Ever wonder what goes on behind the narrating or character voices you hear on the TV, radio, in the movies? What goes through their mind? Here’s a chance to find out, from Leipzig-based Brit Peter Seaton-Clark, who built a career as a voiceover artist and now owns a successful company here employing other voiceover artists.
I remember the first time I stood behind a microphone to do my first voiceover. I wasn’t nervous. How hard could it be? It was in a language that I’d spoken for longer than I could remember. Reading a text was simple, my reading age was always higher than my actual age and there was no maths involved (of which the less said about my ability, the better). This is going to be easy I thought.
It was on the fifth attempt at the first sentence that the first beads of sweat started to form. It wasn’t so easy. At all. Try as I might I just couldn’t give the director what he wanted. In desperation I delivered the opening line in such an exaggerated way that I felt sure he would sack me.
“Perfect” he said. “Finally”.
The weird thing about voicing an advert is that at the point you think you sound ridiculous, you are actually about right. What you hear in your head sounds so over the top, but when dropped into the mix of images and music, it just fits. Voice artists live in a world of make believe and yet must believe in it with absolute honesty. When I voice an image film for a company that makes vacuum cleaners, I have to believe in that product, because if I don’t, who will?
We’re doing a CD at the moment for school kids to accompany their text and workbooks. It’s great fun with lots of funny voices and some hugely talented kids and it’s a lovely feeling seeing them develop their voice skills and knowing that this is not just a commercial project, but something that will help thousands of kids learn English at school. That’s the kind of project that makes me happy and gives me the most satisfaction. It’s not being the voice of Bugatti or Mercedes, it’s being a shy little dragon in a textbook for kids.
It becomes very simple when something comes along that I just can’t get behind. It’s happened. I’ve turned down jobs for weapons manufacturers and tobacco companies. Quite a nice payday and I used to love a cigarette. But when all is said and done I have to look my children in the eyes and teach them to do the right thing. It’s just not about the money. My work is based in a land of make believe, and that’s alright with me.
By Peter Seaton-Clark
Peter runs Offstimme, a voice over agency in Leipzig which now has over 350 voice artists from over 50 different countries. His clients are local and global. Broadcasters such as MDR, BBC and ZDF; multinationals Bosch, Siemens, BMW; Federal States like Saxony, Saxon-Anhalt and Bavaria have all used voices from Offstimme.