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Letting Go: Can You Permit Yourself
To Be Just YOU? (Yes, It's Difficult)
By Deb Munro
Voice Talent & Coach
What does the term Letting Go really mean, and how does it apply to the voice over industry?
I’m sure you’ve heard this term in your journey as a voice actor.
What it means is to stop trying, and just be.
This sounds easy. It isn't, of course. It's something we need to learn how to do.
But "letting go" is just giving ourselves permission to be who we really are.
I think this goes for both our personal and professional lives.
Ok, I’m just going to lay it all out there ... my good, bad and even some of my ugly.
I tend to be the type of personality that tries too hard. I love to impress people.
This has positive and negative results. 
For instance, I am a perfectionist (even though there is no such thing as perfect), so my need to impress is great when I’m cooking, crafting or doing things - and in fact, helps me a great deal with clients, acting, coaching, directing and running a business or two.
The negative, however, enters when I’m trying too hard to get someone to like me or to value me.
As a teen I knew this feeling all to well. I didn’t realize how much I was pushing people away by trying too hard to make them like me.
I still tend to slip now and then, but I’m much more aware and more confident in who I am, so I don’t feel as much of a need to impress people.
Instead, I try much harder to be myself ... except that I still talk too fast at first. LOL.
You might be thinking, “EXACTLY – if you try too hard to get people to like you – they DON’T.”
Seems logical to most people.
But have you considered that you may do the same when you’re reading voice over scripts?
For instance, you are trained to become the personality in the copy. To mean what you’re saying – and that takes good "make believe" skills, tools.
The problem is that when we dig into a script with all these choices, we sometimes end up trying too hard.
We also want to get it right the very first time, hence our need to impress.
We want those clients to be happy so that they'll come back to us time and time again.
This what I want to call “The Actor's Syndrome.”
Many actors have a need to impress or to be appreciated. Perhaps they weren’t appreciated somewhere in their life for whatever reason, and now strive for attention.
Many of us fit this category, and thus may end up trying too hard.
But trying too hard is transparent. The casting directors, clients, agents, friends - and even your future dates - all see it coming.
So how do you NOT try so hard? Well, that brings us back to our title, Letting Go.
Trust in who you are, because that is what you’re selling - and if you don’t trust in who you are, they won’t trust in you.
Here's an example of the most bizarre, yet effective salesmen of our time who truly believed in their messages: Charles Manson, David Karesh, etc.
It's morbid to mention them in an article for voice talent. But these criminal minds were very confident in who they were and their ideals; so confident, in fact, that they convinced people to do the unthinkable FOR THEM.
That’s pretty powerful sales, when you think about it.
I know. Crazy comparison. But I’m hoping this quickly makes my point.
I'm not saying this was acceptable ... just noting how powerful communication can be if you just believe.
All it takes is to believe it yourself, and then you won’t need to prove it - because it just is. This is a part of letting go.
To me, the best example of this in voice overs is to watch pro talent doing animation voices. 
You’d be very smart to offer to volunteer for a casting person or studio so that you can watch the best talents taking risks and letting go.
You will witness these talents relax into their characters – even if they’re over the top. They take risks to look stupid, or to make those funny sounds that just come out of their mouths.
You know, the ones you do when you’re with your closest loved ones, or perhaps alone at your bathroom mirror.
Many of us during childhood acted silly, made funny voices, and liked to perform. And when you’re a kid, taking risks is easy.
So go back to your childhood now and think of those risks – even you pros!
Think of all the funniest sounds you used to (or still do) make, and then start building on that sound until it becomes a solid character.
This could mean sitting in front of a bathroom mirror – or even better, in your studio – and making a total ass of yourself as you figure how to attach a sound effect to a personality.
Create a laugh, a stance, add some major personality, and then adlib your heart away.
Now here is where it gets tough.
When you feel the part of you that truly lets go and just plays, try to replicate that relaxed feeling into someone elses’s script.
Grab any script, or even the newspaper, and read it in that character.
Record it!
Now, can you also let go while others are watching? When you're not in your safe zone at home?
Many can stay in character when adlibbing, and this can be very helpful in your craft.
But when applied to a script and character that has predetermined choices, outcomes and words, it can be very difficult.
Yet it's what makes a voice artist an artist.
Here is another exercise.
Videotape yourself in a natural environment. Forget about the camera - just let go. And then play it back.
Watch your mannerisms, your speed, your change of moods and inflections, your energy, your physicalities, your relaxed state.
Then use the dialogue from the video as a catch phrase (a phrase that gets you into character every time) to keep you in that relaxed state.
Remember that it’s an entire package.
All the traits you see in that video are necessary layers to being natural. Replicate it all to make it authentic, while letting go.
This seems hard, but you’ll have your Epiphany Day, and then you’ll get it.
There are different forms of letting go:
  • over the top, where you go nuts and do tons of fun things, create fun characters, make funny noises, etc. - whether for animation, commercial or otherwise, and
  • more realistic approaches to just being you.
Here's a trick to getting in that frame of mind at the mic. Say,
 “Look, I don’t have to prove it to you!”
And shrug your shoulders just before you start the copy - or even in between lines, to keep that consistent feeling.
I say it very sarcastically and very flat, with a confidence that says exactly as it suggests. I get a lot of work on this style of read.
Have a listen to that style on my demo, directed by Bill Holmes of Compost Productions (he's awesome in this approach). 
Letting go means being able to be unpredictable, take risks, enjoy the moments, make choices, and allow yourself to do what feels right in the moment.
The more you grasp this concept, the more success you will find.
Deb Munro is a leading voice talent, coach, and owner of Chanti Productions, in the Vancouver, B.C., Canada area. She offers private voice over coaching by phone and Skype, and MIC 'N ME workshops on voice acting, business and demo prep in many Canadian cities.
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Comments (9)
Angie Farruggia
1/25/2011 at 10:26 AM
Thank you for your words of wizdom. I am new to this, and it is hard to find my real self, who the hell am I? I pracice with Edge Studio , and that helps. Now I think I have to step out of the box big time, so that I can pull the real me out of there somewhere?
I love this website.
Thank you, Angie
Tom Conklin
11/6/2010 at 10:26 AM
Great article and great advice, Deb!
Lee Kanne
11/3/2010 at 1:10 PM
exactly what I needed to hear today ... thank you thank you thank you
Lisa Junco
11/1/2010 at 4:04 PM
Great article Deb! Thank you for your insights, and I loved your demo.

BP Smyth, Narrator
11/1/2010 at 10:02 AM
Good for you, Linda. If more people would perform as "themselves" - instead of trying to be someone or something else - the business of V/O would be better off. For example, there was only one Don LaFontaine. I cringe when I hear others try to imitate him. And, I can always tell when someone trys to do so.
Debbie Irwin
11/1/2010 at 8:35 AM
Great article. Thanks for the suggestions and the link to your audio, which puts your words into practice. Your talent speaks for itself.

On the same topic of "Letting Go" but related to an entirely different issue, is an article by the highly regarded Atul Guwande published in the New Yorker. It's a powerful and worthy read - not for the faint hearted - about end of life issues.

As I say, another kind of "letting go." (I'm an associative thinker - what can I say?!) Here's a link:

11/1/2010 at 12:33 AM
Deb, good writing, just because I totally understand what you are saying.

Having grown up in a "deaf" family, I never had and still do not have TV, or Pros, to copy. I have always been "myself," and I have never been turned down. I have always been the "expert." That is because I always presented myself as the expert. You have addressed that topic well.

I live in a community of one hundred thousand. I am "the voice" of my community. NOT because I am the best voice God created, but because I am accepted, by my community, as the best. I do not imitate movie stars, nor do I aspire to be voices that I am NOT. I just deliver a Good READ. You wrote well, and you confirmed my success story. Thanks.
BP Smyth, Narrator
10/31/2010 at 10:21 PM
Peter K. O'Connell
10/31/2010 at 2:46 PM
Nicely said!
Best always,
- Peter
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