A touching story about creativity and trust, complete with moral ...
Know and trust yourself:
a story of voice-over success
What it means to to know and trust yourself is a dilemma that reaches back through the generations.
The Greeks said, "Know thyself." Sometimes they meant it in a way that we modern folk might not realize –
namely, to know your place in the scheme of things. But most people today probably understand the advice
in a more positive sense ... to know your own nature and why you act and think as you do. That seems a sensible
idea, especially for the actor. In fact, Plato (it says here in our Classics crib sheet) professed that by
knowing one's own human nature, a person is better able to know the nature of other humans.
With regard to voice over, we would add a further angle. At some point, it is also important to
"Trust thyself." To illustrate that point and to further the idea of what it means to both
know and trust yourself, here is a brief fable, ripped from the pages of a personal history:
Once upon a time, a college student got to DJ for a couple hours each week on the campus radio station.
Throughout each week, he put a lot of effort into the show, planning jokes and patter, and intros, all kinds
of material to cram into that scanty timeslot. He didn't know it at the time, but it was hardly worth so
much effort. He had no experience at working a live audience, everything sounded much, much too "rehearsed,"
and he was like the cocktail party guest who's so full of small talk that you wish he'd pause to let you
settle your nerves, let alone get a word in edgewise.
He wasn't even funny. To illustrate, do you know that scene
in Good Morning, Vietnam where
Robin Williams (as Adrian Cronauer) follows a really straight-laced Armed Forces Radio announcer guy who says
stilted things like, "Greetings and felicitations"? Our hero sounded like that announcer guy.
Then, one day, our hero happened to walk into the station to do some record filing or whatever, and the
Program Director said, "Our 4 o'clock DJ is sick. You're the only DJ here. You're on the air in 5 minutes."
"But I have nothing prepared," our hero stammered, ready to steadfastly refuse.
"You have a choice – fill in, or you're fired."
So he slumped, slinked into the studio, and filled in. It was the best show he had ever done.
The reason was simple: Finally, he sounded like himself. He played to his engineer, and the off-the-wall,
freewheeling spirit that he had always wanted to bring out ... came out. His ad-libs were far funnier than any
shtick he might have prepared. Instead of overthinking it and listening carefully to himself, he used
conversation skills he had developed over a lifetime.
That show changed the rest of his life.
Now, contrary to what you might expect in a fable, he did not go on to become a great radio DJ. But partly
on the strength of that aircheck, he did get a job in radio production, where he worked with a talented
voice actor who became his mentor. The additional experience and daily practice led to becoming a voice
actor himself, and then a career in advertising.
MORAL: Knowing yourself is one thing. An important thing. Our hero knew he had it in him. But having
it in you does not necessarily mean that you're able to bring it out. That takes confidence – so trust thyself.
And just as important to successful performance on a regular basis is this: training, practice and experience.
Put it all together – knowledge, trust, training and practice – and you very well might find things
in yourself you never knew were there; you'll be able to know and trust yourself in and out of the booth.