Working with Actors
Prior to starting this project I hadn’t done a lot of work with voice actors directly when it came to games/media projects. A few instructional videos here and there but no real character work.
Since starting Mercury Blue a few years ago I’ve learned a lot about how to both pick the right actors for the job as well as how to work with them effectively. I thought I’d share a brief summary of what I’ve learned, and what works (for me). The following is a high-level overview, I could really write an entire chapter on each (which I may do in the future). But for now, here’s a brief summary.
1. Define your character.
Before you start trawling the internet for the next Marlon Brando of voice acting – it at least pays to know what you’re looking for. It doesn’t have to be exact – but the clearer the picture you have of your character and the story the easier it’s going to be to direct your candidates.
Write down a brief description of your character, any concept art, as well as some dialog to help get the creative juices flowing. Preferably, you’ll have draft of the script ready to go.
2. Sourcing talent.
Once you have a rough breakdown of your character and script it’s time to start scouting for your star voice actor. If, like me, you’re located in the most isolated city on the planet (Perth, Western Australia) then sourcing local actors is a challenge to say the least! Luckily, as working and outsourcing remotely become mainstream it’s just as viable to source actors online.
And while cheaper alternatives like Fivver.com can be used as a first-pass to road test your script and characters, most professionals worth their metal won’t touch those sites – you really need to get access to more professional online services in order to find serious talent. I used voices.com to source my two super-talented actors Rex Anderson (Jake Hunter) and Mike Holmes (FU-2). You can check out their bios on the team page here.
3. Choosing Candidates.
Once you’ve sketched out your character, have some dialog ready and have chosen a (reputable) site to source talent form, it’s time to put out the feelers. Now, the more precise the direction you give to your candidates, the better. That’s not to say you shouldn’t allow for improvisation. Quite the opposite. One of the techniques I used when searching for the right fit for FU-2 was to ask the candidate for 3 separate takes of the same line:
– 1st reading the line verbatim, as-per the script.
– 2nd reading a bit longer with a bit of improvisation
– 3rd reading – improvise as much as you like. Go to town, make me laugh.
The above technique I found really separated the wheat from the chaff. Most candidates were able to read achieve the 1st reading no problem. Only some were able to successfully think outside the box with the 2nd reading and only 2 were able to draw on their own abilities and let their talent for improvisation shine through with the 3rd reading. These actors are valuable because they are able to bring new elements, jokes, and character traits to the table that you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. Being able to give an actor some direction and have them just run with it is very valuable.
So that’s it. I’ve only really covered some of the basics of my process of hiring and working with voice actors in this post. And just note, this is a process I’ve come up with that works for me, and may change depending on the person, character and project.
Party on Darth!