I’ve often said that one of the most pleasant surprises for Rosi and me when we shifted from full-time music to full-time voiceover was the amazingly supportive community we discovered. Largely as a result of the Faffcon un-conferences we’ve attended almost yearly for several years, we’ve been welcomed into a tribe of professional voice actors who constantly go out of their way to help each other.
We’ve also seen how friendships seem to transcend differences of background and political orientation. In fact, our community of people who work with their voices is one of the only places I’ve seen that kind of comity lately. Of course one of the reasons for this is that we don’t talk politics much! But I can’t help but feel that I could have a vigorous political discussion with any number of my colleagues whose views differ drastically from my own without us screaming, cursing, insulting or yelling at each other, the types of political “communication” that seem to be most common these days on the Internet and in our culture at large. And unlike our government, this community is actually capable of coming together to work toward common goals. We’ve seen the birth and growth of networks such as World Voices, Voxy Ladies, and Faffcon itself, which promote the development of their members and uphold the standards and recognition of the value of professional voice work, while also giving back to their communities in the form of generous support and promotion of the work of charitable organizations.
I know this conviviality is not universal in the voiceover world. I’ve been told that in the world of commercial voiceover, especially at the national level, there’s plenty of backstabbing, and colleagues in other countries have expressed envy of how supportive our community is. Nor do I want to paint too rosy a picture of our slice of the VO world. We have disagreements, sometimes heated ones. There are jealousies and animosities. But we can talk to each other, and that’s a big deal.
Very recently I had the honor of voicing the Spanish version of the introductory video for Boston’s Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate. The Institute’s inauguration early this month featured a “Who’s who” of Democratic politicians: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren, to name a few; but John McCain and Trent Lott were also there to pay tribute to their old adversary and friend. And that tribute was heartfelt. When John McCain said “I miss my friend,” it was clear that he meant it. The contrast with today’s Congress could hardly have been more stark. There used to be politicians on both sides of the aisle capable of putting aside deep differences to work toward common goals. Today they don’t seem to be interested in finding any common goals.
Perhaps someday our politics will move away from fear, blame, hatred, resentment, and putting up obstacles to anything that could allow the other side to claim an achievement. In the meantime, I take inspiration from my VO colleagues. Maybe we CAN reach out and try to understand those who disagree with us. And maybe we can lead from the bottom up.