“Make it real. The audience has to believe in and trust the character. If you fail to build that trust by just reading your lines, then your acting is in vain.”
Those were the words of my college drama instructor at Liberty University as I stood on the stage rehearsing a scene for the play, “Fiddler on the Roof”. I stood there, imagined myself as a the “real Russian soldier” not the “pretend Russian soldier”. Within minutes, I began to relate to my character and feel the emotions he felt according to the script.
Then, I manifested those emotions in my scene with the other characters. After only a few takes, I had “become” the character I sincerely believed him to be.
Following opening night, several members of the cast and crew approached me after the play and said how convincing I was in that scene. They believed the emotions that I expressed because my performance was sincere. I sympathized with the character and “became” him.
The audience perceives if you’re just acting or if you have actually “become” the character. They will see if you’ve only memorized the lines and simply walked through the blocking (movements of the character). If you’re seen as just an actor playing the part, you have done a disservice to the cast and to the audience as it brings everyone down. The play is not quite as believable and that can be difficult to overcome.
When it comes to voiceovers, the same rule applies. The voiceover artist needs to believe in the product or the audience will hear it and probably won’t believe it or, most importantly, not buy it, either. Have you ever heard a radio or TV commercial where the voiceover actor(s) sounded like they were insincere about the product?
Sadly, I’ve heard quite a few commercials like that. They’re painful to listen to and I’ve actually been embarrassed for the company that paid for the advertisement.
Some characteristics that I’ve noticed in an “insincere” voice track (or narration) are these:
- flat delivery
- rushed delivery
- forced enthusiasm
- “reading” the script instead of “performing” the script
- incorrect pronunciations
When I hear any or all of those inflections in the narrator’s voice, I immediately ignore or disregard it. If they don’t “buy into” or believe in the product, why should I?
As a voiceover artist, the importance of being “real” in any track that I do for a client is of paramount importance. I should believe in the product and want you, the potential consumer, to do the same.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we’re not similar to actors. We do have a script that the agency or client has written for us. We are directed in how we read the copy. They tell us what details we have to emphasize and direct the pacing to meet the time limitations.
However, the principle is still the same: believe in what you are selling. I would never, in my role as a voiceover artist with my company, Philip Day Communications, agree to record a commercial if I didn’t believe what I was telling you, the listener/customer. I’m sure there are some pretenders in this industry who can be insincere and sell anything (even if they would never buy it and badmouth it to their friends and colleagues) but I’m not one of them. It’s unethical and you would figure it out-quickly.
So, next time you’re listening to your car radio, pay attention to a few ads, particularly the ones you like, and notice the enthusiasm of the voiceover artist. Do they make you want to buy the car? Attend the concert? Eat at the restaurant? See the movie?
Trust and sincerity count above everything else. Without it, you have nothing.
In the voiceover world that’s as “real” as it gets.