When I prepare a script, I always begin by analyzing each and every sentence. I look for clues as to the emotional tone of the script. I dig into the “meat” of every word and phrase to see how they relate to each other. And then finally step back in order to take in the script as a whole. It takes a little time… but not too much. Yet, without this important step, the script would never become a living and breathing entity of performance — complete with its own beginning, middle, and end.
It’s sort of like looking at a river from different perspectives…
If you dive below the surface of a river, you can easily see the geology — rocks, outcroppings, etc. — that give the river’s surface its own unique ripple of eddies and currents.
From the view just above the river’s surface, you can see the ripples that give character to the river. You can even look ahead to see the next bend in the river’s course. But what’s beyond that? Only the next view can tell us that…
From high above we can finally see the full course of our river. Where it begins, the winding, twisting, snake-like course it takes, and then its inevitable end when it empties into the sea.
Where are you viewing the river?
As a voice actor, you have to be everywhere. You have to be deep below the surface, looking at the minute details that helped shaped the river’s surface. Think of this as the emotions, intentions, needs, and desires of the person being depicted in the script. This gives character to the character.
You have to be on the surface — showing the details hidden deep below through your performance. You do this by using phrasing and intonation to let the listener know what’s coming up, but no further than around the next bend. There needs to be an element of “the unknown” as your performance continues.
And finally you have to be high above looking down. From here you must give the listener the feeling that the script has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The listener has to be able to hear the flow of the scripted words. Your performance must lead them through it to its logical and emotional conclusion.
Time to dive in
The process of script analysis in voice acting (in any acting for that matter) has been called “breathing life into a script” or “reading in the white space” just to name a few. I have my own take — and it goes something like this:
Yeah, I know. With words like process and applying it’s a little stiff sounding. But it’s also a little artistic. And in the end, isn’t that what script analysis is anyway? There is a technique to it. But it’s a technique that allows for artistic choices to be made.
So now, dear intrepid reader, it’s time for you to take a look at your scripts with a little more critical — yet creative — eye. Why does the river flow the way it does? Where is it going, and why? Give your listeners the answers to these questions using only the tone of your voice, and you will have made their journey an experience never to be forgotten.