Techniques for Voice Actors
Mastering The Skill of Self-Directing
If you’ve been auditioning regularly for voice over jobs and either haven’t won a job, or have won very few, this blog is for you.
One of the most important aspects of voice over that I work on with voice actors, are the skills of ‘how to be your own director’.
In Australia, where most of our work is done in studios, we become proficient at taking direction.
That is, we walk in, knowing that we’re cast because our voice is right for the job.
We then get directed through to the end result by the director/producer or engineer.
This collaborative process is one of the most rewarding ways to work in voiceover.
But times are changing…and have already changed in other parts of the world, where more and more of the work is being done from home studios.
This is a trend that will eventually take hold in Australia.
With digital technology evolving and becoming more efficient and more affordable, more and more voices are being sourced by companies wanting audio and video content for their websites.
When this trend does take hold, many of us will be working in isolation.
This is when we need to become a stronger community – bargaining collectively to set rates and structures so we’re well rewarded for the skills our craft requires (but that’s a conversation for another blog!)
There’s another trend that’s growing too, and it’s the reason for this blog.
It’s the trend of auditioning from your home studio (or sometimes just on your phone) for voice over jobs.
In Australia we’re still fortunate enough to get paid for auditions.
We call them submissions and usually we’re asked to go to a studio to record them.
I’ve done them from my home studio, but they’re still always paid – lucky us!
However, let’s get to auditioning in isolation, because many people I’ve spoken to say that they have a problem winning auditions from this process…how do you know that your audition will hit the mark?
I was recently in LA and worked with an established actor, who’s been auditioning from home without any success.
He’s got a great voice for voice over and goes to a studio for regular clients, where he’s directed – and he takes direction well.
But when I reviewed an audition he’d done from home, it was easy to see the problem.
Without direction, there was no direction.
The read was okay, but it wasn’t connected to the script, the message or the intended audience.
Here’s the thing:
- you get a script,
- you do an audition, and
- you submit it.
But to be considered for the job, they want to hear that you completely understand the story, purpose, and meaning in the script.
Without these elements working off the page, you’ll be passed over.
So, here are some techniques for creating a read that will be listened to.
1 When you first read through the script, decide what style it is:
- Conversational (as though talking to a friend)
- Announcer (full of information)
- Character (not necessarily a voice other than your own)
- Character driven (a story driven script with no product mentioned)
- Energised (full of information and pumped)
- Branding (how the company sees themselves and often quite poetic in style)
2. Once you’ve identified the style, work out the purpose of the script:
Ask this question- “It wants me to tell/convince the listening audience…what?”
3. Then you need to look at how the message is being delivered.
As in, where are the words that talk about the reason for this script.
You need to be are looking for key words and phrases that give those clues.
*There are many words in a script, but you are only looking for words that are about the story. You can’t emphasise everything. Giving emphasis to any words that are not about the story, will sound wrong.
4 Break down the language
Now that you’re pretty much across those elements in the scripts, you must begin to look at the language in the scripts.
Look at the language as a series of different thoughts and ideas – they all have a separate and distinctive purpose.
You need to divide the copy into parts that consist of those differing thoughts and ideas and visuals.
I use a slash after each separate piece of information – *** Note: This isn’t necessarily governed by where the punctuation is.
An example is used in the next couple of paragraphs:
You need to imagine the visuals based on what the line is saying./
And you need to move from one thought or idea, to the next/ with a completely different intention./ Otherwise, the script is just going to sound like one long monologue/ read by a bored person.
So, can see that by looking at what the language is saying, rather than following the punctuation, you get a completely different meaning in those parts?
*** Note: Because voiceover is just the disembodied voice, you need to slightly over-act some elements of the script. We need to feel your meaning, as well as hear it. So, some words will need special attention.
I’ve italicised the words that need the emphasis in the next paragraph.
We need you to convince us, by using your powers of persuasion. And you need to deliver the message through the words, rather than just reading them and hoping the message connects.
Find way to make those words mean something without over-emphasising thing. Remember, voice over is a less is more thing.
Sometimes, the brief sent doesn’t go far enough in indicating what’s required. Or the person sending it has no idea how to brief an actor on what’s required.
They’re just hoping you can work it out!
The truth is, when they listen through the (sometimes) dozens of auditions, if it doesn’t grab then in the first or second line, you’re done.
Your performance has to stand out all the way through the script – the more you understand about the script, the easier it gets!
Always remember that a script is never just one thing.
It’s a series of thoughts and ideas that each have a different and very specific job to do.
Once you begin to nail this aspect, your reads will start to attract the right kind of paying attention.
Good luck – and if you think you’d like to work with me to see how applying these techniques can work for you, we can do a 45 minute Skype coaching session.
For more info, just click this link.