Improv is part of a word that represents a skill that oftentimes makes actors uneasy. Whether you’re on stage or in front of a microphone, it’s all about letting your brain do its thing; letting it play and work for you. Jay Preston discusses improv as it applies to voice-over. He shares how exploring the text, emotions and more helps you to own the copy. Making changes using your voice while preserving the integrity of the script is what great improvisation is all about.
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Jay grew up on the East Coast, specifically New England. His passion for the arts began at a young age. From Middle School to college to touring the country, Jay has been actively pursuing his acting career.
In 2008, he made the move from the East Coast to the West coast and began his “Hollywood Journey.” Four years later, he found himself in a Voice Over booth, auditioning for a top agency, and never looked back. This was the beginning of his up-coming voice-over career!
Every week since then, he has had a hunger for the booth. He actively workshops, learns, networks and voices daily.
Today, Jay has a successful career and years of experience under his belt. He works full time, recording and producing voice-over work for clients around the world. In addition, he works and networks with artists who share his passion.
Jay has a dream of opening a theater of his own one day, and Voice Overs will make that dream a reality. If he can’t find a way, he’ll simply make one.
Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else. Now for our special guest.
Jay: Hello everybody, Jay Preston here, and I’d like to not only thank you, but commend you for taking some time out of your day to learn a little more. I’ve decided to do my first podcast on improv. Something I’ve been doing since I was, probably, five years old. Improv is part of a word that represents a skill that often times makes actors uneasy. It’s misrepresented, misinterpreted and can be misleading. I hope I didn’t miss anything. Now this has been wonderfully discussed by some incredible people, by episodes 92 and 119. I highly suggest you go listen to those when you’re done here. Okay, so improv, improvisation, whether it be on stage, at a bar, in front of a camera or a microphone, it’s all about letting your brain do its thing and play and work for you. Now, in terms of voice over, not all copy needs it. Some copy is so well written that after you read it for the first time, you want that job. You want to be the voice of whoever wrote that copy.
Some copy desperately needs it, but this doesn’t mean you need to fix it, or re-write it, it merely means that you need to own it. In order to make it make sense, coming out of your mouth, you need it to sound like something that would, in fact, come out of your mouth. Now what does that mean? It means don’t try to make a joke or add anything that makes it funny. Just say it honestly, and add only what is needed to get the point across. If funny happens on its own, that’s just an added bonus. There’s another side to improv that is rarely discussed, but I think when we’re applying it to voice over, it’s priceless, and that’s playing with the text. I like to call it walking the text, and that’s walking the text, not walking. We all know what makes walking sound unique. I don’t need to go into that, but try saying your copy three completely different ways, at least. Moving the punctuation, exploring the pauses, exploring emotions. Putting some emphasis in different places. Most of the time you probably won’t be adding words.
You won’t need to, but you are changing things, and that’s improv. Here, I’ll give you an example. So that’s a busy month in America, and a busy year on planet earth, but busy is exactly how we like it. So that’s a busy month in America, and a busy year on planet earth, but busy is exactly how we like it. So yeah, that’s a busy month in America, and a busy year on planet earth, but you know what? Busy is exactly how we like it. Now that’s three takes I’d send. Now, if it does nothing else, if I don’t book the job, at least it shows my versatility. Maybe I’m not right for that job, but my third read just nailed the client’s needs on a different one. Now, you will also notice that I didn’t change a word until take three. I added some words in there because it enhanced the character. That character’s demeanour need more there. I didn’t plan it. It just came out of my mouth because I let it, which brings me to my next topic, the subconscious. Our subconscious works way faster than you can ever imagine.
It puts jokes together, sentences together, thoughts together, way before they can reach our lips. The true scale in improv, in my opinion, is letting your subconscious loose on the world. Now that can be dangerous, and if you end up with a black eye, do not say I told you to let your subconscious loose on the world. What I’m saying is make a choice. Stick to that choice and just see what happens. The good thing about recording your own voice overs is you can just delete it. No one has to know what you just said. In improv, for the stage, sometimes you’ll get a topic. One word to build a scene around. Well, usually at the top of the copy is a bunch of words. When you get stuck, just choose one of them, and build a scene around that. Let’s say you have some copy about a new hair product. The direction says professional, and you happen to be bald then pretend that hair product is for the CEO of a company you work for, and you think you will get a raise if you can just sell it to him or her.
Just see what happens when you approach the copy with that in mind. All of a sudden the stakes are raised and a scene is being built, and speaking of building a scene, improv for the stage is usually carried out with no props and no set. The improviser has to imagine everything around them. They have to not see the audience. Just simply imagining the scene around you, the person you’re talking to, and the reactions they may possibly make to what you’re saying, is all the improv you will need to book a job. Being present in the moment is the kind of improv that will improve your auditions. When words that aren’t in the script naturally come out of your mouth and surprise you, guess what? You’re improvising, and that’s what we’ve all been talking about, and that’s what’s really hard to try to teach, but it can happen if you just let go.
So thanks for listening everybody. I really hope some of this information helps you at least add yet another trick to your trade. I’m Jay Preston, and this has been Voice Over Experts, and it’s been a lot of fun. You can find me in firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always around to answer any questions. Just send me an email. Never stop learning everybody.
The world’s changing, you got to change with it. Oh, and stay fancy.
Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this voices.com podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts show notes at podcasts.voices.com/voiceoverexperts. Remember to stay subscribed. If you’re a first time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes podcast directory, or by visiting podcasts.voices.com. To start your voice over career online, go to voices.com and register for voice talent membership today.