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Voice Wanted: ‘Upbeat, enthusiastic, authoritative. Preferably in falsetto’
… and other year-end musings about the online ‘medieval bazaar' from a veteran voice actor
By Robert Jadah
Voice Talent & Actor
Technology sure is making life easier for us acting types; especially if life means not getting enough work.
For example, on those rare occasions when I’m not busy not getting any acting work, I stay occupied by not getting any voice work, either.
And it’s all thanks to huge advances in home computers and sound software.
Where voice talents used to have to take half a day to flit about from sound studio to sound studio and get expensive parking tickets for the sake of two eight-second auditions, they can now transmit 20 auditions a day from the comfort of home.
This, of course, means they’re not getting 10 times as many jobs as they weren’t getting before.
That’s progress, caused chiefly by Internet sites where solid, professional talents pay to register their services.
They proudly put together a small compendium to showcase their articulate abilities. They list their distinguished accomplishments. Then industry people post their voice needs.
Within seconds, serious artists and craftspeople are babbling staccato into home microphones and flailing at keyboards to zip in their electronic auditions before the others.
It’s kind of like a quaint medieval bazaar, only with the jugglers and mimes and minstrels beating each other with gnarly cudgels so the browsers will stop and toss coins at them.
Indications are that the industry buyers love this spectacle and would like to see more of it.
They certainly seem to be seeking more and more voice actors, and requesting the most bizarre auditions.
In a typical posting, an agency might be looking for:
A James Earl Jones sound-alike … To read a 300-word grouting manual … Upbeat, enthusiastic, authoritative … Preferably in falsetto … Must be home-recorded in AIFF … Must be under two minutes’ duration … Some special effects … Prefer it to sound like a Baptist revival meeting … A rush job, for noon tomorrow.
This, of course, is the type of artistic challenge that serious talents cannot resist.
So when the buyer notes that the posting has a “Limited budget, but good chance for more work. Pays $50 in Grand Union coupons,” we hesitate for only about a nano-second.
I mean, this is high art. We’re talking interpretative waltz, or a gay Hamlet in Urdu. And there are countless uses for coupons.
So where’s my gnarly cudgel?
Within hours, 233 talents will have replied with custom demos. This, of course, means that 231 of them will join me in sadly wondering if maybe our popper-stopper needs replacing, or that $500 in solid falsetto training might be a good investment.
Equally odd are the portfolios of some talents. I know, because when you’re not working as much as I‘m not, there’s a lot of free time to check the competition.
One site features a talent’s lone specialty as “Grizzled, aging California surfer dude.” And another as “Southern Afro-American robot”.
Now, aside from having suitable postings about as often as they have twins, I can imagine their own private hurts when the buyer chooses the Aussie surfer instead. Or a mid-west Robot.
The entire voice scramble is beginning to make me suspicious. I think it may have created a new form of Saturday night entertainment: Voice Night Out.
A host goes to a voice forum and requests something like, “Need various owl voices for possible animation project. Please audition several variations, with owls speaking in various accents and moods. Please add sound effects. Be creative.”
Then the gang comes over on Saturday evening and everyone sits around listening to 170 earnest auditions to get the party going. What a hoot.
But maybe I’m just bitter and not seeing the upside.
After all, I’m not working a lot more than I used to not be. And I don’t even have to pay parking.
Editor’s note: Author Robert Jadah is an actor and voice talent who - despite his tongue-in-cheek lament - is hardly twiddling his VO thumbs. We thought that requesting a brief bio would lead to something amusing as well as informative … and it did (below). At further prompting, he even sheds a little humility to share recent credits.

I'd dabbled in theatre and TV, but was well-immersed in a non-VO world when casting agent Andrea Kenyon heard me on a business call at my place of dull work. Really.

She loved my voice, she said, and gave me her card. She told me to quickly concoct a portfolio/agent/demo combo. (Really. It does happen.)

That sounded difficult, so I didn't.

Then she called me two months later and asked me to audition for the role of Morla, the 1,000-year-old turtle in Tales from the Never-Ending Story. I did. I won the job.

I loved doing it.

No: I adored doing it. I chucked everything else and went whole-hog into screen and voice acting.

No job since has ever been as easy to win. But I still get Morla residuals. I love ancient turtles.

And there you are. Turns out I can't win a standard radio ad to save my life, but stay happily busy with corporates, dramatic reads, and the odd O/C TV VO.

It's a lovely craft.

OK, you also asked for specifics:

I’m the corporate voice of E-Z GO Golf Cars (Rhode Island), Gaggenau International (Germany), 3M Corporation (Europe), and the Canadian Navy. I'm also the voice of the evil Ganandorf in the latest Zelda, as well as the villain in two other soon-to-be-released interactive games.

As an actor, I had recent speaking roles in The Dead Zone (Episode Five) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2008). I'm also the tag line in the national Canadian AXA TV commercial, do the international radio imaging and liners for Radio Lollipop, plus monthly infomercials in my native Norwegian.

To counterbalance, though, I lost out on two studio auditions for Santa Claus voices last month. And to add insult to injury, I had to listen to the winners 83 times a day on the television.

I’m also a lousy bowler.
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