The first of these extremes is not the subject of this blog. But to show the difference between the two extremes I will briefly mention it. It is the art of script analysis. Script analysis is a time tested and methodical way of breaking down a script, looking at all its pieces, getting into the head of the script writer, putting the pieces back together, developing a character and finally developing a style of delivery. This takes time, thought and work and it is a necessary process when working as a voice-over talent, director and producer from your personal studio.
The other extreme is Improv. Many times as a voice-over professional you will be in situations that demand the ability to “think on your feet”. I recently saw an article that called it “immediate theatre”. And improv is especially beneficial to any talent during the auditioning process.
Improv stretches the “Listening Muscle”. In our modern world, listening is a dying art. Truly listening requires something much deeper than hearing words. It is paying attention to inflections, dynamics, pacing and a world of other things important to what is being communicated.
Improv stretches the “Concentration Muscle”. As one “listens”, one must be able to focus on things you may not have typically noticed. This begins an emotional connection that is so important to the final delivery or performance.
Improv stretches the “Creative Muscle”. A few of the greatest advantages to improv are the ability to “think outside the box”, the ability to change at a moments notice when necessary and the ability to look at many choices and choose those that best apply.
Improv stretches the “Confidence Muscle”. This is where improv pays big dividends. Listening, concentrating and creating with confidence results in impressive auditions, spot-on performances and extremely satisfied clients.
You may be reading this and not really know what improv is. I have already used the term “immediate theater”. Basically, actors or participants take suggestions on settings, circumstances, characters, etc. and act out scenes accordingly. And they do this impromptu, or without planning. It’s immediate. The actor may employ drama but comedy is the more popular element of improv. Improv is non-scripted. I also found this description on the internet: “On another level, improv is a way of being. It is a method that allows for creativity beyond the normal. It allows for confidence and real emotion to become unblocked. For many improv players, improv is therapy and knowledge”. And then, “on a higher level, improv is reverting to childhood, to games, to no censors, to ancient behavior. What is it like to clearly feel the emotions that mankind shares together? It goes back to something as simple as “breathe in: breathe out”.
So, why should a voice-over professional do improv?
In an article in Backstage Magazine, Rebecca Michaels Haugh explained that, “For VO performance improv helps an actor approach a scene/script with variety, creating more vivid circumstances and more variety in possible circumstances. For VO sessions with producers and clients, it’s practice receiving a variety of direction and need to act immediately. For games and character VO work, even audiobooks, improvisation supports expansion of current character/accents and development of new ones.”
There is simply no excuse to not do improv. Improv is everywhere. Almost every city in America has some kind of improv group or class. But if your town doesn’t, start one. There is plenty of information online that you can use.
Remember what I said earlier; listening, concentrating and creating with confidence results in impressive auditions, spot-on performances and extremely satisfied clients. And this is what improv will do for you.
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Bill Brooks is a 40+ year voice over veteran and provides voice over services to clients all over the world. He appears regularly in theatrical stage productions in the Dalls/Fort Worth area and is serving his second year as President of the Executive Board at Artisan Center Theater in Hurst, TX.