In the beginning, I found it very difficult to source scripts to practice voice over. Sure, there are tons of auditions available to work on, but most of the time those are pretty short segments, with little to no context. I was looking for material that allowed you to develop a character, and then stay in that character for a bit.
I was also looking for material that worked well with my voice type, and that I could essentially polish to be my bread-n-butter. But I couldn’t find scripts…at least not free ones. I didn’t know where to begin, or what to do so I went out into the voice over community to see what other actors were doing.
I asked the basic question, do you just:
- Pull monologues from popular movies and television shows?
- Read books?
- Write your own material?
The answer is actually ‘D’ – all the above…and then some.
What I found out was I could do all the above if I really wanted to. There’s a place for each of the answers, for example pulling bits and pieces from popular TV and movies works well on platforms like Tik Tok, YouTube shorts, and Instagram stories. The idea with this type of content is to keep the spots short and relevant. There are voice actors/actresses who are doing very well for themselves transforming their voices into popular characters from pop-culture phenomenons. They work on material that is culturally relevant, and timely, which seems to be the magic of it.
I also learned that reading short stories out loud was a great way to work on narration in Shorter bursts. You could get into the characters, while also developing a solid narrator voice. Then you could read several stories in an afternoon to practice different genres. This allows you to work as a narrator early on, without the major time commitment of a larger novel. You can read something that has all three acts, and do it in a fraction of the time. Remember it’s just practice.
Another thing I learned was taking spots I liked (spots being commercials and jingles) and then transforming them into my own creations. This honestly is great practice, and great fun as you learn a lot about your own creative skills. It helps if you are able to write well, but doesn’t necessarily need to be a prerequisite. This process can help you see how commercials and jingles are structured, allowing you to play a game of ‘Mad Libs’, where you remove the branded content and catch phrases from a popular commercial, and then create your own brand and catch phrase. There are so many different styles to choose from, like: car commercials, product infomercials, PSA’s, Jingles, etc…
There are also some great free resources for royalty free scripts, which I will post towards the end. When I started, I bought several VO books from some of the greats who published their tips and tricks. These were great resources for sample scripts as well. Plus the books were full of great information and inspiration, which helped early on as I was learning to walk. I’ll forever be grateful for these people, because they were my coaches before I had a coach and I may not have taken this to the next level without their knowledge and experience.
I also found myself doing this one thing, where I would try to read the labels of things in an interesting voice. The grocery store has a lot of free material in this way 😉. Read Instruction manuals, ingredients lists, shampoo bottles, junk emails, junk snail mail, or anything with words you take for granted. (I bet you weren’t expecting to find some use for those annoying Junk emails you get asking you to refinance your car, were you?)
This has been my process for sourcing practice materials over the last year or so, I’m finding that the more I read, the more I’m inspired. Now I have full blogs that I can use as material to read, I have regular auditions to work on, books to read, and a plethora of information to share along the way.
Once you see something, it’s difficult to un-see it… Trust me. I’m sure my wife is tired of listening to me narrate the green bean can for the ten thousandth time, but it’s all great practice. I have found myself reading emails out loud at work, and not even realizing that I’m putting on a ‘show’ for my co-workers. At this point most of them like to point out how different my reading voice is from my normal speaking voice, or that they have harder times reading things out loud like that, but that just means I’m moving the needle – so to speak. I’m working on my craft everyday, trying to speak with purpose instead of speaking without.
Eventually people start to notice these things. When they do, be ready. I’ve heard of voice acting compared to a dam. The longer you work at, every book you read, every script you work on, or every moment you spend behind a microphone (or proverbial one) is just adding a crack to the dam. Eventually, that dam is going to break, and you’re going to be flooded with opportunities…so you better be ready.
This leads me into next week’s topic: Building a voice-over network. I will talk about what I am doing to build mine, how I plan to maintain that network, and ultimately how to leverage that network to gain work.
Until next week. Take care of one another
Voice-Over books (Some with samples):
- Voice-Over Voice Actor – Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt
- Voice-Over 101: How to Succeed as a Voice Actor – Debby Derriberry
Pronunciation Poem: The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité