Ian McMillan


Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

HERE I am in the voiceover booth at the record­ing stu­dio. I’m sit­ting on a hard chair and there’s a mi­cro­phone about a foot from my mouth. On the ta­ble in front of me there’s a sort of lectern with a script on it. Next to the lectern there’s a light. At the mo­ment it’s not lit, but when it goes red I have to speak.

I’ve been en­gaged to do the voiceover be­cause of what the peo­ple at the ad­ver­tis­ing agency called my ‘fruity York­shire tones’; I wanted to ask them what kind of fruit they meant, and per­haps I should have. Was I an ap­ple or a ba­nana or some­thing more ex­otic like a kumquat or a star fruit? I’ll never know.

I’ll not re­veal the name of the prod­uct I’m do­ing the voiceover for but let’s pre­tend it’s called Trevor’s Tasty Tea­cakes. The ad­vert is a TV one and I’ll have to watch it on a big screen and nd when the ac­tor pulls the tea­cakes out of the bag and winks at the cam­era a the light will flash and I’ll have to say “Trevor’s Tasty Tea­cakes…I’ll tell you what: they’re tasty!” The ad­vert is 20 sec­onds long and I have to squeezeze my words as hard as they can to get themhem to fit around the mu­sic. Oddly, 20 sec­ond­sconds is plenty of time on the voiceover clock. An eter­nity.

It’s a funny thing, do­ing voiceovers. I al­ways think it’s a bit like writ­ing a poem: you have to choose each word care­fully, you have to weigh it for rhythm and eu­phony and try to find mean­ing in sound. You have to try and find the mu­sic in the word ‘tea­cakes’.

The ‘cre­atives’, as the peo­ple who wrote the ad­vert are called, are e sit­ting in an­other room. The sound d en­gi­neer says, “Let’s have a go at one” and the film starts and the light flashes and I say my line about the tasty tea­cakes and how tasty they are. There’s a mo­ment of si­lence then, down my head­phones, the Boss Cre­ative says “That’s re­ally good, Ian, very good in­deed” and be­cause I’ve done lots of voiceovers I know that he means it’s not very good at all. He says: “That pause af­ter tea­cakes, could you make it hang a lit­tle and try a put a chuckle in, Trevor? Well, I’ll tell you what, not quite a chuckle, more a chuckle-ette, or a mini chuckle-ette.” This would feel like gob­blede­gook to most peo­ple but I know ex­actly what he means, and I say the line again, and again. Each time I do it they tell me how good it is and then they ask me to do it again. Sud­denly the word ‘tea­cake’ is the prob­lem. “Could you maybe feather that word ‘tea­cake’ away half­way through and then re­turn it just be­fore the cusp?”

I once did a voiceover about sausages and they a asked me to be “a tad more pas­sion­ate about the siz­zle”; I once did a voiceove voiceover about res­cue voice and they asked for ““more weep­ing in the vow­els of the voice”voic and I once did one for a taxi firm and th they asked me imag­ine that I was the en en­gine, so all this tea­cake stuff is child’s pla play to me, with a mini chuck­leette in the voice. Back to th the tea­cakes. Now the prob­lem is the colon af­ter “I’ll tell you what”. Can I make the p pause a lit­tle longer? And can I m make the pause ex­pec­tant, some­how? Of c course I can. It’s go­ing to be a lon long, long morn­ing in th the voiceover booth booth.

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