Voice Over Education Blog

Would you record a voice-over for a Product, Service, or Candidate that you didn't believe in?


Recapping our TalkTime! phone conversation of June 24, 2012.

As a professional voice actor, you sometimes encounter jobs you would rather not do for personal or ethical reasons. But if you turn them down, you will lose income and you might miss out on future work from that client. Should you accept these assignments?

That’s the question we asked new and pro voice actors, in our TalkTime! tele-conversation.

Hypothetical case-in-point: Suppose a computer tech-help company wants you to record a phone tree system. Sounds like a great job, until they tell you to read the script extra slowly because they charge callers -- by the minute.

Almost everyone has a personal boundary at some point.

Would you do it?

Given the example above, let's assume the client tells you this when they offer you the voice over job. There's time for you to reject it once you receive their questionable direction. Yet what if they spring it on you after you've accepted and stepped into the booth?

Here are some of the thought processes that arose during the discussion:

NOTE: Comments have been edited to make them succinct or clarified.

Yes, I'd do it.

  • We refer to ourselves as “voice actors” so we should be able to do anything set in front of you.
  • It's only a recording. Even if you don't agree with the company, take their money “for a giggle.” So there, Company!
  • Every commercial is manipulative or hedges in some way. For example, "Cereal is part of a balanced healthy breakfast." So do it.
  • I’m a democrat, yet recorded something for the republican party. I took the money I earned and gave it to the democrat party.
  • Maybe you would never eat junk/processed food. And maybe you would never feed it to a friend or a child. But if a tortilla chip brand asks you to record a commercial for their product, would you accept the job? Sure, because the advertiser will just hire someone else to voice it, and people will eat it anyway.

Maybe, under some circumstances.

  • I work at a radio station, they are my boss, and we are given many scripts to record every day. To keep your job, you might raise an eyebrow but ultimately you have to read what you're given. It’s different when you work freelance because then you’re your own boss, so you have more say.
  • Take the emotion out of it. If you need to pay the rent you might need to do things you don’t agree with.
  • If you don’t drink would you do a beer ad? I would only if it included “only drink responsibly”.
  • We are people, not machines. You can think of your voice as a separate instrument, but it is a part of you, and you need to live with yourself.
  • How much research do you do before accepting a potential client? Are we only responsible for what we are conscious of? For example, if a clothing store asks me to record their “Welcome to our company” video, I wouldn’t take time to research their company. But if I did, I may learn that they employ children to manufacturer the clothes overseas.
  • You are like a NASCAR driver covered with patches of jobs you have done. If someone does not like a patch, they might not hire you.
  • Whether it's a big job or a small one, well known client or obscure, it's best to assume everything you voice is public. So each job is a personal choice.

No, I'd refuse the job.

  • What if the advertisement becomes popular and I become "famous" as their voice? I would not want to become identified with it, so I’d object.
  • If you are not comfortable with something, sometimes it will show in your voice.
  • Suppose it's a plumbing company that is a total rip-off – I would not do a commercial for them, because I would not want to help them rip other people off.
  • Would you want your kids to hear this and be proud of you?
  • If you do work for the Republican Party, your voice is associated with those ads. So you will probably never get work from the Democratic Party. And vice versa. Nor from some advertisers who shy from taking a political stance.
  • You might damage your prospects by putting controversial spots on your demo.

Other comments

  • I removed a beer commercial and a lottery commercial that I recorded from my demo. I did the work, and would do it again, but I just didn’t want to be associated with those categories when promoting myself.

Conclusion

As some people said, until you accept the assignment, you're the boss. There are valid arguments on both sides, and it's not surprising that most people fall somewhere in the middle. The prominence of the work, the amount you're paid, the nature of the conflict, and other factors are all valid considerations. There are many situations with no clear answer.

Also remember that situations change, both your situation and the world around you. Doing something for a 6-month contract with limited renewal options could be different from a flat-payment buyout that you might regrettably hear for the rest of your life.

Whenever possible, before accepting any assignment, learn as much as you can about the job and the client. Even if there's nothing controversial about it (which is true of the vast majority of your opportunities), it will enable you to give a better performance and avoid those that make you sound or feel bad.

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