Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Vo-Ho



(I actually wrote this piece, and published it, last year. However, since I'm currently working on a series concerning voice-over work, I thought it might be worthwhile to put it out here again, as sort of an introduction.)

(Also, this lets you know that I'm still alive - if you call this living.)


I do voice-overs. If you have the money, I'll say anything. I'm a Vo-Ho - a vocal whore.

When I tell people that I do voice-overs, they seem genuinely interested. They ask, "What have you done that I'd be familiar with? Have you done anything that I've heard?" My answer is, "I've probably done something that you've heard, but probably not much you'd be familiar with."

I'm not giving them the doubletalk. Most of my work involves telephone applications, so there's a decent chance you've heard my voice, but it's doubtful you'll remember having done so. For instance, I'm the voice of the National Amusements/Showcase Cinemas chain of movie houses, in some 17 or 18 states. If you call one of their theatres - to try and find out when a certain show is playing, or for directions, hours, etc. - I'm the guy you'll most likely hear, in a recorded announcement.

I've done some TV and radio spots, but only very sporadically. If I had to rely on that money to put food on the table, I'd have starved long ago. However, when you get placed on hold and a deep baritone voice tells you (what I hope are) interesting things about the company you're calling, while soothing/irritating music plays in the background, it might be me you're hearing. If it's a male voice instructing you to "Press One for Customer Service... Press Two for Shipping...", it could be me. Yep - I'm that son-of-a-bitch.

I'll say anything for money. For instance, I recently said this:

"New technology and innovative techniques in the field of cosmetic procedures now produce enhanced aesthetic results in the areas of facial rejuvenation, contouring, skin youthening, eyelid beautification, nasal sculpturing, and tumescent liposculpture. These effective lunch-time procedures are known as radiofrequency laser photorejuvenation."

Of course, "youthening" isn't a word, but I'm being paid to say it, so now it is! And do you think I could tell you even one salient fact concerning nasal sculpturing? Not even if you held a red hot poker to my privates. But, I sure do have the ability to sound like a board-licensed nasal sculptologist, which is why I get the medium-sized bucks. Tumescent Liposculpture? Sure, who wouldn't want that? Probably damned good for the economy. Radiofrequency Laser Photorejuvenation? Absolutely. Had some yesterday. Tastes like chicken.

I like to think that if I'm asked to read a script which contains outright lies, I'll have enough gumption to not do so. So far, most of what I've been paid to say could be the truth (albeit perhaps in an alternate universe) or else it's something I don't really know enough about to realize if I'm actually lying. For instance...

"Do you know what the wearable computer and rugged mobile computer markets did last year? XXXXXX can keep you informed about industrial measurement and control with reports like Industrial Distributed Remote I/O and web-addressable distributed remote I/O, which will be a must have. Learn about the critical issues suppliers face as they attempt to establish competitive positions in next generation application segments."

Sounds plausible to me. Cha-Ching! Next!

Lest you think I'm actually getting rich doing this linguistic tango, I'll tell you that I'm a paid employee at a firm which specializes in telephone recordings. I get a salary. I'm not some free-lance nationwide union guy getting $348 an hour for scale.

(That's not a wholly made-up figure, by the way. I did a union-scale job once, even though I work in a largely non-union market. I received $348 for about 10 minutes of recording. That was the going rate per hour or portion thereof, at the time.)

Anyway, I'm also a member of the production staff, which means that I not only do voice work, but also produce/record other voice talent sessions, piece together finished productions (including laying down musical beds, putting the productions to tape or CD, packing and shipping, etc.) and I used to wash the dishes, but we've got a dishwashing machine now. I still make the coffee, though.

When I do get the rare TV or radio spot, I usually get in the neighborhood of $50 to $100, which is not exactly a ritzy neighborhood. I don't get residuals - that is, no matter how many times it airs, I don't get anything extra. Heck, I've done spots that are 5 years old and still airing. And nobody knows who I am, unless I tell them. The best I can hope for, as far as fame is concerned, is a quizzical "Do I know you from somewhere?" look when I say something to a stranger. Sometimes something clicks in their brain - they've heard the voice - but they never, EVER, know where they've heard it.

Well, this sounds like a whine now, and I really don't mean it to. I have a really good gig compared to someone that, say, cleans septic systems. And it is still a major kick when I'm not paying attention to the TV and I suddenly hear my voice on it.

Anyway, the next time you get put on hold, and you hear a male voice telling you "We're sorry to keep you waiting...", if it's me telling you that, I really am sorry. Really, baby. I mean it. I'm not telling you that just because of the money. I really, really dig you. Oh, yeah, baby. I want your tumescent liposculpture. And I'm not just saying that.

6 comments:

Stu said...

"Hey Kids, Join us every Wednesday at 10am from June 28th through Aug ust 16th for Bookworm Wednsdays!"

I know, I'm a geek, but I really was curious as to what you sound like, so I looked up Showcase Cinemas and called one of the locations in MA. Dude, you should totally come out to L.A. and become a V.O. king. You'd be perfect. You've got a great voice for the voluminous car ads that run in our city.

Suldog said...

OMG. That's me!

I'm flattered that you went to such lengths to listen to me. Actually, I'd say about a third of my radio and/or tv work in the New England area has been car-related spots. I guess I've just got that cheesy over-the-top macho vibe happening.

James Cooper said...

Hmm, I'll be in Maine for five days next month, possibly in Boston for one of those days, so I'll have to keep it in mind to look up the number for one of those theaters. Then I can hand the phone over to my girlfriend and say "this guy linked me on his blog!"

Speaking of those rates for voice work though, my company is trying to branch out into educational tools primarily focusing on developmentally disabled children.

Being that it's something of a step into new territory for us the boss has elected to minimize early production costs by having the voice work done by himself and his 9-year-old son. Unfortunately, neither of them have any vocal training and it tends to show.

If this really takes off maybe we'll hire some of you professional folk to read for us. That would make a world of difference in terms of product quality. Just have to wait and see.

CatPants said...

I used to do a lot of radio in college (I hosted 2 talk shows and was a regular DJ), and I've had a people approach me to do some stuff for studios that do cartoon voice over work, but I never did anything with it. Maybe I should consider it. It's obviously where the BIG MONEY is. ;-). Actually, if it could be a little extra bread each month, maybe it would be worth it...

Food for thought.

DJ Big Mick said...

That's not YOUR studio, is it? If so you guys really updated after I left! We used to use old tin cans, broken guitar strings, and cassette recorders... well we did use the cassette recorders. As one VO-Ho to another, my favorite script was the one where I got to talk about our "Cost-effective ball screws in both rolled and ground construction for extra rigidity" I can't count the number of takes it took to say that one...

Suldog said...

DJ - I believe that came from the same script as "Big Bertha vibrators", right? The ultimate outtake script. I still play those for people and everybody rolls on the ground when they hear it.

(For those of you not familiar with this - and that would be everybody except me and DJ, basically - it wasn't salacious or smutty at all. It sure sounded that way, though. Good enough.)

James - I didn't begin this blog to flog my company, but it couldn't hurt if they got something from it. If you're really interested in checking out our prices, talents, services, etc., go to http://www.marketingmessages.com

I will tell you that there's a very good chance we'll be able to supply what you need at a cost significantly beneath many studios. If you're looking to deal with union talent in CA, I can almost guarantee we'll save you a huge chunk of change.

CatPants - It never hurts to send out a tape or two. Who knows what will happen? All it's going to cost you is the time to put the tape together and some postage, right? That's considering you have some airchecks (or samples) and a studio to throw things together in.