So, this just happened…It’s 12pm, my voice over auditions are all finished, and now it’s time to edit. Fingers and wrists adjusted, computer in perfect editing mode, earphones on, and I’m off to turn in the best spot I can. Wait! What’s this? What the heck is this? This is not me! Who is this? Where did I go? What was I thinking? This just sucks. I’ll never book the job with this. So, what happened?
I Became A Robot And Relied On The Voice Over Specs.
Let’s face it, creative writer’s aren’t always effective at getting their point across for the Voice Over Talent to interpret. By the time the spot has come to you, it may have traversed a lot of other cooks in the kitchen who were eager to lay their mark on it with a guessed upon interpretation.
Lately, I have seen Specs that are longer than the actual copy itself. By the time I get to the copy, I’m pissed off and surely that will come off in my read. Specs need to be brief enough to just get a sense of what the creative team wants. I know if I see the words “snarky” or “comical” I’m hopefully going to masterfully throw that into my own interpretation.
Years ago, Specs were brief in nature and the Actor was left to “make it their own”. These days, there seems to be an underlying lack of trust from the creative side. Or perhaps the influx of non-trained “closet” voice over talent has filled our creative corners so much that they need everything spelled out for them. Or cuckoo clients can be making irrational demands. Either way, Specs are certainly not the jumping off point. They can easily make or break a delivery. And certainly here, I was shattered.
Trusting My Own Instincts
Damn, 40 years of being on the mic and I still get lazy. I get eager. I forget. I’m human. But if my soul slips out of the booth, and the robot slips in, I’m doomed. If I’m doing this in my sleep or I’m complacent, again, I’m doomed. I may have a line up of copy for my morning that is due today, but each piece deserves a reset.
In grad school, one of my teachers taught us to just look at a blank piece of paper to clear our minds. It’s like an artist that approaches a blank canvas and begins his masterpiece. We need to put ourselves into an unconscious free-flowing place and have nothing pre-planned.
I have to read the script. Just read it, plain and simple. I have to stop planning my every voice move in my first read-through. Oh, believe me, I’m good at jumping on the bandwagon too early. But what good does that do? It takes me nowhere. If I leave, I make room for the auto-pilot to take over. So, I just read it, without the specs. I read out-loud. I feel the words. I digest the meaning. I get through the tricky tongue twisters and I’m set. Well not quite.
I’ve taken enough acting and voice over classes to know that I have to come from somewhere. Who am I speaking to? What’s the issue? What’s my issue? This is what I know. And then it’s go time. Now, I’m ready to talk. Yes, talk, not read. The second I read, Misses Robot has entered the booth. Reset. Reset. Reset. Get in the very moment of that conversation. So what if I have to start it with that aggravating word “Introducing”? I know you curse that too. Breathe, reset and talk. This is what I know. You are important to me and I have something to share with you without being pushy of course. This is just me talking. This is me using my own instincts. I dig deep to find my place to start and I talk. This is by far the hardest work for me. I’m often in a fast-paced robot work mode and coming back to my SELF is a constant challenge.
(Record Scratch) Waaaaaiiiiittttt…What About The Specs?
Oh yeah, those. Once I’ve dug down deep enough and know why I’m talking to my best friend or husband about our dog Charlie’s need for great grain-free food, I have to respect the Specs.
Okay, here goes. I just looked at them. Most of the time, I like what I’ve interpreted better. Isn’t that the case for most of us? I might be right on point, or so off base that I have to go back in the studio again. But, either way, I am not DOING their specs for my first read. I am committed to just BEING me. Based on the directions, I may shift, alter, reframe certain words or needs that have been asked to be pushed, but I have to find a way to still stay true to who I am. It’s not about my voice, it’s about my talk. Somehow, I fit the specs, woman 35-50, conversational, with a wry edge. Check, Check, Check.