Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

Rock or Clay?

A beginning voice actor must grasp that you aren’t a hired grunt moving around words on the page like you would move a solid boulder. You’re also not a furniture delivery person sliding verbal furniture around a couple ways before leaving it in one of two or three optional spots. You are an artist, an experimenter and a sculptor of words.

Or maybe your script is a fundamentally malleable thing- like a blob of clay to be warmed up, played with and sculpted.

I see the words waiting to be spoken as a chunk of clay and it is the actor’s duty to experiment and sculpt and eventually mold them into a compelling form that may well not be what was obvious or at first expected.

Each run at a sentence (they often ask for “three in a row”) is a sculpter’s experiment, a different attempt with reforming the meaning, the implied textures, the color of the words, the subtext and the intent of the story playing out.

Not sculpting haphazardly, mind you: You aim for a goal- an idea- that you build your sculpt around, that you bring to life with your efforts. As with a scupture, the clearer the idea and the stronger the artist’s grasp of his/her craft, the more vivid and compelling the final result.

As a voice actor, you are a sculpter of the meaning, slapping on differend globs of implication, pre-life, improv to the words provided to sculpt variations that hopefully approach a more fulfilling and irressitable final form.

How is this metaphor of any use?

Hopefully, this way: I want you to think of the project of auditioning or acting in this manner- with you as an active creator who is brought in to create something clear and compelling with your art. And I want you to see the raw material of your craft- the words- as you clay- not as a collection of immovable stones that must be properly excavated and then put in a showcase. This is malleable, workable clay- and your job is to warm it up, move it around and slap around these words until you half discover and then affirm your finished idea.

© Dee Bradley Baker 2023

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