Reality is all in the mind. Four tips that might help.
Sep 25 2015
We recently wrote about ways to sound more real, but those were essentially about training and exercises. When you’re actually on the job, it’s different. By then, those exercises should have become innate. Not habits, exactly, but in the sense that the techniques feel natural to you. At that stage, there’s another step in sounding natural to your listener. It’s a matter a mindset.
Read vs. Speak
Having a script in front of you is both a curse and a blessing. The blessing is that we don’t have to memorize, and not because memorization is difficult, or a chore, or impossible with a long script. It’s all of those things, but here’s the key one: Many amateurs focus so much on what they memorized, that the words, their own manner, everything, comes out in an unnatural way. Having a script at least avoids that.
But with a script, you’re of course “reading.” Even if you’re a facile reader and can recite from the page with ease, if your mindset is that you’re “reading,” you’re still not doing what you naturally do in everyday life. In life outside the booth, you simply speak. So do that at the mic. Use the script as a reminder, and to be sure you’re getting the words correct. But if you feel as if you’re “speaking” those words, rather than reading them, you’ll be inherently closer to the goal of natural communication. It helps you sound more real.
Performance vs. Delivery
This, too, is a matter of mindset. If you feel like you’re performing, your head is in the wrong place. (That is, it’s wrong unless sounding like a performer is the point of your performance.) The very concept of “performing” is unreal. At the mic, consciousness of your performance comes across – the listener can hear you thinking about something other than what you’re saying. Instead, adopt this mindset: you’re simply delivering the words. Not in a leave-them-and-run manner, of course, and not in a monotone or lacking energy or anything like that. But “deliver” them in the sense that you’re not the star – they are. Don’t think about you; think as our character. Which brings us to …
Talk vs. Think
Maybe this should come first, because you need to think before you can say something … something meaningful, anyway. Yet, so many people outside our industry consider that what we do is talk for a living.
No, what we really do is think, and express those thoughts out loud. If you hold the script’s thoughts as your own, making them yours, you no longer have to “translate” them as you speak. (That is, you’ll avoid what directors mean when they say “I can hear you thinking.”) An additional benefit of “thinking” the script is that, rather than translating its words into speech, you’ll be directly speaking in “thoughts” – naturally contributing to logical phrasing and a more fluid delivery.
Emotion vs. Feeling
Most scripts call for the expression of emotion to some extent . Some more, some less. So we don’t want to belittle emotion as a component of a good read. But real emotions aren’t words, they’re feelings. And if you don’t feel the emotion as you speak, you may wind up “translating” the emotion. In other words, it comes out as both artificial and another example of “hearing you think.” This isn’t news to an actor, but it bears repeating for all of us to remember: As you wend through life, pause at key moments to remember your emotion at the time. Note how you feel and why.
Also remember whatever cues will help you recall that moment when you need to feel it again. For example, to feel sad or regretful, a person might remember their long-ago promise to a passed loved one, a promise that, for whatever reason, they never kept. They may not have quite felt that way at the person’s passing, but they would have felt it since. And it’s helpful to remember.
These are semantic differences, to be sure, and we grand that the words in our pairings could easily be interchanged. But once you get past the fundamentals of voice acting, it’s not the words that are important. It’s what they convey. That’s our point.