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How To Keep One's Ego Out of Acting

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

October 22, 2009

Comments (7)

Egotistical coupleThe human ego is a very fragile thing, but when it comes to business, it's your ego or your lunch!

Perhaps it's not so much about the bruising of your ego but approaching each situation and client you encounter with a positive attitude.

How can you remain composed and flexible during an audition or a recording session?

Is the customer really always right?

The answer may happily surprise you!

Read this helpful article about what you can do and why it helps here at VOX Daily.

Voice Over is a Business!

Something that I think can't be said enough is that voice over is a business.

That being said, voice over happens to fall into the realm of the creative, which can at times, complicate matters... if you let it!

Is The Customer Always Right?

The person doing the hiring or directing is your customer, and in many circles, the adage of "The Customer is Always Right" applies.

This could go one of two ways:

1) The client appears to be insatiable and requests more takes
2) The client likes your work even though you think you could have done better or that someone else was better qualified

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the same goes for what someone thinks is a perfect take or casting in voice over.

Think A Couple of Retakes is Bad? You Haven't Seen Anything Yet!

In big league VO, it isn't uncommon for a director to request a minimum of 20 takes to get the perfect delivery, so it would make sense that other clients may have the expectation that two or three takes may just be scraping the surface of your talent and ability to take direction.

Although interpreting feedback during a session as criticism may be a natural response, it isn't the healthiest thing, and one has to remember that the director is only trying to communicate their vision through your voice by doing business with you.

You're not inside their head and they aren't in yours... it may take a while (and a substantial number of takes) to embody what the client really wants.

Leaving Egos At The Door Is Easy

If you're able to separate your feelings from the work, any feedback you receive will come as creative direction or a way of trying the same thing a different way, not as a personal insult.

Make sense?

Remember, if the client likes it, don't offer to do more or question their logic!

If the client needs to take a little while to realize their vision through your voice, enjoy the ride. Make it a game if you have to and use each take as an opportunity to freely explore parts of your voice you may not have known before.

I think you'll agree, it's more enjoyable (and perhaps less labor-intensive) than most jobs out there!

How Do You Keep Your Ego Out of Voice Acting?

I'd love to hear your tips or insight :)

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/digitalskillet

Related Topics: actors, ego, feelings, how to, objective, voice acting, voice overs, voice talent


Comments


    "How do you keep your ego out of voice acting?" First...I thank God for the opportunity and ability to be able to hear and see and speak and to put those things in order. I then realize that no matter where I go I'm not the first, the last, the smartest or the dumbest...nor am I the most talented. But I AM who God made me--quirky, reasonably intelligent with a gift for communication. Therefore...I am here to serve in MY best capacity for the customer who may know exactly what he wants and for those who may not be so sure.
    Other ego busting factors include my reflection in any mirror, my wife's direction (tougher than ANY producers) and that Summer of 1992 photo of me with an 'S-curl' hairstyle!

    Posted by:

      This article made me remember the stories of professional VO artists that many times had 8 to 10 hours sessions, just because the cliente keep requesting takes. It's a great thing to think about.

      Posted by:
      • Pablo Hernandez
      • October 23, 2009 8:27 AM

        Stephanie,

        Great advice. I can say from personal experience that some of my best takes have been after I've internally beaten myself up from the direction of the producer. Just when you think you can't get it right, something comes out of your mouth that nails it. Even though it's human to not take criticism well, the challenge is to not confuse direction with criticism. As a professional you need to absorb the direction and trust in your ability to interpret and deliver. It's not easy, but you can do it!

        Posted by:

          Hi Stephanie,
          I saw a sign one time that said "Check your ego at the door"...I worked for a radio station years ago where I could never say the call letters the way the GM wanted me too (this guy was tough to work for) so my partner and I made a contest out of it..."How will the boss want the call letters said today" of course we both got fired but it sure took the stress away for awhile...On a audiobook audition...the client was very picky on letter A....If its capitlize its a long a sound..if it is lower case it is a short a sound...WOW....my producer and I never realized how often people make this mistake....That bit of advice really helped our next project.....So yes "check your ego at the door"...

          Randy Anderson

          Posted by:
          • Randy Anderson
          • October 23, 2009 10:36 AM

            Here's what I've come to think--in the psychology of the client, there is a need to 'put you through your paces'. That's one of the reasons they are paying a pro. They need talent to demonstrate for them various interpretations of the script. That's our job and our egos should be attached only to our ability to give them what they want.
            My tips?
            1. Before the session, never lock in to one just one way to say it. 2. Analyze the copy, memorize it if you want, but keep your creative flexibility.
            3. Don't over-analyze. That leads to the 'locked-in' performance.
            4. Your first take will be discarded, no matter how good it is. No one believes it's that easy.
            4. You may encounter a bad director. Be prepared. If they aren't coming up with adjectives to describe what they want, provide a few of your own. 'You mean you want me to sound...'(puzzled? unsure? hesitant? shy? fill in the blank)
            5. Expect nothing. Be prepared for anything. The gig you think will be a piece of cake may turn out to be a long struggle. The complex character may fly out of your mouth and everyone gets to break early.
            6. If you encounter a time where you feel stressed, criticized, or emotionally vulnerable, prepare a method for yourself to make a break and change the energy. Bob Bergen says he takes a 'sneeze break'. He turns away and sneezes and then everybody blesses him. Then he can go on.
            7. Your ego should project confidence, not arrogance.

            Don't I sound wise this morning? Have a great weekend, all!

            Posted by:

              A great article - and great advice from all those who commented too.

              Expanding from the question of ego, I definitely think of this as a service industry. Yes, it's a business. Yes, there's creativity involved. But if the client didn't like your voice for the spot in the first place, you wouldn't be working with them at all. So obviously, they want you for the spot. It's your job then, to get them what they want from you. Sometimes that easy as pie, sometimes it's a nightmare. :) But the way I think of it is that I'm getting paid a very nice amount of money to do my job. I want to make that client so happy that they'll definitely think of me first down the road when they need a voice. I want to wow them - but just as much, I want them to *enjoy* the session too. I want to be a pleasure to work with. That means confidence, without arrogance - as Vicki mentions. It means a sense of *fun*. I *enjoy* what I do - whether it's difficult at times or not. The client feels that. And when you're thinking more about what the client wants than what *you* want, ego plays a far lesser part.

              I've been a musician just about all my life. The performances that people remember most aren't the "perfect" performances (we're all going to make mistakes, after all. We're human.) - they're the *entertaining* ones.

              Yes, you want to get your client the best performance you possibly can on to a recording so that they can do what they need to - so that the story is told well (whatever that story happens to be). But there's definitely more to it than that if you want to retain clients and gain a reputation for not only skill in your work, but being great to work with. It's the combination that keeps clients coming back. One without the other - entertainment value without the skill - or skill with a huge chip on your shoulder - won't allow you to make a living in this business. Just my .02 cents.

              And it was a true pleasure meeting you in person last night, Stephanie! The mixer was a blast. :) All the very best, -- Jodi

              Posted by:

                Hi Stephanie,

                I read all your Vox Dailies down here in Australia, and find them wonderfully, endlessly interesting and relevant. I archive about 85% of them for reference! I just had to comment on this one because, as an acting/voice/dialect/accent/career coach for actors, I find that it's their protective ego shell that hurts them and their careers 99% of the time. I believe it is usually based in fear (as in Susan Jeffer's wonderful definition of fear: "I won't be able to handle this."), and then expressed in a variety of ways. They get aggressive, they withdraw, they act "super cool", they're arrogant, etc. etc., but what it all does is block progress, in anything they're trying to accomplish, from doing a voice over to running their careers. Viola Spolin (the mother of Theater Games) said that all anxiety comes from a desire to please, and letting go of the approval/disapproval trap frees the actor to express their true selves. This is why I don't buy into the "It's okay to be nervous" school of thinking because if one is nervous (or fearful) then it tells me they're not sure of what they're doing, and need to have more training. If my doctor told me he was nervous about how to do my surgery I'd get another doctor! So the ego question, for me, is one of nerves, because people who are sure of themselves don't need "egos", they have a quiet confidence in their abilities instead, with nothing to prove.

                This Vox Daily was so relevant to me tonight when I received it because I'm dialect coaching on a film in Melbourne until the New Year, and am battling with one particular actor who appears to be so ego-bound that he won't listen to me without arguing. But the real problem is that he's used to being lauded for his "funny voices" and mimicry talents (kind of mediocre, at best), and I'm challenging him to do what the director wants - deliver a REAL, authentic American dialect instead of hiding behind a caricature. So far I've talked him out of a bad Jack Nicholson, but now he's trying to go for a bad George C. Scott as "Patton"! All this without a consistent, underlying dialect, just a cartoon voice (and I don't mean that in a good way). Luckily, the director is not going to let him get away with it, but it's a battle. And all because he ties his ego into his voices, and being stroked for them, fearing that he'll be found out in the end that he's really not that knowledgeable about what he's doing.

                So my advice to actors with egos is: study Theater Games and the concept of "focus on solving the problem", not getting stroked for doing whatever it is you do. Get into learning mode, and don't be afraid to say you don't know something. As far as difficult directors go, if actors would just be trained well enough that they can feel confident that it's not their "fault", then they can even enjoy the process of working with "crazy" people!

                Ego games do nothing good for actors, ever, but confidence gained from hard, continual study will open the Keys to the Kingdom, as far as I'm concerned. Especially since it gives the person with the confidence a great, positive personality and attitude, and everyone is drawn to that, aren't they?

                Keep up the great work. I look forward to my Vox Daily every night. :-)

                Best regards,

                Mirren

                Posted by:

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