Have you been wondering about getting into the world of audio book narration?
What about playing a role as part of a full cast of characters?
Dan Bostick, Artistic Director of Full Cast Audio, a speaker at the Voice Coaches Marketing Expo, describes how the company got started, their creative process and shows you how working with a variety of voice actors to achieve a common goal can be a rewarding experience.
Full Cast Audio
Founded by Bruce Coville in 2001, an author of children’s books, in partnership with director and voice actor Dan Bostick, Full Cast Audio presents the public with a wide variety of unabridged family friendly classics and a collection of audio books recorded specifically for children, teens and families.
How Full Cast Audio Began
After having a poor experience with a publisher who hired a professional narrator to record his books, Bruce Coville found that by taking matters into his own hands, he could ensure that his stories were read to his satisfaction and brought to life by not just one narrator, but a whole cast of characters. Pioneering and nurturing this aspect of his work for five years with Listening Library, Coville’s relationship with Listening Library came to an amicable close when Listening Library was purchased by Random House. Following that, Full Cast Audio as we know it now, was born, blending pleasure with passion to achieve excellence in audio book narration.
Recognized By Industry
An award-winning company, Full Cast Audio delights in creating artistic brilliance by capturing an author’s literary interests in audio, recorded with a full cast of characters. The majority of voice talent who work with their company are either aspiring actors or non-union voice talent, recording their work together in studio with the bulk of recordings produced in Syracuse, NY.
At one point, there have been as many as 56 voice actors in a cast, although this was the exception, not the rule.
Full Cast Audio has been nominated in 6 award categories at this year’s Audies.
Author-Approved Audio Book Recordings
The highest goal and most critical component of the Full Cast Audio mission is to thrill the author by realizing, in audio format, everything that the author intended including staying true to the book, breathing life into characters and telling the story as they themselves had envisioned it.
By incorporating a full cast, each character is able to spring into action, contributing a deeper meaning and additional dramatic layers to the production.
Voice talent are able to smoothly deliver their lines to make the listening experience enjoyable, and also shape the smallest piece of text, even the most mundane, into a compelling statement.
Insights From the Director’s Perspective
- Get every bit of meaning out of the text
- Match the voices he hears in his head with the voices of voice actors
- Matching is tricky which is why they need many voices
- Getting the shape of the performance to match exactly what is heard in his head
- Actor will have more inspired, instinctive responses than what the casting director has in their head which can be refreshing
Capturing Drama: Tips on How to Improve Your Reading
If you want to improve and elevate your skills, regardless of skill level, read aloud. Audiences give you feedback, so if you can take advantage of reading in front of a live audience, do so!
Be Mindful and Vocally Resourceful
Voice acting in degree of difficulty is 5:1 over stage acting. There are no props, costumes, movements, or facial expressions that your audience can see to aid or embellish your performance.
Voice work should always start with your own voice. Forget characterization. Speak as yourself.
Be Confident and Flow Well
Read clearly, feed those images, don’t take it too slow.
Reading Lists with Continuity
When you have a list to read, build a list in a circle to fascinate your reader at least for the duration of the list. Go incrementally from a lower pitch to a higher pitch and return back to lowest pitch at the end of the list.
Make Repeated Information Interesting
Even at the beginning of paragraphs, find different pitch notes to start with. Always think, could I give more meaning to this?
The Full Cast Audio Culture
When you’re working with a voice cast, the sessions become an artistic collective, different from other environments where the director micromanages the actors.
Everyone brings their gifts, talent and skill to the table. When everyone participates and finds meaning in the book, it’s a thrill.
If the interpretation that a voice actor offers doesn’t intuitively match what is in the director’s head, the opportunity to jointly craft a performance arises.
Dan Bostick played a number of videos from recorded sessions for us to gain insight into the creative process and his direction. One was from a session for Cyrano by Geraldine McCaughrean, featuring Trevor Hill as Cyrano de Bergerac and Cynthia Bishop as the narrator, dissecting Cyrano’s delivery on “The Art of the Insult”.
The art of the insult is at times soft but instructive, pointed, and grows in strength throughout the read to a triumphant climax. Italics in the text were used to help fuel the crescendo.
When narrating something like this, relish what’s about to happen. You can do this with volume but you can also do it with ravish.
Giving this kind of performance is extremely hard work for the actor. The roles that Full Cast Audio casts voice actors in helps them to grow in maturity as performers and stretches their voices.
Books Read By The Author
A new venture for Full Cast Audio is single voice productions. Not only is the voice of the narrator the only voice that is heard, the company is challenged by a different situation altogether when guiding the author in reading their own book.
Authors reading their own books need to be directed just like actors. Although they have a more intimate connection to the text and characters, it is still helpful to direct their performances making use of tools such as metaphors to help express direction.
We got to watch a session with an author narrating their own book, which was very interesting. She was guided through metaphor. Once the suggestion was made, the difference in her read was amazing! Sometimes being so close to the material influences much of how you interpret a read. In these cases, it is beneficial to have an outside ear providing feedback that will result in more creative, definite choices when read aloud.
Dan Bostick (Syracuse, New York)
Dan Bostick is Artistic Director of one of America’s premier audio book recording companies, Full Cast Audio. Dan spends his day preparing for, casting, and directing audio book productions of family-friendly classics. Using a “full cast” of characters to voice each book, Dan and his company have been singled out and awarded for their excellence.
Any Comments or Experiences You’d Like to Share?
If you’ve been part of a full cast audio production or found value in this article, I invite you to leave a comment. Also, if you found this article to be useful, please pass the link along to someone who would benefit from reading this information.