As a voiceover artist for 40 years, giving life to characters including Chas Finster and Drew Pickles on “Rugrats” and Handy Smurf on The Smurfs,” I’ve delivered my fair share of auditions.
One thing I’ve learned is that your VO audition must capture the casting director’s attention in the first 10 seconds or they will not listen to the rest. They simply don’t have time.
How do you turn a beige read into something more colorful? How do you increase your chances of being heard? Your job is to give “eyes” to the listeners’ ears, so that they begin to see the scene through your voice.
There are three essential basics to compete in the world of voice animation. Your read, along with your imagination and acting chops, must include energy, clarity, and variety.
Energy. Energy means breathing life into the words. It doesn’t mean volume or speed. Use your imagination by putting yourself in the scene. Physicalize the lines. Most beginners stand straight with their hands locked as they deliver lines. Is that what your character is doing in the scene? Probably not. As long as you keep your mouth in front of the mic, you’re free to move the rest of your body silently through the air. One leg slap, or foot shuffle, and we can’t keep the take. You must also deliver your lines from a specific point of view. Know why you’re saying what you’re saying by using your imagination and making strong choices. If you have questions about a word or name, don’t be afraid to ask.
Clarity. If we can’t understand you, you won’t get the job. Period! No need to over articulate. You paint the picture with your voice, so make sure you’re vocal painting is clear. If your character has a pronounced snort or lateral lisp to accent his or her behavior or nature, use the device sparingly..and make sure you don't sacrifice clarity.
Variety. Explore different layers of the emotion you’re communicating. Anger isn’t always loud. An exclamation point at the end of a line doesn’t always imply being bigger. It implies being emphatic. Anger mixed with frustration, tears, and determination is much more evocative than just yelling a line. Simmering anger is so much more effective then blasting. Pacing variety is also crucial. Words are like musical notes. Quarter notes, mixed with an occasional half note, and a string of eighth notes, gives pacing variety to your read, making it that much easier to reel in your listener.
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