By Xavier Paul Cadeau
A voice actor’s take on why great work isn’t linked to name recognition
There’s no denying that celebrity voices have a certain cachet. From the deep, authoritative tones of Morgan Freeman’s voice, to the casual, laid back drawl of Matthew McConaughey’s, celebrity voices come with an expectation and a built-in brand. There is an instant recognition and a clear brand association between certain actors and their sound.
But does this mean that ‘celebrity’ is a requirement to receiving a five star voice acting performance?
In fact, when it comes to finding the right voice to encapsulate your brand, enthrall your audience, and command attention – the ‘it’ factor that a voice actor possesses is not exclusive to the famous.
Great Voiceover Performances Aren’t Only Provided by Celebrities
The celebrity read/celebrity voice over trend has had the unfortunate effect of creating a sense of an ‘untouchable’ voice acting ability, which is only possessed by those with name recognition.
While celebrities certainly offer their own advantages, it’s simply not true that there is a level of voice over craft exclusively for those clients who have hundreds of thousands in the budget.
Although a healthy budget is always preferable, it doesn’t stand to reason that there’s a better voice over happening just because the actor is also a celebrity.
The Craft of Voice Over is What Deserves the Most Attention
Over and over again, the work that stands out in voice over is done by the actors who are simply better at their craft, whether they’re a celebrity or not.
Dynamic work can be done by anyone regardless of name recognition.
As a comparison, working actors in television and film realize that their careers have high and low profile periods. There may be times when people will stop you on the street because they recognize you, followed by period where the public only has a vague memory of you at best.
Voice actors also experience an ebb and flow when it comes to recognition of their work or their sound.
In short, voice over is an industry that demands acting craft commitment – there’s no such thing as reaching a point where you don’t have to work at it any longer.
In my personal experience, I’ve completed corporate narration for a demanding client, who asked that I change my read several times. Thankfully, at the end of the project the client was very pleased with the work.
Later on, during a chat in the control room, they were impressed to discover that I had also appeared as a television actor on one of their favorite shows. At that point, the ‘recognition’ I received was just icing on the cake. It wasn’t a factor in how my performance had gone over. My work would have been the same caliber, even if they had known about my other, more ‘visible’ roles previous.
As a voice actor, I know that what makes the difference is how I approach my craft, and I know that other professional voice actors feel the same. We know that there is more depth and nuance to this line of work than others may recognize, but it’s up to us to keep working to become the best in the industry.
Good News for Voice Actors Focused on Building Their Talent
Despite the obvious allure of upper-tier celebrities, there is a healthy middle ground where clients are actively seeking out committed television and film actors who are also committed voice over artists. Their work simply stands out, but clients also want to be sure that the vocal performance is on point with the actor’s reputation.
However, on the flip side of this coin, this notion that just calling yourself a voice actor is enough to compete with known names and land lucrative work is simply a myth. You absolutely need to put in the time to develop your skill, in order to stand out from the pack.
Especially with the ever expanding base of new talent, more and more, clients are seeking out those who are putting in the work to create the right read.
Those that think that ‘bad copy equals a bad read’ will be left behind. While there’s certainly truth in the effect copy can have on the overall product, there is still an onus on the talent to make suggestions (when appropriate) and always offer the best possible performance.
If celebrities do have an edge, it’s that their years of experience may have taught them that that interpretation and point of view is the name of the game.
Voice over remains an art form, where the presence of talent or lack thereof is painfully obvious. The microphone doesn’t lie.
About the Author: Xavier Paul Cadeau
Voiceover artist/Audio Book producer Xavier Paul Cadeau has 25 years of network voiceover experience. Currently the voice of several major brand campaigns, his most recent clients include: the NBA, HBO, MSG Network, Spike TV, and Network TV spots for Wendy’s with famed Basketball coach Jay Bilas.
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