Reading Between The Lines (3 part series) – Part I: Direction
Part One – The Direction
Blend together in a mixer
1 open mind
1 confusing request for direction
and 10 thousand directors all trying to agree
Result, utter confusion! Welcome to the world of reading between the lines of the client and the copy. If you’ve been in this industry long enough you have experienced your fair share of confusion. Let’s face it, anyone can be a client, therefore ‘anyone’ is writing copy and doing their best to direct you on what they want. Our job is to read between the lines.
There is much to consider. Let’s first dissect a few client descriptions that we see commonly in the commercial world. I’ve taken the liberty to include my two cents on what each mean to me:
Young/Youthful – this is one of my favorites – or better put, the most frustrating! I find this particular direction hard to interpret. I feel young is 29 and under. But clients may be considering an 18 year old or a 35 year old, but they don’t know how to communicate that or in most cases, they just aren’t sure either. These are two totally different versions of young so I have to look into the script and the client to find out what they mean by young!
Non-Announcer – The top of misunderstood direction. What is non-announcer to one client is not the same to another. Sears for example will ask for non-announcer, but if you listen to what they cast, it’s got a feeling of announcer in it (in my opinion). They are hitting price points and energy is high, diction is clear etc. So this term is so vague. Yet this direction is used in nearly everything with a decent budget. The best advice is to research the client/product so you know what that means to them.
Canadian Accent – You may not see this much – but I have. What they really mean here is not southern. There is a belief that Americans all speak with a Southern Accent, but they don’t. There is a common American Dialect to adhere to and it’s very similar to a Canadian accent but there is an up speak in the Canadian accent that isn’t found in the American. I usually voice a Canadian script in a neutral American accent and the client doesn’t notice the difference. Keep in mind however that there are several words that are spoken differently such as, Out, About, House, Process etc.
Sound Alike – If they give you a celebrity reference it is super important that you research that. Go to youtube and type in “interview with (insert celebrity name here). Then you can watch that person and how they move and act and of course the sound of their voice. If they give you multiple references – look at them all and either combine them, or pick the one that works easiest for you.
Energetic – this is another of those terms that could mean a number of things. Most jobs we do will require a good amount of energy, but energy really becomes passion. NOT DRAMATIC PASSION, but a sense of genuine excitement. This could be over the top or more natural, so this is where you might want to research the client to see if you can find a spot that reflects their preferred energy. You should always have a sense of energy in your reads. It showcases engagement and interest and can become contagious for the listener.
Confident – This means they don’t want you sounding like you’re pushing yourself or your pitch onto the listener, no begging or too much upspeak as that can showcase insecurity. Confident is a way to show you know what you’re talking about and you don’t need to prove it to anyone, it’s just that good. This could mean that they want a flat type of delivery or authoritarian. They may want it more natural or perhaps the announcer feel. Again research the client and get a feel for what the copy tells you to do.
Like You’re Telling a Friend – we see this one a ton. Again it’s deceiving because you will hear the final spot and it’s not as conversational as you thought. They just mean they don’t want you to try and sell the product/project, but just love it that much that you can’t help but tell others. They still want to hear an energy – so you have to be careful not to get too casual on it either. You still want to give enthusiasm to certain key points etc., but you have to find a way to do it in a non-sales way.
There are many more, but this is a good starting list. Stay tuned for Part 2. Reading Between The Lines – What does the copy really mean?