As a practitioner of the art and business of voice acting, I am necessarily a student of the craft. Not a big surprise, I should think; I know vastly accomplished VO talents—men and women who I look up to and admire deeply—who never stop working to become ever better at their profession, and who regularly work with coaches and colleagues to stay at the top of their game. No doubt it’s partly this commitment to excellence that got them where they are, and that would raise them to the top no matter what path they had chosen.
But not all instruction is purchased or methodical. I don’t regret a penny of the very many dollars I’ve spent on coaching—it’s a tremendous value when you work with the best, and I plan to spend many more. Right now, though, I’m thinking of the secondary instruction that comes our way, as actors, simply as we move through the world.
I hear extraordinary voices every day. Extraordinarily deep, or extraordinarily vivid, or pure, or electric… As many qualities as we have shades of feeling. And it may not be the voice itself. It may be a woman’s laugh, or her sigh, or her summons; or the cadences of a man’s story, or his daughter’s consolation. A grumble, an assent, a wink, a demur. How many times have you been in a store and been held, fascinated, by an ungated voice, speaking truth?
I’ll go up to an airline worker after a funny or considerate or reassuringly confident communication to tell them how much I enjoyed it. I admire the ones who impress something of themselves on the moment, rather than looking for the most efficient methods of its disposal. It’s risky, sometimes painful, and the downside can be steep—but how wonderful when it works!
Sounds like acting.
And that’s why I think people respond to voiceover, to good voice work. Because they are responding to the best in themselves. Because, sadly, we too often reserve our truest voice for only those moments that require great passion.
We all understand, deeply, what is true and interesting and exciting in a medium we all use all the time and every day. We are all of us connoisseurs of the spoken word. And so a well-voiced announcement, an ad’s unusual but exquisite inflection, affects us. Viscerally; and often with a smile.
Which is why voiceover—which in the great scheme of things is not very important—should in the small scheme of things be done very, very well.
Jack Daniel is a voice actor in Los Angeles. Check out his website at www.jackdanielvo.com.