REAL HEROES DO NOT WEAR CAPES
Used by permission from Viresh Studio via Pixabay
NOTE: This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, "Voiceovers: A Super Responsibility", slated for release in the fall of 2021
HINDSIGHT AND FORESIGHT
Used by permission from 愚木混株CDD20 via Pixabay
It is time to get real for a moment.
When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a policeman. And then I wanted to be a fireman. And then I wanted to be Batman. And finally I decided on Superman. But then I wanted to be a singer. And I think I also wanted to be a doctor. In short, I wanted to be someone who could swoop in and respond to emergencies in a melodic way, saving people’s lives with a grapple gun.
When we are little, we do not really know what we want to be, but we look at those tall figures towering over us, especially the ones who seem to defy logic - or gravity - in some heroic way, and we seek to emulate them, and we seek to adopt a similar mission for us. It is called “idealizing.” Sometimes we even call it “idolizing.”
However you slice it, rewind 40 years and ask me if I wanted to be a voice actor, and I may have responded, “Do I at least get to wear a cape?”
In my humble opinion, voice actors are some of the most underrated citizens of this planet. We are indispensable. We will not be so easily replaced by AI. We will not go quietly into the night. As President Whitmore said in Independence Day, "We're going to live on. We're going to survive."
We cannot be vanquished. It is in our makeup to be heroic. True, there are some of “us” out there that treat voiceovers as a passing fancy, and some that masquerade as heroic, yet piggyback on the profit of others as they seek to teach. There are corrosive elements within any community, and there are charlatans that know nothing other than profiting off of you rather than off of hard work.
But the true voiceover superhero is someone who wears plainclothes, who humbly seeks to produce something that will be quietly moving. Thought-provoking. Stirring to action. Uplifting. Compelling. That is our job as voice talent. Our job is to move. To make people think. To motivate them. To encourage. To get them to do what our client wants.
And sure – it is the client that writes the script, and we just voice it. But is that all it is?
In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the character V’ger asks “Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?” Many people suffering from imposter syndrome experience something similar and may voice a similar refrain. I do understand it, believe me. In many of my past vocations, I have suffered from it, and I daresay many people have sat at their desks across our great planet, holding a thousand-yard stare and wondering “Is this it?” We are trained to grow up and “become something”…but what if we arrive after all those years of forward momentum, education, expense, striving, etc., and we realize with horror that it was not what we expected?
OUR GREAT RESPONSIBILITY
The true voice talent will stare down the barrel of a gun knowing full well the great weight that we carry as voice talent, willing to do absolutely everything required of them to ensure that their career flourishes, and their dream thrives.
“To whom much is given, much is required.”
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Uncle Ben, Spider-Man
“Responsibility is accepting that you are the cause and the solution of the matter.”
“The price of greatness is responsibility.”
I am sorry (no I am not), but this is not a career that anyone can approach flippantly or cavalierly. It does not work that way. This career and pursuit are rarely ever chosen at age 7, much less idealized or idolized. Sure, it might be glamorous to impressionable minds, but not all of those minds are cut out for this endeavor, and saturation shows us that. Yes, my kids love climbing into the studio, slapping on the headphones as I cringe, waiting for them to drop them or to bang against my $1000 MKH416. But to them, it is still just fantasy.
Are you the cause and solution of the matter? Did you bring yourself to voiceovers intentionally? Do you intend to make every single voiceover you deliver stellar? Do you strive to please every single customer and ensure that their script is brought to life in such a rich way that they come back to you, because they can trust you? That is the mark of someone who understands the great responsibility we carry. It is not just about speaking into a microphone and sounding cool.
“I was told I have a good voice, so I am doing voiceovers.”
Is that you? Or are you more like this:
“Voiceovers are my mission, and my highest calling. I seek to lift those words off of the page and breathe life into them. I aim to honor every single client’s long, hard efforts to painstakingly write something wonderful.”
Regardless of what you wanted to be when you grew up, you are here now. You are a voice talent. But what does that word, talent, really mean?
Learn to pronounce
1. natural aptitude or skill, i.e.,
"he possesses more talent than any other player"
Are you really talented? Do you understand the great responsibility that comes with that natural aptitude or skill? You have been given a GIFT. Before you were born, in your very makeup, it was granted to you. A gift that somehow, in whatever way it worked out, enables you to read a script so compellingly that your audience actually believes you believe it. Will you honor that talent? Will you respect it? Will you seek to refine it?
Will you use it for good?
Used by permission from School Pr Pro via Pixabay
In The Incredibles, Edna Mode reproaches Bob Parr with the following admonition:
Bob was obsessed about remaining a superhero, and needed a new outfit. Edna was his designer. As his ideas for his new appearance began to take shape, he envisioned colors and patterns…and capes. Well, Edna rejected that outright, and proceeded to cite a number of examples of superheroes that came to an untimely end because of their capes. Thunderhead. Stratogale. Meta-Man. Dynaguy. Splashdown.
The truth is this: real heroes do not wear capes. These are Policeman. Firemen. Teachers. Volunteers.
Yes, Voice Talent. You are a capeless hero! You have great power. And with great power, comes great responsibility. Know that. You have great talent and natural aptitude or skill. Your delivery is your superpower. Your ability to produce great voiceovers makes you rise above the rest of the mortals. The fact that you get paid for it is secondary.
I may not have grown up to become any of the things I envisioned, but I do not really care. I will wager many adults do not care that their childhood career fantasies did not come true. And then there are some whose dreams did come true: the migrant worker who, as a child, lay on the ground and stared wistfully up at the stars and said “One day.” The Sea Shepherd whale warrior who was a sensitive child and cried when he saw a mouse in a trap, struggling painfully to get free. The London Symphony Philharmonic flautist who in their youth would listen and listen and listen again to symphonies, figuring out the progression of notes. The hairstylist who loved to playfully create dreadlocks and pony tails and other stylizations on their friends' craniums.
But for most, they have accepted where they are, and are content. What I love about where I am at and what I do, is that it is not in the slightest what I envisioned for myself as a child; but I am more than content. I unintentionally landed on a very heroic profession, and so, in many respects, I did end up becoming a policeman. A fireman. Batman.
Looking back, are you where you want to be? Do you understand the great power you have in you, and the great responsibility it carries? Will you answer the call?
YOU HAVE MADE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE END, AND I SALUTE YOU.
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Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Artist for hire