One of the reasons for my so-called success in voice overs has never made any sense to me.
I owe it to my fake British accent.
If you’re new to my blog, it helps to know that I was born, raised, and educated in the Netherlands, in a province called Friesland. Friesland has its own language (“Frisian”) which is very different from Dutch. For a great part of my life, English has been my third language, right after German. Since I emigrated to the USA in 1999, English moved to number one.
Surprisingly, my very first voice over job in the United States was not as a Dutchman, but as a stiff upper lipped British archeologist in a radio commercial for Hershey Park, Pennsylvania. My most requested celebrity impersonation is that of naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.
When the Beatles musical “Let it Be” came to Broadway, guess who was selected to voice all the promos? Have a listen.
Does that make any sense to you? In fact, when I came to New York to record these promos, the whole crew treated me as if I was from the UK and I never told them otherwise. These days I’m more well-known, and the team that hires me is usually aware that I’m not a Brit. And yet they still want me to pretend I am.
What’s going on here?
Either, the Americans are rather ignorant and forgiving when it comes to foreign accents (something I have noticed throughout the years), or my British accent is perceived as good enough to fool the listeners. Greenpeace seemed to like it.
Anyway, to me this is one of the many logic-defying examples I have encountered in my VO career. It also points at something else to which I attribute my modest success: my state of mind.
You see, I could have easily NOT auditioned for these roles. Let’s be brutally honest. Why would I, a Dutchman with a phony British accent, stand a chance? The USA is inundated with English expats, and I know quite a few who make a living as a voice talent. Mike Cooper, Peter Bishop, to name a few. These guys are the real deal.
But I auditioned anyway, thinking:
IF YOU DON’T GIVE YOURSELF A CHANCE, THE ANSWER WILL ALWAYS BE NO.
In Holland we say: “If you don’t take a shot, you’ll always miss the target.”
That’s how I landed this national commercial:
So, my advice to you is simple:
This business is not about how you perceive yourself, but about how you are perceived by others.
Do not limit yourself to what you believe you can pull off.
GO FOR IT
Even if it doesn’t make any sense.
That’s how you break new ground and defy the odds.
Joshua Alexander says
That does it! You’ve convinced me then! I’m going to try out for every single erroneous audition I receive from Voice123 that is calling for a thin, spry, Caribbean-accent-laden 8-year-old-girl. I KNOW I have it within me! Look out, world.
Seriously, though – I love the “you never know” aspect of it. I’ve landed roles where I didn’t want to try out for them, and after recording them, literally said to myself, “Wow, ain’t never gettin’ THAT one!” I’m sure you’ve experienced this too! Absolutely and shockingly unexpected. But I did try, because I believed I could be perceived as what they wanted. No matter what my logic suggests, it seems to always start and end with belief, eh?
Thanks my friend.
Jon Gardner says
Another good article! You got some great gigs by stepping out and taking a risk. I love that. It is something I need to do more of. There are quite a few contrary voices though. I hear it said that we should only audition for those things we are absolutely best at or match up with our personal reality. I won’t audition for things I absolutely don’t fit, but I do need to allow myself the freedom to take more risks. If nothing else, it is fun to stretch and play!
Jeffrey N Baker says
That’s definitely been a struggle for me. Even if consciously I’ll think, “Who cares? Not like they can so NO harder,” I will still talk myself out of it.
I’ll need to press myself harder.
I’m from Pennsylvania, and pick up language accents (not languages) fairly easily. I auditioned for a novel that needed a southern accent. I gave it my best shot, and got it! I then auditioned for another book requesting a southern accent. The author has a number of books out. She asked for a second audition, I submitted it, and she said I made her weep, in a very good way! I landed the job!! I was unable to produce the audiobook for personal reasons, but that gave me confidence with dialects I didn’t think I had!