One of the vestigial organs of my days working in the video game industry is my lingering subscription to Game Developer magazine. The signature feature of every issue is a section called Post-Mortem. Every month, a different game developer talks about the 5 things that went wrong and 5 things that went right. It’s very interesting reading.
So, do you post-mortem your voice over projects?
I’m not talking about glossing over the project on your way to Dairy Queen. I’m talking about writing down 2-3 things that went wrong/right and applying some critical, honest analysis.
One of the interesting things about video game post mortems is how some things are the same from company to company and project to project. Work/life balance, project scope, crunch mode, etc. So by writing down post mortems and sharing them with fellow Voice actors, you very well might find some things in common. And they might have some suggestions for how to avoid those problems in the future.
So I’ll start: I had a phone patch voice over session for a 30 second commercial that resulted in me not giving the client what he wanted right away. It ended with the direction of “I’ll direct you like I direct my child actors. I’ll say it exactly how I want to hear it and you repeat it back to me. OK?”
What went right
- The client was happy with the end result.
While the process to get there wasn’t too smooth, the session ended on a positive note. The client was joking and upbeat and the stuff I recorded was used.
- No pick-ups required
This is due in part to the phone patch. But even then, there is often the case where the client doesn’t like what they hear. But in this case, the client got exactly what he wanted during the first session.
- Lots of flexibility for recording sessions
This client had lots of things on his plate and I was able to offer several times for recording. Having this kind of flexibility can go a long way to making a client happy.
What Went Wrong
- I wasn’t able to deliver what the client wanted fast enough
This led to the direction of “I’ll tell you how to say it and you repeat it back to me.” This was incredibly humiliating and 100% my fault. While the character was your average dad, I couldn’t get out of announcer mode. Finally I did, but not nearly as quickly as I should have.
- I let the jovial-ness of previous conversations get in the way
The client is one of those guys that everyone likes. Super friendly, cracking jokes, laughing. Great guy to talk with. But when the mic is on, he’s all business. That transition caught me off guard and I wasn’t sure how to deal with it.
- I didn’t explain that my improvisation wasn’t for his benefit, but for mine.
I tried to go all actor-y on him by improvising lines before and after. I didn’t properly explain that I was doing this to get into character and that he wasn’t expected to use it. He thought I was goofing around and he stopped me with “Don’t go off book, please. I need you to stay on script!” I should have explained to him ahead of time that I needed to do this to get the proper attitude and delivery of the lines.
So I don’t think this client will come calling any time soon, which is a shame. But I’ve learned some tough lessons and chalk it up to a learning experience. And by analyzing specific problem areas, I can make sure I don’t repeat them.
3/23/09 – UPDATE!! The client called me today asking for an audition for a series of spots. Guess he didn’t hate me as much as I thought. Still, it’s good to be self-critical.