I was recently asked by a friend if I wanted to join her voice-over workout group. I immediately said yes, even though a small part of me, even after all these years of doing voice-over, felt a little shy at doing it in front of my peers. I’ve sat in on many webinars and taken group classes with well-known coaches in the voice-over industry in NYC and L.A. During them I have watched, amazed, while my peers kicked butt on commercial, animation, video game, elearning, and medical voice-over scripts. I’ve also watched beginners and pros alike struggle, stumble, and apologize for their performances. I have given myself mental high fives after giving a great read and cursed myself silently when I too struggled or stumbled (thinking yes, I will get that milkshake on the way home, damn it. Make it a double). Whether a copy read fell flat or triumphed, however, there are two things that stayed consistent: learning and growing in my craft, and doing it surrounded by support and encouragement from my peers.
So, I joined my first “workout” group, a Zoom meeting between me and four other voice actors committed to keeping our skills sharp and challenging ourselves with new material. We started the hour by sharing any recent voice-over experiences, whether it was a job or an online casting site, or something we read about in the voice-over world. We laughed, and we shared frustrations, problems, and their more helpful counterparts, solutions. It was fun and provided a sense of community and togetherness in a very solo profession (talking to inanimate objects in the booth to stay sane is not out of the realm of possibility for a VO actor, “Why Mrs. Mop, have you done something different with your hair?”)
Then, we worked on some commercial copy, one by one. Reading scripts in front of peers is different than doing it alone in a recording booth for an audition or on an already booked job, with clients who clearly like what you do by the fact that they’ve hired you. I was nervous (gulp..judged by my peers..), but at the same time not nervous (these are my friends..there’s no judgment here!), and in that strange state I rushed into the copy without thinking about any of the things I teach as a coach every day (like who was I talking to and what was I communicating, to start.) I did not follow my own advice! Both of my peers listened to my read and kindly, but honestly said, “Hmm..I don’t believe you.”
A small(ish) part of me was taken aback, thinking, “What do you mean?! I’ve been doing this forever! I can do this in my sleep!” even though I know that line of thinking is faulty because every script is a chance for me to connect to a listener, and that does not happen in my sleep! Every script deserves my thoughtfulness because someone else’s thoughtfulness wrote it. So, I took a moment and thought about the script and its message, and what it meant to me personally (not a long process. I mean it was a commercial, not a scene from Hamlet!) I took a breath and did it again, and it was much, much better. I felt more connected to what I was saying. Also, I survived peer feedback! I still have all my fingers and toes! I enjoyed saying it more, and not only did my peers think it was better, but I could trust them because they had shown that constructive criticism is safe and very helpful amongst friends and respectful peers who want each other to succeed.
It also helps that I know it’s okay to make mistakes and not be perfect at voice-over. In fact, in the days of the “authentic” and “believable” read, perfectionism can get in the way of a good performance because human beings are not perfect.
I’m really looking forward to the next voice-over zoom workout, or “zeeting” as we like to call it. I just hope the “zink” is still working. If not, I’ll definitely ask for them to send it again, because I’m excited to keep on growing as a voice actor and jazzed to do it alongside other like-minded VO folks.
Categorised in: Blog
This post was written by Simone Stevens