sign up for our

Home Shop Subscribe Advertise Articles Directories Classifieds Calendar FAQs Contact Us Login

How To Decode The Script's Specs:
What The Director REALLY Wants ...

By Elaine Clark

Voice Talent, Coach & Author
"Looking for a real person delivery that adds emotion to the top part of the copy and hits the selling points at the end. Not announcer-y but serious with a subtle sense of humor. Think Morgan Freeman or Matthew McConaughey (without the accent) with a touch of Adam Sandler and Meryl Streep. Should be read slowly with lots of energy. A relaxed read that’s quick paced, and pulls on the heartstrings without being sappy or saccharine."  
Specs. You gotta love ‘em. 

Sometimes they sound like a committee wrote them, each person offering his or her own advice. They want it faster, slower, intimate and energetic all at once. And we’re supposed to figure out what that jumbled mess means. 

The answer is, deliver all of it at once…. somehow!  


The best spec direction I ever received was, "Just make the most of this silly ass copy.” 

It’s plain and simple. And making the most out the copy is what we need to do every day.

So let’s take a moment to break down the above specs. 


1.  Celebrity references.

They obviously don’t want us to sound like them, but to give an essence of their personas.

Morgan Freeman has a depth that allows the listener to connect with his soul and inner thoughts as he shares his personal history. Matthew McConaughey is personable, friendly and sexy. Adam Sandler is funny, ironic and sarcastic. Meryl Streep is a revered actress who approaches her roles with intelligence, a solid technical background, and emotional depth.  

2. Transition between emotional beginning and selling points at the end.

Well, that just summarizes the three parts of almost every script: 
  • Set-Up (establishes the problem, which is often emotional or humorous);
  • Body (knocks down the problem and gives a positive solution to the problem); and
  • Resolve (refers back to the problem and motivates the listener to take action so they’ll feel good).  
3. Energy and pacing.

Don’t sound tense or speak too fast because they’ve over written the script.

Ground yourself, breathe, relax and read quickly without sounding rushed. Use arm, head, shoulder and other body gesticulations to help energize the read and make it sound natural.  

4. Negative comments.

Comments like – "don’t be sappy or saccharine” - mean two things:
  • They’ve heard other people read the copy and they’ve not connected emotionally with the message and consequently it sounds fake. Or,
  • They want someone who believes what they’re saying, honestly, deeply, and whole-heartedly.   

Bottom line, when you read the specs always remember to keep it real and believe in the product and its overall message.

Don’t spend time on negative thoughts - like wishing you could rewrite the copy or how you would never use the product. That is sure to prevent you from booking the job. 

Instead, decipher what emotions they want, connect with that part of your personal history, and sprinkle a variety of the desired direction throughout the script.   


There’s no way you can deliver all that direction in every word. Some writers and directors hear what’s missing. Others hear what’s working. 

Yet they all want the same thing – a good read that listeners connect with emotionally and intellectually, and which motivates them to use the product or service.   

So the next time you get what appears to be long, convoluted, or conflicting advice, step back for a moment and read between the lines.  Decode the specs and deliver the message as it was intended.  
Elaine Clark is an award-winning actor, voice talent, director, producer, certified teacher and author of the book, There's Money Where Your Mouth Is (from which this article is excerpted). She is also the founder and owner of the Voice One in San Francisco, a major voice over training company offering a wide range of voice over classes. She will also be teaching in Dallas on May 17 and 18, 2013 (click below for details).
There's Money Where Your Mouth Is:

Your Daily Resource For Voice-Over Success
Tell Us What YOU Think!
Please Note: Since we check for spam, there will be a slight delay in the actual posting of your comment.
Your Name:
Your Email Address (will not be published):
Your Comment:
Your Comment:
Security code:     
Comments (2)
Jim Conlan
4/8/2013 at 10:06 AM
Good summary, Elaine. Maybe one more thing to remember when specs are overwhelming, contradictory, or just plain silly: be yourself - you're all you've got!
Randye Kaye
4/8/2013 at 8:06 AM
Thanks, Elaine! Great article, lots of truth in it. This is why I recommend your book to my VO Students :)
Back to Articles
Get your bi-weekly dose here ... all things VO!
Inspiring interviews help your VO career
On Michael Langsner's Voice-Over Roadmap Podcast
With Sean Daeley and Paul Stefano - check it out!