Our customers want us for our organ... and no, I'm not talking about our vocal cords.
Let's start with a truism: of course, our job is to speak well. But to think that this is our only task would be to miss the point.
What is expected of us first and foremost, you may ask? That we listen. Whether it's a post-prod studio session, a remote session we're recording in our home studio (I cover this topic in my article about voice over artists and home studios ) or a session we self=direct following a brief, our first job is to listen to what the client wants from us.
We're chosen for our voice, we're remembered for our ears.
As a voice over talent, we are simply like a musician in an orchestra. We have to follow the conductor, and work in harmony with the other musicians. Simply playing the music of the score without taking the other elements into account would make us a poor musician who won't often be remembered. If we play with these other elements and bring our talent to bear, we'll be in demand.
In voiceover, it's exactly the same thing: ego has no place. The self-absorbed lovies have no place in the recording studio, a thorny subject I cover in my article Artists Exit.
The conductor is the client, the other musicians are the sound engineer, the images, M&Es (Music and Effects), and the script. Let's start by listening to what the client wants. Either verbally or through a brief. No brief? Don't hesitate to ask questions. Who are we addressing? How many people? How far away are they? What tone? Intimate and warm? Serious and authoritative? Introversion or projection?
Listening to the sound engineer is gold. He's our best friend. The pictures and the M&Es dictate the rhythm, a bit like a metronome. The script itself contains its own rhythm.
It's only by following and respecting all these different elements that we can bring our interpretation, our added value.
For an session director, there's nothing worse than a voice over talent acting like a diva. So, even if the client wants yet another take - yes, the 23rd - you have to remain calm. Maybe they want to explore different directions, maybe they want to cover all the angles, maybe they want to present diametrically opposed interpretations to their client (to use some of them as a 'foil' to 'sell' them the one they prefer, which is why they ask us for intonations that seem inappropriate), maybe they're waiting to hear THE take to know that it's THE one, maybe we're just not in tune with the producer yet, maybe... whatever.
The session director is not an evil character whose only reason to live is to make the voice over talent suffer. Most don't play Big Boss, they know that they're here to serve the voice over talent so that they serve the script, bringing it to life. They simply want to get the result THEY WANT out of the voice over artists. If the talent get irritated, tension will rise, nothing good will happen, and the voice over artist will never get called back. Staying calm, trying to understand, asking the right questions calmly and really trying to understand what's expected, that's the recipe for repeat work.
A tip 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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