April 26th, 2010
It can be nerve-racking to the beginning voice-over actor: standing there in a small, cramped, sound-proof booth that pokes at the claustrophobic bits of your sub-conscience while your voice-acting coach seemingly bashes your ego time and time again with "That wasn't quite right. Do it again. But this time with more ABC and not so much XYZ." You long to hear the words "Good job!" or "You nailed it!" But those words hardly seem to ever come your way. You feel crushed — a failure. You feel that maybe voice acting just isn't your bag.
But hold on...
Before you throw in the towel, there are a few things you need to know about what direction really is and how to take it without letting your ego, your pride, or even your sanity get hurt. In this post, we'll take a look at those things...
Gotta get the poster perfect
Have you ever asked someone to help you hang up a picture or a poster on a wall? You know, your partner stands behind you and gives directions like "A little more to the left" or "A little higher on the right side" or even "half an inch down and then it's perfect." Every time your poster-positioning partner gives a direction, he or she isn't making comments about your personality or your abilities as a poster hanger. The comments are meant to guide you to finding the best possible outcome.
It's the same with taking voice-over direction. Your coach, the producer, the client, or whoever it is giving you the direction is just trying to guide you to the best possible outcome. It is not an attack on your ego or your personality.
They are all rooting for you
Voice-over actor and acting coach extraordinaire, Pat Fraley, once said that all of the people "behind the glass" (producers, clients, sound engineers, etc., who are listening to you from outside the booth) are not against you — not at all! In fact, they are silently rooting for you with every direction they give you. In their minds they are all thinking: "He'll get it, I know he can" or "She's almost there, just a little more and we've got a perfect take."
Always remember that whoever is listening to your performance wants you to succeed and the direction they give you is meant to get you there, not tear you down.
The pressure is on the coach
Another great voice-over actor and coach, Deb Munro, once said that the pressure during a coaching session is completely on the coach and not on the student. The student is paying (sometimes a small fortune) to get coached by a professional. If the coach fails to properly direct, teach, and train the student, then the coach has failed and let the student down. And just like above, your coach really, really, really wants you to succeed!
(Note: The best coaches will treat you this way, so make sure to do your due-diligence by researching and contacting a variety of coaches to find the best one for you.)
Even the pros get direction
I really can't remember ever hearing of a voice-over pro who has never needed direction. Sure, there are times when a pro just walks into the studio and lays down the track in one take — but it's not always the norm. Even the pros in the voice-over field know that comments are meant to make their performance match the director's vision of what the spot should sound like.
If the pros still get direction and not take it personally, then so can you.
I hope that this has helped you to better understand the concept of being directed and how you should view it. If you are a beginning voice-over actor then please take this advice to heart. You will improve so much faster when you get ego, pride, and the insanity of taking direction personally out of the way of your training.