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Are Daffy Script Directions Driving
You Crazy? Here's How to Cope …
By Marc Cashman
Cashman Commercials
©2008 Cashman Commercials
Q: I’m a working voice actor who auditions a lot of different scripts, and I’m not always sure how to deliver the script when direction is provided. Sometimes they’re really explicit in what they want and other times they make no sense at all. I get a lot of copy where they ask for “conversational,” but the copy is all announce-type stuff. It’s very confusing. Also, how do I interpret the script when there’s no direction whatsoever? Any tips?
A: I’m sure a lot of voice actors have faced this situation, as well. First, let’s take the scenario where direction is provided.
Sometimes there’ll be a description of the age range, the kind of voice they’re looking (listening) for, a description of the character(s) (which also includes announcers), and any other relevant or pertinent information.
There might even be a link to a voice they want you to get “close” to, or they might even want a voice match.
Sometimes they’ll give you contradictory direction like, “Depressed, but with a smile,” or “Low-key, but high energy!” or “Youthful, but mature.”
This is maddening, but it tells you something right away: they don’t have a clue as to what they want.
In fact, here are just a few examples of actual direction from real scripts:
  • “Chef. Male 25-35, passionate for food, enthusiastic, real, no accent. Should sound handsome.”
  • “Please don't submit guys who sound fat.”
  • “Energetic but not too over top. Needs to be exciting yet trusting and believable. Looking for either a woman or a man, preferably with an English accident.”
  • "These two women are from East Texas and should be in love. With the product. The hospital in which they are having their babies. They should definitely not have a Bronx accent. Or anything like that.”
  • “Specs: big voice, punchy, non-annoucer [sic] type!! Important sounding voice, plenty of impact, 'listy' (reader of lists), 'sneaker commercial' sounding voice.”
Big voice, punchy non-announcer?
Although these directions are not the norm, they are pretty funny, and they occur way more than they should.
But you have to read between the lines, so to speak. So what to do?
Give them two takes: one the way you think they want it, and one the way you, as an actor, think it should sound.
That said, just remember two main things: Be believable and tell a story. Be conversational if the script calls for it, even if the copy isn’t always written that way.
Now, if there’s no direction whatsoever, you’ll just need to analyze the script to determine the most appropriate delivery. I’m assuming that you know how to analyze a script, and that you’re asking yourself these questions:
  • Who is the audience this copy is trying to reach?
  • What’s the main message? What are you selling?
  • What are the supporting statements for the main message? What are the key words?
  • What’s your role (character)?
  • What’s the emotional hook (if any)?
  • What type of delivery do you think would be most effective? Strong, hard-sell, happy, smiling, mellow, soft-sell, fast, slow?
  • What’s your character’s attitude? Serious, comfortable, flip, happy, sad, etc.?
  • What visual images come to mind as you read the script?
Here again, give them a take the way you think they would want it, and one the way you think it should sound.
That’s really all you can do! Make a commitment, take your best shot, and forget about it.
I have a friend who called me to howl about the stupid directions he got for an audition:
"This voice should be deep. Commanding. Full of intrigue. And tough. It’s a cross between a killer movie trailer voice and a killer tough truck voice. Not too announcery, though. Cheesy reads will be prosecuted."
Deep, commanding, but not too announcery?
Well, he figured out what they thought they wanted, sent it in and forgot about it - until he booked it: a national network Class-A TV V-O. He’s still laughing at that direction - all the way to the bank.
Oh, one other thing: if they have specific directions on how to label your sound file (if you’re submitting an MP3, as opposed to a live audition situation), make sure you follow the template they give you - to the letter.
Marc Cashman creates and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television. Winner of over 150 advertising awards, he also instructs voice acting of all levels through his classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques, in Los Angeles. He also offers one-on-one coaching via email or phone.
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