Voice-over Math: Less than 100% = Zero

In a previous life, when I thought I was going to be a painter, I had a breakthrough one day that I wanted to share with my painting professor and mentor. I proudly showed him the canvases and waited for the handshake. It didn’t happen. Instead, he said, “OK, I see what you’re trying to do here. But it’s a long way from the richness and depth you’re capable of. You need to take it all the way – one hundred percent.”

If there is one moment in my work with voice-over students, one forehead-smacking moment that makes the difference in their professional development, it’s the realization that they aren’t playing full-out.

As we develop our talents and skills, there’s a tendency to say, “Well, that sounded pretty good.” But “pretty good” is just a milestone, not a destination. The mark of a professional is the ability to recognize these milestones as steps toward one hundred percent.

But often there’s a reluctance to go all the way, and I think I know why. I think it’s fear: fear of going too far, of sounding ridiculous, of going over the top. Well, from what I’ve been hearing, a lot of voice talent is a long way from the top!

So if fear seems to be holding my student back, I ask this question: “How passionate are you about what you’re saying?” Much of the time, failing to deliver fully is failing to connect fully to what you are saying. And connecting to what you’re saying depends on how you feel about what you’re saying. This applies, by the way, to any type of voice-over project, whether it’s a bodice-ripper novel or a punch-press training video.

What’s at stake? One hundred percent = a career. Less than one hundred percent = no career. You do the math.

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