photo © 2008 Andrey Maximov | more info (via: Wylio)I don’t remember who recommended it to me, but last year I started running a Google Search on my name that lets me know when I show up on the web. It’s a good thing to know when people are talking about you, and more importantly, what are they saying. If nothing else, it can be gratifying to see the hits, informative to know where backlinks to your website are showing up, and entertaining when it is seemingly untethered from reality.
Once I started voicing for ROOT Sports Northwest, I saw some posts about the “Root Sports voice over guy” on the SB Nation Seattle Mariners fan site, Lookout Landing. Some of it is pretty funny: I was blamed for the Mariners losing games, called drunk, and the very erudite “sounds like a retard given the confidence of a booth and multiple tries.” Ah, my fans.
But there was an interesting thread that came up speculating who the voice was. And since there was a press release out and circulating about my getting the gig, one of the enterprising Mariners fans was able to find the information and my picture. Once it was posted in the thread, there was a comment that I found pretty interesting (especially after being accused of being drunk):
“He looks exactly how he sounds like he should look.”
This got me to thinking. I know that I am doing something many voice artists don’t do; that is, letting people know what I look like. The standard argument against letting your face come into play is that it can get you stereotyped into or out of specific kinds of jobs. I remember specifically speaking to a female participant at Faffcon 2 about this problem. She believes because she is blonde, a picture would lead people to assume that she has a higher voice, where her actual voice is dark and smoky.
Age is also a consideration, particularly for women. Sadly, it has been reported frequently that even if a woman’s voice sounds much younger, she can miss out on a job because she may not look as youthful as she sounds.
And so I am curious: do you use your photo in your promotional material? Is it on your website, and if so, where? Do you think it has been a positive for you, or are you considering another direction? I would love to hear your thoughts.
UPDATE: Thanks to all the Mariners fans at Lookout Landing who stopped by to check out the post. You guys are pretty cool!
Lorelei King says
Really interesting question! I think people ARE influenced by appearance, age and so on – so there’s a lot to be said for being a bit mysterious. But for many artists who are also actors, that’s not really possible. Add social media to the equation, and it’s nearly impossible. But an interesting idea!
You are exactly right, Lorelei….it is pretty tough to stay completely image-free if you do ANY on camera work. But I know people who don’t and prefer to keep it that way.
Personally, I have to deal with it in that some don’t think I “sound” African-American. In this aspect, it can be “reassuring” to them that I in fact am (as if my name wasn’t a dead giveaway). But I also see that there may be some who won’t cast me for a voiceover gig because they assume I would have a much more ethnic sound than they may want, even if they listen to the spread of sounds I can provide in my demos. So yes…it is a conundrum.
Thanks for checking this out!
This is a massive issue for those of us starting out in the professional world as actors, voiceover artists or both.
I’m only in my early twenties and having graduated from drama school just two years ago I’m very much trying to find my feet and, most importantly what to market myself as, voice, face or both.
At the moment I’m trying to be everything I can, I have a versatile voice that works well in animation and comedy but also deep, sincere straight pieces. Match this with the face of a cheeky 24 year old and I can’t help but worry that it not only casts doubt into the minds of casting directors but may lose me voice work.
The only solution I can see is to hold two different brands, one for voice and one for stage and screen. That, however will bring us back to the first point of google rating and the ease of being able to match name to face.
Tricky one but a very interesting read.
It is an interesting place to be, James. Unless you use a different stage name for face work than voice work, it would be really tough to keep them separate, especially if you engage in the kind of guerilla marketing of your skills that seems to be what we have to do these days. Definitely easier if you only are going with a voiceover career.
Thanks for the comment!
Lauren McCullough says
Great post. I think there is a lot of merit to this topic. Unfortunately, we do make snap judgements based on an image, but luckily in our business pictures are not required of us so typically our voice is what’s being judged.
As far as our fans thinking our voice matches or does match it is just like any other “reviews” out there. You can either take it or leave it.
Personally, since I do both on and off camera my picture is everywhere. I’d like to think it doesn’t effect whether I get a job, but who knows.
I’m curious to hear other people chime in on this subject.
I admit, I was laughing at some of the interpretations of what the people were saying I sounded like. Maybe I was Dave Henderson, former MLB player? According to someone, it was clear I had never been a fan of a team in the Northwest, based on…..my interpretation of scripts? Funny stuff.
But how we look is always a factor due to the human nature of snap judgements, if not always a damaging one. If not, there wouldn’t be headshots, right? 🙂 But like you said, you may never know how many opportunities you may or may not have gotten based on your appearance. So the decisin seems to rest purely on the individual, and how much they want to hide or make public.
Thanks for checking in, Lauren!
The real question (from the perspective of those at Lookout Landing) is: Who is writing those scripts? That’s usually what people are deriding your work for.
And as an aside, most of us at Lookout Landing derive great enjoyment from your work.
We know you don’t write the scripts, but it’s fun to imagine that you’re really a Mariners fan, watching the games and coming up with the hilarious taglines.
That, I like to hear 🙂 Thank you for your kind words!
I gotcha. And I can’t tell you that, to be honest. but understand what they are trying to do with the entire concept of ROOT Sports. They are trying to create the image of the “die hard, I don’t care, they are MY team” fan, so sometimes the scripts may seem funny or silly based on the current performance of the team. But This guy, this fan doesn’t see the bad, or if he does, it’s not what he’s worried about. He wants a King Felix perfect game every time out, Pineda striking out 12, and if he doesn’t get it? Heck, there’s always tomorrow. Kinda like Cubs fans 🙂
I don’t know how it would affect other VO gigs, but at least for RS I actually think knowing what you look like adds to its effectiveness.
This is the first time I’ve seen you, (and to be honest that is not at all how I pictured you). Then I saw another one of your promos. And it was like how you picture one of your friends in your mind when talking to them on the phone. It felt like you called me up personally to tell me about the next home series. Very effective.
You have a great voice, by the way. Especially for that job. And thanks for sharing this. Ever since I first heard you, I wondered about the man behind the voice.
Hey Duncan, thanks for the feedback! That is exactly the kind of feel we are trying to get with these spots, different from the more straight up reads I give for the “Mariners Baseball is brought to you by…” and other things.
And though I am not a resident of the Northwest, I am a huge sports fan. The first team I ever loved was the SuperSonics, back in the days of one of my hometown favorites, Jack Sikma. So the channeling of feeling and emotion that comes into this is easy to generate. I have even been to a Mariners game back in the Kingdome, the night Ken Griffey Jr. hit a home run in his 8th straight game and Randy Johnson got his 1000th strikeout against the Twins. So yes, though I am a White Sox fan, I have a place in my heart for the Mariners 🙂
OK, I’ve got a question for you, too. Are you actually a Mariners fan? Do you watch the games? (Don’t worry, it won’t affect my enjoyment of your promos if you say no. I’m just curious)
I don’t watch mariners games typically, but i like to stay aware of what is going on. Since the Mariners and my White Sox seem to be in similar straits (well….you’ve for some dominant pitching available to you at least), I like to be in touch with what is happening so I’m not completely out of the reality of the team. My character is a die-hard fan, and yeah, sometimes that’s going to sound silly sometimes when the team isn’t doing well. But that’s what die hard fans do sometimes, right?
Thanks for the insightful replies!
Actually, I think almost everyone loves what you do, especially because your voice sounds believable even when the team is awful. I think the humor comes from being that excited when the team is lousy. If anything, you should ask the writers to be even more ridiculous. We guessed in the beginning of the year that the writers would grow more apathetic over time, and it seems to have happened exactly as expected, winning streak aside.
To me, you look exactly as you sound, but I’m sure some people think otherwise. Keep up the good work.
Thanks a lot! You don’t always hear feedback from the people you are trying to reach, so I really appreciate it!
I think this is an extremely interesting and valid point in the vo industry. I’ve spoken to a number of people who have consciously made the decision to not use real images of how they appear. Some have done it simply to distinguish themselves from others by using quirky images or graphics, while others, as you so correctly highlighted above, feel that their natural appearance may typecast them. I agree in some cases that the old “don’t judge a book by a cover” does actually unfortunately factor in. From my experience moreso with age than anything else.
If a copywriter is looking for a, we’ll say 30-something male and comes across images of what he perceives to be males of an older age group, the likelihood is he’ll scroll beyond in order to find what he imagines someone of that age to look like. And quite often before giving the voice a listen
Darragh, thanks for the comment. I think you are right, it is a gamble in some cases, hoping that people will see beyond the face. i have also heard that people want to see the face to know who they are dealing with. A friend of mine is redesigning her website, and she is straddling the line by putting her picture on an “About” page rather than right up front as I did. It is definitely a personal decision with no correct answer.
I appreciate you stopping by!