There are hundreds of techniques and years of training that can improve your directing skills. What I’m presenting here are some quick fixes – simple ways to get those voices to sound like real people, drop the “announcer” artifacts from their voices, connect with the script and with the other actors in the spot (if any), and connect with the listener.
Whether you’re directing on-air talent, trained actors, or non-actors…when they’re at the microphone to do a commercial, they’re all actors. This includes the person playing the “voice over” part.
To get a more natural read from someone who is “announcing,” sounding like a jock or a newsperson, or just not delivering the script with meaning:
Have them take off their headphones. There’ll be much less of a tendency for them to listen to their voices and a better chance they’ll speak to the listener.
While they’re on mic, have them hold a phone receiver to their ear and talk into it as if they’re talking to someone on the phone. You can actually phone them in the studio and talk with them as they’re delivering the copy. This will encourage them to relate to one person...that individual out there who will hear the spot.
Go into the studio and position yourself so that you’re facing the talent with the microphone between you (and maybe only ten inches separation). This technique, along with a couple of breath mints will insure they don’t over-project.
Have the talent read through the spot. Explain to them to whom they’re talking, what attitude they might have, and what you want the audience to feel. If you’re not getting what you want after a few takes, have them put the script aside. Ask them to tell you the story in their own words, as if they’re talking to a friend. Keep recording.
This little improvisation may give you a more believable spot. At the least, you’ll have something to play for them as a reference for a more conversational approach.
© 2004 Hedquist Productions, Inc.