I am not a trained actor. Besides one acting class in college (and presently about 4 months of Improv training), I'm just a guy pretending to be another dude pretending to be another guy. And yet, for all my seeming rawness, I do have one, perhaps seemingly laughable advantage to academics out there reading this.
I've Dungeon Mastered for over 35 years, and it's really helped me out a lot so far. Why? Because in every game I played, I wrote the storylines, played major and minor characters. The kings, queens, beggars, spies, butchers, constables, orcs, dragons, demons, angels, children, elementals, talking trees, puppies, wind, waves, vampires, and literally thousands of different characters from the past, present and future. Some characters were meticulously crafted, but many were made on the fly when my unruly players did something Not According to Plan (which was 75% of the time, the tricksy things!).
As a Dungeon Master, I had to not only speak but I had to listen, a lot. I had to find out what made the characters (and more importantly, the players behind them), happy, sad, angry, amused, bored, hateful, spiteful, jealous and joyful. I had to learn what buttons to push, and just the right amount of pressure to carrot and stick them into an enjoyable experience.
I had to figure out who, what, why, when, where, and how. Some of our roles at times went beyond slapstick, but that was fine. It helped diffuse the other times when we got serious, sometimes horribly dark in our storylines. We rode emotional highs and lows that would be more exhilarating than a roller coaster ride to us. And we'd have nights in our emotional explorations sometimes where someone would come up with something really profound, such as a battle speech, a vengeful act, a comedic zinger, or a heroic sacrifice. Sometimes it was me, sometimes it was one of my players. Either way, there was a powerful effect weaved upon us, and it would stay with us a long time, and would be whispered or boldly told for years to come.
Ultimately, to be a good Dungeon Master, I viewed my mission is that of a servant of good communication. If done right we serve the players that have chosen to spend at least one evening a week with us. We earnestly attempt to forge bonds of trust and friendship, looking for that mystical spark that is many times missing from our mundane professions and lives. When trust is created, together the DM and Players make something greater. The campaigns become serious acting, a sort of improv that weaves it's way through months, even years.
And that brings me back to voiceover.
In voiceover, one does their best work not when serving just one's self, but when serving the client with the best delivery, the best acting that can be summoned. This can sometimes be through a pressure cooker when one has to make choices, fast choices. Sometimes the choices have to be off the wall, sometimes cut from straight and narrow cloth. No matter the choice, as long as it is the best that can be rendered in service. One has to find out what emotional buttons need to be pushed to keep the clients satisfied, and happy if possible. If one can create a bond of trust and friendship, so much the better.
It is true that I am still at the beginning of a very long process of exploring both the art and business of voiceover. I am going to learn great truths in the months and years that follow.
I've been around long enough to realize such truths are usually simple truths that have to be explored to minutiae to apply them properly.
But I am writing it down here and now. The beginning, for me, is roleplaying games. The kernel. The spark. The big bright sparkling egg from which the dragon hatched. The rest of my training will be fanning that flame, and making it burn brighter and purer in the quest for excellence.
It has been longer than I thought since I updated this blog. I do have a few good reasons however. The first is that I just don't want to update without a good reason. The second is I have been busy on several other voiceover endeavors. To be succinct, I have been auditioning and recording like mad. I am now recording and editing my third audiobook, the Herald of Autumn, which is going quite well. This project will be much of what I will be doing over my holiday break.
Secondly, I have been striving to make sure that I audition every day that I can. Why? When I launched my little voiceover empire, I decided that I must treat auditioning as a daily routine. Primary profession skills and habits should be cultivated from the outset, and must be incorporated into one's life, no matter if one has a busy day in one's day job, or feel like one can't press on through indolence or fear.
Auditioning is an important skill for acting. The most obvious reason is that jobs will not just come to the vast majority of us. We must find them. Secondly, consistency is king in any profession. When we audition, we aren't just auditioning for this job. We are auditioning with and towards future jobs with the client.
As mentioned previously, we must audition constantly to overcome fears and prejudices. We may have fears of being inadequate., a prejudice of slanting towards reading only certain kinds of scripts. We need to audition to learn to speak other people's words with our voices. Auditioning makes us strong that way, through the twists and turns of the tongue and sentences, the long run-on sentences, strange accents and demeanors we have to tap into to make a project work.
Auditions help us rise to the challenge. When one encounters similar scenarios in the future, we've be more ready for them, more able as actors. And worrying about being inadequate? Well, maybe you and I are inadequate, or maybe we aren't. But we won't know until we lay the tracks down and give it a go.
It's important that after we listen, we listen to the auditions again before we send it to the clien. We need to listen and cultivate with a critical ear towards our own work. To try to understand what strengths and weaknesses we have, and what we need to work on.
We may even be lucky to receive critical feedback from our audition, which is extremely helpful. The more we audition, the greater chance we have at landing jobs, establishing clientele and long standing relationships within the voiceover community.
When we are new in a group, we have to many times just jump up and down like crazy to get noticed. Because this is a business also, clients will most likely be hesitant to hire us. But one thing that can help is up showing up again, and again, and again in their auditions. Because then, they know we are at least taking the process seriously. And by sheer attrition (and of course excellent auditioning!), our names will be increasingly burned into their minds. Then someone will give us a chance to prove our worth.
In conclusion, we all have to pay the gatekeepers of our profession, more so in the beginning but truthfully even when our careers become more mature. This is a just and fair process. The benefit for us newer voice talent is that the seemingly slow going process in the beginning gives us time to grow in our art and craft. Later, the auditioning process also keeps us humble even if we should be fortunate to rise enough to make a full time profession of our aspirations.
So hail to the audition! May it continue to help us in all aspects of our acting careers!