Get Back to the Basics
Whether you’re a new aspiring voice talent or someone who has been working in VO for years, it’s useful to go back and review the essentials from time to time. In this case, we’re talking about everyone’s favorite, script analysis. Sometimes in our rush to jump in the booth and get those auditions done faster, we can shortchange this critical step, which in turn, can sabotage our efforts to give our best read. You know the one I am talking about - the one that gives us a competitive advantage over all those other auditions. The path of least resistance is often an unconscious siren song that lulls us into overconfidence. I'm a firm believer in the old adage “You get better at what you practice”, and if you’re not regularly analyzing your scripts before you read, you could be practicing wrong. Let’s kick it up a notch, and take a look at a few in-depth concepts that can keep you answering the right questions.
Who is hiring you?
First and foremost, learn who it is that is hiring you. Take a few minutes to search the company and the brand. Soak up as much information as you can about the company, including previous campaigns, company culture, and even a mission statement. Go to their website and read about their values. Chances are, what you learn will inform your interpretation of the copy. Large companies are like big ships, they don’t alter course quickly and their branding has momentum. More than likely if you keep true to the company’s message, your audition will be closer to what they are looking for.
What is the purpose of the copy?
This is the “Why” of the analysis. Beyond any direction that is given when you receive the script, you need to figure out why the company is going through all the trouble to communicate this message. Dig below the surface of what the script is saying, and look for the why of the copy. Is it sell based or is it educational? If the script is about training a new function of a point of sale register, what do you think drove the need to add this new functionality? If the copy is outward-facing and tells the story of how their product helped a small town be more energy-efficient, why did the company feel it was important that this story was told? Answer these questions and you will have a perspective that will add layers to your audition and fine-tune the story.
Who is listening?
It’s easy to assume that the audience who will be listening to what you are reading could be just about anybody. If you are simply thinking “company employees”, or if it’s the "client", then any Joe Schmoe could be watching, right? Nope. You better believe that when the script was written there was a very specific audience in mind, one with much more of a persona than a generic Joe. It’s your job to imagine who that could be. Perhaps it's a very specific employee or customer. Be as detailed as possible when creating your listener. What is their pain point? Their frustrations, their joys? Then, talk to that person, just that person, and it will be easier to find the story in the copy.
Where are they listening?
More than likely when you record, you are sitting or standing in a small padded room, staring at a wall, probably a little warmer then you’d like to be, talking into a microphone. Your job though is to put yourself into where the listener is watching. Is it a conference room, a convention center, at home on the couch, at a training seminar with a small group? All of these options are going to inform your interpretation of the script, as well as dictate your mic technique. You will read differently if your voice is going to be listened to on headphones vs. in a crowded conference center.
Who are you?
Ok, don’t go all hippy on me. :) “Who is anyone man?” This isn’t about who you are personally. (That’s another blog) It’s about defining the narrator of the story you’re telling. Who is sharing this information? This is where you can really be creative. After you understand the script, make some choices about whom it is that you are portraying. You will be a character, but not necessarily a cartoon character (unless you are directed to be one in the script) Try to imagine your role in the scene that the message portrays. The more specific you are, the more you opportunity you have to differentiate yourself from other auditions.
Your RX for Analysis
Create a routine that encompasses these questions every time you analyze a script. You’ll find that the more you practice answering these questions, the easier it will become. It may take a little more time at first, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get. You will add motivation, empathy, and context to your reads. This will help you grow as a voice actor into a truly formidable VO BOSS!
Much love and Keep on rockin' your biz.
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.