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Tips For Producers: How To Bring Out
Best Performances From Voice Actors

March 16, 2015

By J. Christopher Dunn

Voice Actor

Fill in the blank:
"During my last session, I wished the producer would have ____.”
Or, if you’re a producer:
"During my last session with a voice talent, I wished I would have _____.”
The job of a producer is not an easy one. They are part psychologist, part friend and part conductor. One minute, hand-holding a talent through a tricky script read. The next minute, driving to keep the session from going off the rails.

Good producers want you to perform well and will do what it takes to bring out your best.

At the end of one of my sessions, I was asked by the producer if I had time to chat about working with voice talent. I was the first he’d directed and he felt unsure of his working method. He was asking about what to do and know before the session begins and how to direct during the session. 

I came up with a handful of suggestions, which I shared with the producer.


It got me thinking afterwards. I wondered if I may have missed something so I asked the Voice-Over Pros group on Facebook for thoughts and suggestions. Their responses were brilliant and clearly came from the perspective of having worked with many producers over several years.

Another producer recently asked me for similar feedback, so maybe there are others who would like the same. And I think it's good idea to make the info available to a wider audience. 

So, I’ve compiled the best responses from Facebook (contributor names removed, since it is a closed group).


If you’re a producer, consider the things you may be missing. If you’re a voice talent, here’s some useful insight to remember during your next session.

Imagine being at the local pub or coffee joint and overhearing this conversation...

  • "Keep the sessions light, relaxed and fun where possible. Nobody's life is on the line.”
  • "The thing about voice talent, as opposed to actors doing VO, is that we are generally affable and have a desire to fulfill the vision of the producer rather than have the producer conform to our artistic vision.”
  • "Always compliment them first.”
  • "Clear communication. From my time in the producer's chair I found that open, clear communication and friendliness got what I needed every time. It's recording, not rocket science.”
  • "Keep their confidence high.”
  • "One safety is appropriate. When a producer asks for SEVERAL safeties then I've either not hit the magic spot or I'm totally clueless to what I'm being directed to do. In either situation, those extra takes are really not for safety, it's more like the director saying, 'What else ya got?' Yeah, there are times what a director says and what a talent hears is a mismatch.”
  • "Can't tell you how many sessions have been saved because of safety takes. Sometimes there are micro issues in your 'good' take that you don't hear until final processing of the vocals. And many times, the safety take can be even better than the 'good' one, because the pressure is off the talent. I used that as a technique to get the delivery I wanted on numerous occasions.”
  • "In a commercial session, time your script before the session starts, and if it's in danger of being long, have some edits in mind beforehand.”
  • "Always have the check cut so you can pay the talent when they leave!”
  • "Be positive, encouraging, and be mindful of the fact you both want the same thing and by working together you'll accomplish it.”
  • "Trust the talent to tell the story. Don't micro-direct!”
  • "I'd never say this to a producer, but: Know what you're looking for before you hear it.”
  • "Sometimes the talent is not seeing the story the way the producer is hearing the story in their minds. I remember working with a talent once a long time ago in a galaxy far away where I was directing something that I had written. I could not get the talent to inflect the words I wanted inflected. I do this to myself in self-directed sessions. I record, and then during the edit I hear that I inflected the second word in a two-word grouping and send myself back into the booth to redo it. Sometimes by the time I get into the booth and find the script and record it again, I end up doing the same thing.”
  • "My advice to producers is, don't settle. If you haven't gotten exactly what you wanted, explain what you want done differently and go again. And once you do get what you want, say so."
  • "The moment a Producer makes the vo perp feel welcome, and at home, he/she can lead you a million miles in any direction.”
  • "It's challenging working with anyone who isn't sure what they're looking for, and it seems a bit time consuming coaching a client or producer on how to coach us. In the friendliest way possible, I would tell them to call me when they have a good idea on how they want the script read. Or, if the rate is good and the script is short, I don't mind doing multiple takes for them and avoiding the live directed session altogether.”
  • "Know what you want! Be open to possibilities. But know what you want before the talent steps in front of the mic.”
  • "Remember why you hired this particular talent in the first place. They are trying to essentially interpret what is in your head and give their own spin on it.”
  • "Be clear in your communication on what you are listening for, and if you don't know, let the talent know that you would like to try a few different approaches to the project and even ask for suggestions. Creating a comfortable atmosphere is also a big help.”
  • "Have another person look over your script and make sure it's at least assumed to be the 'final' before you bring in the talent."

That virtual conversion was priceless and full of suggestions that would help make most sessions a breeze to get through.

Adding to what was said by other VO Pros, this is what I shared with my producer:

  • Make sure the script is final and has been approved by the client.
  • Keep the session relaxed and offer input when necessary.
  • Allow the talent some creative freedom.
  • Keep the momentum of the session moving forward.
  • Take breaks during long-from narration sessions.
  • When hearing mouth noises, suggest a water break.
  • For short sessions with commercial scripts, allow the talent to make it through the script once before taking them in a different direction.
I’m sure there are more that haven’t been mentioned. So I ask you, what would be the single best thing you would share with a producer or director that would improve their workflow during sessions? Please let us know in the COMMENTS below!
J. Christopher Dunn is a professional voice actor who lives in the Pacific Northwest close to Seattle. He voices commercials, web demos, podcasts, product demonstrations, telephony projects and documentaries. His voice is described as friendly, warm and trustworthy - the guy next door or the voice of high profile corporate presentations. He also spends time with the Penn Cove Players, a Whidbey Island, WA troupe that performs original audio dramas, as we all as recreates old time radio shows in front of a live studio audience.

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Comments (1)
Lance Blair
3/23/2015 at 10:51 AM
Great suggestions on how sessions should be as comfortable but efficient as possible. This is also a reminder that one of the most important skills for voice talents is the ability to work well when clients and directors are not being positive and clear.
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