The Day I Got Called An Amateur:
How authenticity will help your voice over career
I am grateful to work with a variety of clients, and because I’m on the talent roster for several companies that produce hundreds of commercials per year, I never know who I’ll be auditioning for next. One of my favorite such production houses asked me for an audition earlier this week for a non-profit that I dearly love. There were no specs, so I had only my knowledge of the organization and the words in the script to go off of.
And what do you know, the client picked me! When the producer sent back the request to record, she included the client’s notes as to why they chose my read over the other talents who auditioned:
“Her VO had the most raw emotion – with almost an amateur quality (i.e. real) that made me take notice. I feel her voice would cut through the typical commercial gloss.”
The first word my eyes saw was “amateur,” but before my ego could protest, I thought about what that really means. As consumers, we are sick to death of fakery. The rise of social media can bring about either a picture-perfect perception of someone’s life/career/etc, or allow a glimpse behind the scenes that brings with it a sense of vulnerability. I myself struggle to know how far to pull back the curtain on what my non-glamorous life often entails.
So when I saw that “amateur” actually meant “real”, I took it as a compliment. After all, the client chose me, so they obviously liked what they heard. And I appreciated the fact that they could hear my authentic, Midwestern honesty even in a 30-second recording. That comment made me feel understood, and I loved that they valued me for being myself.
Voiceover talents are actors, but for me, every role I play contains part of who I really am. Right now I’m teaching my 4-year-old how to read, so I know the patient/excited/encouraging way teachers sound when they speak. I’m a mom of four kids who lives in Missouri, so I well know the rainbow of frustration/joy/reflection/guilt/sarcasm in which a mother uses her words on a daily basis. I’ve been happily married for almost 14 years, so I can easily portray the sultry confidence of a wife who knows she is truly loved. I am thankful to be a friend to many, so cracking jokes, telling stories, venting, and relating something awesome I just learned is part of my everyday conversations.
At the end of the day, we are all just humans. And we want to hear commercials, receive information, and see videos that we can relate to. Authenticity is key to the human desire to connect, and a voice we can connect with is a voice that will connect with the true emotions of an audience.
So go ahead, call me an amateur. I’ll take it as a compliment.