Let’s Get Physical
No matter how long I have been in this industry, it never ceases to amaze me how little people truly know about how to have an effective performance. I can’t tell you how many students who have come my way that just stand stiff at the microphone and don’t move. You would think this topic would be covered so much that everyone knows, but that’s just not the case.
If you come from a theatre background or you are generally a hand talker or a big personality, then getting physical is fairly easy. However if you aren’t, then you will join the rest of society and your body and facial expressions will freeze at the mic. It is so important that you physicalize all that you say. There is the ODD talent out there who performs better without movement at the mic, but that is like 2% of the talent population. When I studied with my dear friend Bob Bergen (voice of porky pig/tweety) he reminded us that if you physicalize the action, the voice will follow. I’m sure most of you assume I’m referring to animation, but that’s not the case. This holds true for every genre in Voice Acting.
Whether you take on commercial, narration, imaging, animation or message on hold, you should always be physically acting out the scene and the character. For example if you are performing e-learning, perhaps your character is that of the teacher. Teachers tend to talk with their hands to make points, to exaggerate, to get attention, to show you how to do something. So if in the script I say, “click here” I mime the action of clicking on the computer screen with my mouse. If I am doing a narration and it’s very descriptive such as, “the long winding path between the trees” I use my hands to stretch out the word long, making “long” sound elongated and then for “winding path”, I put my hands together like a prayer and guide them in front of me like a snake winding through the trees. When I do this, the word “winding” sounds like it’s winding.
Sometimes the physical gestures we do don’t always suit what we’re saying – which is easier to show you than explain to you, but yet it somehow brings the word to life better. In fact each of your characters should have their own physicality’s. They each stand a different way and many times all I have to do is stand in my characters stance and the voice instinctly follows. If I’m going to be a witch, I put my hands in claw type creepy position and my witch just pops out of me. Or if I am going to be prim and proper teacher, my posture straightens, my nose snobs into the air and I raise my head, then I get my strict, strident teacher.
One time I was in a session and although I knew this character inside and out, I was out of character on this particular day. The director said, “Deb, something isn’t sounding right” I tried repositioning, I tried my catch phrases etc and nothing was working. Somehow I discovered that this whole time I’d been voicing this TV series, I was reading the lines above my glasses. So I wasn’t even using my glasses to read (which I don’t know how I did that) but that tiny adjustment instantly put me back into character.
Remember that physicality is more than your stance and your hand or body gestures. It’s so important that you physicalize your face. You facial expressions and physicalization will also tell the story, in fact sometimes this is more important than any physicality that you do. If you need to be sarcastic, make sure your face is being sarcastic, if you are wanting to inject excitement, it’s not just a smile you need, but your face, your eyes, your eyebrows etc., all need to be genuinely and exaggeratedly excited.
There is a physicality for every character and there can be a physicality for every word you say. If you are a hand talker like me, you don’t have to go too big, but if you aren’t a hand talker, you will probably have to exaggerate your gestures, without judging them and thinking you’re a fool. Physical gestures inject natural energy, but if you’re feeling you are looking like a fool, then your read will inject that to.
So embrace your physical side and let the energy release
If you need help with your physical acting, don’t hesitate to reach out. If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them.
Until next time everyone
All my best
VO Chef Deb – aka Deb Munro