I have long been told (and even suggest it myself) that Improv is a great training ground for voiceover pros. Instinctively I think I knew this to be true. But I have never been able to really articulate exactly why. Edge Studio published an article by Vanessa Richardson that finally clarified it for me.
Spontaneity is the word I have been using when thinking and talking about what Improv training will do to help improve delivery of a script, but it goes deeper than just being spontaneous.
The dictionary defines Spontaneous as “1. coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural and unconstrained; unplanned: a spontaneous burst of applause.” Or 2. (of a person) given to acting upon sudden impulses.”
This doesn’t really explain what is actually happening in Improv and how it might relate to reading a script.
It gets more confusing because the word improvise is defined as doing something without preparation. We all improvise. Every day, all day, we move through our days with little acts of improvisation. For most people, we do not have a script written each morning that details our conversations and interactions. The improv we do here may or may not be good improv. It may or may not be funny (which is not necessary for improv). But even if it is funny, the simple act of making the mail carrier laugh because of a witty response to the garden hose bursting and both of us getting soaked is not going to bring in the paying crowds.
What exactly is going on? Let’s look at two facts…
– Good Improv isn’t scripted, but it is backed by lots and lots of preparation.
– Voiceover work is scripted and often times performed with very little preparation.
So, how do these two things go together to help the voiceover performer do a better job? It is all about the connections you make in each. And the key is included in this short quote from Vanessa’s article – drum roll please…
It’s called listening.
In our everyday lives, we all need to listen, being aware of our surroundings and open to a change in direction. This is a key reason why (as actors such as Meryl Streep have long advised), listening is at the core of acting. Listen to the other actor. (Or if you prefer, your character should listen to the other character.) Even when you’re working solo, listen to yourself.
Also listen to your producer, director or client. They are, in effect, your scene partner. The better you listen and are able to take direction in a relaxed and positive manner, the more able you are to make them look good.
As a voice talent, reading from someone else’s script (usually all by myself), it is my job to get inside the head of the other person listening to this “conversation” and – in the way I deliver the story – let their part of the conversation connect with my part of the conversation.
Read the rest of the article for more insight into how Improv and the art of listening and reacting spontaneously can help improve your performance when reading a script.