Had the pleasure of directing auditions on a wall-to-wall :60 second radio spot a couple days ago. Standard spec: sincere, non-announcery, authority but friendly.
The spot was a tad over written, not horribly so, but came in comfy around :70 seconds.
No prepping or warning on my part helped any of the actors auditioning.
"Take your time."
"It's a touch over written."
"I DON'T CARE if it's under 60."
"Leave yourself room for air."
Most of the actors looked at me like I was trying to explain how water was wet. OF COURSE they'd breathe, DUH...
Like clockwork, around 35-40 seconds, trainwreck.
The two or three actors that did make it through without error sounded so rushed I couldn't have sent the audition off anyway.
Now these are voice over pros, but even they seem to run into a fairly common problem. I just now clued in that the problem isn't "running out of air" it's having TOO MUCH USED AIR.
Throughout longer copy, you start taking really shallow breaths to replenish. After about 30 seconds of this you're pretty much full, but since you've been speaking at a consistent rate, with no room to exhale, you're pretty much full of CO2. The body starts to send distress signals, you surge to try and finish the copy, in surging you start stumbling, this adds more stress, and the end of the audition is tanked.
I started making my actors do breathing prep, a trick I learned in musical theater to calm stage nerves (singing on stage terrified me).
"I'm going to push record. I want you to inhale for five seconds and exhale for ten seconds before you start speaking."
Now, don't even get me started on the number of actors that said "yeah cool ok" then went right into the copy IGNORING what I had just asked them to do, but forcing them to do this trick resulted in something just a little fantastic.
I got calm, engaged, personal reads. Almost everybody was able to come in under 70 seconds. Almost no stumbles were made.
People who read legal copy often tell me that the fastest legal is usually the most relaxed legal, and I totally buy it.
Those same techniques are working like gang-busters on my commercial recording sessions.
What do you do to prep longer copy?