Something happens to us when we become adults. A switch flips on that tells us, “Alright, buckaroo. That’s it in the ‘fun’ department. No more playing in the sandbox. No more dress-up. No more goofing off or running around just for the sake of pretending you’re a knight fighting a dragon. That’s it. From here on out, it’s only mortgages and suits and words like ‘invoices’ and ‘accounts receivable.’ Pack up your imagination instinct, because you are now an Adult™ and Adults ™ need to take things seriously.”
Which, like…okay, sure. Of course we need to take things seriously. Mortgages and suits and invoices are important.
But who the heck is telling us we’re not allowed to play anymore?
The fun police? Are the fun police barging into your life every time you let loose and try out a character voice? Are the fun police going, “Hands up, Sharon, you’re 65, no more character voices?”
Psst…guess what? The fun police don’t exist. They aren’t real. Age is meaningless. You knew this as a kid. You didn’t even think about it—you just played until you collapsed in a fit of giggles.
I’m here to tell you that you CAN have fun in that booth. Heck, you SHOULD be having fun in that booth! You CAN let loose and go wild and push yourself and try new things on that mic. Nobody is stopping you but you.
Now, I totally get that it’s hard to kick down those Serious Adult walls we’ve put up. It’s hard to be goofy and weird and to try new, potentially scary things when we step into the booth.
But progress happens outside your comfort zone. I always say, “If you feel weird or uncomfortable or embarrassed, you’re doing it right!”
Here’s how to give yourself back permission to play in the booth:
1. Go big right out of the gate. Go all out with your performance right from the start. Don’t worry about giving “too much.” It’s always easier for producers to pull you back than it is for them to try to push you to give more. So, your performance was “too much.” Guess what? The producer can reel you back in, and they’ll appreciate that you were committed from the get-go.
2. Accept that there are no rules. You’re not going to get in trouble for trying something new or loud or off-the-wall. When you’re in class with us, we WANT you to try new things! We’re all about experimenting and playing—there are rules of etiquette, sure, but just like the fun police don’t exist, neither do the VO Police. In that sense, there are no rules! Always wanted to try documentary narration? Do it! You’ll never know if you like it until you try!
3. Get that playful energy out to help you focus your energy later. Sometimes, when I’m working on a more “serious” or strait-laced read for, say, a corporate client, obviously, big, bombastic character voices won’t work. But if I’m feeling frustrated or just like I need to get it out, that’s what I do: I’ll do one or two over-the-top, off-the-wall practice reads that I obviously won’t send to my client. Those are just for me to help me get any residual nervous energy out, and to give myself mental permission to try new things. Experimentation is important in all VO genres. And once I get the craziness out of my system, I feel like I just went for a run: energized, focused, and ready to work. No one is stopping you from going crazy in your warm-up! Do it! It’s just a warm-up.
4. Realize that this is a no-judgment zone. At TVAS, we are truly a community of supportive parents, aunts, and uncles. Seriously. We are rooting for you ALWAYS. No one is rooting for you to fail. We’re your biggest fans. That means we want you to relax and loosen up and try new things so you’ll surprise yourself. We want to celebrate you giving yourself permission to play again, just like you did when you were a little kid. No judgment from us, ever—only love and support and cheering from the audience!
5. Respect the creative process. Deconstructing and delivering a great VO performance is a process. And, as with any process, sometimes you need to work out the kinks. Okay, your read wasn’t perfect immediately; so what? You’ll get better at nailing the read from the start the more you work on your craft, and even when you’re a seasoned pro, finding the right read is a process! Perfection doesn’t exist, anyway. It’s about exploring, collaborating with your client, working out what feels right and what doesn’t and then listening to your performance instincts to deliver the read that works best for your client. Learn to love the process and all of its ups and downs as much as the final result. You’re figuring it out—that’s the fun part!
6. Be gentle with yourself. Acting is vulnerability, pure and simple. It’s raw, it’s open, and it’s scary. Be gentle with yourself—and remember what it felt like to play with complete abandon as a kid. You weren’t worrying about what others thought, or if you were as “good” as so-and-so. You were just expressing yourself. That’s what it’s all about. Be kind and gentle with yourself during this process—it’s hard, it’s nerve-wracking, and it can be very emotional. That’s GOOD. And nothing good happens overnight. Be good to yourself as you learn; you’ve already done the hardest part, which is getting started!
Embrace your weirdness, don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm, and above all, let yourself play. That’s what we’re here to do as voice actors! (And as human beings, honestly).