Hello everyone. As a director myself as well as a VO actor, I am going to list a few things that I wish could be done differently or at least ask for your opinions on the matter. I know I am one of the more direct, "focused," and sometimes intense directors around, but a lot of that stems from being forced into getting a lot accomplished with a very limited time and budget.
Many actors HATE to be line read, but sometimes I find it's the easiest way to portray what's needed, if all else has failed.
When asked to "Give me three takes" I don't mind, but many actors don't really vary these takes enough to make it worth wading through. It's nice if time permits, but often, when I'm passing along editing to someone who has no track sheets, I either have to slate things like "Use the first part of take one plus the last part of take 3" OR what I normally do, and try to make the last take the one we want.
Giving 3 takes can also prove to be brutal if you're doing a really monstrous, gruff or emotive voice.

I personally get a bit antsy when I do a take and then there's a long wait before getting a response. Sometimes the director may be doing a pow-wow with the client, but if this goes on for longer than 45 secs or a minute, one begins to either doubt oneself or feel like perhaps time is a-wasting. I think it's best for the director to at least say, "Good, hang on while we talk about game play," or something.

We all hate the "Do it differently" direction, especially when we ask, "How do you want it different?" and they don't know, or say, "I'll know it when I hear it." My advice is to ask a question in the sample voice they can hear. Example: (in an old voice) "Do you want it older like this?" or in a gruff voice "Maybe a bit more texture like this?" That eliminates the extra "know it when I hear it" crap. But if you still have a clueless director, tell them to line read you. If they make an excuse or say they hate doing that....try to coerce them to at least try. And don't think doing voices for games or even some cartoons is like bringing your own ennui and dramatic flare to a Spectacular script from a movie. Games are non linear for most of the script, so you just have to try and put more of the action in the words for the specific instance rather than relying on finding your subtext etc.

I've heard complaints about directors who don't know how to plan the session to reserve the stressful stuff for last. Or if you ask..."Is this in stealth mode or over battle noise?" and they say, "Good question. Let's do it both ways." You need to take charge and do all the stealth stuff first and leave all the yelling and emotes for last. And whatever you do, try not to complain or say "That really hurts....I can't do this....man oh man...or or 'Jesus!' " I know that tactic can possibly cast guilt upon some clients and make them want to pay you more for your pain and suffering, but I personally don't appreciate it and if I have to direct in as loud of a voice for multiple actors and I get some guy complaining that a gravelly voice will ruin his pipes, ---well----let's just say, he might not be working with me that much in the future. Not saying I want to kill someone, or you should suffer, but game voice acting can be hazardous to your pipes and you should not audition for those if you're worried or a wuss. :)

I have also not been crazy about directors who say, "Do Roseanne Barr".....or some voice that may not be in my immediate repertoire or they might even reference another actor from a non related movie who also has no noticeable voice.....and want me to do that voice. Doesn't happen a lot; I see this more in the wish list for auditions. But when you are placed in that position live.....experiment out loud and ask in your trial voice..."Is it sort of nasally like this?" Don't be afraid to try and work as a team instead of saying, "I don't do that." It's tragic how we aren't allowed sometimes to come up with our own creations for voices because clients do their darnedest to come up with something they liked on YouTube from some movie that has nothing to do with the script or role you have. Many of the actors they refer to have normal or non identifiable voices and the client just liked the performance....(the script was probably good).

Another roadblock can happen when you have a committee directing you. You might be on a phone patch with the writer, the audio guy, the producer(s) and even a designer. When I am directing and in this scenario, I try to whip the herd a bit and get quick answers, but if you're on the other side of the glass when this happens, take a deep breath and realize this sh*t happens and it's not your fault. Too many times scripts get rewritten in the session and this should not happen.

Another stumbling block which also deals with scripts is when you may have gotten your script in advance, made notes on it, then find you have a new script handed to you with changes when you get to the studio.
If you have a moment and are waiting to be called into the booth, try and copy some of your notes across, but overall DON'T BE TOO STUCK on what you rehearsed. You need the ability to be flexible and turn on a dime because what's in your head may not match what the director or client has in mind.

That's it for now. I know there's more to be discussed, but I leave the rest to all of you to initiate.
All the best!

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Replies to This Discussion

Great stuff Lani! In fact, I was just in a session yesterday for a videogame with a great "relaxed" team (I.E.: we'll know it when we hear it) that called on my ability to use darn near each one of the examples you gave above. Works like a charm! It turned out to be a great session with everyone happy! Thanks for the insightful view from both sides of the glass. You're still one of my favs!

Sean C.
Good thing you felt confident and were able to counter the dismal director syndrome. Proud of you! Keep up the good work! :)
Thank you Lani for your insights,

I always enjoy reading your topics for discussions. As I gain more experience in this arena of voice-over I will keep these points in mind.

Thanks again for sharing,
Thanks Jim Keep those pipes polished. Hope to work with you again soon.


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