If you are auditioning at all these days, you’ll notice a trend in the direction notes. Almost every project description or director notes includes the words “conversational” or “authentic” or “real”. So how do you get there when you are reading someone else’s words? By completing a thorough Script Analysis!
There are 4 points to consider when doing your Script Analysis. One of my students, Michael Blevins, came up with a great acronym to help remember the 4 points: M.A.R.S.
MESSAGE: In a commercial script, this question is usually “What am I selling?” Don’t be vague when answering this question. Be specific. If you are going to tell me that the point of your script is to tell people that a certain product is better than the competition, tell me WHY it is better. There is always a point being made. An advertiser wants people to know that they are the better choice, but they always give a reason as to why they are better. Identify that reason and believe it. In a narration script, you may not be selling anything, but you are still giving people information. You need to identify why the information is important. Always know what your message is!
AUDIENCE: We subconsciously change our delivery based on whom we are speaking to, therefore, when analyzing a script, it is important that you have a good idea of who your audience is. You wouldn’t try to reach teenagers in the same way you would reach an adult. You also wouldn’t talk to a business associate the way you’d speak to a close personal friend. Knowing whom you are speaking to helps you communicate your message more effectively. Define your audience as much as possible. Are you speaking to men? Women? What is their age? Why do they care about the message? What are their needs? Think of someone you know personally who would respond to your message. Imagine speaking directly to that person. This helps you to build a personal connection with the audience and will give you a more genuine delivery. Sometimes it helps to cut out pictures of a variety of people from a magazine and post them up in your studio. When you determine whom you are speaking to, put their picture next to the script so that you speak directly to them!
ROLE: In any given script, you will need to identify what your role is. You are never just the “announcer”. Know what perspective you are speaking from. Further define yourself. Be creative, but sensible. For example, you might be a representative of the company and you’re talking to potential customers, or a parent speaking to your child, maybe you’re talking to a neighbor about a new sale at a sporting goods store. Look at the script and search for clues that help define who you are. If the line reads “Call us for more information”, that automatically tells you that you must be a representative of the company. Knowing who you are in any given script will change the way you speak. It may be helpful to create real people “personas” for yourself – Sarah the Soccer Mom, Ashley the late 20’s single professional, Jane the mid 40’s divorcee (how do they speak, what are their lives like?) – as your go-to’s for delivery style when it fits – as long as you don’t over-do it.
SITUATION/SCENARIO: This is also called the “Moment Before” technique. The first sentence is always a reaction to something. Why are you saying the first sentence? What happened that lead you to say the first line? Were you challenged? Did someone ask you a question? You can be creative here, just make sure your decisions make sense. It’s a good idea to use a lead in sentence to get you started – it creates a much more conversational read – and you can always edit it out later!
When you first start to analyze scripts it may take a while. Don’t be discouraged…it gets easier with time. You may even start to build up an arsenal of people you are speaking to and roles you are playing so you can easily slip into the perfect read.
So go forth, analyze those scripts, and make those words that others have written sound like they came casually and comfortably from your mouth!
Best wishes on your voice-over journey!
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Jillian Nielsen is an expressive voice talent with over 14 years of experience in radio and television commercial and promotional voice-overs.