I had another voice over class recently.  This one was about doing voices for video games.  It was a lot of fun for me and I realized right off the bat how easily it came to me to do this kind of work as opposed to commercials.

Now, commercials are the bread and butter of most voice actors’ careers.  I could get rich (depending on your definition of rich) off of the right commercial or two.  An hour’s worth of effort by me on a nationally run commercial for a large beverage manufacturer could pay my mortgage for the year.  And I’ve been told by numerous teachers at the school I attend, that I need to be willing to do commercials, if I want to be able to make a livable wage as a voice over actor.

However, based on my disdain for most commercials out there, I find it hard to even want to do them.  It’s sort of a moral code for me–since I don’t believe that a snack bar, or alcoholic beverage is going to make my day/life better than I ever imagined–I don’t feel right saying that I do believe it, for money.  I don’t care how much money.  Not to be hokey, but in a way it does feel like I’m selling my soul just to get rich.

But when I try to explain this to some of the instructors, I basically get told that I need to stop being arrogant, or think that I’m “above” doing something like that.  I heard this a lot, too, when I used to want to be a “face” actor; that I couldn’t be picky or choosy about the roles I took, because I had to pay my dues.

I have no problem “paying dues.”  I don’t think I’m better than other VO actors out there.  I’m willing to do voices for small video games or cartoons, or even get paid less than the professional wage for audiobooks.  I just have this stigma when it comes to trying to sell someone the idea that Product A will “change their life!”

But it’s not just that I don’t like doing commercials . . . it’s more an organic thing.  It’s SO much harder for me to get into “character” when my character is a stressed-out mom who’s only “Me time” is the iced mocha beverage she gets from her favorite place.  In my head somewhere, that doesn’t even translate to a “character.”  I can’t get past the sales pitch to even find motivation for her.  And it takes me several tries before I even get close to making it sound right.  But give me three lines of dialogue for a video game character . . . BOOM!  I’ve got a picture in my mind of what they look like.  I can hear their voice in my head (including pitch, speed, accent).  Heck, I can even feel how their body moves.  And I’ve got it all within the first two takes.  It’s really THAT night and day for me.

But I can’t seem to make my instructors understand that.

I even had a private lesson with the school’s owner a while back (someone who’s been a VO actor for decades), where she told me that it bothered her to think that such a talented person (me) was limiting myself because of this.  She even said something that made me stop and think.  She said that it wasn’t her (or any VO actor’s) job to judge the copy.  It’s not her job to judge whether or not people will believe what they hear on the radio or TV.  She said her job (and mine, as the talent) is simply to make the “character” in the copy relatable.

The problem is that I can’t “relate” to someone who thinks that life is going to be all sunshine and roses if they just own the right car.  Which brings me back to the whole arrogance thing, or feeling that I’m “above” people who do believe that.  Is that really the crux of it?  Do I think I’m better than people who believe commercials?  I’ve always prided myself on not being a “sheep,” but the fact that I think in that term . . . is that the same as thinking I’m “above” those who are comfortable being “sheep?”

These are questions that I’m still pondering, and I’d appreciate your feedback.  But until I figure it out, you probably won’t hear my voice on your favorite radio station.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Craig
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 08:04:43

    Another factor that I’ve noticed is that you and I don’t like to be “sold”. We don’t like to be told how/where to shop, and don’t get taken in by “You’ve just saved $30 by buying this instead of this.” No, we’ve just spent $50, instead of $80 for something. We like to make up our own minds and actively rebel against things we feel are overly advertised.
    Therefore, you feel like a traitor or a bad person trying to do it to someone else in the form of a commercial. You see the hypocrisy. Arrogant or not, that’s hard to set aside and get into character.


  2. Dolly Chamberlin
    Jul 05, 2014 @ 10:59:19

    It sounds similar to the peer pressure comments you heard in high school when they wanted you to conform to their way of thinking. “To thine own self, be true”


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