Friday, July 23, 2010

v2, d125: A Quick Note to Wannabe Voice-Actors

If you're hired to read a snippet from a larger work, say for an educational video or something, at least try to get a general understanding of what's happening in the scene your snippet is from. It might even do you some good to read the scene, or possibly even the whole book/script. Just sayin'.

I remember watching a film strip (do they even use film strips anymore?) about science fiction, and one of the many stories that was very briefly presented was George Orwell's awesome book 1984. There was a very brief excerpt from the book that was played out by two actors. It was the interrogation scene, where Character A is grilling Character B on the nature of Big Brother, the Party, and existence. Great scene. However, the voice actors apparently only had the piece of paper in their hands, and either they didn't think to ask any questions or whoever was recording the soundtrack told them to hurry it up because they didn't want to pay the actors for an extra ten minutes of prep time, because the reading of the scene had the roles reversed. The protagonist and antagonist were switched. The lines that were supposed to be persistent bludgeoning with cruel logic were played as whimpering defenses, and the ones that were supposed to be weak resistance were read as forceful aggression.

Now, with the eight or so lines lifted from the novel, that interpretation could technically work, but needless to say the scene lost all of its power and sounded really melodramatic and hokey. And, since a lot of the groundbreaking stuff on the history of sci fi was pretty corny, I spent about six years figuring that 1984 was melodramatic drivel thanks to that one awful interpretation of one of the key points in the story. Fortunately, I one day decided to pick it up anyway, and holy monkey, what a great novel! Once I got to that one scene, I remember thinking, "Hey! That one film strip from seventh grade had the whole thing backwards!"

Lessons learned: 1) take thirty seconds to ask a question or two before recording an excerpt from anything, and 2) don't trust anything on an educational film strip.