VO Protocols

And now for the dreaded protocols…

        Hello, there are none—“protocols” that is. There are wonderful theories each and every week that actors in all career stages manage to pass around. (It’s kind of like being in the army, and being privy to the latest rumor.) But protocols, for what to do, when to do it, and whom to do it to or with, in order to make it big in our world of subjectivity are really non-existent.

    Back to James Cagney:

“I look the other actor right in the eye, and tell him the truth.”

        If there is a protocol for success, and that protocol happens to be telling the truth, it makes many out there begin to smile when the truth and Hollywood become synonymous. The facts, however, are really very simple. They never change. Those who make it as actors have talent. Those who make it are willing and have sacrificed in order to succeed. Those who make it do so because they have practiced their craft. Those who have made it manage some way, somehow, to convey the truth, either through their eyes or through the eyes of another.

        As a simple example: It happens to be a bright and sunshiney Monday morning. You are called in to read (very early in the morning) for pizza and Coke. You really can’t identify with either of those products, especially at such an early hour when you haven’t even had your first cup of coffee. You look at the script, and there it is… your direction. Right up at the top of the script, it calls for your read to convey a degree of wonderment. Yes…that’s correct. Wonderment over the enjoying of pizza and Coke the first thing on a Monday morning. How in the world are you going to convey that kind of truth?
        Years ago, it was one of my students that won the job. It was part of my continuing evolution. I remember it as if it were yesterday. She finished her read, and I immediately congratulated her. “Wow, what were you thinking about,” I asked. The answer, of course, became part of my Method’s evolution. “I was remembering how my nephew looked and acted when I took him to Disneyland,” she replied. She proceeded to reenact the young boy’s face and his exact words as what she used as her method for delivering the truthful degree of wonderment that was called for.
        The beat is continuous. Neverending. Those of us who devote our lives to not just talking, but more importantly listening, are light-years ahead of those who are in a state of constant vocalization and always at a greater than normal sound level. Listen to what you’re looking at. Look at what you’re listening to. Both activities bring a revelation of what life sounds like when a situation is foreign or one you may have never noticed before.
        If a brassy waitress has ever served you, you might want to take a few moments to figure out what was the cause of her delivery. It’s just a trick, but it could be helpful if you are ever called on to be brassy. But caution… your agent isn’t going to call you in to portray a brassy waitress when your natural signature is one of a demure or reserved librarian.
        Then there’s the role of the anal-retentive headmaster at an Ivy League middle school. If you were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and you have a distinct accent, don’t expect a miracle to occur, no matter whose eyes you’re attempting to see things through.

    Here is the main gist for all that must be sacred when conveying an emotion:

“And for all those that have cried before or after the suffering of fact.

And for any who have felt pain without knowing its cause.
I say no matter.
For their tears were honest. And therefore, I, too, have suffered and wept along…
And equally as well I have laughed
Whether derived from a pratfall
Or gleaned from the gem of a man’s word
What is truth, will be God”

        Now stack up the emotions. Create your own personal and confidential file to call on in time of need. You may begin with the simple. Happy, sad, beaming, glad, abrupt, rude, crude, alarmed, disarmed, betrayed, lost, found, discovered, uncovered, revered, relished, embellished, wasted, tasted, smiled, frowned, important, renowned. Your place, his, hers, theirs, inside or out, raining, thundering, lightning, wind, hot, cold, humid or dry, on a mountain, in the sand, shivering in the cold, lying in the sand seeking to be tanned.
        Take a breath. What’s in the air? What presents itself? What do you feel? In that one moment in time, you are the one in total control of whatever natural response nature dictates. And within your response, therein lies your signature. Without betraying any worldly confidence, your answers will be revealed.

        Recall a moment of your life when without warning a situation or happening caused your conditioned response. The joy of reward for a job well done. The tender sigh of a loved and cherished one. The anguish over the departing of someone who was near and dear to you. The smile revealed by a child receiving their first puppy. All that is public and, even more importantly, all that is in the realm of your privacy, are there to be recalled; to be remembered with any or all of the emotion that you choose to conjure. For within your recollections, you will find the truth.
        How vivid a recollection is, will usually be dependent on the broadness of the colors nature has provided for your individual palette. In short, some human beings are more flamboyant than others. Their revelations will be painted with broader strokes than the average person might use. If that is their natural way, then that is what will be the basis for their signature determination.
        Then there are those people who appear tight-lipped. They play it close to the vest when describing any of life’s dramatic moments. That’s not to say that their way is the wrong way to express an emotion. If it happens to be their honest signature, then that is what will rule their moment of reflection.
        Reflection is the key. Think back to any moment in time. Capture its essence in your mind’s eye. Then use that attitude, just recaptured by your reflection, as the driving force for your presentment. When our Method is applied, the desired results may be achieved by anyone, regardless of their reading skills. We maintain it is impossible for any individual to recapture or reflect upon a situation without portraying honesty, the true emotion of that particular passage in time.
        A couple of examples of the method in use: An actor is handed a script that calls for them to portray an individual who will express a degree of wonderment–or perhaps discovery–while exalting the benefits of eating particular breakfast food. Our actor only needs a moment or two to reflect upon their recent experience of visiting a friend in a foreign land by way of the Internet. Upon reflection, they recapture the wonderment at the ability to instantly say hello to a friend that happened to be thousands of miles away. That wonderment, by way of reflection, was responsible for the actor giving a winning performance during the audition.
        Then, we have one of my favorites: A talent is asked to display a degree of frustration and anxiety over being unable to figure out their checkbook balance. (We don’t even have those anymore!) It happens that this particular actor has a business manager, and this talent hasn’t had to handle a checkbook for a prolonged period of time. Like the example given previously, they, too, were able to nail it. When I asked them what this actor had been reflecting on, they replied with, “That was an easy one for me. I was thinking about my terrible ride in this morning. The freeway was jammed, and I was both frustrated and concerned over whether or not I would make your audition on time!”
        Above, I have given you two examples of the Kalmenson Method at work. Both of the actors in question were graduates of our school. Both have reached the upper levels of success within our voiceover world. Both exemplify the extraordinary ability to bring their delivery into the present; both have got the meat, or the chops if you prefer.

Harvey Kalmenson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *