Shaking Things Up

No matter where you are in your voice acting journey, there is a lot of competition in the field. Sometimes, there are dozens – or maybe even a couple hundred – people vying for the same job. So how can you be the one that comes out on top?

Common sense would say that the voice talent who gets it “right” and knows exactly how the director wants you to read the script will win the job.

Ironically, the opposite is often true: the more we fret over how we sound and which words to punch, the more likely it is that we will wind up at the bottom of the audition pile.

Maybe that’s why the lauded acting coach Sanford Meisner once said, “The text is your enemy.” We tend to put too much emphasis on the words themselves and do not search beyond them.

There is a story underneath the words, and it’s your job as an actor to create it. 

Words are powerful, but they represent something much bigger.

Robert Downey Jr. said in a recent interview, “I pay very little attention to what’s on the script.” What does that mean? Does he make up whatever words he wants? Does he change the story?

No, he feels he just brings his unique perspective to the story. He does not change the story, he enhances it.

Look beyond the words to have the audition advantage.

Look beyond the words.

Most folks auditioning skim the surface of the copy, and land on the most obvious delivery. They play it safe, and they end up sounding the same as everyone else.

Casting directors tell us we need to stand out from the crowd. How do we give them the delightfully unexpected?

It starts with great script analysis and ends with a heavy dose of imagination.

Understand the fine points of the script.

Before we can let our imagination run wild, we need to honor the writer’s intentions.

Evaluate how well you comprehend the message with a technique called “nut-shelling”:

  1. Read the script a few times, but do not memorize it.
  2. Without looking, verbalize aloud the key points the writer is trying to convey. (This can be awkward; you may struggle to put into your own words what the story is about.)
  3. Practice this until it becomes easy.

Our goal is to understand the script inside out – then we can make creative choices with the storyline.

Look for tone.

Once you understand the fine points, look for clues in the tone of the script. Is there a specific word repeated numerous times?

In a Disney script, you may see the word “magical” three or more times. To honor the writer’s intention, we want to embrace the magical Disney tone.

If the word “hope” appears more than once in a St. Jude script, this is the tone the writer is looking for.

Bring your unique perspective.

After your script analysis is complete, it is time to open the floodgates of your imagination.

You will be amazed at the creative license you can take with a script when you acknowledge the fine points!

I love trying different storylines underneath a mundane piece of commercial copy.

Say you are presented with a basic deodorant commercial. You have the usual points: the name of the product, the sales pitch, that it keeps you smelling better than the others, and the tag line at the end. You might think there is not much you can do with this…not true!

There are an infinite number of stories you can create beneath the words to make even a boring piece of copy feel fun and different.

Here are some examples:

  1. Intense with a hint of anxiety: I’m going on a date with a guy I’m crazy about and I must smell great!
  2. Thoughtful/discerning: I only use this product because it doesn’t have aluminum.
  3. Sexy: I know I smell good…
  4. Secretive/confidentially: Let’s talk about something no one wants to discuss – smelling.

When doing this, practice creating the backstories aloud, leading into the actual copy. Bring a specific emotional intention into your performance.

Remember, it takes more than having a good voice and reading the words correctly to stand out from the crowd: bringing a story and emotions to your audition copy elevates you from the others and distinguishes you as a talented professional.

Check out our free PDF with pro-tips from real working voice-over actors here!

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