by Elllen Thompson

Each time the commercials start rolling across your television screen there’s something in them that keeps your fingers from tuning to another channel, it’s almost like those times when you’re sitting in a dark movie theater and the trailers start pulling you in, stirring your emotions. Paying closer attention, it becomes apparent that it is not what you are seeing, but what you can’t see that you are connected to, the often unsung but pervasive art of voice-over recording.

The Museum of Moving Image in Astoria will highlight this persuasive art, taking you behind the scenes and straight to source of the voice in “Voices Behind the Scenes: The Art of Voiceover,” an industry seminar set for April 20 designed to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.

The seminar, which features an allstar panel of 13 of the leading voice-over artists in the industry, including the voices of NBC, Fox, Food Network, ABC News, The Billboard Music Awards, NFL on CBS, the Academy Awards, Emmys and radio, will include discussions on their work, answering questions from the audience, and leading audience members in mock auditions. Even the voice of Late Show with David Letterman, Alan Kalter, will come out from behind the microphone to host the seminar.

“Voice-over recording is one of the most significant yet under-appreciated fields in the acting industry,” said David Schwartz, the Museum’s Chief Curator. “This all-star panel brings together many of the most familiar and prolific talents in the field, and provides a rare opportunity to hear them discuss their craft.”

“Voices Behind the Scenes,” organized by Joan Baker, a widely known and very highly regarded voiceover talent and teacher, is loosely based on Baker’s new book Secrets of Voice-Over Success: Top Voice-Over Actors Reveal How They Did It. By providing the inside scoop on the lucrative career of voice-over acting and giving a face to the working successful people in voiceover today, all which are on the seminars panel, her book is brought to life.

All proceeds from the sale of her book, which was dedicated to her father who suffered from Alzheimer’s, will be donated to the Alzheimer s Association for research.

“The Essence of book is that, as voiceover people we spend our livelihood on our vocal communication and self expression giving homage to people who have lost the ability, which is one of the effects of Alzheimer’s,” Baker said.

The ties between the voiceover community and Alzheimer’s are stronger than most people would imagine, Baker said. Even some of the panelists have seen the effect of the disease on their families, including Kalter, whose mother was diagnosed three years ago.

“Some of the people in the book said they always wanted to somehow link what we do in voiceover to a cause, and I was happy when they said, ‘you really did that,’” said Baker, who had observed her father in the final stages of Alzheimer’s realizing how completely parallel it was to her life, in terms of communication.

“Emotionally, when we are in a soundproof booth, voiceover people are in the dark and you’re in silence, and in that silence you bring words to life and give meaning to them. People with Alzheimer’s are in a room with just their voice except they are the opposite – they don’t have the ability to communicate,” she said.

The emotions that underlie the disease are often parallel to those that are conveyed through television and film voiceover, Baker has realized.

Voiceover is not just reading dialogue out loud, she said. It is bringing words to life with feeling and a sense of sincerity. To be a talented voice over artist you don’t necessarily have to be an actor, but having sharp improvisational skills helps bring cold dialogue to life.
Baker added that working with a coach, who is up to date with changing trends and recommended by top voiceover agencies, is a vital key for those who are serious about the business.

“If you’re really interested don’t assume its something easy just because someone tells you have a great voice,” Baker said. Voice is actually 10th on the list in being important. In this day and age any voice, unless you have a regionalism, is marketable. It’s not about the voice, its going to be about developing skills around reading copy and reading copy in a way that sounds like you’re thinking and expressing at the same time.

“It’s going to be how you read the copy and most people don’t realize the skill it takes to do that, because the skill of it is subtle,” Baker said. “You really have to own the copy and project your personality and feeling through the microphone.”

For more information on the seminar and to purchase tickets in advance call (718) 784-4520. The seminar starts at 7 p.m. and tickets for the event are: $24 for the general public, $16 for Museum members and students. To learn more about how to help the Alzheimer’s Association, go to or call (800) 272-3900.

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