Remember when you were in high-school, and your English teacher would break you into groups to read and critique each other’s essays? Regardless of whether or not that was your favorite assignment, it always worked. You would pick up on the techniques and strategies that your peers were using, and in turn, you’d end up helping them develop their abilities, too.
Workshopping is, essentially, the act of entering a constructive dialogue with the sole purpose of gathering feedback and fresh ideas from peers in your field. It’s used famously by writers and actors to work intensively on figuring out the secrets of their fellow artists’ successes. So why not voice-over? If you’ve ever received professional coaching, you can think of a workshop in much the same way, except you will act as both the student and the teacher.
To get started, run a search online to see if there are any voice-over groups in your community. You can check sites like MeetUp, Facebook, and FrontPorchForum. You could even reach out to theaters, community colleges, and arts centers to see if they’re hosting any workshops. If you can’t find one, then start one! The best part about voice-over is that you don’t even need it to be an in-person affair. You can start a group online with fellow voice-actors and simply work through email.
Here’s how you can get the most out of your workshop experience:
Have no fear – To engage with a workshop experience is to enter into a real, critical conversation focusing entirely on you, your craft, and what others’ see as your triumphs and challenges. You need to be open to receiving feedback that you might not want to hear, and if you want to get the most out of your experience, you need to receive each critique constructively.
Give constructive feedback – If you’re joining an existing workshop, ask for some advice on how to structure your comments constructively, and in a way that is consistent with the way that group conducts itself. This also means that you shouldn’t simply tell someone that they have a nice voice, or that they’re pretty good. Look for ways in which someone can improve, or offer affirmation if someone asks whether something is effective or not. Phrase your feedback in a way that would be beneficial to you.
Come with questions – It’s helpful to guide a critique of your work if you come with prepared questions so that your group can provide direction where you need it. If you’re working on a specific accent or character voice, then perhaps you can record a few variations of a short read in order to receive feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.
Share the spotlight – If your group doesn’t have a strong moderator, or even if they do, try to keep your comments short and direct. Actionable is the best word to keep in mind during these experiences, because everyone is there to learn and receive something usable. Light conversation is nice, but should take place outside of the workshop to ensure that everyone remains focused and on-track.
Listen to all feedback – Don’t only listen to the feedback that people give to you. The critiques that other voice talent receive are equally as valid, and can most likely be applied to you and your craft, whether it’s focusing on delivery, script analysis, or recording techniques.
Take notes – Workshops are invigorating, exciting environments, and it’s easy to get swept up in the momentum of it all, so be sure that you’re keeping track of the feedback that you and others are receiving. You can do this either by taking notes on your computer, smartphone, a notepad, or even just by recording the whole workshop (make sure you get everyone’s permission beforehand). Your notes are your takeaway, and you’ll want to refer back to what was suggested as you work to improve your methods. Writing notes also helps commit things to memory!
Create an action plan – Take your notes and any lingering thoughts or ideas, and organize them into an actionable plan for how you’ll apply what you’ve learned in the studio. An education is only as effective as its implementation. Take the criticism and suggestions that your peers have provided, and figure out how you can make improvements/changes to your current methods.
Know Yourself – Don’t take everything that your peers suggest as gospel. This doesn’t mean you should reject things that you disagree with, it just means that if you try something and it doesn’t feel right, or doesn’t provide the results you’re seeking, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to hold strong to your peers’ direction. Every idea is worth vetting, but not all of them will be revolutionary to your approach.
Above all else, be sure that you’re engaging with your fellow voice actors in a way that is both enriching and encouraging. Deliver criticism that you’d like to receive, and always take into consideration the fact that your peers are here for the same reason you are: to pursue continued growth and development as a pro talent.
Check out Nancy Wilson’s 2-hour online workshop: Tips & Tricks for Making the Copy Uniquely Yours!
Available dates include…
August 6th – 11:00am-1:00pm EST
August 10th – 7:30pm-9:30pm EST
Alexander Goss is the Chief Administrative Officer at Such A Voice. With a BFA in creative writing from Green Mountain College, Alexander has hosted and moderated several successful writing workshops.