Tips for Directing a Voice Over Actor

It may sound odd, but directing a voice over actor in a commercial is like directing an actor in a major film production.  Well, not quite but almost… hear me out first.

It is all about the action and the process.  A successful performance in a commercial gets the viewer to buy your product, similarly, a well acted performance in films, gets your audience to buy in to the world created in the movie.  An independent filmmaker once said that the goal is to tell a story dramatically and not sound preachy.  It means that players should do things rather than explain things.

For viewers or listeners to buy your products, voice actors should “do” more rather than “think” more.  Directors should start talking about the process rather than the end results.  In other words, it is the journey that is more important rather than the destination when telling the story.

When talking about the process, use more action words and not adjectives.  How does that work with a commercial copy? Let us pretend that your brand is a dog food called Funkilicious.  It is the stink that makes it appealing for the dogs and makes them come running to eat it.  But the buy in is that only dogs can smell the stink.  The best approach based on your research is that people do not find it stinky dog food humorous.  The copy is best delivered with an authoritative demeanor, conveying the relief of the buyer from the smell once the can is opened.

Using actions words instead of adjectives would now mean guiding your voice actor into conveying the relief.  Instead of saying to the talent, “When you get to the line about relief from stench, sound happy that people will be relieved,” say, “When you get to that line, convince, Julia, the listener, to really agree with you.”  By using action words instead of descriptive words, the talent can focus on convincing the listener of the happiness rather than thinking, “I’m supposed to be getting happy.”  That is the kind of motivation that actors need to be persuasive and make the copy come alive.

Using action words lead the actors into discovering and experiencing the emotions resulting to a more compelling performance.  This is true not only for live action actors but also for voiceovers.

Lauren Maree

Lauren Maree is Voice and Client Services Manager at The Voice Realm. With over 15 years experience working for some of the world's leading Advertising Agencies, as well as over 7 years within a major market voice over agency.

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