Move Over “Conversational”!…

by | Feb 18, 2015 | Ruminations, VO Business | 8 comments

polyglot…there’s a new, even more cryptic request showing up in auditions now.

Have you see it too?

I’m talking about the call for voices that was sent back again by the prospective client, ’cause the first round of auditions were too “announcery”.

Fine.  ‘Quite accustomed to seeing THAT.  [See my rants on the subject HERE and HERE.]

But THIS time the directions included:  “We’re also now looking for some African American voices, or ‘ambiguously ethnic‘ voices.

Really?  “Ambiguously ethnic”..????

You know what this reminds me of?…an interview I saw with Tom Hanks when his movie “The Terminal” came out.  You’ll remember Hanks played the role of a traveler caught in customs limbo when his fictional Eastern European country collapsed in political chaos, and his character’s nationality came into question.  Hanks explained in an interview that he arrived at the character’s accent by throwing together a polyglot of ethnicities based on a distant foreign relative, combined with a generic “slovakian”-derived speech pattern.

Don’t even get me started about the call for “African-American” voices.  That’s so blatantly racial, or reverse-racial that it blows my mind.  I’m reserving THAT topic for an entire month’s worth of blogs!

So if “announcery” is of the devil, and “conversational” is no longer de rigeur…then is “ambiguously ethnic” our new target as commercial voice-actors?

That direction is so…er….uh…ambiguous…that it leaves no room for definition.  In theory…ANYTHING would meet that standard.  I think I’ll mix a little Costa Rican Spanish with some Irish, and add a Pakistani flourish.  Yeah!  THAT should do it.

Will somebody please comment back what “ambiguously ethnic” accent worked for them on these audition calls, and at least we’ll have an idea of what to shoot for?

Thanks in advance for your time in tolerating my rant.  🙂




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  1. James Phillips

    I haven’t had this request, but your post points out a more pressing issue, in my opinion. And it is: no serious VO should be performed without the presence of the agency creative, ad producer or director present, either physically or online. This goes for any VO, but especially where there are specific requirements or instructions. There is no need to redo a VO if proper direction has been given the first time around and the creative/producer/director has given their ok. And if you are to subsequently record a repeat version, the client must know there is a fee for that.

    • CourVO


      I couldn’t agree more, but sadly, this is NOT happening for the vast majority of voice talent, working at home, and somewhere else besides LA and NYC. Self-direction is just the reality…aside from phone patch. But you are so right about the repeat fee, or cost of correcting, adding, or augmenting something. It’s often a matter of educating the client.

      I really appreciate your visiting and taking the time to comment!

      Dave Courvoisier

  2. Jack R Smith


    I think they come up with these so-called descriptions of voice direction because they aren’t sure themselves. Maybe the client isn’t exactly sure and need help. It is frustrating to see re-posts that “change direction”… more and more often. I think if the client could speak directly with prospective voice talent they would get better results. That tells me that the middle-man, (Voices, etc.) is not communicating very well.

    • CourVO


      You are right…so right. They don’t know what they want, so it’s up to us to interpret, and just BRING IT — uniquely ours — most of the time.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Dave Courvoisier

  3. Michael Orenstein

    I’ve been staring at that all day myself – and having eaten at the establishment that is looking for a ambiguously ethnic spokesvoice (whilst drunk in college) – I think they mean that in the same way that their offerings are ambiguously food.

    • CourVO


      I know, right? I mean, I’M from the midwest, and they all sound pretty American there. We just got one of those establishments here in Vegas, and the place closed down after 18 hours, ’cause they couldn’t keep up with the traffic.

      Thanks for writing!

      Dave Courvoisier

  4. William Williams

    A simple way to become “ethnically ambiguous” is to Latinze all your vowels and roll your Rs. So A, E, I, O, U becomes Ah, Eh, Ee, Oh (very round) and Oo (not (y)u!). This will work for all Eastern Europeans and Mediterranean fro Greece east. With apologies to all those ethnicities. Often they want this for bad guys where they don’t want to offend a particular ethnic group or country.

    I once did a impersonation of Zeus for a Greek Festival in Fresno. The ad agency loved it but the head of the festival was Greek… and… I ended up doing the ad in Standard American. Wah wah.

    • CourVO


      Ha ha…that’s great…I’ll remember that! Thanks for responding!

      Dave Courvoisier


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