When I begin a voice acting job, the questions I ask myself aren’t too different from those I would ask if I were starting a role for film or stage: who am I, what am I trying to get across, and who am I talking to?
As a voice actor however, I cannot use my eyes, my body, or my face to communicate my identity and my intentions. I only have my voice, and, more often than not, a page of informational script that is more procedural than character driven. So how do I create the kind of emotional connection that “is what it’s all about” in voice acting?
Voice Acting Should Feel Personal
Creating an emotional connection with a script is essential to being able to clearly communicate the client’s message. When I sit down with a page of copy, it’s important for me to be clear on the purpose of the material.
For instances where I’m tasked with narrating a corporate procedure or some other form of employee training, I try to imagine how I would speak to those listening if I were right there in the room with them. I like to picture myself as a friend sitting beside their computer telling them exactly what they need to do, not some robot delivering a monologue.
Sometimes, with material that’s particularly emotionally resonant, I imagine a person from my own life and pretend that I’m talking directly to them, to their hopes and needs and wishes and fears.
I did this recently with a piece of advertising copy for a hospice that had contacted me to promote their caring approach for families looking to make their loved ones comfortable during the last days of their lives. I was reminded of the experience of suddenly losing a friend, a colleague of mine who I’d enjoyed many years with as a performing peer. This man was still young, and he’d kept the details of his illness private until his passing was imminent. A mutual friend of ours gave him the ultimate gift of comfort and set him up in a house near the beach where he could see the sky and the sea, and spend his last days in the company of friends in the sort of natural setting that he’d always loved.
When I read my script for the hospice ad, I thought specifically of my friend and allowed the personal memory to wash over me and inform my voice acting delivery of the copy. I thought of what he and his close circle would have wanted to hear while making tough decisions about comfort and care, and this connection made the finished product more believable, relateable, and emotionally true.
Let the Client Drive Your Voice Acting
Forging a strong emotional connection to copy from personal experience is something I can now do, after decades of acting on stage and as a voice talent, almost immediately. It’s like driving; I get into the seat, look over my script, and like a map I know by heart, I can get a quick read on where I’m going and how I’ll get there.
But it’s important to remember that as someone who does voice acting for hire, my impulses must ultimately translate into a version of the copy that best suits the client’s needs. Two different clients can use the word “conversational” to describe their desired tone, but they might have two completely different ideas of what that actually sounds like. As with so many aspects of this business, it’s important for me to communicate and connect with the client first, and get a clear sense of their direction before I get into the seat and start off on the road.
Published by Debbie Grattan on 12/20/13.
Debbie Grattan has been Voice Acting for more than 20 years, completing well beyond 10,000 voice acting projects along her journey while partnering with hundreds of production companies, marketing and advertising firms, commercial voice-over recording studios and corporate/business clients around the United States and abroad. Check out Debbie’s Voice Acting Demos and request a Voice Over Services quote for an upcoming project.