I’ve spent a large amount of time in the studio recording ADR and Voice Over projects. They are always interesting and for the most part are a lot of fun. What people don’t realize is that I sit with the Directors and Producers for hour after hour; day in, day out. Sometimes for months at a time. And what most Actors don’t know is that it’s part of my job is to give critical feedback on the project, getting the best results I can possibly get. For the sake of this article, most of those times I am asked to give that feedback we are often discussing one thing: You, The Actor. Directors and Producers are always thinking in terms of the next project. And whether most Actors realize it or not, you are auditioning for future projects down the road by how you conduct yourself in the studio today. Listed here are some things that I’ve noticed good Actors put into practice as well as some general observations based on the conversations I’ve had with Directors.
- Request an up to date script– Scripts can constantly be revised on set so its important that you have the most current version of the script available. If at all possible, bring the script with you either as a paper copy or electronically on a tablet or iPad (no laptops please). I’ve worked on projects before where the person responsible for bringing the script forgets it among all the other things they are bringing. The Director will always remember you if you just happen to be prepared for such an emergency.
- Request to sit in on the spotting script session- Before an ADR session takes place there should be a screening of the film that takes place to decide which lines in a movie or TV show need to be replaced. This is known as the spotting session. The new information is then taken down and written out as what is known as the spotting script. The technicalities aren’t that important but what is important is that as an Actor there are a lot of things that you can learn by sitting in on a spotting session. I suggest taking a notepad and quietly watching and critiquing your own performance while taking notes on anything that seems important. Stay alert and look for ways to improve your performance for the next project you work on. These can be things in your performance or even technical things that you might be able to help the crew with at some point. Anyways the point of sitting in on a spotting session is to become more of an asset as an Actor than you are at the moment. Who knows, you might be able to work yourself into all kinds of different jobs on top of being an Actor.
- Be punctual- Just like Musicians, Actors sometimes have a hard time showing up for sessions on time. In the Hollywood world of film there would probably be an assistant to make sure that you get to where you need to be on time. But in the independent film world showing up on time is sometimes more important because there isn’t a major studio picking up the tab for studio time. Showing up late can also start the session off with the wrong sort of energy in the studio. Nothing is quite as annoying to Directors and Engineers as when an Actor or Musician shows up half an hour late, but still manages to have had time to stop at Starbucks to pick up a coffee on the way. Showing up on time is a good way to build a good repertoire as a working professional and it goes a long way with the people making the big decisions.
- Be prepared- Even though this should be fairly obvious it isn’t always taken to heart. If you’re coming into the studio to do ADR or Voice Overs I suggest reading and practicing your lines several days in advance. If there are scenes that are hard, prepare emotionally before you get to the studio to be in the right mind set for your part. And lastly bring anything that you think you might need to be comfortable and relaxed.
- Be over animated- As human beings, when we communicate, we rely on facial expressions and body language to help convey the message we are trying express. Unfortunately these same things don’t come across very well in the world of audio. To compensate for this the best Actors I’ve worked with over exaggerate their facial expressions as well as physically act out their parts. It can make a huge difference in an Actors performance. A good rule of thumb that I tell the Actors I work with is that unless you feel silly or dumb while you’re acting, you’re not doing it right.
- Take direction with a grain of salt- I’ve seen a lot of Directors try to get the performance they are after, but oftentimes the Directors themselves aren’t quite sure exactly how to ask for it. Unfortunately this can become frustrating and may seem like the Director is being overly harsh or critical. Acting isn’t a perfect medium and what works for one Director may not work for another. Just keep in mind that its most likely not personal, but experimental.
-S. F. Shields
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