In the comedic world of Steven Toast (pictured) the fictional London stage and voice actor frequently does voice-overs to make ends meet. His recording studio foils, Danny Bear (with playing card in hat) and the world’s most famous intern, Clem Fandango, (in the see-thru visor) often derail Toast’s efforts to deliver even the simplest lines. Personally, I think it’s one of the funniest and most accurate portrayals of Voice Over session work I’ve ever seen portrayed on TV (and I highly recommend you watch it.) But that’s not the point of this rant.
In the current world of home recorded voice-acting, the producer is often wearing a lot of hats – but rarely are they in the same room or even town as the voice talent. Yet, often, the job of directing, proofing scripts for content and general quality assurance lands squarely of the shoulders of the producer. The producer is tasked with making each actor sound his or her best, which can include editing for pacing, enhancing audio signal, acquiring, assembling and mixing down all of the cast into a cohesive story and coloring the dialogue with atmospheric music and sound effects to make the story come to life. Its a lot of work. It can easily translate into nearly 40 hours to produce a single 30 minute episode.
Producers are invisible. We are “fixers.” Mysterious cleaners who come and go unnoticed. Professionals who adhere to the doctrine of “leave no trace behind.” We don our figurative scrubs, gloves and surgical masks, often performing the sonic equivalent of a full heart and lung transplant while the patient (the audience) remains unaware. The goal: make every element of a story sound convincing, from the creak of a floorboard to the bow’s panicked vibrato against a cello’s strings, to the scream, the stab, the knife fall and eventual body drop. Keeping it all untangled and ensuring no fingerprints smudge the final product. Without a strong producer, even a great performance can fall flat. Yet, we remain shadowy, mythical beings. And perhaps, this is where we belong.
Voice Actors get all the credit. They are the forward facing product. Even great writers take a back seat to the ones who speak their words. Where the actor carries credit for a show’s success, often it’s the producer doing all the heavy lifting. And while many experienced Voice Actors come to appreciate a good producer, its an especially difficult job when we are not respected. Disrespect commonly translates to being late with recordings, editing poorly or not at all or lazily sending a lackluster script read in the hope that someone else will fix it later. Given the power that producers wield, it’s probably wise to remain on their good side.
So, if you have chosen to be a Voice Actor, keep your producer happy. Turn your work in on time. Check your work against the script, actually listen to your recordings before you send them. Respect the story and any direction or notes you may receive. We’ve all heard the statement: “We’ll fix it in post.” But what that saying really means “We trust our producer.”