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VOICE 2007 : Don LaFontaine

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

April 11, 2007

Comments (21)

Don LaFontaineWine, cheese, Don...

Couldn't get much better than that!

Want to know more?

Keep reading!

Discover the magic that is Don LaFontaine, the King of Voice Overs.

As a young man, Don LaFontaine wanted to be taller (and, also an actor).

Along the way, he ended up in the army and somehow picked up the tools of the recording trade while working for the government.

Once those skills were honed, Don moved to New York and got a job at a recording studio. This is the very beginning of Don's journey to voice over.

Nowadays, Don is known for his voice, however, back in the very early '60s, he was known for his copy writing skills, crafting the movie trailers that he would one day be the voice of, part of a select group of entrepreneurs in the new world of movie advertising on radio and television stations.

One fateful day in 1962, an unnamed voice talent did not show up for their session to record a movie trailer voice over. Don being where he was at the time with the knowledge that he had (being the writer and all) was asked to be a substitute in his place to record the voice over.

It was the easiest $82.00 he had ever made and the first of millions.

For twenty years, Don was a casual announcer and producer. Then, he moved to Los Angeles and was able to work on movie trailers full time. 3,500 trailers later, Don sat confidently in his chair on the stage at VOICE 2007.

Now that we're through with our history lesson, let's dig in to what Don shared last week, shall we?

First off, Don said that all voice over work has a rhythm and you have to give it its proper weight. Just as in music, there is a rhythm to voice over performance.

Some voice talent are endurance runners while others prefer to sprint. Find your rhythm.

A quote from Don LaFontaine:

"If you are going to be successful, you have to have veracity and honesty - if you can fake that, you've got it made. Your heart needs to be fully behind what you read. Devote yourself to the service of words and you're halfway there."

Silence followed for a brief moment, then the inevitable question, "What's the other half, Don?"

"Wait 'til I die", delivered in true Don LaFontaine fashion.

To continue on that train of thought, Don encouraged writing to help develop the entire side of your creative personality. It's when your personal feelings ring through that veracity is realized.

Two of Don's favorite movies to work on were The Terminator and The Elephant Man.

When asked about his busiest days as a voice talent, Don stated that once he had 26 separate recording sessions, 200 spots in a day, including an entire season of spots for Cops! It's a wonder Don has time to sleep!

On another note, the room applauded when Don said that he was the biggest champion of women working in voice over. He also noted that the time is coming for women to really step up in the industry and record voice overs traditionally recorded by men.

Producers need to change their mindsets when in comes to trailers, that is to say, be more open minded when it comes to hiring women. Amen to that!

After the interview was completed, audience members were able to line up to ask questions of Don.

Of all the questions posed, the one with the answer that most piqued my interest was about maintaining vocal health.

Many of the suggestions Don gave were very similar to what the Vocal Department at UWO's Don Wright Faculty of Music presents to new voice students.

Here's a short list straight from Don LaFontaine:

• Don't abuse your voice
• Don't smoke
• Don't drink excessively
• Don't raise your voice
• Hydrate (drink water) frequently
• Don't overwork your voice

Don was also asked if his career could ever be duplicated. Will there ever be another superstar like him?

His answer was no, there likely will not be another person who reaches the same summits in their career and there certainly won't be another Don LaFontaine.

Don started out in the infancy of an industry and had the chance to help build and shape it. He wrote his own work and was the only one recording movie trailers for years. No, his career could not be duplicated.

The amazing thing is that Don had no formal voice over training. He worked hard for everything that he has. It is his determination, honesty, and instincts that have positioned him in the role he finds himself in today.

After 43 years of doing voice over, Don admitted that he has never grown tired of his job. He regards each page of copy as a new page. Each page is different.

Don's 43 years of voice over experience comes coupled with 43 years of AFTRA membership. Don revealed that eventually, if you are successful, you will find it necessary to join the union. Being a member of the union affords certain benefits, a pension and other perks. Don concluded that he had never been treated poorly by AFTRA.

After all was said and done, Don remained to have his picture taken and shake the hand of everyone who was there to meet him.

Kara Edwards snapped this picture of Don and I - thanks again Kara!

Don LaFontaine and Stephanie Ciccarelli at VOICE 2007

Did you like this article? If so, leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

P.S. Tune in to Jay Leno April 12th to catch Don!

Top photo of Don referenced from RickSommers.com

Related Topics: AFTRA, Don LaFontaine, industry, Los Angeles, New York, radio, union


Comments


    ANOTHER reason I should have been there...what a GREAT picture, Stephanie!

    Brian in Charlotte
    www.VoiceOverforyou.com
    Blog: VoicePro.blogspot.com

    Posted by:

      I agree with the other Brian from NC. Man I should have been there. Stephanie, thanks again for all the wonderful blogs.

      Posted by:

        I'm not named Brian, but I'll concur anyway. Will certainly be at VOICE '08, Don or no Don.

        Posted by:

          Wow, Stephanie!!

          I was both entertained and informed.

          This article helped me in many ways.

          Thank you.

          Chad David

          Posted by:

            Hi Stephanie,

            Great picture, and from one who was also there, very accurate coverage.

            Thanks again, Voices. com for providing such this service to all voice actors.

            All the Best,

            Bobbin Beam

            Posted by:

              Wow!

              It's great that he made time for the people who wanted to meet him.

              It's impressive that someone of his industry importance would do that.

              Posted by:

                Don's a really decent man. He will respond to just about anyone who is genuinely interested in his advice. I've corresponded with him by e-mail and he's been very encouraging to me as I struggle to build my client base in this business.

                Posted by:

                  Nice pic Stephanie! And thank you for all your posts - great coverage!

                  I think when Don says about "Your heart needs to be fully behind what you read" says it all.

                  Thanks for the advice Don!

                  Cheers!

                  Blair Wilson

                  Posted by:

                    Having no formal voice over training myself, I found your article very inspirational.

                    I'm trying to make a name for myself in Spanish V.O. and thanks to that info about Don, I am now more determined than ever to push forward.

                    Thank You!

                    Posted by:

                      Great article Stephanie.

                      It is always a treat to receive pearls of wisdom form an iconic character like Don. Thanks for sharing them.

                      Keep up the good work.

                      Posted by:
                      • Mark
                      • April 13, 2007 1:10 PM

                        Great write up! I must have missed a heaven lot.

                        I am in Nigeria, but am already thinking and planning for the '08 conference.

                        That picture, oh!

                        Posted by:

                          THUNK! THUNK! THUNK!

                          The sound of me kicking myself for not being at VOICE 2007!!!

                          WE LOVE YOU STEPHANIE! THANKS FOR THESE GREAT BITS! AWESOME!

                          Posted by:
                          • Chris Wallace
                          • April 13, 2007 7:17 PM

                            "Thunk thunk..." that's funny, I'm hearin' it too!!

                            Thanks Stephanie, great piece!

                            Would've loved to have met THE legend!

                            Posted by:

                              Cute picture!

                              Posted by:

                                Don,

                                It's good seeing you doing so well. I haven't seen you since you monkey flipped me across the hall at Washington Jr.

                                It's always seeing good guys succeed.

                                Fred Brown

                                Posted by:
                                • John "Fred" Brown
                                • April 18, 2007 12:28 AM

                                  I'm so impressed with Don and his voice! It's just amazing :D. I wish I had a voice like that.

                                  Does anybody has some voiceovers from this legend to direct me to? Would appreciate it!

                                  Greetings,

                                  Remo

                                  Posted by:
                                  • Remo
                                  • May 16, 2007 8:28 AM

                                    Hi Remo,

                                    You can listen to samples of Don's voiceover work here:

                                    http://www.donlafontaine.com

                                    Thanks for your interest!

                                    Cheers,

                                    Stephanie

                                    Posted by:

                                      To whom this may concern:

                                      I thought the write-up on Mr. LaFontaine was very interesting. As a person who is trying to break into the voiceover industry, I found the tips shared by someone like Mr. LaFontaine was very helpful and I thank him for "blazing the way" for those behind him.

                                      Sincerely,

                                      Don Dierdorff

                                      Posted by:
                                      • Donald Dierdorff
                                      • May 22, 2007 11:05 AM

                                        To whom this may concern:

                                        I thought the write-up on Mr. LaFontaine was very interesting. As a person who is trying to break into the voiceover industry, I found the tips shared by someone like Mr. LaFontaine was very helpful and I thank him for "blazing the way" for those behind him.
                                        Sincerely,

                                        Don Dierdorff

                                        Posted by:
                                        • Donald Dierdorff
                                        • May 22, 2007 11:05 AM

                                          I want to attend VOICE 2008.

                                          Please, will someone send me more information.

                                          Thanks you are the best,

                                          Joya

                                          Posted by:
                                          • Joya Shelton
                                          • July 6, 2007 12:46 AM

                                            Hi Don,

                                            I am the French voice. I spend hours in studios with producers making me listen to your voice over, I say so what do you want? They always answer: "the same". Give me your e-mail and I'll send you those "same in French". Could be fun for you... anyway listening to your work is always a big pleasure. I made already about 4000 recordings for movies over here. A big hello to you.

                                            Didier

                                            Posted by:

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