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.