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IMPROVING VOICE OVER PERFORMANCE WITH BACKSTORIES

On Saturday, February 23, I’ll be conducting a special workshop for voice actors:

IMPROVABILITY
Enhancing Your Voice Over And Writing Talents Via Improv

I use a number of techniques to get new performances from voice actors or new story approaches from writers.

All are related in some way to improvisation. (I have a long background in improv, but that’s another posting sometime).

One of the techniques I use is the creation of improvised “backstories” for the performers.

Some very good coaches use backstories. I use them very differently.

It’s much easier to demonstrate than to explain. But my backstories ultimately have a single goal: to lead the performer to an interpretation (or the writer to an expression) they otherwise never would’ve arrived at.

In short, to “discover reality.” (If you come to the workshop, you’ll hear that phrase from me at least a few times.)

Here’s a “Before” and “After” example from the 2011 (and last) International Radio Creative & Production Summit. In this video, the two voice actors deliver the copy according to their own natural instincts.


After that reading, I gave each performer his own backstory.

Obviously, the bland “announcer” copy needed the most help. But notice the change in the Russian character, too.

Did you notice a difference in either or both performances?

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  • ADD February 12, 2013, 7:55 am

    The gentleman on the left seems to be very passive in both videos and seems disinterested and unexcited about the product. While much of this can be laid at the foot of the copy, do you have any suggestions of how to encourage voice actors to be more engaged, more present in a two-person spot like this?

  • Dan O'Day February 12, 2013, 10:18 am

    @ADD: My approach is to create backstories that lead them to the kinds of performances I need.

    In this instance, I heard a very distinct difference between the announcer’s first take and the final take. He was a bit off mic, which might’ve made him sound less engaged. (In the room, we all had benefit of the monitors, with an engineer riding gain so that the live performance was balanced for the attendees.)

    Given the script, it would’ve been inappropriate for the announcer to sound excited about the product. It was the “Tetris champion” who had the problem; his emotional reaction was to the problem and, ultimately, to the solution.

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