No matter how simple a commercial script may be, every single one has a turnkey moment. As a voice actor, it’s important to be able to identify that moment, though oftentimes it’s ignored. This is because most folks voice a commercial line by line, instead of considering the script holistically, as well as using deep script analysis and their imagination to turn the words into a complete story.
If you think it’s impossible to turn an ad for toilet paper into an interesting story, I assure you it’s not! Look closely at the talking bathroom fixtures or the animated hunks helping you clean the house and you’ll see a story in almost every advertisement. All of these stories must have a turnkey moment.
To discover the turnkey moment during the script analysis process, we need to break it down into segments. Many commercial scripts follow a basic structure– one that’s analogous to life. For example, the script may follow this format below:
An inciting incident that shakes up the status quo of a character’s life (example: life has been normal, then suddenly the arthritis pain starts).
The character decides things must change and the search is on to solve the problem (get rid of the pain).
A discovery of a solution to the problem (the character buys Advil and the pain stops). This is the turnkey moment in the script.
A turnkey moment is the moment when the story changes and when the solution to the problem is found. It is the defining moment in a commercial script.
Why is it important to be able to identify the turnkey moment in the script analysis process? Because as voice actors, it’s our job to grab and keep the listener’s attention. The turnkey moment builds suspense and interest and gives us the information that we need in order to make choices. It sells the product to the listeners and leads them to the defining moment of the script.
Try turning your commercial script into a story about you. Make sure you identify your turnkey moment. If you find this challenging, look first for your nugget of truth – that one, specific thing that you can personally relate to in the script, then build the story from there. Improvise and have fun! Use your imagination to create a vivid “scene” and backstory. When you do this, you can’t help but make the words your own and the audience can’t help but be captivated by your story!
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Nancy Wilson is a producer and coach at Such A Voice. She is a busy voice actor and environmental writer, as well as a member of the SAG/AFTRA Radio Plays committee.
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