Ten Lies Voice Overs Tell

Pants on fireHow far would you go to get ahead in this game we call the voiceover market place?

Would you betray your pacifist principles and record a promotional video for land mines?

Would you flirt with the casting director?

Would you badmouth a colleague in the hopes of improving your odds?

As soon as money is involved, people are prepared to sell their dignity and self-respect to the highest bidder, and it’s Survival of the Slickest and every man for himself. Take no prisoners. After all, the economy sucks and it ain’t getting better any time soon. If it’s a choice between you and me, my friend, it better be me.

In an attempt to break into the business or simply stay afloat, people even start sinning against the Ninth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. What do they tell you in this business?

If you can’t make it, just fake it!

That’s why the almighty Internet is inundated with pretenders, posers, anonymous commentators and self-styled experts. In this day and age where the latest is the greatest, nobody bothers to fact-check anymore. It’s the ideal opportunity to be whoever you say you are. No questions asked. It’s in black and white. That means it’s reliable, right?

Now, don’t believe for one second that the people in our community are holier than the Pope. They are not. Some of them are spinning a world wide web of lies. Of course they don’t call it that. They see it as innocent embellishments of the truth. The means justify the ends. Meanwhile, they are walking around with their pants on fire.

Here’s my Top 10 of the most common lies people tell to get ahead as a voice talent:

1. Experience

Lie: “With years of experience under her belt, Carla can handle almost any project.”
Truth: Carla has been at it for five months; part-time, that is.

2. Training & Coaching

Lie: “Roger has studied with some of the world’s best coaches.”
Truth: He took an introductory course at the local community college.

3. Clients

Lie: “John has recorded voice-overs for some of the biggest names in business.”
Truth: John wishes he had recorded voice-overs for some of the biggest names in business.

4. Equipment

Lie: “Peter exclusively uses his trusted Neumann U87, arguably the best known and most widely used studio microphone in the world.”
Truth: Peter doesn’t even know how to correctly pronounce the name Neumann. He is the proud owner of a second-hand Chinese condenser he got off eBay for $65.

5. Home studio

Lie: “Heather records her voiceovers in her professional studio, guaranteeing you the highest audio quality possible.”
Truth: “Heather hides inside a bedroom closet and she has no idea why this mattress foam won’t keep the noise out. She wonders: Should I have used egg crates instead?”

6. Demos

Lie: It sounds like Thomas really voiced those national campaigns, doesn’t it?
Truth: The scripts were stolen from auditions that never worked out. An audio engineer friend helped him with the music.

7a. Languages and accents

Lie: “Jerome speaks Dutch and is available for your eLearning projects.”
Truth: Jerome was born, raised and educated in Flanders (Belgium) and speaks Flemish. Dutch and Flemish are just as related and just as different as American and British English. Substitute Dutch and Flemish for other languages and accents to expose other actors.

7b. Native speakers

Lie: “Maria was born and raised in Germany and speaks ‘Hochdeutsch’ or Standard German.”
Truth: Maria moved to the U.S. when she was seventeen and thirty years later, she stills lives in Dallas. Ever heard a German with a Texas twang?

8. Testimonials

Lie: “Jennifer was a delight to work with. Our company would not hesitate to hire her again.”
Truth: Jennifer never worked for “that company” and she is the author of this endorsement.

9. Head shots

Lie: We see a young, smiling face, staring confidently into the camera.
Truth: After ten years, Harry doesn’t look like his old headshot anymore. He’s become bitter and it shows. He also gained twenty pounds.

10. Believing that you won’t get caught

You see, people with real credentials have real experience and a real portfolio. They don’t have to hide behind vague descriptions and false advertising. The truth will always come out and when it does, it will damage a career that never was and probably never will be.

SPOTTING THE ROTTEN APPLE

You don’t have to be a detective to find the fakers. Liars usually do a great job exposing themselves. I was emailing one of my colleagues the other day, and he shared the following story with me:

“I’ve read your blogs regarding people that want to be a voiceover talent with interest. I have some ideas on people that are “posing” as voiceover talent and how to spot them immediately.

For example: a young lady recently posted on a LinkedIn forum complaining that she wasn’t being hired via sites like voices.com and how obviously the system was flawed, and that was the reason she wasn’t getting work.

I visited her website to find that (through the placement of national logos for Burger King and Nissan) she had implicated that she’d done voiceover work for national companies.

When I listened to her demo it was apparent that she had nowhere near the skill level of a national voice talent.

Furthermore – on her website there was a mention of a client that she claimed as her client, when in fact, it had been MY client for more than four years. A quick check with producers led me to find that this person had never worked with that company.

In short, she wasn’t getting work because she sucked as a “talent”. And yet, she couldn’t hear this, and was angry with the world because she wasn’t getting work.

What are these people thinking? Do they really believe they can fool an experienced producer or Creative Service Director?”

ACTORS ARE LIARS

People in our profession have a strange relationship with the truth. We get paid to pretend. The most convincing liars get the nicest paychecks, an Oscar and a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

However, true talent, trust and integrity are the cornerstones of a successful career.

Trust must be earned.

True talent and integrity can never be faked.

Ain’t that the truth?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs." goo.gl/ihVpMc

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Promotion, Social Media

45 Responses to Ten Lies Voice Overs Tell

  1. bobby

    I believe that the liars of which you speak are simply bad at it. There exist numerous stories of now famous people who LIED to get an audition or embellished their resume. They however either also possessed talent, had worked at it for years in anonymity (and without work) or had that a marketable (beautiful) look or great sound. While I respect your purist views, I politely disagree and posit that ‘fake it till you make it’ is as much a part of the entertainment biz as it is in any other line of work. I have known people with great jobs who attained them by lying about a college degree or other experience. The flat truth is this: talent, training, and great gear will only get you so far. Even if you are good at marketing yourself. sometimes you need the use of subtle embelishments. Unless you want to wait for lady luck, sometimes your preparation requires the creation of opportunity. Of course, if you don’t train, practice, or have the proper equipment, then you will be exposed. And even then, not always, cause if you get hired due to a great look or sound, you will eventually learn the ropes. I know we like to pretend this world is equitable, but it is not. So, don’t be so naïve about the need for deception – though well done – as a tool for success. Eventually you wont be a fake, and you will simply have made it. Fate until you make it – there is a reason why this expression exists.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I believe this is a matter of personal ethics. While some kind of an embellishment may be perfectly acceptable to one person, another person might find it totally improper and misleading.

    If a certain actor is so good at faking it that he convinces the casting agent to hire him, he’s not faking his acting abilities. He’s proving the point that he should be hired!

    [Reply]

  2. Chuck Davis

    Just as it is with social media, anything posted on the interwebs lasts forever. Be careful what you say in your efforts to promote your new career, it may come back to haunt you later on.

    Great read Paul..and great seeing you at Uncle Roys!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It was great seeing you too, Chuck. You’re right: the internet has a long, long memory, and some people are really good at digging up dirt.

    [Reply]

  3. Philip Banks

    Every day I work and every day the work I do is as dull as ditch water so I lie through my teeth in order to make myself appear, at best, never very far from being interesting.

    Those who have achieved loftier heights than I in the business of Voice that we call Overs do not need to embellish as they leap every day into their LAmbougine …Lmabergin …Ferraris and make several thousand dollars for going into a studio and pausing, cheaper Voice talents say the actually words.

    Forgive me for trying to self aggrandize but four shillings and sixpence is not enough to pay my bills. Excuse me I have a game of tennis booked with Elvis and two Kardashians and I AM SO NOT LYING!

    [Reply]

  4. Mike Harrison

    Thanks for another great read, Paul.

    I’ve found that lying about qualifications and ability is not limited to those calling themselves talent, but also includes many self-appointed coaches, as well. Many of these “coaches” lied some of their students into believing they were competitive… in order to sell a demo.

    Some call it “spin.” But the only spin of any real value is that which follows the rinse cycle.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I like your spin on my blog post, Mike. I do find that my personal spin affects my turnaround time…

    [Reply]

  5. Peter K.O\'Connell

    “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

    Wait, there’s sowing in voiceover now?

    Crap! I’m no good with thread and needles scare me.

    I am SO screwed.

    Best always,
    -Peter

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    @Peter: I used to cut and paste tape with a razor blade, but I’ve never tried sewing the pieces back together. Okay… this line only works if you read it out loud. As a pun it’s only so-so.

    [Reply]

  6. Paul Strikwerda

    Have you ever seen Prime Ministers’ Question time on the BBC? Compare that to any political debate going on over here, and most U.S. politicians look like an orator going for the lowest common denominator (no matter from which party they are).

    If they dare to use logical reasoning, intellect and words that are not in everyone’s basic vocabulary, the critics will say that the debaters have “lost touch with the man on the street and that they come across as professorial.”

    Are we really electing someone to run this nation based on sound bites, and give him (or her) two years to fix the mess the others have left behind?

    Acting and politics are closely related. I seem to remember one president who did both…

    [Reply]

  7. Dave Courvoisier

    Paul,

    I think it was movie great Spencer Tracey who said: “Acting is all about authenticity…if you can fake that, you got it made!”

    And about presidential debates: They’re as full of hyperbole and twisted figures as the so-called “scientific polls”. In a sense, it’s part of the great American political process…but with instant internet fact-checking…harder and harder to pull off.

    Good stuff, Paul!!

    Dave Courvoisier

    [Reply]

  8. Carl Bobb

    As a wanna-be voice actor I struggled with what to put on my website services page. It’s VERY obvious to me that I’m a beginner, so I’m careful to whom I market myself. What little work I’ve done has been done in the comfort of my little basement cave and only for people who know me and trust me to do the best that I can. They know I’m a beginner.

    If I learn to perform better, the right people hear it and more importantly, I know in my heart I CAN perform with the big boys, then I’ll never need to lie and might get some better gigs. Then again, I’m tempted like any man to think I’m better than I am.

    Thank you for encouraging me not to brag that I can ski the Lauberhorn http://www.lauberhorn.ch/en/ when I’m actually only capable of meadowland…. which is as flat as Holland.

    ufwiederluege,

    Carl

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Beginners are in a bind. If you come across as an amateur, who will hire you? If you embellish your resume, you’re faking it.

    Having a world wide web presence means that you can’t pick or choose whom will be visiting your site. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

    We are better than we think we are. Every thought is a limited reflection of a complex reality. No matter who you think you are, you are always more than that.

    [Reply]

  9. Paul Strikwerda

    The best movies often make us laugh and cry.

    Thank goodness for sites like http://factcheck.org/ Take a look at their analysis of the latest debate between Republican presidential candidates. The headline:

    “GOP presidential hopefuls exchange false, misleading claims in Florida forum.”

    Are these the people we’re supposed to turn to in this economic crisis?

    Where do our ‘colleagues’ get the idea from that it’s okay to exaggerate and not be factual?

    [Reply]

    Lauren McCullough Reply:

    I don’t know why anyone would lie about their job experience. (aside from the obvious reason of getting hired)

    Personally, I wouldn’t be able to feel comfortable putting that out into the world because it will come back to get you in the end. Besides, I’d much rather aim high & actually GET the clients instead of pretend I put the work into landing them.

    [Reply]

  10. Lauren McCullough

    Paul,

    I was recently having a discussion about the lack of fact-checking within our major news media…if it’s an acceptable practice for our pundits & politicians to just say whatever they want without having any thing to back it up with, it’s really no surprise that it runs rampant on the internet.

    PHEW. Ok I’m good now after that mini rant.

    Loved the post, and I agree with Dan…it’s sad & funny because it’s true.

    [Reply]

  11. Paul Strikwerda

    Hi Tom, I don’t see shows like “American Idol” or “America’s got talent” as part of reality. At best, it is ‘enhanced’ or ‘manipulated’ reality. Candidates are not selected for their talent but for the dramatic impact they could have on the storyline of the competition.

    The judges are selected for their entertainment value first and for their industry expertise second. What the producers want us to believe and what really happens on these shows, is a very different story.

    [Reply]

  12. Tom Daniels

    Paul, regarding your colleague’s comment. “What are these people thinking? Do they really believe they can fool an experienced producer or Creative Service Director?”

    One only has to watch the audition sessions for “American Idol” or any of the blossoming multitude of other network talent competitions to discover the answer to that question is a resounding, YES!

    [Reply]

  13. Miné Bilgé

    Geweldig,Paul !
    @Dan and @Rick L.,I agree 110%…Ethical credibility becomes a “virtue” recently.People still cannot get the power of digital world which makes the really small Planet a “Much Smaller World”!
    We have NO SHADOWS anymore;everything and everyone is so transparently naked under the high beams of this socially expanding networking(like a spider web): Once you get caught, you ought to know how to get out.This article should be a booklette for those who think that World has still some shadows to hide and lurke.
    Thanks for the DiDACTiC inputs,Paul.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You’re very welcome. It’s a big planet but an increasingly smaller world!

    [Reply]

  14. Michael J. Schoen

    Another great write, Paul. The VO business is very Darwinian and people who lie about their qualifications will not get very far.
    The VO business is very tempting because all you have to do is talk and people will shower you with treasure. Soon enough people who lack the talent or who don’t wish to put in the effort will fall by the wayside.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you, Michael. A rich imagination does not make up for a lack of talent.

    [Reply]

  15. M J Lallo

    WHOA Paul DITTO!!!! Here is what I get alot— an invite to coffee for a networking meeting from a fantastic VO talent with tons of connections to give me. They have none… LOL! They don’t even buy me the coffee.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    These people must be disconnected from their connections. It sounds like the coffee was an excuse to harvest your network. That must leave a bitter aftertaste.

    [Reply]

  16. Helen Lloyd

    Brilliant! And I particularly love that fact that the liars do get caught out – eventually!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Isn’t that always the case? Look at Bernie Madoff! Honesty is the best policy.

    [Reply]

  17. Rick Lance

    Integrity, Truth, Honesty, Expert…. What are these words?!
    Hey, this is the internet! It’s a free for all!!!

    I keep telling my Dad to STOP sending me all the latest political, righteous, slanderous, so-called-joke material he passes around
    everyday. I’ve said, “Dad, it’s the internet! The largest library and resource of BS in the world! Do you believe everything you read?” Never mind the fact that he’s 85, a staunch Texas republican who tends to categorize everyone as to age, race, gender, ethnicity, political persuasion, sexual preference and religious belief. Using this as his criteria for deciding the true worth of an individual. But of course, I still love him.

    Paul, I grinned the whole time I read through the article. Yes, it is so true what you say. Actors especially are very good at creating an the ideal world they can live in on line. Some are profiting from it.
    They are free to do that, of course. It just means one has to be diligent enough to consider and research a source before getting involved.

    Interesting what Tom P. is saying regarding “shiny production house” demos. Except for my very first commercial demo, I have always produced my own demos. Maybe because I want full control of the performances and production. It may take me a couple of weeks evaluating them… listening to them with fresh ears, ect. I never wanted them to be so slick that they sound like I would not be able to reproduce that sound for a gig. And they’ve always served me well.

    Oh, btw, Paul… I have heard a German with a Texas twang! In fact, the Hill Country in Texas is full of beautiful little German settlement towns!

    Keep writing what you feel, bud! It’s always informative and entertaining!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    If you grin, I win! I’m glad that, after so many blogs, you still find me entertaining. Our community gives me plenty to write about. I had no idea there was such a thing as a German-Texas twang.

    [Reply]

  18. Dan Friedman

    Very entertaining read Paul! Because some of it is so funny, I wish I could say something clever and pithy like… you may have exaggerated the truth a bit ;-). Sadly, I can not because these people are out there.

    Have a great day!

    Dan Friedman
    http://www.sound4vo.com
    http://www.procommvoices.com

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Sometimes, the sad truth can be extremely funny 🙂

    [Reply]

  19. Paul Strikwerda

    Thank you, Stephanie!

    It all revolves around the concept of being truthful. Are we being truthful to ourselves and truthful to others?

    Lies -whether black or white- have a tendency to come back and haunt us.

    “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

    [Reply]

  20. Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Bravo, Paul! This has been an entertaining read for me. I appreciate your no nonsense take on this and agree that integrity plays an enormous role in a successful career.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and for singling out particular areas where some may fall short of the mark. This post serves as a good education for any actor or freelance service provider.

    Best wishes,

    Stephanie

    [Reply]

  21. Tom Test

    I disagree with point 6, Paul. I’ve been a talent in a major market for over 20 years, and was a successful demo producer in the 90’s. Using commercial scripts without authorization is fair game, as long as you are not using the script as part of a product that is being sold. Our VO demos are not sold, they are given away. I’m telling you, it is standard operating procedure, and has been for decades. Nothing illegal about it, and it is understood that not every clip on a demo is from an actual spot. It is only unethical is a talent specifically tries to make it appear that they actually recorded the aired spot, when in fact they did not.

    However, using scripts from *non-broadcast* material without permission CAN be considered unethical and illegal, since much of this material is proprietary and confidential. For example, if I am narrating a project that is meant to excite salepeople for a company’s upcoming sales campaign, I’m sure this firm would not want their competitors to know the details. This morning, I am having a friend stop by my studio so we can lay down some tracks for her new Narration demo. I am insisting that she secure approval to use the corporate recordings or scripts from her actual clients. In some other cases, we will be using actual scripts as sort of a template, then we re-write them and change the names and enough of the content so that it is unrecognizable.

    There are exceptions to “standard operating procedures” in the commercial world as well. I would not use a script for a demo if that campaign has not been aired yet. And of course, if an audition comes my way and that particular talent agent or ad agency tells us we cannot reuse their script, I will honor that. But anything else in the commercial world is fair game.

    See you soon at Faffcon!

    [Reply]

  22. Olivier Lecerf

    really great, Paul ! And to say like a title of Sex Pistols, you can call your article : “The Great Swindle of Voice Over” !
    But, to be actor, isn’t it to be liars ? We play a character, we play another personn, and when we play, we lie, no ?…

    Signed : King Liar !… ;o)

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You got it, Olivier. Great actors fool people every day into believing they’re someone else. Most of the time, the audience is willing to suspend disbelief. They even pay to be lied to!

    What to think of novelists? They make entire stories up that never happened. Are you buying that?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Scheuller Reply:

    Yes! J.K. Rowling, being one of the most magnificently successful liars in recent years. John Steinbeck is one of my favorite classic liars. C.S. Lewis, another.

    [Reply]

    Olivier Lecerf Reply:

    Absolutly ! And I know what I say… I wrote… a lot… Short stories, Theater, etc. But, now, I have not time, unfortunetly.
    But, novelist or actor or VO, we create characters, we do live them, we do die them. Would we be gods ? Or do we believe to be ?

  23. Tom Pagnotti

    Number six. One of my pet peeves… that shiny production house demo with Madison Avenue copy.

    For me it goes beyond the dishonesty of using copy you’re not authorized to use.

    Is this demo even an accurate representation of your work?

    And could you perform at that level in “real life” situations?

    While I’m certain many can and do – I’ve talked with aspiring V/O talent and have had them tell me that they were coached into the read. They were allowed the luxury of a dozen reads.

    So, let’s say that you were hired for a gig by that big name agency… you’re in a studio – with an engineer, and four agency creative types breathing down your neck and watching the clock – can you give them that polished read in four takes?

    In that way, a production house demo is a high wire act that in reality is a few feet from the ground while using a net.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    What a great metaphor! May I steal it from you?

    You’re absolutely right: some demos are so sweetened and polished that they become unreal (or should I write “unreel”?).

    The trouble with home studios is that they can become a protective bubble. Nobody is looking over your shoulders. You can record as many retakes as it takes to get it right. I wonder how these home studio heroes perform under pressure. How about during a live broadcast?

    Luckily, you and I have years of radio experience under our belts (this is a FACT), and we’re not afraid of a million people listening in as we enjoy the work we do.

    [Reply]

  24. Dan Lenard

    Paul,

    I recall a great line from a fairly obscure movie, “the Great Gumball Rally” in which an Italian sports car driver rips off his rear view mirror and proclaims ” Whata is a behind a me, isa not important.”

    In other words, I tend not to think about my competition because I don’t look at the business that way. Idiots simply don’t get hired for the good jobs, and then as we see, complain its the system thats screwing them. We can point out to them, as you do here, that they’re the wrist thats actually turning the screw. There are liars in every business. The one determining factor in our biz however is what you sound like, not what you say can do. I find that casters don’t even look at resume’s and profiles. They only listen to hear if you have what they want. You’ve got three seconds to get them to listen to another three, so make that count, not your cover letter.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Well put, Dan. Satisfied clients are our best credentials… as long as these clients really exist.

    [Reply]

  25. Billy James

    Double-Dutch snarkasm — excellent work, Paul. The only thing we don’t like about it is that we didn’t write it. Gefeliciteerd!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Bedankt, Billy. Thanks for teaching me a new word: “snarkasm”. Love it!

    [Reply]

    Xavier Paul Reply:

    I wish the powers that be in the voiceover industry, all those people clamoring to voice 123 for voice talent would use the “truth telling” “legit verifying” criteria that you lay out here so that I can get more work because of it. In my estimation the only value in being a national network voiceover talent are the jobs you can get when you prove it time and time again. That’s why on my website there are several things that prove I’m legit: demos of actual work, scores of videos of actual work that has aired time and time again on major networks. I mean what the hell more can you ask for? This lying that you talk about has it’s origin in the lazy attitude adopted in the voiceover industry which it stole from the music indstry. The “nobody really knows what anybody is doing” attitude mixed with the “if somebody else says you’re legit then you’re legit” attitude. Unfortunately in the voiceover business, neither attitude can be afforded. The lying voiceover talent take advantage of the fact that producers don’t factcheck and then their project suffers because of it.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by, Xavier! In my opinion, credentials are earned; not created out of thin air. Some people don’t care about fake credits. They will tell you that the client only listens to the voice quality and that the rest is irrelevant. I beg to differ. There is no substitute for proven experience.

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: