With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

REAL HEROES DO NOT WEAR CAPES

Power, Red, Superpower, Male, Flying, Person, Cloak

Used by permission from Viresh Studio via Pixabay

 

 

NOTE: This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, "Voiceovers: A Super Responsibility", slated for release in the fall of 2021

 

 

HINDSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

Fantasy, Night, Ladder, Universe, Stars

Used by permission from 愚木混株CDD20 via Pixabay

 

It is time to get real for a moment.

When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a policeman.  And then I wanted to be a fireman.  And then I wanted to be Batman.  And finally I decided on Superman.  But then I wanted to be a singer.  And I think I also wanted to be a doctor.  In short, I wanted to be someone who could swoop in and respond to emergencies in a melodic way, saving people’s lives with a grapple gun.

When we are little, we do not really know what we want to be, but we look at those tall figures towering over us, especially the ones who seem to defy logic - or gravity - in some heroic way, and we seek to emulate them, and we seek to adopt a similar mission for us.  It is called “idealizing.”  Sometimes we even call it “idolizing.”

However you slice it, rewind 40 years and ask me if I wanted to be a voice actor, and I may have responded, “Do I at least get to wear a cape?”

In my humble opinion, voice actors are some of the most underrated citizens of this planet.  We are indispensable.  We will not be so easily replaced by AI.  We will not go quietly into the night.  As President Whitmore said in Independence Day, "We're going to live on.  We're going to survive."

We cannot be vanquished.  It is in our makeup to be heroic.  True, there are some of “us” out there that treat voiceovers as a passing fancy, and some that masquerade as heroic, yet piggyback on the profit of others as they seek to teach.  There are corrosive elements within any community, and there are charlatans that know nothing other than profiting off of you rather than off of hard work.

But the true voiceover superhero is someone who wears plainclothes, who humbly seeks to produce something that will be quietly moving.  Thought-provoking.  Stirring to action.  Uplifting.  Compelling.  That is our job as voice talent.  Our job is to move.  To make people think.  To motivate them.  To encourage.  To get them to do what our client wants.

And sure – it is the client that writes the script, and we just voice it.  But is that all it is?

In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the character V’ger asks “Is this all that I am?  Is there nothing more?”  Many people suffering from imposter syndrome experience something similar and may voice a similar refrain.  I do understand it, believe me.  In many of my past vocations, I have suffered from it, and I daresay many people have sat at their desks across our great planet, holding a thousand-yard stare and wondering “Is this it?”  We are trained to grow up and “become something”…but what if we arrive after all those years of forward momentum, education, expense, striving, etc., and we realize with horror that it was not what we expected?

 

OUR GREAT RESPONSIBILITY

New Superman Brennan Graves Home Page

The true voice talent will stare down the barrel of a gun knowing full well the great weight that we carry as voice talent, willing to do absolutely everything required of them to ensure that their career flourishes, and their dream thrives.

 

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

Luke 12:48

 

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Uncle Ben, Spider-Man

 

“Responsibility is accepting that you are the cause and the solution of the matter.”

Anonymous

 

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

Winston Churchill

 

I am sorry (no I am not), but this is not a career that anyone can approach flippantly or cavalierly.  It does not work that way.  This career and pursuit are rarely ever chosen at age 7, much less idealized or idolized.  Sure, it might be glamorous to impressionable minds, but not all of those minds are cut out for this endeavor, and saturation shows us that.  Yes, my kids love climbing into the studio, slapping on the headphones as I cringe, waiting for them to drop them or to bang against my $1000 MKH416.  But to them, it is still just fantasy.

Are you the cause and solution of the matter?  Did you bring yourself to voiceovers intentionally?  Do you intend to make every single voiceover you deliver stellar?  Do you strive to please every single customer and ensure that their script is brought to life in such a rich way that they come back to you, because they can trust you?  That is the mark of someone who understands the great responsibility we carry.  It is not just about speaking into a microphone and sounding cool.

“I was told I have a good voice, so I am doing voiceovers.”

Is that you?  Or are you more like this:

“Voiceovers are my mission, and my highest calling.  I seek to lift those words off of the page and breathe life into them.  I aim to honor every single client’s long, hard efforts to painstakingly write something wonderful.”

Regardless of what you wanted to be when you grew up, you are here now.  You are a voice talent.  But what does that word, talent, really mean?

 

tal·ent

/ˈtalənt/

Learn to pronounce

noun

1. natural aptitude or skill, i.e.,

"he possesses more talent than any other player"

 

Are you really talented?  Do you understand the great responsibility that comes with that natural aptitude or skill?  You have been given a GIFT.  Before you were born, in your very makeup, it was granted to you.  A gift that somehow, in whatever way it worked out, enables you to read a script so compellingly that your audience actually believes you believe it.  Will you honor that talent? Will you respect it?  Will you seek to refine it?

Will you use it for good?

 

NO CAPES

Batman, Costume, Kid, Young, Halloween, Bat, Boy

Used by permission from School Pr Pro via Pixabay

 

In The Incredibles, Edna Mode reproaches Bob Parr with the following admonition:

“NO CAPES!”

Bob was obsessed about remaining a superhero, and needed a new outfit.  Edna was his designer.  As his ideas for his new appearance began to take shape, he envisioned colors and patterns…and capes.  Well, Edna rejected that outright, and proceeded to cite a number of examples of superheroes that came to an untimely end because of their capes.  Thunderhead.  Stratogale.  Meta-Man.  Dynaguy.  Splashdown.

NO CAPES!

The truth is this: real heroes do not wear capes.  These are Policeman.  Firemen.  Teachers.  Volunteers.

Voice Talent.

What?

Yes, Voice Talent.  You are a capeless hero!  You have great power.  And with great power, comes great responsibility.  Know that.  You have great talent and natural aptitude or skill.  Your delivery is your superpower.  Your ability to produce great voiceovers makes you rise above the rest of the mortals.  The fact that you get paid for it is secondary.

I may not have grown up to become any of the things I envisioned, but I do not really care.  I will wager many adults do not care that their childhood career fantasies did not come true.  And then there are some whose dreams did come true: the migrant worker who, as a child, lay on the ground and stared wistfully up at the stars and said “One day.”  The Sea Shepherd whale warrior who was a sensitive child and cried when he saw a mouse in a trap, struggling painfully to get free.  The London Symphony Philharmonic flautist who in their youth would listen and listen and listen again to symphonies, figuring out the progression of notes.  The hairstylist who loved to playfully create dreadlocks and pony tails and other stylizations on their friends' craniums.

But for most, they have accepted where they are, and are content.  What I love about where I am at and what I do, is that it is not in the slightest what I envisioned for myself as a child; but I am more than content.  I unintentionally landed on a very heroic profession, and so, in many respects, I did end up becoming a policeman.  A fireman.  Batman.

Superman.

Looking back, are you where you want to be?  Do you understand the great power you have in you, and the great responsibility it carries?  Will you answer the call?

Super landing shot

 

 

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YOU HAVE MADE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE END, AND I SALUTE YOU.

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Joshua Alexander
Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Artist for hire
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17 thoughts on “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”

  1. Lol, also wanted to be a fireman – had no clue what they really did. I knew they rescued people from burning buildings, but what suburban 3yo has any clue about burning buildings when the biggest fire you’ve known is the field down the street and maybe a bbq, lol. It’s fine though – no burning buildings in the foreseeable future for me, hehe.

    I love being able to bring a script to life. It’s so awesome to be able to do that! I just hate that it’s not my main source of income yet… It will happen, because I will not let it go! I will not go quietly into the night!! That was quite the speech, I remember the movie well. President Whitmore knew how to inspire, and obviously-lie over the phone and in person. My fav part was where Will dragged him in the parachute and threw a tantrum, hahaha! “AND WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL!?!?!? AAAAAGH!!” hahaha.

    Anyway, I think the AI sphere is definitely going to change the way we charge, but the thing that most companies will very quickly discover is – people care about people. The quickest you hang-up on telemarketing is when you hear a pre-recorded message. When you hear a real person on the other side, the stars you saw from getting off the floor after giving someone lip, are recalled and you politely answer and decline as you explain how you are traversing Everest at that very moment. The same will be true for “fake” commercials. If people know, they will be less inclined to listen and the more people know it’s fake, the less they’ll care. The proof is in instruments and music. While you get incredible plugins, sequencers and other stuff, people still hire session musicians for albums – can’t replace it with a shell. AI will be used and the work will be less, but it will never go away completely – can’t be replaced entirely.

    Thanx for the excerpt!! 😀 It was a great read!

    1. Thanks Marius! People can sure sniff out fake and artificial: “something’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad,” as Morpheus said. “I can’t believe it’s not butter” tastes good, but it’s not the same as butter. Diet Pepsi isn’t the same as actual Pepsi. We can tell real from fake. AI just doesn’t offer humanity the same thing: it’s synthetic and it’s yet another replacement of humans. Who wants that except for another robot?

      1. I agree.

        AI will find it’s place and we’ll have ours. A bit of a musing, if you’ll indulge me. I think AI will be there for more bulk work and on-the-fly stuff, while commercials, movies, cartoons, narration and musical stuff will still be our main sources. E-Learning is a bit of a fence case for me, because if the material is already dull, adding a fake empty voice to it, might make it even more boring – on the other hand, if the AI voices can emote well, e-learning might go to the AI – depending on style. They don’t tend to go off-script or walk you through well – no personality, no variation. Copywriters might have a lot more to do with casting going forward – especially with this decision as they may be called on to actually write for AI. Silly example. I LOVE using eSpeak (a TTS app), but, it can’t say Job, Instagram or LinkedIn for example. If your AI has issues like that, the copywriter has to either write for it: “insta-gram” or around it: “Social media”; people who know what they’re doing will absolutely advise what will work the best for each project.

        I think, as things seem to be going, AI could dominate news and current events (start with people, but massively quick turnaround in multiple languages) as well as bulk projects with no budgets – converting public domain books into audiobooks, indie animated short films, GPS, small character roles, etc. Don’t forget about AI’s ability to alter a voice as well – therein lies my interest in the topic! That and true upsampling – super resolution for audio.

        1. The scary thing is that the voices are getting more and more realistic – which truly does contend with a human. And if they can just go with Speechelo and save money, why not? JMC and Paul Strikwerda (and others) have some excellent blogs on this subject. I’m truly not worried in the end. But I do think it involves everyone massively stepping up their game and making the alternative…NOT a viable alternative.

      2. All my life I have frequently checked myself against the idea that we are given abilities, aptitudes and talents with an unspoken responsibility attached to how we (I) use them. Most super villains are also incredibly talented or intelligent – the “evil genius” trope. That is because somewhere inside all of us is the recognition that a great gift squandered, that could have been used for good, is on par with or worse than the acts of evil themselves. Jesus taught that when our lives are over, we will be asked for an accounting of what we did with what we were given. I also believe that many people have no clue what their gifts even are because we get bogged down in the ruts of our daily lives and the responsibilities that go along with. A certain amount of experimentation and self-discovery is necessary to find our way. I know I could be fulfilled as an architect, a sculptor, a painter, a singer, a writer, a teacher or even a preacher. Voiceover is where I have landed and it blends many of these talents. Learning to use my voice to design, build, create, paint, sing, write, teach and preach within the realm of VO is proving a soul nourishing joy. A bigger challenge than I ever thought it would be, but a joy nonetheless.

        1. I cannot help but be reminded of the movie “Unbreakable” which was widely panned but featured this same story arc: that of the subdued, trapped superhero-in-the-making…who is unaware that he is a superhero. We must find out where we belong, in order to give that positive account.

  2. I’ve been told that complacency kills. So to quote one Tyler Durden: may I never be complete!
    The journey is just as important as the goal and there is so much to be appreciated along the way.

    Stay Super, Josh!!

    1. I was not going to! But then you commented. And now I shall do so! Thanks my friend. I appreciate it! I will never, however, be as super as an RN. I can only hope to achieve SubSuper.

  3. “They sure LOOK real, don’t they?”
    Lol, yes, the simple shapes really bring out the blackness of the eyes. It sounds kinda dead… Not knocking TTS, because I use it a lot for LOOOONG messages. But seriously I’ve heard better – good, but not fine for a project. I would NOT add that to any of my videos nor recommend anyone else…
    We have some regular ads that show here that I suspect was done by the owners and it sounds like that… Unlike the website says, don’t skip on the pro. Rather go for the unreliable freelancer, HAHA, you’d be doing yourself a solid!

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