Have you ever noticed how everyone takes everything personally? Especially when it comes to TV shows, commercials, movies, and music – we have intense emotional reactions to the things we see and hear. I hate that movie… that song drives me crazy… I love that actor. It’s just another one of those things that makes us human.
So why is it, as soon as we get a piece of copy in front of us, many of us become analysts instead of actors? We look at the script and say to ourselves, “Okay, this looks like an action verb so I will give this more punch,” or “Here comes the client name, I better hit it hard.”
Don’t get me wrong – script analysis is important and needs to be done first thing. But our most important job is to let the script “hit us in the face” emotionally.
There is a valid reason why many voiceover folks still approach commercial copy analytically instead of emotionally. Not that long ago, voiceover was called “announcing.” It was actually considered unprofessional if the “announcer” were to interject his or her emotions.
But times have changed – and so has our title. We are now “Voice actors“, and I for one take that title very personally.
The trick as voice actors is to let the copy control you – instead of you controlling the copy. This is called “immersion,” and it’s extremely hard to do. It means we have to learn how to let go… and go with the flow… in a society that values control above everything else.
Being “fully present” is crucial for voice actors. It allows us to be open and receptive to the emotional story behind the copy. When we are fully present, we are not “trying” to sound a certain way; we are so immersed in the copy that we are living it. Our instincts are guiding our performance – and this honesty is what grabs the listener’s attention.
Here are some ways to practice being fully present:
- Try checking your cellphone at only designated times during the day. The rest of the time, observe everything and everyone around you. You’ll be surprised at what you’ve been missing!
- Practice meditating or sitting quietly for at least 5 minutes every day. It’s harder than it sounds! When you do this, you will see how distracted you are from your inner self.
- When you feel emotions come up during the day, don’t stuff them — celebrate them! Develop the ability to clearly identify and name your feelings. (This will drive your non-actor friends crazy!)
When asked about his philosophy on acting, the late Robin Williams said, “Be personal and be specific. That way the audience can relate to you.”
So, start taking each piece of copy personally, and be specific about how it makes you feel. Don’t judge your feelings. Instead, go with where they take you. As you’ll find, losing yourself in a piece of copy is one of the greatest feelings in the world. If you do this, you will find your inner actor!
I would love to know how this article makes you feel, so drop me a note at: email@example.com.
Nancy Wilson is a busy voice-over actor in Los Angeles and is currently training with the legendary comedy group ‘The Groundlings’. You can find her on Facebook and on her website: www.nancywilsonvo.com.