By Jeffrey Hedquist
Director prep: First, you need to understand the script and what you want the voice talent to accomplish. A way of clarifying this for yourself is to listen to a performance from a commercial, film, video or TV show that you’d like your actors to emulate in feel, tone and attitude. That gives you a target to aim at. Determine in advance how you’ll direct them to achieve that. This will vary depending on your actors’ skill, experience and your relationship with them.
Secondly, make sure the voice talent understands what needs to be accomplished. Let your actors in on those little secrets: who is the audience? Are they eavesdropping on a conversation? Listening to a voicemail message? Are they being spoken to directly? How do we want the listener to feel?
Don’t ask actor to produce a feeling or you’ll get something forced. Tell them what you’d expect the listener’s reaction to be – to cry, to laugh, to reminisce, to be energized, etc.
What thought do we want to leave the listener with? What action do we want them to take? What’s the underlying attitude and agenda of the person speaking? Often it’s in contrast to the spoken words and can add great interest to the spot.
Describe the character(s) physically, psycho graphically and sociologically. Give your actors information, so they can understand where each character is coming from.
If you’re directing dialogue, explain the “back story” – the relationship and history of the participants. Are they coming into this scene after a fight, or after making love? After a life- threatening experience or an emotionally uplifting one? Have the talent emotionally experience the moments before we enter the scene, either by imagining themselves there, or by pulling the appropriate emotions from their own experience, so they’re in character from their first breath. Have them ad lib or read into the scene. Even the tag reader should hear what’s gone before to understand how to read the tag.
If on the commercial they’ll be speaking with sounds in the background, often it’s helpful to play those sounds over their headset while they record. If they hear the traffic, or the sounds of a mountain stream, or the fireworks, or the loud music at the club, it will help put them “on location” so they’ll speak with the appropriate volume, projection or intimacy.
Remember that you’re doing radio. The audience will only see the characters your actors are creating in their mind’s eye. Try doing the same thing. Close your eyes and listen to your talents’ delivery. That way you won’t base your direction on they way they look, their facial expressions or physical movements. It’s kind of like listening to…the radio.
Some final thoughts on directing are coming in our next installment.
© 2005 Hedquist Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.