Saturday, August 27, 2016

The easiest way to make money EVER

On the surface that's what you'd think.  Be a voice over artist.  Go into a recording studio.  Read one tag line, collect a big paycheck, and you're back in your car in five minutes.  If the commercial catches on and they use it after a thirteen week run you get paid again.   If they use it for years you're set for life.   Remember the "Parkay/butter" spots?  The guy who said "butter" has more money than Trump.

However, it's not as easy as it sounds.  Most of the time these VO artists are given "direction."  And you would think there are only so many ways to read a line.  But you would be wrong.

Here's a hilarious short film by Tim Mason that REALLY shows you what a commercial recording session is like. 

It was made by Hog Butcher, a group of improvisers, comedians and writers from various Chicago institutions like Second City, IO and the Annoyance Theater. Its leader is Ron Lazzeretti.

I bet there's not a professional voice over artist who has not had this experience -- ten times. Enjoy. Or should I say ENjoy? Or maybe enJOY? Or en...joy?

30 comments:

Astroboy said...

Just recently saw this clip with Tom Hanks talking about just this subject.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNptl7bjRhI

Covarr said...

"There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with 'in' and emphasize it." -Orson Welles

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I remember an experience Tony Sampson had on ED, EDD N EDDY where he ended up having to record well over 200 takes of Eddy just saying the line, "Yep, good times." It was ridiculous, but creator Danny Antonucci had the line a certain way in his head, and they just kept recording it over and over again until Tony said it exactly the way Danny heard it.

Chris said...

Friday question: pop culture has transformed significantly since the days you started writing for television. How would you say Standards & Practices policies have evolved throughout the decades in terms of what has become acceptable to discuss on a television show? I don't necessarily mean the continuous flood of vagina jokes on 2 Broke Girls (that's another discussion anyway, since quality control wasn't their job to begin with), but general topics, such as abortion, race relations, sex and other sensitive issues.

Jim said...

I remember seeing a similar one to this several years ago, where the actor was meant to be recording a pirate themed radio ad for a boat shop, all Ooo Aarr me Hearties, which gradually got cut down more and more to fit in the advertisers full message ("we're still two seconds over"). Does anyone else remember that, because I've never been able to find it again.

Matt said...

I love the term "confident ambivalence."

Mike Broderick Voice Over said...

Hi Ken: Also see this great clip from the British comedy "Toast of London". https://youtu.be/0wgxLWjRZEw

Brian said...

There is a movie about a struggling female voice over actress who is the daughter of a traditionally male voice over artist called "In a World...". I recommend it.

Brian said...

Watch the movie "In a World..."

Dixon Steele said...

I once hired the late Don LaFontaine, the King of the Voice Overs. He was the one who immortalized "In a world where...".

He had a limo and driver, who would shuttle him to one studio after another (they're all in Hollywood or the Valley). He told me could do ten in one afternoon.

We paid his version of scale, about $1,100, but he often made much more. I asked him what his favorite kind-of v.o. was and he replied, "The kind that pays". At least he was honest.

Alan said...

here's the classic Orson Welles voice over session in which he destroyed his client
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V14PfDDwxlE

Jeff Petersil said...

Chuck says that the voice of "Butter" was none other than voice over, Ernie Anderson. When Ernie worked in Cleveland he was the host of a movie matinee show with his partner, Tim Conway. I was lucky enough to be able to call Ernie my friend.

Jerod Butt said...

A bit of topic, but maybe not if it turns out to be successful.

As mentioned previously on this blog regarding the release of ALMOST PERFECT on DVD:

I would love to see this happen, but I hope there would be CC/subtitles included. YouTube CC is a joke. (Check out "St.Patrick's Bad Analogies", then the sequel, "St. Patrick's Bad Closed Captioning".)

CBS/Paramount also owned WINGS, and they shipped it off to some third rate company to distribute on DVD. They had some lame excuse of Paramount not giving them the CC file or something like that. I am sure no such thing was given to Hulu. I would rather pay $100 to have a set with CC/SDH than $20 without.

Nancy Travis also starred in THE BILL ENGVALL SHOW. That show lasted two seasons and when I found out that CC was missing from some of the DVDs, those DVDs automatically get a one star review from me. (The same would have to FRASIER or CHEERS if the DVD set did not contain CC.)

Rant not over, but I will shut up for now.

Stoney said...

About 40 years ago, James Earl Jones spent about 7 minutes in a recording studio reading lines for a character in some science-fiction movie. I wonder how that turned out!

Jason Roberts said...

There is an amazing documentary called "I Know That Voice" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2113683/combined. It's a behind the scenes look at voice artists.

Highly recommended if you are interested in this subject.

Donald Benson said...

DVD anecdote: When David Prowse did a turn on "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", one of the actors asked why he was dubbed in "Star Wars".

"I have no idea," Prowse answered with a think Yorkshire accent.

In fact, a lot of storm troopers and such were dubbed over with American voices, because they didn't want a galaxy far, far away to sound completely British.

Cap'n Bob said...

I suppose you heard the one about the actor who was rushed in at the last moment, and whose line was, "Hark! I hear the cannon's roar."

Pat Reeder said...

Love this post because this is my field. I started out doing voiceovers in tons of syndicated commercials for companies like TM and Toby Arnold (wrote a lot of them, too), plus scads of ads for the radio stations where I was a DJ/production director. I haven't done it much in recent years, since I mostly write full time now; but on rare occasions, I'll go back into the studio as a favor for friends who want me to voice ads I've written for them. I always enjoy that. Some sessions can be torture, if you have an obnoxious and demanding producer; but the group sessions for TM Productions' syndicated commercial libraries under the late Bill Shaughnessy (who gave me my first break by hiring me right out of college) are some of my happiest memories. Bill would call together all the best voice people in Dallas for a marathon session, and guys like Jerry Houston and Brice Armstrong would ad-lib brilliant stuff to warm up before finally getting down to the scripts. It was like a great party more than work. We'd all end the evening sore from laughing so hard.

It really ticks me off that commercial and cartoon voice work now mostly goes to celebrities, many of whom have no particular skill for it, just so studios can cash in on their names, instead of hiring the brilliant but unfamous voice actors who are really deserving of it.

BTW, one of the keys to writing radio copy is that you have to read it aloud to make sure it won't come across differently when spoken than it does on the page (I call this the "If you see Kay, say hello" rule. Say that out loud.) The Orson Welles reference in the comments reminded me of the perfect example of that, from the animated show, "The Critic." A cartoon Orson Welles is reading an ad for green peas, and he declares that they're chock full of healthy goodness and "green pea-ness," before storming out in a rage.

Neil Ross said...

The voice of butter (actually the spots were were for Parkay margarine) was Michael Bell, not Ernie Anderson.
I didn't watch the entire video, but I do have one observation. I have no sympathy for a talent who puts her cell phone on the music stand next to the copy. When I work, my phone is muted and in my pocket. I don't look at it until the gig is over, the forms have been signed, the buyers have been thanked and I am out in the reception area.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Pat Reeder Even though that's always been a problem, it seems to be even moreso today, where in addition to voice work going to big celebrities, there seems to be an unwritten rule now that all animated features have to have SNL castmembers doing voices - particularly Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, and Kristen Wiig. In fact, Fred and Kristen voiced Speedy Gonzales and Lola Bunny on THE LOONEY TUNES SHOW, respectively, when both characters were traditionally voiced by professional voice actors.

Igor said...

Covarr wrote – "There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with 'in' and emphasize it." -Orson Welles

I take exception to Mr. Welles on this, and in support of my position I offer –

In a gadda da vida, honey
Don't you know that I'm lovin' you.
In a gadda da vida, baby
Don't you know that I'll always be true.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Wow. That piece was delicious. Hard to believe it wasn't an actual session.

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PlQzZyONUE#t=10m10s

Mike Barer said...

That should go down as the catchiest headline in blogging history.

Steve Mc said...

Mike Broderick - That's a runny gag in Toast. Every episode starts with him doing a voice over recording session. Thanks to Clem Fandango.

Steve Mc said...

Donald Benson - Prowse's accent is West Country, not Yorkshire. Though that's a distinction that'd only worry a Brit!

Andrew said...

The best parody of "in a world where..." is the trailer for Comedian. Don LaFontaine is in it, doing his thing. Had nothing to do with the movie, but it was great fun. "In a world where laughter is king, one man..."

roger said...

The guy in the trailer for COMEDIAN was Hal Douglas, not Don LaFontaine.

Barry said...

I seem to remember an onscreen interview with Bob Newhart, probably on the Carson show, where he said that was the voice of the "butter" commercial. He even said it a couple of times, and it sounded exactly like the commercial. And the audience was amazed that it was him. Maybe he was joking around, but it seemed like it was sincere. Maybe I'm misremembering a detail, but I've always thought it was him.

ADmin said...

I've been on both sides of the glass a time or two. It happens. Never from me as the writer, but the marketing guys will drive everyone batty.