Here’s a question you need to honestly ask yourself: How coachable are you?
It’s fair to assume you’re about as coachable as you are ‘direct-able’. If you can’t be directed, it unlikely you’ll play well with others either. And acting, even voice acting, is often a team sport. You want to please yourself, but only after you’ve checked off quite a few other boxes that positions you in the room with the best caliber of work, and with some consistency.
The fact remains anyone who hires you as a voiceover needs options from you. And since it’s highly unlikely only one or two people are ultimately responsible for hiring and “directing” you, and even less likely that they are only interested in a singular, solitary delivery (or take) from you—it’s imperative you develop the ability to take direction as easily as you can self-direct your self.
Generally speaking, during a session the client begins with, “Let’s see what you do with it first, and then we’ll take it from there.”
Mastering the ability to self-direct has been the cornerstone of our coaching at Actors’ SOUND ADVICE for more than 25 years. But it’s not immediately intuitive. Like all good habits, it takes practice.
You are what you repeatedly do, as the saying goes. And building your ability to self-direct is a result of proper conditioning. Proper conditioning is a result of insightful coaching.
If you can’t effectively self-direct, it’s unlikely you can take direction either. You have to first, consciously, give yourself a specific command, and then purposefully and completely follow through in the very next take. You must fully commit, even when it goes against the grain. Especially, if it goes against the grain. You have to make a habit out of playing against your muscle memory delivery, your comfort zone, so to speak. As counter-intuitive as it may seem on the surface, this is how you learn to trust your instincts and others. You must risk, and continually surprise yourself with each take, while remaining within the context or premise of the text.
The entire purpose behind direction is to discover and determine a few viable options, in terms of expression, intent, and point-of-view. Let the client decide what they prefer. You’re capable of a limitless number of worthwhile options. Your ability to deliver a handful of viable options ultimately determines how valuable, agile, versatile and adaptable you are as a talent.
Yet, a bulk of voice talent simply “wing it”. Or, just as bad, try to craft only one single “perfected” performance, as if you were in a play, but instead you ultimately paint your self into a corner. Even staged performances demand you include the moment into the equation with each telling of the story. This could explain why there are so many one-hit wonders in voiceover.
The best coaching is purpose driven, and offers techniques that spark your imagination, that sharpen and heighten your skills with repeated practice. Coaching, when done correctly, is not about how your coach would do it, or riddled with forced ‘bumper sticker’ catch phrases, but instead offer an active opportunity to develop your observational skills as well as your performance prowess.
Considering better than 85% of all talent auditioning today, regardless of experience level, are typically feeling their way around in the dark; only guessing as to what’s expected of them and maybe squeezing in a coaching session once or twice a year. To insure a decided advantage for yourself, coaching is an imperative if you hope to up your game and challenge your comfort zone, because delivering the same thing over and over and over again is the very least you can possibly do and should never be your aim. It ultimately makes you expendable, not to mention forgettable.
Committing yourself to coaching a few times a year, with someone who mans you with techniques you can effectively employ, is what’s expected of every professional talent, and it always has been, whether you’re currently booking a great deal of work or not. What sets professionals apart from everyone else is imagination, technique and confidence. Coaching feeds your read. If you aren’t developing skills to effectively self-direct and continually challenge your comfort zone, it’s unlikely you will develop enough to go the distance beyond a couple months.
Make it your mission to become every clients’ ideal talent: Someone everyone can rely on as their go-to voiceover.
Again, you’re as ‘direct-able’ as you are coachable. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. And change is the name of the game.
Copyright © 2023 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.