"How Do You Do It?"
Recently, I was talking to someone about the kinds of gigs I've done and the auditions I've submitted lately - everything from a regional TV commercial for an entertainment venue to a series of corporate training videos. "How do you do it?" I was asked. "How do you know HOW to do what they want? How do you know what voice to use and how to read the script?"
The answer: It's acting.
There are a number of job titles in the industry for what I do - voice talent, voice artist, voiceover artist, to name a few. I prefer to call myself a "voice actor." Oftentimes, people hear this title and automatically assume that I do animated character voices for a living, and sure, animation is part of the field. But whether it's a cartoon, a telephone answering service, or an eLearning video, I still have to ACT.
When I get a script, I read it through and imagine the audience. Unless I'm recording my podcast, "Anything But Routine," I never step into the booth and talk into the mic as myself - I may not be a cartoon character, but I'm still a character. Before I get in there, I need to picture the person or persons who'll be listening to me. Is it a family looking for a fun vacation getaway? Is it an elderly woman deciding which nursing home will provide her the most attentive care? Is it a hospital employee learning how to handle a patient with a highly contagious disease? I wouldn't talk to all of these people the same way; I wouldn't use the same voice I use to pitch an exciting new water park, when I'm trying to persuade a retiree who just had a hip replaced that XYZ Village is a quality place to go for careful, capable rehab. And my soothing, reassuring nursing-home voice, while certainly appropriate, might not best convey the urgency of the situation and the necessary steps required to treat and contain a dangerous illness. They're all different - different messages, different audiences, different objectives. And I need to pretend I'm in the situation itself in order to gauge the best way to deliver the point I'm hired to deliver. In other words, I have to ACT.
It's just like an actor playing a role on a TV show or in a movie, and that's why I prefer the title "voice actor" - the only differences between TV/movie actors and me are that you don't see me, and I don't need to memorize my lines. But everything else is the same. I imagine my audience, and I imagine who *I* am when I'm speaking to them, and I imagine how I would sound when telling them what I need to tell them and what would work best. Then I go into the booth and try it out. I read the script aloud a few times and listen to myself before recording, and then I record several takes and play them back. Sometimes I don't like any of what I hear and start over; sometimes I like bits and pieces of each take and edit them all together into one flowing narration that works. And sometimes I strike the right tone right off the bat (I love that feeling!).
On occasion, clients prefer to direct the voice actor while s/he is recording the gig. Sometimes the voice actor goes to the client's recording studio; other times, the director patches into the booth via phone or Internet so they and the voice actor can hear each other and work together to get the sound the client wants. But whether the voice actor is directed by the client or directs him/herself, the process is still the same. The voice actor still needs to get into character in order to record the script convincingly.
As with any skill, it takes work and practice. It was included in my training through Voices For All, and I've since booked extra coaching sessions
- that's an option I'll always have through VFA and will continue to take advantage of. I also listen closely whenever I hear a voiceover of any kind and take mental notes, learning from the voice actor who delivers them. As far as I'm concerned, no matter what you do in life, you never stop learning, and no matter how good you get, you'll never reach the point where you can't improve!
Got voice acting questions? Send them in or post them below, and I'll be happy to answer them!
Till next time - have a great week!