In 1961, 14-year-old Bill Ratner took his first job as an errand boy in Minneapolis at an ad agency for $1.25 an hour. In 1968, he broke into theatre at 21. In 1971, he landed his first radio job at 24 years old for $175 a week.
A young Bill Ratner, during his first radio job in 1971.
Bill Ratner is now 74 years old and works as one of Hollywood’s most dependable and versatile voice-over talents and writers in the industry. He continues to educate himself with a coach frequently, but why? “To keep my vocal cords limber and to prevent them from aging uncontrollably,” says Bill. After 60 years of working in all forms of show business, Bill is still working… regularly, “and I want to hopefully discover new ways of delivering text vocally.” He voices audiobooks, animation and movie trailers. He writes essays and publishes poetry and remains relative to millions. Bill Ratner is truly living an extraordinary life. helznermanagement.com/?page_id=1222
Bill utilizes a vocal coach to keep his voice “limber” as he provides voiceovers for a wide variety of voice projects.
Bill is still booking and still impressing, as he ponders, “It never occurred to me that your voice could be such a marketable skill, and it took me years to understand how wrong I was.”
He has been the voice of Discovery ID, the voice of Robot Chicken, The Family Guy, and the voice of “Flint” in G.I. Joe. He’s been called back to voice “Flint” for 40 years. “But it was only 20 years ago that I realized a voice actor should treat their voice the way a ballerina or an NFL football player treat their body.” And from that discipline came the movie trailer business. http://bill2582.wixsite.com/billratner
Bill Ratner during a voice acting session.
Bill ventured off into the world of news voicing because he exercises control over his voice and became the voice of the Bloomberg News Network, “and there is something special to people when they hear the voice of authority.” He keeps that voice in tune by “treating it the same way that a Shakespearean actor does by investigating the possibilities of emotion, investigation and the preservation of the voice itself.” www.billratner.com
Voice acting requires control and training and to become the “voice of authority” as Bill has achieved.
Across the years, Bill would become a true renaissance man. Forty years ago, he entered stand-up comedy and has since become a nine-time winner of the Moth Storytelling Slam. Along the way, Bill became an author. One book he authored was titled “Parenting for the Digital Age,” and it remains in print today.
From radio DJ to comedian and author, Bill Ratner continues to leverage his voice and writing to build his business.
And through it all, from day one, Bill has been a student of the voice. Voice training is available no matter where you live remotely through The Voice Shop, headquartered in New York City. (www.voiceshopcoaching.com) “We all need continued instruction if we want to constantly improve,” says Bill. “I would have never been able to remain current without a voice coach.”
As a SAG-AFTRA member, Bill now collects a pension, makes residuals from past credits, and is provided health insurance. All the while still working 15 hours a week on new clients. Bill is the rare individual who takes his voice and his love of communication and turns it into not just a business but an empire. “I’ve always believed my voice would continue to improve until I was no longer able to stand up to a microphone,” says Bill.
He is a contributing voice of the Smithsonian Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel, PBS and NPR. Commercially, you can hear him as the voice behind V-8, Sprint, Chips A-hoy, Pizza Hut and Hyundai. “And I do have a class next week with my coach, which I would not want to miss,” says Bill.
If anything can be learned from Bill’s story, it is to continue to educate yourself. Most anyone that is working in their mid-seventies has discontinued their training long ago. But Bill continues to be a student of the arts, getting constant instruction from an outside party that can benefit his life, “and it does improve mine, that’s for sure,” says Bill. This type of education is available to you remotely at The Voice Shop.
So, no matter who you are or where your aspirations lie, remember the lessons learned here the next time you contemplate a future in voice-over. Bill believes in today, and he believes in tomorrow, and because of it, Bill Ratner is truly living a fascinating life.
Keith Brunson is a writer and is the host of “The Voice Choice,” a vodcast about the voiceover business.
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