Voiceovers Are Like Safaris
Living in Southern Africa for the better part of a decade has provided me with many opportunities to partake in cool and unique activities. I’ve abseiled (repelled, for those unfamiliar with that term) alongside the world’s longest single-drop waterfall in Semonkong, Lesotho—four times—and I’m still alive to tell the tale. I’ve snuggled lion cubs and got a smooch from their Mama—don’t tell my wife! I’ve walked among dead Basotho kings in Lesotho’s royal cemetery atop Thaba Bosiu. Sadly, none of them rose Lord of the Rings style to join me in my fight against loud parties on the weekend. I’ve even gone cage-diving with sharks near Cape Town, where a great deal of the Shark Week footage is filmed each year. It wasn’t like Jaws with a fully submerged single-person enclosure, but a Great White did make contact with the cage when it was my group’s turn in the water, so that was memorable. Amidst all my distinctively African adventures, however, going on safari pretty much takes the cake. I mean, from a US perspective, nothing is more stereotypically African than that. Why go to Africa? To see all the incredible African animals in their natural environment, of course! Okay, I guess some people come to experience new cultures and learn about how different people live, but even they enjoy a good safari, too. Safaris are great. I’ll let the fact that I’ve been on seven of them speak for itself as justification. Depending on where you go, there are usually amazing accommodations, top-notch hospitality, and a seemingly non-stop supply of truly terrific food. And that’s not even taking into consideration the animals! Some game reserves provide you with an experienced driver and guide, while others allow you to go on self-guided drives in your own vehicle. Personally, I prefer having a driver because they are wellsprings of neat information, far better at finding great animal sightings than I am, and I’m lazy.
The expert and the tourists.
While it’s easy to be overwhelmed at first by the sheer breathtaking nature of…well, nature in its natural state, after you’ve been on safari seven time it starts to get a bit—dare I say—predictable. The first time you see an elephant up close and personal, it gets your blood pumping and your adrenaline up. Even from afar, you recognize this creature’s brute strength. It could flip your vehicle without breaking a sweat if it wanted to. It gives you perspective. It instills you with a deeper level of respect. By the thirtieth time you encounter elephants, though, it can start to feel a bit like, “Been there, done that.” Isn’t it crazy how easily the extraordinary can become the familiar?
I say all of this not to diminish the safari experience or to try and say it’s not a worthwhile pursuit. Rather, I mention it simply to give some context for why on earth I was thinking about voiceovers when I was recently on safari with my wife, daughter, and parents. As I had had many opportunities for great sightings of some of the world’s coolest creatures over the years, including all of the Big Five except for that blasted leopard, on this particular safari I found myself spending less time scouring the bush for hidden treasures and paying more attention to how our driver examined our surroundings in search for our next encounter. As I observed him, I noticed he didn’t look out and around as much as the rest of us. He kept his attention focused nearby and often down on the ground. What was he looking for? What did he see that we didn’t? Well, lots of things, I learned. You see, tracking animals on a safari is about a lot more than just driving around, hoping you’ll stumble upon something amazing. That does happen on occasion, sure, but to encounter animals safely with any kind of regularity requires a certain set of skills—no, not the same kind as Liam Neeson—and an awareness of your surroundings.
Don't be fooled; we don't have the right set of skills.
As I said, our driver spent an awful lot of time looking at the ground as we drove through the reserve. Often, he’d stop, get out, and squat down to examine something more closely. A few times when it was much more obvious, he’d direct our attention to what he was seeing: tracks. Whether they were the distinct paw prints of the lions, the muddy footprints of the hippos, or the round and ovoid tracks of the elephants (Fun Fact: while an elephant’s front feet leave a round print, the back feet are shaped like ovals; the narrow end of the ovoid print alerts you to which direction the elephant is moving), he was able to tell how fresh they were and determine which direction the animals likely went from there. And tracks were just one tool in our driver’s tracking toolbelt. Broken foliage, flattened grass, scarred trees, and piles of poop—yes, poop!—all told him a story about animals that had been there and were, perhaps, still lurking nearby. As I watched our driver in his element, I was impressed at the level of understanding he had of the surrounding environment. This was where he spent the majority of his time, day in and day out, soaking in information, processing the data, learning to recognize patterns. This was his area of expertise. And that’s when it occurred to me—voiceovers are a lot like safaris. For the voiceover artist, navigating the unique terrain of the VO world necessitates developing a certain set of skills—no, I’m still not talking about Liam Neeson; let it go! We may not be searching for the Big Five, but we are on the lookout for big gigs. We may not be examining footprints and sifting through scat, but we learn to recognize the signs of a potential client being a good fit. And now that I think about it, dealing with clients and projects that are subpar often does feel like dealing with crap! See! It’s all so similar! Like searching for rare critters, VO requires patience, diligence, and endurance to continue, regardless of how many times you come up empty. Ultimately, whether you finally spot that elusive leopard or score that incredible commercial gig you auditioned for, both safaris and voiceovers are about familiarizing yourself with your terrain and developing the awareness and skills you need to find what you’re looking for. And be encouraged; there’s always something cool to discover.
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories. __________________________________________________________________________________ Are you in need of a quality voiceover for your next project? I'd love to help tell your story! Request a quote or check out my Demos. I look forward to working with you! Tyler Robbert Voiceover Artist | Storyteller firstname.lastname@example.org www.tylerrobbertvo.com Like what you read here? Looking for more ways to sate that hunger for VO-related content? Try checking out some of these other awesome blogs from within the VO community!