Technique is you. The performer & the performance. The human instrument. And I’m not talking about talent. Yes you must have some, but many aspiring voice actors think that’s all you need. It’s the minimum requirement.
Without any training do you think that you can pick up a violin, immediately start playing it at a concert level, and expect people to pay you for it? Then why does every putz with a deep voice and a USB mic think they can have successful voiceover career right out of the gate? You need a hell of a lot more than talent to be successful in the voiceover industry. You need Technique.
It’s funny. When I started writing this blog I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to talk about. I think it’s because I’ve taken this part of my career for granted since I’ve had so many years of training and now it’s muscle memory. Now that I’m actually writing this blog, I’m realizing there is a lot more you need to know than three clever quicky-quick tips. I’ll try to make them less quicky-quick…
TIP OF THE WEEK
Be a good storyteller. Good voice talents are good storytellers. Whether it’s a 15-second radio ad, an audio book, or an Elearning module, every script is a story. Honor the script. Honor the story. Understand the structure of storytelling. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end with twists & turns, selling points, calls-to-action, and more. If you don’t have theater or film training, take some acting classes. Improvisation classes are a huge help too. Yes, I know that scripts are set and you can’t make stuff up. HOWEVER, good storytellers makes strong choices in the moment. There are community colleges and local theater groups that offer classes, some of them for free.
Be a good student. Like any business, you need to understand the industry and your place in it. Specifically, understand the different genres (commercials, Explainer videos, etc.) and which ones you can & can’t do. Be realistic! Everybody wants to do cartoons. Everybody wants to do video games. Not everyone is good at it. For example, I don’t get much Medical Narration work. I’m articulate, very good at pronouncing medical terms, and even got great Medical Narration training but I just sound too young. The industry mostly wants older sounding men & women and I don’t fit the bill. The trend may change someday, but for now I’ll stick with the genres I know I can excel at.
Be a good listener. This is the most important tip of all, maybe even of all the five categories of your business. Most aspiring voice talents fail because they don’t know how to listen. More to the point, they’re so in love with the sound of their pretty, pretty voice that they don’t pay attention to the story and CAN’T TAKE DIRECTION. If you can’t or won’t listen to your coaches, your demo producers, your fellow voice talents, or your studio directors, you are ****ed. You have no shot of getting anywhere in this industry.
BONUS TIP! Don’t rehearse your copy too much. To self-consciously quote, um, myself from a previous blog entry:
Yes, you should scan the script to make sure you know how to pronounce the words and get the gist of the story, then set it aside until you get in the booth. Don’t practice reading copy! Repeating it like that marries you to one interpretation and makes it that much harder for you to take direction.You are not the story, you are the storyteller. You are not the message, you are the messenger. Yes, your input may have some value. Yes, being directed too much sucks and being given line readings sucks even more. Tough toenails.Look over the script once, then do your job. And your job is to be a good listener. Listen to the script. Listen to the director. Be open to any interpretation given to you, even if you don’t agree with it or it doesn’t make you sound as awesome as you think you could.Listen, listen, listen!
NEWS AND NOTES
Contest! The first three people who email me at firstname.lastname@example.org will get a free digital download of the audio book Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders by William A. Gentry, Ph.D.
Announcement! My second audio book gig of 2017 is narrating four stories from The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction 9 by Infinivox: Patience Lake by Matthew Claxton, Prodigal by Gord Sellar, Elves of Antarctica by Paul McCauley, and They All Have One Breath by Karl Bunker.