Lead-ins Are Your Best Friend
Updated: Jul 21
One of the toughest things in Voiceover is turning on the right emotion when you need it. You've analyzed the copy and found the beats and emphasis you like. You've also found the emotion or emotions you need to nail. How do you just turn that on, right NOW? I'm sure with time and experience this gets easier, but earlier in the journey it's pretty hard to just hit the switch and be frustrated, empathetic, joyous, ect. A time tested technique I really love is the lead-in. This is where your acting and improv training will start really paying off.
What you're going to do is use your imagination to create a scene that contains the emotion you need and start to play it out. Creating something out of thin air on intuition, that's improv. The rest is acting. Your fancy mic and smooth voice aren't going to help you now ;) How's your imagination?!
Let's say you have a script for a healthcare company and the overall tone/emotion is empathetic and hopeful. You start by creating a scene in your head wherein you are in a room, your friends living room. His name is Peter and you've known each other since you were kids. There are two comfy chairs, a fireplace and a couch. It's comfortable and warm and his dog Luke is sitting nearby. Yes this much detail is necessary, the more the better. It doesn't matter what the details are but the more detail, the stronger picture you will see in your mind. What does it smell like? Something cooking in the kitchen or maybe you can smell the coffee each of you have. Peter has called you over because he has just been diagnosed with cancer and he is terrified. The doctor thinks they may have caught it soon enough and there is a chance he can get through, but his life is about to change forever.
How does the conversation start? What does he say, what do you say? You are obviously going to be empathetic but also hopeful. You want Peter to focus on the bright side. He has a great doctor and medical technology gets better all the time. Now, have the conversation. Say it out loud. Sit like you would be sitting and gesture like you would gesture. Be in that moment and just talk to Peter. Doesn't matter what you say exactly, do what comes naturally. Again, improv training is key here. Why does everyone keep saying take improv? This is why. It can go as long as needed but if you read your healthcare copy immediately after, you're going to be empathetic and hopeful. This is a way to jump start yourself into the emotion you need. A slight change to this story, like Peter is terminal. The cancer has spread everywhere and he's been told to get his affairs in order. Sure sometimes people make it anyway, but you know this is it. It's time to say goodbye to one of your best friends. I'm pretty sure I could get myself crying and in deep sorrow pretty quick. But you can't just imagine it, you have to say the words out loud. Act it out.
This is the lead-in. Leading into your copy by acting out a scene in your head but out loud and for real just before reading your copy. The more detail the stronger you'll be able to jump yourself into the emotion. One final tip. If it's a strong emotion like frustration or anger, I like to go over the top for my lead-in. Way bigger and more intense than what would be real. You'll come back to more realistic for the read but it's quicker and easier to jump start that reality in your body if you go a little nuts and over the top. That's just me, your milage may vary.