Back in my pre-Bend days, I thought I could make it as an television commercial actor and movie extra. Being on camera would be cool but it would simply be a way to get to what I really wanted to do- voiceover work.
I got enough work as an actor to require me to join the Screen Actors Guild. With a Guild card in hand, I got more commercial gigs but none that played endlessly thereby earning me handsome monthly residual checks.
I did, however, get the starring role of a gas station attendant in a Standard Oil Company training film. A film that drew howls of derision from friends who worked for the company and were subjected to watching it.
The training film, the adwork and a few movie extra parts helped pay my bar tab. But the work wasn’t steady not nearly as romantic as I’d envisioned it.
I stuck it out for a while going to auditions, working with a talent agent, and having glossy 8 x 10 photos taken to pass out to casting directors. But in the back of my mind this was still only preparp work for a voiceover career.
Eventually I cut a few voice tapes reading in my regular voice along bits featuring all sorts of accents. One of the demo reels was sent to cartoon maker Hanna-Barbera. Nothing came of it. But I still had dreams of becoming the next Bob Landers.
At that time, Landers was a true voiceover legend. He was the Jimmy Stewart-esque voice behind the Smuckers ads on radio and television. “With a name like Smuckers, it’s got to be good” 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 spend a couple of days recording one or two sentences and then go home and do what you want to do for months until you called back in again. And as the months roll by between tapings, fat 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 film “Americans on Everest” (“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 career opportunities.
Over the years I’ve often thought about what living the life of a voiceover artist would have been like and have met several who have made a wonderful career in the business.
Recently my voiceover memories came back with the spate of ads on local cable television for the upcoming monster car event coming up at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds.
Now that’s a voiceover I’d love 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 the monster truck event ads stick in your mind.
The voiceover artists (and I use the term here loosely) that make the monster truck ads have always had plenty of work from pro wrestling events to tractor pulls and heavy metal concerts.
I figure these guys get some electronic enhancement but even with it their vocal chords are only up to making a half-dozen commercials a year.
So maybe it’s time for me to cut a new voice demo CD. Hopefully it will lead me to doing a monster truck event commercial voiceover as my lasting contribution to American art.