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I’ll be travelling to Utah this week for family stuff, and since M-I-L’s house is without WiFi, or any internet for that matter – She’s turning 80 this week – I MAY not be able to post something next week. Thanks for your understanding! (I’m just going to pretend that all of you are sitting around every Wednesday morning at 6AM breathlessly waiting for my blog to publish – Please don’t crush my fantasies!).
What’s it all about, anyway?
So, what is this week’s post all about? Well, there are a couple reasons for me writing on this topic today. First, my friend and fellow VO Artist Joshua Alexander asked me (along with several other VO Artist/Bloggers) to write a short piece about the topic for a book he is putting together now. Second, I’ve seen a fair amount of discussion about it on social media this week.
We have a responsibility
Yes, yes…I know…responsibility is a very long 4-letter word that most people don’t like. Like it or not everyone has responsibilities, but in this case, I am talking about the responsibilities we have both as VO artists and as bloggers. As a VO artist, we have a responsibility to be truthful to the script. As bloggers we have a responsibility to our readers to be truthful regarding our topic. These are slightly different responsibilities, but, similar enough that they are accomplished in some of the same ways.
What does it mean to be truthful to the script?
This should be self-evident, but apparently not to everyone. As a VO, we are working with words and thoughts that someone else has provided. MOST times, that someone else also provides a clue as to what they expect from the artist when delivering their file.
There ARE some easy things to accomplish…
While the client typically tells you things like how to structure the file name, what file format they expect to receive and things like sample rate and bit resolution – those things are easy to follow. You should absolutely be paying attention to these, and if you are not, and are not booking much, this may be the reason. The other very important, and often overlooked things to pay attention to is the length of the spot. A :30 second spot should not be delivered as a :45 second audio.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about the script itself; topic, audience, tone, pace – to name a few.
It’s important to remain true to the author’s intent of the script. Who are you? Who are you talking to? Why are you saying the things you are saying? What are you trying to accomplish in the piece?
How do you KNOW these things?
Many times, the author/client either tells you outright or infers it in the “production Notes” or “VO Direction”. You see things like an age range (For the record, the age range does NOT refer to your ACTUAL age, but your “Voice Age”…how old you SOUND). Other things you’ll see as direction are things like: Natural, believable, upbeat, conversational, “Real Person”, excited…more descriptive words than I can list here. Sometimes they’ll tell you their audience, or who they are trying to reach. There are, however, times when you get little or NO direction for the script.
In those cases…
Believe it or not, in those cases (which frankly can be the most fun), it’s up to the artist to come up with the answers on their own. This is a very long-winded way to say: You make it up. That’s right, make it up. But not out of whole cloth.
We interrupt this broadcast…
To take a short trip down the rabbit hole of that last phrase “out of whole cloth”. What the HECK does that mean? Well, here is what The Free Dictionary by Farlex has to say about it:
“To fabricate something entirely fictional or utterly false and not based on reality at all. A reference to tailors who would falsely advertise garments being made “out of whole cloth,” when, in reality, they were pieced together from different cuts.”
Why did you take that detour?
Bear with me, I’ll get to that – but back to my thoughts before the brief recess.
When we as VO artists “make up” the context for the script, we must do it by reading, and re-reading, the script and whatever direction you DID get to come up with something plausible. The good news is this is a skill that can be learned (and improved over time) and it doesn’t require a degree in literature either. The FUN part is you can usually come up with more than one completely plausible backstories for the script that way, and give the client something they didn’t KNOW they wanted. In any case, you MUST stay true to the context all the way through.
In all honesty…
Even when you get a full description of the context to the script, you can still give the client something unique that they may like better than what they originally had in mind…on the SECOND or subsequent take. Bottom line: Always pay attention to the direction given and give the client what they are asking for on the first take. If you feel like you have a great unique take on the script, go ahead and record that on a subsequent take.
And now, honesty in blogging…
Frankly, I use “blogging”, but this applies to any written or spoken/video content as well. BE HONEST on the topic. And what do I mean by “BE HONEST”? There are actually a couple layers to this, in my mind.
This should go without saying, but as I tell my kids all the time; The things that go without saying are USUALLY the things that need to be SAID the most. The top layer of being honest in your writing, whether it be a blog, a book, a podcast or a script for your YouTube video is this: Know your topic and share it honestly. If you do not really KNOW the topic you either need to spend some time researching it before writing, or just find something else to write about. If, like me, you write a weekly blog, I suspect your intention (like me) is to help as many people as possible. Trust me, you’re not helping anyone if what you write is misleading or just not true.
Remember the rabbit hole earlier?
This is how it relates. I used an outdated, or not well-known phrase, a dated figure of speech, that many reading (most maybe?), wouldn’t recognize or understand. I myself knew what it meant in a general sense but had no real sense of where it came from or how it came to mean what it means now. So…and here is where it deals with the topic…I looked it up. I did some research so I could make sure that everyone reading understood it, and knew I wasn’t just making it up. Anyone sharing information should be doing the same, not just with outdated phrases, but with any details you may not be clear on so that you don’t either confuse or mislead a reader.
This one sort of gets me…underlying the whole thing here is putting yourself out as an “expert”, when you’re really not. There are so MANY people out there trying to come across as an expert, and leading people astray. This is a VERY competitive industry, being off course by even a little bit can slow down someone’s career, or even discourage them from continuing. BE HONEST about your experience and expertise.
I get it…
Really, I do. I started blogging because the google machine likes fresh content on your website. You want to get ranked in the search engines, and you want people to be able to find you. We ALL do. But when I decided a blog would do the trick with the Google machine, it wasn’t just THAT that drove me to start writing. I knew there were others out there, like me, who struggled to get started. So, I started my blogging with a series of posts that talked about all the things I learned as I began this journey in voice over…I thought I MIGHT be able to help some people take a slightly shorter road than I did, and I wanted to get it down while it was still fresh in my mind.
I’m not an expert.
And I made sure that people all knew that this “Getting Started” series was a fresh look at what happened to me, and it was definitely “fresh”. I made sure to tell people how long I’d been at this, and also spent some time directing them toward more experienced experts who had helped me along the way.
YOUR responsibility as a reader/consumer of information.
We as content creators and VO artists have a responsibility, but so do the consumers of that information. Make SURE to vet the people whose content you consume! Are they presenting themselves as experts? Can you verify that? Can you substantiate what these people are saying through independent research? Sadly, you MUST. YOU have a responsibility to verify/validate the information you receive. There are far too many fakes and charlatans out there. As Abraham Lincoln says: “Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true”. Or something like that.