Voice Talent Wisdom: Environment
We take it for granted
No, this is not going to be about our country's stance on global warming or a vehement outcry to other countries' environmental policies. (Or a downer of a post).
However much of a stretch this may be, this same neglect can be applied to voice over. Many voice talents don’t book jobs simply because they’re not focused on an integral part of the script: The Environment.
Factors like people, place, time, reason—The Who, What, When, Where and Why are always vital no matter what type of project. Knowing this information will help us stay better informed about each project and better serve our clients in the long run. Without a doubt it is a crucial part of understanding how to do our jobs effectively so both parties walk away satisfied. Each piece of copy--when they are simply raw words on a page, before the recording, editing and mixing--- encapsulates a world. If you don’t know where you are in that world, how are your clients supposed to have faith in your abilities?
When was the last time you read an entire script (SFX, Video Notes, MUSIC, Images, other VO Parts) all the way through?
When was the last time you looked at the copy and immediately launched into what you thought the spot was supposed to sound like?
Did it inform your read or spoil it?
Familiarity means getting into a comfort zone, if we're not careful. Ok, so you've seen a particular style many times before. Whether it’s a commercial, corporate narration/industrial, explainer video or web promo, the mood can be very similar to a handful of others you’ve auditioned for or voiced. The demographics, the target audience, the somewhat cheesy writing (it’s not all cheesy) that gives itself away—all occupying thought bubbles in your mind. You think to yourself, I know what this sounds like thus avoiding the more important questions.
Time and again, voice talents will ask—if they’re just going to cast what they don’t initially want, why should I take any risks at all?
Because she who takes those risks, who asks those questions, goes the longer way. And it will most certainly make the difference when it catches someone off guard. The magic starts when we ask those important questions for ourselves and let the people on the other side determine what it “sounds like”.
Who am I taking to? Whether you’re reading for the part of Dad, Mom, Creepy Uncle or the Narrator (I prefer this word over Announcer), this question should be at the top of your list. For example, as the Narrator, you have more of a responsibility to guide the piece, to be the storyteller. Then again it may be that you’re talking directly to the other people in the script. Or it’s someone you know- a close friend, loved one, or enemy perhaps.
What am I talking about? Is it food, technology, banking, medicine, or primary care doctors, global warming or Saddam Hussein? Being educated and informed on the subject makes a huge difference in the attitude one brings to a project.
When is it taking place? Morning, afternoon or night? Past, present or future?
Where am I? I’m in the booth for God’s sake in front of the microphone! Yes but seriously where in the script are you? Its not just words on a page. External factors play a large role here. For example, if this is a food commercial, are you on the deck by the grill or in the kitchen? If it is a corporate narration, are you in a classroom lecturing students or at a podium in a park? Imagine other sights, smells, sounds, temperature, music etc. In short, go THAT far.
Why am I speaking to them?
As you can see, a great deal of preparation and investment goes into every audition and project we work on. Of course, analyzing a script to death may not apply to all instances but the essentials clearly must be acknowledged.
Dismissing them as perfunctory will have undesirable consequences.