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Creativity

The Script or the Voice - What Matters Most?


By Remie Michelle Clarke | 13th February 2020

Is the success of an audio or video project influenced more by the script or the voice?

In many ways, the 'shiniest' element of a project is the voice actor. After all, they are frequently labelled as 'the talent'.

The production's success (or lack thereof) may get disproportionately attributed to them even when the voice-over talent has spent a meagre few minutes in the booth after months of work by a whole team of writers and creatives. Every project requires an extraordinary effort to bring to life. 

Except for games and animations, the voice acting is typically the last piece of the production puzzle—with hasty talent selection against a tight deadline the norm. The reason for this isn't a lack of foresight. There are just so many moving parts that all have to come together before recording a voice-over. 

Despite this, many consider the voice to make the most significant impact on the success of a project. But is it the most important element? 

 

I would argue no.

I don't think it is, and I do voice-over it for a living. 

Voice-over talent can undoubtedly add a beautiful finish to a well-engineered piece of work—an explainer video needing a clear and authoritative message or a video game requiring a heroic characterisation benefits from skilled voice acting.

I would argue that voice is the proverbial cherry on top of an already gorgeous cake. 

For example, if the visuals are striking and the writing inspired, but for whatever reason, the voice-over isn't. The poor quality VO certainly doesn't have the power to tear the whole thing down completely. Its potential may diminish, but a complete failure? Doubtful.

 

RELATED: Listen to persuasive voices

 

And that is because the voice-over artist does not have the power to impact the concept and underlying structure of a creative project. 

Rare exceptions aside, the person who owns that power is the copywriter, and their script is the architecture. The bones of the script are what the flesh of the content hangs too. 

At the last moment, like Frankenstein's monster coming to life, the voice-over sends an electrical pulse through the whole body, quite literally breathing life into it.

Boom – it's alive!  

 

It's alive

 

A voice actor is utterly dependent on the writer, much as without Dr Frankenstein's incredible efforts, there would be no monster. Only a mass of lifeless conjoined body parts. 

 

You can't polish a turd.

So, if the scriptwriting is lacking, the voice-over is held to ransom. Apathetic clients or creatives bewitched by their copy inadvertently destroying the message before it reaches the voice talents lips. 

For better or for worse, the voice is utterly reliant on the script. 

The writer's work makes a voice-over's job either the most straightforward job in the world or an uphill climb against the odds. 

When combined in certain formulae, several scenarios create something that can either be completely forgettable or remarkably memorable and perhaps, with that rare touch of magic—legendary. 

So, first up, you've got a bad script. It's terrible. It has no flow, no poetry; it's clunky and riddled with as many clichés as a family gathering at Christmas. 

And on the base of that shaky foundation, the other elements are piled on slapdash, mercenary and lacking any verve. Without a script that inspires respect, there's little to salvage. Even when the Best Voice-Over In The World™ is brought in at the last minute in the hopes of a miracle—as the saying goes, you can't polish a turd.

 

Writer working at laptop

A voice actor is completely dependant on the skill of the writer.

 

Quality talent can elevate the mediocre.

But an excellent voice-over could do wonders with your mediocre script. A script that's just 'fine' could be turned into something special, even memorable, with the right amount of passion, wit, skill and enthusiasm. When most things about a production seem 'meh,' a great voice and a lot of heart can go a long way. 

But without that, there's little hope for the average production to offer anything more than a forgettable distraction. If your script is average, choose the best voice talent you can afford, and it should do its job. Purposely convey your message and entertain people.

However, if you take extra care with the script and concept, you could create something mind-blowing.

 

The legendary project. 

The ones where everything comes together and creates an image, a brand, an identity so lasting that all it takes is a few notes of a theme song or a colour scheme to let someone know who's talking. 

In rare cases like these, the voice actors(s) can achieve lasting stardom, something uncommon for people used to being heard and not seen. 

 

 

But even if the budget is low and the team is small and a little tired and uninspired, there are still ways to make something unforgettable. Because being memorable is not synonymous with being good or even adequate, necessarily. 

 

Doing it badly.

Sometimes the content can be so bad; it reaches a sort of cult brilliance. Doing things badly with absolute, audacious commitment can achieve far greater heights than many a solid production.

Troll marketing, which is the equivalent of a drunk person heckling from the Gods, can undoubtedly grab people's attention.

Ben Dunne, owner of gym chain Ben Dunne Gyms, who on this Reddit thread was called 'The Donald Trump of gyms,' has employed 'troll marketing' in his advertising campaigns over the last year notoriety in the process.

 

Ben Dunne

Ben Dunne, owner of Ben Dunne Gyms and proponent of troll marketing techniques.

 

The ads consist of Ben Dunne, a gruff-voiced Irish man, shouting aggressively at his competitors because they aren't as cheap as Ben Dunne or haven't opened in a location Ben Dunne occupies. 

I'm not sure if it's increased Ben Dunne gym memberships, but it's certainly gotten many people in Ireland talking about Ben Dunne. Not surprisingly, Ben Dunne has copy-written, art-directed and voice-over-ed his entire campaign solo, which, I'm sure you'll agree after hearing the ad, is so Ben Dunne. 

Bad ads and bad performances can leave as much of a lasting impression as excellent ones. Some actors will go down in the history books for their brilliance, like Daniel Day-Lewis and others, we remember, and love, for their awfulness, like Nicholas Cage.

 

Cage in Moonstruck, arguably his best work. :)

 

You can gain as much attention for hitting an accent on the nose as for being way off the mark, like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman attempting Irish accents in the cult classic (for all the wrong reasons) Far and Away.

 

 

You can get everything wrong, like Ben Dunne, and still make an undeniable impact. Like some might argue, no publicity is bad publicity. 

So, if you have all the elements of your production in place and need that final key to unlock the magic, booking the best voice-over is essential. The entire project and the combined efforts of the whole production team deserve it. But whomever you do decide to choose, be brave, be bold.

You might end up with something legendary.

 

Learn more about scriptwriting for voice-over

 


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Remie Michelle Clarke

Remie Michelle Clarke

Remie Michelle Clarke is an author and voice-over artist with more than a decade's worth of experience in the booth.

About Author

Remie Michelle Clarke

Remie Michelle Clarke

Remie Michelle Clarke is an author and voice-over artist with more than a decade's worth of experience in the booth.