As a voice artist, it’s not unusual to have someone reach out, directly or on behalf of a friend, for a little assist or inside advice on ‘breaking into the voiceover business’. A dollar says it’s happened to you, too.
The ‘how to’ has been covered enough without my delving into it here… but the reason I mention it is because the interest in voiceover work seems to come less from the love of performance and/or advertising than it does from the idea that it’s “E-Z money!!” and/or from believing or having been told they've got a great voice.
Friend of a brother of a friend phones. He’s just moved from Vermont to New York City to get into voiceovers. He's calling me to ask where to start.
Me: Got a demo?
Me: Got any experience?
Me: Ever… read… copy before?
Me: What do you have?
Him: People tell me I have a great voice. What should I do?
Me: Move back to Vermont
Sorry, buddy. I didn’t mean to be harsh, just realistic.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled program)
Where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to tell you a story. A story that drives home the point that you don’t have to have great pipes to do the job. You just have to be able to get great sound out of the pipes you do have. Such is the case with me and mine.
Anyone who does voiceovers knows that a great voice isn’t a guarantee you can be a great voice artist any more than having a brush makes you a painter or having a guitar makes you a musician. Rather it’s the time you take to become familiar with the voice you have and how to use it, building the skills, refining the techniques and then practicing and practicing and practicing some more until you’ve got a great instrument and the ability to make it perform at its peak.
I have actively worked at learning my instrument, my voice- and when I’m paying attention I can create vocal velvet. But when I’m not, my pipes are just churning out standard issue, fast and furious chatter. I forget sometimes how great a contrast it can be but was reminded just the other day when I was introduced as a voiceover artist. “You? Are??” my new acquaintance said skeptically. His response reminded me of one of my favorite session stories, which I repeated to him and will share wit you now.
I’d been hired to voice a documentary that would debut at a huge fundraising event. It was about a children’s charity, requiring a heartfelt and heavily emotional read and I’d been hired as a result of similar projects I had already done.
I was introduced to the client and we chatted and joked while the studio finished setting up for the session. With a few minutes still to go before we started, the client excused herself briefly and left the lounge. Unbeknownst to me, she’d gone off in a panic to find the producer who’d hired me.
She spotted him and ran down the hall. Grabbing his jacket in a frenzied fit, she wailed “There’s been a horrible mistake- You’ve got the wrong girl! That’s not the voice we hired!!” (I only know all this because he relayed the episode, interspersed with guffaws, after the session wrapped.)
Of course I had the voice she'd hired. But it was the voice I used in front of the mic. I guess there's a moral to this story: Never judge a voice artist outside the studio. Or, it could be… is THAT what they mean by voice actor. Or, if you're ever feeling the need for revenge, it could be: How to Torture a Client 101.