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Voice Over Etiquette — The Book!

Will Ryan reviews Voice Over Etiquette, a new book that teaches the basics of doing voice over work. While focused primarily on the advertising business, the book may offer a few tips for beginning animation hopefuls.


Well, okay. Never quite thought of it that way before. The word conjures up a whiff of elevated pinkies and antimacassars perhaps, but it does create a concise and arresting title. Points for that. One presupposes Rule Number One might be, "Dont be late for the session," and somewhere about midway through this 118 page trade paperback ones suspicions are finally confirmed. This is not an illogical delay, as it turns out, because the various tips and dicta presented herein roll out in a chronological "heres how you get started" approach, through such chapter monikers as "The Demo Reel," "Distributing the Demo Reel," "The Audition" and so on.

An Introduction

Chapter one is entitled "The Industry." As in "the voice over industry" cited in the books subtitle. "Industry?" one may ask oneself. Is the craft referred to actually a hitherto previously unsuspected mighty aggregate? "Business," maybe. "Racket," perhaps. But "Industry"? As the now-anticipated chapter proceeds, the author, alas, shies away from making the daring case that the voice-over game is anything more vital or enterprising than a relatively minor branch of the larger, more glamorous entertainment industry. Nor does he in the ensuing pages ever attempt to elevate the trade anywhere north of its position as one of the potentially-profitable-for-some-of-its-perpetrators props helping to hold up the dodgy business of advertising.

A more appropriate (to use a term borrowed from the Land of Etiquette) title to this first chapter would be "An Introduction to This Book," for that is what it is. The authors actual goal, as it turns out, is not to provide "the definitive guide to working in the voice over industry" as some misguided naif might presume from the subtitle displayed on the cover. Instead we are presented with a more accurate summation of the true aim of this slim but breezy tome: to produce a narrative of "fairly off the cuff" observations "directed toward those interested in becoming voice over talent." The vague and impersonal term "hopefully" is misemployed four or five times in the first two chapters in discussing various other authorial aspirations. Things finally seem to get started in chapter three, which, as it turns out, is entitled "Getting Started."

The Bottom Line

From then on the book succeeds pretty much on its own terms. For a novice, a non-actor, someone not active in any part of the show business, this may very well serve as an initial rough guide to the basics of the contemporary scene, at least as it appears from the perspective of Tennessee. For that is, in fact, where our author, an actor-director-engineer-producer and former Los Angeleno, is currently situated. Okay, thats not in the thick of things, but let's face it: The basics of the game aren't all that different across the continents or across the decades. A lot of advice on etiquette is simply codified common sense; "Much of what is expressed and suggested holds true for just about any profession," he forewarns us in the chapter entitled "The Industry."

A smattering of quotes from actors (and the stray agent and casting director) pepper the text rather sparsely. Four or five quotations are inexplicably recycled, sometimes within the space of a few pages. A good copy editor might have made this volume a much more enjoyable "read," to use a favourite term of the authors. And this is where the publisher lets the author — and us — down. For, on the one hand, we are presented with a fairly chummy and agreeable host whos on our side. He really does want to help us out, de-mystify this nook of the ad biz and show us how its all done. On the other hand, we are bedeviled at every turn by dubious punctuation choices and by that vile spawn of the age of "spell-check:" homophonic substitution.

If you think you might enjoy a friendly guide to the voice-over world in general (animation is little remarked upon as a specific sub-division, advertising properly being treated as the norm for this occupation) and you arent offput by the use of "its" for "its," "there" for "their," "wrap" for "rap," "whos" for "whose" or "conceded" for "conceited," then run out and buy (or, if you prefer, "by") this book.

Voice Over Etiquette — The definitive guide to working in the voice over industry by Bill Filipiak. Brentwood, Tennessee: Three F Publishing, 2002. 118 pages. ISBN: 0-9723532-0-8 (US$14.95)

Will Ryan, who usually records in Los Angeles, New York and London, once recorded an album in Tennessee featuring Clarence "Ducky" Nash. Everyone was on time.