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Celebs muffle the voice of experience

The voice-over business gets more competitive as celebrities get ad jobs that once went to veteran voice actors. Does the public recognize the faceless tones?

May 07, 2012|By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times

"That's a complete load of hogwash," Kane said. "The reason agency people and clients will shell out millions is called star you-know-what."

Even without celebrities horning in, voice-over work is extremely competitive. The voice casting company Kalmenson & Kalmenson has 25,000 voice actors in its database. But technology is making the business even more cutthroat.

Once only the top voice actors had a home studio. But technology is starting to level the playing field. "People are winning jobs off their iPhones," said agency co-founder Cathy Kalmenson, who had a client use a restroom at a Miami airport to record an audition on her phone and send it in.

Not only are voice actors facing heat from celebrities, but they also have amateurs nipping at their heels — thanks to the Internet, which enables anyone to hang a shingle and declare themselves a voice actor. These novices usually don't belong to the unions and will work for less than scale. Industry pros dub them the "dollar a holler" crowd.

There has been one unexpected upside to the influx of celebrities into the voice-over world. Kane has found work imitating celebrity voices so ad agencies can use his impersonation to sell clients on the idea of using the real actor for a commercial.

"I've actually gotten Morgan Freeman a number of jobs," he said.

QUIZ: Who's that voice?

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