Slay ‘em on the first line (or “Have them at Hello”, for you mild-mannered folk) by Lesley Bailey


The people listening to your audition takes ... are not really listening. That’s right, the secret is out. In my many, many years as a casting director, I got to be a fly on the wall, and I can confirm this. The decision making for the voice picks is usually the copywriter’s privilege. And many copywriters came of age in the post-MTV generation where things are not faster, they’re instantaneous. Gone are the days of waiting for a reply to your letter, your phone call, your email. Now it’s texting, tweeting, and stuff that I myself can’t comprehend without it making my head spin. Back to the point – in auditioning, these young people are your audience.

For years I would have these writers attend the post-casting session in my office, where I would play things back for them. In between texting and sushi-menu-purveying, they would listen, a little, usually in the beginning. If they weren’t convinced, or captivated, it was, “go to the next one….” So now you know. And now you can take action.

To master the two skills I’ve just mentioned (convincing and captivating), here’s what you need to do:

First, to convince. This will be the most important part. Here’s where you show the writer that not only can you sound like you’re just “talking”, but that you get his POINT.

Look at this sentence:

  • Sometimes you just want a great latte.

I have had countless students tell me the “point words” here might be “sometimes” or “want”. But sometimes what? Want what? A LATTE. What kind? A GREAT one.

  • Sometimes you just want a GREAT LATTE.

Right? Doesn’t it make sense to “pop” those words? This tells the writer you GET IT. You get him or her. Boom.

Now what else? What if everyone GETS the copywriter’s point? Now you have to captivate.

Take a look at this sentence:

  • What if the spoon and the lid dripped back into the saucepan?

The point is obviously that it drips BACK INTO the saucepan, not all over the stovetop. Good. All the smart actors will get that and nail it. So, how can you make it captivating? Well, what if you treat this like it’s confidential and intelligent information? Like you’re just catching on to an idea, and you want to lean over and share it with just us? Perhaps a more intimate, “almost-a-whisper” level of projection, as if it’s for “your ears only.” Ok, that’s a little more captivating. Now, how about creating suspense by inserting a slight pause after “What if”? Now you’ve got ‘em. You’re subtle because you’ve lowered your volume AND you’re creating intrigue with the pause.

Now go try out some of your own ideas with some of the great scripts from the Edge Studio Script Library.

Insight is invaluable

Thanks Leslie. Sometimes we need to hear this advice to wake us up from JUST READING copy. Bravo!

Thanks Lesley!

Those are the kind of hints that can take you from being a "reader" to becoming a true voice actor...as a student I really appreciate your insight.

Slay 'em...

Fantastic post! Great reminder!

So improtant

I really appreciate this post. As a coach, I am often directing talent toward these very skills. Well done.

Have them at Hello

Lesley: This is so simple yet a great reminder. And I appreciate the behind-the-scenes perspective!

Great Post!

Thanks for this-- great suggestions!

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