Cultural Customer

by | Jan 11, 2016 | Trending | 3 comments

mutimediaDon’t ask me where you’re going to find the time, but to be a successful voice-actor, you’re going to have to pay close attention to popular culture.

Watching last night’s Golden Globes made me realize how far I’d fallen behind.

…and remember, I read local and national news everyday, three times a day, and I still feel like I’m trailing.

I’d never heard of more than half of the shows up for awards.  Mr. Robot?  Room?  Infinitely Polar Bear?  Sheesh!

That’s why I’m falling behind…streaming video channels are replacing broadcast networks, and even cable.  Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Netflix, etc.  They’re all doing the kind of exploratory script and series development that the fading big TV networks are afraid to do anymore.

The death of broadcast TV is NOT the death of Voiceover opportunities…it’s the birth of all that many more!  But to understand the needs of this culture, and its advertising survivors…the nuances, the trends…you’re going to have to find the time to watch some of this stuff.  As far as I know there’s no known video version of Cliff Notes for TV.

Where to begin?  Well, you’ve already got internet, right?  OK, now go get yourself a subscription to at least two of these new services.  I’d recommend NetFlix and Amazon Prime, but they are by no means the only ones.

Here’s a recent article with some tips on NetFlix shows currently streaming.

Trouble is…watching this stuff takes time.  Can you digest it all?  No.  Are there summaries in popular news media and trade mags?  Sure, but there’s no substitute for experiencing the cast, plotlines, and tenor of each series AND (here’s the most important part) sharing it with everyone else.  Facebook is good for that, too, but only if you’re on the INside, and you know what’s going on. 

I still haven’t watched the TV series LOST, but I was envious that half of America was talking about it, and I was in the dark (turns out they all were too…but at least they were doing it together).

Why is this so important?  Your delivery must reflect the tone of the newest trends (at least for commercial, promo, and imaging work), and you can’t fake that.  You just gotta know it. 

Remember how SNL coined the phrasing around “NOT!”?  Mike Meyers:  “I had sex with Madonna….NOT!”  Jimmy Fallon:  I wanna be just like Osama bin Laden…said no one EVAR”

These sayings become part of our culture and our world.  You’ve gotta understand the force behind that when you diagnose copy for the right intent of the author and the spot.  Don’t know who Heisenberg is?   Sorry!  Then you’re not going to correctly interpret or deliver the spot about the dangers of blue meth for the drug coalition spot.

Like it or not — and believe me there are plenty of times I don’t like it — voice actors have to be uber-observant CULTURAL CUSTOMERS.  It’s not enough to live in this milieu, we have to seek it, taste it, understand it, and analyze it.

S’cuse me…I’d like to write more, but I gotta finish Season 7 of Dexter.




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  1. Mike Hanson

    Today’s blog is very timely CourVO. I’ve always known being aware of pop cultural and it’s inevitable influence on advertising is critically important to Voicing acting. Just in the past year or two I’ve become increasingly aware of my growing ignorance (aging?) and falling behind.

    Like you catching up on these new shows is one of the more pleasant resolutions I plan to keep this year. Pleasant because so many of them are apparently so damn good! And binge watching will be like cramming exams like we did back in college or more fun!

    Happy New Year!!

  2. Charlie Sill (@SargentSill)

    Dave-falling behind? I would say to you not to worry about it. True, it takes time to sit and watch programming but at 54 years old I don’t care to sit much for anything. I best use my time by creating a comfortable life and socking $$ away for when my voice is not long employable. (God Forbid) I am learning new video skills and using those too. Not much of a TV fan anyway…note to self, fire Comcast today!

  3. Susan Manhire

    Spot on, Dave. I had the same thoughts over the Christmas holidays when my grown children came home to stay. In the mornings they would be talking about Netflicks shows I had never heard of. They were binge watching them late at night and really enjoying the experience. I realized that I was unable to relate to their conversations for the first time EVER, and didn’t like that feeling.

    To your point about the need to understand the current culture phrasing, I was hired to voice an animation project which included phrasing from the Simpsons. Frankly, it took me a bit of time to realize what was going on in the script. When my brain kicked in, I delivered the lines correctly, but it could have been an uncomfortable situation. Your blog reminded me that I better get watching!


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