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Directing Voice Talent III

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Should you give scripts to your talent in advance of the session? This can make sense if it’s talent you’ve worked with and trust. The danger is that sometimes they’ll get stuck in an interpretation that might be difficult to get them out of. If you do give them scripts in advance, at least talk with them so they understand the interpretation you want. Encourage the actors to make notes on the script. Hopefully those scripts are in upper and lower case and double-spaced, with wide margins.

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Your actors will thrive on constant encouragement. Praise them when they’ve done a good take. Don’t let the talent stay isolated in the booth for any length of time without giving them feedback, especially when it’s positive. If there’s a discussion in the control room about script changes or interpretation, keep the talkback button depressed, so the talent knows what’s coming, and so they don’t stand there in the dark, imagining the worst.

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You want to help keep their spirits and energy up. Remember, their egos may be fragile, but it’s this sensitivity which helps make them good actors. Allow them to make adjustments bit by bit, don’t give them a litany of changes all at once and expect them all to be absorbed. Often, letting the talent hear a playback of a take is the best way to get them to adjust. The most believable acting is reacting. Chuck Blore has used a dialogue technique where each actor has partial script – only the other actor’s parts. Each actor is then forced to react to what the other person says, instead of “reading” the written lines. A few times through using this technique may be all that’s necessary to get them to sound more spontaneous than before. Record these and play them back to your talent as a guide.

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In most cases, you’ll want to avoid giving line reads. You could start by letting them interpret the script without much direction from you to see what they do with it. This will give you an idea of how close their initial read is to what you want. It may also yield new interpretations. Include your actors in the creative process. Tell them, “If you’ve got a better way of interpreting what’s written, try it.” Line readings are a last resort, but you must be able to give accurate ones, or risk getting a mimic of a bad read. With some voice talent, a line reading is the ideal way to help them find their way. You’ll find different ways of working with various voice talents.

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These are guidelines. What works for me may not work for you. Develop your own comfortable style. Be observant to see what is effective and what isn’t and continue to use the techniques that are.   If you do, your commercials will be more effective, the process will become more and more enjoyable, and voice talent will actually look forward to your direction.  

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