Hervé Lacroix (voice-over actor): "A breath alone can move people or make them laugh"
Hervé Lacroix has been a professional voice-over actor for more than seven years. During his career, he has narrated Reines du shopping and season 4 of Masterchef. He has also voiced trailers for National Geographic Channel and several documentaries for France 2, Canal+, etc. Revered in the field, he shares his experience and some advice for those wanting to follow the same path. Interview.
How did you become a voice-over actor?
I trained as an actor, completing 3 years of theatre classes at Cours Simon in Paris. Then I had roles in different theatre productions. Several years later, I did 5 months of training specialising as a voice-over actor which allowed me to understand and test my voice in different voice off domains (documentaries, corporate films, advertisements…) but also to realise that I liked it! That's one of the important components in pursuing an artistic career.
What does your job involve?
First of all you have to analyse the "product", whether it's a story, an educational film, the promotion of a service or article, a broadcast etc. and imagine with the client, producer or artistic director (or all three at once) how the end result might turn out with my voice.
Every speciality or type of programme has its codes and its culture. I try to learn the techniques and I project myself with the help of the text into "the universe" of the project.
The interpretation phase comes next and with that it's a mix between listening to and feeling what I'm doing and letting go to try and make the result as natural as possible. The aim is of course to be convincing to the listener, the viewer.
What do you like about your job?
Almost everything: it's constantly changing; in one day I might have to play characters or be in completely different worlds.
Sometimes very unusual worlds...
Yes, once I had to do quite a lot of takes for a video game where I was being axed in the stomach. The client had a very specific idea in his head and despite suggestions which I thought were convincing, they weren't enough. He wanted the breaths, the wheezing to be a certain length…lots of little things. In the end, I managed to get it right but I was on verge of passing out because I was hyperventilating having to do all these takes without words.
How do you train to do several voices? Does it require daily practice?
First, you have to be interested in what's happening in the media: listen carefully to adverts, trailers, documentaries, films on the Internet. You need to know whose voice it is, know their career and try to imagine how they worked the text. I'm always pay close attention to going on; out of curiosity but also because I like it (from entertainment programmes to more informative ones) and it's a source of inspiration. After that, you can practise and have fun recreating what you've just heard to get a real feel for how the actor did it.
Is it harder to convey emotions when you can only use your voice and not the rest of your body?
No I don't think so. The viewer or listener takes everything in and a breath alone can move them or make the laugh. So, you can just play around, telling yourself that the microphone is the medium for conveying everything you're doing.
Do you think anyone can become a voice-over actor?
Being trained as an actor is an advantage as you're more used to forgetting yourself and not tripping over your words whilst having mastered good diction, which is a really important technique. However, fortunately, a singer, a journalist or someone who makes the effort to take theatre or elocution lessons can be at the same level. Having a unique voice which people notice or is pleasant to listen to and awakens emotions is very important. But it's mostly your interpretation skills which make the difference.
What makes someone a good voice-over actor? Are there individuals you admire in your field?
Sincerity, accuracy and rhythm when you're reading, innovation (not constantly copying what others have done and engaging in vocal gymnastics), generosity, a rich tone of voice, a good ear, being approachable. The people I admire and who have had an impact on me and still inspire me are André Dussolier, Pierre Arditi, Jaques Frantz, Patrick Florsheim, Richard Darbois, Michel Papineschi, Françoise Cadol, Pierre-Alain de Garigues...
Is it difficult to carve yourself out a niche in this field?
Yes, increasingly so, I think, as more and more actors are becoming interested in it. It's still a relatively unknown profession to the general public but that's not the case for actors or journalists who want to add this string to their bow.
And can you live off of it?
If you start out with the idea of making it a full-time profession and think you'll be contributing specific know-how, normally no. You can do it occasionally, simply out of choice or through lack of opportunities but in that case, of course you don't live off of it nearly as well. Having regular contracts is what makes the difference and gets you known at the same time.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the profession?
Decide on a sector (adverts, documentaries, corporate, trailers...) which you like and which you excel in or which you think you'll be able to excel in very quickly. And then, focus on this area. Your confidence will grow and you'll be able to tackle other things. If you believe deep down that you have something interesting to offer, then throw yourself into it, making sure you always retain an element of modesty. And finally, you need to be 100% professional and keep on coming up with new ways of being even more so.
His website : http://www.hervelacroix.com
Photo credit : Anne Dion