Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Are You an Actor as Well as Voiceover Talent?

I’m sure many of you are actors in addition to being voice-over talent.  The two can go hand in hand.  Your acting abilities affect your voice over work by helping you to “get into character” for a 30 or 60 second radio or television commercial, vignettes for e-learning or corporate narrations, and as the voice of authority or guy or gal next door in narrations of all kinds.  Have you ever thought of how your experience with voice over work can actually help your acting – especially, your audition skills?

You have to be a great reader to do voice over work, especially, long form narration.  You’re constantly “reading ahead” in order to keep from being caught off guard as to where that sentence is actually going.  You don’t usually have time to study your script and would never have time to memorize it in order to “make it your own.”  At most, you may just have time at the beginning of a session to quickly read through, get a sense of who you are – with a little help from your director, if you’re lucky - and take off!  Yes, you can stop or just restart if you make a mistake while recording, but you have to maintain your character, your momentum, and stay present in the scene.

In the best case (and most cases) with on camera auditioning for film, you are given a side or sides to prepare for an audition and access to the whole script if you are very lucky!  You usually have at least some time to prepare your character’s point of view, relationships, intentions, etc.   However, often times, you might be given another scene to read or even another character to read during an audition which cuts down dramatically on the time you have to prepare.  In these cases, your voice over experience of creating “instant characters” can help immensely.  As a voice over talent, your ability to read unfamiliar material and make sense of it, or even paraphrase it almost immediately can make a huge difference between floundering and taking charge in an audition.

I recently had an audition experience which made me realize how my voice over work helped smooth out a potentially excruciating audition.  A week before the audition, I was told by the director which role to prepare and told to read the entire script if possible.  However, when I asked if there were particular sides/scenes to prepare for the audition, I was told, no, they’d be provided only at the audition, but that I should be familiar with a 2 page scene in particular.  I read the script and pulled all of the scenes for my character and prepared them thoroughly, especially the scene he had mentioned.  Upon my arrival (early) to the audition, I found that there were no sides provided in the waiting room.  Thankfully, I had mine, at least, so I continued preparing while I waited.  However, when I was brought in to the audition room, the director handed me a completely different scene for a different character.  Fortunately, I knew the script and who this character was.  I had not, however, prepared this scene.  I was to read with another actor who, to my knowledge, had not prepared this scene, either.  We were to do the scene immediately, without preparation, and be placed on video. I found that my eyes quickly scanned the script as the director was setting up the scene for us.  I placed myself in the scene from what I remembered from my previous reading and I was able to read/paraphrase the dialogue without having to keep my nose buried in the script. I’m not sure why the director chose to deal with the actors in this way for this audition.  His reasons are not clear to me, but I’m sure he had some.  I could have balked and asked to be given time to go out to review the scene, which is usually the case in a situations such as this, but I got the feeling that’s not what he wanted even though he was friendly and kind.  He seemed to like what I did, and I really didn’t feel particularly stressed over it.  I believe that all the voice-over work with last minute scripts and creating “instant characters” helped keep this from being a disaster or at the very least, extremely uncomfortable.  It just gave me another reason to say, “Thank goodness for voice over!”