The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say,
but what we are unable to say.
– Anais Nin
I have taken numerous voice-over classes in my career. In almost all of them, the teacher has encouraged me and other students to improvise with commercial copy. A common thought is that an ad-lib enhances one’s ability to stand out in an audition because you gave a read that was not expected.
On the flip side, I would never ad-lib when performing an audiobook. The narrator must serve the author’s purpose and point of view, reading every word exactly as it is written.
I have recently changed my views on ad-libs in commercial auditions. I am now studying with my awesome coach Nancy Wolfson. In doing a copy read with her the other day, Nancy stopped me immediately when I changed the copy on a TV spot. She explained that thinking of the other line was fine because it gave me the right mindset for the copy. However, I should never say the ad-lib.
On the same day or one close to it, I read the Doll Cannot Fly blog entry on the same topic. The blog is written by Tara Zucker, co-owner of Post Haste Media; her husband Rick Sanchez is one of my new connections made through networking. Tara implores voice talent to perform the words AS THEY ARE WRITTEN.
When I stop and think about it, I wonder why one niche in voice-over would demand such accuracy with the words, while another market would be lax and encourage you to change the writer’s words. Once you read Tara’s compelling entry, you may think twice before you change a word of commercial copy in an audition.
Once you have the job, changes to copy may be appropriate if you have a good relationship with the client. My clients appreciate my collaboration, and I have suggested word changes to commercial and narration scripts. In the case of commercials, I have helped rewrite scripts for better timing. In both commercial and narrative scripts, I have proposed changes to clarify meaning.
It is obvious to me now that the only time to make suggestions is after you have the job and not when you are auditioning for it.