The Art of Letting GO
What does the term Letting Go really mean and how does it apply to our industry? I’m sure you’ve heard this term in your journey as a voice actor/actor? What it really means is stop trying and just be. This all sounds so easy doesn’t it, yet we seem to have to educate to learn this trait but it’s really just giving ourselves permission to be who we really are.
I think this goes for our personal life as well. Ok, I’m just going to lay it all out there…. my good, bad and even some of my ugly. I tend to be the type of personality that tries’ too hard. I love to impress people. This can be positive and negative. I am a bit of a perfectionist (even though there is no such thing as perfect) so my need to impress is great when I’m cooking, crafting or doing things and in fact helps me a great deal with clients, acting, coaching, directing and running a business or two. The negative however is when I’m trying too hard to get someone to like me or value me. As a teen I knew this feeling all to well, I just didn’t realize how much I was pushing people away by trying too hard to make them like me. I tend to slip still now and then, but I’m much more aware and more confident in who I am so don’t feel as much of a need to impress people, instead I try much harder to be myself…except I still talk too fast at first LOL.
Many of you reading this might be thinking, “EXACTLY – if you try too hard to get people to like you – they DON’T” Seems logical to most people I’m sure. Have you considered that you may do exactly that when you’re reading your scripts? We take the time to teach you how to become the personality in the copy. To mean what you’re saying – and that takes good make believe, skills, tools and training. The problem is that when we go in with all these choices we sometimes end up trying too hard. We also want to get it right the very first time, hence our need to impress. We want those clients to be happy so they come back to us time and time again.
This is all apart of what I want to call “The Actors Syndrome”. Many actors have a need to impress or be appreciated. Many actors weren’t appreciated somewhere in their life for whatever reason and now strive for attention. So many of us fit this category and may end up trying too hard.
I am here to tell you that trying too hard is transparent. The casting, directors, clients, agents, friends and even your future dates….they all see it coming. So how do you not try so hard? Well that brings us back to our title. Letting go. Trust in who you are because that is what you’re selling and if you don’t trust in who you are, they won’t trust in you. I will give an absurd example of the most bizarre, yet effective salesmen of our time who truly believed in their message, such as ‘Charles Manson’, ‘David Karesh’ etc. Seems morbid to even bring them up in an article for Voice Talent, however these criminal minds were very confident in who they were and their ideals; so confident in fact that they convinced people to do the unthinkable FOR THEM. That’s pretty powerful sales – when you think about it. I know crazy comparison, but I’m hoping this quickly makes my point. I’m not saying this was acceptable…I’m just noting how powerful communication can be if you just believe.
All it takes is to believe it yourself first and then you won’t need to prove it, because it just is. This is a part of letting go. Okay I better change it up a bit before I depress everyone. Again this is easy enough to say, but not easy to follow. To me the best example you can witness is watching pro talent voice animation. You’d be very smart to offer to volunteer for a casting person or studio so that you can hear the best of our time taking risks and letting go. You will witness these talent relax into their characters – even if they’re over the top. They take risks to look stupid, or to make those funny sounds that just come out of their mouths. You know, the ones you do when you’re with your closest loved ones, or perhaps alone in your bathroom mirror.
Many of us since the beginning of childhood acted silly, made funny voices, and liked to perform and when you’re a kid you taking risks is easy. I encourage you now to go back to your child hood and think of those risks – even you pros! Think of all the funniest sounds you used to (or still do) make and then start building on that sound until it becomes a solid character. Hopefully this will mean sitting in front of a bathroom mirror – or even better in your studio – and making a total ass of yourself as you figure out how to attach a sound effect to a personality.
Go ahead and create a character voice and record it if you can. Create a laugh, a stance, add some major personality and then adlib your heart away. Now here is where it gets tough for some. Once you’ve felt that part of you that truly lets go and just plays, can you replicate that relaxed feeling into someone elses’s script? Grab any script, or even the newspaper and read it in that character. RECORD THIS IF YOU CAN. What about if you were in public, can you truly let go while others are watching you and you are not in your safe zone at home? Many can stay in character when adlibbing and this can be very helpful in your craft, however when applied to a script and character that has predetermined choices, outcomes and words, that can be the hard part and what makes a Voice Artist, an artist.
Here is another exercise to try. Video tape yourself in a natural environment. Try and forget the camera is there and then play it back. Watch your mannerisms, your speed, your change of moods and inflections, your energy, your physicalities, your relaxed state…..then use the dialogue from the video as a catch phrase (a phrase that gets you into character every time) to keep you in that relaxed state. Remember, it’s an entire package. All the traits I asked you to watch for are all necessary layers that it takes to be natural, so you have to replicate it all to make it authentic, while letting go at the same time. It seems hard, but you’ll have your Epiphany day and then you’ll get it.
There are different forms of letting go…over the top where you go nuts and do tons of fun things, create fun characters, make funny noises etc. whether for animation, commercial or otherwise, and then there are the more realistic approaches to letting go…just being you…as so many of us try to teach you. I’ve shared this one before but one of my favorite catch phrases that I do when I have to be very simple and natural while letting go on mic is to say “Look, I don’t have to prove it to you!” and shrug my shoulders just before I start the copy or even in between so that I keep that consistent feeling. I say it very sarcastically and very flat, with a confidence that says exactly as it suggests. I get a lot of work on this style of read.
I hope that you are able to truly understand the concept of letting go….be unpredictable, take risks, enjoy the moments, make choices, but then let them go and allow yourself to do what feels right in the moment. The more you grasp this concept the more success you will find. There are many different elements to letting go, but I hope this has helped in some small way to get you to that next level.