Thursday, May 22, 2008

Seasoned voice actors make me happy...

Being a booth director can be REALLY tricky. I'd say I'm a pretty bright guy, and after years of theater and radio, I think I have a pretty good ear for how copy SHOULD sound. I was always pretty good at script analysis, and tearing into a :30 radio is something that comes natural to me (if you ever need anyone to OVER-analyze copy...).
I certainly don't think I'm special in any regard, but having been recording for ten years (the last five of which with an almost exclusive focus on VO) has left me with at least a little perspective.

I know the biggest challenge for me was getting out of my actors way. On stage or in the booth, I always had an idea of what a particular character should sound like. In my head that WAS the character, and it was so clear and apparent, how could an actor possibly come up with any other idea. It was very frustrating, and it took me a while before I learned how to communicate ideas, rather than just line reading the crap out of people.

It wasn't long before I started getting excited by the possibility of performance, what I wouldn't think of right away, and what a particular performer could bring to a role that I couldn't foresee. The unexpected, yet still appropriate.

It's sort of addictive. It's also very gratifying, that the better the performer I got, suddenly the better a director I became (partly because I had to up my game, but also because they made me look good on stage, lol).

Case in point, over the last week I've had the opportunity to help produce a union TV spot and a non-union internet spot. The union spot paid scale (about $600 for the session), and the producers had booked a studio for 1 hour to record. The non-union producers were going to pay talent $300 per hour of recording, but were assuming it would only take about 20 minutes to record.

I was brought in on both sessions pretty much just to push record, button-monkey that I am...

The union actor was a very experienced VO pro, easily 20 years of credits to his name. He read through the commercial three times (with one pick up), hit a legal-like disclaimer twice, and was out the door, about 15 minutes max. Everyone happy, session fee well spent, early lunches all around.

The non-union actor was a VERY nice guy, but was a TOTAL VO NEWB. This was his first ever voiceover session, or at least that was the impression I got from recording him. I can't remember how many takes we did, but what should've taken about thirty minutes, took over an hour and a half, and the end of the recording session boiled down to the director walking into the booth to line read the talent because the actor "wasn't getting the direction". The finished product (after a lot of editing) was merely acceptable. The bill for the talent came to about $600 (not to mention additional studio time), and no one was really happy about it.

Both sessions ended up paying their talent about the same for very different results...

My first thought looking back on these two wildly different experiences was "there you go, hire good talent, it'll save you in the long run", but after reflecting a bit, I've come to a slightly different conclusion.

I think a good director would've gotten a much better read out of the VO Newb, and much sooner. Letting the session drift on into line reading after line reading for an hour and a half was a bit unreasonable, and who's to say that if the non-union "director" had gotten his hands on Mr. VO Pro, that they wouldn't have had a similar melt down.

So what's my point with all of this? I guess I don't really have one. Really, it's just a bunch of stuff that happened...

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