Wine, cheese, Don…
Couldn’t get much better than that!
Want to know more?
Discover the magic that is Don LaFontaine, the King of Voice Overs.
As a young man, Don LaFontaine wanted to be taller (and, also an actor).
Along the way, he ended up in the army and somehow picked up the tools of the recording trade while working for the government. Once those skills were honed, Don moved to New York and got a job at a recording studio. This is the very beginning of Don’s journey to voice over.
Nowadays, Don is known for his voice, however, back in the very early ’60s, he was known for his copy writing skills, crafting the movie trailers that he would one day be the voice of, part of a select group of entrepreneurs in the new world of movie advertising on radio and television stations. One fateful day in 1962, an unnamed voice talent did not show up for their session to record a movie trailer voice over. Don being where he was at the time with the knowledge that he had (being the writer and all) was asked to be a substitute in his place to record the voice over.
It was the easiest $82.00 he had ever made and the first of millions.
For twenty years, Don was a casual announcer and producer. Then, he moved to Los Angeles and was able to work on movie trailers full time. 3,500 trailers later, Don sat confidently in his chair on the stage at VOICE 2007. Now that we’re through with our history lesson, let’s dig in to what Don shared last week, shall we? First off, Don said that all voice over work has a rhythm and you have to give it its proper weight. Just as in music, there is a rhythm to voice over performance. Some voice talent are endurance runners while others prefer to sprint. Find your rhythm.
A quote from Don LaFontaine:
“If you are going to be successful, you have to have veracity and honesty – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Your heart needs to be fully behind what you read. Devote yourself to the service of words and you’re halfway there.” Silence followed for a brief moment, then the inevitable question, “What’s the other half, Don?”
“Wait ’til I die”, delivered in true Don LaFontaine fashion. To continue on that train of thought, Don encouraged writing to help develop the entire side of your creative personality. It’s when your personal feelings ring through that veracity is realized.
Two of Don’s favorite movies to work on were The Terminator and The Elephant Man.
When asked about his busiest days as a voice talent, Don stated that once he had 26 separate recording sessions, 200 spots in a day, including an entire season of spots for Cops! It’s a wonder Don has time to sleep! On another note, the room applauded when Don said that he was the biggest champion of women working in voice over. He also noted that the time is coming for women to really step up in the industry and record voice overs traditionally recorded by men.
Producers need to change their mindsets when in comes to trailers, that is to say, be more open minded when it comes to hiring women. Amen to that! After the interview was completed, audience members were able to line up to ask questions of Don.
Of all the questions posed, the one with the answer that most piqued my interest was about maintaining vocal health. Many of the suggestions Don gave were very similar to what the Vocal Department at UWO’s Don Wright Faculty of Music presents to new voice students.
Here’s a short list straight from Don LaFontaine:
• Don’t abuse your voice
• Don’t smoke
• Don’t drink excessively
• Don’t raise your voice
• Hydrate (drink water) frequently
• Don’t overwork your voice
Don was also asked if his career could ever be duplicated. Will there ever be another superstar like him? His answer was no, there likely will not be another person who reaches the same summits in their career and there certainly won’t be another Don LaFontaine. Don started out in the infancy of an industry and had the chance to help build and shape it. He wrote his own work and was the only one recording movie trailers for years. No, his career could not be duplicated.
The amazing thing is that Don had no formal voice over training. He worked hard for everything that he has. It is his determination, honesty, and instincts that have positioned him in the role he finds himself in today. After 43 years of doing voice over, Don admitted that he has never grown tired of his job. He regards each page of copy as a new page. Each page is different.
Don’s 43 years of voice over experience comes coupled with 43 years of AFTRA membership. Don revealed that eventually, if you are successful, you will find it necessary to join the union. Being a member of the union affords certain benefits, a pension and other perks. Don concluded that he had never been treated poorly by AFTRA. After all was said and done, Don remained to have his picture taken and shake the hand of everyone who was there to meet him.
Kara Edwards snapped this picture of Don and I – thanks again Kara!
Did you like this article? If so, leave a comment and share your thoughts!
P.S. Tune in to Jay Leno April 12th to catch Don!
Top photo of Don referenced from RickSommers.com