September 2, 2017

What’s a voice over worth?

Don LaFontaine.

You might not know the name, but you know the voice. Hollywood legend Don LaFontaine reportedly voiced over 5,000 movie trailers. He sometimes recorded as many as 60 spots a week, traveling from session to session in a chauffeured limo.

Here’s an excerpt from his bio on wikipedia:

Don became identified with the phrase “In a world...”, used in so many movie trailers that it became a cliché. Widely known in the film industry, the man whose nicknames included “Thunder Throat” and “The Voice of God”, became known to a wider audience through commercials for GEICO insurance and the Mega Millions lottery game.

Don wasn’t your garden variety voice-over talent. He viewed himself as a voice actor and felt that it was his responsibility to create so much anticipation in the audience that they had almost no choice but to buy a ticket when the movie eventually came out.

In his words:

“You want to take the audience out of their seats, out of their homes, out of their complacency and pull them into the story,” he said. “You want to make that trailer so compelling that they have to go buy a ticket just to find out how the movie ends.” —Don LaFontaine

I read somewhere (unfortunately I can’t find the link right now) that studios considered it bad luck for their movie if Don didn’t do the trailer. If the flick tanked, they’d think: “Dammit! I knew we should have hired Don!”

What’s a voice over worth?

Perhaps the most common way to charge for voice over work is by the second (and I thought hourly billing was bad!).

According to, the starting rate for a 15 second spot is $100.

(This is not for a movie trailer specifically - it’s a generic 15 seconds of reading a script into a mic.)

The maximum length of movie trailer as allowed by the MPAA is 2 minutes and 30 seconds. If Don was getting paid the generic voice-over rate for a max length trailer, he’s be getting a check for $1,000.

I googled and googled but I couldn’t find a reference anywhere regarding how much Don got paid to record a trailer, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that “The Voice of God” was getting more than a grand per trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster.

Here’s my question to you:

Why did Don LaFontaine get paid more than the generic base rate of $100 per 15 seconds to record a movie trailer?

Hint: there is more than one reason and all the clues are in this message.

I look forward to your answers! I’ll share mine tomorrow.



P.S. Tuesday is the start of the last busy season of 2017. If you don’t land any new deals in the next 100 business days, you could be facing a dry spell until Spring 2018. Not sure how to scare up business? It’s not too late for my private mentoring program to help (but it will be soon) -> Apply for private mentoring now

P.P.S. Here’s a compilation video of some of Don’s most memorable trailers: