Saturday, May 30, 2015

Breathe, and while you're at it have a laugh. It's good for you!

Breathing.  Ancient people commonly linked breathing or the breath to a life force.  Those who practice certain kinds of meditation where breathing is a focused activity know "prana" as the sum total of all life force energies to be a relative concept.  Along with the obvious necessity for sustenance breathing cleanses, refreshes and also helps clear stress and tension.   

As a voice over talent, proper breathing is essential in delivering reads yet it's one of the things some of us, maybe most of us, I for one forget to be mindful of sometimes.  I won't get into the mechanics or techniques of breathing exercises, but will just point out that a "tension free" delivery is key as we aim to sound and be natural during the read.

I was reminded of this important concept a couple of nights ago when I attended an Edge Studio audition ringer session with coach +Marjorie Kouns.  There was a good number of participants all with unique approaches to three commercial scripts we had to choose from; an oat snack, a Tabasco sauce, and a BBQ sauce.  We probably should have had a script for an antacid to help balance things out, but I digress.  I chose the oat snack script. The audience I envisioned to guide my delivery was of a friend that was looking for a healthier snack alternative. Based on the wording of the script my goal was to sound knowledgeable about the product as someone who perhaps has some of that stuff in my pantry and highlight some of the delicious choices available.

I ran through the script a few times to myself to get a good feel for it (which is what I usually do for all auditions) and came up with a "main" and "backup" delivery.  One annoyance was that we were all experiencing connectivity issues on the webinar.  People were dropping from the call at random, and I heard some of the reads and coaching feedback in spurts as in-and-out moments of silence.  Then it was my turn and I was just hoping my connection wouldn't falter.  After all, I wasn't doing it from my mobile phone, but from my actual audio chain (condenser mic into a pre-amp/analog-to-digital converter into my laptop via USB) and wanted everything to go just fine as I would in a real audition.  Isn't that what we all want all of the time?  Murphy's law, anyone?

As soon as I introduced myself, Marjorie pointed out that my sound was a bit weak at first, but had increased in amplitude as I was introducing myself with the customary pleasantries.  I went ahead and did my first take and made it through, but there were still audio problems being heard from my end.  After a few moments of "can you hear me now" banter, Marjorie said, "Ok stop!  Stand still! Which ever way you're positioned now is perfect".  I tried to hold my position albeit my chair in my booth was kind of in the way so I wasn't in a comfortable stance.  The other thing was that prior to my take I had been fiddling around with my mic and stand placement for the best setup I could and wasn't 100% satisfied with how I left things.  So the combination of mic placement, standing on one leg, and persistent connectivity/audio issues started to creep up in the form of stress.  All of that projected in my second take and as the consummate coach that she is, Marjorie called me out on it.  I knew what was up, but I wasn't going to make any excuses. In a real audition, making excuses would probably have meant hearing "thanks for your time" from the producer/director and be sent on my way not expecting a call back.

I really was tense and felt it emotionally and physically.  This is part of why I enjoy these audition ringers because there is only so much one could do when self-directing.  It's always good to be listened to by peers or a coach because they will give you the objective feedback you need.  So how did I address my tension? By breathing - normally.  To take it one step further, Marjorie gave me a tip that laughing before delivering the read would loosen me up more.  According to the Mayo Clinic's webpage on stress management, laughter "enhances your intake of oxygen rich air", stimulating various organs including the lungs.  It also stimulates circulation and relaxes your muscles; I had felt the tension on my back and shoulders.  So I gave a laugh, re-balanced my footing, made sure I had proper mic distance, and did my third take (or was it my fourth?). Sure enough a difference was noticed.  On the part of the script that Marjorie directed me to focus, my delivery was more relaxed, fluid, and natural.  The rest of the group concurred.  

Two lessons learned/reminded of here are: 1.) When delivering a natural conversational read, you have to breath naturally just as you do in an everyday conversation; you don't even notice it.  When feeling tense, a couple of good cleansing deep breathes will help clear tension and any mental/emotional crap you may have interfering with your concentration.  Physically, it will help loosen your mouth, jaw, and vocal cords.  If you want more assurance, laughter will seal the deal as it brings added benefits to your body and mood.  2.) We're already under pressure to interpret and deliver what's on paper to the expectations of the director/producer so we must carry on through the pressure. There may be distractions in the immediate area, but we're professionals and we rise above it (that's for you Spinal Tap fans).  I always think back to being in an assured place of my skills and capabilities with my dedication to continuous self-improvement knowing I can deliver a read and do it well. The rest is all about being yourself and remembering to always have fun!

Inhale, exhale, laugh and get going!

No comments:

Post a Comment