Most foundational psychological theory holds that we present to the world the person we want people to see. Apparently as young humans, the world seems too daunting for most of us, and we learn early on to construct a facsimile of ourselves (with a few unique modifications) through which we filter the world. More importantly, though, this facsimile presents a “pose” seen as “you” by everyone else.
ENTER: THE DIRECTIONS
You’ve just received an audition from your agent or your favorite P2P. The directions are longer than the copy, confusing, and referencing Tim Allen’s voice on something he did for Michigan Travel, or better yet, includes a link to a YouTube video using a voice “we really like”.
ADD: THE VOICES INSIDE YOUR HEAD
Your VO coach says:
“Read the directions if you want,” the coach suggests, “but in the end, be sure to give them the REAL YOU.”
Many of the best VO coaches will tell you “the real you” is the only thing that differentiates you from all the other losers auditioning the same script.
But…uh…wait-a-minute…is that the REAL me, or the real me that I’ve been posing all these years?
Your experience says:
“I think I know what this audition really needs…it needs the same ole delivery that won me that big spot for Trident chewing gum last year, and besides it’s what I’m really good at. It’s the same winning sound I learned from those years behind the mic as a DJ.”
Your over-analysis says:
“I didn’t spend all that money for VO coaching for nothing…so I’ll whip out a few tricks I learned…some pacing, some inflection, maybe a little low raspy character voice. Then I’ll punch the client’s name hard, and they’ll never recognize the DJ I used to be.”
But the client clearly says:
…he wants me to sound like Mike Rowe on this one, so I’ll overlay all of the above with my best “Mike Rowe” imitation.
Now, your confusion says:
“OK, I admit it…I have no freakin’ idea how to approach this copy. Do I go with my gut? Do I give them the real me? Who IS the real me? Do I apply all the lessons I learned?…or do I just break down and give them Mike Rowe?
In the end:
…you chicken out, and give them three reads…two-and-a-half of which they’ll never listen to, ’cause they threw out your audition after hearing — and dismissing — your voice in the slate.
Tell me you haven’t gone through that mental gyration at some time with copy. Or are you that good that you just KNOW how to deliver each and every spot that comes your way. Your interpretation is impeccable. Your prescient knowledge of what the client wants is bordering on clairvoyant. You’re booking right and left, and can do no wrong. Bravo!
I liken it to learning pole vaulting, or piano playing, or BMX racing.
You start with some basic talent. You add your life’s experience. You get coaching…and learn a couple of new tricks. It’s awkward at first, but practice makes it more natural, and then you go back for some more tips. You try to THINK about those tips one-by-one as you approach the high bar, the keyboard, the dirt track. It’s hard. You manage some new moves, but can’t seem to incorporate them all at once.
Mechanically at first, you synthesize all the knowledge you’ve been given, and you practice some more. Then you practice some more. Now what was mechanical becomes second-nature, and your intrinsic (spiritual?) understanding of the ethereal principles begin to kick in with small successes. You throw in some advanced technique. Now you’re reaching higher on the bar, mastering more fingering on the keys, leaping higher and landing with more control on the track. It’s you. But it’s a new you.
Voice over auditioning is like that. Don’t throw out the DJ entirely…you’ll need him/her on the local auto dealership spots. Don’t bury the newscaster, she/he comes in pretty handy on E-Learning and medical narrations. Your High School Musical debut as “Curly” in the musical Oklahoma may serve you well in audiobooks. They’re all part of the “you” that enters the booth.
When your most excellent VO coach admonishes you to “bring the real you” to your read, they mean taken your basic talent, add life experience, and incorporate all the tips you’ve picked up along the way…then PRACTICE. Practice till you hit the “new you” that can handle copy when it comes with a client wanting “Morgan Freeman” on a spot full of words referencing kitchen cabinets.
You might still be posing…but I guarantee you’re a lot closer to the real you.