenoidal nerds...the darling of today's voice seekers.
Short of specific instructions to counter the conventional wisdom of what a voiceover should do...I still think the following short definition should apply. The MAIN charge of a voice talent is to UNDERSTAND what the copy says and to WHOM it is directed, and then, within the bounds of time alloted and direction given by the writer, producer or client, bring something special to the read. Sounds easy enough, but appropriate direction isn't always forthcoming and often the person can't articulate exactly what he/she wants. This is the rest of the charge of a vo talent: Use the right adjectives to draw it out, make it clear, paint the audio picture. Faster/slower...softer/harder.. flatter/more animated, intense, gentle, whimsical, spirited...on and on.
Last item...and THIS REALLY HAPPENED. A few years ago, an audition was posted locally (Houston) by an agency that traditionally produced everything in LA. We were all to thrilled to audition. It was a spot that seemed pretty obvious...a sargent "Thursday" talking to a lady in a boarding house..."yes maam...no maam". But the instructions emblazoned on the top of the copy specifically said:"do NOT do in a Dragnet style". So, no one did. Two weeks later the spot appeared on the air. You guessed it- DRAGNET! What had happened we learned later on was that the agency producer, ready for a shopping trip to Rodeo
Drive said to the client..."See I told you, no one here can do it...we'll have to do it in LA". Lesson learned: When it's written like a Duck and the directions say to read like a Goose, do TWO reads. And make sure one sounds like a Duck!