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The Directed Session – A Voice Talent’s Lament

Wanna know what it's really like to be in a directed voiceover session?

You lay it all on the line: heart, soul and voice. You deliver your voiceover lines with all the appropriate action you can muster.  You stop and wait. And wait some more. Silence.  Crickets. The nothingness that responds is deafening. Finally after what seems like an agonizing, psychosis inducing gap, the producer punches in... “stand-by.” 

You know who is on the other end – sort of.  The client, the writer, the producer, the agency rep., assistants, hell, maybe even a few wives and girlfriends for good measure. Some far-off audio engineer controls the buttons that connect to a mass of wires and internet beep-boops that create a bridge between you and THEM.

It’s the same as any other session. You perform and wait for feedback. Perform again and wait for more instruction. The continuous dance makes your stress level mount as they hit the mute button yet again. You have no idea what is being said. Are they laughing, shaking their heads in disbelief, making jerk-off gestures ‘behind your back'. . . who knows? All you know for sure is that they can hear you but you can’t hear them.  Every breath you make, every sip of water you take - they are listening!

The gleaming Neumann microphone in front of you picks up every noise and every shuffle so clearly and with such crystalline accuracy you wonder for a moment if the damn thing can amplify your brain waves too. ‘And why is this booth so damn hot!? I’m here to play pretend – not be interrogated by Homeland Security.’

Still nothing, the silence on the other end continues. You fidget some more. Read your copy for the 15th time. Play with the paper clips the engineer so graciously left near the copy stand. You doodle on the paper or, (if you are feeling especially bold,) the copy-stand itself.  Hey, is that a loose thread on your pants? That will keep you occupied for at least a minute. If you are standing you sit. If you are sitting you stand. Stretch, wiggle, jiggle and do the voiceover Hokey Pokey.  

If you are recording from home now is an excellent time to calculate if you can make it to kitchen and back to refill your water before THEY come back. Nope, better not risk it. Your I-Phone dutifully turned to silent sits close by. It taunts you mercilessly to check your email, or surf the web while waiting. But there’s a guilt that washes over you as you reach for the device. No, no this is THEIR time; after all THEY paid for it. Ah, but one game of Bubble Breaker won’t hurt. . . and just as you begin the game. . .a voice returns. The engineer startles you so badly that you come dangerous close to sending your very expensive phone flying in the direction of the very expensive microphone – “Yeah good job on that last take but we want to try something a little different and see what we get.” 

In an all too sweet, all too eager-to-please voice, a voice that you barely recognize as your own; you choke out a pre-pubescent “Okay!” Did your voice just crack? And the cycle begins again. 10 seconds of recording followed by a Dante-derived eternity waiting for THEM to come back with a verdict.

So you go back to the same hellish process of fidgeting, sweating and trying to occupy your increasingly paranoid brain. At this point, you can’t help but think ‘I suck! They are calling my agent right now. He’s getting his ass chewed for sending THEM a mediocre, lack luster talent whose demo obviously poorly misrepresented their sound. He’s going to delete me from his roster faster than I can remove a breath from my last take!’  You vow to repent for your slightly over tweaked EQ sins first thing tomorrow by starting to build a new demo. 

THEY come back…“Hey …”  “YES!” you exclaim with such speed & enthusiasm you sound like the verbal equivalent of a Golden Retriever meeting his master at the door after a long day of work.  “Oh..." The engineer replies a little startled. "We didn’t realize you were right there.”  Where else would you be!?!

“We’re all set…thanks, have a great day.”  Before you have time to request the file, ask about their level of satisfaction or anything else – they thank each other and drop the call. The session is over. Its unceremonious ending leaves you wondering what the hell just happened. 

As you gather your things and head out of the boot, your emotional roller coaster continues. It's a post voiceover session hang-over of 'what just happened?'

You check your email patiently for a few days but you hear nothing more about the session. No news is good news right?  A few weeks later a check arrives in the mail. And as you walk back from the mailbox clutch that check to your body as if it’s a small golden statue, a smile creeps upon your lips.  You can’t help but prance back to the house while doing your best Sally Fields impersonation ‘They like me, they really liked me’.

As quickly as you can deposit the check in the ATM – the entire job seems to disappear as if it was sucked into a vortex right along with the deposit. You never receive the final audio – despite numerous emails to numerous people. You never seem to catch the ad when it airs, and the only reminder of the work is the small credit you added to your website.

Then one day, a few months later, your friend calls and says – “Hey I just heard you! Is that you in that commercial? You sounded awesome!” Humbly and sincerely (much to your amazement) you reply: ‘Oh yeah, that job. . . it was fun!’

Gabrielle Nistico, Gabby Nistico, The Voiceover Vixen, The Business First VO Coach, #VoiceoverVixen #VoiceOnFire #BusinessFirstVOCoach Voiceover, Directed session, on mic, in studio, recording, home studio, clients, work, working actor, voice talent, VO Coaching, Voiceover Coaches, Working Actors, Los Angeles, NY, NC

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