Time for a little Q and A…this one coming from a childhood friend with a music background preparing for a course of study with Nancy Wolfson:
“What are some things I can be doing leading up to my first lesson? Being totally new to this, if I can educate myself with anything ahead of time to give me any sort of edge , I will.”
Watch commercials, lots of them. Listen to the radio and hear how high energy those commercials are vs. the TV commercials. Get on youtube and listen to the car campaigns—Honda (Kevin Spacey), Acura (Bryan Cranston), Hyundai (Jeff Bridges), Mercedes (Jon Hamm), etc—hell, any spot with Morgan Freeman, for example—listen to what good actors they are, how they tell a story with limited amounts of time.
Listen for spots that you think your voice would be right for. What kinds of products are they for? Start to understand the marketplace. Watch old commercials (remember the obnoxious Kemp Mill Records spots from when we were kids?), and compare the VO with what you hear now. Hugely edifying.
Then watch all the cartoons you can and learn the difference between Fan Boy vs. Archer vs. Family Guy styles of acting/comedy. Once you start studying with Nancy, you’re gonna have a major technique education, so listen to what’s on the air so that you can hear how these actors are using technique in such a subtle way to tell a story, whether it’s a cartoon or a commercial. If you have kids or know kids, read to them. Aloud. Everyday for at least a half an hour. Pay attention to your diction as you read aloud, listen for any regionalisms in order to correct them now (there will be very few with us peeps from Northern VA, but there are still a few).
If you play video games, don’t skip the cut scenes. Listen to how the acting style is completely different in the post-apocolyptic games like Resident Evil or Dead Space or Infamous from the military style of the Call of Duty types of games from the family friendly Wii or Kinect games. Get a vibe for the video game genre. So many people miss the mark on VG auditions b/c they don’t understand what they’re reading for. Don’t make that mistake.
Pay attention to the male archetypes that you hear in commercials, or see in animation or video games. If you know the radio spot is the currently popular “dumb-ass husband/sarcastic wife” dynamic, then you will know how to play it, how to heighten it in all the right places, and how to infuse the technique you’ll learn from Nancy so that you best service the copy.
Go to Fortune 500 companies’ websites and listen to the longer narrations on their sites. Get a feel for how good corporate narrators have to work hard to sustain listener interest with dry material. Listen to their pacing. Try to mimic it. You’ll find yourself speaking a lot slower in a long-form narration so that you get understood. The same goes for audiobooks. Buy a few off of Audible and listen to how the actors tell stories beautifully without losing your attention.
Obsess. Nerd out. Listen to the noise of all media and try to make sense of it.