Improv Fires Your Neurons! And Expands
Your Voice Over Performance Skills
June 13, 2014
By Rebecca Michaels Haugh
Voice Actor, Host of 'Love That VoiceOver' Internet Radio Show
& Improv Workout Leader
I work full time as a VO actor and would like to share my experience with using improvisation in voice over - something I’ve been very focused on incorporating into my voice over career on a weekly basis since last summer.
Improv helps me stretch and expand my artistic and creative muscles - comedic and dramatic - as well as my personal and character vocal range.
I’ve even read in some science articles how improv seems to help brain neurons to fire and nerve synapses to form new patterns, which is all very healthy.
I haven’t taken any brain wave tests, but I’m definitely feeling something going on there. Perhaps it’s the endorphins.
And I’m always energized by improv because it’s fun!
YOUR IMPROV TOOLKIT
But some folks still wonder, "Is improvisation helpful to VO talent?" Yes! And in a huge variety of ways.
Improv skills help whether you are voicing in-session or directing yourself. They are strong tools in your VO toolkit.
For example, booking jobs is one thing, but performing in a live session is another! A director may ask you to shift to a different attitude or try a completely new role. Improv helps you practice how to receive a variety of such directions, and the ability to act immediately.
Likewise, for character VO work in games or audiobooks, improvisation supports expansion of your current characters or accents, and helps you develop new ones.
Here are more examples to frame the correlation with voice over:
COMMERCIALS & GENERAL ACTING
In commercial work, improv helps an actor approach a scene or script with variety, creating more vivid and varied circumstances.
If you’ve been in the business any period of time, you know that one way to be more personally attractive to clients and agents is to be fast and agile in your delivery - able to provide options for the client and demonstrate this, not only in the audition, but in-session, as well.
Practicing improvisation helps you stretch your ability to provide vivid, distinct options, and to do it with agility and speed.
MULTIPLE AUDIOBOOKS CHARACTERS
When voicing audiobooks with multiple characters, even if they’re nuanced rather than full-blown characters, you know how important it is to maintain and repeat that character essence.
Improv lets you practice that character and switch back and forth among others. This practice could save you stress and editing time! Certainly, it will help you in auditions and gigs as you perform a variety of nuanced characters.
GAMES & ANIME
Similar to, but usually more cartoonish or dramatic than most audiobooks, character voices in games, anime, etc. are really full-blown characters who have unique and distinct attributes.
Can you voice that character in any situation, on the fly? That skill will help you when assisting directors and developers who don’t exactly know what they want. And it gives you an edge, because you have practiced multiple characters in private improv workouts – really flexing those muscles and knowing those character attributes - and can demonstrate tons of flexibility and range.
LEARN BASICS, THEN IMPROV
If you are a VO beginner without a strong acting or improv background, or if you are just starting a VO career and need to focus on the basics, then focus on the basics until you are ready for more.
Then when you have experience under your belt, plus your own home studio and clients providing income, add improvisation to your VO skills.
Improv has helped me break patterns, walls and fears, and to build newer, deeper perspectives, creativity and agility.
Today, many successful actors with formalized training have had at least some experience with improv. Voice actor and coach Pat Fraley, an icon in VO, counts improv as a top priority in his list of nine critical skills for VO. And my hunch is that you’ll see more and more coaches and schools incorporating improv in the coming years,
Don’t forget who told you first!
Rebecca Michaels Haugh, aka "Love That Rebecca," has been voicing professionally since 2001 and performed improv in Los Angeles dinner theaters in the mid 2000s. She hails from California but lives some of the time in Italy, and currently voices a variety of English-speaking projects for companies in the U.S. as well as Australia, India, Germany and the Netherlands. Clients include Google Adwords, San Pellegrino, Coca Cola, Bayer, GE and many familiar brands. She also interviews voice over pros in her Love That VoiceOver Internet radio show (see link below), and conducts Improv VO workouts via Skype.
Love That VoiceOver Internet radio show: www.LoveThatVoiceOver.com
Skype Improv Workout Schedule: http://www.lovethatimprovo.com/john_florian.html
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