Woman looking out a wet window

Voice Heard + Face Unseen = Very Little Credit

This is one of the classic truths that plagues narrators and voice actors.
How many of you have watched a documentary with minimal participation from an on-camera presenter but a gargantuan amount of voice over from a narrator whose name isn’t even credited on the DVD literature? What about watching a movie with a great opening narration that goes unacknowledged even at the end?

This isn’t news for many of you who narrate, however, I feel that narrators should be given more credit.
What do you think?

Engineering An Empire

Last night I watched a DVD borrowed from our local library called Engineering An Empire (2006) that was broadcast by The History Channel, featuring a presenter named Peter Weller who was credited on the DVD literature and then some. If you waited until the end of the episodes, there was also mention of a narrator named Michael Carroll whose narration was omnipresent throughout the 12 episode series.

Although Carroll’s narration was prominent and served as the driving force behind the storytelling, I couldn’t help but notice that his billing wasn’t nearly as high up on the list or DVD literature as it could have been.

Faceless, And On Occasion, Nameless

Perhaps I’m part of the minority when saying this (correct me if I’m wrong), but I think narrators make a world of difference in documentaries and should be billed accordingly.
It reminds me of another great voice who wasn’t credited for his opening narration of The Scorpion King, J.D. Hall.

Albeit a comparatively brief part at the beginning of the film, his narration still set the stage for what was to come and should have been credited (but for the record was not), just as his voice overs also went unacknowledged as the grunting, growling and groaning voice of The Incredible Hulk (2008).

The Don Gets His Due

This article has focused mainly on narration for documentary and film, however, as you know, voice over is nearly always invisible regardless of the medium or application and voice actors nearly always go uncredited.

Until the late Don LaFontaine performed on-camera in the GEICO commercial ( “In A World Where Both Of Our Cars Were Totally Under Water…” ), his face couldn’t have been further from his voice if the average person were to see him walking down the street, but because the world could see him in his element through the TV commercial parody, his face became known and he wasn’t just that familiar voice at the movies or the announcer guy, he was a man with a sense of humor and a presence in the industry considered to be larger than life.
Don opened many doors for his peers (including the whole concept of working from home), and perhaps, greater recognition will be another aspect of his ongoing legacy to the voice over industry.

Hail Animation and Audiobooks!

Now, here’s a fine example of two industries where voice over talent and narrators are represented with equality. At the end of every cartoon and animated film credit is given to voice actors in a satisfactory manner. Every audiobook that I’ve picked up, browsed or downloaded has appropriately bestowed prominence upon the narrator alongside the author of the book.

Obviously this kind of immediate recognition is impractical for commercials, promos or trailers due to the brevity and nature of the voice over (advertising and staying on message), but it can be done to a greater degree for video games, computer games, documentaries, film and eLearning.

How Do You Feel About This Topic? Any Thoughts?

Looking forward to hearing from you,
©iStockphoto.com/Cevdet Gökhan Palas


  1. I think credit is for the industry, not for the public, who likely cares not one whit. (Is whit a word? What’s a whit?) I recognize some voices immediately, and, as an industry ‘insider,’ can tell you who that is, many times. I hope the producers also can do that, which makes the on-screen credit or prominence less important (plus they could always call the producers and ask.) Certainly many TV projects air on nets which collapse and race the credit screen for a side by side promo, rendering it unreadable, even on a 60 inch HDTV.
    Me, I’ll take the money.

  2. Though I think it’s often impractical to get credit for short clips (radio- or TV commercials, movie trailers, etc.) being credited for half hour or longer projects might bring in more work. Let’s say a person is making a corporate movie and he is looking for a voice. After work he switches on his TV set and hears your voice in an infomercial. He then thinks “That’s the voice I want for my corporate movie.” But the infomercial doesn’t credit the voice-over guy. How is that person going to know who the voice guy was? If you get onscreen credit for your work, all the corporate movie maker has to do is google for your name. That’s why I think voices should be credited in half hour movies. Hell even in 15 minutes movies.

  3. I believe that getting more acknowledgement for our voices would do much for the industry. I for one would certainly appreciate the exposure. And afterall, it isn’t like we haven’t contributed in a major way to the project (movies,commercials,whatever). I’d love to see more sharing of the ‘credit’ but I won’t hold my breath. It seems that since we are often heard but not seen, other members of the project think that we are actually seeking anonimity. I know I’m not and probably none of my peers are either.

  4. Credit where credit is due! Every film or video I have ever seen lists anyone and everyone who had anything at all to do with the film including the producer’s cat and the pizza delivery guy.

  5. Wow, some very valid points.
    Although I have yet to break through to any actual voice work experience but I can see the trends as I also dabble a bit in children’s literature and much of the same politics apply. If you have the good fortune to be an individual in the public eye, whether an actor, actress, sports figure, politician etc. you are guaranteed to be held on high for the work even if it is marginal. To your point, the public never gave our Don LaFontaine a second thought until he turned up on a Geico commercial then all who watched gasped and said, “Hey, he’s the guy who does all the movie trailers.” I can tell you that this voice over guy looks forward to the day when when the credits begin rolling with the narrator’s name even if no on has ever heard of him/her.
    Kind regards,

  6. I am in full agreement, Stephanie. I just looked up Academy awards for voice-over, because I’ve wondered if it is one of the categories that gets little publicity. I could not find a category for voice-over. Maybe you could research it more thoroughly—but if it is missing–what an oversight!
    The Prime Time Emmy’s have a category for Best Voice-over Performance. It has been swept by the Simpsons characters for years now. But narrators? Can’t find any.
    Vicki Amorose


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