Back in my pre-Bend days, I thought I could make it as a television commercial actor and movie extra. Being on camera would be cool enough but better it would help me get to what I really wanted to do and that was to become a voiceover person.
I got enough work as an actor so that I was required to join the Screen Actors Guild. With a Guild card in hand, I got more parts in commercials, none of which played forever earning me handsome residuals check every month.
I did, however, star as a gas station attendant in a Standard Oil Company training film which drew howls of derision from friends who worked for the company and were subjected to the film.
The training film, the ads and a few movie extra parts that helped pay my bar tab. But the work was spotty and not at all as romantic as I'd envisioned it.
I kept at it going to auditions, working through a talent agent, having glossy 8 x 10 photos taken to pass out to casting directors. But in the back of my mind this was still only preparation for a voiceover career.
I eventually did cut a few tapes of me reading in my regular voice and in bits featuring all sorts of accents. A demo reel was sent to cartoon maker Hanna-Barbera. Nothing came of it. But I still had hopes of becoming the next Bob Landers.
At that time, Landers was a true voiceover legend. His was the Jimmie Stewart-esque voice behind the Smuckers ads on radio and television. "If it's good, it's goit to be Smuckers" That was Landers stock line and he made a hefty annual income from saying just that and not too much more.
What a life. You go into the studio and spent a couple of days recording one or two sentences and then go home and do what you want to do for months until you get called back in again. And as the months roll by between tapings, residual checks keep rolling in.
Well there were only going to be so many Bob Landers , so I decided to shift to movie voiceover work. I got a couple of jobs and then after hearing Orson Welles do the voiceover for the "Americans on Everets" movie ("higher and higher they went, to the summit, to the roof of the world" ) I decided I was definitely minor league. I moved on to other employment possibilities.
Over the years I've often thought about the life of the voiceover artists and have met several who have made a wonderful careers in the business.
I hadn't though much about voiceover for years until the recent spate of ads on local cable television for the upcoming monster car event in Redmond.
Now that's a voiceover I'd love to be able to do. It's that blend of heavy metal screeching with psycho throat damaging rasp that is at once obnoxious but also memorable. I mean those monster truck event ads stick in your mind.
The voiceover artists (and I use the term loosely here) that make the monster truck ads have always had plenty of work from ads for wrestling events, tractor pulls and metal concerts.
I figure these guys are electronically enhanced but even with help their vocal chords are only up to making a half-dozen commercials a year.
So maybe it's time for me to cut a demo CD and leave a monster truck event commercial voiceover as my lasting contribution to American art.