Dream Jobs

Nancy Cartwright — the legendary voice of Bart Simpson — used to conduct voice-over workshops on a regular basis (she is focusing more on charitable fundraising and other causes now) — the people who would flock to the workshops (which were expensive and had massive waiting lists) were those who saw the performing of animation voices as the penultimate genre in voiceover in which to work — and being the voice actor behind a well-known and beloved character (such as Bart Simpson) is the fantasy of many. The income that the Simpsons actors must be amassing…..not to mention the unheard of job security and the unusual fame of being able to walk the streets and not be recognized — until you open your mouth — is amazingly alluring.

I, myself, realise that I am not a treasure-trove of character voices. I have my thing that I do well — and the voicing of professional telephone prompts doesn’t require dropping into dozens of different character voices on a dime, the way someone like the amazingly talented Hank Azaria (from the Simpsons) can, or even Seth MacFarlane (from Family Guy, who — I was surprized to find out — does the voices for Peter, Stewie, Brian and Glenn Quagmire– as well as many other ancillary characters on the show.)

As indisputably great as it would be to voice a major character on a long-running animated feature, my “Dream Jobs” — those elusive voice-over jobs I’d give my eye teeth to do (providing it didn’t interfere with my diction) — are slightly different than most aspire to…and are likely more offbeat.

I’d really love voice:

1. Movie Trailers

…but think about the last time you heard a female voicing a movie promo trailer. I think maybe once…at an art-house style theatre, I believe I heard a promo for an indie movie voiced by a female. That’s a rarity. When Don La Fontaine, “The Movie Trailer Guy” passed away in September 2008, he left behind him a firm reputation as the quintessential and unmistakable Movie Trailer Promo Voice — and even though a colleague and close friend of his — Joe Cipriani — seems to have taken up the reins in voicing trailers, La Fontaine’s tones will always be identified as the voice  who “owned” that genre.

2. National Geographic Documentaries

The creative department at NatGeo can be considered to be the Fort Knox of documentary production — if there’s a way to get your demo in there, I have run out of ideas about how to do that. It’s a very protected, insular division; the powers that be who would give demos a listen are closely guarded and anything but transparent, and on those occasions that I have hunkered down and decided to make a big pot of coffee and make a day of researching the right contact to approach, (and it is a full *day*) I have come up empty-handed. I believe I have just the right tones to describe the Coral Reefs; the life-cycle of the Giant Sea Turtle; the Greater Kudu of the Ocavango. Why don’t they let me?

3. On-Board Warning Messages in Aircraft

Ok, this one is a little offbeat — but I have to confess to a morbid curiosity in watching documentaries which feature air disasters and plane crashes. “Mayday!” on Discovery Channel is one of my favs. Many of the crash re-enactments feature automated messages which come from the on-board warning systems — for example, a crew will hear a stern yet emotionless voice say: “PULL UP” when they’re about to hit terrain or “WINDSHEAR” when they’re encountering dangerous wind conditions. In every re-enactment I’ve seen, it’s almost always a male voice who’s done the voiceover. I made contact with Honeywell — the manufacturer of many of the automated warning systems installed in commercial jets — and happened to track down not only the right person, but someone with a great deal of recording experience of his own. His theory as to why female voices aren’t utilized for such a purpose was that in some countries — more patriarchal Middle-Eastern countries to be exact — a female voice barking commands — even those designed to avert disaster — may not be all that well received. Point taken — but that just makes me want to add additional “novelty” prompts to the usual warning prompts should I ever eventually get the job…..something along the lines of: “Look — we’re lost. Would you stop and just ask for directions? And slow down, Mr. Leadfoot — you’re going to get us all killed.”

4. Those Big, Juicy, Recurring, National TV V/o’s

This has still alluded me despite my best attempts at signing on with the best agents, whose sole purpose is to position me correctly and place me directly in line with the Coca-Colas and BMW’s of world, looking for a long-term and identifiable voice for their product. (Agents are whole other blog I’ll tackle soon…). Most voice talent dreams of such a contact — a colleague of mine was the voice of Toyota for a few years, and put him on the map as a major hitter. I was the national voice of Canada Safeway for a number of years — a great contract to have, and one which demanded a lot (virtually no vacation time was allotted; one had to be available for re-records at a moment’s notice; grocery prices vacillating much like commodities). I’d love to have big, knock-it-out-of-the-park national contract again, and feel fairly confident it’s within my grasp.

5. Awards Shows

I would never wish to whisk this job away from esteemed colleague Randy Thomas — who has voiced both the Academy Awards *and* the Tony Awards for years — these juicy contracts are her claim to fame, and she never ceases to amaze me with her calm and fluid pronunciations of (sometimes) the world’s trickiest names (think “Best Foreign Film” category) — and in a pressure-cooker of an environment. However, if she were ever to abdicate her throne…I’d gladly take over. Rubbing elbows with the famous, and the most widespread exposure any voice talent could hope for. An amazing contract which she does expertly.

None of the above musings should be taken as discontentment in the least: I am blessed with rewarding, steady, and fulfilling work for a wide variety of exceptional clients…it’s just always good to dream, to speculate, and to covet that irresistable contract which is just outside of your grasp.

Next blog: I’ll delve deeper into the genre of the On-Hold System……we hear them almost every day, and being in the position of voicing several a week, I can contribute my two cents about what I thinks makes a *great* on-hold system, and why many are simply a trial to listen to.

As always, thanks for reading!

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