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VOICE ACTING
A Little Girl Asked For My Autograph,
But I Learned: It's Not About Us
May 11, 2015

By Dan Hurst
Voice Actor

Itís Sunday afternoon and Iím going over the next weekís assignments and workload.

While doing that I have the Kansas City Royals on the TV. I suddenly hear my friend Mike McCartney, the Public Address announcer for the Royals call in a batter, and I am transported back to 14 years of my stint as the PA announcer for the Royals.

It was, for the most part, a magical tour. Oh, not all of it. Dealing with some of the head cases in baseball upper management positions is always a challenge. Not all. But some.

All in all, it was one of the highlights of my career.

"YOU'RE THE ANNOUNCER?"

For some reason I recalled an incident that changed my career as a voice talent. I donít even remember who we were playing at the time, but as normal, after the game, fans would gather by the exit doors where the players would walk out to go to their bus or, in the case of the Royals players, their cars.

Those were the same doors that the rest of the staff used to exit. Most of the time when I walked out, no one said a word to me. I hardly look like a baseball player.

But this one time as I walked out I noticed a little girl, probably about five or six years old, standing next to the ropes by her father. She was teary eyed, and I figured it was because it had been a late night and she was tired.

As I walked by she held up her ball glove and a Sharpie. I noticed and smiled. Her dad said, "Would you sign it? She hasnít been able to get anyone to sign it all night.Ē

I said, "Hey, Iím obviously not a ball player. Iím just the public address announcer.Ē

He suddenly got rather excited. "Youíre the announcer? Honey, this is the guy that says ĎNow battingí when the ball players come up to bat!Ē

Then he looked at me and said, "Thatís awesome! Would you sign her glove?Ē

Within minutes, I was surrounded by a crowd asking for my autograph.

CONNECT WITH THE LISTENER


It was all rather embarrassing. But I learned something special that night.

The late, great Kevin Gray, the guy who hired me for the Royals once told me,
"Youíre job is to be part of the fanís experience. As far as youíre concerned, it doesnít matter if we win or lose. The important thing is, did the fans have a good time? Every time you open that mic is an opportunity to make it a better experience for the fan.Ē
I soon realized the wisdom of those words. Even beyond that role as the public address announcer.

Our job as voice talents is to be a part of the listenerís experience. Itís really not our job to sell anything or hype anything. Our job is simply to connect with the listener. And in doing so, to connect the product or service with the listener.

WHAT I LEARNED ...

Let me share three things that I learned from that encounter with that little girl. Three things that relate to our job as voice talents.

1. Itís not our job to create emotion. Thatís the writerís job. Itís simply our job to say the words in a way that the listener can choose to create emotion.

We often confuse ourselves with music. Yeah, music. You know how during certain movie scenes the music enhances the action on the screen? For some reason, many of us think we are like that music - that itís our job to enhance the action on the screen.

Well, weíre not like that music. What would have happened if I, as the PA announcer, had opened the mic during a fly ball and in dramatic terms announced, "Itís a loooong fly ball to center field! Will he catch it and will the runner on third base score?Ē

I can tell you what would have happened. I would have been fined by Major League Baseball!

In voice work, itís not our job to create emotion. Itís simply our job to connect the information with the listener without interfering with the event. Let the action create its own emotion.

2. As voice talents, weíre not the story. Anything we do that detracts the listener from the story is a violation of our responsibility.

Kevin Gray once told me,
"I never want to hear from a fan that we have an awesome P.A. announcer. Because if I hear that, I know that they were distracted from what was happening on the field.Ē
Yeah, that hurt. A little. But I understood what he was saying.

If I may use the metaphor of a painting, all we are as voice talents is a brush stroke. If we draw attention to that particular brush stroke, the painting is ruined.Ē

3. What we do as voice talents really is magic.

Just like with that dad and his little girl, it was special because of his experience. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. It was all about him and his experience.

The same thing is true with what we do as voice talents. Itís not about us. Itís about the listeners, their experience, and their connection with the product or service.

But we have to remember, we donít create that experience. We reflect it.
---------------
ABOUT DAN
Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business now extends internationally, with clients including Maserati, Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, McDonalds, Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada, Walmart and many more. When heís not working, he spends his time cheering for losing sports teams and getting kicked off of golf courses.


Email: danhurst@danhurst.com
Web: www.DanHurst.com


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Comments (14)
Dan Hurst
5/16/2015 at 9:21 AM
Hi Joe!

Thanks! You bet. Iíd be happy to address that.

A friend of mine from an ad agency shared some auditions that he had gotten for a PSA.. The tag line he had written was ďWater. Flowing with life.Ē No one seemed to get the meaning of that tag.

Almost all of the auditions read the copy as (emphasis capitalized): ďWATER...FLOWING with LIFE!Ē Or WATER. Flowing with LIFE!Ē

The problem was that in the context of the copy, the idea was that as life flowed along, water is a part of it. What my friend had been trying to convey, among other things in the copy, was a very simple, low-keyed word picture of water flowing along as life flows.

There are power words and there are action words in every piece of copy. Itís been my experience that most voice talents tend to emphasize both, but the truth is that almost never do those words really need emphasis. Maybe a little love. Maybe a little space. But they donít really need to be dramatically expressed because the words speak for themselves, and the listener already has a concept and interpretation of those words - that's why the writer uses them. Itís not our job to interpret those words for them. Rather, we are to deliver the contextual meaning of the phrase. Let space and timing bring the copy to life, not necessarily volume or pitch.

Hope that helps!
Joe Hempel
5/16/2015 at 12:03 AM
Hey there! What a fantastic write up! I had a question for you regarding something in the section of "What I Learned."

You state -- Thatís the writerís job. Itís simply our job to say the words in a way that the listener can choose to create emotion. -- Is there any way to clarify what you meant by that? Or maybe someone can chime in and clarify?

Thanks!!
Mike Sessums
5/12/2015 at 10:39 PM
Great analogies. Thanks for the insight.
Kent Ingram
5/12/2015 at 1:39 PM
Dan, what a profound article this is! Thank you! I don't think I could have described this business any better than you have. Between you, Paul Strikwerda and Dave Courvoisier, I've gotten tremendous insight about my role as a voice actor and voice-over talent. What we do is like setting the table for a luxurious banquet. It sets the mood, but doesn't distract from the elegance of the banquet. Take care.
Joel Richards
5/12/2015 at 8:26 AM
Wonderful story Dan!
Mike Harrison
5/12/2015 at 6:50 AM
BOOM!

Dan nails it... over the fence.

"Anything we do that detracts the listener from the story is a violation of our responsibility." ó This includes sounding like we we're seeing the words for the first time. If we don't connect with the copy, there's no way the listener will.

"I never want to hear from a fan that we have an awesome P.A. announcer. Because if I hear that, I know that they were distracted from what was happening on the field.Ē ó Well... you *might* hear that from someone who was less interested in the game but more interested in becoming an excellent P.A. announcer. ;)

Excellent points made in a terrific story. Thanks, Dan.

(30-ish years ago, I was doing spots on New York radio promoting the rock and dance clubs in the NY-NJ-CT area when a clerk at a deli counter recognized my voice. My embarrassed response: "Thanks. May I have a taste the seafood salad, please?")
Dave Courvoisier
5/11/2015 at 11:43 PM
Might I add an anecdote that builds on this theme? I've been on Vegas TV for 25 years+. But when I'm recognized in the grocery store, they rarely call me by name. I'm "...that news guy..." -- or -- "I like your news."

Big compliment! They identify me with the news...or the viewer experience during that half-hour. Yeah, they might recognize the face or the voice, but it's the "news" they mention.

'Makes me happy.
Dave Courvoisier
Debby Barnes
5/11/2015 at 5:51 PM
This article is magic, DH. What an offering! :)
Philip Banks
5/11/2015 at 3:24 PM
What a delight to read. Thank you, Dan.
Lee Gordon
5/11/2015 at 2:37 PM
That was awesome, Dan. Can I have your autograph?
Johnny George
5/11/2015 at 2:05 PM
Dan - I don't what I can say that hasn't already been said by the other comments here. What a great story and redefining our role. Never looked at it that way and you put it so perfectly.

You bring so much to your voice work. Continue to set the bar high for the rest of us.

loretta yates
5/11/2015 at 1:05 PM
So well said! All true. I actually have known Dan Hurst for over 30 years........and it just doesn't get better than his work! A rare find to find someone with insane talent, integrity, quick wit and a huge heart! If you EVER get a chance to work with this guy...jump at it! You..or your company...may never be the same! (In a good way! )
Elizabeth Holmes
5/11/2015 at 11:32 AM
Wow Dan. I'm both touched and enriched by your story. It's a very helpful perspective on our work as voice actors. Thank you, so much!
Rosi Amador
5/11/2015 at 7:37 AM
Beautiful story so eloquently put. Thank you for sharing this, and what a great storyteller you are!

Gracias,
Rosi
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