Starting Out in Voiceover Narration
This title may sound like a profound gift descended upon me from the Northern voice of narration string pullers, but what I want to talk about is being a Northern voiceover actor working in narration. Like every other genre in VO, there are pockets of work here, there, and everywhere. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if all of the voiceover work was in one place? But then the fun is in the chase so to speak, and narration is a whirlwind of fun covering so many assorted styles and topics.
One of my first, and possibly favourite narrated pieces was for the car company Ford which was investing in some training videos for their staff and customers. This branch of Ford was based across Yorkshire and the North of England. The customer service was northern, the staff was northerners, and the engineers were northerners, so it made sense for the voice actor to be northern too. There is a misconception that having an accent outside of standard US and RP means you cannot book with the big brands. Well, that is simply not the case.
Being a northern voiceover artist, I have worked for a vast range of big companies, including Starbucks, Centre Points, Ford, Costa, Funimation, and many more. Though the misconception isn’t justified, the truth of the matter comes when delving into the context. Generally speaking, a lot of work indeed orbits those who yield a standard American or British RP accent, but all that means is that the performer needs to be more strategic about how they play their hand.
Northern Voiceover Artist
The example with Ford is an excellent example of how a company had a narration need, and in turn, my accent was perfect for the role. This happens consistently, all the time; why? Because companies branch out all over the place and in the 21st century, we are working in a global industry, which means the opportunities are bigger, wider, and more accessible. Every corporate company looking to book narration voiceover artists globally will, at some point, consider using multiple languages and accents.
But that is just corporate; how do accents pan out in other fields? Well, it needs to be relatable; if a particular group of people has a specific accent, then hiring that voice type makes sense. Sometimes it does not even matter, the client just wants the best character or the voice that they resonate with the most. I recently listened to a lady with a Liverpudlian accent (‘Geordie’ dialect) doing some medical narration. Her delivery was perfect, her pace was spot on, her tone was brilliant, and she just delivered an amazing accent.
Her accent made the piece more engaging to me as she had incredible discipline and delivered with clarity but offered an alternative melody to the standard voices I would typically hear. Many actors and voiceover artists, both in and outside of narration, may often adapt, develop, or practise accents to give them a greater bandwidth for characters and roles they can portray. When looking back at the basics, we must remember that narration is a genre of voiceover. Like everything else in this industry, practice, talent, consistency, good business skills, and training all feed into the overall result of booking work in any field.
The Story of the Northern Voice of Narration
I commonly use the phrase ” narrator ” to explain a vast variety of topics but take the more direct stuff out of the equation, such as the corporate and medical discussed above; there is also documentary and audiobooks to explore. Now, having not done a documentary, I won’t comment at this point (perhaps that is for a future blog?), but the audiobook element, I think, is a great piece to explore. A director recently told me he would have loved to have known me when he was recording Lord of The Rings, and though this was for a video game, his reason for giving that comment, I believe, is solid. That reason was simply that my accent fitted perfectly for the role of a character he needed to cast. The specification was a male northern English voiceover artist to deliver a character that speaks with a genuine northern English accent.
I did an audiobook back in 2021 and though it was a challenge to be in it for the long haul (as it does take a while to get through it), what I can say is this; as long as the audio quality is excellent, the delivery is spot on, and you deliver an engaging performance, the accent does not matter, if anything – similarly to the Liverpudlian example earlier, the accent adds more of a dynamic to the piece. I have narrated all types of projects, including currency exchange for holidays, in-house training videos for Costa Coffee, educational resources for the board of education, and even tax amendments in law for businesses.
Voice Actors Using Their Own Accent in Narration
What is the theme and commonality for all of these projects? They all used a northern voice actor who just happened to use his accent to his advantage. Let me close with this, be the best voiceover artist you can be with whatever voice type and accent you have. Embrace it and make it your own.