"Whatever we believe culture to be, one thing we know is that it's not static."
VO CULUTRE is a lifestyle brand that embraces and seeks to express that which is unique to the community of people who practice the art of voice acting, wherever they are in the world. In so doing, we create tangible products, including unisex apparel, accessories, drinkware, and other branded items to be enjoyed in your daily life. VO CULTURE, as a brand, will evolve with the community by listening and observing, to faithfully create products that resonate with voice actors worldwide. Whatever one may believe culture to be, one thing we know is that it is not static. It is dynamic and evolving.
Defining the culture of the voice acting community is not an academic exercise in anthropology. It’s something far more colloquial, lighthearted, and anecdotal. We choose to embrace it as a culture because it inspires us to explore more deeply who we are. It’s all in good fun. So, for the fun of it, we turn to some of the factors that traditionally define culture, like rituals, tools, festivals, and language.
The closest thing to rituals is the regular practice of vocal exercises, vocal care, rehearsing and auditioning. There is also the devout participation in workout groups, continuing education, networking, marketing, and socializing.
Voice actors spend many hours alone in a recording booth doing auditions and jobs. It can be a very lonely experience. And as much work, thoughtfulness, and emotional energy you put in, no one is there to witness it – no one to acknowledge you for a good day’s work. This is a common theme shared by all voice actors and constitutes a significant part of the voice actor’s experience. And because our very livelihoods depend on auditions, bookings, and repeat business, life in the booth is also a place where we confront our insecurities and anxieties on multiple levels. Yet, on our best days, the booth is a place where we reach amazing heights of creativity, playfulness, confidence, and joy. When auditions turn into bookings, we enjoy the excitement of with working with directors and other collaborators who have input into shaping the final performance.
The path from audition to booking to final performance is a unique experience we share along with traditional actors. And with the advent of social media, it has become common practice to share these experiences in any number of social media groups. If we can’t talk about the job, we talk about the NDA. For most voice actors, so much goes into achieving the almighty booking, that one can’t help but shout it from the social media rooftops. Remember, voice acting is a mostly solitary pursuit, going against the grain of an actor’s instincts to be seen, heard, appreciated, celebrated.
The tools are easy identifiers of the VO Culture: microphones, shock mounts, digital audio workstations (DAWs), pop filters, vocal booths, sound treatments, preamps, and the list goes on. It’s not as if voice actors are the only professionals who use these tools, but we use them in a very specific way that is unique to the craft of voice acting, especially now that we work primarily out of our professional home studios where, I might add, we are evolving into audio engineers.
Festivals are by no means a stretch from a cultural standpoint. Just look to the Viva Voz Festival in Colombia, SA, now in its third year. Also, I see voice actors laying claim to World Voice Day, a day when social media comes to life with those whose very livelihoods depend on their unique vocal expertise. World Voice Day is felt by the global community of voice actors. Another form of festivals is the voice acting conferences that, as far as I can tell, began in 2006 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens New York with a conference called Voices Behind the Scenes, featuring greats like Don LaFontaine, Bill Ratner, Steve Newman, Les Marshak, Valerie Smaldone, Alan Kalter, Sylvia Villagran and other national talents featured in the book Secrets of Voice-over Success by Joan Baker. The show was produced by Joan Baker and me. We went on to produce conferences and forums throughout New York City, California, and Chicago. These events would eventually take on the name That’s Voiceover!™ Career Expo, and they too created a very festive experience, a deep sharing across generations, and an exquisite bonding of the community. That’s Voiceover!™ Career Expo spawned a movement of similar conferences, and a festival experience is always an important part of them all.
Voice acting as a pursuit, is a universal language that is understood and shared by voice actors worldwide. The Society of Voice Arts and Sciences (SOVAS) has helped to broaden that scope by pointedly embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion as a primary principle of its mission as a nonprofit organization. Already a growing movement in America, SOVAS embraced this movement by creating a home for an international community of voice actors, acknowledged for their achievements through the creation of the Voice Arts® Awards (VAAs). Indeed, the VAAs now accepts entries in 15 international languages and dozens of international dialects. And my personal favorite is the introduction of award categories honoring Audio Description (AD). Audio Description which is an extraordinarily specialized narration genre that provides information surrounding key visual elements in a media work (such as a film or television program, or theatrical performance) for the benefit of blind and visually impaired consumers. Amazing work is being done in this genre, and it’s opening the eyes of so-called sighted people as well.
Where the VO Culture will go from here is anybody’s guess. It’s already unrecognizable to some of the VO legends of decades past, and we’d be foolish to think that it won’t become unrecognizable to those of us who live long enough to bear witness. More than that, each of us is contributing to the legacy of the deeds that can be attributed to the power of our voices. Of course, gainful employment, good health, a loving family, and smooth retirement is more than enough for most people. And that’s an honorable life not to be disparaged. At the same time, each of us as uniquely gifted voice artists, know a thing or two about the power of the voice. We owe an allegiance to the idea that our voices can be of service to humanity – to a thousand causes greater than ourselves – causes that require potent, awe-inspiring, sustained voices of love to eradicate the maladies of our world.
Chairman & CEO, SOVAS
Emmy Award-winning Producer