New Tricks

I have loved acting, creating characters, and building stories for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until high school that I really got a solid chance at getting on a stage with an audience that sat more than just the parents.  Throughout high school, my primary focus was on musical theatre and choir.  I loved to sing and dance in a spotlight.  I never really thought about going on Broadway, it was just a fun hobby.  My senior year of high school, I experienced sketch theatre, children’s theatre, one acts, musicals, and so much more.  I was developing my skills, and grew to be more well-rounded than ever.  I had learned so much and became so passionate, I declared myself a theatre major as a freshman in college.  Although my passion quickly switched to film and cinema studies, my past of acting on the stage never left me.

Stage acting and screen acting are two completely different crafts.  It is difficult to jump from one to the other.  After I moved to New York, I had opportunities to act in films, which was the greatest learning experience there is.  No matter how many acting books, journals, or lessons I read, the actual practice of the art is what helps me to learn it.  My first short film had the criteria that there was to be no dialogue.  It was also a horror film.  So running around in a towel acting afraid wasn’t that difficult.  The second (most recent) film I worked on, was with upper classmen in an upper division production course.  It was absolutely fascinating.

The director I worked with was born to direct.  He read me really well and learned quickly how to communicate most effectively with me while I was acting.  He learned my vocabulary and body language, so he could help me develop the character that he was envisioning in his head.  Even in all my experience on stage, I had never come across a director with such apparent passion for what they are doing.  The actual acting for this piece was, again, not entirely difficult.  It was dramatic and dark, but I tend to play those roles well.

In addition to now branching out and growing as an actor in my physicality, I just got to experience voice over work.  I cannot express how difficult it was.  It’s odd that I say I hate my own voice, as an actress, but I do.  On a stage, I say the lines in the moment, sent out into space, never to be heard until the next show.  In film, I can’t say that I like my voice, however, I get to incorporate the dialogue into my acting and character, so listening to it isn’t as bothersome.  Voice over work, however, is entirely different.

The director called me and invited me to his dorm.  He had the script on his TV screen, and held the mic anywhere from four inches to a foot away from my mouth.  I only had about nine lines to recite, but we recorded each about ten to twenty times.  He told me where he wanted emphasis, subtle sarcasm, hopelessness, glimmers of hope, or fury.  We stretched, we took breaks to keep me calm, he made sure that I wasn’t so self conscious, he kept making me drink water, we stretched again.  I closed my eyes, changed my breathing patterns, spoke at him, talked at the window.  We worked on finding the character’s voice without having to act, and I have never had to do that in my life.  It was such a new and interesting experience.  Although I am still unsure about my voice and how to utilize it.  I still have a lot to practice to make it more flexible.  It could be richer, deeper, softer, louder, or anything else, but because I choose to dislike it so strongly, I avoid working on it.

Overall, acting and creating characters is so much fun, and even though voice over was uncharted territory before, I’ve branched out and had a good time trying it out.   Yes, it made me nervous.  Yes, I’m still not entirely confident about my voice.  Yes, I will do voice acting again.  It’s about practice, and building my repetoire of skills.  My acting toolbox isn’t anywhere close to full yet.

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