The other day, I directed via remote patch an 8-year-old actor who was lending his voice to our spot. Every time I work with kids, I end up shaking my head and saying, “I will never work with kids again.” They’re notoriously flaky, they can’t follow exact direction, they have short attention spans, and their range is often limited. Most of them act like children half the time.
When you’re directing any person, you have to figure out what works for them. With voice-overs, they tend to break down into two groups–actors and announcers. An actor is someone who likes to be directed with motivation and emotion–a little sadder, say it with more empathy, see if you can do something more cowboy. An announcer, on the other hand, likes specifics–emphasize this word, go up instead of down on that word, use an accent. It’s important to understand what direction works better for the talent you’re working with.
For the 8-year-old, we realized pretty quickly that he wasn’t responding to announcer direction. No surprise there, really. I’d tell him to emphasize a word more, and he’d give me the exact same read. I’d tell him to do it with more energy–exact same read. But then we started playing around a little. In the spot, we have a little boy ghost. So we told him “Pretend you’re a ghost telling a secret to another ghost.” His read changed. Instead of telling him to be louder, we said, “Now tell the same secret to another ghost, but it’s very windy out and he can barely hear you.” For more energy, we asked him to “Tell the secret to another ghost, but you’re being chased by a dinosaur through the jungle.”
It was a blast. And we got an awesome range of reads from him. He ripped off over 70 reads in a short amount of time because he had a great imagination–most kids do.
We always talk about how this business requires creativity at every phase of the process. This was the first time I had to be so creative while giving direction to talent. But it was also the most fun I’ve ever had at the studio. And maybe the first time I didn’t say, “I’ll never work with kids again.”