Monday, May 4, 2009

Taking Your Surroundings Into Account

In 2001 I moved to North Carolina to take a job as a morning show producer for a local radio station. Part of my job was to do 'live' announcements from various locations (for example, car dealers, malls, etc). These 'live' breaks were always pre-recorded- and for the first year, I would write out my entire script and read enthusiastically for 60 seconds or so.

However, one awful day I was at a remote (and getting paid to be there) and was delayed from writing out my little script. As I was trying to gather my thoughts to jot something down, a call came. It was the on-air guy telling me there had been a mix- up and I needed to go 'for real' live in 10 seconds. "NO!" I screamed, but he was gone...and I heard the commercial currently airing come to an end as my time began. I sputtered and stammered...holding my mic as I flailed around in circles trying to remember where I was, why I was there, and what I was supposed to say. Yup, it was a disaster...and one of my more embarrassing moments on-air.

So, what did I do wrong? I was relying so heavily on the written word that I hadn't taken the time to absorb my surroundings. If I had been less concerned about having a script, and more concerned with knowing my purpose, I would have been able to work my way through the break. Instead of being in panic mode, I would have been just fine.

After that day I always made sure to answer the important questions (who, what, when, why, where) prior to worrying about copy points and scripts.

Now, as a full-time voice actor, I often think back to that day. Especially when a challenging script lands in my lap with no obvious plot or direction. I like to take the time to answer those important questions and center myself. Once I know the writer's intention, it becomes easier to 'perform' the script instead of just 'reading' it. Who am I, where am I, what is my intention, etc.

Knowing where you are headed as you navigate through the words will raise your confidence, which also leads to a better performance. I am also never afraid to ask the client or producer if there is something I am unsure about. It's our job, as actors, to bring the words to life and make them believable. Knowing your path will allow you to follow your instincts.


John Taylor said...

Your story brought back a great memory of a remote gone bad that turned into amazing theater of the mind. Many years ago as morning host for WXLO I came up with the idea for Breakfast With The Stars of the Circus. 50 listeners and I would join the stars of Ringling Brothers circus and be entertained by the stars. The remote started at 7:00 am. Guess what? No stars. No Trapeze performers, no David Laribe the clown, no ringmaster, no trained seal and dogs. Someone in the PR office messed up. So I gathered the listeners....told them the truth....bought their allegiance with T-shirts, circus tickets and bling. Then I enlisted them to play a part in our show. For the next two hours we made up things that weren't actually happening. We shot the newsman from a cannon in our theater of the mind using sound effects. We had our traffic guy simulate a close encounter with lions and tigers. The listeners oohed and aahed and cheered on cue. I conducted their live responses to our improvised imaginary circus as if they were an orchestra. The result? Great radio. A fun experience for the listeners and a promotion saved from the ashes. My morning team and I took into account everything our surroundings had to offer and used every available resource to create a show out of nothing. Fun Stuff. Thanks for reminding me of that day Kara.

Kara Edwards said...

What a great story John- thank you! I co-hosted a show on Radio Disney with Kyle Hebert for 5+ years, and our entire show was based around theatre of the mind. We were on board our Intergalactic Boombox orbiting the was some of the most fun I've ever had!

You know, it's also another great lesson in voice over...if you take a script without much 'personality' and add in those subtle nuances- magic can happen!

Thanks again John!

Jay Patrick said...

Ahh radio. My most vivid memory of the "live" remote was when I drew the short end of the stick and was left at the station (KNRG, Houston - '89) running the board for our big multi-performer concert event of the year. The "live" jock had just recorded his liveness to be run out of the stop set ... I had it all cued up just like it needed to be, right? My heart sank as I listened along with the rest of Houston as expletives rained over the airwaves for about 10 seconds after he stumbling through the first part of his bit. Another commercial anyone?!? Never got a call from the PD though - whew.

Thanks Kara!

Oh! By the way - I've just posted your demo to EZCast on the SunSpots Productions web site

Kara Edwards said...

Jay- too funny! I had a few of those 'live' breaks that in the middle of hearing them played back on the air you would hear yourself say, 'oops- I messed up, can you roll again?' Nice.

I'm glad to be onboard at Sunspots!! Thank you!!


Greg Houser said...

You need to be aware of the terrain and its affect on your soldiers, as well as the enemy. This will allow you to fight with advantage. From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue. knowing these things is a test of a great general.Sun Tzu wrote this over 2500 years ago. Knowing your environment is a vital component when seeking victory.

Good advice doesn't have a "sell by:" date, and you can use it for more than just a single purpose.

Great stuff Kara!


Voiceovers by Gregory HouserMy blog - A man, a martini, and a lot of microphones"