Don LaFontaineAdam Caplan gave an amazing presentation at PodCamp London called “The Practice of Brevity”, teaching us how to deliver a compelling, educational and entertaining message in two minutes or less.

Don LaFontaine’s name came up as someone he had worked with and I decided to follow up with Adam to discover more about his experiences with “The Don”. Adam has graciously shared some of his insight and memories here with us at VOX Daily for you to enjoy.

Learn more about how Don LaFontaine’s masterful application of the art of brevity helped him to make a significant and profound impact while maintaining his trademark delivery and singular style.

Working with Don LaFontaine, A Master of Brevity

By Adam Caplan
I had the pleasure of working with Don only a few times as the Head Writer or Creative Director would generally direct the sessions – I was a ‘preditor’ (Producer/Editor combo), and so our work ‘together’ was limited.

Most of the work done by the company I worked for (DG Entertainment) was for TV promos and movie packages (I have a Field of Dreams spot voiced by Don and written by Harris Cohen for DG Entertainment that’s really great). TV spots for shows like Leeza, ‘Go Wild’ and radio for the Star Trek franchise were the day-to-day for Don, so we would be a regular stop on his daily tour of the city’s TV & movie shops.

Don started out as a writer; Indeed, he is frequently credited for inventing the catchphrases for which he became known.
Sometimes, hanging out in the sound booth, I watched as his ability to tell stories informed every part of his work. It was this sensibility that was perhaps what inspired me most about him; his ability to look at a script and intuit the angle that the writer/producer was going for.

When he performed, he would physically find the beats and use his own rhythm to sell the angle.
It wasn’t Don’s voice that made it memorable, it was the way Don led us into the story he was telling, showing us, the audience, how to emotionally empathize with what we were hearing or watching, no matter the length or the subject.

Moreover, Don was a consummate gentleman and professional. His generosity of spirit, advice, and the time he made for young voice actors is still legendary, and remains an inspiration for me when I am approached to offer advice or mentorship for those seeking to enter new media.

Finally, I believe that Don was a true innovator.
He really was the first to recognize that his voice provided the emotional tone and timbre for the text that was written, much in the same that a concert violinist or pianist can provide new insights into music that is sometimes hundreds of years old. This innovation is notable because it represented the migration from the insistently stoic voice-over style of the mid-century to our modern, emotionally pitched voices.

Don brought humanity to modern promotional media, and brought our emotions front-and-centre.
As someone engaged with short-form media I can say that the hardest goal – and the most important – is to leave audience members with an emotionally memorable message. The only way to do that is to engage listeners emotionally, and lead them to the point you’re trying to make by showing them, with emotional resonance, rather than telling them, with just words. Aligning the words with the right emotion takes practice and talent, and is tremendously valuable when it’s realized.

Finally, to voice actors: Consider writing!
Blogging, short stories, scripts, poems… All these formats require a knowledge of the fundamental tenets of storytelling. By practicing the art of storytelling, and understanding a writer’s sensibility, you can both improve your own interpretive (and thus performance) abilities, and also have a more informed conversation with your clients and their copywriters.
Sincerely,

Adam Caplan
Adam Caplan is a lecturer at the University of Western Ontario and is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts. He works at his own startup, web.isod.es. You can follow also Adam Caplan on Twitter.

Any Comments?

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Stephanie

20 COMMENTS

  1. Great article Stephanie and Adam. Don was certainly one in a million. I’ll always remember him saying at VOICE 2007 how God had given him a gift and what a waste it would be if he didn’t use that gift given to him. To this day, and into the future, we shall continue to benefit from the beauty of that gift, a humble and dearly loved man, we fondly call “The Don.”

  2. There’s a void in the business with the loss of Don. He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure to have known. He was a character. And a vocal genius.
    BB

  3. Stephanie, Great story. Don definitely will be missed. Still, his legacy will live on through the lives he touched and myriad examples of his lifetime of work!

  4. Adam’s article really helps carry on Don’s memory. Don’s impact on the Trailer/Promo Industry was something that we will never be equaled. The Tisherman agency and Don combined in the early ’80’s to become the strongest combo on the planet. Here’s a little background history to go along with Adam’s piece: When Don started as Editor/Writer/Producer/Director with Floyd Peterson’s Trailer house in NY, my agent MCA, Dan Davis, sent me to him in 1959 or 1960 and I did my first trailer under Don’s direction. He was not only a fabulous director, all I had to do was copy his read and it was nailed. He hired me for hundreds of films over the next years, until he went to Paramount and worked both sides of the mic. In those interim years by the way, he had gone to work for Dan Davis who had left MCA in the early 60’s to form the famous trailer house, Kaleidoscope. Don was and is an inspiration to so many of us. On my first trip to LA, Paul Pape took me to Don’s grave and then we did exactly what Don would do…. We went to the Formosa and had a Good-Bye drink.

  5. It’s refreshing to discover that the secret of greatest voice talent ever was not just his voice, but his ability to tell a story. Thanks Stephanie.

  6. Wonderful article… The quote that leapt out at me was how Don could “engage listeners emotionally, and lead them to the point you’re trying to make by showing them, with emotional resonance, rather than telling them, with just words.” I just love that comment!
    He was the master, and shared his gift with all of us!

LEAVE A REPLY