A view from the other side

I received a very nice note the other day from Dianne Russell, asking if I would consider posting the following on my blog. It’s her view of life with a voice actor and I found it very interesting. I hope you will too. (Dianne originally posted this on her blog, here.)

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Living with a voice actor is a privilege few people can profess to have experienced. It is a life like no other – a constantly changing whirlwind of auditory dreams and fantasies, occasionally peppered with startling aural hallucinations.

For a person who requires a partner of certain steadiness and a routine of relative constancy, the lair of a voice actor is not one to call home. For those who shy away from strangers, the home of a voice actor will be sure to trigger social anxiety attacks of the third kind. For those who love to luxuriate in peace and quiet, a voice actor’s den of sound will over-stimulate to the point of mania.

For you see, a voice actor is not a normal person, and a voice actor’s home is not a normal home. A voice actor is a montage of characters, some known, some not yet known (and others hopefully never known!). A voice actor’s home is a non-stop, live-action theatre, and one never knows what or who lurks behind the studio door. I live with a voice actor, and though my life has been far richer for it, it is not a life for the average soul. 

The man behind the VOICE.

My day begins and ends with voices – voices in strange languages, accents, speech impediments, dialects and sub-dialects of every kind; voices of all ages, races, social and educational levels, and even genders; funny voices, ridiculous voices, so-freaking-sexy-that-I can’t concentrate-on-making-breakfast voices, evil voices, irritating, nails-on-chalkboard voices, angry voices, whispering voices, screeching voices, gay as in pride parade voices…I’ve almost heard it all. However, when I truly do think I’ve heard it all, I am quickly put in my place and proven wrong.

When I open the studio door to deliver the morning cup of coffee, I brace myself lest I be vocally assaulted and subsequently cover myself in second-degree burns. Who will be sitting in front of the microphone when I round the corner?

A snivelling old Eastern European man, bitter with loneliness and the pain of having lost the only love he ever had, describing the soothing relief of a new and improved anti-itch cream?

A zombie-lizard with a Pan-African accent (with maybe a hint of Nigerian dictator), bellowing to his pelican underlings that the lions are coming and war is imminent? 

I Love my Voice Actor!

A giggling gay TV talk show host, tittering about the fabulous new Manolo Blahniks Helena Christiansen was sporting at the opening of her new documentary, Old Models Gone Wild?

A South Asian jeweller, praising the new ruby bindis that have arrived with the spring collection?

A Zulu ultimate fighter, chanting in actual Zulu? (To hear the Zulu, check this out: http://gamevoices.ning.com/video/video/listForContributor?screenName=2knke6h2qepqv). 

Or maybe I’ll find a frantic, nasal-sounding Chinese noodle cook, shouting at an ungrateful customer on the streets of Jersey.

Or, even better, there will be a lion. Not a man, but a startlingly real, snarling, growling, rogue African lion, ready to pounce on the first whiff of fear.

Besides the auditory collage of characters I encounter in the studio (and occasionally in the hallway, kitchen, and yes, even the bedroom), I am also exposed to an extraordinary amount of information. Yes, that’s right; living with a voice actor is more educational and less expensive than an American college education. From commercials to cartoons, audio books to ringbacks, museum narrations to CNN specials, corporate training videos to documentaries, I am hit by a barrage of information – both wanted and unwanted – every single day.

I have discovered organic haemorrhoid creams and environmentally friendly motor oils, deeply moving audio books about the holocaust and stunning short art films, socially responsible online games and management seminars on non-discriminatory hiring practices. With upwards of 30 different auditions happening every day, the volumes of information to which I am involuntarily exposed (I suspect some will argue that this is completely voluntary, but for creative purposes, I decline to agree) is mind-numbing. 

Just Imagine…

So back to the bedroom. As one might suspect, one of the best parts of living with a voice actor is that it is never boring – and that also includes life in the voice actor’s boudoir. With a different man in your house every day, and often (sometimes by special request, sometimes by surprise) a different man in your bed at night, the stimulation is nonstop. “Talk dirty to me, baby” comes with its own menu. Fantasizing about Julio Iglesias? Dying to make out with Sean Connery? Or maybe your personal kink is the Swedish Chef. (And for you freaks out there, ordering the rogue African lion or the zombie-lizard for a nightcap is disturbingly hot.)

Whatever or whoever gets you through the night, living with a voice actor can bring you closer to the stars.

Despite perks of the sexual variety, voice acting is a tough gig that requires more motivation and drive than I ever imagined. Starting early in the morning, finishing late at night, and working on and off throughout the day, my voice artist works bloody hard to respond to the droves of incoming auditions. An internet-mining expert, he can find the most obscure voice jobs which he painstakingly records, edits, invoices and sends back to the source in as short as 20 minutes or as long as 20 hours. 

Some people say that earning $500 for a two-minute commercial is ridiculous, but the amount of time spent auditioning and editing would put most nine-to-fivers to shame. 

The mortal enemy – NOISE.

As for me, I have learned that although my mate is at home all day, I must be wary of all possible noise disruptions – noise is the mortal enemy of the voice actor. When the studio door is closed, I tiptoe through the house, rather enjoying the fact that cleaning the kitchen will have to wait, yet again, lest I interrupt the recording by clanking a glass or slamming a cupboard.

Sometimes, when the sounds coming from the studio send me into hysterics, I smother my face in a pillow or stuff my mouth with the nearest dishcloth to keep from shrieking with laughter.

There are other issues as well. Hypochondria takes on a whole new meaning in a voice actor’s house as any disruption to vocal cord function due to a cold or sore throat could result in thousands of lost dollars. Slippery Elm powder is as much a household basic as dishwashing liquid and bedroom windows are sealed shut at night at the slightest whisper of a cool south-easterly.

Living with a voice actor is a life that not everyone can live. For me, however, it appeals to my lifelong fascination with eccentric creativity and my ADHD-driven hunger for constant stimulation. It also brings me to my knees in gales of laughter, every single day.

Laughing with and at my voice actor is my favorite thing on earth. I can’t wait to see who or what I find in the studio tomorrow…

To hear my voice actor, check out http://www.adambehr.com

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If you’d like to read more of what Dianne has written, visit her blog Yea, but …

4 Comments

  1. Bob! Thanks so much!

    Comment by Dianne — April 30, 2010 @ 5:14 am

  2. This was GREAT!
    I forwarded it to my husband! 🙂

    Peace!

    Liz

    Comment by Liz de Nesnera - Bilingual English/French Voiceover — April 30, 2010 @ 8:50 am

  3. oh, such an observant, understanding, and (most of all) appreciative woman!

    Comment by rowell gormon — April 30, 2010 @ 10:44 am

  4. ^^^ I have to agree with Rowell! And the voice acting sounds terrif.

    Comment by Jess S. — August 31, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

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