Our clients want us for our organ… and no, I’m not talking about our vocal cords.
Let’s start with an obvious statement: of course, our job is to speak properly. But thinking that it is our sole task would be missing the point.
What is expected of us first and foremost, you may ask? To listen. Whether it’s in a studio session, a remotely directed session, or a session where we self-direct based on a brief, our work is, before anything else, to listen to what the client wants from us.
We are chosen for our voice, we are remembered for our ears.
We are simply like a musician in an orchestra. We must follow the conductor and work in harmony with the other musicians. Simply playing the music from the score without considering the other elements would make us a poor musician who won’t be called upon frequently. If we play with those other elements, bringing our talent into the mix, we will be in demand.
It’s exactly the same for voice over: ego has no place. The client/session director/producer/copywriter is the conductor, and the other musicians are the sound engineer, the pictures, the music, the SFX, and the script. Let’s start by listening to what the client wants, whether it’s expressed verbally or through a brief. No brief? Don’t hesitate to ask questions. As the entity who speaks, who/what are we? What is our intention? Who are we addressing? How many people? How far away are they? What tone? Intimate and warm? Serious and authoritative? Introverted or projecting?
If we are in the studio, it is imperative to also listen to the sound engineer. They are our best friend. The pictures and the M&Es dictate the rhythm, much like a metronome. The script itself has its own rhythm. It is only by following and respecting all these different elements that we can bring our interpretation, our added value.
Even if the session doesn’t go the way we’d like it to go, never be irritated. NEVER.
For an session director, nothing is worse than a voice actor acting like a diva. So, even if the client wants another take – yes, the 23rd one – we must remain calm. Perhaps they want to explore different directions, maybe they want to cover all angles, maybe they want to present interpretations that are diametrically opposed to their client’s vision (using some as a “pushback” to “sell” the one they prefer, which is why they ask us for intonations that may seem inappropriate), maybe they’re waiting to hear THE take to know it’s THE right one, maybe we’re simply not yet in sync with the producer, maybe… it doesn’t matter.
The session director is not a diabolical character whose sole purpose is to make us suffer; they have nothing against us. They are simply seeking to capture the desired result. If we get angry, they will get angry too, nothing good will come out of it, and they will never call us back. Stay calm, seek to understand, ask the right questions calmly, genuinely trying to grasp what is expected of us – that’s the recipe for being remembered.
A piece of advice that applies to many situations, including our sessions: use your organs in the right order. I guarantee you, it works much better that way!
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