SEVEN ?S WITH: JOHN HUNERLACH
When Howard Stern, NBC, Capital Radio London, HBO, Fox News, MTV, PBS, Showtime, and Starz along with local Radio and TV affiliates wanted to cut through the imaging clutter with a distinctive impactful VO, they came to John Hunerlach in New York City. You’ve heard John on promos for HBO Sports, Dirty Jobs, PBS series, Starz, Fox News; show imaging for The Today Show, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade; national network commercials for Rolaids, Glad, Subway…hell he’s even sold vodka to Swedes!
1) How did you get into the voiceover industry?
I think the first awareness that VO was a “thing” probably came in High School. I did PA for the Basketball games (white guys can’t jump), one game we did a raffle drawing and I remember reading the winning ticket and pausing before the last digit; you could feel the whole gym gasp in anticipation and I thought “Hey, this is pretty cool”, I mean who doesn’t want to be cool in High School right? After that it was the typical trajectory of College Radio to Commercial Radio. A producer heard me on the air and booked me for a Union TV VO gig. THAT’S where I got my eyes opened to the opportunity to get into the VO game. I was lucky early in that the first producer I worked with took the time to teach me the difference between what I was doing on-air and “Voice Acting”. I never got typecast as a “radio guy”.
2) Who influenced your work as a VO artist?
Any male VO talent with any amount of gravitas is cast in the shadow of “The 2 Dons”…Pardo & LaFontaine. Those guys cut the Rosetta Stone for the culture of the Voiceover Industry. Ernie Anderson did a hell of a job setting the bar for TV Promo. I think there’s an enormous amount of thanks due Jeff Bridges for giving our voices the opportunity to get into the commercial world with this fantastic conversational reads. Howard Parker is a good friend and has given unwavering support in times of trial early on.
3) Your VO work covers the entire spectrum. Which field is the most difficult to master (radio, television, film, live, etc)?
I have some good DNA that has given me great elasticity, so any field I’m booked for is an area of comfort. The transition is what can sometimes be a little tricky mentally. It’s tough to come out of a 6-hour movie narration and then try to catch up on promo reads that have stacked up. I try to build in some time to transition between diverse sessions. A New York City Subway ride is usually the best tonic. That mechanic aside it’s really the scripting that makes the difference in any session. “Riding” great writing is so fun. Whether it’s Promo, Commercial, Narration or Imaging; a well-written phrase practically evaporates off your tongue, almost speaks itself. All you have to do is guide it a little with tone and inflection.
4) You’ve voiced broadcast events for Network TV with live audiences of 100 million. Do you approach those any differently?
I can’t lie, you do feel an adrenaline rush when you book those big gigs. But, in the session it’s all about giving the producer options, whether it is a live show or pre-produced. I used to feel like I had to “hit the read” until I asked a producer what works best for them. Most of the time they don’t know exactly which take will really hit the mark until they’re matching it to picture/sound in rehearsal or post. The process is fascinating to me. So, I’ve developed the habit of giving three (3) reads on any take with as much variety as possible in every session. Options are a good thing.
5) You have voiced a lot of iconic gigs. Is there one in particular that made a significant impact on your career/life?
That Shark Week movie “Blood In The Water” was where the game changed for me. Suddenly I’m cool with my kid’s friends! I can always tell when Discovery re-runs it because someone will inevitably come up to me in the hallway and quote one of the more sinister lines of dialog. Also, that was my first IMDB accreditation. That was way cool.
6) How do you schedule/prioritize your work?
My commercial/promo booking schedule usually does that for me. Emergency quick turnaround requested will also take precedence. I know how crazy things can get for PD’s and News Directors, especially when there’s a live breaking news event. Also, I get it that sometimes folks just forget and find themselves up against a deadline. VO guys save them, it’s what we do. When it comes to the 24-hour turnaround stuff I usually try to wait until I’m feeling it. I won’t jump into the booth to knock out a few pages if I’m not able to deliver for the client. I will grab a cup of green tea or take a quick walk out of the studio to clear my head to ensure it’s always “game day” when I roll the file.
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7) You’ve been a staple in the industry for years. How can aspiring VO talents maintain a successful career in the business when the industry is continually changing?
It’s advice I’ve gotten from others. Make it your own. Give them your version of the celebrity they reference, tone they quote, the energy they ask for. You won’t book the gig being a facsimile of someone else. Be yourself, everyone else is already taken. Seems oddly appropriate to end this with plagiarism since our profession is bringing life to other peoples written words.
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