Acting and Voiceover - Connecting the Dots
Updated: Jul 19
In my pursuit of Voiceover, I have always been told to focus on my acting. It's so important to build you acting skills. So I have been doing this, reading books and watching videos. I even just started an in-person acting class. But I have always struggled with how exactly the acting techniques I learn connect to Voiceover.
In my studies so far, I understand it's a lot to do with reacting. Paying careful attention to your scene partner and reacting off what they are giving you. It's a lot more than that obviously, but I can't get into all that here. Basically, it almost always has a lot to do with who is in the scene with you. But in VO there is no scene partner, just a screen or piece of paper and you alone in a small space. This is where the disconnection happens for me and I have been searching for a good explanation. How do you connect acting and Voiceover?
I read the book "The Actors Art and Craft" by William Esper and near the end of the book a question is answered as to what you do if you have a scene partner who is giving nothing, so there is little to react to. The answer is the dotted line I have been looking for.
React off the meaning of your partner’s words rather than off his behavior. If you've deeply related yourself to the meanings of the scene, you can strategically ignore your partner's lifeless behavior and act as if you were working off an actor whose behavior is alive and fulfilling the role. In other words, fall back on your imagination rather than on the contact you'd normally establish with a good actor.
I have never heard it put so perfectly. React off the meaning of the words, deeply relate yourself to that meaning and use your imagination. If you do these things, you can ignore your partner, as if he/she wasn't even there, which of course in VO he/she is not. Bingo! Voiceover is like acting with a really bad scene partner. A coach once told me, play the paper.
Of course that's not everything, You still have to create the right emotion/character and deliver it convincingly. All that makes perfect sense for VO. It was the reacting part that confused me. Not anymore.