Voice Over Actors: How to Mine information from the page
Acting can be such a haphazard, chaotic, arbitrary endeavor, it’s nice to know that there are life rafts out there for us; and one of your most important life rafts is the script. Whether your character has only one line, or all the lines; whether the page is mostly descriptions and direction, or only your lines with no context whatsoever; this is your gold mine. Now dig. Look for those W’s. Does the script tell you where you are? Who you’re with? What’s going on? Do the other characters talk about you? How do they talk about you? Paying attention to these things and answering the W’s will make your work (play) easier.
For example, if a character refers to you as a scaredy-cat, perhaps your character is quite timid or spooks easily. That’s something for you to go on. If another actor auditioning for the same part has read only his or her lines, then you’re ahead of the game when it comes to knowing your character. You can make a choice that uses the information you uncovered.
If you’re dealing with commercial copy or narration, perhaps the script contains description or backstory that will give you context; and knowing the context can’t help but bring out a more solid and nuanced performance. If the scene takes place at night in a bedroom with someone sleeping beside you, maybe you’re whispering so as not to wake that person. All of these things can seem obvious when pointed out, but the trick is training yourself to find this sort of information in the script when you get it. We sometimes get nervous when we’re preparing for an audition, and concentrate too hard on what we’re supposed to say. And while that’s certainly important, just as important is what’s been said about, to, or around us.
Never overlook something in the script because you don’t think it’s important. Writers spend countless hours writing, reviewing, and re-reviewing a script to make it perfect. Rarely is something in there for fluff, or just because. Use everything the writer gives you to bring life to your character. Why did the writer choose these words specifically for this character? Try to understand the reasons behind the writer’s choices. Become a psychologist and a detective all wrapped into one (a psytective … detectologist? Our list of jobs that acting encompasses seems to be growing …). Scour the page for evidence of compelling relationships and human emotion so that you can bring these characters to justice! Or rather, so you can do justice to these characters.
Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!