Confidence in your VO performance. Build it up, not down.
May 20 2016
You can tell when a performer lacks confidence. It shows in many ways, all of them detracting from the read, and perhaps hiding the voice actor’s actual capabilities. The read might be halting. Or the voice constricted. Or safest options were chosen. Uptalk. Lack of energy. Unnecessary apologies. Whatever ways insecurity manifests itself, it can be overcome. Be confident of that.
There are three “C”s in voice-over: Control your voice, be Comfortable, and be Confident. The last of these even affects the others.
It’s natural to score low on your confidence meter when in any situation you’re not used to. Especially when the pressure is on. Especially in an artificial situation like acting (and all-by-yourself at the mic, yet). But don’t run yourself down. If you’ve trained for this, be confident in your ability.
Lack of confidence causes you to judge yourself before you’ve even done what you’re judging! Whatever you’re called upon to do, go for it. Often the director (or writer or client) will be very happy with a certain read when the talent doesn’t realize how good it was.
But unwarranted, “false” confidence can be just as harmful. It stands in the way of accepting direction. It leads to the formation of bad habits. And it can cause you to represent yourself as something you’re not. Don’t confuse “confidence” with a lack of self-evaluation, even self-criticism. Those are important capabilities, especially when self-directing and producing in a home studio. The key difference is in knowing when and how to evaluate your work. And to build with your observations, not let them limit you.
To build confidence, as with many aspects of voice-over performance, don’t wait till you’re on a job, under pressure. Confidence is a sort of “character,” and like all your stock characters, the time to find, develop and strengthen it is through practice. Structure your practice sessions, and practice daily. The mere act of behaving like a pro will help you feel like one.
Of course, you also have to perform like one. So after every job, every audition, help yourself grow. Evaluate your thoughts before evaluating your performance. How might you have been thinking or feeling negative? What positive thoughts were going for you? Likely you have similar feelings in other aspects of your life. We’re not recommending psychoanalysis as a requisite for voice acting, nor that you need psychotherapy to be confident in the booth. But being self-aware, knowing how you feel about yourself, is always helpful to you as an actor. Draw on the good thoughts, and cast out the negative ones, or consciously use them.
In more practical terms, build the body of your performing capabilities. Listen back to your recordings. Have an honest friend do so. Continue working with coaches. Fix what needs to be fixed, and practice at it. Set yourself new challenges. Listen to your past recordings and compare your development. Strengthen your voice (with the aid of a voice coach, or singing in a choir). As you’ve heard Edge Studio say before, “Learning Never Ends.” Remind yourself that you, as a student of acting (we are all students), and of voice-over in particular, … you know things that your client and even your director may not know. Such knowledge and self-awareness enable you to focus on the feelings in a script, not the words.
Speaking of direction, when self-directing, be aware of good direction principles.
The director realizes that a first take is just that, and so should you. Don’t be shy; in most situations, you’ll certainly get to do at least a few more. So, as in any creative endeavor, go for it on that take. Once you’ve been out there, if it’s too far, you can easily bring yourself back. But if you don’t explore, you’ll never know where the horizon is. You can’t think outside the box if your vision is one-dimensional.
Also, a good director doesn’t ask for an imitation. (In fact, they may be reluctant to give you a line “reading.”) They want to explore the limits of your performance range and your imagination. So don’t put too much confidence in sounding “conventional.” Be professional, and also be yourself. (That should be redundant, right?)
When self-directing, you even have an extra advantage: you can be more like a coach. That is, a director wants to hear what you can do now. A coach also wants to explore what you might not be able to do so well now, but could develop. When you work alone, you can be both. But the real time for exploration is when you have time to do it, to practice it, to become familiar with the process. The character called “Confidence” will emerge.
Then, in an audition or recording job, bring that character with you. After all (and, again, like a favorite character) it will be part of you. Play it for all it’s worth.
Because confidence is worth a lot.