Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.

Dead men’s shoes

Posted by MikeCooper on July 10, 2009

Stephanie Ciccarelli of Voices.com posted a piece on her blog yesterday which gave me pause for thought. Last week, Casey Kasem hung up his headphones for the final time at the grand old age of 77. Who’s Casey Kasem? If you’re reading this in the UK, or outside America, he’ll be best known to you as the voiceover artist who provided the voice for Shaggy in Scooby Doo, but in the USA he’s something of a legend (as a quick look at his Wikipedia page confirms).

Stephanie posed a question that’s come up a couple of times in the last couple of years, as various longstanding members of the VO community have either retired or passed away. She asks whether it’s right that, when this happens, there’s always a queue of people waiting to take their place, and whether there should be a period of mourning.

You can read Stepanie’s piece in full here, but I took the time to think this over myself and came to the following conclusion, which I posted in the comments section.

Hi Stephanie,

It’s a tricky one, and no one wants to be an ambulance chaser (at least, I hope not!) But perhaps we should also see it from the point of view of the voice seeker, who still needs their job voiced and may have decided that they want a certain actor for the job.

A good example of this happened here in the UK a couple of years ago when Patrick Allen died. Pat was the voice of many projects, with an amazing list of credits to his name and a very distinctive style. In his last years he became very well known for voicing promos and continuity links for E4, one of the entertainment channels here, and when he left they weren’t ready to just change their style overnight. Another voiceover stepped in with a very passable impression and the channel were happy. Was it the right thing to do? It’s an interesting moral question, but if the talent in question hadn’t, I’m sure there’d have been a line of people queueing up to offer their own services, and I know of at least one other VO who now markets his impression of “The E4 Guy” (I can even do one myself…) So much of what we do is competition in a fierce marketplace.

Like it or not, market forces will always mean that the mourning period is shorter than we’d like. We also need to see our business as a professional business that can – in the best showbusiness tradition – carry on regardless, for the greater good of the final product and the client. The show must go on, after all, and the talent who hangs up their headphones – either for retirement or for that great sound booth in the sky – leaves a gap in the market, which the market will always try to fill.

In short, I believe you should always do what best fits your own moral code and ethics and be authentic to your own self. If you’re going to jump into dead men’s shoes then do make sure you do it in the right spirit and with due deference. And don’t be surprised if someone’s already there when you catch up with the ambulance.

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