Show Yourself: Lessons from Frozen About Voice Over
I’ve been spending a lot of time with my nieces lately. They’re two and four, and they are completely obsessed with Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. While Frozen II still sort of scares them, they absolutely love the hit songs, including Show Yourself. I come from the theatre, and have an affinity for learning song lyrics in a snap, and as a natural storyteller (as most voice actors are) I can’t help but contextualize the lyrics.
Show yourself, Elsa sings, step into your power.
Grow yourself into something new.
As my four year old belts along to Idina Menzel’s vocals, I’ve been thinking of my own life journey. About how I grew up quite shy, but as a performer, I had to learn to put myself out there. How hard that was, how scary that was, and how honestly, for a very long time, I did it so very poorly. There’s so much about myself that I didn’t really know or understand as a performer or a voice over talent, and that’s because I spent years and years without a coach.
Let’s be honest: I was pretty broke when I first moved to New York City. I was also a self conscious and insecure twenty-something who couldn’t have possibly imagined that 1:1 work with a (compassionate) professional would help me narrow down my niches, see myself more clearly, and therefore more clearly be able to seek out work that I actively enjoy doing.
Currently, I advise voice over talent all over the world, talking to them about the very same sorts of things. I’ve consulted for countless voice over actors’ websites and asked them why they chose the colors they did, the typeface, even the photo of themselves they’ve posted. More often than not, the answer they provide me with is the same: “Oh, I don’t know,” they say, or “It’s just something I threw together,” or “That photo is actually a really old one.”
I want to be perfectly clear about this: that level of unintentional chaos is not helping you. If you aren’t making specific decisions about how you show yourself to others, why would a client make a specific decision to hire you?
And it goes on (of course). I ask students about their wheelhouse, about their strengths, their niches, their personal genres they could really hone in on–and again, they tell me that they don’t know. Feeling lost and overwhelmed in this industry is completely normal and wildly understandable. I totally get it. But I simultaneously want all of my voice over talent community members to do more for themselves.
You can do more for yourself through coaching. You can do this by hiring a professional to listen to you, to work with you, and help you show yourself and see yourself.
Come to me now
Open your door
Don’t make me wait
One moment more.
My training at Edge Studio was so deeply fundamental to the structure of my success in this industry and as an artist. When I began my narration coaching with Danielle Quisenberry, I brought in a variety of copy for my first session. She listened to me read and thoughtfully gave me notes. But she wasn’t thrilled. Eventually, after the third script or so, she interrupted me.
“Siobhán,” she asked, “Why are you choosing copy like this?”
“Because I like it.” I said honestly.
Danielle shook her head. That wasn’t good enough for her, and I felt nervous.
She told me that I was way too young for a project like the ones I was choosing. She gently went through each script for me and why, as a casting director, it just wasn’t right. I felt defeated and stressed. I confessed that I didn’t know what I should do. Had I failed my first session? Why didn’t I know what I was doing?
She smiled and said that it was completely normal not to know–that’s what she was there for. I can’t tell you what a wildly different turn my narration demo took from that moment on, day one. She played my voice back for me. Reminded me of how youthful I sound, how friendly, how playful, flirty, fun I could be. I’m a person who has experienced deep bouts of depression and anxiety, so I can tell you firsthand that I absolutely freak out when I know I need to describe myself, pitch myself, sell myself. But since that day, when I started gathering scripts that really suited me: a children’s documentary about vampire bats, an app that deletes any trace of your ex from your facebook tagged posts–I started to see myself differently. I am youthful sounding. That isn’t good or bad. It just is, and I need to know it. I am inherently playful and spirited. I am compassionate and empathetic. All of these things I can say with sincerity now–and it’s because Danielle helped me find that through my coaching.
You are the one you’ve been waiting for all your life.
Knowing myself and what kind of work I am perfect for is so incredibly rewarding.
It saves me time and labor auditioning for things I wouldn’t get hired for. It’s why my website is something I’m honestly proud of, so when I pitch myself to clients, I feel like I’m proud of what I have to show them. I show myself. I’m not hiding who I am, and that’s because I know who I am. I’m wonderful to work with, I’m a gosh darned pleasure, and I should be hired. You should be hired, too. Working with a voice over coach to not only hone your skills, but to recognize your strengths, is an essential step to getting those gigs. I humbly recommend you train at Edge Studio.
Elsa broke out of her self-made ice tower. So can we.
Show yourself. You’ve come so far.