On the Friday before Labor Day, I had the pleasure of having a drink (or two) at Rafael Ferrer’s house in Connecticut. Rafael and his wife are incredible hosts and whenever I have an excuse, I make a point to stopover (even if my intentions are obvious). We got to talking about the SAG Foundation’s gala the prior weekend which benefitted the Don LaFontaine Voice-Over Lab. My colleague, Andrew Atkin, and I were both there (as well as several ACM clients) and I was telling Raf some stories from the event (it didn’t surprise me but Robert Hays is a great guy!) when I realized Raf was suddenly lost in thought. Rafael knew Don fairly well and admired his skill, charisma and charity. He was also one of the few voice-over performers who legitimately competed with Don despite Don being twenty years his senior. As I continued speaking, Rafael finally just stopped me and asked an incredible question which I wasn’t prepared to answer: “Can voice-over performers give back to other voice performers without sacrificing their own careers?”
I fumbled about for an answer until finally I threw my hands up and asked, “why?”
Raf paused for a minute, reflecting in a manner I’ve rarely seen from him, until finally he said: “I’ve always wanted to give back myself but I’ve never known how. From the moment I got into the business I was always competing for the same jobs against other actors. It just seems too contradictory to want to work and help others at the same time.”
Rafael then went on to tell me a story about having to re-audition for the announcer on a 90’s Miller Genuine Draft campaign. MGD was Raf’s first real job and the campaign launched his career while he was in his early 30’s after a decade of struggling like most New York actors. The night before the re-audition, he got a call from his brother, Miguel, who called to say he was auditioning for the job in LA. If that wasn’t bad enough, when Rafael walked into the casting room the following day, who does he see first waiting to read… his own legendary father. “All's fair in love and war,”his father would say and Rafael knew if he was in his father’s position, he would have said the same.
Jose Ferrer, the actor, was absolutely correct in that moment but my question is…is there a better way? Is it possible to compete and even dominate at the highest levels in voice-overs while still encouraging/helping/mentoring other performers who aspire to similar heights? Let me know what you think?