Documentary voice overs require a specific skill set in order to be successful. The role is about bringing the producer’s vision on a topic to life. Voice over talent narration can create the entire mood of the film.
Documentaries are different from other voice over talent work as it is not about selling it is about sharing factual information in the nonfiction world.
The voice over talent has a way of connecting with the audience and keeping them engaged while sharing material. Voice over talent who are skilled at interpreting the documentary are highly sought after and will find that they are continuously working.
A Look Into Documentaries
Documentaries tell stories of real people, places, and events. The factual elements are woven into a narrative that is truthful but also interesting and passionate. It is the visual combined with the script that brings life and entertainment to these stories while giving real knowledge.
What Directors and Casting Agents Look For
There are different voice attributes and characteristics that the directors or agents look for.
They are often written at the top of the script like this:
· Gender – make, female, both, either
· Age – child, teen, young adult, adult, senior
· Language and Accent – native speaker, fluent, voice actor who can perform with an accent
· Characteristics – hip, relaxing, trustworthy, raw, informative, educational, and more
While there are some specifics that you cannot adjust there are several that, with some training, will give you more versatility.
Matching the Films Tone
Everyone can read and all voice over actors can read a script however, in documentary work it is about matching the tone of the film with your voice. The tone sets the scene and the mood to educate and captivate the audience.
It is important to read the script and understand the theme and the audience. A calm voice may be preferred for a nature documentary with excited inflections for dramatic scenes. While a cheerful and upbeat voice for documentaries geared towards children may be appropriate.
The tone also needs to not be monotone to keep the audience interested, so it is about changing the style within the story. The key is to educate and captivate at the same time.
Timing is Key
As with many voice over jobs, timing is key when creating narration for documentaries. It is about delivering the lines at the right speed so that it matches with the images and visuals as well as coming across as natural and likable. As talent, you need to stay in the moment throughout.
Timing is a part of rehearsing the script and getting into character.
An Updated Portfolio
Directors and Casting Agents will be looking to find experienced voice over talent that will be a good fit for the job. By looking at your previous work they will determine if your voice is the right fit for their needs.
If you are breaking into the documentary work, study it and then create some demos to showcase your voice and styles that fit it the best.
Fit Your Style and Book More Voice Over Talent Jobs
Don’t forget to hone in on your voice style and the types of documentaries that fit with your characteristics best. I found that my personal style is "Americana” with my deep, rich, earthy, and gritty, storytelling sound. My niche has given me a successful career as a voice over talent.
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