Fear and Loathing in Atlanta (My Huge Takeaway from VO Atlanta)
I'm back "somewhat" fresh (thanks time change) from an absolutely amazing weekend attending VO Atlanta. For those of you who don't know, VO Atlanta is a huge annual voice over conference where you can learn and grow alongside of other talent, agents, directors, and producers from around the world.
If you're a working voice actor, you already know that "natural' and "real" are the red-hot buzzwords in your commercial auditions right now. Being a gal with a ton of radio and television announcing under my belt, I have to fight a lot of years of training to deliver those kinds of reads-- it can be tough. Finding tips and tricks to get to that " authentic place" faster was my ultimate goal while attending VO Atlanta this year.
Happy to report it did NOT disappoint. It was actually quite profound.
I had the pleasure of taking a small, private work-shop with the fantastic Lori Alan. You probably know Lori from her work as Pearl on SpongeBob, Dianne Simmons on Family Guy, or literally hundreds of other roles. She has a ton of great advice for delivering a more natural read. I won't share her tips here as they're part of her private teaching curriculum, BUT what I found fascinating wasn't how to get to that authentic place...it was what we all seem to do when we DO get there.
We are SO INCREDIBLY MEAN to our authentic selves! This class of Lori's wasn't a class for beginners; I was surrounded by some really seasoned talent with great resumes. One by one, I watched absolutely spellbound as these really talented folks delivered spot-on, killer, natural reads (with Lori's instruction) and then tore themselves down and second guessed themselves.
Why does it feel so bad to be ourselves? Isn't that terrible? I wrote in my own book, "read like yourself" and "what's so unique about your voice is that nobody else on the planet sounds like you". But I'm just as guilty. I only let myself get "so" natural-- you know, so it's natural but it still sounds good? What does that even mean, right? I needed to be an audience member in Lori's classroom to hear just how much better my peers/I sounded when we fully embraced that we were enough for the copy.
Today I had this idea reinforced even more, and I just had to sit down tell you all about it.
There I was in my booth; using some of Lori's tips for an audition. I saw that the client wanted someone who sounded "likeable", so I immediately raised my pitch and started improvising to get into the mood. Wait...what? Did you see what I did? I got chills and stopped as soon as it hit me. I made the conscious decision (without blinking an eye) that who I was wasn't naturally likeable. I raised my pitch. The client didn't say "younger" or "high pitch" they said "likeable". THAT IS SO MESSED UP, guys. And we as voice actors do it all the time!
So... think about this. This is big. We are enough. In the booth and out of the booth. Right? We're better (in more ways than one) when we believe that.
We have to tell that little critic in our head to fuck off. We do. That little creep is the unlikeable one-- YOU are plenty likeable.